“Truly, truly I say to you, when you were younger you girded yourself and walked where you wished;

but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”

This Jesus spoke, signifying by what death he (Peter) would glorify God.

And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”

–John 21:18-19

Reliable church tradition attests that this amazing prophecy did indeed come to pass. Peter is said to have followed his Master in death by being crucified, head down, just outside the gates of Rome.

What if our Lord appeared to us and predicted that we too would endure a similar fate? How would we understand it? What theological “frame” would we put around it by which to gain perspective, courage, and comfort for the ordeal to come?

Would we view our predicament as an attack of the devil, to be repulsed by “spiritual warfare”?

Would we see it as a test, sent by God to strengthen our faith?

Would we conclude that God was chastening us, purging us from character defects rooted in residual sin?

Or would we abandon all efforts to understand, choosing simply to dwell on the thought that God loves us and has everything under control?

In such dire straits there may indeed be some truth in all of these perspectives. However, to stop there would be to miss the highest and widest perspective of all, and the one in which all of the others are properly set, as jewels in a crown. For the above alternatives, focusing as they do on man–on what God is doing in me and for me–suffer from one crucial defect: They have no eye whatsoever upon what he might doing for himself! In short, these thoughts exclude the most important thought of all: the glory of God.

John did not make this mistake. Bypassing all lesser considerations, he went directly to the heart of the matter: Peter would die in this manner, not simply or even primarily for the good of Peter, but for the glory of God. Moreover, John’s teaching here is but a single strand in a great, golden cord that weaves its way throughout all Scripture, uniting the entire fabric. What is true of Peter’s death, was true also of his life, and of all lives, and of all history and all creation.

What is this golden cord; what is God’s great and overarching purpose? With matchless brevity, the apostle Paul replies: “For from Him, and through Him, and for Him are all things, to whom be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans ll:36). All things are for him. All things exist for his pleasure and glory. We exist, above all, for the glory of God.

It has been awhile, I dare say, since you heard a sermon on the glory of God. Yes, the phrase occasionally graces our public prayers and preaching, but beyond that it is rarely contemplated or discussed. Disappointing as this is, it should not surprise us. For the same Bible that reveals God as seeking his own glory in creation and redemption, also reveals fallen man as indifferent and even hostile to that glory; as bent almost entirely on his own self-satisfaction and self-exaltation. If our eye is evil, our whole body will be full of darkness. How then can we see or delight in the glory of God?

Let us therefore take a few minutes to meditate upon this elusive but strangely alluring concept. In so doing it may be that we, like John, will discover a new, life-changing perspective on the things of God and man.

God’s Glory: The Infinite Beauty of His Character

In pondering the glory of God, I suspect that our thinking usually begins with what the Jews called the shekinah, the visible brightness or radiance by which God disclosed his presence in ancient times. Moses and the fleeing Israelites beheld God’s shekinah as a pillar of fire by night. Peter, James and John beheld it as a luminous cloud that overshadowed them on the Mount of Transfiguration. On the isle of Patmos, John saw the face of the glorified Christ enveloped in the shekinah, shining brighter than the noon-day sun.

These supernatural manifestations of divine radiance supply an important clue to the meaning of God’s glory. Intuitively, we understand that it must be something other than mere physical light, no matter how radiant. Physical light is a finite physical creation meant for finite physical creatures. God, however, is pure spirit, infinite, eternal, and uncreated. Accordingly, it must be that in associating his revealed presence with radiant physical light–a light that overshadows and dwarfs every other physical light we know–he is seeking to communicate some great spiritual truth about himself.

What might that truth be? I would answer by saying God’s shekinah was meant to betoken the spiritual radiance of his nature or character, a radiance that infinitely surpasses anything that may be found in the creation. In other words, just as God’s visible shekinah overshadowed the light of day, so too God’s divine nature–in each of his attributes, and in all of his attributes considered as a whole–infinitely overshadows the analogous characrteristics found in His creations.

Thus, if we humans exist, the glorious God must “super-exist”; he must exist infinitely more–and more necessarily–than any of the mere creatures that he–the eternal and omnipotent One–called into being out of nothingness.

Similarly, if we humans are at all good, then God must be gloriously good; he must be infinitely more pure, kind, and generous than the very best of men, who, upon entering his glorious presence, uniformly confessed themselves to be vile sinners, rightly covered with shame (Isaiah 6; Daniel 9:1-2; Luke 5:8).

Or again, if finite man is wise, then God is gloriously wise, for so infinite is his wisdom that even the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men (l Corinthians 1:25).

And so it goes. What, in the case of the creature, has glory, effectively has no glory at all on account of the glory of the Creator that infinitely surpasses it. In attribute after attribute–and in the totality of those attributes, woven as they are into the infinitely beautiful mosaic that we call the Face of God–the Creator is to the creature as are a thousand shining suns to a candle’s flickering flame.

The Glory of God in the Face of Christ

The spiritual understanding of God’s glory–the ability to see it in terms of the infinitely beautiful character of God–is highlighted in the biblical testimony about Jesus Christ. Of him the apostle wrote: “And we beheld his glory, glory as of the Only Begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

But what exactly did the apostles see when they beheld Christ’s glory? John gives us a hint in his remarks about one of Jesus’ miracles, when he turned water into wine. “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him” (John 2:11). How did Jesus manifest his glory? Certainly not in visible light radiating from his body, else the wedding festivities would quickly have come to a halt. No, it was by an invisible display–albeit a very small one, a mere glimpse–of his divine nature: his infinite wisdom, goodness, power, and beauty. The apostles saw no light, but by the light of the Holy Spirit they saw the deity of Christ in and through the person and work of Christ. Therefore, by God’s grace, they believed.

This is Paul’s understanding of the glory of God and Christ, as well. “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). How has God given us knowledge of his glory? Once again, it is by his Spirit, who enables believers to see the infinite and manifold beauty of his character in the life and death of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He who has seen Christ–loving, teaching, forgiving, healing, doing wonders, and otherwise displaying the limitless goodness, wisdom, power, and knowledge of God–has seen the Father. He has seen the glory of God.

How Can Finite, Sinful Man Glorify an Infinitely Glorious God?

Christians understand from Scripture that God is well able to glorify his people. That is, he is able to implant, grow, and bring to full maturity the character of his Son within them. Indeed, he is able to do the same for their bodies, and will, when, through Christ, he one day raises them from the dead, thereby bringing each and every saint into perfect conformity–body, soul, and spirit–with their risen Lord.

So then, God can add to our glory. But if the Creator, by his very nature, is already glorious–and infinitely so–then what on earth could we, his poor creatures, possibly do to add to his glory, to “glorify” God?

The answer to this fascinating question is, I think, locked up in the mystery of our creation.

Why did God create man? Was he lonely? Was he bored? Surely not, for how could a truly glorious God lack anything at all? How could the infinite fountainhead of all supply feel himself in need, so much so that he must satisfy his need by creating finite creatures to supply it?

No, the more we ponder the infinitely satisfying fullness of God’s glory, the more we realize that the truth about creation must lie in precisely the opposite direction. That is, the triune God–who, in the give and take of life among the Three Persons, knew and loved himself with absolute perfection–must have been so overjoyed by his own majesty, and so consumed with the immeasurable value of knowing it, that he determined, in his infinite goodness, to create a whole universe of intelligent beings–both men and angels–in order to share this knowledge with them forever!

In short, it appears that God created us so that we might know and enjoy the glory of God. In his high priestly prayer, our Lord confirms this very thing, saying, “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with me where I am, that they may behold My glory. . .” (John 17:24). This petition reflects the heart of the Father, and his eternal purpose for his creation: that a chosen people should, through creation and redemption, forever behold the glory of God triune.

But let us note carefully that when God created us, he did something more than simply equip us to perceive and enjoy his glory. Beyond that, he also gave us a manifold capacity to express our appreciation of his glory. In other words, he created us to be worshipers, spiritual beings fashioned in his own image and likeness who, seeing the “worth” (or value) of the divine character, could contemplate it, marvel at it, delight in it, speak of it, fall down before it, sing of it, dance around it, and more. The prophet Isaiah spoke of a people whom God was creating for his glory (Isaiah 43:7). All this and more is what he had in mind.

In considering the many possible responses to God’s glory, I believe we find an important key to understanding how mere man can glorify God. For when God desired worshipers to experience and express the infinite worth of knowing him, he did not create wooden Pinocchios dangling limply beneath his hand. No, he created warm-blooded human beings in his very own image and likeness, and therefore endowed with the gift of free will. Accordingly, it may well be true that in the presence of God or Christ the rocks are compelled to cry out, but it is not so with man. God may move or incline people to worship him; and he may even show them various creative ways of doing so. But he will not force them to do so. Man is free to “go with the flow.” Yielding to the Spirit of worship, he can express the worth of what he sees–or not.

Observe, then, that with the creation of a multitude of free spiritual agents–each possessing something of the vision of the glory of God, and each at liberty to express it’s value in worship or not–God introduces a mysterious new “commodity” into the universe, a commodity that he apparently prizes very much. The Bible calls it honor. I would define honor as the value, or worth, that men and angels alone are capable of freely ascribing to the object of their choice.

Because of this gift of freedom, we humans are at liberty to ascribe worth–indeed, supreme worth–to anything we wish: sun, moon, stars, mountains, seas, fish, birds, insects, animals, angels, or our own selves. In our hearts, however, we know that we ought to ascribe all honor to the One who is the true Source of all worth: God. “What is the chief end of man?” asked the Westminster divines. “The chief end of man is to glorify (honor) God, and to enjoy Him forever.” God wills, desires, and commands that he should do so. But–as Scripture and real world experience make painfully clear–he is free not to.

Faith in a Fishbowl

In a mystery passing all comprehension, Lucifer elected to honor himself rather than God, and so fell into sin and became Satan. In yet another mystery passing all comprehension, Adam honored Satan rather than God, and also fell into sin. Ever since, God has been graciously drawing a chosen people out of the fallen world system, and restoring their spiritual sanity by teaching them to worship and honor him alone. It is a painful business–and a glorious–full of high drama. To understand it better, let us consider the fishbowl.

Fish in a fishbowl inhabit a little world all their own. They are quite familiar with its boundaries, its routines, and its daily joys and sorrows. Moreover, they are usually fairly content to have it so. It is a rare indeed to find a fish that is actively curious about the enormous universe that looms beyond his bowl. It is rarer still to find one that understands anything at all of the secret pleasures he brings his owner–the person who enjoys feeding him, adorning his bowl, changing his water, and simply gazing at his beautiful color, shape, and graceful motion. So far as we know, fish simply do their fishly thing, playing to an audience of none.

Alas, spiritually speaking, the situation is not too different for the fallen sons of Adam. They too live in a fishbowl, the fishbowl of “this present evil age.” Accordingly, they more or less continually foul their water with sin. Pain, sorrow, and death are their frequent companions, Unbeknownst to most of them, demonic parasites are ever seeking new ways to attach themselves to them, and drain away their very life. And yet–if they are free to enjoy them–there are pleasures as well: a spacious, often beautiful environment that hints at the generous touch of a master’s hand; good food, family and friends, sensible work, music, play, and the simple bliss of rest at day’s end.

However, for the disciple of the Lord Jesus, there is more. Why? Because the Christian fish has come to understand that just outside his bowl there is a BIG world, where BIG things are happening! He knows, for example, that the souls of his departed brothers in Christ are out there, maybe even looking in. He knows that the holy angels are out there, very likely looking in. Above all, he knows that God–his creator, master, and friend–is out there, and that he is definitely looking in!

Indeed, more than looking in, God has sometimes made his presence known. He has gently touched him, fed him, warmed him, and even whispered to him in the night. What’s more, once in a great while–always through the swirling, murky waters of the bowl–it seemed as if he actually showed his face. True, it was only the tiniest glimpse, but somehow the fish can never forget it. Indeed, because of that glimpse, he is now determined to swim as worthily as he possibly can in the sight of the him whom he has seen, yet cannot see, yet hopes to see again. Henceforth, because of his master’s gracious self-disclosure, there is faith in the fishbowl–and glory to God.

All the World’s a Stage

The humble metaphor of the fishbowl highlights a great biblical mystery. As we learn from the opening chapters of Job, the human children of God are the object of intense scrutiny. An immense cloud of spiritual witnesses is looking on. Why is this so? We cannot say for sure. But this much is certain: God has set the stage for a vast and terrible cosmic drama–and whether we like it or not, we humans are definitely cast in a leading role.

The drama involves a war, and the prize is glory. To whom will it go: God or his enemies? Every eye is watching–all the more so when God’s own soldiers, who happen also to be his dear children and friends–are seemingly stripped of every spiritual comfort; when they are tempted, mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, and sawed in two; when they are tested with tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and sword. In such dire straits, what will they do? Will they obey their master at all cost? Will they plunge the knife into their one and only son? Will they face the monstrous champion of the Philistines? Will they sing God’s praises, though bloodied and shut up in a darkened cell? Will they fix their eyes heaven-ward as the lions circle the arena? Or will they defect to the enemy?

Happily, it is written that many do indeed take high road of submission, trust, courage, strength, and resolute rejoicing. When they do, they glorify God; which is to say that they honor him above all things; which is to say that they ascribe to him all worth and value; which is to say that they are willing freely to exchange all the comfort, security, esteem, health, wealth, and pleasure that this world has to offer–indeed, their very lives–simply to be in God’s presence; simply to enjoy yet another tiny glimpse of the infinite beauty–and the divine favor–that he created and redeemed them to enjoy.

But this is not the end of the matter. Far from it. For when any believer, at any cost, honors God, his decision is as a stone cast into a glassy mountain lake: It sends ripples throughout the entire body of the universe. In other words, all the other players in the drama see it and respond. The angels rejoice, for glory has gone to God. The saints in heaven let up a cheer, for glory has gone to God. The saints on earth take strength and offer thanks, for glory has gone to God. Unbelievers–pondering the radically inverted economy of the followers of Jesus–are awakened to God, and drawn to God, for glory has gone to God. And as for the demons, they are found writhing and howling, for glory has not gone to them or their cruel master, but to God.

And even this is not the end of the matter, for we have yet to speak of the greatest spectator of all: God himself. In all his domains there is nothing so pleasing to him–because nothing so honoring to him, nothing so harmonious with the truth about what is truly good and truly valuable in the world–as a poor sinful saint striving to honor his creator and redeemer. If reward can gauge his pleasure in this matter, then surely God’s words to Abraham reveal its heights and depths. For when Abraham honored God by offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice, God said:

By Myself I have sworn—because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall posses the gate of their enemies, and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.
–Gen. 22:l6-l8

God came to Abraham, looking for the most precious commodity in the universe: honor to his name, freely given, at great cost, in the sight of all his friends and foes. God got what he wanted. As a result, he who honored him was honored over all (1 Samuel 2:30).

Living for God’s Glory: Christ, Our Pioneer

The more we ponder the lives of God’s saints, the more clearly we see a great mystery: All follow in the footsteps of God’s Son. He is their pattern, their pioneer. He is the one who, by precept and example, taught his people to live and die for the glory of God.

What a theology of glory might be reared around the Person and Work of Jesus Christ! The ever glorious Son–the honored of heaven–lays aside his divine privileges and departs from unapproachable light to enter the dark fishbowl of this present evil world; to tabernacle among men in the likeness of sinful flesh. Why? Because his mission in life was to reveal the glory of God to sinful men (2 Corinthians 4:6), and because his mission in death was to fit them for experiencing it–now through a glass darkly (2 Corinthians 3:l8), and then face to face (l John. 3:2; Philippians 3:21).

And when, through Christ’s resurrection, God publicly declared the good success of that mission, what was the Savior’s reward? Yes, more glory still. For now the man whom the King desired to honor was himself made King of heaven and earth, lord of the entire cosmos. Accordingly, God gave him “. . . the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-12).

But glorious as Christ’s mission was, what concerns us here is the motive that impelled him to it. Was it love for sinful men that constrained him to live and die among us? To be sure. Indeed, such love is itself one of the most beautiful rays emanating from the sun of God’s glory. But sinful men ought not to think that it was only, or even primarily, the love of man that moved his divine heart. As we just saw, his supreme motive was love and zeal for the glory the Father.

Let us hear it from the lips of the Son Himself.

Speaking through David, the pre-incarnate Word gives this heart-rending glimpse into the divine counsels: “Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, but a body You have prepared for Me . . . Then I said, ‘Here I am–it is written about Me in the volume of the book–I delight to do Your will, O God’ ” (Psalm 40:6-8). Here the Son declares that he will freely embrace His Father’s will; he will take upon himself that human flesh by which, in sacrificial death, he might become the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It was his delight to do so.

Elaborating upon this eternal consecration, the Lord Jesus, in the days of his flesh, said, “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him Who sent Me” (John 6:38). How could there be any other standard for him who ever lived in perfect submission to the Father? But now hear why he thus cleaves to God’s will, as he contrasts his own motives with those of the Jews: “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He Who is seeking the glory of the one Who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him” (John 7:18, 8:49).

Christ’s supreme desire–the desire of a Son devoted to his beloved Father–was that God should be honored through every aspect of his life. Time would fail us to speak in detail of how he accomplished this, and with what success. Suffice it to say here that in every attitude, every word, and every work of Jesus Christ, some great attribute of the Father’s character was revealed–whether his sovereignty, his purity, his mercy, his lovingkindness, his wisdom, his mighty power, and so much more.

And what was the effect of the revelations on those with eyes to see? As it is written, “They glorified the God of Israel” (Matthew 15:31).

Here was true food for the Son of God, food which his disciples knew not of–but soon would (John 4:32).

Dying for God’s Glory: Christ, Our Pioneer

If Christ honored God in the triumphs of his life and earthly ministry, much more did he honor him in his death. Indeed, the very structure of the four gospels bids understand that here–against dark backdrop of Christ’s suffering and apparent defeat–we behold history’s supreme display of the glory of God, a display more radiant than any before or after.

Let us consider a few of the ways in which this took place.

As the final hour approached–the hour for which he had been born–Christ fortified his spirit with this prayer: “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Thy Name” (John 12:27-8). Thus did the Lord draw again from the deepest well of his heart: the longing to see his Father honored. And in all subsequent events–even as he faithfully loved and served his own until the end–this thought was always in the forefront of his mind.

In preparing the disciples for the gift of prayer, he said, “And whatever you ask in My Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14: 13). This reminds us of an earlier teaching on prayer, wherein he instructed his followers to pray, before and above all else, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”

In motivating them to abide him, he said, “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (John 15: 8; Matthew 9:8). He wills that his supreme motive for service to God become theirs as well

Finally, the moment arrived for the great High Priest to intercede for his disciples–and then to descend into the valley of the shadow of death. But before ever a word of supplication for their future needs fell from his lips, the Lord once again voiced his deepest desire, and in doing so revealed the supreme motive of God triune in creation and redemption: “Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may glorify Thee” (John 17:1).

Hours later, on Mt. Golgotha, this prayer was answered. And never in all the history of the whole wide world was there a fishbowl to compare with it.

Believers were there, broken and confused. Skeptics also, proud and cruel. The wise were there, side by side with mere “babes” who only knew that they loved and trusted their Master. There were men and women, young and old, rich and poor, powerful and weak. There were Jews and Gentiles, people from every corner of the earth. The living were there, and, towards the end, the dead also, rising from their graves. Angels were there, perhaps the whole host of heaven. Demons were there, likely the whole host of hell.

Eyewitnesses were there as well, those who would later trace the terrible scenes for all posterity, that all posterity may come to see what they saw.

And God himself was there, he who had purposely filled the theater; he who had poised, as it were, the entire cosmos to behold the terrible spectacle of his incarnate Son dying on a bloody Roman Cross.

But why did he summon them? And why, by his Spirit, does he summon us still to behold him who was thus lifted up?

Christ himself had already given the answer: “. . . that all might honor the Son, even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23).

And on Calvary God did indeed honor the Son, and that supremely; for there he revealed him as the center-piece of his plan of redemption, the author of eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9). Moreover, because of the Scriptures, all of the elect of all ages also honor him, just as he prayed, for there they see their Redeemer. There too they see the face of hell, from which he delivered them. There they see the angels, whom he made to be their ministers. There they see the proud and unbelieving, from whom he made them to differ. There they see the first of the saints, whom he made to be their companions in the tribulation, kingdom, and perseverance that are in Jesus. And there they see God, whom Jesus made to be their Father.

But again, that is not the end of the matter. For just as Christ had prayed, so he understood: At Calvary there would also be a sublime revelation of the glory of the Father, an awesome display of the manifold character of God, revealed in and through his provision for the world’s redemption. Yes, for many of the onlookers it would be a veiled revelation: They would see little more than a deluded Palestinian preacher, tragically going the way of all the troublers of Rome. Nevertheless, our Lord was well-pleased to play his part, being confident that his own would see the glory: the sovereignty, the holiness, the wrath, the judgment, the mercy, the grace, and the fathomless, everlasting love of the Father for his people. In short, they would see that all things pertaining to their redemption were from him, through him, and for Him–and they would thank him for it, forever.

What a delight it was for the Savior to secure so great a prize of love and honor for his Father! And so, with this joy set before him, he endured the Cross.

Suffering, Submission, and Glory

We who are called to share in the sufferings of Christ must not fail to consider the way in which he achieved his goal of glorifying the Father, certainly in his life, but especially in his death.

This way may be summed up in one word: submission. It was as a docile lamb that he was led to the slaughter. In him there was no trace of resistance to Calvary, not because he could not offer it, but because he would not, knowing that Calvary was decreed at his Father’s hand. Therefore, when struck, he did not strike back. When reviled, he reviled not again. In the face of pain and death, he betrayed no fear. Scorning even the simple mercies of wine and myrrh, he drank the Father’s cup of sorrows to the dregs.

Indeed, when he might well have have expected to be served, he elected–once again in obedience to the Father–to serve. He provided for the care of his mother; he prayed for mercy to his executioners; he comforted the dying and penitent. In so doing, he was faithful to the very precepts he had taught, so that by imitating good works such as these his disciples might also glorify their Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

We find, then, that in every event of the final scene of our redemption Christ was motivated by a reverent and submissive regard for the honor of its Author. Even his anguished cries, so genuine and deeply felt, kept the Father’s will in view, since in giving voice to his thirst and his sense of God-forsaken-ness, he was obediently sealing up the prophetic Scriptures–all to the greater glory of the sovereign Lord of history (Psalms 22:1, 15, 69:21).

And when the curtain finally fell–when the Redeemer uttered his frail victory cry (“It is finished!”) and placed the laurels of triumph reverently at his Father’s feet (“Into Thy hands I commend My spirit.”)–what was the result?

Now when the centurion saw what had happened he began praising God, saying, “Certainly, this was a righteous man; certainly this was the Son of God!” And all the multitudes who came together for this spectacle, when they observed what had happened, began to return, beating their breasts . . . ” (Matthew 27:54; Luke 23:47-8).

They had come for “a spectacle”–whole schools of benighted fish, banging their heads against the opacity of these dark events, hardly knowing why they were there, yet somehow sensing light trickling in from somewhere beyond the bowl. As best they could, they gave glory to God.

No doubt the Savior was pleased.

The Last Prop: Glory to God

Lizzie Atwater had recently arrived with her husband and new baby at the China Inland Mission in Fenchow. Though the Boxer Uprising–characterized by fanatical mob violence against foreign missionaries–was then in progress, she felt herself reasonably safe, since the province in which her family lived and served was governed by a friendly magistrate. Soon, however, the magistrate was replaced with one sympathetic to the Boxers. Suddenly, all human protection was gone.

Realizing that the end was drawing near, Atwater wrote to her family at home:

Dear ones, I long for a sight of your dear faces, but I fear we shall not meet on earth. I am preparing for the end very quietly and calmly. The Lord is wonderfully near, and he will not fail me. I was very restless and excited while there seemed a chance of life, but God has taken away that feeling, and now I just pray for grace to meet the terrible end bravely. The pain will soon be over, and oh the sweetness of the welcome above! My little baby will go with me. I think God will give it to me in heaven, and my dear mother will be so glad to see us. I cannot imagine the Savior’s welcome. Oh, that will compensate for all these days of suspense.

Dear ones, live near to God and cling less closely to the earth. There is no other way by which we can receive the peace that passes understanding. I must keep calm and still these hours. I do not regret coming to China, but am sorry I have done so little. My married life–two precious years–has been so very full of happiness. We will die together, my dear husband and I. I used to dread separation. If we escape now it will be a miracle. I send my love to you all, and the dear friends who remember me.

Less than two weeks later, Atwater and her family were killed.


What would we do if we found ourselves in Peter’s shoes, or Lizzie’s; what if we found ourselves facing a martyr’s death?

What thought would we cleave to, to bring us comfort and strength for the imminent ordeal? Indeed, what thought do we cleave to even now, to give us strength for the small ordeal called “daily life”?

My guess is that sooner or later every lesser prop will be removed.

We may try to lay our sorrows at the foot of devil, but eventually our rebukes will fail, leaving us in defeat and despair.

We may imagine that God is refining our faith, but if faith alone is our treasure, we may one day find ourselves offering the whole hoard for a pittance of relief.

Perhaps we cling to the notion that our sorrows are God’s chastisement for indwelling sin. But if personal purity is our only hope, we will eventually be crushed by the depth of the depravity that his chastisements incessantly reveal.

And even if we give up trying to understand altogether–choosing rather to lean on the love of God–will that be enough in those dark hours when he does not behave as though he loves us?

It appears, then, that there is but one “prop” left; and though we are far too weak to take hold of it completely, it is nonetheless the best prop we have. It is the same prop that supported our Savior, that remained the fountain of his joy and the ram-rod of his strength to the very end.

His prop–and our best prop–is the glory of God.

Jesus ever beheld it: the infinitely beautiful character of his Father, resplendent and captivating in every one of a multitude of divine attributes. Knowing him, he found that he could live for nothing less than to honor him. In the dark fishbowl of this world, he therefore kept his eye upon his Father’s glory. He sought, through perfect obedience, to reflect it in every word and deed. Moreover, he knew that as he did so, others, by God’s grace, would glimpse it and respond to it as well. All this was his anchor in the storms, and his anchor held.

Would to God that we, his children, could walk so well as our Master! But if we, being indwelt by the Spirit of the Son, have caught even the tiniest glimpse of God’s glory, then surely our lode-star is no different than our Lord’s. Through a glass darkly we have seen the same omnipotent Father (and the same glorious Christ) who has loved us with the same everlasting love, and whose purpose is to bring us–his many sons and daughters–to the same home in glory!

Let us therefore seek to do this one thing: Let us follow in the footsteps of Christ, our Pioneer. Let us keep our eyes upon God Triune, and upon his honor. When we triumph, let us rejoice, glorifying his goodness and grace. When we fail, let us confidently pick ourselves up and keep on keeping on, glorifying his tender mercies and the infinite forgiveness that is already ours in Jesus. When we suffer, let us do what we can to submit humbly, glorifying his greater wisdom, his unchanging goodness, and the secret power by which he will faithfully sustain the weak and wounded.

Remember: We are ever on display, a spectacle to men and angels and God himself. Therefore, whatever our circumstance, let us do all for the honor of his name.

In the great fishbowl of this world, such a faith–no matter how small–cannot fail. Whether by life or by death, it will surely bring glory to God.

The King’s Family Tree

1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:1

Abraham fathered Isaac, Isaac fathered Jacob, and Jacob fathered Judah and his brothers. Judah fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab, Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David the king.

David fathered Solomon by her who was the wife of Uriah. Solomon fathered Rehoboam, Rehoboam fathered Abijah, Abijah fathered Asa, Asa fathered Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat fathered Joram, Joram fathered Uzziah, Uzziah fathered Jotham, Jotham fathered Ahaz, Ahaz fathered Hezekiah, 10 Hezekiah fathered Manasseh, Manasseh fathered Amon, Amon fathered Josiah, 11 and Josiah fathered Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 Now after the deportation to Babylon, Jeconiah fathered Shealtiel, Shealtiel fathered Zerubbabel, 13 Zerubbabel fathered Abiud, Abiud fathered Eliakim, Eliakim fathered Azor, 14 Azor fathered Zadok, Zadok fathered Achim, Achim fathered Eliud, 15 Eliud fathered Eleazar, Eleazar fathered Matthan, Matthan fathered Jacob, 16 and Jacob fathered Joseph, the husband of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Christ.2

17 Thus all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon until the Christ, fourteen generations.

The Birth of Christ

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ came about in this way. During the time when his mother Mary was engaged3 to Joseph, and before the two of them4 had come together, Mary was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 Now her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, was unwilling to make a public example of her, and therefore had in mind to divorce her privately. 20 But while he was considering these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus,5 for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place in order to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call his name Immanuel,” which, when translated, means “God with us.”6 24 So when Joseph awoke from his sleep, he did just as the angel of the Lord had commanded him: He took Mary as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her7 until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.


  1. All names are given in their OT forms
  2. Greek for Anointed One; Heb. Messiah
  3. Greek betrothed (but legally reckoned as Joseph’s wife, vv. 19, 24)
  4. Lit. they
  5. I.e. “YHWH saves,” or “YHWH is salvation.”
  6. Is. 7:14, 9:6-7
  7. Lit. was not knowing her


The Visit of the Magi

2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, Magi1 from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the child who is born2 to be king of the Jews; for we saw his star in the east3 and have come to worship him?” Now when Herod the king heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. So when he had assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. Then they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is how the prophet wrote: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”4

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. And sending them on to Bethlehem, he said, “Go and search carefully for the young child; and when you have found him, report back to me so that I too may come and worship him.”

So after hearing from the king, the wise men once again took up their journey; and behold, the star they had seen in the east continually went before them until it arrived and stood over the place where the young child was. 10 Now when they saw the star, they rejoiced with an exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had entered the house, they saw the young child with his mother Mary; and they fell to the ground and worshiped him. And opening up their treasure boxes, they presented him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Then, being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their own country by another way.

Warning and Flight

13 Now after they had left in secret, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt; and remain there until I bring you word, for Herod is going to seek the child in order to kill him.” 14 So when he had gotten up, Joseph took the child and his mother and departed by night for Egypt; 15 and he remained there until the death of Herod. All this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”5

Rachel Weeping

16 Now when Herod realized that the wise men had deceived him, he was beside himself with rage. So sending out men, he had all the little boys6 in Bethlehem and its surrounding districts put to death, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then the words7 spoken through the prophet Jeremiah were fulfilled, who said,8 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, for they were no more.”9

Return to Nazareth

19 Now after Herod had died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream while he was still in Egypt, 20 saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel; for the men who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21 So he arose, took the child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in the place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. So after being warned in a dream, he withdrew into10 the districts of Galilee. 23 And he came and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled: that he would be called a Nazarene.11


  1. Traditionally, wise men; possibly Zoroastrian priests, specializing in astronomy, astrology, and natural science.
  2. Lit. the one born
  3. Or possibly when it rose
  4. Mic. 5:2
  5. Hos. 11:1
  6. Or children
  7. Lit. What was
  8. Lit. saying
  9. Jer. 31:15
  10. Or turned aside for
  11. Or be fulfilled: “He will be called a Nazarene.”


The Ministry of John the Baptizer

Now in those days John the Baptizer came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!” For this was he of whom the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; straighten out his paths!’”1 Now John himself wore an outer garment made of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. At that time people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and the entire region surrounding the Jordan began going out to him; and he was baptizing them in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Very well then, bring forth fruit as proof of your2 repentance! 9 And don’t presume to say among3 yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these very stones! 10 Moreover, the axe is already laid against the root of the trees; every tree, therefore, that fails to bring forth good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 As for me, I am baptizing you in water for repentance. But the one coming after me has far greater power,4 and I am unfit even to carry5 his sandals. He will baptize you in6 the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Jesus Fulfills All Righteousness

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 But John was trying to prevent him,7 saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and you are coming to me?” 15 But in reply Jesus said to him, “Permit it at this time, for it is proper8 that we fulfill all righteousness in this way.” Then John consented.9 16 And after he was baptized, Jesus immediately came up out of the water;10 and behold, the heavens were opened,11 and John12 saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him. 17 And behold, a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”


  1. Is. 40:3
  2. Lit. fruit worthy of
  3. Or within
  4. Lit. is mightier than me
  5. Or remove
  6. Or with
  7. Lit. he was preventing him
  8. Or fitting
  9. Lit. permitted him
  10. Or went up from the water
  11. Many mss add to him
  12. Lit. he


Temptation in the Wilderness

Then the Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he hungered. Then the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” But Jesus answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”1

Then the devil took Jesus with him to the holy city, stood him on the pinnacle2 of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written that he will command his angels to care for you, and that they will lift you up with their hands, lest you should strike your foot against a stone.”3 But Jesus said to him, “It is also written, ‘You shall not force a test on the Lord your God.’”4

Once again the devil took Jesus with him, this time to a very high mountain; and he showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “If you fall down and worship me, I will give you all these things.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him alone you shall serve.’”5 11 Then the devil left him; and behold, angels came and ministered to his needs.6

Ministry in Galilee

12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth, he went and settled in Capernaum, a town by the sea in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah, when he said,7 15 The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward8 the sea, this side of the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: 16 The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, and on those who sit in the region and shadow of death a light has dawned.”9 17 Now from that time on Jesus began to herald the good news, saying “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!”

The First Disciples

18 Now as he was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew—casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Come, follow me,10 and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 So at once they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there, he saw two more brothers—James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John—sitting in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. So he called them as well22 and immediately leaving the boat and their father behind, they followed him.

Healing for the Multitudes

23 Then Jesus began traveling throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every kind of sickness and every kind of infirmity11 among the people. 24 And the news of him spread throughout all Syria, with the result that the people12 brought him all who were sick: those taken with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, and those who were epileptics and paralytics. And he healed them all25 And huge crowds followed him, people from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and the regions beyond the Jordan.


  1. Deut. 8:3
  2. Or highest point; lit. wing
  3. Ps. 91:11-12
  4. Deut. 6:16
  5. Deut. 6:13
  6. Lit. to him
  7. Lit. saying
  8. Lit. the way beside
  9. Is. 9:1-2
  10. Lit. Come after me
  11. Or disease
  12. Lit. they


The Beatitudes

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on the mountain; and after he had seated himself, his disciples came to him. 2And opening his mouth, he began to teach them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the humble,1 for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.2
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are you when men revile you, and persecute you, and speak all kinds of evil against you falsely because of me. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven; for that is how they persecuted the prophets who came before you.

Believers Are Salt and Light

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how can it become salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do men light a lamp and then place it under a basket; instead, they place it on its stand,3 and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Christ and the Law

17 “Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For I tell you the truth: Till heaven and earth pass away, not one iota or one serif4 will pass from the Law till all is fulfilled. 19 Therefore whoever sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches men to do the same, he will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you this: Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.


21 “You have heard that it was said to5 the men of long ago, ‘You shall not commit murder,’6 and ‘Anyone who murders will be liable to the court.’ 22 But I say to you that anyone who goes on in anger against his brother7 will be liable to the court.8 Moreover, anyone who says ‘Raca!’9 to his brother will be liable to the supreme court.10 And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to punishment in the fires of Gehenna.11 23 So then: If you are bringing your gift12 to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there, in front of the altar, and first go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. 25 Make peace with your opponent quickly, while the two of you are still on your way to court,13 lest your opponent hand you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, so that you are thrown into jail. 26 I tell you the truth: You will not get out of there till you have paid the last cent.


27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’14 28 But I say to you that anyone who looks at a woman in order to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your right eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into Gehenna.15 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into Gehenna.


31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’16 32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the grounds of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.


33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to17 the men of long ago, ‘Do not swear falsely, but fulfill your vows to the Lord.’18 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 nor by the earth, for it is the footstool for his feet, nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor should you swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. 37 You should simply say, ‘Yes, yes,’ or ‘No, no.’ Anything beyond these stems from the evil one.19


38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’20 39 But I say to you, do not retaliate against21 an evil-doer. Instead, whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other as well. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him also have your cloak. 41 And whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you for help; and from him who wants to borrow from you, do not turn away.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor22 and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be seen as23 sons of your Father in heaven; for he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you deserve? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you only greet your brothers, what more are you doing than anyone else? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore, you too must be24 perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.25


  1. Or meek
  2. Or satisfied
  3. Lit. on the lampstand
  4. I.e. very small Hebrew marks
  5. Or by
  6. Ex. 20:13;Deut. 5:17
  7. Some mss add without a cause
  8. An apparent reference to a lesser Jewish tribunal
  9. Aramaic for empty-head or good-for-nothing
  10. Lit. Sanhedrin
  11. Lit. the Gehenna of fire. Gehenna was a smoldering garbage dump outside Jerusalem
  12. Or offering
  13. Lit. while you are with him in the way
  14. Ex. 20:14; Deut. 5:18
  15. Traditionally hell
  16. Deut. 24:1, 3
  17. Or by
  18. Lev. 19:12
  19. Or evil; lit. (is) out of the evil (one)
  20. Ex. 21:24, Lev. 24:20
  21. Or resist
  22. Lev. 19:18
  23. Or be, become
  24. Lit. you shall be
  25. See Lev. 19:2; Deut. 18:13



“Take care that you don’t perform your good deeds1 in front of men, in order to be seen by them; if you do, you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, whenever you give to the poor, you are not to sound a trumpet before you like the hypocrites do in the streets and synagogues, in order to receive praise from men. I tell you the truth: They have their reward. But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be done in secret; then your Father, who is watching in secret, will reward you himself.2


“And when you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. I tell you the truth: They have their reward. 6 But as for you, when you pray, go into your inner room;3 and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father, who is with you in secret; and your Father, who is watching in secret, will reward you. 7 Also, when you pray, don’t be like the Gentiles, repeating yourselves over and over again; for they think that through the abundance of their words they will be heard. You are not to4 be like them, for your Father knows the things you need before you ask him. Here then is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heavenmay your name be held in honor. 10 May your kingdom come. May your will be done: as it is in heaven, so too upon the earth. 11 Give us today our daily5 bread. 12 And forgive us our debts as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’6 14 For if you forgive others7 of their sins, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 15 But if you do not forgive others of their sins,8 neither will your Father forgive you yours.


16 “And whenever you fast, don’t be like the hypocrites, looking sad and sullen; for they distort their faces in order to show men that they are fasting. I tell you the truth: They have their reward. 17 But as for you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting will not be seen by men, but by your Father who is with you in secret; and your Father, who is watching in secret, will reward you.

Treasure in Heaven

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves cannot break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be as well. 22 The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore if your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 No one can serve two masters, for he will either hate the one and love the other, or he will cling to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.


25 “For this reason I say to you, don’t worry about your life: what you will eat or what you will drink. And don’t worry about your body: what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the wild birds,9 how they neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. And are you not of far greater value than they? 27 Moreover, which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his appointed span of life? 10

28 “Again, why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, the way in which they grow: They neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was never dressed like one of these! 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you who have so little faith?

31 “Therefore, do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles are constantly seeking all these things; but you need not, for11 your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 Instead, seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 So then: Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.12


  1. Lit. your righteousness
  2. Some mss add openly
  3. I.e. an inner room of one’s house, hidden from the outside world
  4. Lit. Therefore do not
  5. Or necessary
  6. Or evil; lit. the evil (one)
  7. Lit. men
  8. A few ancient mss omit their sins (trespasses)
  9. Lit. birds of the air
  10. Or add a single cubit to his stature
  11. Or possibly all these things; and (besides)
  12. Lit. Sufficient for the day is its own troubles



“Do not judge, so that you yourself will not be judged; for in the way you judge, you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive.1 Moreover, why do you stare at the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to consider the beam in your own? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look: There’s a beam in your own! You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother’s. 


“Do not give what is holy to the dogs, and do not throw your pearls before the pigs; otherwise they may trample your pearls beneath their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. 


“Keep on asking, and it will be given to you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Or what man among you, if his son asks him for some bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks him for a fish, will he give him a snake? 11 If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! 12 Therefore, whatever you want others2 to do for you, do the same for them; for this is the Law and the Prophets.

The Narrow Gate  

13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide—and the road is broad—that leads to destruction, and many are entering by it. 14 How3 narrow is the gate—and how difficult the road—that leads to life; and how few are those who find it! 

False Prophets

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 By their fruits you will know them. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Just so, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then: By their fruits you will know them.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 In that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and drive out demons in your name, and perform many miraculous works of power in your name?’ 23 And then I will openly declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!’4

The Good Foundation  

24 “So then: Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice5 may be likened to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floodwaters6 rose,7 and the winds blew and beat against that house; but it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice may be likened to a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floodwaters rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; and it fell with a great and terrible fall.”8

28 Now when Jesus had finished saying all these things,9 the crowds stood amazed at his teaching; 29 for he was not teaching them like the scribes, but as one who had authority.


  1. Lit. it will be measured to you
  2. Lit. all things whatsoever you desire men
  3. Some mss For
  4. See Ps. 6:8
  5. Lit. and does them
  6. Or streams, rivers
  7. Lit. came
  8. Lit. and it fell, and great was its fall
  9. Lit. And it came about when Jesus had finished (completed) these words (sayings)


Christ the Healer

Now when Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came up to him, knelt down before him, and said, “Lord, if you’re willing, you can make me clean.” So Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And at once the man was cleansed of his leprosy.1 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Jesus Heals a Centurion’s Servant

Now when he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came up to him and began to plead with him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home, paralyzed and dreadfully tormented.” So Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But in reply the centurion said, “Lord, I’m not worthy that you should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, and I myself have soldiers under me. So I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.10 Now when Jesus heard that, he stood amazed; and he said to those who were following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found such great faith in anyone in Israel!2 11 And I tell you this: Many will come from the east and the west, and will recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where3 there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And in that very hour his servant was healed.

Further Healings

14 Now when Jesus had entered Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. 15 So he touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she arose and began to serve him. 16 And when evening fell, they brought him many who were tormented by demons; and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick, 17 so that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, when he said, “He took away4 our infirmities,5 and carried off our diseases.”6

Uncompromising Discipleship

18 Now when Jesus saw the multitude7 gathered around him, he ordered his disciples to depart for the other side of the sea19 Then a certain scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 But Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the wild birds8 have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Then another one of the9 disciples said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Lord of Wind and Sea

23 Now when Jesus got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, a great storm arose on the sea, so great that the waves began to swamp the boat. But Jesus himself was asleep. 25 So they10 went over to him and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to die!” 26 But he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then he stood up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and a great calm fell upon the waters. 27 And the disciples11 stood amazed, saying, “What sort of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

Satan Driven Out

28 Now when Jesus came to the other side—to the territory of the Gadarenes—two demon-possessed men emerged from the tombs and rushed towards him, men so exceedingly violent that no one could pass through by that way. 29 And behold, they cried out, saying, “Son of God, what do you want with us?12 Have you come here to torment us before the time?” 30 Now a good way off from them there was a large herd of pigs, feeding. 31 So the demons pleaded with him, saying, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” 32 Then he said to them, “Begone!” And when the demons came out, they entered the herd of pigs; and behold, the entire herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and died in the waters. 33 Then the herdsmen fled; and when they had entered13 the city, they reported everything, including14 what had happened to the demoniacs. 34 And behold, the entire city went out to meet Jesus; and as soon as they saw him,15 they pleaded with him to leave their territory.


  1. Lit. his leprosy was cleansed
  2. Many mss I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel.
  3. Lit. in that place
  4. Or took on, took hold of
  5. Or sicknesses
  6. Is. 53:4
  7. Some mss a large crowd; others, large crowds
  8. Lit. birds of the air
  9. Many mss his
  10. Some mss the disciples or his disciples
  11. Lit. men
  12. Lit. “What to us to you?”
  13. Or left for the city; lit. departed into
  14. Or especially; lit. and
  15. Lit. when they had seen him


A Paralytic Forgiven and Healed

So after entering a boat, he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some men were bringing him a paralytic who was lying on a makeshift bed.1 Now when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, take heart; your sins are forgiven you.” 3 So at once2 some of the scribes said within themselves,3 “This man is blaspheming!” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why are you harboring evil4 thoughts in your hearts? For which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ” (then he said to the paralytic), “Rise, pick up your bed, and go back to your house.” And the man got up and left for his house. Now when the crowds saw this, they were gripped with fear; and they glorified God5 who had given such authority to men.

A Tax Collector Called

Now as Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting in the tax collector’s booth. So he said to him, “Follow me!” And he got up and followed him.

10 Now as he was dining in Matthew’s house, it so happened that many tax collectors and sinners arrived and began to recline at the table with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why is your teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But overhearing them, Jesus said, “Those who are well don’t need a physician, only those who are sick. 13 So go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’6 For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”


14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast,7 but your disciples don’t fast at all?” 15 So Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom8 mourn while the bridegroom is still with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment and the tear will be made worse. 17 Nor do men put new wine into old wineskins, for if they do, the wineskins burst, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. Instead, they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Two Women Healed

18 Now as he was telling them these things, behold, a ruler of the synagogue arrived and knelt down before him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her and she will live.” 19 Then Jesus, along with his disciples, got up and followed him. 20 And behold, a woman who had suffered a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and grasped the hem of his outer garment; 21 for she was saying to herself, “If only I can grasp his cloak, I will be healed.” 22 But Jesus, turning around and seeing her, said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well!”9 And from that hour on the woman was healed.

23 Now when Jesus entered the ruler’s house, and when he saw the flute players and the noisy, wailing crowd, 24 he said to them, “Go back to your homes, for the girl isn’t dead, but only sleeps.” So they began to laugh at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand; and the girl arose. 26 And the news of this spread throughout that entire region.

Two Blind Men See

27 Now as Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying out and saying, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” 28 So when he had entered the house, the blind men came up to him; and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “May it be done to you according to your faith.” 30 And their eyes were opened. But Jesus sternly warned them, saying, “See that no one knows of this!” 31 But once they had gone out, they spread the news of it10 throughout that entire region.

A Mute Man Speaks

32 And as they were leaving, behold, some people11 brought him a man who was mute and oppressed by a demon; 33 and when the demon had been driven out, the mute man spoke. So the crowds stood amazed, saying, “Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel!” 34 But the Pharisees kept saying, “He is casting out demons by the ruler of the demons.”

The Compassion of Christ

35 Then Jesus began circulating through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and infirmity. 36 And when he beheld the crowds, he was moved with compassion for them, for they were harassed and helpless,12 like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “Truly, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 So pray in earnest to the Lord of the harvest, that he would send out13 workers into his harvest.”


  1. Or stretcher
  2. Lit. And behold
  3. Or among themselves
  4. Or corrupt, perverted
  5. Or they feared and glorified God
  6. Hos. 6:6
  7. Many mss add much; some mss often
  8. Lit. sons of the wedding hall
  9. Lit. saved you
  10. Or him
  11. Lit. they
  12. Or downcast
  13. Or thrust


The Twelve Sent Out

10 Now when Jesus had called for his twelve disciples, he gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and heal every kind of disease and infirmity. And these are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew, the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out after giving them the following instructions: “Take no road that leads you to the Gentiles,1 and enter no city of the Samaritans, but go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, proclaim this message, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is near!’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not supply yourselves with gold, silver, or copper for your money belts, 10 or with a bag for your journey, or two tunics, or extra sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his keep.2 11 And in whatever city or village you enter, make inquiries as to who is worthy, and stay with him3 until you leave. 12 And when you enter that household, greet it witha blessing. 13 If the household is worthy, let your peace4 come upon it; but if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 And whoever will not receive you or listen to your words, when you leave that house or city, shake the dust off your feet. 15 I tell you the truth: In the Day of Judgment it will be more bearable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that city!

The Twelve Warned

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the councils and will scourge you in their synagogues. 18 Because of me you will even be brought before governors and kings, to testify to them and the Gentiles. 19 But when they hand you over, don’t be concerned about how you should speak or what you should say, for what you should say will be given to you in that very hour; 20 for it will not be you who is speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through5 you.

21 “And brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his own child; and children will rise up against their parents and have them put to death; 22 and because of my name you will be hated by all. But he who endures to the end will be saved. 23 And whenever they persecute you in this city, flee to the next.6 For I tell you the truth: You will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, neither is a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for a disciple to be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more the members7 of his household!

Healthy Fear

26 “So have no fear of them, for there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and nothing hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And have no fear of those who kill the body, but who cannot kill the soul; but fear instead him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a single copper coin, yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father? 30 But as for you, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid: You are more valuable than many sparrows! 32 Therefore I say to you that everyone who confesses me8 before men, I too will  confess him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever denies me before men, I too will deny him before my Father who is in heaven.

Not Peace, But a Sword

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s enemies will be the members9 of his own household.10 37 Whoever11 loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Holy Giving and Receiving 

40 “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. 41 Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet12 will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth: He will by no means lose his reward.”


  1. Lit. Do not depart into (the) way of the Gentiles
  2. Lit. food, nourishment
  3. Lit. there
  4. Or blessing of peace
  5. Lit. in
  6. Lit. the other
  7. Lit. those
  8. Lit. will confess in (with) me
  9. Lit. those
  10. Mic. 7:6
  11. Lit. He who
  12. Lit. in the name of a prophet


John Inquires of Jesus

11 Now after Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. But when John, who was in prison, heard about the miraculous works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples, asking1 him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for someone else?” So in reply Jesus said to them, “Go and tell John the things you hear and see: The blind receive their sight and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised to life and the poor have good news proclaimed to them; and blessed are those who do not stumble over me.”2

7 Then, as John’s disciples3 were going their way, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to observe: a reed shaken by the wind? But if not that, what did you go out to see: a man dressed in soft robes? Behold, those who wear soft robes are found in the palacesof kings. But what then did you go out to see: a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face; he5 will prepare your way before you.’6

11 I tell you the truth: Among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptizer has ever arisen; nevertheless, he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 And from the days of John the Baptizer until now the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men are seizing it for themselves. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he himself is Elijah, who was promised come.7 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

16 “But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces, calling out to their playmates and saying, 17 ‘We played the flute for you, but you wouldn’t dance; we sang a dirge for you, but you wouldn’t beat your breasts!’ 18 For John came, neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is vindicated by what she does.”8

Two Cities of Woe

20 Then he began to denounce the cities in which most of his mighty miracles9 had been performed,10 because they did not repent: 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! And woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty miracles performed in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 Moreover,11 I say to you that in the Day of Judgment it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And as for you, Capernaum, do you refuse to be lifted up to heaven?12 Very well, you will be thrown down to Hades! For if the mighty miracles performed in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained to this very day. 24 Moreover, I say to you that in the Day of Judgment it will be more bearable for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Revelation and Rest

25 At that time Jesus spoke up in response, saying, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for to work in this way was pleasing in your sight. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father. And no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and those to whom the Son is willing to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who are weary13 and loaded down, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy14 and my load is light.”


  1. Lit. (and) said to
  2. Lit. blessed is whoever is not made to stumble by me
  3. Lit. these
  4. Lit. houses
  5. Lit. who
  6. Mal. 3:1
  7. Lit. who is (was) to come
  8. Or accomplishes; lit. her works. Many mss by her children (Luke 7:35)
  9. Or works of power; lit. powers
  10. Lit. occurred, taken place
  11. Or But, nevertheless
  12. Lit. will you not be exalted to heaven?
  13. Or who labor, toil (i.e. to the point of exhaustion)
  14. Or mild, pleasant


Lord of the Sabbath

12 At that time Jesus passed through the grain fields on a Sabbath day; and his disciples grew hungry and began picking the heads of wheat and eating themBut when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing on the Sabbath what the Law forbids!”1 But he said to them, “Haven’t you read what David did when he was hungry—both he and the men with him—how he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated loaves, something that wasn’t lawful for him or his companions to do,2 but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests serving in the temple break3 the Sabbath, and yet are guiltless? But I say to you: Something4 greater than the temple is here. Moreover, if you had known what this means—‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’5— you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Now after leaving that place he entered their synagogue. 10 And behold, a man with a withered hand was inside. So the Pharisees questioned Jesus, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—in order to accuse him. 11 But he said to them, “What man among you, if he owned a single sheep that6 fell into a pit on the Sabbath, would not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 If, then, a sheep has value, how much more a man! Accordingly, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then Jesus said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out, and it was restored to health, just like the other. 14 But after they had gone out, the Pharisees began plotting against him as to how they might put him to death.

The Patience of Christ

15 So Jesus, being aware of this, withdrew from that place. And many people7 followed him, and he healed them all. 16 But he warned them not to make him known, 17 so that what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled, when he said:

18 “Behold! My servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved one, in whom my soul is well pleased!
I will set my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice8 to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
neither will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break off,
and a dimly burning wick he will not extinguish
until he sends forth judgment to victory.
21 And in his name the Gentiles will place their hope.”9

The Unpardonable Sin

22 Then a demon-possessed man, blind and mute, was brought to him; and Jesus healed him, so that the mute both spoke and saw. 23 And all the crowds stood amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard that, they said, “This man only drives out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” 25 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to ruin; and every city or house divided against itself cannot10 stand. 26 Now if Satan is driving out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then can his kingdom stand? 27 Moreover, if I am driving out demons by Beelzebul, by whom are your sons driving them out? For this reason they will be your judges. 28 If, however, I am driving out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or again, how can someone enter a11 strong man’s house and plunder his goods unless he first ties up the strong man? Only12 then can he plunder his house. 30 He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me is scattering far and wide. 31 For this reason I say to you that every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven to men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, neither in this age nor in the age to come.

Tend First to the Tree

33 “Either make the tree good, so its fruit is good,13 or make the tree bad, so its fruit is bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34 You offspring of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For the mouth speaks from that which fills the heart. 35 The good man out of his good treasury brings forth good things; and the evil man out of his evil treasury brings forth evil things. 36 Moreover, I tell you this: In the Day of Judgment men will give an account for every thoughtless14 word they speak; 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

The Sign of Jonah

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees responded to him, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation clamors for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so too the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 At the Judgment the men of Nineveh will rise up with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, One who is greater15 than Jonah is here. 42 At the Judgment the Queen of the South will rise up with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, One who is greater than Solomon is here.

Woe to a Wicked Generation

43 “Now when an unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places, seeking rest but finding none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will go back to my house, the house from which I came.’ And when it arrives, it finds the house empty, swept clean, and set in order. 45 Then it goes out and takes with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all go in and live there, so that the final state of that man is worse than the first. So too shall it be for this evil generation.”

Jesus’ Family Tree

46 While he was still speaking to the crowds, behold, his mother and brothers came and stood outside, desiring to speak with him. 47 So someone said to him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak with you.” 48 But in reply Jesus said to the man who was talking to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand towards his disciples, he said, “Look, here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven, that is my brother and my sister and my mother.”


  1. Lit. what is unlawful to do
  2. Lit. for him or those with him to eat
  3. Lit. desecrate, profane
  4. Or one who is
  5. Hos. 6:6
  6. Lit. and it
  7. Many mss great crowds
  8. Or judgment
  9. Is. 42:1-4
  10. Lit. will not
  11. Lit. the
  12. Lit. and
  13. Lit. and its fruit good
  14. Lit. lazy, careless
  15. Or something greater


The Parable of the Sower

13 On that same day, after he had left the house, Jesus was sitting beside the lake; 2 however, such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down there, while the whole crowd stood on the shore. Then, using parables, he told them many things, saying: “Behold, a1 sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some of the seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky places, where they had little soil; and because their soil had no depth, they sprang up immediately. But after the sun had risen, the seedlings were2 scorched; and because they had no root, the plants3 withered away. Other seeds fell among thorn bushes, with the result that the bushes sprang up and choked the plants. But other seeds fell on good ground and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

The Purpose of Parables

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why are you speaking to them in parables?” 11 In reply Jesus said to them, “Because to you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, whereas to them it has not been given. 12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he does have will be taken from him. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, for though they see, they do not see; and though they hear, they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in them the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says:

‘With your ears4 you will hear,
but by no means understand;
and with your eyes5 you will see,
but by no means perceive;
15 for the heart of this people has grown fat.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and return, so that I might heal them.’6

16 “But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and blessed are your ears, for they hear. 17 For I tell you the truth: Many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

The Sower Explained

18 “Listen, then, to what the parable of the sower means19 When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and fails to understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the meaning of the seed sown beside the road. 20 As for the seed sown on rocky places, this refers to the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 however, he has no root within himself, but is only temporary. Therefore, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, he immediately falls away. 22 The seed sown among the thorn bushes refers to the one who hears the word, but the cares of this present age and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, so that it bears no fruit. 23 But the seed sown in the good soil refers to the one who hears the word and understands it; who does indeed bear fruit and produce a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

Of Wheat and the Tares

24 Then he set another parable before them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares7 among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the wheat sprang up and formed heads,8 the tares appeared as well. 27 So the servants of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 Therefore he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, for when you gather up the tares you might uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let them both grow together until the harvest. Then, at the time of the harvest, I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and tie them in bundles to be burned; but as for the wheat, gather it into my barn.” ’ ”

Of Mustard Seed and Leaven

31 Then he set another parable before them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 Though it is indeed the smallest of all seeds, when it reaches full stature it is the largest of the garden plants, and becomes a tree; and as a result, the wild birds9 come and make their nests in its branches.”10

33 And he spoke another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal until the entire dough11 was leavened.”

34 All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; and without a parable he would not speak to them at all, 35 so that what was declared through the prophet might be fulfilled, when he said, “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the founding of the world.”12

The Parable of the Wheat and Tares Explained

36 Then Jesus dismissed13 the multitudes and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37 So in reply he said, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world. The good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, and the tares are the sons of the evil one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 Therefore, just as tares are gathered up and burned in a fire, so it will be at the end of the age: 41 The Son of Man will send forth his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all stumbling-blocks and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.14 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Hidden Treasure and a Precious Pearl

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid. Then, for joy over the treasure, he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant who went in search of fine pearls. 46 And when he found a single pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

The Dragnet

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was thrown into the sea and gathered in fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, they pulled it up onto the shore, sat down, and collected the good fish in baskets; but the worthless ones they threw away. 49 So it will be at the end of the age: The angels will come forth, take the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52 Then he said to them, “For this reason I say to you: Every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven15 is like the head of a household who brings out of his storeroom of valuables things both new and old.”

A Prophet Without Honor

53 Now when Jesus finished delivering these parables, he left that place. 54 And when he came again to his home town,16 he began teaching the people17 in their synagogue. As a result, they stood amazed and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and such powers? 55 Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother called Mary, and aren’t his brothers called James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? 56 And as for his sisters, don’t they all live here with us?18 Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 So they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town19 and his own house.” 58 And he did not perform many miracles20 there because of their unbelief.


  1. Lit. the
  2. Lit. it was (a collective pronoun)
  3. Lit. it
  4. Lit. with the sense of hearing
  5. Lit. and seeing
  6. Lit. and I would heal them; Is. 6:9-10
  7. Lit. darnel, a poisonous weed resembling wheat
  8. Lit. produced fruit
  9. Lit. birds of the air
  10. See Ezek. 17:22f, 31:5
  11. Lit. all of it
  12. Ps. 78:2
  13. Or left
  14. See Dan. 12:3
  15. Or trained for the kingdom of heaven
  16. Or home territory
  17. Lit. them
  18. Lit. aren’t they all with us?
  19. Or part of the country
  20. Lit. works of power


John Beheaded

14 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus. So he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptizer; he has risen from the dead, and that’s why these miraculous powers are at work in him!” For after Herod had arrested John, he had him bound and put in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. For John kept telling him, “It isn’t lawful for you to have her.” And though Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, for they regarded John as a prophet. Now when Herod’s birthday arrived, the daughter of Herodias performed a dance in the midst of the gathering; and she pleased Herod, so much so that he promised with an oath to give her anything she might request. But at the prompting of her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptizer here on a platter.” And though it grieved the king, because of the oaths he had sworn, and because of those who were reclining at the table with him, he ordered that it be given to her. 10 So he sent word and had John beheaded in prison; 11 and his head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who in turn brought it1 to her mother. 12 Then John’s disciples came, carried away the body, and buried it. And they went and reported these things to Jesus.

Food for Five Thousand

13 Now when Jesus heard about this, he withdrew from there by boat and went to an isolated place where he could be by himself. But when the crowds heard of it, they followed him on foot from the cities. 14 So when he got out of the boat, he beheld a great crowd; and he was moved with compassion for them, and he healed those among them who were sick.

15 Now when evening arrived his disciples came to him, saying, “This place is uninhabited, and the hour is already late. Send the crowds away so they can go into the villages and buy themselves some food.” 16 But Jesus said to them, “There’s no need for them to leave: You give them something to eat.” 17 But they said to him, “Out here we only have five loaves of bread and two fish.” 18 So he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then, after ordering the crowds to sit down on the grass, he took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up into heaven, and asked God’s blessing. And after breaking the loaves, he gave portions to the disciples, who in turn gave portions to the multitudes. 20 So all of them ate and were filled;2 and they took up twelve basketfuls of the fragments that were left over. 21 Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

A Walk on the Sea

22 Then Jesus immediately had the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side of the sea while he sent the crowds away; 23 and after doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. Now when evening arrived, he was still there, all alone; 24 but by this time the boat was many stadia away from the land; and it was being battered3 by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 So in the fourth watch of the night Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were deeply distressed, saying, “It’s a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But at once Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage! It is I; don’t be afraid!”

28 But in reply, Peter said to him, “Lord, if it really is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 So Jesus said, “Come!” And when he had gotten down out of the boat, Peter walked on the water and came towards Jesus. 30 But looking upon the high winds,4 he grew fearful; and as he started to sink, he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” 31 So stretching out his hand, Jesus immediately took hold of him; and he said to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 Then those who were in the boat knelt down before him, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God!”

The Touch that Heals

34 Now after they had finished crossing the sea, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent messengers out into the entire surrounding area; and the people brought to him all who were sick. 36 And they pleaded with him just to let them touch the edge of his cloak; and everyone who touched it was healed.


  1. Lit. and she brought it
  2. Or satisfied
  3. Lit. tormented
  4. Lit. seeing (noticing) the strong wind; some mss omit strong


God, Law, Tradition

15 Then certain Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem, saying, “Why do your disciples violate the tradition of the elders; for when they eat their food, they don’t wash their hands?” But in reply he said to them, “And why do you1 violate the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said,2 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’3 and ‘He who curses his father or mother, let him be put to death.’4 Yet you say, ‘If someone5 tells his father or mother, “Anything of mine by which you might have been helped has been dedicated as a gift to God,”6 he no longer needs to honor his father.’7 Thus you have nullified the word of God for the sake of your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; moreover, they worship me in vain, for they teach8 as doctrines of God the commandments of men.’ ” 

Defilement is From Within

10 Now when he had summoned the crowd, he said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but what comes out of it; that is what defiles a man.” 12 Then the disciples came up and said to him, “Do you realize that the Pharisees were offended when they heard you say that?”9 13 But in reply Jesus said, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Leave them alone.10 They are blind guides; and if the blind leads the blind, they both will fall into a pit.” 15 Then Peter responded and said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 But Jesus said, “After all this, are you men also without understanding? 17 Don’t you see that everything going into the mouth enters the stomach and is eliminated? 18 But the things that go forth from the mouth come out of the heart; and it is these that defile the man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual sins, thefts, false witness, and slanders.11 20 These are the things that defile a man. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”

Amazing Faith

21 Now after leaving that place, Jesus withdrew into the districts of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman who lived12 in those parts came forth and began to cry out, saying, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is cruelly tormented by a demon.” 23 But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a single word. Then his disciples came up and began to plead with him, saying, “Send her away, for she is constantly crying out behind us.” 24 But he answered and said, “I have not been sent to any except the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 Now after the woman had come up, she knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me!” 26 But in reply Jesus said, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the household dogs.” 27 But the woman said, “Yes, Lord, but even the household dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “Woman, your faith is great! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And from that very hour her daughter was healed.

Multitudes Healed

29 Now after he had left that place, Jesus traveled along the Sea of Galilee; and when he had gone up into the mountain, he sat down there. 30 Then large crowds came to him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, and mute, along with many others. And they laid them at his feet, and he healed them. 31 So when the crowd saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored to health, the lame walking, and the blind seeing, they were utterly amazed. And they glorified the God of Israel.

The Feeding of the Four Thousand

32 Then Jesus called for his disciples and said, “I am concerned about the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days; they13 have nothing to eat, and I don’t want to send them off hungry since they might weaken along the way.” 33 Then his disciples said to him, “In this remote place where could we get enough bread to satisfy so great a crowd?” 34 Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 So when he had ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took up the seven loaves and the fish. And when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave portions to his disciples, who in turn gave portions to the crowd. 37 So all the people ate and were satisfied; and they picked up the leftover fragments: seven large basketsful. 38 Now those who had eaten were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And when he had dismissed the crowd, Jesus got into the boat and came to the region of Magadan.


  1. Or possibly Why do you yourselves; lit. Why also do you
  2. Many mss issued a command, saying
  3. Ex. 20:12
  4. Ex. 21:17
  5. Lit. Anyone who
  6. Lit. is a gift
  7. Many mss add or mother.
  8. Lit. in vain, teaching; Is. 29:13
  9. Lit. when they heard the word (saying)
  10. Or Leave them!
  11. Or blasphemies
  12. Lit. from
  13. Lit. and they


Blind to the Signs

16 Now the Pharisees and Sadducees, coming to Jesus in order to test him, asked that he show them a sign from heaven. But in reply he said to them, “When evening arrives, you say, ‘Tomorrow it will be fair, for the sky is red.’ 3 And at dawn you say, ‘ Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to read the face of the sky, but you cannot read the signs of the times! An evil and adulterous generation keeps on seeking a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Then he turned away from them and departed.

Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees!

Now when the disciples arrived on the other side of the sea, they had forgotten to take along bread. Then Jesus said to them, “Watch out and be on guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees!” So the disciples began to discuss this among themselves, saying, “It’s because we’ve brought no bread.” But when Jesus became aware of it, he said to them, “You men of little faith! Why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Are you still without understanding? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand men, and how many baskets of fragments you picked up? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand men, and how many large baskets of fragments you picked up? 11 How is it that you don’t understand I was not speaking to you about bread? Nevertheless, be on guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees!” 12 Then they realized he was not telling them to beware of the leaven in bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Peter’s Good Confession

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he put a question to his disciples, saying, “Who do men say the Son of Man is?” 14 So they replied, “Some say John the Baptizer, others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 Jesus said to them, “But who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” 17 Then Jesus responded and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 Moreover, I say to you that you are Peter;1 and on this rock2 I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will by no means prevail against3 it. 19 I will give you4 the keys of the kingdom of heaven: Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.”5 20 Then he commanded his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.

Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection

21 From that time on Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be put to death and raised up on the third day. 22 Then Peter, having taken Jesus aside, began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord!6 This will never happen to you!” 23 But turning his back on him,7 Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, for you are not intent8 on the things of God, but the things of man.”9

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is soon to come in the glory of his Father, and with all his angels; and then he will repay every man according to his deeds. 28 But I tell you the truth: There are some standing here who will not taste death before they have seen the Son of Man coming in his royal power.”10


  1. Greek petros: a stone
  2. Greek petra: large rock, bedrock
  3. Or overpower
  4. “You” is singular
  5. Or possibly will be bound . . . will be loosed
  6. Lit. Mercy to you, Lord!
  7. Or turning away, turning around; lit. turning
  8. Or setting your mind
  9. Lit. men
  10. Or with (in) his kingdom


The Transfiguration

17 So six days later Jesus took with him Peter, James, and his brother John; and he brought them up into a high mountain by themselves. And there he was transfigured before them; and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared before them, conversing with Jesus! So Peter, in response, said to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good for us to be here! If you like, I will set up three tents in this place: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But while Peter was still speaking, a bright cloud suddenly overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Now when the disciples heard that, they fell face down to the ground, deathly afraid. But Jesus came to them; and when he had touched them, he said, “Stand up, and don’t be afraid.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus himself, standing there all alone.

Now as they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus gave them a command, saying, “Tell no one about the vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.” 10 Then his disciples inquired of him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 11 In reply Jesus said, “Elijah does indeed come first and will restore all things. 12 But I say to you, Elijah has already come; yet they failed to recognize him, and they did to him whatever they wished. So too is the Son of Man about to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples realized he was speaking to them about John the Baptizer.

Healing and Faith

14 Now when they had come down to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, knelt down before him, and said, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic who1 suffers terribly; for time and again he falls into the fire and into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.” 17 But in reply Jesus said, “O unbelieving and perverse generation! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to me!” 18 Then Jesus rebuked the evil spirit,2 and it came out of him; and from that very hour the child was healed. 19 Afterwards the disciples came to Jesus in private and said, “Why couldn’t we cast it out?” 20 So he said to them, “Because of the smallness of your faith. For I tell you the truth: If you have faith no larger than a mustard seed,3 you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”4

A Second Prediction

22 Now while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man will soon be delivered5 into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him. But on the third day he will be raised.” And they were deeply grieved and distressed.

The Sons are Free

24 Now when they arrived in Capernaum, the men who collected the temple tax6 came up to Peter and said, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” 25 Peter said, “Yes, he does.” But when Peter came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first,7 saying, “Simon, what do you think? From whom do the kings of the earth receive customs or taxes: from their sons or from foreigners?” 26 Now when Peter replied “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 Nevertheless, to avoid offending them, go down to the lake, throw in a hook, and take the first fish you bring up.8 When you have opened its mouth, there you will find a stater.9  Take that and give it to them for me and you.”


  1. Lit. and he
  2. Lit. him, it
  3. Lit. as a mustard seed
  4. Some mss add verse 21: However, this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting; see Mark 9:29
  5. Or betrayed
  6. Lit. the two drachma tax, equivalent to two days wages, used for the maintenance of the temple
  7. Or anticipated what he was about to say
  8. Lit. coming up
  9. A coin worth four drachmas


True Greatness

18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” So after calling a little child to himself, Jesus stood him in the midst of them and said, “I tell you the truth, unless you are converted1 and become like little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in my name receives me. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if a huge millstone2 were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea.

7 “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For stumbling blocks must indeed appear, but woe to the man through whom they appear!3 Moreover, if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it far from you; it is better for you to enter into life crippled or lame than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it far from you; it is better for you to enter into life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fires of Gehenna.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

10 “See to it that you don’t look down on one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels behold the face of my heavenly Father at all times.4 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the mountains and go and look for the one that has strayed? 13 And if in fact he finds it, I tell you the truth: He will rejoice over that one sheep more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t stray. 14 Just so, it is not the will of your Father in heaven for a single one of these little ones to perish.

The Road to Reconciliation

15 “If your brother is sinning,5 go to him in private6 and reprove him for his fault. If he hears you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he won’t listen, take along with you one or two more, so that ‘by the testimony7 of two or three witnesses every fact8 may be confirmed.’9 17 And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. But if he even refuses to listen to the church, let him be to you like a Gentile and a tax-collector. 18 I tell you the truth: Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.

19 And again I say to you: If, in regard to any matter, two of you agree on earth as to what they should ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”

Forgiveness and the Family of God

21 Then Peter came up to him and said, “Lord, how often must I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I say to you: not up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.10 23 This is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a certain king who desired to settle accounts with his servants. 24 Now when he had begun to do so, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought before him. 25 But since the man had nothing with which to pay, his master ordered him to be sold, together with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and that repayment be made. 26 Then the servant fell to his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you back everything!’ 27 Therefore, being moved with pity, the master of the servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But after the servant had gone out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you back!’ 30 But he was unwilling to do so, and instead went off and had him thrown11 into jail until he could pay back the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply distressed; and they came and told their master everything that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned the first servant12 and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me for mercy. 33 Should you not also have shown mercy to your fellow servant, just as I did to you?’ 34 And moved with anger, his master handed him over to the torturers until he should repay13 everything he owed. 35 This is what my heavenly Father will do to you as well if each one of you does not forgive his brother from his heart.”


  1. Lit. turned
  2. Lit. millstone turned by a donkey
  3. Lit. the stumbling block appears
  4. Some later mss add verse 11: For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.
  5. Or sins; many mss add against you
  6. Lit. between you and him alone
  7. Lit. mouth
  8. Or charge; lit. word
  9. Deut. 19:15
  10. Or seventy-seven
  11. Lit. and threw him
  12. Lit. him
  13. Or had repaid; the Greek implies doubt about the possibility of repayment


Marriage, Divorce, and Kingdom Celibacy

19 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; and large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Then certain Pharisees came to him in order to test him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and all reasons?”¹ So he answered and said, “Have you not read that he who created them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’2 So then: They are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together let no man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses authorize3 a man to give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” He said to them, “Due to the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it was not meant to be.4 And I say to you that except in the case of sexual immorality, anyone divorces his wife and then marries someone else, commits adultery.”5, 6

10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the rule for a man with a wife, it is better not to marry at all! 11 So Jesus said to them, “Not all of you can receive what I am about to say,7 only those to whom it has been given. 12 For some eunuchs were born as such directly from their mother’s womb; some have been turned into eunuchs by men; and some have turned themselves into eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”

Let the Children Come

13 Then some little children were brought to him so that he might lay his hands on them and pray; but the disciples rebuked the ones who brought them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do nothing to hinder them,8 for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these!” 15 And when he had laid his hands on them, he departed from that place.

Riches and the Kingdom

16 And behold, a man came up to him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do in order to obtain eternal life?” 17 But Jesus said to him, “Why are you asking me about what is good? There is only one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 The man said to him, “Which ones?” So Jesus declared, “‘You shall not commit murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 You shall honor your father and your mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” 20 The young man said to him, “I have carefully observed all these commandments;9 what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be complete, go, sell what you have, and give the proceeds to the poor; and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 But when the young man heard him say that,10 he went away sorrowing, for he had many possessions.11

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 Now when his disciples heard this, they were stunned; and they said, “Who then can be saved?” 26 So looking at them, Jesus said, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” 27 In response Peter then said to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you; what then lies in store for us?” 28 So Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth: In the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 Moreover, everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for my name’s sake will receive back a hundred times as much, and will also inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.


  1. Lit. any (each, every) reason (cause)
  2. Gen. 1:27, 2:24, 5:2
  3. Lit. command, order
  4. Or it was not so; lit. it has not happened thus
  5. Some mss makes her commit adultery
  6. Some mss add and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery
  7. Lit. receive this saying
  8. Or Leave the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to me
  9. Lit. all these things
  10. Lit. heard the word
  11. Or much property


The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard

20 “For the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the laborers to pay them a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. Now around the third hour he went out and saw other men standing idle in the marketplace; so he said to them, ‘You too go into the vineyard, and I will give you whatever is right.’ So they went. And around the sixth and the ninth hours he again went out and did the same. Then, around the eleventh hour, he went out and found still others standing there. So he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard as well.’

Now when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, starting with the last and finishing with the first.’ And when the men who were hired around the eleventh hour came forward, they each received a denarius. 10 Now when the first to be hired came forward, they assumed they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11 So when they received it, they began to speak up in anger against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last only worked one hour, and you’ve made them equal to us who suffered the burden and scorching heat of the day!’ 13 But answering one of them, the landowner said, ‘Friend, I’m doing you no injustice. Didn’t you agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. As for me, I wish to give this last man the same as I gave you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I want with my own belongings? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ 16 In just this way, the last will be first, and the first last.”

Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection a Third Time

17 Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve aside; and standing by1 the road, he said to them, 18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed2 to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will sentence3 him to death 19 and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified. And on the third day he will be raised.”

The Path to Greatness

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee, together with her sons, came up to him, knelt down, and asked a favor of him. 21 So he said to her, “What is it you want?” She said to him, “Declare that in your kingdom these two sons of mine will sit, one on your right hand and the other on your left.” 22 But Jesus answered and said, “You don’t realize what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup. But to sit on my right and on my left is not mine to give, but belongs to those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

24 Now when the ten heard about this, they were angry and indignant over what the two brothers had done. 25 But summoning them all, Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and that their great men wield authority over them. 26 But among you it must4 not be so. Rather, whoever desires to be great among you must be your servant; 27 and whoever desires to be first among you must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Two Blind Men Regain Their Sight

29 Now as they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30 And behold, two blind men were sitting beside the road. Now when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, saying, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” 31 But the crowd rebuked them, telling them to be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” 32 Then, after coming to a halt, Jesus called for them; and he said, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 33 They said to him, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.” 34 So Jesus, moved with compassion, touched their eyes; and the men immediately regained their sight and followed him.


  1. Lit. in, on
  2. Or handed over
  3. Lit. condemn
  4. Lit. will (and so throughout these verses)


The Triumphal Entry

21 Now when they were nearing Jerusalem and had come to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent out two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will come upon a donkey secured with a rope, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. And if anyone says something to you, you are to say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and he will send them at once.” Now this took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, when he said: “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble and seated on a donkey; yes, on a donkey’s colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ”1

So when the disciples had gone and done just as Jesus commanded them, they brought him the donkey and the colt; and they laid their cloaks on the animals,2 and Jesus sat down on the cloaks.3 Meanwhile, a large crowd was spreading their garments on the road, while others were cutting down branches from the trees and doing the same with them. And the crowds that went before him, as well as those that followed after, kept on crying out, saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’4 Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was thrown into turmoil, so that the people were saying, “Who is this man?” 11 And the crowds would reply, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee!”

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

12 Then Jesus entered the temple precincts and drove out all the men who were buying and selling in the temple courts; and he overturned the tables of the money changers and knocked down the chairs of those who were selling doves. 13 And he said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’5 but you have made it a den of thieves!”6

14 Then the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things he was doing,7 and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were outraged. 16 So they said to him, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” But Jesus said to them, “Yes. And have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of children and nursing infants you have perfected praise’?” 8 17 Then he left them and went outside of the city, to Bethany; and he spent the night there.

The Fig Tree Cursed

18 Now early in the morning, as he was returning to the city, Jesus grew hungry. 19 And seeing a lone fig tree standing beside the road, he went over to it; but he found nothing on it except leaves. So he said to it, “Let no fruit ever grow on you again.” And at once the fig tree withered away. 20 Now when the disciples saw it, they were amazed, saying, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” 21 So in reply Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth: If you have faith, and do not give way to doubt,9 you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you said to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it would be done for you22 And whatever things you may ask for in prayer, if you believe, you will receive them.”

Jesus’ Authority Challenged

23 Now when he entered the temple grounds, the chief priests and elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching. And they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 But in reply Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question, and if you answer me, I also will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 The baptism of John: Where was it from? From heaven or from men?” Then the leaders began to deliberate among themselves, saying, “If we answer, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we answer, ‘From men,’ we fear the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We don’t know.” So in like manner he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

The Parable of the Two Sons

28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons; and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 But the son answered and said, ‘I will not.’ Yet later on he came to regret it and went out. 30 Then the man came to the second son and said the same thing to him. And he answered and said, ‘I will, sir,’ but he didn’t go out. 31 Which of the two sons did the will of his father?” The leaders said to him, “The first.” Then Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth: The tax collectors and the prostitutes will enter10 the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and the prostitutes did believe him; and even after seeing that, you did not change your mind and believe him.11

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants

33 Now hear another parable. There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard, placed a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a watchtower to protect it. Then he leased it out to tenants12 and went away to a far country. 34 Now when the time for harvesting drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants in order to collect his share of the crop. 35 But seizing his servants, the tenants beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 So once again the landowner sent other servants, more than the first; but the tenants did the same thing to them. 37 Finally, he sent them his own son, saying, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and take his inheritance!’ 39 And after they had seized him, they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 So then: When the owner of the vineyard returns, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 The leaders said to him, “He will bring those wretches to a miserable end, and will lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him his share of the crop season by season.”13

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is wondrous in our eyes’?14 43 For this reason I say to you that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation that produces its crops. 44 Moreover, he who falls on this stone will be broken in pieces, and15 he on whom it falls will be crushed and scattered like chaff.”16

45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they realized he was speaking about them. 46 But when they tried to lay hands on him, they feared the crowds, for the people17 held him to be a prophet.


  1. Zech. 9:9
  2. Lit. them
  3. Lit. them
  4. Ps. 118:26
  5. Is. 56:7
  6. See Jer. 7:11
  7. Lit. did
  8. Or you have prepared praise for yourself; see Ps. 8:2
  9. Lit. and are not at odds with yourself
  10. Lit. are entering
  11. Lit. repent to believe (in) him
  12. Or sharecroppers
  13. Lit. at their appointed times
  14. Ps. 118:22-23
  15. Or but
  16. Lit. falls—it will crush (winnow, scatter) him.  See Dan. 2:34-35
  17. Lit. they


The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

22 Responding further, Jesus again spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. And he sent out his servants to call those who had been invited to the feast; but they were unwilling to come. So again he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who were invited, “Look, I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and my fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!” ’ But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his place of business; 6 and as for the rest, once they had seized his servants, they shamefully abused1 and killed them. So the king, roused to anger, sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The banquet is ready, but those who were invited were unworthy. Therefore go out into the highways, and as many as you find there, invite them to the wedding banquet.’ 10 So the servants went out into the highways and gathered together everyone they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.

11 “But when the king came in to view the guests, he saw there a man who wasn’t wearing a wedding robe. 12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And the man was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness: In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The Pharisees Inquire about Taxes

15 Then the Pharisees went and discussed among themselves how they might trap Jesus in his own words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, together with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are dedicated to the truth, that you teach the way of God in truth, and that you court no man’s favor, since you have no regard for the standing of men.2 17 So tell us what you think: Is it lawful3 for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, perceiving their evil intent, replied, “You hypocrites, why are you putting me to a test? 19 Show me the coin that is used for taxes.” So they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” 21 They said to him, “Caesar’s.” So he said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 Now when they heard that, they marveled; and they left him and went their way.

The Sadducees Inquire about the Resurrection

23 On that same day the Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came up to him and questioned him, 24 saying: “Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies having no children, his brother must marry his widow and raise offspring for his brother. 25 Now we had seven brothers living among us. After the first one had married, he died; and having no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing also happened to the second and third brothers, all the way down to the seventh. 27 And last of all, the woman died. 28 So then: In the resurrection which of the seven brothers will have her as his wife? For they all had her as a wife.”

29 But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, knowing4 neither the scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are they given in marriage, but they are like the angels in heaven. 31 But as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, when he said, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?5 God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowds heard that, they marveled at his teaching.

The Scribes Inquire about the Greatest Commandment

34 Now when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they too gathered together to test him.6 35 Then one of them—a lawyer—asked him a question, putting him to a test. 36 “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 So Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.7 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’8 40 All the Law and all the Prophets hang on these two commands.”

Jesus Inquires about David’s Faith

41Now while the Pharisees were still assembled together, Jesus put a question to them, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 So Jesus said to them, “How then does David, in the Spirit, call him Lord, saying, 44 ‘The LORD said to my Lord,9 “Sit at my right hand till I place your enemies beneath your feet”’?10 45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him with a single word; nor, from that day on, did anyone dare to question him further.


  1. Or treated them disgracefully
  2. Lit. And it is not a concern to you about anyone because you do not see the face of men
  3. Or right
  4. Or understanding
  5. Ex. 3:6,15
  6. Lit. for the same purpose
  7. Deut. 6:5
  8. Lev. 19:18
  9. In Hebrew: Yahweh said to my Adonai
  10. Ps. 110:1


One Brotherhood, One Leader

23 Then Jesus addressed both the crowds and his disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses. Therefore practice and observe everything they tell you; but do not imitate their deeds, for they teach one thing and do another.1 Indeed, they tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry, and they lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with a single finger.

“What’s more, everything they do, they do to be seen by men. They broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels on their robesand they love the place of honor at banquets, the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 formal salutations in the marketplaces, and being called ‘Rabbi’ by the people.2 But as for you, you are not be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one teacher, and all of you are brothers. And do not call anyone on earth your father: for you have one father, your Father in heaven.3 10 And do not be called leaders,4 for you have one leader: the Messiah. 11 Instead, the greatest among you will be your servant; 12 and whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Woe to the Scribes and Pharisees!

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you stand in front of men, blocking the door to the kingdom of heaven;5 for you yourselves do not go in, and those who are trying to do so you turn away.

14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for mere show offer lengthy prayers; for this reason you will receive the greater punishment.6

15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you traverse land and sea to win a single proselyte; and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of Gehenna as yourselves.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, his vow means nothing;7 but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obligated to fulfill it. 17 Fools and blind! Which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 Moreover, you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, his vow means nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that was placed on the altar, he is obligated to fulfill it.’ 19 You blind men!8 Which is greater: the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? 20 So then: He who swears by the altar is swearing by the altar and everything on it; 21 and he who swears by the temple is swearing by the temple and him who dwells within it; 22 and he who swears by heaven is swearing by the throne of God, and by him who is seated upon it.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, but have neglected the weightier matters of the Law: justice, mercy, and faith.9 These are the things you should have done, without neglecting the others. 24 Blind guides, men who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside they are filled with greed10 and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the dish, so that the11 outside can be clean as well.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which do indeed look beautiful on the outside, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all kinds of uncleanness. 28 And so it is with you: Outwardly you look righteous in the sight of men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous; 30 and you say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would never have joined them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 But in so doing you testify against yourselves that you are the sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 So then: Fill up the measuring jar of your fathers!

33 Serpents, offspring of vipers! How can you escape the sentence of Gehenna? 34 For this reason, behold, I am sending you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and chase from city to city, 35 so that all the righteous blood ever shed upon the earth may fall on you: from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 I tell you the truth: All these things will come upon this generation.

Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, she who kills the prophets and stones the men who are sent to her! How often I yearned to gather your children together like a hen that gathers her chicks beneath her wings; but you were unwilling. 38 Behold, your house is left to you in ruins. 39 For I say to you all, from now on you will see me no more, not until the day you can declare,12 ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”13


  1. Lit. do not do according to their works, for they say, but do not practice
  2. Lit. by men
  3. Lit. the heavenly Father
  4. Or teachers, masters, guides
  5. Lit. You shut off the kingdom of heaven before men
  6. This verse is not found in early mss; see Mark 12:40, Luke 20:47
  7. Lit. it is nothing
  8. Lit. Blind! (plural)
  9. Or faithfulness
  10. Or robbery, extortion
  11. Lit. so that its
  12. Lit. you will by no means see me from now until whenever you declare
  13. Ps. 118:26


The Signs of His Coming

24 Now after departing from the temple complex, Jesus was going his way; and his disciples came up to him and called his attention to its many buildings. But he said to them, “Do you not see all these things? I tell you the truth: Not one stone in this place will be left upon another; every one of them will be thrown down.”1

3So as he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us: When will these things happen? And what will be the sign of your coming2 and of the end of the age?” In reply, Jesus said to them: “See to it that no one leads you astray; for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and they will deceive many. You will also hear of wars and rumors of wars: See that you don’t give way to fear, for these things must take place, but the end has not yet comeFor nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these are only the beginning of the birth pains.

“Then they will hand you over to tribulation and kill you; and because of my name you will be hated by all nations. 10 And then many will take offense, betray one another, and hate one another. 11 Moreover, many false prophets will rise up and lead many astray; 12 and because lawlessness will increase, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world3 as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.

Great Tribulation

15 “So when you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’4 which was spoken of through the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place” (let the reader understand), 16 “then those who are living in Judea must flee to the mountains; 17 he who is on the roof must not come down to take things out of his house; 18 and he who is out in the field must not go back to get his clothes. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant, and to those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 And pray that your flight does not occur in winter, or on a Sabbath day; 21 for at that time there will be great tribulation, the likes of which have not been seen5 from the beginning of the world until now, no and never will be. 22 And unless those days had been cut short, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, they will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe him. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will arise; and they will display great signs and wonders, so great that even the elect would be led astray,6 if that were possible. 25 See, I have told you in advance. 26 So if they say to you, ‘Look, he’s in the desert!’ do not go out; and if they say, ‘Look, he’s in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 27 For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes all the way to the west, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. 28 For wherever the body is, there the eagles7 will be gathered together.

The Coming of the Son of Man

29 “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will wail and mourn and beat their breasts; and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send forth his angels with a loud blast of the trumpet; and they will gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of the skies8 to the other.

The Parable of the Fig Tree

32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its branch has become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also with you: When you see all these things, know that he9 is near—right at the doors! 34 I tell you the truth: This generation will by no means pass away till all these things have taken place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

36 “But as for that day and hour, no one knows them, not even the angels of heaven,10 but my Father alone. 37 And just as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood they were eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage, right up to the day when Noah entered the ark; 39 and they did not understand11 until the flood came and swept them all away. This is how it will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 At that time two will be working in the field: One will be taken and the other left. 41 Two will be grinding at the mill: One will be taken and the other left. 42 So keep careful watch, for you do not know the day on which your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the head of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and not allowed his house to be entered by force. 44 This is why you as well must be ready, for in an hour when you are not expecting him, the Son of Man will come.12

The Good and Evil Servant

45 “Who then is that faithful and wise servant whom his master put in charge of his household, to give its members13 their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant if his master finds him doing so when he returns: 47 I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says in his heart, ‘My master has been delayed.’ 49 And suppose he begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards. 50 Then that servant’s master will come on a day when he is not expecting him, and at an hour he does not foresee; 51 and he will cut him in two and assign him his lot with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


  1. Lit. Not a stone upon a stone will be left in this place that will not be thrown down
  2. Greek parousia: the arrival of a dignitary in glory
  3. Lit. in the whole inhabited world
  4. Dan. 11:31, 12:11
  5. Lit. that has not taken place
  6. Lit. wonders so as to lead astray even the elect
  7. Or wherever the carcass (corpse) is, there the vultures
  8. Or heavens
  9. Or it
  10. Some mss add or the son; see Mark 13:32
  11. Or perhaps realize (their peril; what was about to occur)
  12. Lit. comes
  13. Or the other servants; lit. them


The Parable of Virgins 

25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were foolish and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they brought no oil with them; but the wise brought jars of oil along, together with their lamps.

Now while the bridegroom tarried, they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there came a shout: ‘Look, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out!’ But the wise answered and said, ‘No, for there may not be enough for both of us; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 But as the foolish were on their way to buy more oil, the bridegroom arrived, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. 11 Later on the other virgins also arrived, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, ‘I tell you the truth: I do not know you.’ 13 So then: Keep careful watch, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

The Parable of the Talents 

14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man setting off on a journey,1 and who therefore summoned his servants2 and entrusted his possessions to their care. 15 And to one of them he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his own ability. And then he left. 16 Now the servant who had received the five talents immediately went off, traded with them, and gained five more. 17 In the same way, the servant who had received two talents gained two more. 18 But the servant who had received the one talent went out, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.

19 “Now after a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 And when the servant who had received the five talents came up to his master, he brought him five more, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted me with five talents; look, I have gained five more besides.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things, I will make you a ruler over many. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ 22 Then the servant who had received the two talents also came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted me with two talents; look, I have gained two more besides.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you a ruler over many. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

24 “Then the servant who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew that you were a hard man, reaping where you haven’t sown and gathering where you’ve scattered no seed. 25 So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, you have what is yours.’ 26 But in reply his master said to him, ‘You evil, lazy servant! You “knew” that I reap where I haven’t sown and gather where I’ve scattered no seed? 27 In that case you should have deposited my money in the bank,3 so that at my return I might have received it back with interest. 28 Therefore take the talent from this man,4 and give it to the servant who has the ten. 29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he does have will be taken away. 30 And throw that worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The Judgment Seat of Christ  

31 “Now when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, at that time he will sit on his glorious throne.5 32 And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and he will place the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. 34 Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you took me in, 36 naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, a prisoner6 and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you39 And when did we see you sick or in prison, and come to you?’ 40 And in reply the king will say to them, ‘I tell you the truth: Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will also say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink. 43 I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison, and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they too will reply, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘I tell you the truth: Inasmuch7 as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And then they will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”


  1. Lit. leaving home on a journey to foreign lands
  2. Lit. his own servants (slaves)
  3. Lit. with the bankers
  4. Lit. him
  5. Lit. the throne of his glory
  6. Lit. in prison
  7. Or To the extent that


A Plot to Kill Jesus

26 Now when Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “You know that two days from now the Passover will arrive, and the Son of Man will be handed over for crucifixion.” Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered together at the residence of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas; and they conspired with one another as to how they might seize Jesus by trickery and put him to death. But they said, “Not during the feast, or there will be an uproar among the people.”

The Anointing at Bethany

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him holding an alabaster jar full of very costly perfumed oil; and as he was reclining at the table, she poured the oil on his head. But when his disciples saw it, they were filled with indignation and said, “Why such waste? For this oil might have been sold for a high price, and the money given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you troubling the woman? In performing this work, she has served me well.1 11 For the poor will always be with you, but I will not; 12 for when she poured this fragrant oil on my body, she was doing it to prepare me for burial. 13 I tell you the truth: Wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, people will speak of what this woman has done; and it will serve as a memorial to her.”2

The Treachery of Judas  

14 Then one of the twelve, the one called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out to him3 thirty silver coins; 16 and from that time on Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray him.

The Final Passover

17 Now on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover meal?” 18 So he said, “Go into the city to such and such a man, and say to him, ‘The teacher says, “My time is near; I will observe the Passover at your house, together with my disciples.”’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had instructed them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

20 Now when evening came, he reclined4 at the table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth: One of you will betray me.” 22 So each of them, in deep distress, said to him, “Surely it isn’t me, Lord?”5 23 He answered and said, “Someone6 who dipped his hand with me in the bowl—he is the one who will betray me. 24 And yes, the Son of Man will go his way just as it is written of him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would have been better for that man if he had never been born.” 25 Then Judas, the one who was betraying him, responded and said, “Surely it isn’t me, Rabbi?” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself.

Jesus Institutes the Lord’s Supper

26 Now while they were eating, Jesus took up bread; and when he had given thanks,7 he broke it and passed it to the disciples, saying, “Take, eat: This is my body.” 27 Then he took the cup, gave thanks, and handed it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 And I tell you this: From now on I will no longer drink this fruit of the vine until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” 30 And after they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

31 Then Jesus said to them, “Tonight you all will made to stumble because of me, for it is written, ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’8 32 But after I’ve been raised, I will go before you into Galilee.” 33 But Peter replied and said to him, “Even if everyone stumbles because of you, I will never do so.” 34 Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth: This night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples said the same thing.

Anguish in Gethsemane

36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to the disciples, “Sit down here while I go over there and pray.” 37 And after taking Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him, he began to grieve, and to sink into deep distress. 38 Then he told them, “Sorrow is overwhelming my soul, even to the point of death; stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Then he went on a little further, fell face down to the ground, and prayed, saying, “O my Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.40 Then he came back to the disciples, but he found them sleeping. So he said to Peter, “What! Couldn’t you men watch with me for a single hour? 41 Watch and pray, so that you don’t enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Then again, for a second time, he went off and prayed, saying, “O my Father, if it is not possible for this cup to pass me by unless I drink from it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came back and found the men sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So leaving them once more, he went off and prayed a third time, saying the same words yet again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?9 Behold, the hour has arrived for the Son of Man to be betrayed10 into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up and let us be going; look, my betrayer is drawing near!”

Betrayal and Arrest

47 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, suddenly arrived, together with a large crowd carrying11 swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 Now his betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whichever one I kiss, that is the man; seize him.” 49 And immediately Judas went over to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why are you here?”12 Then the men came over, took hold of Jesus, and arrested him. 51 But suddenly one of the men who were with Jesus stretched out his hand, drew his sword, and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword! 53 Or is it that you think I’m unable to call on my Father, who would immediately supply me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then could the scriptures be fulfilled which say it must happen in this way?” 55 Now at that point13 Jesus spoke to the crowds: “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me, as you would against a robber? Day by day I sat in the temple teaching you, yet you didn’t arrest me. 56 But all this has happened so that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples fled, leaving him behind.14

Jesus Before the Sanhedrin

57 So the men who had seized Jesus led him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58 But Peter followed Jesus at a distance as far as the high priest’s courtyard; and after he had gone inside, he sat down with the guards to see what the outcome would be.

59 Now the chief priests and the entire council kept seeking false testimony against Jesus so that they could put him to death; 60 but even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. Finally, two came forward 61 and said, “This man stated: ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’” 62 So the high priest stood up and said to him, “Will you give no answer? What is it that these men are testifying against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. So the high priest said to him, “By the living God, I put you under oath: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God!” 64 Jesus said to him “You yourself have said it. Nevertheless, I tell you this: Hereafter15 you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power on high, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes, saying, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have for witnesses? Behold, you yourselves have now heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?” They answered and said, “He is guilty and deserves to die!” 67 Then they spat in his face and struck him with their fists; and some of them slapped him68 saying, “Prophesy to us, ‘Messiah’! Which one of us hit you?”

Peter Denies His Lord

69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard; and a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” 70 But he denied it in front of them all, saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” 71 Then, after going out to the entrance, another servant noticed him and said to the people there, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth!” 72 But together with an oath, he again denied it, saying, “I don’t know the man!” 73 A little while later the people who were standing around came up to Peter and said, “Surely you too are one of them, for even your accent gives you away!”16 74 Then he began calling down curses on himself, and swearing with an oath, saying, “I don’t know the man!” And all at once a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.


  1. Lit. she has worked a good (beautiful, valuable, admirable) work for me
  2. Lit. what this woman has done will be spoken of unto her memorial
  3. Or weighed out for him
  4. Or And evening having come, he was reclining
  5. Or Is it me, Lord?
  6. Or The one
  7. Lit. having blessed
  8. Zech. 13:17
  9. Or Sleep on [now] and take [your rest]
  10. Lit. and the Son of Man is betrayed
  11. Lit. with
  12. Or possibly Friend, do what you have come to do
  13. Lit. in that hour
  14. Or forsaking (abandoning) him
  15. Or From now on
  16. Lit. for even your speech makes you evident


Jesus Delivered Up to Pilate

27 Now as day began to dawn, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death; and when they had bound him, they led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.

A Prophecy Fulfilled

When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus now stood condemned, he regretted what he had done. So he brought the thirty pieces of silver back to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” So after Judas had thrown the silver coins into the temple, he withdrew from there; and he went away and hanged himself.

Now after the chief priests had picked up1 the silver coins, they said, “It is not lawful for us to put them into the temple treasury, since they are the price of blood.” So after deliberating among themselves, they used the money to buy the potter’s field as a cemetery for foreigners. Therefore, to this day it is called the Field of Blood. Then what was spoken through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled, when he said, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver—the price of him whose price was set by the sons of Israel— 10 and they gave them for the potter’s field, just as the Lord directed me.”2

Jesus Before Pilate

11 So Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor questioned him, saying, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus said to him, “You are saying it.” 12 Now as the chief priests and elders were accusing him, he said nothing at all. 13 So Pilate said to him, “Don’t you hear how many accusations they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus gave him no reply, not even to a single charge,3 with the result that the governor stood utterly amazed.

The People Choose Barabbas

15 Now at the feast the governor had a custom of releasing to the crowds any one prisoner whom they desired. 16 And at that time they were holding a notorious prisoner by the name of Barabbas.3 17 So after the people5 had assembled, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 (For Pilate knew the leaders had handed him over out of jealousy.) 19 But as he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for today I suffered many things6 in a dream because of him.” 20 Now the chief priests and elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus put to death. 21 But in reply the governor again said to the people, “Which of the two men do you want me to release to you?” And they said, “Barabbas!” 22 Pilate said to them, “What then should I do with Jesus, who is called the Messiah?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 So he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they cried out all the more, saying, “Let him be crucified!”

24 Now when Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere—indeed, that a riot was about to start—he took some water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “See for yourselves: I am innocent of this man’s blood!” 25 So all the people answered and said, “May his blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released Barabbas to them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified.

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

27 At that point the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the entire cohort around him. 28 Then they stripped him and wrapped a scarlet robe around him; 29 and after they had woven a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. Then they knelt down before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 30 They also spat on him and took the reed and repeatedly struck him on the head. 31 Then, when they had finished mocking him, they removed the robe, clothed him again, and led him away to be crucified.

The King is Lifted Up

32 Now as they were going out of the city, they came upon a man from Cyrene whose name was Simon; and they forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. 33 And when they had come to the place called Golgotha (which means “Place of a Skull”), 34 they gave Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he was unwilling to drink further. 35 Now after they had crucified him, they divided up his clothing by casting lots; 36 then they sat down and began to keep watch over him there. 37 And above his head they posted the indictment written against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 38 Then they crucified two robbers along with him, one on his right hand, and one on his left. 39 And the passersby began to rail at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you really are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” 41 And the chief priests as well, together with the scribes and elders, were mocking him in the same way, saying, 42 “He saved others, but he cannot save himself. He is the king of Israel—let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusted in God, so let God deliver him now if he really does delight in him,7 for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 And8 the robbers who were crucified with him were also insulting him in the same way.

Jesus Dies on the Cross

45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour9 darkness came over the entire land.10 46 Then, around the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”11 47 Now when some of the people standing there heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah!” 48 And immediately one of them ran and picked up a sponge, filled it with sour wine, placed it on a reed, and offered it to him to drink. 49 But the rest of them said, “Leave him alone! Let’s see if Elijah really does come and save him.”

50 Now when Jesus had again cried out with a loud voice, he gave up12 his spirit. 51 And suddenly the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth shook, the rocks were split, 52 and the tombs were opened; and the bodies of many of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 (Moreover, after his resurrection they came out of the tombs, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.) 54 Now when the centurion and the men who were guarding Jesus with him saw the earthquake and the things that had taken place, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly, this was a son of God!”13 55 And in that place, looking on from afar, there were a number of women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and ministered to his needs.14 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Jesus Buried in Joseph’s Tomb

57 Now when evening arrived, there came a rich man from Arimathea by the name of Joseph, a man who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, this man asked to take custody of Jesus’ body, at which time Pilate ordered the body to be handed over to him. 59 And when Joseph had received the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, a tomb he had hewn out of the rock. Then he rolled a large stone up against the entrance of the tomb and went his way. 61 (Now Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were in that place, sitting opposite the tomb.)

Pilate Sets a Guard

62 The next day (that is, the day after the Preparation), the chief priests and the Pharisees assembled before Pilate, 63 saying, “Sir, we remember that when that deceiver was still alive he said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 Therefore, command that the tomb be kept secure until the third day is over. Otherwise his disciples may come, secretly take him away,15 and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first!” 65 Pilate said to them, “Take a guard16 and go and make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went their way and secured the tomb by placing a seal on the stone in the presence of the guard.17


  1. Or received
  2. Jer. 19:1-13, 32:6-9; Zech. 11:12-13
  3. Or not even a single word
  4. Some mss Jesus Barabbas
  5. Lit. they
  6. Or greatly
  7. Or if he desires it. See Ps. 22:8
  8. Or even
  9. I.e. 12-3 PM
  10. Or earth
  11. Ps. 22:18
  12. Or yielded up, dismissed
  13. Or possibly the Son of God; there is no article in the Greek
  14. Lit.to him
  15. Lit. steal him
  16. I.e. a Roman guard of 4-16 soldiers
  17. Or possibly stone, and posting the guard


He is Risen!

28 Now after the Sabbath, towards1 dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. But behold, a great earthquake had just occurred; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven and coming to the tomb, had rolled back the stone and was now sitting on it. His face2 was like lightning, and his robe3 was as white as snow; and for fear of him the guards trembled and shook and became like dead men. But responding to their presence, the angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid; for I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here, for he has been raised, just as he said! Come and see the place where he4 was lying. Now,5 go quickly and tell his disciples that he has been raised from the dead.6 And behold, he is going before you into Galilee; you will see him there. See, I myself have told you!” So with fear and great joy they quickly left the tomb and ran to bring word to his disciples.

And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Rejoice!” So they came up to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to leave for Galilee; there they will see me again.”

The Soldiers Bribed

11 Now while they were on their way, some of the soldiers from the Roman guard7 went into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when the chief priests had come together with the elders for consultation,8 they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 saying, “Tell your superiors,9 ‘His disciples came at night and stole his body while we were sleeping.’ 14 And if news of this should reach the governor’s ears, we will win him over, freeing you from every fear.”10 15 So they took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story was spread far and wide among the Jews, and has been to this very day.

The Great Commission

16 So the eleven disciples went their way into Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 And when they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus drew near and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples in all the nations,11 baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all12 that I commanded you. And behold, I am with you each and every day,13 even to the end of the age!”


  1. Or at
  2. Lit. appearance
  3. Lit. outer garment
  4. Many mss read the Lord
  5. Or Then; lit. And
  6. Some mss omit from the dead
  7. Lit. way, behold, certain of the guard
  8. Or as a council
  9. Lit. money, saying, “You are to say that
  10. Lit. and make you free from fear
  11. Lit. Having gone, therefore, disciple all the nations
  12. Lit. all things whatsoever
  13. Lit. all the days

The Word of Life

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have beheld and handled with our hands—I write1 concerning the Word of life; 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and that was manifested to us—3 that which we have seen and heard we also proclaim to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and truly, our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. 4 And we write these things to you so that our joy may be fulfilled.

God is Light

5 Now this is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you: God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If, then, we say that we have fellowship with Him but continue to walk in darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son keeps on cleansing us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just2 to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.


  1. See v. 4, 2:1, 7, 12, etc.
  2. Or righteous
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Liturgically speaking, I’ve made the rounds. Down through the years this septuagenarian has worshiped in—or observed the worship of—Pentecostal, Charismatic, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches. Also, over the decades during which I served as a pastor, I continually mulled the New Testament (NT) parameters for worship on the Lord’s Day, trying hard to discern them accurately and practice them faithfully. Now, as I near the end of my journey, it has seemed good to me to share my best thoughts on Lord’s Day worship, and to craft a service of worship that I believe would be pleasing to God and edifying to his children.

Theological and Practical Foundations

Here in Part I of the essay I want to share my major premises: the theological and practical foundations upon which I have based my proposed liturgy. There are seven of them.

Lord’s Day Worship is Special

Worship on the Lord’s Day is quite special. Unlike other gatherings of God’s children, on this day the elders and members of a Christian body come together as a whole church (Acts 15:2, 22; 1 Cor. 11:17-18; 14:23, 26; 1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 10:25; 13:7). Also, the regulations for this assembly are different from, and more stringent than, those pertaining to smaller gatherings (1 Cor. 11:1-15 vs. 11:17-14:40; 1 Tim. 2:1-15).

But the uniqueness of Lord’s Day worship stems above all from its close association with the mystery of the Sabbath. Theological reflection on this subject is extensive, diverse, and sometimes controversial. For brevity sake, I will give my own view simply by citing a Statement of Faith that I wrote some years back:

We believe that the Sabbath Day, which in the beginning God set apart as a day of rest and worship for all mankind, and which at the giving of the Law he instituted as a day of rest and worship for his OT people, stood as a type or picture of the eternal rest that he now offers to all men—and commands them to enter—through the Gospel. / We believe that Christians do in fact enter this rest, first at the moment of saving faith, then more fully at the entrance of their spirits into heaven, and still more fully at the resurrection of the righteous at Christ’s return. / We believe that in order to underscore the perpetuity of the believer’s rest in Christ, the NT does not, by an ordinance, tie the worship of God to the Sabbath or any special day of the week. / But we also believe that through a holy tradition inaugurated by Christ himself on the day of his resurrection, and perpetuated in the practice of the early church, God’s people are invited and encouraged to designate the first day of the week as the Lord’s Day; that on that day they do well to assemble themselves together in order to celebrate and be refreshed in the spiritual rest God has given them, through a reverent and joyful observance of the ordinances of NT worship; and that in so doing God will be pleased, Christ exalted, his people blessed, and the world confronted afresh with the Good News of the Gospel.1

In short, Lord’s Day worship is special because on that day God specially draws near to his people in order to remind them of, teach them about, and refresh them in, their eternal Sabbath rest in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Lord’s Day Worship is Important to God and Man

The worship of the Lord’s Day is important to the triune God. Scripture affirms that he takes great pleasure in his people (Ps. 149:4). Indeed, his people are his chosen dwelling place (1 Ki. 8:10-11; Ps. 132:5-7; Ezek. 43:5; 44:4; John 14:23; Acts 2:2; Rev. 21:3). Therefore, knowing their needs, and not unmindful of his own enjoyment, he delights to draw near to them on the Lord’s Day. Abba Father delights to gather his children to himself and take them in his arms (Psalm 50:5, 149:4; Is. 43:2). His exalted Son, their heavenly Husband, delights to speak tenderly to his Bride, and to lay her weary head upon his vast and comforting bosom (Is. 40:1-3; John 13:23, 14:3, 17:24; Eph. 5). The Holy Spirit, knowing these things, delights to facilitate the holy visitation: to unveil and strengthen the eternal bond of love that unites the family of God. For these and other reasons, Lord’s Day worship is indeed important to the Three-in-One.

But it is even more important for man. For though God’s people have been justified, they are not yet fully sanctified. Though they are seated in heavenly places in Christ, they are still making an arduous journey through the howling wilderness of this present evil age (Gal. 1:4; Rev. 12:1ff). Therefore, their needs are great. Because they are weary, they need refreshing (Acts 3:19). Because they are pursued and persecuted, they need protection (Rev. 12:13-14). Because they are without (mature) understanding, they need teaching (Eph. 4:91-16). Because they are called, they need equipping (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Because they have faltered, they need exhortation, repentance, and reassurance (1 Cor. 11:27-32; 14:3). Because they are lonely, they need family; because they are lacking, they need the support of the family (Psalm 122; Acts 2:43-5). And because they are grateful and glad, they need a time and a place in which to express their gratitude and joy (1 Pet. 1:8). In sum, the saints are eager for Lord’s Day worship because they know that on that Day—through word, prayer, sacrament, and body ministry—they will yet again behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and so be transformed into his image from one degree of glory to the next (2 Cor. 3:18).

Lord’s Day Worship is Regulated 

Because God desires to meet with his people, and because their needs are so very great, he carefully regulates his own worship. In particular, he gives us detailed instructions concerning the attitudes, actions, and procedures that are proper to the gathering of the whole church. We may think of these regulations as borders by which he surrounds, creates, protects, and preserves a sacred space, ensuring that he himself may fully fill that space, and that in it his people may be fully edified and refreshed (Rev. 12:6, 14). He gives us regulations so that he may freely give us himself.

Concerning the attitudes that we are to bring to this gathering, the NT provides rich instruction. We are to come with understanding (Col. 1:9), gratitude (1 Tim. 2:1), joy (Matt. 13:44; Phil. 4:4), reverence (Heb. 12:28), humility (James 1:21), sincerity (Acts 2:46), confidence (Heb. 4:16), faith (James 1:6), and eager expectation (Matt. 18:20). We come in order to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). We come faithfully, in spite of what we’ve done or not done, and in spite of what we feel or don’t feel, always remembering that God is faithful, and that he is eager to meet both us and our needs (1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Tim. 2:13; Heb. 10:25). And so, having put on these attitudes, we too come with eagerness, hoping and expecting to see his glory fill the house (1 Kings 8:11; Ezek. 43:4; Acts 2:2)!

As for the actions of NT worship, they are far fewer than those of OT times, being carefully designed to facilitate the simplicity of worship in spirit and truth instituted by Christ, and now so supernaturally natural to the regenerate hearts of his flock (John 4:24; 2 Cor. 11:3). These actions include prayer; the reading, preaching, teaching, and prophesying of the Word of God; psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, sung with grace in our hearts to the Lord; the Lord’s Supper; and, on occasion, the administration of water baptism.

Again, these actions are regulated: The NT prescribes basic procedures for each one. As the procedures become familiar, the worshiper comes to rest in them, trusting that all things are indeed being done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40). Thus resting, he is free to give himself fully to the Lord throughout all the service: to listen for his voice, and to wait for his touch. Regulated worship becomes liturgy, the work of the people; liturgy, in turn, becomes a  garden paradise where the people experience the work of God.

Lord’s Day Worship is Participatory and Charismatic     

Speaking personally, I cannot read 1 Corinthians 12-14 and fail to conclude that here the apostle’s primary concern is to regulate the worship of the Lord’s Day. Yes, he begins by laying some theological groundwork, by unveiling the Church as the Spirit-filled Body of Christ, each of whose members is charismatically gifted for the continual edification of the Body. And yes, for this reason some of the gifts mentioned here will not typically operate in a worship service (e.g. helps, mercies, administrations, healings, miracles; cf. Rom. 12:3-8). But surely the thrust of these chapters is to educate the saints on the gifts of the Spirit with a view to their proper exercise in the gatherings of the whole church (1 Cor. 14:23).

Accordingly, in our thinking about Lord’s Day worship we must take seriously the words of the apostle in 1 Corinthians 14:26: “What then, brothers, is the sum of the matter? Whenever you come together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” Therefore, I would ask my Reformed brethren: Can a biblically faithful church exclude this verse from its understanding of the regulative principles of corporate worship? Does it not clearly tell us that Lord’s Day worship is participatory (i.e. each one has something to contribute, though not necessarily every Sunday) and charismatic (i.e. each one contributes that something in the exercise of his spiritual gift)?

My cessationist brethren will balk at this claim, believing as they do that with the closure of the NT canon, and with the passing of the foundational apostles, God has permanently withdrawn some of the more supernatural charismatic gifts. I cannot enter into that debate here. Suffice it to say that for nearly 50 years I have been unable to find a single NT text affirming the withdrawal of any charismatic gift. Indeed, in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 I find quite the opposite, since here the apostle depicts the charismata as essential equipment for the Church Militant as she makes her difficult pilgrimage towards the fullness of her redemption in the Age to Come.

How so? The key words are “now” and “then”. Now, in the long Era of Gospel Proclamation, the Church needs the gifts of the Spirit in order to fulfill her mission. Now she needs to prophesy, speak in tongues, teach, etc., so that the saints may be gathered in, and the Body built up (1 Cor. 13:8). However, as important as the gifts are, they reflect only a partial knowledge of God, and are therefore only temporary. For when “the perfect” comes—not the close of the NT canon, but the return of Christ, the Consummation, and the life of the Age to Come (1 Cor. 1:7)—then her partial knowledge will fail, cease, and pass away (1 Cor. 13:8-9). Then, having graduated into her eternal adulthood, she will put away her “childish” things—her childish ways of knowing, speaking, and reasoning—for then she will see face-to-face; then she will fully know, just as she is known (1 Cor. 13:11-13). If, then, it is essential for the Church to pass through her spiritual childhood, it is also essential that she permanently possess the distinguishing marks of her spiritual childhood: the panoply of spiritual gifts.

All that said, the closure of the NT canon is indeed of great importance. It enables us to identify the various spiritual gifts, and to exercise them properly in their appropriate settings. With reference to the worship of the Lord’s Day, it enables us to prioritize the ministry of the Word (i.e. Scripture reading, preaching, teaching, prophecy) with a view to the edification of the church (John 17:17; 1 Cor. 14:26). It enables us to judge the doctrinal and ethical integrity of various ministries of the Word (1 Cor. 14:29). And it enables leaders, through the exercise of their own spiritual gifts, to structure the Lord’s Day worship in such a way as to incorporate all its elements, while at the same time leaving ample room for the move of the Spirit and the spontaneous participation of various members of the congregation.2

Lord’s Day Worship Specially Regulates the Verbal Participation of Women

The NT places special restrictions on the verbal participation of women in the Lord’s Day gathering of the whole Church. Pressured by the surrounding culture, modern theologians fiercely debate the meaning and application of the relevant texts, with the result that different churches have settled on widely different policies (1 Cor. 14:34-36; 1 Tim. 2:9-15). My own reading, which aligns with traditional Catholic and Protestant interpretations, is that sisters in Christ may freely participate in congregational singing and in the corporate recitation of prayers, Scripture, or creeds (yet another good reason to embrace all these practices). They may not, however, engage in any form of solo speech: They may not teach, preach, prophesy, pray (aloud), speak in tongues, interpret a tongue, read Scripture, ask questions, or make announcements.

It should go without saying that in giving us these guidelines God is in no way denigrating the value, intelligence, or spirituality of his daughters, who, just like men, are created in his own image and likeness, loved, and redeemed in Christ (Gal. 3:28). Nor are the regulations meant to exclude women from all verbal ministry, since a number of other NT texts authorize them to teach, pray, and prophesy in settings other than the gatherings of the whole church (Acts 2:17; 18:26; 1 Cor. 11:1-16; Titus 2:3-5).

Why, then, does God mandate these special restrictions? A close reading of NT teaching on gender relations makes it clear that the rules are designed, above all, to reflect—and to reinforce in the hearts of his people—God’s creation order for the sexes (1 Tim. 2:11-15). By his wise decree—which is meant to image the mystery of Christ and the Church—man is the spiritual “head” of woman: the authority over her (1 Cor. 11:2-16; Eph. 5:22-33). In marriage, in the family, in the church, and indeed in the outer worlds of business and government, God has given to men the responsibility—and with that, the authority—to lead, always with a view to the protection and provision of those under their care.

Accordingly, when a woman speaks out in church she is inverting the creation order by displacing the authorized leader(s) of the meeting, replacing him (them) with herself, and setting all the men in attendance under her authority, since the Word of God—or the words of the elders who authorized her to speak—are assumed to be authoritative. Paul, saturated with divine law and established in biblical sensibilities, startles us moderns by declaring that such an inversion is disgraceful, implying that when the illicit inversion is both performed and permitted ignominy rightly falls on the woman, her husband, the elders, and the men in the church—all of whom have had their part in turning the world upside down (1 Cor. 14:35).

There are practical considerations as well. If a woman happens to misspeak (as men themselves will surely do from time to time), she will not only dishonor her husband, but also may oblige the elder in charge to correct her in front of her husband and the entire congregation—a needless embarrassment and further inversion that Paul clearly wanted to avoid.

It should also be noted from 1 Timothy 2:14 that unless a woman is fully submitted to her husband, she, like mother Eve, is especially vulnerable to deception, and therefore to propagating deception, in the event that she is allowed to speak in church.

Finally, we must honestly admit that a solitary woman speaking in church will necessarily attract attention to herself, which in turn can stimulate sexual thoughts in the men (who are more visually oriented than women), thereby distracting them from the worship of the Lord. This, I think, is why Paul urges the sisters to dress modestly and discreetly when they come to church (1 Tim. 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:3-4). The words of the apostle display great practical wisdom, a wisdom that, when applied, will enable us to avoid all sorts of problems, and so to preserve good order and peace in the churches.

I am all too aware that in our day these regulations are highly counter-cultural, and therefore circumvented by theologians and pastors alike. Accordingly, it will take extraordinary wisdom, love, patience, and courage for church leaders to explain and implement them, and for God’s men and women to submit to them. But if they love the Lord, and if they desire the fullest possible manifestation of his presence and power in the worship service, they will do so eagerly and gladly.3

Lord’s Day Worship Honors the History and Accomplishments of the Church Triumphant

In the Lord’s Day worship the Church Militant joins with the Church Triumphant before the throne of God, in order to worship, praise, petition, and receive from our triune Creator and Redeemer (Rev. 4-5). Because this is so, it seems fitting that the Church Militant should honor the Church Triumphant by incorporating into her own worship the forms and contents that her predecessors developed through their own prayerful interaction with the Word of God. Yes, we must do this carefully, striving to set aside anything that we consider unbiblical. But our natural bias, born out of love and respect for the work of God in former times, should be to include from the past as much as we honestly can, so that the worshiping Church of our own time may feel an abiding spiritual connection with our Catholic and Protestant forefathers.

In the service of worship below I have sought to do this very thing. With an eye both to Scripture and Church tradition, I have created a space for preparing our hearts for worship, for a scriptural call to worship, for the public reading of Scripture, for the exaltation of the Gospel reading for the day, for a season of charismatic ministry and free prayer, for the passing of the peace, for the teaching and prophesying of the Word of God, for private confession of sin, for corporate gathering at the Lord’s Table, for a glad confession of our evangelical faith, for a closing benediction, and—through it all—for making joyful melody in our hearts to the Lord. It is through such historically sensitive and inclusive liturgies that the Church Militant, on the Lord’s Day, will find herself seated together in heavenly places with the Church Triumphant, blessedly participating in the eternal worship of God.

Lord’s Day Worship is Regulated but not Rigid

Reading texts like Acts 2:42, 1 Corinthians 12-14, and 1 Timothy 2, it is easy enough to discern the basic elements and regulations for the Lord’s Day worship of God. What is not so easy is to picture exactly how the early church put these things into practice. After mulling the matter for many years, I have concluded that this ambiguity is purposeful. Though he could easily have done so, God decided against inspiring his apostles to impose a single liturgy upon the Universal Church. Instead, alongside the various elements and regulations of worship, he granted church leaders a measure of liberty to craft liturgies suitable to their own circumstances, needs, and understanding. Here’s how the authors of the London Baptist Cpmfession express it: “We recognize that some circumstances concerning the worship of God . . . are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian wisdom, following the general rules of the Word, which must always be observed” (LBC 1:6).

This studied NT ambiguity helps us to understand what we see all around us: different folks worshiping in different ways. So long as all is done scripturally, this appears to be acceptable to God. Thus, some worship services will be more simple, others more complex; some shorter, others longer; some more oriented to charismatic spontaneity, others to liturgical formality; some more expressive, others more reserved. Since the NT does not mandate weekly communion at the Lord’s Table, some churches observe this ordinance monthly, some quarterly, and some annually. However, Acts 2:42, 20:7, and the placement and prominence of 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 in Paul’s three chapters on church order certainly seem to favor weekly participation. Perhaps if we partook of the Lord’s Supper more often we would find ourselves longing to do so more often.  Let each elder board be fully persuaded in its own mind (Rom. 14:5); and let all elder boards do all things decently and in good biblical order (1 Cor. 14:40).

A Service of Worship for the Lord’s Day

Here, then, is my “dream” Lord’s Day worship service. As you will see, I have included a number of comments along the way in order to clarify what I have in mind for each element of the service. Very importantly, this is but one of many possible services. No doubt it reflects my own personal history, gifts, and tastes. Nevertheless, because it seeks faithfully to incorporate all the elements and all the regulations of NT worship, I dare to hope that it will prove helpful, whether to you who are seeking a place of worship for yourself and your family, or to church leaders seeking to craft a rich service of worship for the Lord and his people.

I. WELCOME (Brother)

A. Welcome
B. Announcements
C. Invitation to Prepare our Hearts for Worship

Comments: As people gather for worship on the Lord’s Day, they love to visit. This is an integral part of the fellowship of the saints. To facilitate it, I recommend no background music prior to the beginning of the service (this from a hearing-impaired brother who struggles in pre-service conversations). / One or two minutes before the service begins the musicians should play (but not sing) a hymn. This signals to the worshipers that it is time to be seated, quiet down, and prepare one’s heart for worship. / A brother opens the service by welcoming both the saints and the visitors, giving all necessary information to the latter. He then briefly shares essential announcements, directing worshipers to the bulletin or church website for further information. / Finally, he calls for a moment of silence in which the worshipers may prepare their hearts for their meeting with the Lord (Is. 41:1; Hab. 2:20).

Special Note: Here and throughout this outline you will notice that the brothers always lead. My view is that several different ones should do so: elders, fathers, husbands, older singles, and mature youth and boys. This practice adds participation, variety, and zest to the service. Even more importantly, it aligns the service with God’s creation order for the sexes, and with his rules concerning the verbal participation of women. As a result, it provides the Holy Spirit with a special opportunity to impress upon men their role as leaders in the family, the church, and the world; to bless godly sisters, as they watch the relevant men in their lives stepping up to do this very thing; and to remind the sisters once again of the privilege God has given them to image the Church to the world by freely submitting to the godly men in their lives, even as the Church submits herself to Christ.


A. Scriptural Call to Worship
B. Prayer of Invocation

Comments: The call to worship should include a biblical text in which God summons his people and/or the nations to come and worship him (e.g. Ps. 95:6; Isaiah 55:1-3). It is led by a brother, but could well involve an antiphonal reading of the text (e.g. leader-congregation or brothers-sisters). Again, these options have the great advantage of enabling the sisters to participate aloud. / Following the call to worship, the brother will pray, thanking the Lord for this special opportunity to worship him, and asking his blessing upon the gathering.4

III. WORSHIP IN SONG, Round #1 (Brother)

A. Song #1
B. Song #2

Comments: The New Covenant is a marriage covenant, and therefore a covenant of great joy (John 2:1-11, 15:11; 16:24; 17:13). Accordingly, at its very heart it involves celebration, music, and song (Rev. 5:9; 14:3). / My view is that in the Lord’s Day service the songs should be plentiful, giving God ample opportunity to stir the hearts of his children, and the children ample opportunity to pour out their hearts to their God (Ps. 62:8). / As for musical leadership and accompaniment, I believe a brother should lead the worship at all times, but that sisters may participate in the worship team. Ideally, the worship team will be located in the back of the sanctuary, or at least to the side of the Lord’s Table or pulpit, so that all attention is focused, not on the team, but on the Lord and the words of the song. If sisters must be visible, they should be very modestly dressed, so as to present no distractions to the men. The music should be simple and relatively unobtrusive, so that emphasis falls upon the lyrics of the song and the blended voices of the congregation. / The first round of songs will normally consist of joyful hymns of praise to God as Creator and Provider. All hymns should be carefully chosen or approved by the elders. Ideally, the hymns will significantly align with the theme of the sermon, which should become the theme of the entire service. Thy lyrics must be theologically sound, and, as a general rule, God-centered rather than man-centered. They should celebrate, above all, the Person and Work of the Holy Trinity in Creation and Redemption, and how these affect us sinful but beloved human beings. / Most of the songs should be familiar; new songs should be repeated two or three Sunday’s in a row; the melodies of the songs should be memorable, and the accompanying music beautiful. / Certain hymns and choruses cry out for clapping; but in the interest of truly congregational worship, the worship leader alone should initiate it (Ps. 47:1). / Since percussion instruments naturally call attention to themselves, I advise against their use. If they must be used, let it be as unobtrusively as possible. / Special music by a soloist, a quartet, or a choir seems best suited for informal gatherings. In the worship of the Lord’s Day, the congregation itself is the soloist and the choir.5


A. OT Reading (Law, Psalms, Prophets) (Brother)
B. NT Reading A (Acts/Epistles/Revelation) (Brother)
C. NT Reading B: (Gospel) (Brother; All Stand)

Comments: The NT commends the public reading of Scripture on the Lord’s Day (1 Tim. 4:13; Rev. 1:3). Wisely, many of our forefathers decided to implement this rule by reading first from the OT, then from the Acts, the Epistles, or the Revelation, and finally from the Gospels, a comprehensive approach whose conclusion is specially designed to honor our Lord. There are, however, a variety of ways to enjoy the public reading of Scripture. / I believe the teaching elder should choose the day’s Scripture texts, ideally with a view to communicating the theme of his soon-coming sermon. / While at this juncture congregational and antiphonal reading is possible, I think it preferable for two or three different brothers to read the day’s texts. Speaking personally, I find it encouraging to see and hear young men and mature boys giving the readings, a practice that significantly involves them in worship, and helps to train them in biblical manhood. / Those chosen to read the texts should practice beforehand, so that the reading is slow, smooth, audible, and confident. / In harmony with ancient Church tradition, the congregation should stand for the Gospel reading of the day.


A. Song # 3
B. Song #4

Comments: This round of songs, while still celebratory, begins to focus more on God’s redemptive purpose and plan in the Person and Work of Christ. Songs in this set may be slower and more contemplative, tilting towards expressions of grateful love, longing, and adoration.


A. Prophecy, etc. (Brothers only)
B. Free Prayer (Brothers only)
C. Silent Prayer (Brothers and Sisters)
D. The Lord’s Prayer Aloud (Brothers and Sisters)
E. Song #5

Comments: In this portion of the service, which could take as few as 15 minutes or as many as 30, we specially invite the Lord, by his Spirit, to move among his people, prompting them to charismatic ministry and prayer (Rev. 1:12-13). / Since this portion of the service requires careful leadership and oversight, it should be led by an elder. / During the initial time for prophecy, two or three brothers may take 2-5 minutes each to bring a short word from the Lord. To ensure the integrity of such ministries, the brothers must be members of the church in good standing. Per 1 Corinthians 14:3, their prophecies should be words of edification, exhortation, and comfort, delivered from, or in accordance with, the words of Scripture. NT prophetic diction does not involve the Lord (allegedly) speaking through the prophet in the first person. Rather, the brothers speak in an ordinary conversational manner, sharing the message they believe the Lord has laid on their hearts, humbly recognizing that their words may contain defects. / The people themselves will judge these prophecies for conformity to scriptural truth (1 Thess. 5:19-21). If necessary, an elder may add a supplementary, corrective, or qualifying word. / Based on my reading of 1 Corinthians 12-14, and especially of 14:26, I believe this portion of the service should be reserved primarily for prophesying, but could also include a short teaching (i.e. words of wisdom and knowledge, 1 Cor. 12:8; 13:8-10), a supernatural tongue with (mandatory) interpretation, or a song (sung or led by a brother). While the Spirit may indeed suddenly grant a revelation to a brother during the service (1 Cor. 14:26), there is nothing in Scripture to say that the Lord could not do so hours or even days earlier, giving him time to prepare his remarks. / The season of free prayer is led by an elder, who briefly states the guidelines and perhaps suggests topics, and then opens the meeting for the men to pray aloud (1 Tim. 2:8). The men may pray as the Spirit leads, but as a rule will offer prayers of thanksgiving and adoration to God, and then intercede for temporal rulers, missionaries, and the special needs of the church family (1 Tim. 2:1-2). / I recommend closing this portion of the meeting by inviting the sisters to join with the men in a moment of silent prayer and intercession to God, after which, as led by the elder, the whole church may offer the Lord’s Prayer aloud. / I believe that prayers for physical healing or other special needs are best offered in a prayer room after the church service. One or more of the elders should be on hand to pray with those who come, though other church members, with a special gift for intercession, should be present as well.


A. The Passing of the Peace
B. Song #6

Comments: The Passing of the Peace is an ancient tradition, now commonly practiced in liturgically oriented churches. During this short break in the worship service the people stand, shake a neighbor’s hand, and say, “Peace be with you,” to which the neighbor then replies, “And with you also”. When performed sincerely, this little ritual is a beautiful manifestation of the fellowship of the saints, and of the exchange of grace that continually occurs in God’s family (1 Cor. 12:4-31). / As a rule, this portion of the service will last from 3-5 minutes, giving worshipers a mini-opportunity to stand, pass the peace, greet a newcomer, and briefly visit. / The beginning of Song # 6 is a signal for the congregation to re-assemble for the sermon.6

VIII. SERMON (Teaching/Preaching Elder)

A. Sermon
B. Brief Season(s) of Q and A (Brothers Only)

Comments: In evangelical circles, which commonly prioritize the Word of God, the sermon tends to be the climax of the service. In Catholic circles, which always prioritize the administration of the sacraments, the Lord’s Supper is the climax. I incline to the Catholic position, but for evangelical reasons. In the sermon, the elder will bring the Word of the Lord to the people; but this is only in preparation for the climax, when he then brings the people to Lord of the Word and steps aside (a beautiful and healthy exercise in Christian humility). / I do not believe the Sunday sermon should be an in-depth Bible study, a ministry better accomplished in settings where time limitations are not a factor, and where extended dialog can take place. Rather, it is a special opportunity for leaders to exercise one (or more) of three scriptural charisms: gospel proclamation (preaching), gospel instruction (teaching), and gospel encouragement and exhortation (prophecy). Depending on the nature of his spiritual gift(s), the preaching elder will typically major in one of these charisms, and minor in the others. In larger churches with multiple elders, this fact of charismatic life argues for letting differently gifted elders preach at different times in order to meet different spiritual needs. / As a rule, the sermon should last 20-30 minutes, thus leaving ample time for the church to linger at the Lord’s Table. The preacher will normally close with a word of prayer, thanking the Lord for the good gifts celebrated in the sermon, and asking him to help the people walk in their practical applications. / Again, it is ideal that each Lord’s Day service have a clear theme. This can be briefly stated even in the Welcome, reflected in the Scripture readings (one of which will normally be the text for the day’s sermon), and opened up in the sermon itself. / Per 1 Corinthians 14:35, the preaching elder should leave room along the way, or at the end of the sermon, for short comments and questions from the brothers. If sisters have comments or questions, they can share them with their husbands at home, visit briefly with the preaching elder after church, or (better yet) participate in an elder-led discussion of the sermon after lunch.


A. Welcome to the Lord’s Table
B. Fencing of the Table: Words to Seekers, Words to Saints
C. Invitation to Private Confession of Sin
D. Consecration, Distribution, Corporate Sharing of the Elements (Song #7)
E. Corporate Confession of the Faith / Scriptural Words of Assurance of Forgiveness and Salvation
F. Final Song of Celebration (Song #8)

Comments: Again, I think it wise, both by word and practice, to train God’s people to view their time at the Lord’s Table as the climax of the service of worship. / We honor the sanctity of the Lord’s Table, and best serve both seekers and saints, by fencing it. To do so is first to graciously ask inquiring non-Christians not to participate, but instead to carefully consider the deep meaning of this rite. It is also to invite the saints, during a moment or two of silent prayer, to examine their hearts, and then privately confess and forsake any specific sins for which the Spirit may be convicting them (1 Cor. 11:28). An anointed sermon will often lead to such introspection, confession, and prayer. Elders should advise those who are unable or unwilling to forsake their sin to abstain from participating. But they should also remind honest strugglers that their divine Host warmly invites them to his table just as they are, so that they may receive the True Food by which to fight the good fight of faith. / There are a number of possible procedures for consecrating, distributing, and sharing the communion elements (1 Cor. 10:16; 11:23-26). While approaches will differ, NT testimony concerning the one Loaf given to the one Body argues that the saints should partake of the elements together, thereby manifesting and underscoring the unity of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 10:17). / During the distribution of the elements it is a great blessing to sing a hymn celebrating the atoning Work of Christ and its glorious fruits. / I believe that the moments immediately following our time at the Lord’s Table are ideally suited for a “good confession” (i.e., affirmation) of our Christian faith. The specific words may be drawn directly from Scripture, or from the classic creeds, confessions, and catechisms of the historic Church.8 The confession should (usually) be chosen in such a way as to strengthen the believer’s assurance of the forgiveness of his sins, his justification, and his final salvation. This is accomplished through confessions that focus our attention on the all-sufficient work of Christ, and on the once-and-for-all justification that God grants his people at the moment of saving faith.7 / Following the corporate confession of faith, the elder will invite the congregation to stand and sing Song #8, which should be a rousing celebration of the finished work of Christ, the blessings it bestows, and the joyful hope it imparts to all who believe.


A. Final Reminders (Offering, etc.)
B. Benediction
C. Doxology
D. Dismissal

Comments: One of the elders will close the service by reminding the people of special matters. This will likely include his inviting both seekers and saints to the prayer room (or corner) of the church, where they can meet with leaders or mature members for counsel and prayer. It will also include his encouraging the saints to worship the Lord by placing their offerings in the special box located near the entrance to the church. / Drawing upon Scripture, the leader will ask the congregation to stand; then he will declare a benediction over them, join with them in singing a doxology, and send them out into the world to love and serve the Lord. (But not before they take time to enjoy refreshments and a post-service season fellowship!)


I want to conclude my meditation with some observations of a largely practical nature.

Regarding the place of children in the worship of the Lord’s Day, I believe that leaders and parents should strive to include them as much as possible. The Lord has given us his mind on the subject: “Let the children come to me” (Mark 10:14). I can think of no finer place for a child to meet the Lord, or to receive memorable impressions of the beauty of Christ and his Church, than the Lord’s Day worship service. With maximal participation, and with Spirit-led leaders moving things steadily along, children will find the service interesting. I do indeed favor dismissing children for age-level teaching during the time of the sermon. But beyond that, by all means let them join the family, and let us adults show them how much we enjoy their presence and participation. / I appreciate those wise parents who graciously train their children to sit still, and (at the appropriate times) to be quiet during the worship service. I appreciate the patience and forbearance of the rest of the saints, when some of the little children fail to do so. And I greatly appreciate church leaders who provide a nursery and cry room, to which Dads or Moms can swiftly take their little ones if and when they start to disrupt the service.

From 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 it appears that love feasts were commonly held just prior to the saint’s time at the Lord’s Table (Jude 1:12). However, the NT does not mandate this practice, but only mentions it. I am aware of at least one medium-size church that concludes its formal worship service, and then invites all who so desire, first to eat lunch, and then to partake of the Lord’s Supper. In smaller churches, like the house churches of NT times, this is a viable practice. But since many in a larger congregation will not be present, this practice does not seem to manifest or promote the unity of the Body as the Lord intended. Let each leader be fully persuaded in his own mind.

Again, I very much favor the idea of the saints eating lunch together after church, and then discussing the sermon. It seems a shame to me that a pastor will spend hours crafting a rich sermon, and then, having delivered it, simply move on with his flock to the next thing! Surely an excellent sermon is worthy of an excellent discussion, one in which all church members may share their thoughts and ask questions of the preacher. Might not such a discussion seal a pastor’s message in someone’s heart for a lifetime? If so, why not offer it?

The total time for the service outlined above is around 2 hours. Yes, that’s a stretch for many American Christians, but perhaps American Christians need stretching, seeing that longer gatherings were actually quite common in days of old. Again, if the service is variegated, if there is frequent congregational participation, and if leaders—sensitive to the promptings of the Lord—keep in step with his life-giving Spirit, the two hours should fly by. That said, any number of exigencies may require a shorter service, and there is nothing in the NT to forbid it, so long as all necessary things are done decently and in order.

In conclusion, let me urge all involved—elders, worship leaders, and church members—to prioritize the worship of the Lord’s Day. It is entirely possible that apart from one’s daily quiet time with the Lord, there is no more important activity for a Christian man or woman. For again, here the Father desires specially to gather his children to himself; and here the High King of the Church desires specially to walk among the golden lampstands, and to minister to his Bride (Rev. 1:12-13). Therefore, in preparing for the Lord’s Day, let all the leaders aspire to excellence. Let them stand in the counsel of the Lord, earnestly praying for a revelation of his heart and mind for the Sunday ahead (Jer. 23:22, 1 Cor. 14:27). And with that revelation in mind, let them carefully select the call to worship, the Scripture readings, the hymns, the contents of message, and the ministry at the Lord’s Table. Prior to the Lord’s Day, let them communicate with their people, urging them to prepare for it, and helping them to do so. And together with the whole church, let them pray for God’s richest blessing on the gathering. Surely he is eager to bestow it. And if we, on our part, do all we can to prepare the holy ground, surely the Holy One will meet us there.



O day of rest and gladness, of day of joy and light,
O balm of care and sadness, most beautiful, most bright:
On Thee, the high and lowly, through ages joined in tune,
Sing holy, holy, holy, to the great God Triune.

On Thee, at the creation, our worship had its birth;
On Thee, for our salvation, Christ rose from depths of earth;
On Thee, our Lord victorious, the Spirit sent from heaven,
And thus on Thee most glorious, a triple light was given.

Thou art a port protected, from storms that round us rise;
A garden intersected, with streams of Paradise;
Thou art a cooling fountain in life’s dry, dreary sand;
From thee, like Pisgah’s mountain, we view our Promised Land.

Thou art a holy ladder, where angels go and come;
Each Sunday finds us gladder, and nearer to our home;
A day of sweet refection, thou art a day of love,
A day of resurrection, from earth to things above.

Today on weary nations the heavenly manna falls;
To holy convocations the silver trumpet calls,
Where Gospel light is glowing, with pure and radiant beams,
And living water flowing, with soul refreshing streams.

New graces ever gaining from this our day of rest,
We reach the rest remaining to spirits of the blessed.
To Holy Ghost be praises, to Father, and to Son;
The church her voice upraises, to Thee, blest Three in One.



1. This portion of the Statement of Faith is based upon the following Scripture texts: Gen. 2:3, Ex. 20:8, Mark 2:28, Col. 2:16-17 / Heb. 4:3-11, Rev. 14:13, 20:4-6 / Rom. 14:5, Col. 2:16 / Mt. 28:1, Mark 16:2, John 20:19, Acts 20:7, Rev. 1:10; Isa. 56:1-5, 58:13-14, 1 Cor. 16:2, Heb. 10:26; Isa. 56:1-5, 58:13-14, Mark 2:27-28, 1 Cor. 11:26. To view the entire Statement, click here.

2. For a thorough introduction to the gifts of the Spirit from a continuationist perspective, see Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Grand Rapids, MI; Zondervan, 1994), chapters 52, 53.

3. The exegesis of the texts dealing with women’s verbal participation in the whole-church gathering is highly contested. To read interpretations that I have found convincing, please click here, here, and (especially) here.

4. To read a list of Scripture texts appropriate for the call to worship, please click here.

5. In 1 Corinthians 14:24 we find Paul saying, among other things, “ . . . each one has a psalm.” While the apostle, in making this statement, likely had in mind an individual brother leading out in a psalm or hymn, I find nothing here to preclude the ministry of a chosen worship leader and his musical team, just so long as the psalms they “have” have been prayerfully received from the Lord.

6. To read a short article on the history and practice of Passing the Peace, please click here.

7. I do not favor pre-written confessions of specific sins, seeing that this practice, which is common in Reformed liturgies, can actually force believers to sin by confessing sins that they have not committed in the week prior, and for which they are not under conviction by the Spirit! Also, I do not believe that leaders (or liturgies) should encourage believers to ask God for forgiveness of sins. This practice tends strongly to undermine their grip on the once-for-all character of their justification. When they trusted in Christ, God forgave them all their sins, once and for all (time). When they trusted in Christ, God also imputed Christ’s perfect righteousness to them, once and for all (time). This is the clear teaching of Scripture (John 5:24; Rom. 5:1; 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 7:7; 9:12). Therefore, in light of these tremendous truths—so easily forgotten or misunderstood—I believe leaders should train their people simply to confess any specific sin for which they are presently under conviction, resolve with God’s help to forsake it, and then thank him once again for so graciously forgiving them for it when they trusted in Christ. The Lord’s Day worship service must never undermine the saints’ grip on their justification, but instead do all it can to strengthen it.

8. In the interests of truth and clarity, it may necessary for the elders slightly to modify one or more of the ancient confessions, in order to align it with their best understanding of Scripture and the church’s Statement of Faith.