Matthew 16:1-12

Thy Word:

The Pharisees and Sadducees Demand Signs

And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”

The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees

So he left them and departed. When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Matthew 16:1-12 ESV


My Thoughts: Our new chapter starts with a frustrated group of religious leaders demanding that Jesus prove he is who he said he is by showing them a sign in the sky, or from the heavens. Although this was something Jesus could easily do, he continued to refuse to produce miracles on demand.

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Miracles…, what a touchy subject and I may be about to step on some toes.

I have had multiple people ask me (since I became a believer) why Jesus no longer performs miracles on earth. They aren’t talking about what they consider to be small miracles, but rather the ‘parting of the Red Sea’ type of miracle. I find it interesting that most of these skeptics have used this same example (with me) of the type of miracle they want to see. They affirm they simply cannot believe until they see the proof of such a magnificent miracle themselves.

aerial photography of seashore

Let’s begin by taking a quick look at the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. This occurs in the book of Exodus when God tells Moses he will be using him to set the Israelite’s free from oppression, tyranny, and slavery handed down by the Egyptians. Before the Red Sea is parted for the Israelite’s to cross and escape from the Egyptians, there were multiple plagues that caused horrible destruction and a lot of people died! After the Israelite’s crossed the sea, the wall of water collapsed and a lot of Egyptians died. If we look at what are considered other big miracles in the Bible I think we will see tyranny and destruction precedes or follows them as well.

Therefore, if Jesus responded to every request to see a Red Sea miracle or just a big miracle, aren’t we really asking for our world to be in a situation of chaos and oppression just so we can say we witnessed a miracle of this magnitude?

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Do you know what really boggles my mind? If you read the entire account of Exodus, you will find that although God performs big miracles multiple times for his people, the Israelite’s were still very skeptical. While God is still leading them by a cloud in the daytime and a fire by night, something they witnessed on a daily basis with their own eyes, they went back to worshiping idols and even asked several times to be returned to their old lives as slaves!

So, that being said…, would we really believe Jesus is who he says he is if we witnessed a big miracle today? I wonder?

Besides, who of us can really say that big miracles aren’t occurring every day? Do we truly know what is going on in every teeny tiny place in the world? Do we really believe that God is going to have someone standing by at the ready to snap pictures just to prove to us there are miracles happening every day? Are we really that arrogant?

Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29

Listen, these questions are directed to me as much as they are to skeptics. In my last blog I confessed that I had to get back to the basics of remembering who Jesus is and what he has done in my own life. I will boldly tell you that I’ve experienced and been blessed to see miracles more than once since I became a believer. Those miracles may not seem big to you, but they are to me! Yet I’ve wavered in my faith, I’ve allowed hard things to bring me down, and I’ve even wondered if God hears my prayers because I’ve been praying the same prayer every day for nineteen years.

belief bible book business

When I look at these religious leaders demanding to see a miracle, I remind myself of some things we’ve seen about their character throughout the book of Matthew. They really never cared about the miracles that Jesus did, they simply felt threatened by Jesus. They did not like that he was changing the foundation of what they believed because it threatened their livelihood.

But Jesus came for that very reason; so we no longer have to have an intercessory (religious leader) to approach God. We are no longer yoked by all the archaic sacrificial laws to receive forgiveness. Jesus died once for all and Jesus is the final and perfect sacrifice!

So why do we have to see a miracle? What is the basis of our real issue(s) that caused us to require a miracle before we believe? I pray that we all examine our own hearts to find out what is really going on and more than that, seek answers to our questions. However, “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Meaning, do the real research; don’t just ask like-minded people to get the answers you want.

“Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Matthew 16:12 ESV

Finally, what if I told you that it doesn’t really matter if you believe the Red Sea parted to allow anyone to cross over, or if Jonah was swallowed by a whale and spit out after three days? What really matters is this:

“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV

Believing these verses in your heart is the real miracle and sometimes when it happens it is a huge miracle!

closeup photography of book page folding forming heart

This is what I hope you spend your time learning, understanding, and ultimately believing. Because if you don’t, that means that I won’t be with you in heaven and I can’t even conceive of that possibility. It’s what keeps me praying the same prayer every night and what keeps me from giving up:

“I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” Genesis 17:2

That might not mean anything to you but it is everything to me; it’s a covenant between me and God and I know exactly what He meant when He said it to me nineteen years ago. It’s the hope that keeps me praying the same prayer willingly, every night…, for you.


Closing Prayer: Father God, I pray that I honored you today with My Thoughts. When you began to unfold where we were going with Thy Words yesterday I wept for the potential persecution, but my goal is to honor and glorify You above anything else. I ask for Your forgiveness when I fail You. Father I pray there are many eyes that read this blog and I pray they ask themselves what is holding them back from surrendering their hearts to You. I pray Father that the hearts of those I love, the very ones that I pray for each and every night, surrender to you and receive that assurance of forgiveness and everlasting life. I pray this in the precious and holy name of Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

Matthew 15:29-39

Thy Word:

Jesus Heals Many People:

Jesus returned to the Sea of Galilee and climbed a hill and sat down. A vast crowd brought to him people who were lame, blind, crippled, those who couldn’t speak, and many others. They laid them before Jesus, and he healed them all. The crowd was amazed! Those who hadn’t been able to speak were talking, the crippled were made well, the lame were walking, and the blind could see again! And they praised the God of Israel.

Jesus Feeds Four Thousand:

Then Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, or they will faint along the way.”

The disciples replied, “Where would we get enough food here in the wilderness for such a huge crowd?”

Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?”

They replied, “Seven loaves, and a few small fish.”

So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to the disciples, who distributed the food to the crowd.

They all ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. There were 4,000 men who were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children. Then Jesus sent the people home, and he got into a boat and crossed over to the region of Magadan.

Matthew 15:29-39 NLT


My Thoughts: Okay, other than the part where the disciples are acting like they are clueless about how to feed 4,000 people, I love our verses today. If you will remember, Jesus just fed 5,000 people in chapter 14, so I’m pretty sure 4,000 more people wasn’t a problem for him!

grayscale portrait photo of shocked woman

Uh-oh. As I type this sass, my spirit said,

“CAREFUL CECILIA! Take a close look at yourself because you are pulling the same clueless stunt now.”

Oh dear!!!! Lately things in my life have been somewhat hectic and I have been in a quandary about what to do or how to best handle them. Before I moved further in writing this blog, I knew there was one specific area in my life that needed to get back on track immediately: I had stopped journaling and spending quiet time with the Lord daily. Oh, I was reading my Bible, and I was literally in prayer all day (picture me whining to the Lord endlessly), but I wasn’t writing down what I learned and asking God to speak to me and I certainly was not listening!

“Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:9b NLT)

Why do I do that when things go crazy? I know from past experience that when I take my cares to God he is faithful to show up. This clearly shows I can be just as clueless as those disciples. Not a proud moment for me!

black and white business career close up

In addition to the journaling there were a few other areas of my life that needed to get back on track, so I sat down at my desk with my journal and a pen. As a writer, this can often bring me back to the basics. Even if you are not a writer, I highly recommend this process.

I wrote down the things that were bothering or confusing me and as usual, when I saw them in black and white, they didn’t seem as monumental. I’ve learned when my problems or issues stay cluttered in my mind they always seem bigger. Does that happen to you too? If it does, I highly recommend you remove their power to captivate you by writing them down and asking the Lord to speak to you and MOST IMPORTANT: shut up and listen!

close up photo of woman s face

I participate in an online daily Bible reading and the goal is to read the Bible in a year and to learn more about Jesus as I walk through the Word. There are multiple other people from all over the world who are also on the feed and it helps to read their perspectives too. So many times their revelations have been just the answer or direction I need.

When I opened our reading recently, we were taken to 1 Samuel chapters 16 and 17. That brought a huge smile to my face because in these chapters we are introduced to David, as a young shepherd boy, and we also read about David and Goliath.

Rather than read the chapters again, I went back to my journal from a few years ago. I remember asking God to give me fresh eyes to read those chapters because I’ve read and heard this story about David and Goliath many times. To keep myself from skimming through the reading, that prayer was essential. It’s now one of my favorite stories in the Bible because God revealed so much to me!

diary girl hand journal

The main truth that was revealed to me was perhaps my ‘giants’ weren’t really ‘giants’ after all! Perhaps they were just there to taunt me?

Goliath stood and shouted a taunt across to the Israelites. For forty days, every morning and evening, the Philistine champion [Goliath] strutted in front of the Israelite army. 1 Samuel 17:8a, 16

Isn’t that exactly what happens when we allow our problems to take control of our thoughts and our mind? They endlessly taunt us and become a huge giant! We might even fabricate endless scenarios about what could happen until eventually our problem goes from an issue that needs to be addressed to a horrifying reality!

In our verses today we see that the disciples knew from experience that Jesus could easily feed 5,000 people but they forgot to take that into account when they were faced with the same task again. They allowed it to become a giant in their minds.

Listen, we have to stop throwing up our hands in despair when we are faced with a difficult situation. Why? Because we have seen the mighty work Jesus has done in our lives so let’s stop acting like he won’t be there for us again. Let’s not forget this ‘giant’ lesson and take away the power of our uncontrolled thoughts to continue to hold us captive!

close up photo of woman with her hands tied with rope

Finally, in addition to our important lesson today, the most important component we see in our verses is how much Jesus loves us. He shows his patience, his healing, his teaching, and even his feeding. He never complains, even when we act like we are clueless or we assume every problem is a huge giant. No one could or would do that for us unless their heart was filled with abundant and unending love for us!

Let’s stop acting clueless and live how Jesus sees us: highly desired and endlessly loved!

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Closing Prayer: Father God, thank you for this amazing lesson today! I don’t normally enjoy getting a kick in the seat to get back on track, but today I needed to hear how I was behaving so I can get back on the righteous path with you. Lord, I pray today that I walk forward remembering your words: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”(2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV) May I remember that when I don’t take control of my thoughts, and run them directly again your word, they become a playground for Satan to have his way with me, then he walks me straight into sin. I rebuke his control over my mind because I belong to you, Father God! In the name of Jesus I rejoice! Amen!

Matthew 15:21-28

Thy Word:

Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”

But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”

Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”

Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”

“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.”

Matthew 15:21-28 NLT


My Thoughts: If you will remember, although we know Jesus came to offer salvation to everyone, it was for the Jew first (see Matthew 10:5-42 blog:

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” Romans 1:16

Jesus left Galilee and went to Tyre and Sidon which was primarily Gentile territory and known for a long-standing reputation of wickedness (see Matthew 11:20-24 blog: So, why did Jesus go there if his message was for the Jew first? We aren’t told but in our last blog we learned that Jesus had been approached by the Pharisees and teachers of the religious laws claiming he and the disciples weren’t following Jewish traditions and laws. Maybe Jesus simply wanted to get away from these religious fanatics who were wearing him out with silly accusations?  Maybe he chose these cities because he knew these powerful leaders wouldn’t dare sully their reputation by following him to such a wicked place?

grayscale photo of baby feet with father and mother hands in heart signs

Maybe, just maybe, Jesus knew there was a Gentile woman who had a pure heart and a deep faith and she needed him?

Let’s look at her dialogue to see what we can learn about her:

  1. She came pleading for her daughter
  2. She came in humility (have mercy on me)
  3. She knew Jesus was Lord and also from the line of David which implies she had some knowledge of Jewish teachings (O Lord, Son of David)
  4. She came believing that Jesus could heal her daughter

In spite of all of these good and noble qualities, we see Jesus do something a little surprising: But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Matthew 15:23a

photo of a man in a wheat field

At this point who was Jesus testing more with his silence, the Gentile woman or his disciples? Perhaps it was testing for both of them?

Assuming his silence was an indication of disapproval of the woman, the disciples immediately ask Jesus to get rid of her because the begging was bothering them. They had no compassion for this Gentile woman and her cries for help.

Yikes Moment: Hmm, how many times have I been ‘bothered’ by someone who clearly has a real need and pretended I didn’t see them or neglected to exhibit compassion by leaving or ignoring their need? (I’m squirming uncomfortably in my chair right now.)

Jesus completely ignores his disciples and directly addresses the woman telling her that he was there to only help the people of Israel (Jews).

I love what happens next; she didn’t whine, she didn’t get mad, she didn’t warn Jesus that if anything horrible happened to her child it would be his fault for refusing to help her.

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She came and worshiped him.

Oh that I would be that woman when I am faced with a time of testing!

Sadly, my reaction when I am faced with opposition isn’t always praiseworthy. Am I alone with this confession? I really do want to remain steadfast and be able to say that I continued to worship Jesus in faith then humbly ask him again, but it requires I stay intentional about praying and worshipping. I can say I don’t turn against God anymore because I didn’t get my prayer answered the way I wanted, but I know I haven’t always honored him with my behavior when I didn’t get my way! Yikes! The lessons I can learn from this woman are innumerable!

To make matters worse, Jesus seems to use some very harsh words against the woman: “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

I wonder if Jesus spoke the words the disciples were actually thinking. I also wonder if those very words made the disciples uncomfortable when they rolled off the tongue of Jesus. Isn’t that sometimes what happens to us? Inside we think something mean and we feel justified about our feelings until someone else actually speaks them and we hear them for the ugliness they truly are. Make no mistake about it this is a specific lesson that relates to the verse I share regularly:

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“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 NLT

FYI, my NIV Study Bible says this about the use of the word dog: “Dog was a term the Jews commonly applied to Gentiles because the Jews considered these pagan people no more likely than dogs to receive God’s blessing. Jesus was not degrading the woman by using this term he was reflecting the Jews attitude [perhaps the disciples attitude too?] so as to contrast it with his own. The woman did not argue. Instead, using Jesus’ choice of words, she agreed to be considered a dog as long as she could receive God’s blessing for her daughter. Ironically, many Jews would lose God’s blessing and salvation because they rejected Jesus, and many Gentiles would find salvation because they recognized and accepted him.”  (Words in brackets are mine)

At the end of their exchange Jesus rewards the woman with the desires of her heart. This woman’s steadfast desire was to save her child; she didn’t approach Jesus as if he was a magic man who could provide her with treasures or perform magic tricks. She approached Jesus with humility and the full belief that he was who he said he was and he could save her child. The meditations of her heart and her words were absolutely in alignment with the word and will of God.

Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:21 NLT


Closing Prayer: Father God, this was a hard lesson that made me take a very close look at my response when I am struggling with trials. I ask for your forgiveness Lord for where I have failed you. I pray that I bury the words of this lesson in my heart as a strong reminder that you always bless your children and that often means that when I don’t get my way, it’s because your way is better. Thank you, Lord, for this important lesson that reminds me to be faithful and to worship you in every circumstance.  I love you so much and ask for your favor in making me constantly aware of these lessons as I go about my day.  In the name of Jesus I pray, amen.