Gospels and Acts

The Gospels consist of four books written by Jesus’ followers. Matthew is the first Gospel in the Bible and may contain some of the best stories in the Bible. Mathew is known for his skill of story writing. All the Gospels are of course a collection of stories. But each writer has their own style and at times, a slightly different sequence. People may wonder about that. A serious student of the Bible will tell you why. When studied from the spiritual aspect, the sequence of stories plays a vital role in calling attention to particular details. One story builds into the next story. Each Gospel writer brings particular spiritual lessons to light based on the order of the stories recorded.

Mark is the second Gospel. Mark is known for his quick transition from one story to the next. Mark also added some of the greatest background detail to some of his stories.

Luke is the third Gospel in the series. Luke the physician has a different way of viewing the physical aspects of Jesus’ ministry and uses that attention to detail to place himself in the role of a new person seeking Jesus. Luke arranges his stories in a simple timeline flowing more like a novel than a history book.

John focused his interest on the spiritual side of Jesus’ ministry and paid particular attention to the work of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ life. Also the work the Spirit had to do to prepare people to meet Jesus that day. John’s Gospel contains three detailed chapters on the Holy Spirit found only in his book.

Acts is a collection of stories about the ministries the apostles lead after Jesus’ resurrection. Acts also introduced a new apostle, Paul. The stories in Acts teach a great deal about Christian growth, hardships, and the way the world viewed that new religion coming on the scene.

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Links have been added to each main page for every book of the Bible. Those links show the results of a simple search. That page will show you topics, studies, and stories related to each book of the Bible. At least those I have written about and posted. More are added everyday.

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Introductions and Summaries Psalms 49:1-4 Listen to a Parable

Psalms 49:1-4 NLTse Listen to this, all you people! Pay attention, everyone in the world! (2) High and low, rich and poor–listen! (3) For my words are wise, and my thoughts are filled with insight. (4) I listen carefully to many proverbs and solve riddles with inspiration from a harp.

The obvious key word in this prophecy is listen followed by the related words, people, everyone, and world. Key words also tell us what to listen to, proverbs and riddles. Some translations use the word parables for proverbs. This prophecy is simple. It is asking everyone in the world to listen to many proverbs. It’s also another prophecy about Jesus that is easy to locate because it’s quoted by inspiration in Matthew 13.

Matthew 13:1-3 NLTse Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake. (2) A large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore. (3) He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds.

As we’ve seen in previous studies of God’s Word, when Old Testament scripture is quoted, we need to look at surrounding texts and the entire chapter to get the whole message. We also learned an important rule of Bible Study concerning the introduction to chapters. Since the fulfillment of the prophecy in Psalm 49 is found in the introduction of Matthew 13, we need to look at the first few words. Look at how the words, “later that same day,” point us back to the previous chapter. Once again there’s a reason Matthew points us back to the previous chapter that we’ll look at later. At this point we’ll compare key words between the prophecy and fulfillment. Psalm 49 has the key word, listen. Matthew 13 repeated the similar words, told and taught. The key word people is also found in both chapters as well as sharing the related words, proverbs, riddles, stories, and parables. The connection between these two chapters is established by the simple Bible Study rule of repetition.

Prophecies Revealing the Messiah
Prophecies Revealing the Messiah Psalms Chapters 31 Through 89 Download the eBook directly from the author.

It’s unusual for both the prophecy and fulfillment to be introductions. This points us to the importance of the lesson since the introduction of chapters establishes the theme. Since the introductions share the same key words and theme, it’s obvious the chapters dwell on the same spiritual lesson which will be revealed as we study and compare more of these chapters.

We need to note, Psalm chapter 78 is a second version of the prophecy fulfilled by Jesus that will be studies at a later time. O my people, listen to my instructions. Open your ears to what I am saying, for I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past- (Psalms 78:1-2 NLTse).

We also need to look at the previous study showing how people throughout history will betray Jesus. Once we’re shown how we’ve physically turned away from Jesus and spiritually betrayed Him, we have to learn how to serve Him and prepare to work in the harvest. We see this in the sequence Jesus placed in His word. All the details point to the significance to this subject. Not only is this prophecy found in the introduction to Psalm 40 and Matthew 13, it’s repeated in the introduction of Psalm 78. The fulfillment is also repeated in Mark 4 and Luke chapter 8. When God repeats Himself we need to pay attention!

The parable of the sower is one of the most important parables Jesus told because it is one of the few parables where Jesus explained the spiritual interpretation. In His explanation Jesus tells his disciples; “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they see what I do, they will learn nothing. When they hear what I say, they will not understand. Otherwise, they will turn to me and be forgiven.’” (Mark 4:11-12 NLTse). We see two concepts in Jesus’ explanation. “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God,” and by turning to Jesus to understand those parables, you will be forgiven. This requires much more than some of the conventional teaching that offers forgiveness by merely knowing Jesus’ name which is sometimes termed the once forgiven, always forgiven theory. To learn and understand the lessons taught between these two chapters we need to compare the summations.

Psalms 49:16-20 NLTse So don’t be dismayed when the wicked grow rich and their homes become ever more splendid. (17) For when they die, they take nothing with them. Their wealth will not follow them into the grave. (18) In this life they consider themselves fortunate and are applauded for their success. (19) But they will die like all before them and never again see the light of day. (20) People who boast of their wealth don’t understand; they will die, just like animals.


Matthew 13:53-58 NLTse When Jesus had finished telling these stories and illustrations, he left that part of the country. (54) He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” (55) Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers–James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. (56) All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” (57) And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family.” (58) And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief.

David tells us how useless worldly riches are. Matthew shows us a spiritual contrast when he describes how people in Jesus’ hometown rejected Him. They had the riches of the universe in front of them, but the pull of the world blinded them as they looked at the physical aspects and ignored the spiritual. Looking deeper into the story we see how people Jesus grew up with picked and chose what to see and what not to see. They didn’t see the good Jesus did. They didn’t see the example He set as He grew up in front of them. They also closed their eyes to miracles Jesus performed after He began His ministry. It’s not by accident they asked, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” Their faith was anchored in the established religious order who they trusted and believed had the truth. But as history has shown, was far from the truth. All of this ties into the parable Jesus explained and David’s warning about worthless riches. The religious leaders built a fortune on their rules, regulations, doctrines, traditions, and of course their version of the sacrificial system. Every facet of their form of worship was designed to produce income, place excess burdens on people, and draw them away form the real vision of God as well as a personal relationship with Him and His Son. It’s hard to believe people growing up with Jesus missed so much. But how much do people miss today? Do they know how to understand parables like Jesus explained? Don’t forget the opening line to David’s prophecy. “Listen to this, all you people! Pay attention, everyone in the world!” Following basic Bible Study rules we see the same method in Matthew. Now it’s time to look back at the previous chapter.

Matthew 12:46-50 NLTse As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. (47) Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you.” (48) Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” (49) Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. (50) Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”

To help us understand, Jesus placed a more personal emphasis on David’s plea for everyone to listen. “Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” David shows us the world is supposed to listen. Jesus explains His family will be the ones who actually follow Him. David adds more details to his prophecy to show how important it is to learn the mysteries of proverbs and parallels, in other words, how to understand God’s Word.

Psalms 49:5-15 NLTse Why should I fear when trouble comes, when enemies surround me? (6) They trust in their wealth and boast of great riches. (7) Yet they cannot redeem themselves from death by paying a ransom to God. (8) Redemption does not come so easily, for no one can ever pay enough (9) to live forever and never see the grave. (10) Those who are wise must finally die, just like the foolish and senseless, leaving all their wealth behind. (11) The grave is their eternal home, where they will stay forever. They may name their estates after themselves, (12) but their fame will not last. They will die, just like animals. (13) This is the fate of fools, though they are remembered as being wise. (14) Like sheep, they are led to the grave, where death will be their shepherd. In the morning the godly will rule over them. Their bodies will rot in the grave, far from their grand estates. (15) But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of the grave.

The contrast continues to unfold as we see David explain how riches and wealth will never redeem a single person. God doesn’t want our wealth, He wants us to listen to His Son. But even as he spoke, a bright cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5 NLTse). The way David explains how useless riches are reminds me of one verse. So I advise you to buy gold from me–gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. (Revelation 3:18 NLTse).

There’s a difference between worldly riches and spiritual just like there’s a difference between a message from the world and one from Heaven. Jesus explained how to find the message from Heaven when He taught His disciples how to understand the parable about the sower. Where do you think Jesus got His interpretations for the key words from? Do you think He guessed at them or made up the spiritual meanings like other people do? No! Every interpretation Jesus provided came from scripture. Every interpretation can be proved with scripture. When we look at Matthew 13 we see Jesus point us back to scripture a number of times.

Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. (Matthew 13:5 NLTse).

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. (Ezekiel 36:26 NLTse)

He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand. This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, ‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. (Matthew 13:11-14 NLTse)

Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” And he said, “Yes, go, and say to this people, ‘Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely, but learn nothing.’ Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing.” (Isaiah 6:8-10 NLTse)

But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. (Matthew 13:21 NLTse)

To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction. The LORD approves of those who are good, but he condemns those who plan wickedness. Wickedness never brings stability, but the godly have deep roots. (Proverbs 12:1-3 NLTse)

The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. (Matthew 13:22 NLTse)

This is what the LORD says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem: “Plow up the hard ground of your hearts! Do not waste your good seed among thorns. (Jeremiah 4:3 NLTse)

The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Matthew 13:23 NLTse)

For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. “And you will live in Israel, the land I gave your ancestors long ago. You will be my people, and I will be your God. I will cleanse you of your filthy behavior. I will give you good crops of grain, and I will send no more famines on the land. I will give you great harvests from your fruit trees and fields, and never again will the surrounding nations be able to scoff at your land for its famines. (Ezekiel 36:24-30 NLTse)

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. (Psalms 1:1-3 NLTse)

Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet: “I will speak to you in parables. I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 13:34-35 NLTse)

O my people, listen to my instructions. Open your ears to what I am saying, for I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past— stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about his power and his mighty wonders. For he issued his laws to Jacob; he gave his instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them– even the children not yet born– and they in turn will teach their own children. So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. Then they will not be like their ancestors– stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God. (Psalms 78:1-8 NLTse)

The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. (Matthew 13:38 NLTse)

Then the earth will answer the thirsty cries of the grain, the grapevines, and the olive trees. And they in turn will answer, ‘Jezreel’–‘God plants!’ At that time I will plant a crop of Israelites and raise them for myself. I will show love to those I called ‘Not loved.’ And to those I called ‘Not my people,’ I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’ And they will reply, ‘You are our God!'” (Hosea 2:22-23 NLTse)

The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels. (Matthew 13:39 NLTse)

Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread the grapes, for the winepress is full. The storage vats are overflowing with the wickedness of these people.” Thousands upon thousands are waiting in the valley of decision. There the day of the LORD will soon arrive. (Joel 3:13-14 NLTse)

And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:42 NLTse)

You will throw them in a flaming furnace when you appear. The LORD will consume them in his anger; fire will devour them. You will wipe their children from the face of the earth; they will never have descendants. Although they plot against you, their evil schemes will never succeed. (Psalms 21:9-11 NLTse)

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand! (Matthew 13:43 NLTse)

Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace. Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever. But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.” (Daniel 12:2-4 NLTse)

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. (Matthew 13:44 NLTse)

My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5 NLTse)

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it! (Matthew 13:45-46 NLTse)

In that day he will be your sure foundation, providing a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. The fear of the LORD will be your treasure. (Isaiah 33:6 NLTse)

There’s an obvious connection between riches and Heaven, but who in their right mind confuses worldly riches from this world with eternal riches from Heaven? Look at what people consider riches in this world and how they effect lives. Today it costs thousands of dollars a month to maintain a comfortable living. Tens of thousands of dollars a year. This world is filled with people after those riches. Mortgage, taxes, food, clothing, cars, vacations, electronics, the latest phone, service plans, insurance, transportation, gasoline, heat, electricity, the list goes on. It never ends in this world. Compare that to Heaven where everything is given by a loving God who died so we can have salvation, eternal life, and Heaven with a home and no bills! One of the things Jesus offers us is the ability to understand His Word. In this example we see unmistakable evidence. Jesus’ quoted a number of texts in His lesson. A large percentage of that lesson is made up of scripture. If we ignore that fact and don’t look at and compare that Old Testament texts to the parable, we’ll never see or understand the message.

Looking at this world it’s not difficult to see where the warnings come from that need to be heeded. Look at the grand churches with sprawling parking lots, manicured lawns and landscaping designed to attract financially stable members. Inside the church people spend hours, days and weeks choosing carpeting, colors, padded pews, choir robs, and decorations exceeding the extravagance of former idols worshiped generations ago. Some people waste hours every week spending a fortune planning back grounds and flower arrangements to please the eye. More time, money, and effort is placed on planning decorations inside the church than on the sermon. Before the sermon becomes a thought details on lighting, camera, big screens, and sound systems rob time that could have been spent sharing the simple message Jesus gave His disciples to share. Jesus never taught in an atmosphere churches spend millions of dollars and endless hours to create. But that’s the world today. That’s the way of the world. Create a church to compete for members and donations. Popular churches have become so elaborate, they push away the poor, depressed, needy, sick, bewildered, all the people Jesus ministered to. Today’s churches who consider themselves successful reject the same people the religious leaders who opposed Jesus turned away. No wonder we find Jesus preaching this vital message in a simple boat with nothing but blue sky highlighting an endless view of water on the lake. Neither one of the gospel writers recorded any details about forming a committee or collecting funds to paint the boat, or long meetings to agree on a new sail to add atmosphere to the scene. As a matter of fact a sail would have upset the entire service. Jesus was smarter than most people give Him credit for when He followed God’s Spirit to set the location, theme, and words for His message.