10 of the Best Things Jesus Ever Said
By Joe McKeever
(I actually started this article thinking I could sift all the Lord’s wonderful statements down to the Top 10. Now, I see how naive that was! I couldn’t even get through Matthew’s Gospel with ten, much less the other three gospels. Therefore, here are 10 of the best from Matthew, presented in order of their occurrence.)
“You are the salt of the earth…. You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14).
In these two brief statements, the Lord forever set the pattern for believers: we are to be different from the world and change agents in it. We are against the world in order to be for it. Without salt, putrefication sets in; without light, darkness.
You are severely needed in your part of the world, Christ-follower. But only if you are willing to be salt and light: different, consistent, influential, cooperative with others of like values and identity, and sometimes a little lonely.
“When you pray, do not keep babbling like the pagans, for they think they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:7-8).
Christ-followers are to be people of prayer, but not like much of the rest of the religious world that sees prayer as so much manipulation of God, efforts to curry favor with God, to build up brownie points with God. Your Lord does not measure prayers’ value by volume or weight. He looks at the heart and intent, at the faith and the love. Nothing you tell Him, however, will be news to Him. He knows before you ask what you need and is already arranging the delivery system.
“If you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:11). (Variation: “…give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” Luke 11:13.)
The enemy slanders the Lord by attacking His good will: “He’s holding out on you, does not want what’s best for you, resents your growing and becoming like Him.” He said as much to Eve in the Garden. One of the primary purposes for which Jesus came to earth was to correct the Father’s reputation.
As wicked as you are, Jesus told the crowd, you at least know how to do good things for your children. Well, give the Father credit for being at least as loving as you are. Trust Him to do the right and loving thing.
“He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me“ (Matthew 10:40).
The disciples fanning out to tell the world the good news of the Kingdom of God would be depending on hospitality from people of good will. As things turned out, some people were willing to hear them and open their homes, while others grew hostile and even killed those bringing Christ’s message. “How they treat you, they are treating me,” Jesus told His team.
Not long ago, I told the church where I was preaching that the family that had hosted me had, in a sense, welcomed Jesus into their home that week. Dwell on that one a while.
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your herbs, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32).
Whenever the Lord gets ready to do something great, He prefers to start small. For reasons all His own, God loves to use the overlooked, the neglected, the undervalued, the very young, the very old, the weak and the untalented. “Who has despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10) “It matters little to the Lord whether He saves by the few or by the many” (I Samuel 14:6).
Anyone can count the number of seeds in an apple; but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.
“Therefore, every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old” (Matthew 13:52).
One who knows His Bible and then gets saved has a lifetime of discovery in store. Every time he re-enters his treasure–the Word he has learned to love–he finds the old insights and teachings he has long known and believed. But each time, he finds new treasures he had overlooked in previous visits to that blessed storeroom.
This is what keeps God’s people returning to the Word every day for all their lives. There are so much spiritual gold yet to be found and mined and experienced there. Only the people of faith and diligence will unearth them and enjoy their delights.
“I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).
The Church belongs to Jesus. He alone builds it. Furthermore, except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it.
And where His people acknowledge Him as the Head of the Church–its Owner, Protector, Decision-maker–He guarantees that it will overcome. On the other hand, whenever humans usurp the control of the church and run it their way, He promises nothing and they are guaranteed defeat and shame.
“Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).
In the truest sense Jesus Christ indwells every believer, and “Christ in you” (Colossians 1:27) is the genius of this life. However, just as solidly scriptural is an extension of that fact: Wherever several believers get together in the Name of Jesus, He is present in a greater sense than previously. That’s what keeps believers meeting together for fellowship, prayer, worship, and study. Jesus is more there than when each is alone. We don’t have to understand it to believe it.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son” (Matthew 22:1).
The Lord valued this metaphor so much that He used variations of it on several occasions to make strategic points about spiritual realities. In doing so, He made it far more than a parable (which, by definition, has one meaning), turning it into an allegory (with various teachings). God the Father is the King; Jesus is the Son; the church is the bride, the banquet is Heaven, and so forth.
“God is not the God of dead people but of the living” (Matthew 22:32).
The Lord resented a little religious sect telling Him what was in the Bible and what wasn’t, what God had planned and what He did not. “Have you not read your Bibles?” he asked. They smarted at that. Their “Bible” was the Pentateuch, we’re told, the first five books of the Old Testament. If a teaching was not there, they would not believe it. And surely, they insisted, there is nothing in those books to indicate heaven and hell and the afterlife. Jesus said, “Have you not read where God says He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Well, He’s not the God of dead people, but of the living.”
It turns out that the Old Testament brims with insights about the afterlife. We think of Job 14:14 and chapter 19; of Psalm 17:15 and 23:6; and many others.
“I tell you the truth. Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). (And conversely, “did not do for them, you did not do for me” Matthew 25:45).
In these few words, the Lord elevated service to other people, but particularly from a believer to other believers, to its highest. To feed the hungry is to feed Jesus. To clothe them is to clothe Him. There is a general sense in which this principle holds for everyone to whom we minister, but in a specific and deeper sense, it pertains to believers caring for and seeing to the needs of fellow believers.
Many a writer has taken pen in hand to illustrate how that in ministering to the homeless or the hungry or the humble, people have fed and clothed Jesus Christ.
“All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations….” (Matthew 28:18-19).
There is the Great Commission given to all Christ-followers. Our generation, at least in America, needs repeated reminders we were not sent to get people to pray the sinners’ prayer, not to get them to join the church only, not to become like us, and not even to “like” Jesus. We are sent to make disciples of Jesus Christ. A disciple is a life-long follower who dedicates himself to learning the ways of the Master and obeying Him. We fear a great segment in our churches have never become disciples of the Savior but merely walked the church aisle, prayed a prayer, and were baptized, coming away with a false assurance that their eternal destiny was secured thereby. We preachers and teachers will have a great deal to account for, I fear.
These are my nominations for ten of the best things our Lord said as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel. Each one is a nugget of pure gold, deserving to be valued and loved, memorized and obey, preached and taught as often as possible.
Joe McKeever is retired missions director for the New Orleans Baptist Association. Before that Mr. McKeever pastored churches in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and North Carolina.