Simple Bible Reading Guide
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"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." —Psalms 119:130
God's word is intended for all people. For thousands of years God has communicated to millions of simple people through His word. In fact, many things are hidden from the learned and clever but revealed to the merest children (Lk 10:21). Of course, God's word is sometimes so difficult to interpret that we need the Church to teach us. Therefore, highly academic Bible study has its place, but it is not the principal approach to God's word. The word is not primarily for an educated elite but for everyday people praying and reading by the power of the Spirit.
Nevertheless, not many books about the Bible are written to help the average person. What most people need is something short, simple, and practical that encourages, motivates and guides. We need something that will help us read the Biblical texts and not just about the text. This is the purpose of this simple Bible reading guide. "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all (2 Mc 2:25).
Note: The breakdown of the Bible into chapters (although not always adequate) has served God's people for centuries. So in general we will use a chapter-by-chapter structure for our comments.
Be sure to read each chapter of the Bible along with the introductory comments.
P.S. We have prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament about our choice of the verses in this reading guide. We hope the Scriptures will have a prophetic, life-changing power for you.
Mt 1 — VIRGIN BIRTH
"A family record of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers." Matthew 1:1-2
Our heavenly Father has the nerve to begin the New Testament, the greatest revelation of all times, with what appears to be a page from the phone book. His ways are certainly not our ways (Is 55:8). God's meaning here is that all Israelite history leads to the miraculous birth of Jesus the Messiah.
Jesus was conceived in Mary's womb without sexual relations by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit (1:23, 25). This makes Jesus God and Man, Emmanuel, "God with us."
Prayer: Jesus, I adore You and give my life to You.
Promise: "It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this Child." 1:20
Mt 3 — BAPTISMS
"Later Jesus, coming from Galilee, appeared before John at the Jordan to be baptized by him." Matthew 3:13
John baptized "in water for the sake of reform." Jesus baptized "in the Holy Spirit and fire" (3:11), for when Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and the Father said: "This is My beloved Son. My favor rests on Him" (3:17).
Prayer: Jesus, I repent. Renew my baptism in the Spirit.
Promise: "Reform your lives! The reign of God is at hand." 3:2
Mt 4 — DESERT AND SEA
"He left Nazareth and went down to live in Capernaum by the sea." Matthew 4:13
Because Jesus overcame the devil's temptations in the desert, He was able to "catch" by the sea four fishermen as His first disciples. We likewise can be fishers of men and women if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and resist the devil's temptations. We can lead people to Christ and raise up leaders for God's kingdom if we refuse to let Satan bribe, intimidate, manipulate, or distract us.
Prayer: Father, may every temptation make me even more committed to serving You.
Promise: "He said to them, 'Come after Me and I will make you fishers of men.' They immediately abandoned their nets and became His followers." 4:19-20
Mt 5 — MOUNTAIN MADNESS?
"When He saw the crowds He went up on the mountainside. After He had sat down His disciples gathered around Him, and He began to teach them." Matthew 5:1-2
After curing "the people of every disease and illness" (4:23), Jesus went up the mountainside and made several seemingly absurd statements (see 1 Cor 1:18). He said the way to be blessed was to choose material poverty and persecution. He said we can't even grow angry, look lustfully, or get divorced. We should offer no resistance to injury, turn the other cheek, and love our enemies. If we take Jesus seriously, we may be killed as He was.
Prayer: Jesus, I submit my life to Your word and not submit Your word to my life.
Promise: "You are the salt of the earth" (5:13). "You are the light of the world." 5:14
Mt 7 — RAIN AND WIND
"When the rainy season set in, the torrents came and the winds blew and buffeted his house. It did not collapse; it had been solidly set on rock."Matthew 7:25
Is your trust in the Father so firmly founded that it will stand up to anything? Are there any cracks in the foundationlike unrepented sin, judging others, hypocrisy, doubt, or confusion promoted by wolves in sheep's clothing? The winds and rains of life will blast our houses, families, and lives. But we will stand firm if we have chosen to enter through the narrow gate. No matter how rough it gets, the Lord wants to save us. If we only ask for His grace, we will receive it.
Prayer: Father, may I receive Your strength today so I will stand firm under the pressures of the next few weeks.
Promise: "If you, with all your sins, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to anyone who asks Him!" 7:11
Mt 8 — COMMAND PERFORMANCE
" 'Sir,' the centurion said in reply, 'I am not worthy to have You under my roof. Just give an order and my boy will get better.' " Matthew 8:8
Jesus commanded a leper: " 'Be cured.' Immediately the man's leprosy disappeared" (8:3). He commanded a Roman centurion: " 'Go home. It shall be done because you trusted.' That very moment the boy got better" (8:13). Jesus took Peter's mother-in-law "by the hand and the fever left her" (8:15). "He expelled the spirits by a simple command and cured all who were afflicted" (8:16). Jesus "took the winds and the sea to task. Complete calm ensued" (8:26). He expelled a legion of demons with the command: "Out with you!" (8:32) Demons, diseases, and even storms must obey Jesus. But some human beings have not yet decided to obey the Lord.
Prayer: Jesus, may I choose to die rather than disobey You.
Promise: " 'What sort of Man is this,' they said, 'that even the winds and the sea obey Him?' " 8:27
Mt 9 — GUIDED TOUR
"Jesus continued His tour of all the towns and villages." Matthew 9:35
Jesus has been taking the apostles on a tour for the last two chapters. The apostles have seen the healing of a leper, two paralytics, Peter's mother-in-law, a hemorrhaging woman, and two blind men. They've seen hundreds of demons expelled, a possessed mute freed, and even a girl raised from the dead. The tour was an awesome display of Jesus' authority and power. Jesus concluded the tour by asking the apostles to "beg the harvest Master to send out laborers to gather His harvest" (9:38). The apostles became the answer to their own prayer. Jesus "gave them authority to expel unclean spirits and to cure sickness and disease of every kind" (10:1). Now Jesus' followers repeat the tour, not as spectators but as tour guides.
Prayer: "Thanks be to God, Who unfailingly leads us on in Christ's triumphal train" (2 Cor 2:14).
Promise: "Have courage, son, your sins are forgiven." 9:2
Mt 10 — THE FACTS OF NEW LIFE
"Jesus sent these men on mission as the Twelve." Matthew 10:5
After giving His apostles authority over all demons and diseases, Jesus told them where to go, what to say, what to do, what not to take, and where to stay. Jesus told them all the facts. The apostles will be persecuted, even by their families, but they should not be afraid to acknowledge Jesus before men. When they are handed over, they need not worry about what they will say or how they will say it. They themselves will not be the speakers; the Holy Spirit will be speaking in them.
Prayer: Jesus, despite persecution I choose to go and make disciples of all nations (28:19).
Promise: "Do not suppose that My mission on earth is to spread peace. My mission is to spread, not peace, but division." 10:34
Mt 11 — KEEP THE SON IN YOUR EYES
"No one knows the Son but the Father, and no one knows the Father but the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him." Matthew 11:27
Jesus' words and John the Baptizer's testimony made it very clear that Jesus was the Messiah. Yet the cities of Jesus' time were worse than the notorious cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom. The people were like spoiled brats. They had hardened their hearts and refused to repent. Jesus and His Father were hidden from these learned and clever people and revealed to the merest children.
Prayer: Jesus, may I not make You a stumbling block (11:6).
Promise: "Come to Me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take My yoke upon your shoulders and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest, for My yoke is easy and My burden light." 11:28-30
Mt 12 — THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN
"Thus the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. And that is how it will be with this evil generation." Matthew 12:45
Jesus called His generation evil because it wanted a sign. However, when He worked a sign, they attributed it to the devil. This may have been the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Spirit.
When people oppose the Holy Spirit (see Acts 7:51) by stubbornly and permanently turning away from Jesus, they will never be forgiven because they refuse to ask forgiveness from the only One Who can forgive them. Their last state is worse than the first.
Prayer: Father, protect me from being blinded by the god of this present age (2 Cor 4:4).
Promise: "Whoever does the will of My heavenly Father is brother and sister and mother to Me." 12:50
Mt 13 — PARABLES
"He addressed them at length in parables." Matthew 13:3
"I use parables when I speak to them because they look but do not see, they listen but do not hear or understand." Matthew 13:3
Jesus spoke in parables to His evil generation. Parables have double, opposite effects. They reveal truth to those who are open and at the same time conceal the truth to those who are closed.
Jesus' parables tell us that the kingdom of God is a matter of hearing and obeying God's word. We must endure "phony" Christians and not be discouraged by how small the kingdom is in the beginning. We can all pay the price to enter the kingdom. However, we can't afford anything else because entry into God's kingdom will cost us everything we have.
Prayer: Father, may Your word burn in my heart (Lk 24:32).
Promise: "The angels will hurl them into the fiery furnace where they will wail and grind their teeth. Then the saints will shine like the sun in their Father's kingdom." 13:42-43
Mt 14 — WALKING ON THE WATER
"So Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water, moving toward Jesus. But when he perceived how strong the wind was, becoming frightened, he began to sink and cried out, 'Lord, save me!' " Matthew 14:29-30
Jesus walked on the waters of the Sea of Galilee to show us we can walk on the waters of sickness, persecution, and starvation, if we believe and obey the Lord.
When we sink, only a few will be healed. When we sink, we will be manipulated into abetting persecution. When we sink, we will be helpless in the face of starvation. But when we call on Jesus, He will save us from drowning, stretch forth His hand, and exclaim: " 'How little faith you have!... Why did you falter?' " (14:31)
Prayer: Lord, "I do believe! Help my lack of trust!" (Mk 9:24)
Promise: "People brought Him all the afflicted, with the plea that He let them do no more than touch the tassel of His cloak. As many as touched it were fully restored to health." 14:35-36
Mt 15 — OF ALL PEOPLE
"Jesus then said in reply, 'Woman, you have great faith! Your wish will come to pass.' That very moment her daughter got better." Matthew 15:28
Some of the Pharisees and scribes were hypocrites and blind leaders of the blind. They gave God lip-service and their hearts were far from Him. Ironically, the Canaanite woman had more faith in Jesus than the Jewish leaders and even the apostles had. She had "great faith" while the apostles had "little faith" (14:31), and the Jewish leaders "no faith." Jesus is more than willing to heal and feed anyone who will open the door by faith (Acts 14:27).
Prayer: Father, give me ever-increasing faith.
Promise: "The result was great astonishment in the crowds as they beheld the mute speaking, the deformed made sound, cripples walking about, and the blind seeing." 15:31
Mt 16 — SIMPLE SIMON
"What profit would a man show if he were to gain the whole world and destroy himself in the process?" Matthew 16:26
Even after Jesus multiplied five loaves to feed five thousand and seven loaves to feed four thousand, people did not believe in Him. They thought He was John the Baptizer, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Jesus asked His disciples if they knew Who He was. Simon Peter answered: "You are the Messiah...the Son of the living God" (16:16). After Simon told Jesus Who He was, Jesus told Simon that he was "Rock," on which He would build the Church. Jesus proceeded to talk about His suffering, death, and resurrection, but Simon Peter wouldn't listen.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, in the near future reveal Jesus to me in a new and deep way.
Promise: "Jesus then said to His disciples: 'If a man wishes to come after Me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross, and begin to follow in My footsteps.' " 16:24
Mt 17 — FROM THE SUBLIME TO THE RIDICULOUS
"He was transfigured before their eyes. His face became as dazzling as the sun, his clothes as radiant as light." Matthew 17:2
This chapter begins with the awesome experience of Jesus' transfiguration and ends with simple Simon paying the temple tax with a coin he found in a fish's mouth. Jesus "pulled out all the stops" to reveal to His disciples that He is the Son of God, but it didn't work. The Father Himself spoke out of the cloud: "This is My beloved Son on Whom My favor rests. Listen to Him" (17:5). But Jesus' disciples didn't even have faith the size of a mustard seed. When Jesus talked a second time about His death and resurrection, "they were overwhelmed with grief" because of their weak faith (17:23). Jesus had to die, rise, ascend, and pour out the Spirit before His disciples would see the light.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, teach me how to suffer according to the pattern of Jesus' death (Phil 3:10).
Promise: "I assure you, if you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you would be able to say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible for you." 17:20
Mt 18 — "TO ERR IS HUMAN, TO FORGIVE DIVINE"
"Then Peter came up and asked Him, 'Lord, when my brother wrongs me, how often must I forgive him? Seven times?' 'No,' Jesus replied, 'not seven times; I say, seventy times seven times.' " Matthew 18:21-22
Christians hurt Christians sometimes mercilessly. Some have said: "The Christian Church is the only army that shoots its own wounded soldiers." The Church is full of ambition, jealousy, and division. Many of these conflicts can be dealt with by personal communication, submission to Church leadership, and the power of prayer. But, whether or not our interpersonal conflicts have been resolved, we must constantly forgive one another. If we don't forgive, we will not be forgiven (6:12, 14-15).
Prayer: By Your power, Father, I forgive everyone who has ever hurt me, especially the Christian who has hurt me the most.
Promise: "Whoever makes himself lowly, becoming like this child, is of greatest importance in that heavenly reign." 18:4
Mt 19 — "FOR GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE" (19:26)
"When the disciples heard this they were completely overwhelmed, and exclaimed, 'Then who can be saved?' " Matthew 19:25
Jesus shocked the Pharisees and His own disciples by stating that marriage was permanent from that point on and divorce was unnecessary. He also said that a life without marriage and sex was His calling for some people. Next, Jesus treated children with a radically new love and respect. He also told a rich man to sell his
possessions. When the man refused, "Jesus said to his disciples: 'I assure you, only with difficulty will a rich man enter into the kingdom of God' " (19:23). All of these assertions were overwhelming. It was as if the law of gravity were no longer in effect. Jesus' statements are so radical that they would be insane coming from anyone other than God Himself.
Prayer: Jesus, because You became man, died on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, all human reality is dramatically and permanently changed. I worship You.
Promise: "Moreover, everyone who has given up home, brothers or sisters, father or mother, wife or children or property for My sake will receive many times as much and inherit everlasting life." 19:29
Mt 21 — "FIGHTING WORDS"
"As He entered Jerusalem the whole city was stirred to its depths, demanding, 'Who is this?' And the crowd kept answering, 'This is the Prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.' " Matthew 21:10-11
Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph. He had the audacity to drive out of the Temple "those engaged there in buying and selling. He overturned the money changers' tables and the stalls of the dove-sellers" (21:12). "The blind and the lame came to Him inside the temple area and He cured them. The chief priests and the scribes became indignant when they observed the wonders He worked, and how the children were shouting out in the temple precincts, 'Hosanna to the Son of David!' 'Do you hear what they are saying?' they asked Him. Jesus said to them 'Of course I do!' " (21:15-16) Jesus confronted the religious leaders. When they questioned His authority, He answered their question with a question. Then He told parables indicating that tax collectors and prostitutes were entering the kingdom of God before the religious leaders. These were "fighting words." The chief priests and Pharisees eventually murdered Jesus for these words.
Prayer: Jesus, cleanse the temple of my body, so I can work for You as You cleanse Your body the Church.
Promise: "If you say to this mountain, 'Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' even that will happen. You will receive all you pray for, provided you have faith." 21:21-22
Mt 22 — SPARRING PARTNERS
"Taken aback by this reply, they went off and left Him. That same day some Sadducees, who hold there is no resurrection, came to Him with a question." Matthew 22:22-23
Jesus implied that the religious leaders had refused the invitation to the wedding banquet of God's reign. "Then the Pharisees went off and began to plot how they might trap Jesus in speech" (22:15). They tried to trap Jesus with a question about paying taxes to Caesar. Jesus escaped their trap by refusing to call for the paying of taxes in a way that the Jews would understand but the Romans would not. Next, the Sadducees took a shot at Jesus. They asked a question that backfired and made themselves look bad rather than Jesus. "Jesus replied: 'You are badly misled because you fail to understand the Scriptures and the power of God' " (22:29). Jesus ended this verbal boxing match by stumping the religious leaders with a question in which He intimated He was God. "No one could give Him an answer; therefore no one dared, from that day on, to ask Him any questions" (22:46).
Prayer: Father, may I be submissive and humble before You when You do things to challenge me.
Promise: " 'You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' " 22:37-39
Mt 23 — TO TELL THE TRUTH
"Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you frauds!" Matthew 23:13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29
Jesus had great respect for the scribes and Pharisees because they succeeded Moses as teachers. He told the people to "do everything and observe everything" the religious leaders told them (23:2) but not to follow their example.
Jesus boldly corrected the religious leaders. They were proud frauds, blind fools, a brood of serpents, and whitened sepulchers "beautiful to look at on the outside but inside full of filth and dead men's bones" (23:27). Because of their sins, they shared responsibility for the deaths of the prophets. Jesus yearned to gather them "as a mother bird gathers her young under her wings" but they refused Him (23:37).
Prayer: Jesus, I turn away from sin and turn to You.
Promise: "Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, but whoever humbles himself shall be exalted." 23:12
Mt 24 — MAKING ENDS MEET
"What will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the world?" Matthew 24:3
Jesus predicted the end of Jerusalem and the end of the world. Since His predictions for Jerusalem were fulfilled in 70 AD, we have reason to believe His predictions for the end of the world are accurate.
At the end, many will impersonate Jesus. We will hear of wars and rumors of war. "There will be famine and pestilence and earthquakes in many places. These are the early stages of the birth pangs" (24:7-8). The persecution, torture, and martyrdom of Christians will increase greatly. "Many will falter then, betraying and hating one another" (24:10). "Because of the increase of evil, the love of most will grow cold" (24:12). The "good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world as a witness to all the nations. Only after that will the end come" (24:14). "Those days will be more filled with anguish than any from the beginning of the world until now or in all ages to come. Indeed, if the period had not been shortened, not a human being would be saved" (24:21-22). "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and 'all the clans of earth will strike their breasts' as they see 'the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven' with power and great glory" (24:30). "The moral is: keep your eyes open, for you know not the day or the hour" (25:13).
Prayer: Lord, if You were to come this moment, I pray that I would be ready to go with You to heaven.
Promise: "Stay awake, therefore! You cannot know the day your Lord is coming." 24:42
Mt 25 — THE LAST JUDGMENT
"When the Son of Man comes in His glory, escorted by all the angels of heaven, He will sit upon His royal throne, and all the nations will be assembled before Him." Matthew 25:31-32
When Jesus comes the second and final time, will we be ready? Will the oil of holiness be burning in our lives? Will we have done our best to fully use the gifts the Lord has given us? What have we done for the "least of the brethren"? When we express our faith in action, we serve not only our brothers and sisters but Jesus Himself. Will Jesus say to us on Judgment Day: "Come. You have My Father's blessing! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world."? (25:34)
Prayer: Father, may I believe in Your Son, love Him in the poor, and live with You forever in heaven.
Promise: "These will go off to eternal punishment and the just to eternal life." 25:46
Mt 26 — HIS PASSION
"Now when Jesus had finished all these discourses, He declared to His disciples, 'You know that in two days' time it will be Passover, and that the Son of Man is to be handed over to be crucified.' "Matthew 26:1-2
While Jesus was being betrayed, sold, and denied by His followers, He was giving Himself to us in Communion and crucifixion. "There is no greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (Jn 15:13). Why does Jesus love us so much after we have hurt Him so much? "Christ died for us godless men. It is rare that anyone should lay down his life for a just man, though it is barely possible that for a good man someone may have the courage to die. It is precisely in this that God proves His love for us: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rm 5:6-8).
Prayer: Jesus, You gave Your life for me. I give my life for You.
Promise: "This is My blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out in behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins." 26:28
Mt 27 — HIS DEATH
"Once again Jesus cried out in a loud voice, and then gave up His spirit." Matthew 27:50
Jesus, if I don't accept by faith Your death for me, I will have to die for myself. Then it would be better if I had never been born (26:24). Jesus, I repent of all my sins. I'm sorry for my terrible part in Your crucifixion. I decide from now on to live a new life in You. You are my Savior, Lord, and God. I adore You with every moment of my life.
Prayer: Jesus, my Lord, my God, my All! (Jn 20:28)
Promise: "Suddenly the curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth quaked, boulders split, tombs opened. Many bodies of saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After Jesus' resurrection they came forth from their tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. The centurion and his men who were keeping watch over Jesus were terror-stricken at seeing the earthquake and all that was happening, and said, 'Clearly this was the Son of God!' " 27:51-54
Mt 28 — HIS RESURRECTION
"Suddenly there was a mighty earthquake, as the angel of the Lord descended from heaven. He came to the stone, rolled it back, and sat on it. The guards grew paralyzed with fear of him and fell down like dead men. Then the angel spoke, addressing the women: 'Do not be frightened. I know you are looking for Jesus the Crucified, but He is not here. He has been raised, exactly as He promised.' " Matthew 28:2, 4-6
Alleluia! He's alive! Alleluia! All is new because death's reign is over (Rm 5:17). Go to all nations and tell the greatest news of all times: Jesus is risen! He is Lord! He is "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life!" (Jn 14:6) He is the Resurrection and the Life! (Jn 11:25) Jesus is God! (Jn 20:28) Alleluia!
Prayer: "Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, He Who in His great mercy gave us new birth, a birth unto hope which draws its life from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pt 1:3).
Promise: "Full authority has been given to Me both in heaven and on earth; go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations. Baptize them in the name 'of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.' Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you. And know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!" 28:18-20
Nihil obstat: Reverend Robert L. Hagedorn, April 21, 1998
Imprimatur: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, April 23, 1998
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