Download This  Study For Free!


Please feel free to Download this study.


Matthew 8-14

THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT ISRAEL'S KING

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF MATTHEW

Introduction to the King (1-4)
1. The family tree of the King (1:1-17)
2. The reception for the King (2:1-12)
3. The birth of the King (1:18-25)
4. The King's early journeys (2:13-23)
5. The herald of the King (3:1-12)
6. The anointing of the King (3:13-17)
7. The testing of the King (4:1-11)
8. The good news about the King (4:12-25)

GUIDELINES FOR KINGDOM LIVING (5-7)
1.   We must recognize our heart's need for God's kingdom (5:1-6)
2.   How God's kingdom will be expressed in our hearts (5:7-12)
3.   The influence of God's kingdom (5:13-16)
4.   The moral standards for God's kingdom (5:17-48)
5.   The standard for purity in God's kingdom (6:1-18)
6.   The priority in God's kingdom: Choosing God's riches over the world's
riches (6:19-24)
7.   Guidelines for faith in God's kingdom (6:25-34)
8.   Judgment in God's kingdom (7:1-6)
9.   The pursuit of success in God's kingdom (7:7-12)
10. The narrow road into God's kingdom (7:13,14)
11. The counterfeits of God's kingdom (7:15-23)
12. The battle for security in God's kingdom (7:24-27)

THE KING'S MINISTRY (8-20)
THE LAST DAYS OF THE KING (21-28)

 

Introductory Information About the Book of Matthew

1. The author: The early church leaders were in agreement that Matthew the Apostle was the author of this book.

2. The date: The date that Matthew wrote this Gospel is uncertain.  Because it appears to be written to Jews, it may have been written in the 50s while the church was still primarily Jewish.

3. The theme and purpose:  It is a transitional book between the Old Testament and the New Testament: "its subject matter serves as a bridge between the Old and New Testaments.  Matthew's purpose obviously was to demonstrate that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, that He fulfilled the requirements of being the promised King who would be a descendant of David, and that His life and ministry fully support the conclusion that He is the promised Messiah of Israel." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."  This book by Matthew the Apostle seeks to prove that Jesus was the promised King that was to sit on the throne of David. See Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5 and Matthew 15:22

 

THE MESSAGE OF THE BOOK OF MATTHEW

THE KING'S MINISTRY (8-20)

THOSE WHO RECEIVED THE MINISTRY OF THE KING (8:1-22)
Jesus heals those that the world rejects—he heals a leper, the servant of a Roman Centurion, and a woman.  He healed them because they came to Him with the proper heart attitudes—they were poor in spirit, mourned, and recognized their need.

1. He received the poor in spirit. (8:1-4)
"When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.' Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, 'See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.'"

Thought Question: What can we learn about how to pray to Jesus from this leper's prayer?

 

 

"When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.'"  "Leprosy" is a physical condition that pictures physically what each of us are like spiritually.  We all are spiritual and moral lepers before a pure and holy God.  This leper approaches Jesus.  How will the holy Son of God respond to him?  Ryle describes "leprosy" as "the most fearful disease by which a man's body can be afflicted.  He that has it is like one dead while he lives."  "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."  Does that not also describe every person who is not a Christian: "one dead while he lives" 

Barclay gives us the following description of leprosy:  "In the ancient world leprosy was the most terrible of all diseases.  E. W. G. Musterman writes: 'No other disease reduces a human being for so many years to so hideous a wreck.'  It might begin with little nodules which go on to ulcerate.  The ulcers develop a foul discharge; the eyebrows fall out; the eyes become staring; the vocal cords become ulcerated, and the voice becomes hoarse, and the breath wheezes.  The hands and feet always ulcerate.  Slowly the sufferer becomes a mass of ulcerated growths.  The average course of that kind of leprosy is nine years, and it ends in mental decay, coma, and ultimately death . . . . The physical condition was terrible, but there was something that made it worse.  Josephus tells us that lepers were treated 'as if they were, in effect, dead men.'  Immediately leprosy was diagnosed, the leper was absolutely and completely banished from human society." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 1.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press." 

How would Jesus respond to this "hideous" "wreck"?  How will He respond to us when we feel like a "hideous" "wreck"?  Robertson answers this question by quoting F. F. Bruce: "'Men more easily believe in miraculous power than in miraculous love."  "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

This leper came to Jesus very humbly: "'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.'"  He calls Jesus "Lord," and then he treats Him as his "Lord."  For, he does not demand at all to be healed.  Instead, he leaves it up to Jesus' choice: "if you are willing." 

Also, he comes to Jesus in faith: "I know that "you can make me clean."  "'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' Immediately he was cured of his leprosy."  Jesus' miraculous cures differ from healings that take place over a period of time.  His healing here was complete and immediate!

Then, Jesus said to him: "'See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.'"  Leviticus 13 and 14 gives God's instruction to Israel on "leprosy."  Leviticus describes how the healed leper could be restored to society.  This leper that Jesus healed was to follow these instructions. 

"Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man."  Would Jesus receive this "hideous" "wreck" of a man?  The answer is "Yes!"  He was willing to see the needy man behind the rotting flesh, and He immediately healed him.  How does He respond to us when we, like Paul, cry out to Jesus in our need?  "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24)  He also saw the people of His time on earth with compassion.  "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:36)  So, He sees our needs with compassion.

"Then Jesus said to him, 'See that you don’t tell anyone."  We can see that Jesus healed him out of compassion and not to impress people with His miraculous power.

2. He received those who mourned. (8:5-13)
A Centurion's servant is healed of paralysis because his master shared his sorrow and took his need before Jesus.  "In a Roman legion there were 6,000 men; the legion was divided into sixty centuries, each containing 100 men, and in command of each century there was a centurion.  These centurions were the long-service regular soldiers of the Roman army.  They were responsible for the discipline of the regiment, and they were the cement which held the army together." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press." 

a. The centurion asks for mercy for his servant who is experiencing great suffering (8:5-6)
"When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 'Lord,' he said, 'my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.'"

Thought Question: What does the way the centurion came to Jesus tell us about the man?

 

 

"When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 'Lord,' he said, 'my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.'"  Someone has said that you can a tell a lot about a person by the way he treats those who can do nothing for him.  This centurion's attitude toward his servant tells a lot about him.

The Romans were the hated conquerors and rulers in Israel.  How would the Promised Messiah of Israel respond to him?  We will see that Jesus was willing to heal his servant, just as He had just healed the leper.

b. The centurion demonstrates his great humility and faith. (8:7-9)
"Jesus said to him, 'I will go and heal him.' The centurion replied, 'Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, “Go,” and he goes; and that one, “Come,” and he comes. I say to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.'"

Thought Question: What do you learn about how you can have greater faith from the centurion's faith?

 

 

"Jesus said to him, 'I will go and heal him.' The centurion replied, 'Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, “Go,” and he goes; and that one, “Come,” and he comes. I say to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.'"

Most are familiar with this account of the "centurion" and Jesus.  So, we are not astonished by what this "centurion" says to Jesus.  But, we need to remember that Rome had conquered the Jews.  Certainly, other centurions looked down on the conquered Jews.  Yet, this "centurion" calls Jesus, "Lord."  He also believed that Jesus had the same power over the physical world as He had over his subordinates in the Roman army.  In him, we see both amazing humility and amazing faith.  He apparently saw clearly who Jesus is.

Faith can be defined as seeing the unseen reality.  This "centurion" saw that Jesus had the same authority over the physical world as he had over his soldiers.  So, he believed that Jesus could heal his servant without going to his home.  Jesus was willing to go to his home, but the "centurion" believed accurately that this was not necessary.

c. Jesus praises the centurion's faith (8:10-12)
"When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, 'I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'" See also Matt. 15:21-28

Thought Question: Why do you believe Jesus' words were shocking words for His Jewish listeners to hear?

 

 

"When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, 'I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'" See also Matt. 15:21-28

Barclay explains that the Jews believed that the Messiah's coming would be celebrated by a grand banquet which only the Jews could attend; and they believed that the Gentiles would be cast into a place of darkness and torment.  Jesus corrects this by saying that the very opposite would be true—it will be those who have faith like this "centurion" who will attend this banquet and the Jews who lack this faith that will be cast out.

"'will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'" See 13:42, 50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30  These words describe the great anguish of those in hell.  "'There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.'" (Luke 13:28)  There will be great anguish among the Jews when the Gentiles and not them will be at the great banquet.

" But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside,"  "The subjects of the kingdom" who "will be thrown" out will be the Jewish people—"Those who expected salvation based on their descent from Abraham. (3:9)" "Taken from Matthew by Craig Keener.  Copyright 1997 by Intervarsity Press."

d. Jesus rewards the centurion's faith. (8:13)
"Then Jesus said to the centurion, 'Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.' And his servant was healed at that very hour."  The "centurion" believed Jesus had the authority to heal his servant without going to his home.  And that is what happened!

3. He receives the meek (8:14-15)
"When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him."

Thought Question: What message is there for us in these two verses?

 

 

"When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him."  "Peter's mother-in-law" is healed, and she shows her meekness and gentleness by immediately beginning to serve Jesus. See Mk 1:30-31  "Peter's mother-in-law" provides us with a picture of what should motivate us to serve Jesus Christ.  Our gratitude for God's healing is to lead us to serve Him.

4. He received the needy (8:16-17)
"When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 'He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.'"

Thought Question: When someone claims to heal as Jesus did, how can we tell whether or not what they claim is true?

 

 

"When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 'He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.'"  When we needy people hear that there is someone who will meet our need, we go to that person.  The "demon-possessed" were brought to Jesus and the "sick" came to Him.  He "drove out the spirits with a word."  He had total authority over demonic spirits and only needed to command them with a simple command like "Go!" and they had to go.

"and healed all the sick."  Some claim that they heal the sick as Jesus did.  I have attended a number of these meetings.  One thing I came away with from attending those meetings: I saw that they did not heal "all the sick."  Also, the healings that they claimed to do were not visible healings, but healings that they claimed to be doing were not seen.  So, the healings at these meetings were not like the healings that Jesus did—everyone was not healed.  But, I would like to see "all the sick" healed, as they were on that day that Matthew describes here.

"This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 'He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.'"  Ultimately, Jesus " . . . took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows" (Isa. 53:4) when our sin was placed on Him when He took the penalty for our sin on Himself on the cross.  "Vicarious" describes taking the place for someone else.  All the way through Isaiah 53, Isaiah describes a Person that would die for our sin in our place.  "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:5-6)

Here, Jesus healed the sicknesses caused by the curse of sin.  It points to a time when we will be completely free from the curse as a result of Jesus' death for us and His resurrection.  "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.'" (Galatians 3:13)  "'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.' When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed." (1 Peter 2:22-24)

5. He rejected the worldly (8:18-22)

a. He rejected a teacher of the law (8:18-20)
"When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, 'Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.' Jesus replied, 'Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.'"

Thought Question: How do Jesus' words to this "teacher of the law" apply to us today?

 

 

This "teacher of the law" says that he will follow Jesus anywhere.  Jesus tells him that even "foxes" and "birds" have a home, but He does not have a home.  He was asking this "teacher of the law" to consider the cost that he must pay if he follows Him.  He was asking him, "Are you willing to give up worldly comfort to follow me?"  It appears that Jesus knew that he was not willing to give up the security of his teaching position in society.  This "teacher of the law" naively believed that following Christ would not cost him his worldly status.  In fact, if he followed Jesus, he would end up being hated, he would lose his comfortable home, and he would lose his comfortable status in Jewish society.  Since, this is the last we hear of this man, we can assume that he chose not to follow Jesus—the cost was too great.

What is the message for us today?  We need to count the cost of following Christ before we begin to follow Him.  That is what Paul did when he was imprisoned in Rome.  "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death," (Philippians 3:7-10)  "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds," (James 1:2)

When my wife and I spent a short time on the mission field, we began to appreciate what missionaries give up to go to a country that has much less than our country has.  How much are we willing to give up to follow Christ?

"the Son of Man"  "Jesus' most common title for himself, used 81 times in the Gospels and never used by anyone but Jesus.  In Da 7:13-14 the Son of Man is pictured as a heavenly figure who in the end times is entrusted by God with authority and sovereign power." "NIV Study Bible note on Mark 8:31" See also Acts 7:56 and Rev. 1:12-18

b. He rejected another man because he loved worldly riches more than following Him (8:21-22)
"Another disciple said to him, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father.' But Jesus told him, 'Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.'"

Thought Question: What do you believe is the reason that this man did not follow Christ?

 

 

"Another disciple said to him, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father.' But Jesus told him, 'Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.'"  This man was not saying this because his father had just died.  If his father had just died, he would have been at the funeral—for the dead were buried on the same day that he or she died.  "When a father died, mourners would gather immediately and a funeral procession would take his body to the tomb (see Mt 27:59-60; Mk 5:35, 38; Lk 7:12) leaving no time for a bereaved son to be talking with rabbis." "Taken from Matthew by Craig Keener.  Copyright 1997 by Intervarsity Press."

The man wanted to follow Jesus after his father died, after he had fulfilled his traditional function as his son, and after he had received his inheritance.  In many countries, many do not fully follow Christ because they are tied to their family's traditions.  Their family's traditions have come to have first place in their lives.  To fully follow Christ, He must have that #1 place in our lives.  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)  "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:37-39)

"But Jesus told him, 'Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.'"  Jesus seems to be harsh and insensitively demanding of this man; but, excuses for not following Christ fully are innumerable.  Once we start down this path, we will march to another drum and we will not fully follow Christ.  Those who have made the greatest impact for Christ, sometimes even looking death in the face, say, "I will follow Christ, no matter what!"  As the song says, "I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back."

"'let the dead bury their own dead.'"  Obviously, physically dead people cannot bury someone who is dead.  But, spiritually dead people can do many things.  Spiritually dead people can run grocery stores, be policemen, be teachers, and do much of what is necessary in a society.  But, they cannot do Jesus' work.  We who are Christians need to be busy with Jesus Christ's work.  We may do it while running a grocery store.  But, if we are going to fully follow Christ, we must put His work first in our lives.  Paul was a tentmaker, but most of all he was a Christian apostle.

Thought Question: What is there in your life that can ensnare you by becoming more important to you than obeying Christ?

 

 

THE KING WHO CAME TO SERVE (8:23-9:8)
His miracles give us pictures of what His kingdom will create in our hearts.

1. He came to calm our storms (8:23-27)
"Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, 'Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!' He replied, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, 'What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!'"

Thought Question: Describe a time when a storm came into you life and you felt like Jesus was asleep?  (How did it turn out?)

 

 

"Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, 'Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!'"  When have violent storms come into your life?  During those times, did you ever feel like Jesus was asleep—when you felt like He was unconcerned about what you were going through?  If we had been there in that boat, would we have been doing what the disciples did—would we have been crying out to Jesus about His apparent lack of concern for the danger we were in?

Storms like this one were quite common on the Sea of Galilee.  "In one sense this was a very ordinary scene on the Sea of Galilee.  The Sea of Galilee is small; it is only thirteen miles from north to south and eight miles from east to west at its widest.  The Jordan valley makes a deep cleft in the surface of the earth, and the Sea of Galilee is part of that cleft.  It is 680 feet below sea level.  That gives it a climate which is warm and gracious, but it also creates dangers.  On the west side there are hills with valleys and gullies; and, when a cold wind comes from the west, these valleys and gullies act like gigantic funnels.  The wind, as it were, becomes compressed in them, and rushes down upon the lake with savage violence and with startling suddenness, so that the calm of one moment can become the storm of the next.  The storms on the Sea of Galilee combine suddenness in a unique way." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 1.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press." 

"He replied, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm."  Let us try to picture what it was like when that wind furiously blasted down on that small group with Jesus, tossing water, boat, and men.  The sky was black; rain beat down on them from every direction; and the sea flooded into their little boat.  They panic, but Jesus sleeps on—a perfect example of peace in the midst of a storm.  They yell to Jesus, "Don't lie there, get up and do something."  So, He got up and did something.  First, He had to calm them down:  "You ought to be ashamed of being afraid, where is your faith?"  Then, He showed them why they could calm down.  He showed them His total power over nature—He spoke to the wind and the waves and it was instantly calm. See 14:31, 16:8, 17:20

Have you or I ever panicked, and then, later, realized that our panic was unnecessary?  Sometimes when we read accounts like these, we align ourselves with Jesus and believe that we would respond to scary times like He did.  We tend not to align ourselves with the disciples and their failures.  But, would we not have also panicked in that storm, if we had been there?  Have we not also panicked in the storms of life?  Still, today, there is nothing that can happen to us that Jesus does not have complete power over.

"The men were amazed and asked, 'What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!'"  He was the God-man.  There never had been a man like Him, and there has not been a man like Him since.  One day, all who have believed in Him will see Him face to face!

2. He came to make the demons flee (8:28-34)
"When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 'What do you want with us, Son of God?' they shouted. 'Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?' Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, 'If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.' He said to them, 'Go!' So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region."

Thought Question: Why do you believe God allows demons to be present in our world to affect us?

 

 

"When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 'What do you want with us, Son of God?' they shouted. 'Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?'"

"Two demon-possessed men" are "so violent" that people are afraid to pass by them.  But, when Jesus is present, it is the demons that are terrified.

Mark and Luke describe one man who was "demon-possessed," and Matthew, here, says there were "two demon-possessed men."  Of course, if there were two men, there was also one man.  Mark and Luke focus on one of the men, whereas, Matthew focuses on that man plus another man.  Constable says that "Mark and Luke mentioned the more prominent one." "Dr. Constable's notes."

"Gadarenes"  It is named after the city of Gadara.  Gadara is "six miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee."  "NIV Study Bible note."  In Luke and Mark it is called "the region of the Gerasenes." (Mark 5:1; Luke 8:26)  Dr. Constable explains why both Matthew, Mark, and Luke were all accurate:  "Mark and Luke called this area 'the country of the Gerasenes,' but Matthew call it the country of the Gadarenes.  Gergesa (also referred to as Gersa, Kersa, and Kursi), was a small village about midway on the eastern shore of the lake.  Gadara, one of Decapolis' cities, was a larger town six miles southeast of the lake's southern end.  This incident apparently happened somewhere near both towns on the southeast coast of the lake." "Dr. Constable's notes on Lk. 8:26-37."

"'Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?'"  We see here why these demons were terrified.  They thought that Jesus was moving up the time of their eternal punishment in hell from some time in the distant future to that very day.

We see here, the reality of demons.  We are in a battle against unseen spiritual beings.  Paul makes this clear. in Ephesians 6: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:10-12)

We also see here that greater is the One who is in us than our unseen enemy and his evil forces.  "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."           (1 John 4:4)  These demons recognized Jesus' total authority over them.  They could do their ugly worst only as long as He allowed them to do it.  Why is Satan not a conquered foe who is no longer able to influence us?  God, at this time, has a purpose for the presence of demons in our world.  But, when that purpose is served, they will be sent into eternal judgment.  Why are they allowed to remain?  Maybe it is so we will see clearly the alternative to holiness, and so we will forever despise and abhor it.  "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8:18-23) "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

"Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, 'If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.' He said to them, 'Go!' So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region."

In a desperate attempt to postpone their final fate, the demons ask to be sent into a herd of pigs.  With one word, Jesus commands them to leave the two men and they are immediately driven from them and into the herd of pigs.  It was too much for the people of the city.  It is not clear whether it was the loss of the pigs that bothered them or that they were seeing more of the supernatural world than they wanted to see.  It may have been both that troubled them.  But, it is clear that they cared more about their pigs than they did about the two men's return to sanity after the demons left them.

The fact that the malady went from the men to the pigs shows that demonic beings were the cause of the two men's problem.  They did not just have their mental health restored.  Demonic beings left them and went to the pigs.  Also, we are told that the demons spoke to Jesus.

9. He came to forgive our sins. (9:1-8)
"Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.' At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, 'This fellow is blaspheming!' Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, 'Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins....Then he said to the paralytic, 'Get up, take your mat and go home.' And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men."

Thought Question: Why do you believe that Jesus forgave the sins of this man first and then healed him?

 

 

"Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.' At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, 'This fellow is blaspheming!'"

A "paralytic" is brought to Jesus.  His most apparent need was to be healed of the paralysis; but what was his greatest need?  Jesus may have seen that his burden of guilt had removed all joy from his life.  This man may have even felt that his paralysis was a punishment for his sin.  So, Jesus responded first to this man's most pressing need.  The greatest need of every person who has ever lived is to be reconciled with God.  For, unless that occurs, they will go into eternity separated from God and will be judged for their every sin.  So, Jesus gave this man the greatest gift a person can receive—forgiveness for all sin, freeing him from all condemnation before God.  "'Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.'"

But the on-looking religious leaders were horrified that Jesus was claiming to do what only God could do—forgive sin.  "'This fellow is blaspheming!'"

"lying on a mat."  Mark two tells us the following:  "A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'" (Mark 2:1-5)

"Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, 'Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins....Then he said to the paralytic, 'Get up, take your mat and go home.' And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men."

Jesus, here, establishes His identity—He was the "Son of Man" or the Messiah; and He had both the power to immediately heal someone, and He had the authority to forgive sins.  So, that they could see His power and authority to do both, He immediately healed this man of paralysis in front of their astonished eyes.  And the people gave credit to God and "praised" Him. Although Matthew does not say it, we know that the religious leaders had blinded their minds to the reality that Jesus was their promised Messiah.
""Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, 'Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?'"  Jesus knew that these words would offend them, but he did not hesitate to speak the truth.  He spoke the truth even to audiences that did not want to hear the truth.

Jesus also know our hearts today.  He also knows when we have evil in our hearts.  May we be very careful not to allow "bitter envy and selfish ambition" in our "hearts." (James 3:14)  "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:13)  "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." (Psalm 19:14)

THE UNUSUAL FOLLOWERS OF THE KING (9:9-17)

1. The calling of Matthew the tax collector (9:9-13)
"As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. 'Follow me,' he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and 'sinners' came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and “sinners”?' On hearing this, Jesus said, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'"

Thought Question: Why do you think Jesus chose a tax collector, a man with a despised occupation, to follow Him?

 

 

"As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. 'Follow me,' he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him."  In these verses, Matthew describes some of the type of people we will need to rub shoulders with, if we follow Christ.  First of all, we will need to be around people like the author of this Gospel.  "Matthew" was a tax collector.  The tax collector was the Benedict Arnold of his day—he did the dirty work of collecting taxes for the Romans  He also, to line his own pockets, took additional monies from the Jews for himself.  To the Jews, he was the lowest form of humanity and he was a social outcast in their society.  Matthew, undoubtedly, did not expect that Jesus would ask him to follow Him.  But he had heard what Jesus was saying, and was ready to follow Him when asked.  He was so overjoyed that he invited his old friends to meet Jesus—the typical response of the new believer.

If "Matthew" can become a follower of Jesus, anyone can.  There may be someone in our town, like the owner of a tavern, that we would assume could never become a Christian; but if God could soften the heart of "Matthew," He can soften the heart of anyone.  We know that "Matthew" did continue to follow Christ, for he is the author of this Gospel.

Matthew may be the tax collector in Jesus' parable in Luke 18:9-14.  "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 'Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”  But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.'"

"While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and 'sinners' came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, 'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and “sinners”?'  On hearing this, Jesus said, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'"

It was not all happiness and enjoyment at Matthew's feast.  The Pharisees were resentful that Jesus was not separating Himself from those at the feast they considered to be "sinners."  He should, according to them, only fellowship with those that are pure.  Jesus explains that He did not come to those who believe that they have no need for help, but He came to those who know they "need a doctor." 

A major purpose of the Old Testament is to convince us that we are all sinners.  When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, the Jews said that they were going to obey all of God's commands. See Deuteronomy 5:22-27  But, shortly after that, they fashioned a golden calf as an idol, breaking God's commandment not to make an idol. See Deut. 5:8  The whole history of Israel is one of sin and breaking God's commands.  A true understanding of the Old Testament should have led the religious leaders of Israel to realize that they and all of us are sinners.  The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah got it, as did the apostle Paul.  "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)  "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6)  "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." (Romans 3:19-20)

If Jesus was eating with these religious leaders, He would also have been eating with "sinners."  But, because they thought they were "righteous," they felt that they did not need Him.

"'“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'"  This is a quote from the book of Hosea—Hosea 6:6.  What is meant by "I desire mercy, not sacrifice"?  What is more important in a church, that we faithfully practice the religious ceremonies of our church, or we are merciful to "sinners"?  The answer is obvious, a church without "mercy" has the same heart as these religious leaders had when they abhorred that Jesus would hang out with "sinners."  Jesus' ministry then and our ministry today is not to those who are doing quite well without any help, but to those who recognize how desperately they need God's help and our help.

2. Jesus and His followers did not mind enjoying themselves. (9:14-17)
"Then John’s disciples came and asked him, 'How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?' Jesus answered, 'How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.'"

Thought Question#1: What does "unshrunk cloth" and "new wine" mean?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why can't man's religion and New Covenant Christianity exist together?

 

 

"Then John’s disciples came and asked him, 'How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?' Jesus answered, 'How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast." 

John the Baptist's disciples were resentful because they and the Pharisees were fasting, but Jesus' disciples were feasting.  Jesus explains that it is not appropriate for guests at a wedding feast to "fast."  So, it was not appropriate for His disciples to "fast" when the "bridegroom" was with them.

Fasting was appropriate for the disciples of John the Baptist.  His message to Israel was for Israel's people to repent of their sins.  "In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.'" (Matthew 3:1-2)  Fasting was an appropriate way to express genuine repentance.  The fasting of the Pharisees was entirely different; they fasted to impress men with their devotion to God.  "'When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.'" (Matthew 6:16)

For Jesus' followers, however, it was not a time to "fast," but a time to feast, for the "bridegroom" had come to take His bride the church.  It was a joyous time in a Jewish wedding when the "bridegroom" came to take his wife, not a sorrowful time.  So, the joy that Jesus' followers were experiencing was completely appropriate.

"No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.'"

The patch made of unshrunk cloth will shrink when it is wet and will tear a hole in the cloth it has been sewn to.  "New wine will ferment and crack the dried up old skins." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

We understand the illustrations that Jesus used, but how did this apply to Jesus' followers and how does it apply to us?  When Jesus came, the Pharisaical religious system had become quite different than what was taught in the Bible.  The Old Testament's purpose was to show us our need for God's mercy and grace.  It also revealed our need for a Savior.  It revealed that we need God to come down to us and save us.  Otherwise, we remain condemned and doomed to God's judgment.  The Pharisaical system, on the other hand, revolved around how men could climb their way up to God.

Would Jesus now seek to fit His system into the Pharisaical system?  It would not work for the reasons given in these illustrations of the new cloth and the "new wine."  The new wine of Jesus' teaching and the new life He offered were not based on a religious system of works-based righteousness, but on a grace-based relationship with Jesus.  His new covenant type of life would do damage to religious system of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees recognized this, and resented Him for threatening their system and their prominence in Israel.

How do these illustrations apply to us today?  The Pharisees were not the last of those who have used religion to gain prominence among men.  New Covenant Christianity is still a threat to men's religion.  Religion has always opposed men and women who seek to follow the patterns taught by Jesus and His apostles.

Jesus' teaching leads us to recognize our complete fallenness.  Then, out of our sense of need for God's mercy and grace, we call out to God for forgiveness and guidance for seeking a new life—His type of life.  We go to the Bible to seek to understand how this new type of life is to be lived.  We learn that we must depend on God's Spirit for the strength to live this new life.  Religion, however, begins with the belief that God grades on the curve.  So, there is an attempt to be more religious than others.  New Covenant Christianity progresses as one recognizes his or her inability to obey God in his or her own strength.  This, then, results in a life that becomes progressively more reliant on God's life in us.  Religion progresses as one seeks to give the impression that he or she is becoming more godly through one's own religious zeal.  This success through religious zeal makes him or her supposedly superior to other people.  New covenant Christianity and religion will always be unable to exist amicably together; just as Jesus and the Pharisees were unable to exist amicably together two thousand years ago.

THE HARVEST OF THE KING (9:18-38)

1. The Harvest is ripe for harvesting (9:18-34)
These accounts of Jesus' ministry provide us with all types of insights about laboring in the spiritual harvest fields.  We learn who is ripe for harvest, how we should minister, and what will be the results of our ministry.  Remember Jesus' miracles of physical healing are visible pictures of the healing that Jesus desires to do in the invisible realm of man's soul and spirit—they are pictures of the type of ministry we can have today.

a. A ruler's daughter is dead (9:18-19)
"While he was saying this, a ruler came and knelt before him and said, 'My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.' Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples."

Thought Question: Who, like this "ruler," is a person that you least expect to become a Christian?

 

 

"While he was saying this, a ruler came and knelt before him and said, 'My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.' Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples." 

Consider the most difficult people to reach with the gospel message that you can think of.  You probably thought of someone who is rich and successful.  Or, maybe you thought of a hardened criminal.  But, maybe the hardest persons to reach of all are the religious leaders who think that God needs their help rather than them thinking that they need God's help.  But even a man like this can come to Christ if the circumstances are right.  In these verses, Matthew tells us how a man like this came to Christ.  The "ruler" mentioned here probably was the "ruler" of a synagogue at Capernaum.  It is unlikely that this man would come to Jesus unless the need was very great.  The need was great.  This man was driven to Christ, in spite of his prejudices and pride, because his 12 year-old daughter was dying.  Luke gives us some more details about this man and what happened.  "Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him." (Luke 8:41-42)

We learn later in Luke that though the "ruler" thought that she was dying, she had already died.  "While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. 'Your daughter is dead,' he said. 'Don’t bother the teacher any more.'" (Luke 8:49)  Matthew appears to skip the first part where the "ruler"  says that his daughter is "dying" and goes directly to the time after he had learned that his daughter had already died.

This "ruler" realized that Jesus was his only hope.  God is also drawing men and women like this "ruler" to Himself today—He is bringing self-sufficient men and women to the place where the only One who can help them is God.

b. A woman who had been bleeding for 12 years (9:20-22)
"Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, 'If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.' Jesus turned and saw her. 'Take heart, daughter,' he said, 'your faith has healed you.' And the woman was healed from that moment."

Thought Question: How, do you believe, her "faith" "healed" her?

 

 

"Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, 'If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.' Jesus turned and saw her. 'Take heart, daughter,' he said, 'your faith has healed you.' And the woman was healed from that moment."

Jesus' sheep come from all classes of society—the up and inners and the down and outers.  Leviticus 15:25-27 tells us about what her 12 years of "bleeding" were like.  "When a woman has a discharge of blood for many days at a time other than her monthly period or has a discharge that continues beyond her period, she will be unclean as long as she has the discharge, just as in the days of her period. Any bed she lies on while her discharge continues will be unclean, as is her bed during her monthly period, and anything she sits on will be unclean, as during her period. Whoever touches them will be unclean; he must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening." (Leviticus 15:25-27)

Her faith conquered her shame, and she crept up to Jesus and touched Him.  Instead of her making Him unclean, He made her clean.  Mk. 5:24-34 and Luke 8:43-48 give this account in greater detail.  Again, Matthew condenses the account.

There are those in our society that are isolated due to the state they are in.  They may have a mental disability, are divorced, have an addiction problem, or have some distasteful health problem.  This lady believed Jesus would have compassion on her.  May we who are indwelt by Him also have compassion on those in our world who are like this lady.

"'your faith has healed you.'"  She saw that Jesus both could heal her and would want to heal her.  So often, we are not sure about what God will do and what He will not do.  There are other times when we are sure what He will do—we are confident of what He will do.  She had that type of faith—she was sure if she could just touch Him, she would be healed.  If she had not had this type of "faith," she would not have even come to Him.  She would have let Him go by without reaching out to Him.  "Faith" causes us to reach out to Him today.  And this faith leads to our eternal salvation!

c. A child is resurrected from the dead. (9:23-26)
"When Jesus entered the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd, he said, 'Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.' But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region."

Thought Question: How is what Jesus did helpful for us today?

 

 

"When Jesus entered the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd, he said, 'Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.' But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region."

The mourners were in high gear when Jesus arrived—rending their garments, wailing, and blowing on flutes.  They laughed when Jesus said that the "girl" was still alive.  They and we have seen many deaths, but they and we have not seen a death reversed.  Jesus raised her from the dead as simply as He performed any of His miracles.

He also wants to use us to bring people from spiritual death to spiritual life.  He can raise to spiritual life even those people that we consider to be hopeless cases.

"he went in and took the girl by the hand,"  According to the standards of cleanness given in the book of Leviticus, a dead body was unclean.  But Jesus both brought life to the dead girl and made her clean; rather than Him becoming unclean by touching her. 

"News of this spread through all that region."  Jesus was able to wake her from the dead as easily as we would wake someone from sleep.  That is the "news" that "spread through all that region."  It would also spread in our region as well.

d. Two blind men are healed. (9:27-31)
"As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, 'Have mercy on us, Son of David!' When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, 'Do you believe that I am able to do this?' 'Yes, Lord,' they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, 'According to your faith will it be done to you'; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, 'See that no one knows about this.' But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region."

Thought Question: In what way can we apply this miracle to our world today?

 

 

"As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, 'Have mercy on us, Son of David!' When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, 'Do you believe that I am able to do this?' 'Yes, Lord,' they replied."

Miracles such as giving sight to the "blind" were predicted of the "Son of David"—a name for the promised Messiah.  When John the Baptist inquired as to whether or not Jesus was truly the Messiah, Jesus gave him this answer: "At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, 'Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.'" (Luke 7:21-22)  The healing of the "blind" by Jesus fulfilled prophecies about the Messiah in Isaiah.  "In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see." (Isaiah 29:18)  "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped." (Isaiah 35:5)  "'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.'" (Luke 4:18-19) See also Matt. 11:1-5 

These "blind men" believed He was the promised "Son of David" that could heal their blindness.  They were physically blind, but they saw that Jesus is the Messiah.  At the same time, the religious leaders were physically able to see, but they were blind to the truth about Jesus' identity.  In this case, it is easy to see that the last were first and the first were last. See Matt. 20:16  So, they cried out that He would have mercy on them.

In Luke 4:19, Jesus declared to the people of His hometown that He was fulfilling "the year of the Lord's favor."  This quotation is from Isa. 61:2.  It "alludes to the Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:8-55), when once every 50 years slaves were freed, debts were cancelled and ancestral property was returned to the original family." "NIV Study Bible note on Lk. 4:19.  Jesus the Messiah proclaimed that His presence meant that the time of "the Lord's favor" had begun.  These "two blind men" believed this and they wanted to be part of the benefits, so they cried out to Him for "mercy."

Spiritually blind eyes are opened, today, whenever someone believes that Jesus is the Son of God.  So, the time of "Lord's favor" is also today!

"'According to your faith will it be done to you'; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, 'See that no one knows about this.' But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region."  They believed that He was the promised Messiah who had come to restore sight to the blind.  What they believed became a reality to them, as "their sight was restored." 

Why did Jesus warn "them sternly" not to tell anyone about His healing of them?  Like the blind man in John 9, the word would get around about their blindness being healed, even if they said nothing.  It appears, though, that Jesus did not want to stir up so much animosity against Him at this time that His enemies would kill Him prematurely—before it was the Father's time for it to happen.

"But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region."  They called Him "Lord," but they did not obey Him or trust in His wisdom and words.  They ignored Him and His strong words to them, and they did the opposite of what He ordered them to do.

e. A demon-possessed man is delivered from demons (9:32-34)
"While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, 'Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.' But the Pharisees said, 'It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.'"

Thought Question: Why do you believe that there was such a stark difference between the way people responded to Jesus' miracle? (some were amazed and some were scornful)

 

 

"While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, 'Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.'"  Notice that this man was brought to Jesus.  Many people today come to Jesus because of the persistence of friends or family—their persistence in concern and prayer.  Can you imagine the concern of family and friends for this man who "could not talk"? Then, imagine their joy when they heard him speak again.

There were two very different responses to this miracle.  The first is given in 9:33:  "'Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.'"  Would we not have responded in the same way if it occurred in our hometown?  They were astonished at this obvious miracle.

The second response is given in verse 34: "But the Pharisees said, 'It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.'"  He is not for us, so He must be against us.  Therefore, He is of Satan.  Later, they will get even stronger in their charge. See 12:22-37  The Pharisees' type of religion had no need of a Messiah who delivered people from demons.  He was receiving the adulation that they desired for themselves.  And so, they dismissed Him harshly as being Satan's follower.  We will focus on the seriousness of what they were doing when we come to Matt. 12.

2. The harvest field—humanity (9:35-38)
As Jesus saw the multitudes, He saw that they were like sheep without a shepherd.  He heart went out to them.  He wanted to help, but it was too much for one man—more laborers were needed for the harvest.
"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'"

Thought Question: Give a time when you have looked at someone or a group of people, saw their need or needs, and had compassion for them.

 

 

a. Jesus' compassion for the crowds (9:35-36)
"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."

As He looked on the river of humanity before Him, He saw their deepest needs and their true condition; they were "like sheep without a shepherd."  They reminded Him of sheep that had been left mangled, frightened, hapless, and helpless after being ravaged by wild animals.  His heart went out to the people of His time and it goes out to us also.  Our generation is just as needy as His was—just as ravaged by sin and lawlessness as the people of His day.  We need a Shepherd today just as much as the sheep of His day.

With Jesus in us, we can look out on people today with the same type of compassion as the compassion with which He looked out on people during His time on earth.  May we see the world of our time with His eyes.  His motive for His ministry was His "compassion" for people.  We who are His people today are also to be motivated by "compassion" for people.  See Numb. 27:17; I Kings 22:17; II Chron. 18:16 for other times that people are seen as sheep without a shepherd.  See also Ezek. 34:1-21; Matt. 14:14

b. The great need for workers in the harvest fields (9:37-38)
"Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'"

Thought Question: According to Jesus' words here, why should we pray that there be more "workers"?

 

 

The need in Jesus' time and in our time is for laborers or "workers"—Christian men and women who can hear the silent cries of the lost, and will reach out in love to them.  For a couple of years, I led the family week part of a chemical dependency treatment program for a juvenile rehabilitation program in our state.  As I read the stories of these young men and their families, I was saddened by what I read.  I mentioned to a friend and more experienced counselor at the program that I could not believe what I read about these families and their struggles.  She said, "You did not want to know."  She was right.  There is much pain in our world.  The need is for "laborers."  Reaching out to people and loving people is hard work.  It is never-ending work.  It can also be very discouraging at times.  The verses that I have hung on to through the years are I Cor. 15:58  and Gal. 6:9.  "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58)  "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)

It is hard work, but it is also very encouraging work when we see lives being changed and people heading toward eternity with God.  May we be those "workers."  May we also pray that there will be more "workers" in "his harvest field." 

What happens when one person becomes a new Christian?  There immediately becomes a need for that person to be discipled.  I was very blessed years ago when I first became a Christian to have a group of young men reach out to me and disciple me.  They took me to hear exciting speakers.  They drove me to church.  They invited me to Bible Studies.  They asked me to share in recreational times with them.  I, at that time, thought that this happened to every new Christian.  It still does happen to many today, but many new Christians and those who are ready to become Christians do not experience what I experienced.  May we pray that there will be more workers, so that more will become Christians and more will be helped to grow as Christians.  "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

PRINCIPLES TO GUIDE US IN HARVESTING THE KING'S HARVEST (10:1-11:1)
Jesus did send laborers out in the "harvest field" during His time on earth.  He sent His twelve closest followers to the lost sheep of Israel.

1. Who are the harvesters? (10:1-4)
"He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him."

Thought Question: What do these verses tell us about the type of people God uses to labor in the "harvest field" today?

 

 

"He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him."

Who were those whom Jesus sent out into the harvest field on that day?  They were ordinary men.  Jesus did not choose them because of their worldly abilities or their high rank in society, but He chose them because they were receptive to His rule in their hearts.  They became His laborers because they wanted to be with Him; they wanted to learn from Him; and they were willing to pay whatever cost would be required to do that.

These twelve disciples had modest sources of income except for "Matthew" the tax collector.  They had diverse backgrounds and political views.  "Matthew" collected taxes from the Jews for the Romans; whereas, "Simon the Zealot" was part of a revolution against the Romans.  What united them was their desire to follow Jesus and His teaching.

"twelve apostles"  The Greek word translated "apostles"apostolon has as its roots, stello or sent, and apo or out.  So, they were the "sent-out ones."  "APOSTOLOS . . . is lit., one sent forth (apo, from, stello, to send)." "Taken from Vine's An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words."  This is the only time the word "apostles" is found in the Gospel of Matthew.  It was the one time in Matthew that he recorded the "twelve apostles" being sent out.  We might say that they were sent out as missionaries.

"Thaddaeus"  He is also called Judas in John 14:22.  "Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, 'But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?'" See also Mk. 3:16-19; Lk. 6:13-16; Acts 1:13 for other lists of the twelve disciples.  Notice that some lists contain the second Judas and some contain "Thaddaeus."

"Bartholomew"  He is also called Nathaniel. See Jn. 1:45-49, 21:2

Matthew described the ministry that they were called out to do as follows: " to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness"; whereas Lk. 9:2 adds: "to preach the kingdom of God." 

Who is to go out into the "harvest field" today?  We can think that reaching the lost is the job of the religious professionals.  But, Jesus sent out ordinary men to this task.  Also, ordinary women like Mary, Martha, and Mary Magdalene were used by Him also.  It was an ordinary woman Jesus met at a well in Samaria whom He used to reach a whole village. See Jn. 4  God is still sending out ordinary people, though they are indwelt by the very extraordinary Son of God, to do His work of reaching the world.

2. Where is the harvest field (10:5-6)
"These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: 'Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.'"

Thought Question: What do these verses tell us about where we should start our work of reaching the world with the gospel message?

 

 

"These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: 'Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.'"  Jesus, first, sent them to their own people—"the lost sheep of Israel."  Where do we start?  We also should start with those closest to us—our family, friends, and neighbors.  I was led to the Lord by my younger brother.  Once we have reached out to those closest to us; then, we can reach out to those who are farther away from us.  Listen to the instructions Jesus gave to the early apostles after He rose from the dead:  "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

"'Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.'"  "This prohibition against going among the Gentiles and Samaritans was for this special tour.  They were to give the Jews the first opportunity and not to prejudice the cause at this stage.  Later Jesus will order them to go and disciple all the Gentiles (Matt. 28:19)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"lost sheep"  This way of describing people should provoke compassion not condemnation.  "Jesus uses it not in blame, but in pity (Bruce)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

Paul's pattern was also to go first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. See Acts 13:14-16, 14:1, 16:13, 17:1-3, 10, 18:4, 19:8  See also Rom. 1:16

3. What are the harvesters to do? (10:7)
"'As you go, preach this message: “The kingdom of heaven is near.”'"  The "kingdom of heaven" is certainly the theme of the Gospel of Matthew.  Here, the disciples are told that they are to tell everyone that they encounter that God's "kingdom" is "near."  Here are some verses that explain its meaning: "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:24-27)  "Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near." (Isaiah 55:6)  "But what does it say? 'The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,' that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 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 10:8-10)

The "kingdom" of God is very "near" every man and every woman, and it is near to us.  It is "near," for we are either in or out of God's "kingdom" depending on whether or not we choose in our heart for God to be our King.  If He rules as King in our heart, we are in His "kingdom." See also Matt. 3:2

"is near"  The Disciples Literal New Testament translates this as "has drawn near."  It is in the perfect tense: "has drawn near in the past and continues to be near."

4. How can we harvest effectively (10:8)
"'Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.'"

How were these ordinary men able to be effective harvesters in the "harvest field"?  As God "freely" gave them the ability to do it, they were able to do it.  They were able to do it only as God gave them the ability to do it.  Ordinary men and women empowered by the extraordinary God can do it.  "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)

What are we able to do in the "harvest field"?  Apart from God doing it, we can do nothing.  "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)  We can lead people into God's "kingdom" only as God opens their eyes to see the truth about Jesus and as God opens their hearts to obey Him.

5. How will our needs be met? (10:9-10)
"'Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.'"

Thought Question: What do these verses tell us about whether or not it is appropriate to support Christian workers?

 

 

"'Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.'"  Jesus desired that His disciples absorb themselves completely in their mission.  As they focused on their mission, God would provide those who would provide for their needs.  God also wants us not to allow worldly concerns to dominate our lives.  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)  "The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful." (Matthew 13:22)  Worldly concerns can so absorb us that they choke out our effectiveness in the ministry.

Two men who are famous for having this type of faith are George Mueller and Hudson Taylor.  George Mueller trusted God to provide the food and finances for his orphanages in England.  Hudson Taylor trusted God to provide for him as he  headed off to begin his missionary work in China.  They are famous for trusting God; and God was glorified as He responded to their faith in Him.

Years ago, I believed that God desired me to go to seminary.  I asked Ray Stedman if I should work at a cannery for the summer where I could make good money or work as a recreation director at a Christian camp (which I really wanted to do) where I would make less money?  Ray Stedman laughed and said, "Just because you want to do something, does not mean that it is not God's will."  I took the recreation director's job and loved my summer.  Then, a series of remarkable things happen to provide for my financial needs, not the least of them was meeting and marrying my wife who was working as an airline stewardess.  We were able to save up enough at one point when both of us were working full-time in the summer so that I did not need to work at all during my last year of seminary (my third year).  Through the years, there has been some tight times, but our needs have been met up to this day.

"Or a staff" Mark seems to contradict what is said here in Matthew.  "These were his instructions: 'Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.'" (Mark 6:8)  Luke says the same as Matthew.  "He told them: "Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic.'" (Luke 9:3)  Matthew may be saying, "no extra staff."

6. What if we are rejected? (10:11-15)
"'Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.'"

Thought Question: How does this apply to ministry today?

 

 

"'Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.'"

Jesus was saying that they needed to be prepared, before they go out, with the knowledge that there will be some who will warmly receive them and some who will coldly reject them.  They are to freely give out their warmest greetings; but if it is not received, they were to take it back again.  In the East, words were treated like physical objects which could be given to someone, but also could be taken back again.

"'shake the dust off your feet'"  This saying described, in a symbolic way, that someone has willfully rejected God.  Now, the consequences are fully on their shoulders.  It is a way of saying to somebody that the responsibility is on your shoulders and not mine.  Pilate attempted to do this when he washed his hands of the responsibility for Jesus' death.  "When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. 'I am innocent of this man’s blood,' he said. 'It is your responsibility!'" (Matthew 27:24)  In this case, Pilate was still responsible because he had the authority to free Jesus; but he, instead, put the total blame on the Jews.  Paul did rightly wash his hands of the responsibility when the Jews in Corinth rejected his message about Jesus.  "When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, 'Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.'" (Acts 18:5-6)  See also Ezek. 33:1-9

As we labor in God's work, we can become so discouraged by those who reject our message and ministry that we can sputter to a stop.  Or, we can shake this dust off our feet and move on to those who will receive our message and ministry.  And there are always those who will receive our ministry!

"'I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.'"  "Sodom and Gomorrah are in the New Testament proverbial of wickedness (Matthew 11:23, 24; Luke 10:12, 17:29; Rom. 9:29; 2 Peter 2:6; Jude 1) . . . But, even at their worst, Sodom and Gomorrah had never the opportunity to reject the message of Christ and his Kingdom.  That is why it would be easier for them at the last than for the towns and villages of Galilee; for it is always true that the greater privilege has been the greater the responsibility." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 1.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press." See Gen. 19:1-29

a. Expect to be persecuted (10:16a)
"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves."  They were not going out among tame and gentle animals in a petting farm, but they were going out among wolves.  So, they should expect it to be rough.  We are also "sheep among wolves."  Who are the "wolves" today?  They are those who see God's message as a threat to their selfish goals.  They will seek to devour you if you get in their way.  There are many "wolves" described in the Bible: Jezebel (I Kings 19:1-2); Haman (Esth. 3;1-15); the Jewish religious leaders; and others are examples of "wolves."  The "wolves" can be leaders in churches who love their prominent position most of all—more than they love being servants of their churches.  "I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God." (3 John 9-11) See also Ezek. 34:1-10

b. Be both shrewd and innocent (10:16b)
"Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."  Do not let them devour you.  Instead, develop the ability to stay a step ahead of them.  I worked with incarcerated youth.  I can't say that I was always shrewdly a step ahead of them, but I did get better at it over the years.  Jesus was always a step ahead of those who attacked Him.  They were always trying to trap Him, but He always avoided their traps—until it was in God's timing for Him to give Himself into their hands.  For example, he avoided their trick questions with questions that they could not answer.

"serpent" "dove"  "The combination of wariness and innocence is necessary for the protection of the sheep." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  We are not to be gullible or naive, but realistic about the Satan-led world we live in.  Instead of being naive, we are to learn how to deal with Satan and his people's treachery, deceit, and craftiness.  But, we are to remain innocent when we deal with it.  We are not to use deceit to deal with deceit; but we are to be pure of all evil when we deal with evil.

c. Trust God when you are attacked (10:17-20)
"'Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.'"

Thought Question: How can Jesus' promise here be helpful to us when authorities challenge our ministry in some way?

 

 

"'Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.'"

The difficulty, when we are brought before authorities like this, is that we can feel like the charges are against us and our honor.  Then, we feel like we need to defend our honor.  We are, then, very vulnerable, for we are outnumbered and over-powered.  The solution is that we need to see that it is God's honor that is being challenged.  His honor is totally secure.  "But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.”" (Habakkuk 2:20)  "Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. 'Let us break their chains,' they say, 'and throw off their fetters.' The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath . . . . " (Psalm 2:1-5)

God's honor is not in doubt.  We need to trust that He will powerfully defend His honor through us.—"the Spirit of the Father" will speak "through" us.

We see Peter and the other apostles doing this in the book of Acts. "Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 'We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,' he said. 'Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.' Peter and the other apostles replied: 'We must obey God rather than men!'" (Acts 5:27-29) See also Acts 4:1-22

d. Expect to be hated, but persevere in it. (10:21-22)
"'Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.'"

Thought Question: How can Jesus' words here help us to deal with what will happen to us in the ministry?

 

 

"'Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.'"  We would think that those who know us best—our own family—would empathize with our desire to serve Jesus Christ.  But, that is not always the case.  Two of David's own children went against him. See II Sam. 15-17; II Kings 1

We should not be surprised if even members of our own family turn against us. See Mk. 13:12; Lk. 21:12-17; Jn. 15:18-21  "'Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." (Matthew 10:34-38)

"'All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.'"  Perseverance in the faith is an assurance that our faith is genuine.  "But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast." (Hebrews 3:6)  "We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first." (Hebrews 3:14)  "We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure." (Hebrews 6:11) See Heb. 11

These words of Jesus help us not to set unrealistic expectations of how we will be treated when we are involved in Christian ministry.  We should not expect that there will be nothing but smooth sailing in the ministry.  Then, when people that are close to us turn against us, we can be devastated.  Jesus warns us here not to have these types of expectations.  Instead, we need to be prepared for it when even our own family members turn against us.

e. Flee persecution (10:23)
"'When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.'"  When our message is not getting through, it is also stirring up resentment toward us.  As a result, it is appropriate for us to move away from those who are becoming more and more hardened to us and our message; and to move toward those who are receptive to our message.

Fleeing seems cowardly, but at times it is the wisest and best choice.  There are times when staying in a situation will be needlessly harmful.  We need not be martyrs, if we do not have to be martyrs.  David could have turned himself over to King Saul, but then he would have been killed.  Instead, he fled from Saul.  Jesus avoided Jerusalem at times, so as to not provoke his enemies to arrest Him before the appointed time.  Jesus' disciples wisely chose to flee on many occasions.  Jesus' parents fled from King Herod.  "When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. 'Get up,' he said, 'take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.'" (Matthew 2:13)

The early church fled after Stephen was stoned.  " . . . On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria." (Acts 8:1b)  Paul fled from those who were seeking to kill him.  "But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, where they continued to preach the good news." (Acts 14:6-7)  "When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. The brothers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. The men who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible." (Acts 17:13-15)

"I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes."  It appears that Jesus fast-forwarded, here, to the end times.  "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Matthew 24:9-14)  "If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened." (Matthew 24:22)  "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other." (Matthew 24:30-31)

Robertson gives some other possible interpretations of Jesus' words here.  "Some refer it to the Transfiguration, others to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, others to the Second Coming." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

8. How to be bold (10:24-25)

a. Be ready to suffer (10:24-25)
"'A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household.'"

Thought Question: How can Jesus' words of warning here, help us in the ministry?

 

 

"'A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household.'"

If we follow Christ, we must also expect to receive the same treatment that he received.  If they misunderstood, misrepresented, abused, and hated our Lord, can we expect any different treatment?  They called Him "Beelzebub" or "lord of the flies," so we can expect them to call us something similar, and they do!  If we leave the world alone, it may leave us alone; but if we follow Christ and aggressively seek to reach our world with God's message to us, we will receive the same type of opposition that He did.

Jesus' disciples were bold because they were willing to suffer.  They were willing to do His will, even though they knew that they would meet the same opposition to them as He met.  We also need to be willing to suffer.  Then, we need to boldly do what He wants us to do, even though we know it will lead to suffering.

Paul was one who was willing to follow Jesus Christ and was willing to share "in his sufferings."  "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death," (Philippians 3:10)

Years ago, someone who was new to a church put on a picnic.  It was not as well attended as he expected, so he got real discouraged and even enraged at the poor support that he received.  Shortly, after that he left the church.  If we start the ministry expecting that it is not going to be difficult, we also will become easily discouraged.

b. Be fearless (10:26-31)
"'So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.'"

Thought Question: What do you find in Jesus' words here to help you to be fearless in testifying about Him?

 

 

Not only do we need to be willing to suffer, we must also be fearless.  In these verses, Jesus gives us three reasons why we can be fearless.

(1) For truth will prevail (10:26-27)
"'So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.'"  In our modern times, we are all confronted with three different versions of what the world is like:  (1) The fantasy version, where justice usually wins—in television shows and movie and in books, for example, there is usually a happy ending.  (2) The world we actually live and see, where justice and right do not usually win.  (3) The Bible version where we are told that in the end, justice will win.  Here, we are told that in the future, every injustice, lie, and wrong will be exposed for what it is.  Someday, everyone will know what is true and what is false.  They will know what is pure and what is impure.  Hidden agendas will no long be hidden.  Someday, everyone that has fought and suffered for truth, for righteousness, and for the cause of Christ and suffered for it, will see that he or she has not suffered and fought in vain.

"When the Christian is involved in suffering and sacrifice and even martyrdom for his faith, he must remember that the day will come when things will be seen as they really are; and then the power of the persecutor and the heroism of Christian witness will be seen at their true value, and each will have its true reward." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 1.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

"He [God] cares for all believing people, but for none so much as those who work for His cause, and try to do good." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle." 

How does this help us to be bold and fearless in our witness?  When we stand with the truth, we are standing on the side of light and not darkness.  Eventually, the light will win out over darkness.

Even in human history, those who have stood for truth, right, and justice are often recognized eventually as heroes.  In their lifetimes it was not as clear, but later on it became clear.  "Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God." (1 Corinthians 4:5)  "He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun." (Psalm 37:6)

J. C. Ryle puts it this way, as to what following Jesus' ministry in Christ's way is like:  "They must be content in this present world to be misunderstood, misrepresented, vilified, slandered, and abused.  They must not cease work because their motives are mistaken, and their character fiercely assailed.  They must remember that all will be set right at the last day." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle." 
"The Christian witness is the man who knows no fear, because he knows that the judgments of eternity will correct the judgments of time." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 1.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press." 

"'What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.'"  "Here in this verse (verse 27) like the true function of the preacher [and the Christian].  First, the preacher must listen; he must be in the secret place with Christ, that in the dark hours Christ may speak to him, and that in the loneliness Christ may whisper in his ear.  No man can speak for Christ unless Christ has spoken to him . . . Second, the preacher [and the Christian] must speak what he has heard from Christ, and he must speak even if his speaking is to gain him the hatred of man." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 1.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

(2) Know who to fear (10:28)
"'Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.'"

Thought Question: How can these words of Jesus help you to be bold and fearless before men about Him?

 

 

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."  When we focus on what men can do to us and try to avoid it, then we fear men more than God.  When we fear most of all that we might displease God by cowering before men, then, we will be bold in proclaiming His truth. "It was said of John Knox, as they buried him, 'Here lies one who feared God so much that he never feared the face of any man.'" "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 1.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

(3) Know who loves us (10:29-31)
"'Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.'"

Thought Question: How can these words of Jesus help you to be more fearless in testifying about Him?

 

 

"'Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.'"  When trials come, it is not unusual for us to think that we are helpless in the hand of chance.  But, the One who holds the universe in His hands is intimately aware even of a tiny sparrow that falls "to the ground." 

Barclay offers the possibility that "fall to the ground" may not be speaking of the death of a sparrow, but Jesus may be speaking of every time a sparrow lands on the ground.  So God is aware of and is in charge of every sparrow's travels.

"'And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.'"  The Bible teaches us that God is watching over us every moment of our lives and knows every minute detail of our lives.  The same One who put the mighty universe in place and holds it there is also the God who designed the tiny intricacies of the smallest flowers and the very tiny atoms.  This God knows the number of "hairs" on each of our heads.  He is also paying attention to each moment.  " . . . O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain." (Psalm 139:1-6) See also Ps. 121:4

"'So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.'"  Jesus make the same point in the Sermon on the Mount.  "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matthew 6:25-26)

We can look around at all the people, even at all the Christians, and think, "Who am I, that God should pay attention to Me?"  But, Jesus emphasized very clearly; we all are important to Him—He is aware of each detail of each of our lives.

c. Be bold about Christ (10:32-33)
"'Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.'"

Thought Question: How do these words of Jesus help you to be fearless in testifying about Him?

 

 

"'Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.'"  One reason that the message that Jesus is the Son of God does not go out from us, is because we are ashamed to tell people what we believe.  In many settings, we know that that the truth about God will be despised.  As someone has said, "Sometimes silence is not golden, it is yellow."  We are not to be secret service Christians.  We can share Christ freely where we know that He is thought highly of, but we can be ashamed to mention His name where he is despised.  But we are not called to be undercover Christians, but lights on a hill for all to see and hear.  "'You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.'" (Matthew 5:14-16)  "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)

There were some of the religious leaders in Jesus' time who believed in Him, but who were afraid to speak publicly about their faith. "Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God." (John 12:42-43)

"'But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.'"  We need to take these words to heart.  Mark gives a fuller statement of this warning.  "'If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.'" (Mark 8:38) See also Lk. 12:8-9  Paul gives a similar warning.  "If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us;" (2 Timothy 2:12)

Did Jesus mean that a person will lose his salvation or not be saved if they disown Him?  Peter disowned Jesus at a critical time, yet he did not lose His salvation.  Peter, at a fearful time of trial disowned Jesus, but it was not a final disowning of Him.  " . . . this cleavage by Christ of the man who repudiates him, [is a] public and final [one]." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  "One act of unfaithfulness does not disqualify a disciple from Jesus' commendation (e.g. Peter)." "Dr. Constables notes." 

"disowns" "disown"  It is essentially the same Greek word that is used in Matt. 26:34-35.  "'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.' But Peter declared, 'Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.' And all the other disciples said the same." (Matthew 26:34-35)

Many a sensitive soul has done something similar to what Peter did and has experienced great anguish in fear that he or she has separated himself or herself forever from God's grace.  John Bunyan was one of those who felt that he had disowned Christ and was, therefore, disowned by Him.  He wrote the book, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, chronicling his dark time of struggle.  Peter went through a dark time also after denying Jesus.  But, Jesus spent personal time with Peter to assure him that though Peter disowned Him, He had not disowned Peter.  Instead, Jesus gave him a shepherd's role in His church.  "When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?' 'Yes, Lord,' he said, 'you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my lambs.' Again Jesus said, 'Simon son of John, do you truly love me?' He answered, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Take care of my sheep.' The third time he said to him, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, 'Do you love me?' He said, 'Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my sheep.' (John 21:15-17)

d. Be willing to pay the cost (10:34-39)

(1) Be willing to disturb the peace (10:34-36)
"'Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.'"

Thought Question: How do these words of Jesus help you to be fearless in testifying about Him?

 

 

"'Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."  If we want everyone to always be happy with us, then we are not willing to pay the price that Christ paid.  Remember, He was a divider.  A peacemaker is not someone who seeks peace at any price.  Jesus needs laborers who will obey Him even if living and speaking according to their convictions will separate them from friends and even family members.

The gospel message is a divider—some receive it joyfully, but others reject it angrily.  Some humbly receive it and are saved; some arrogantly feel that they do not need a Savior—they are the captain of their ship and resent anyone who says otherwise.  They resent anyone who interferes with them living their lives their way.  We cannot faithfully speak God's truth boldly and consistently live in obedience to Jesus and expect everyone to always be happy with us and always want to be our friend.  "The gospel is not to blame, but the heart of man." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle." 

Jesus prayed for unity in the church in John 17. See Jn. 17:11, 21 And He also said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." (Matthew 5:9)  How do these words harmonize with 10:34?  "'Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.'"  There will be peace and harmony when men choose to obey Christ.  But, those who seek to obey Christ will always be divided from those who choose to disobey Christ.
"'For I have come to turn “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”'"  Jesus' words must not be mistaken to say that Jesus does not value families.  The opposite is true.  He created the family structure to be an important institution, through which His purposes are to be accomplished.  "'Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.'" (Exodus 20:12)  "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads." (Deuteronomy 6:4-8)  "Jesus replied, 'And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, “Honor your father and mother” and “Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.”'" (Matthew 15:3-4)
But, when a person chooses to obey God, it may divide them from family members who have not chosen to obey God.  In these cases, Christians must choose to follow Jesus and not follow their disobedient family members; even if it causes divisions in their family.  Ultimately, we will be accountable to God and not to our family members.  In some countries, some people fall away from the faith rather than be looked down on or be rejected by their families.  For example, I have seen that take place in Japan.  It is very hard for young people to live as Christians there because honoring family traditions is so strong in that country.  But, when honoring family traditions goes against obeying Jesus Christ, we need to choose to put obedience to Christ first—even if it causes some family members to turn against us and to despise us.

(2) Be willing to love God more than anyone (10:37)
"'Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;'"

Thought Question: Why do you believe that it is so important that we love Jesus more than we love our family members?

 

 

"'Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;'" See I Cor. 7:29-31  Jesus said the same in different words in Lk. 14:26.  "'If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.'"  Many a Christian couple have declared in their marriage vows to each other that Jesus Christ was their first love.  Our first love is what our life will revolve around—it is our god.  God is to have first place in our lives; then, our relationship with our family members will take their appropriate place in our lives.  Many a young person has followed God into a ministry that his or her parents did not approve of.  Family members who are not submissive to God do not understand family members who are submissive to God.

(3) Be willing to pay any cost. (10:38-39)
"and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

Thought Question #1:  What did Jesus mean by taking up our "cross"?

 

 

Thought Question #2: How can we lose our "life" and then "find it"?

 

 

"and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."  On this earth, we will never fully understand what Jesus gave up and how much it cost Him to leave His place of glory, become a man, live in this sinful world, be brutally treated, and die bearing our guilt on Him.  If we are to follow Him, we must be willing to give up our self-oriented lives, choose to pay whatever the cost may be, and choose to be a living sacrifice to accomplish His purposes on this earth until we die.  "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:1-2)

"is not worthy of me." If we follow Christ in a half-hearted and self-indulgent way, how does that compare to what He did for us?  How does an infinite sacrifice compare to little or no sacrifice?

"whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."  Those who follow Christ in the way that Jesus desires that we do it, do not find that they experience an empty life.  If we give up our goals and desires to obey Him, we can feel that we will have an empty life.  The very opposite is true.  We find that our life becomes filled to overflowing with His life in us.

Shortly before writing these words, I had a long conversation with our daughter.  My heart was gladdened as she shared the joy she experienced in her intimate relationship with God.  She shared of her love for women who are lured into prostitution.  She said that she would be praying for soldiers who had lost their limbs in Afghanistan and that God would protect the soldiers that are over there now.  She thanked me for praying for her.  "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." (3 John 4)

Those who live for themselves are drained of life; but those who live for Christ experience the abundant life that Jesus promised in John 10:10.  "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." See also Eph. 5:18-20; Matt. 16:25; Mk. 8:35; Lk. 9:24, 17:33; Jn. 12:25

e. Be aware of who we represent (10:40-42)
"'He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And if anyone 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 certainly not lose his reward.'"

Thought Question: How do these words help you in understanding your identity as a Christian?

 

 

"'He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me."  In Acts 22:1-8, Paul tells us that when Jesus appeared to him, he learned that when he was persecuting Christians he was persecuting God.  When we choose to pay the price and follow Jesus in the gospel ministry, when someone rejects us, they also reject Jesus Christ.  If they receive us, they also receive Jesus Christ. See Matt. 18:5-6; Mk. 9:37; Lk. 10:16; Jn. 13:20

"Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward."  When Israel rejected Samuel who was God's spokesman at the time, they also rejected God.  "And the Lord told him: 'Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.'" (1 Samuel 8:7)  When we recognize someone as a God-fearing person because he or she is seeking to obey God, and then hold that person in high esteem because of his or her godliness, we also show that we hold God in high esteem.  "To pay respect to an ambassador was the same as to pay respect for the king who sent him." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 1.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

"And if anyone 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 certainly not lose his reward.'"  As Christians pay the cost of following Christ, there are times when they are in need.  When other Christians reach out to meet their needs, they one day will be rewarded for their compassion and love toward them—even if it is only a "cup of cold water."  Those who help Christian workers will share in the joy, reward, and results of their ministry.

f. Jesus finishes His lesson (11:1)
"After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee."  It appears that 11:1 should have been the last verse of chapter ten—as the Twelve began their ministry tour, Jesus continued to minister without them. 

THE WORK OF THE MASTER HARVESTER (11:2-12:50)
In the following chapters, we receive lessons from the example of Jesus on how to labor in the harvest field.

1. The Master Harvester's ministry to His fellow laborer, John the Baptist. (11:2-15)
His concern for John the Baptist tells us how He thinks of us, and how we are to think of our fellow laborers.

a. John the Baptist's doubts. (11:2-3)
"When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?'"

Thought Question: Why do you think John asked this question at this time?

 

 

"After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee."  We see the humanness of John the Baptist in these verses.  "John had been in prison 'long enough to develop a prison mood' (Bruce)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

Maybe, he wondered (what I also have wondered), "Why is Jesus allowing me to stay in prison?  If He is the Messiah, why isn't He rescuing me from prison."  I have wondered why Jesus did not rescue him and save his life.  Have we not asked God, when things were going badly, "Am I on the right track?"  We wonder why this last horrible thing happened to us.  Often, we have in our minds how we think God should do things.  Then, when it goes in a completely different direction, we become perplexed and concerned. See Lk. 7:18-21

"When John heard in prison" "John" the Baptist, in his ministry, had fulfilled what Jesus had just taught His "disciples" in chapter 10.  He had been fearless in proclaiming God's truth, whatever the consequences.  As a consequence of telling the truth to a dangerous man, he was in prison. Barclay writes, "It was not John's habit to soften the truth for any man; and he was incapable of seeing evil without rebuking it." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  As a result of his courage, he had rebuked King Herod for breaking God's law of divorce.  "But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison." (Luke 3:19-20) See also Matt. 14:1-12

So, "John" ended up in prison.  It is not hard to understand why he might have thought, "Was all I have done, done for nothing?"

b. Jesus asks John to think about what was written about Him in the Bible. (11:4-6)
"Jesus replied, 'Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.'" 

Thought Question: Why do you believe Jesus' answer should have been enough to convince John that Jesus was the promised Messiah?

 

 

"Jesus replied, 'Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.'"
Jesus does not rebuke John or his followers.  He was not upset or disappointed with him.  He simply points out that He was fulfilling the predictions about what would happen when the Messiah comes.  Isaiah made this prediction of what would occur at the coming of the Messiah.  "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert." (Isaiah 35:5-6)  "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners," (Isaiah 61:1)  The Messiah was not only to bring judgment, He was also to bring the blessings of His new kingdom: "to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn," (Isaiah 61:2)

"'Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.'"  Jesus did not want His form of ministry, that may have differed from what "John" expected, to be a stumbling block to him.  "John" would be "blessed" if he continued to trust in God, even if it did not make sense to him.  Can we, in our time, relate to that?  When all is not going as we planned, we will be blessed if we continue to obey and to trust God.

c. Jesus' tribute to John (11:7-15)

(1) Jesus extols John for his strength and for having a heart that is free from worldliness. (11:7-9)
"As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: 'What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.'"

Thought Question: What strengths of John's, that are mentioned here, are strengths that you desire to seek after?

 

 

"As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: 'What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces.'" 

Jesus explains that "John" was not weak and vacillating like a thin reed that could be bent by a tiny breeze.  He was not at all someone who checked out what way the political wind was blowing before he did or said something—he was not someone who was always fearful of being politically incorrect.  He was completely the opposite from this type of person.  He said what was true, even if it landed him in prison; which is exactly why he was in prison. 

Herod was the very opposite of "John" the Baptist.  "Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered him a prophet." (Matthew 14:5)

"John" was also a person that was not interested in worldly riches.  "John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey." (Matthew 3:4)

(2) Jesus speaks of John the Baptist's greatness. (11:9-11)
"'Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.” I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.'"

Thought Question: Why do you believe that the "least in the kingdom of heaven" are greater than "John the Baptist"?

 

 

(a) He was greater than a prophet. (11:9-10)
"'Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.”'"  "John" the Baptist was a "prophet"—a spokesman for God.  But he was "more than a prophet."  Why?  He was the "prophet," who was also the forerunner of the promised King, that was predicted in Malachi:  "'See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.'" (Malachi 3:1a) See also Isa. 40:3-5; Jn. 1:19-34

(b) Before the New Covenant times, no one was greater than John the Baptist.  (11:11)
"'I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.'"

Jesus gives "John" the highest tribute a man could give—of all the men who had ever lived up to that time, in God's eyes, John was right at the top.  "Some think Jesus means greater in character, in obedience to God.  Others think He means greater in what John would know and do with regard to the Messiah." "Taken from Transline New Testament by Mike Magill.  Copyright 2002 by Zondervan." 

"'yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.'"  Would any of us say that we are "greater" than "John the Baptist"?  Certainly, few Christians are better and bolder in speaking for God's righteousness, speaking against man's sin, and calling for repentance than he was.  But, we are greater in the privileged position with God that we enjoy.  Jesus, the King who died for us and rose from the dead resides in us.  "John the Baptist" died before much of Jesus' ministry had taken place, and he died before Jesus' death and resurrection.  "But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it." (Matthew 13:16-17)

(c) And if they are willing, he will be the predicted Elijah. (11:12-15)
"'From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear.'"

Thought Question: What is meant by "the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it"?

 

 

"'From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.'"  This verse is a difficult one to interpret.  It could mean that evil men are trying to take the kingdom by force.  Then, it would be a description of the religious leaders of the Jews trying to set up their kingdom by forcing people to go along with them.  Or, it might mean that they are seeking to prevent the kingdom from coming in by "forceful" opposition to it.  The other interpretation, and the one that I accept, is described in the NIV Study Bible note on Luke 16:16 where the same Greek word for "forcefully" is used.  "'The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.'" (Luke 16:16)  "Forcing his way.  This meaning is disputed, but probably speaks of the fierce earnestness with which people were responding to the gospel of the kingdom.  Multitudes were
coming to hear Jesus and to receive his message."  If this interpretation is correct, as I believe it is, then Jesus is saying that we enter His kingdom by actively desiring and pursuing His kingship in our lives.
"Luke says [in Luke 16:16] that every man storms his way into the Kingdom; he means, as Denney said, that the 'Kingdom of heaven is not for the well-meaning but for the desperate,' that no one drifts in the Kingdom, the Kingdom only opens its doors to those who are prepared to make as great an effort to get into it as men when they storm a city." Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

"These were people actively following Jesus, not simply waiting for the kingdom to come their way.  (Scholars frequently object that such language of violence is always used negatively, but Jesus' parables show that he did not hesitate to employ shocking images for the advance of God's reign . . . )." "Taken from Matthew by Craig Keener.  Copyright 1997 by Intervarsity Press."

But reading different commentaries will reveal that there is little agreement on how these words of Jesus should be interpreted.  Robertson explains the problem.  "In Matthew 11:12 the form [of Greek word translated 'forcefuly advancing' in the NIV] can be either middle or passive, though a different sense.  The passive idea is that the kingdom is forced, is stormed, taken by men by violence like 'men of violence take it by force' . . . or seize it like a conquered city.  The middle voice may mean 'experiences violence ' or 'forces its way' like a rushing mighty wind (so Zahn holds.)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

It appears that Jesus is using shocking language to impress on people that the "kingdom of heaven" requires more than a passive response; it is attained when men and women desire it deeply—as when an army storms a city because it will not be taken without an all-out assault on it.

"For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear.'"  For those who were receptive, they would become part of the "kingdom of heaven."  And for them, "John the Baptist" was the promised forerunner of the Messiah.  For them, "the Elijah" promised in Malachi 4:5-6 had come.  "'See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.'" (Malachi 4:5-6)

2. The work of the Master Harvester with his discontent generation        (11:16-19)
"'To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon.” The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners.”’ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.'"

Thought Question: What, do you believe, was the basic problem that is revealed by the people's rejection of both "John" and Jesus?

 

 

"'To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.”'" 

Jesus is describing here, "children" who are trying to get other children to play with them.  First, they tried a happy song, but the other "children" were not interested.  Then, they tried a sad song and the other "children" were also not interested.  So, "John" the Baptist and Jesus got the same response from the people of Israel.  They came in two totally different ways, but the people were not interested in either of them, nor were they interested in their message.

"'For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon.” The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners.”’'"

The people of Israel were contrary, like children who could not be pleased.  "John" had separated from the people, and they said he was demon-possessed; Jesus mixed with the people and they said he was a carouser and a "drunkard."  In other words, there was nothing that would please the people.  What does this tell us?  There will be many who will not be satisfied, no matter what we do.  So, the problem is not what we do.  The problem is elsewhere.

It was not what "John" and Jesus did that was the problem; for they were complete opposites.  The problem was the message that they both taught—for they both gave the same message.  The people rejected the message of the cross and God's truth no matter how it was presented.

What is the message for us?  It is a hard message to receive.  The world is going to be critical of us no matter what we do.  If we are very strict in our Christian walk, we will be called Puritan fundamentalists.  If we enjoy participating in a social life, people will point out that we are not acting as Christians should act.  If we think that we can satisfy the unbelieving world, we are heading toward a big disappointment.  We need to realize that following Christ is a hard road.  People will reject us and our message, just as they rejected "John" and Jesus and their message.

"'But wisdom is proved right by her actions.'"  Both "John" and Jesus did what accomplished their individual purposes.  John's purpose was to call the nation of Israel to repent of their sins.  The wilderness was a fitting place to accomplish that.  Jesus came to offer Israel the new covenant.  "John" was a wilderness preacher because he was to lead Israel from the wilderness of sin; Jesus mixed with everyone because He had come to offer every sinner forgiveness and grace—it was offered even to the tax-collectors and sinners.  In each case, they chose a wise way to accomplish their purposes.

3. The work of the Master Harvester with the unbelieving (11:20-24)
"Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 'Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.'"

Thought Question: What is the message to us who are in the United States?

 

 

"Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 'Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you."

There are only two times that "Korazin" is mentioned in the Bible—here and in Lk. 10:13.  We have no record of any miracles performed in "Korazin."  At the very end of John, we read these words.  "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." (John 21:25)  The miracles at "Korazin" were some of the "many other things" that Jesus did that were not "written down."

"Bethsaida" was the home town of Philip, Andrew, and Peter. See Jn. 1:44, 12:21  According to Lk. 9:10-17, the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 occurred there or near there. See also Mk. 6:45, 8:22-26  Neither "Korazin" and "Bethsaida" exist today.

"'Woe to you,'"  Barclay has these enlightening words about the meaning of "woe."  "the Greek word for woe . . . is ouai; ouai expresses sorrowful pity at least as much as it does anger.  This is not the accent of one who is in a temper because his self esteem has been touched; it is not the accent of one who is blazingly angry because he has been insulted.  It is the accent of sorrow, the accent of one who offered men the most precious thing in the world and saw it disregarded.  Jesus' condemnation of sin is holy anger, but the anger comes not from outraged pride, but from a broken heart." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

"If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes."  Prophets in the Old Testament described the wickedness of "Tyre and Sidon." These cities were in Phoenicia—the home of Jezebel the wife of Israel's wicked king Ahab.  Whole chapters in the Old Testament describe God's judgment on "Tyre and Sidon."  They were judged by God because of their wickedness. See Isa. 23; Ezek. 26-27

Why would they have repented if they saw the miracles that Jesus did in "Korazin" and "Bethsaida"?  Jesus knew that these cities were not as hardened as these two Jewish cities had become.

Why is Jesus warning them?  It is apparent that He is warning them because they could have repented and still could repent.  Calvinism teaches that because people are spiritually dead, they cannot repent—any more than a dead corpse can make a decision—unless they are first born again and made alive by God's Spirit.  Jesus is clearly stating here that they could have repented and should have repented, but they chose not to repent.

Would Jesus have said, "woe" to them if they could not repent?  He said "woe" to them because they would not repent, not because they could not repent.

Jesus words also teach us that there will be some judgments on people in eternity that will be worse than the judgments on others.  Here, we learn that these people who saw Jesus and the miracles He performed and rejected Him will experience a more severe judgment than the citizens of "Tyre and Sidon" who did not see Him. See also Matt. 12:41; Lk. 12:47-48

What does this mean to us today?  If we have a greater opportunity to learn about God and His way than others, we also have a greater responsibility.  Our opportunity and how we have responded to it will be included in God's righteous judgment of us.  This should be very humbling to us and motivate us not to squelch the opportunity and opportunities that we have.

"And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.'"

"Capernaum" was Jesus' home at this time.  Many of His miracles were performed there.  "Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali" (Matthew 4:13)  If any city should have repented and turned to Jesus, it was the city in which He lived as an adult—the city where He performed many miracles.  Because of this unique privilege, the judgment against them would be greater than the judgment against "Sodom."

"Sodom" is known for its decline in morality, ultimately reaching the point where God could no longer tolerate its existence and destroyed the city. See Gen. 18-19  Yet, "Capernaum" will be judged in God's final judgment to be worse than "Sodom."

How can this be?  Again, "Sodom" had not seen Jesus or His miracles.  They had not heard His words of truth and wisdom.  They had not heard His claims.  "Capernaum" saw and heard it all, yet they rejected it all.  Jesus says here that if "Sodom" had heard what "Capernaum" heard, they would have repented and their city "would have remained." 

Obviously, we have much more revelation from God available to us today than "Tyre," "Sidon," and "Sodom."  We need to respond to Jesus' words today, so that He will not say to us what He said to the cities where He performed miracles.

"repent"  The word describes someone who has a change of mind about their sin and willful unbelief in Jesus—he or she mourns over their sin and comes to believe in Jesus.   This change of mind and belief produces a turn toward Him and His ways—a turn that produces a desire to follow Him in both words and deeds.

4. The work of the Master Harvester with the childlike (11:25-27)
"At that time Jesus said, 'I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.'"

Thought Question: What do Jesus' words tell us about why some are receptive to Him and others are not receptive to Him?

 

 

"At that time Jesus said, 'I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.'"  Not everyone rejected Jesus' message and teaching.  The humanly "wise and learned" did not receive or understand what Jesus had to say, but those who were like "children" were receptive to His message and teachings.  What Jesus is condemning here is not intelligence, but pride.  "The wise and learned" are those who believed that they had superior knowledge to Jesus—they thought they knew more than God.  The "children" are those who are like baby chicks with their mouths open to receive the food that the mother bird brings to them—they were eager and hungry for Jesus' wisdom from God.  Jesus praised the Father that the arrogant were not able to understand His teachings, but the humble were able to understand Him.  Ryle points to the predictive words of Mary the mother of Jesus about who would and who would not receive Jesus.  "He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty." (Luke 1:53)  Those who keenly feel their need for Jesus' wisdom, receive it; and those who believe that they are already wise, reject it. 

The "little children" are those who are hungry, thirsty, the good soil for the word, the poor in spirit, and those who mourn. See Matt. 5:3-7, 13:8, 23

The "wise and learned" are like those through the years who had become convinced that there was no land beyond the Atlantic Ocean, that we will never fly, and that there is no God.  For, based on their limited knowledge at the time, all of these ideas  and beliefs could not be true.

"Lastly, we would point out that it is not the possession of knowledge that stops progress; the mischief is done by the assumption that the knowledge is final." "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company."
"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.'"  "Jesus alone is in a position to declare exactly what God is like (v.27).  The Father has given Jesus the sole prerogative of revealing him. So anyone who approaches God a different way will not find him." "Taken from Matthew by Craig Keener.  Copyright 1997 by Intervarsity Press." 

So, in the invitation that follows this verse, Jesus is saying that the "weary and burdened" can come to Him; because in coming to Him, they are also coming to God through Him.  We are reminded of John 14:6 and Acts 4:12:  "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6)  "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

5. The Master Harvester's way with those loaded down with a religious burden (11:28-30)
"'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.'"

Thought Question: What do you find in these words of Jesus that is a comfort to you?

 

 

a. "Come to me and find rest!" (11:28)
"'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.'"  We all have carried something that became harder and harder for us to carry the longer we held it; until we needed to put it down somewhere quickly before it became so heavy that it fell from our grasp.  I remember helping a couple move a very heavy piano a number of times.  Then, they sold it, and we loaded it on a pick-up truck and we watched as that heavy burden was driven off, never to be seen again (or carried).

As there are physical burdens that are more than we can carry alone, so there are also emotional, mental, and spiritual burdens that are more than we can carry alone.  In fact, these types of burdens can be a heavier burden on us than a physical weight that burdens us down.  Jesus is telling us here that there are burdens that we carry that God never meant for us to carry alone.  Here, Jesus invites all of us who are willing to humbly acknowledge that we need His help with these burdens, to come to Him for help.  And He will give us "rest."

What were the heavy burdens that the people Jesus spoke to were carrying?  And what are the heavy burdens that we can attempt to carry by ourselves that Jesus never intended for us to carry by ourselves?  Here is a partial list of them: worry, bitterness, guilt, frustration, failure, disappointment, discouragement, and more.  One of the burdens that the people of Israel were carrying was the legalistic religious system of the Pharisees.  Jesus described the religious burden they put on Israel.  "They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them." (Matthew 23:4)

We can also feel condemnation for not measuring up to a legalist's condemnation of us—their religious requirements that we must live up to before we will be accepted by them.  Jesus came to remove burdens from us, not to put overwhelming burdens on us.  And He came to carry the heavy part of the load. See I Jn. 5:1-5; I Pet. 5:7; Phil. 4:6-7; Rom. 8:1

All the burdens we carry were not meant to be carried by us alone.  We are not able to carry them alone.  Jesus offers to share the load; and even carry the heavier part of the load.

b. Come to me and get in the yoke with me. (11:29-30) 
"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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.'"  Jesus did not offer them a cold religious system that made unlimited demands on them, but He invited them to join with Him in a labor they would share with Him.  He invited them to come under the same "yoke" with Him and learn how gentle and humble He is.  They would, then, learn that His work is not an overwhelming burden like the religious legalism they were familiar with. 

"'For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.'"  When they, at that time, trained a new ox, they put him under a yoke with an experienced ox.  While the new ox was being trained, he would just be going along for the ride; for the experienced ox would actually be bearing the full weight of the task by himself.  In the same way, Jesus wants us to come under His "yoke"—where our part of the load will be "light." 
Jesus expresses, here, two very refreshing realities of what it is like to be in the "yoke" with Him: (1) He is in it with us.  And He is not an arrogant task master.  We will learn that He is "humble" and "gentle."  In other words, we will learn that He is an understanding and gentle guide.  (2) Our "yoke" has been custom made for us.  In Jesus' day, when someone needed a "yoke," he would take his ox to the carpenter and that carpenter would make a "yoke" to fit that ox.  If it fit the ox, it was a "yoke" that was "easy" for that ox to wear.

"In Palestine ox-yokes were made of wood; the ox was brought, and the measurements were taken.  The yoke was then roughed out, and the ox was brought back to have the yoke tried on.  The yoke was carefully adjusted, so that it would fit well, and not gall the neck of the patient beast.  The yoke was tailor-made to fit the ox." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Of course, Jesus having been a carpenter, would have been very familiar with this process.  The word "easy" described a "yoke" that fit easily on an ox, because it had been made uniquely to fit that ox.  Jesus, the Master Carpenter has made a yoke to perfectly fit us.  It takes into account our weaknesses and our strengths, and it is neither too heavy or too light.

"gentle"  It is the Greek word praus.  It describes a controlled strength, whereby a person does not respond harshly and impatiently to another's faults and weaknesses.  He is one who removes the speck in another's eye without damaging the eye in the process.  Are not we all glad that Jesus deals with us in this "gentle" way? 

"humble in heart"  The One we are in the "yoke" with is the same One described in Philippians two: "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:6-8)  He was born in a manger, lived as a carpenter's son, lived a life of service, and then died for us.  As we walk in obedience to Him, we will also learn that He is a "humble" Savior and Lord.

6. The Master Harvester with the religious (12:1-21)
When the average person thinks of religion today, he or she does not think that it will take away his or her burdens, but add to them—there will be the added pressures of attending services, the passing of offering plates, regularly being asked to serve, and, most of all, the loss of personal freedom and privacy.  But this is not the religion that Jesus offered; He did not offer man a cold religious system the adds burdens to people.  In Matthew 12, He who came to give us rest, is attacked by religious leaders because He was not resting properly on the day of rest—the Sabbath.  The religious leaders of Jesus' time had turned the Sabbath rest into a burdensome labor.  Instead of it being a day of rest, it had become the most tiresome day of the week—they had made their laws describing what was and was not work so detailed that it took someone with a lawyer's degree to read it.  "Certain regulations are laid down to guide the Jew when dressing on the Sabbath morning, so as to prevent His breaking its rest.  Hence, he must be careful not to put on any dress which might become burdensome, nor to wear any ornament which he might put off and carry in hand for this would be a 'burden.'" "Taken from The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim p. 781.  Copyright 1971 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."

a. The religious leaders' response to Jesus' disciples gleaning in the fields on the Sabbath (12:1-8)

(1) His disciples eat grain on the Sabbath and are called Sabbath breakers (12:1-2)
"At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, 'Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.'"

Thought Question: Were the "disciples" right or wrong to eat grain from the fields on the "Sabbath"?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them."  Old Testament law required landowners to allow the poor to eat their fill from their fields.  "If you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat all the grapes you want, but do not put any in your basket. If you enter your neighbor’s grainfield, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain." (Deuteronomy 23:24-25)  These instructions were designed with the people's needs in mind; but manmade laws were added to God's laws that added burdens to people rather than helping them.  These manmade laws prohibited the poor from eating "in the grainfields" on the Sabbath.

"When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, 'Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.'"  "By their conduct the disciples were guilty of far more than one breach of the Law.  By plucking the corn they were guilty of reaping; by rubbing it in their hands [See Lk. 6:1] they were guilty of threshing; by separating the grain and the chaff they were guilty of winnowing; and by the whole process they were guilty of preparing a meal on the Sabbath day, for everything which was to be eaten on the Sabbath had to be prepared the day before." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

(2) Jesus answers the charges that His disciples were breaking the Sabbath (12:3-8)

(a) He asks them to explain why David was able to eat consecrated bread and the priests were able to work on the Sabbath. (12:3-5)
"He answered, 'Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?'"

Thought Question: Why do you believe it was okay for "David" and his men to eat this "consecrated bread"?

 

 

"He answered, 'Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.'"  Jesus answers their charges by pointing out that there are exceptions to this law.  First of all, "David" had broken God's law when he was in need. See I Sam. 21:1-6.  I Samuel 21:6 explains why "David" and his men were given "bread" to eat that was "consecrated" to God.  "So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away."  This bread was placed in the Holy Place of God's tabernacle each Sabbath.  "Each Sabbath, 12 fresh loaves of bread were to be set on a table in the Holy Place (Ex 25:30; Lev. 24:5-9)  The old loaves were eaten by the priests." "NIV Study Bible note on Matt. 12:4"

The "bread" that David's men ate was last week's bread that had just been replaced by newly cooked bread.  It was only to be eaten by the priests.  "It belongs to Aaron and his sons, who are to eat it in a holy place, because it is a most holy part of their regular share of the offerings made to the Lord by fire." (Leviticus 24:9)

There is no indication that "David" and "Ahimelech the priest" (I Sam. 21:1) did anything wrong when this bread, which only the priests were to eat, was given to "David" and his hungry men.  Jesus does not condemn them either.  The principle is that when obeying God's law would harm someone, then it is permissible to suspend the law temporarily to meet that need.  We are to attend church regularly, but the doctor who is called out of a service to meet an emergency need has done the right thing.  Church leadership that alters a church service to pray for someone who has fainted and remains unconscious has taken the right action.

"Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?'"  The Temple ritual always involved work—the kindling of fires, the slaughter and the preparation of animals, the lifting of them on to the altar, and a host of other things.  This work was actually doubled on the Sabbath, for on the Sabbath the offerings were doubled (cp. e.g. numbers 28:9)  Any one of these actions would have been illegal for an ordinary person to perform on the Sabbath day." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  The priests needed to continue to work on the Sabbath, for the offerings needed to still be made.

(b) "I am the Lord of the Sabbath" (12:6-8)
"'I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.'"

Thought Question: What do Jesus' words here tell us about how the legalist's attitude toward the "Sabbath" and Jesus' attitude about the "Sabbath" differed?

 

 

"'I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the innocent.'"  Those who truly understood the "Sabbath," understood that it points to Jesus Christ and the rest He secured for us when He died on the cross.  The "Sabbath" symbolizes that rest:  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)  Jesus, above everyone, was able to judge what does and does not fulfill the true spirit of the "Sabbath."  He summed up the true spirit of the "Sabbath" when He said "'“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”'" See Hos. 6:6 The central theme of the Bible is God's mercy and grace.  When the Pharisees were more concerned about whether or not Jesus' disciples were obeying their rules of the "Sabbath," they were also coldhearted to these men and their need for food.  They had the very opposite of God's attitude toward people—they were merciless.  In their hearts, they were not like God.  God, in His heart, does not condemn the needy.  Instead, His heart goes out to them in compassion.  The Christian life is simply becoming like Jesus Christ.  When religion has no compassion, it not only is not Christianity, it is the very opposite of Christianity.

"'For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.'"  Jesus and His disciples should not have been seeking to obey the "Sabbath" as these Pharisees demanded; but, these Pharisees should have been asking Jesus about the "Sabbath"—so they might gain a better understanding of it. For He was the Designer of the "Sabbath."  In the parallel account in Mark, Mark adds these words of Jesus that are not recorded here in Matthew: "Then he said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.'" (Mark 2:27)  Then, in Mark, comes the same words that we find here in Matt. 12:8: "So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." (Mark 2:28)  If the Pharisees had understood that Jesus designed the "Sabbath" and then they had asked Him about what its purpose was, He would have told them that it was designed "for man"—for man's best.

The Bible was given to us to help us—to help us to experience what God had originally designed for us to experience.  "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11)  Men twist what is taught in the Bible until it puts an unbearable burden on our backs.  Why does men's religion always put burdens on us rather than remove burdens from us?  It is because men's religion is always designed to elevate someone or a group of people, at the expense of others.  Its purpose is usually not to encourage and help people, but to erect a monument to a person or a group of people.  Jesus, on the other hand, came for a very different purpose.  "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (Luke 19:10)

b. Jesus' healing on the Sabbath and the religious leaders' response (12:9-14)
"Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, 'Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?' He said to them, 'If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.' Then he said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus."

Thought Question: What do these verses tell us about the wrong way to look at our Christian leaders and the right way to look at them?

 

 

(1) The religious leaders' trap (12:9-10)
"Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, 'Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?'"  We can see here that they were actually attempting to use Jesus' concern for the needy against Him.
The Jews actually paid Jesus a great compliment here.  For they believed that Jesus was such a compassionate person that He would feel compassion for the man with the "shriveled hand" and would certainly heal him; even though it was on the "Sabbath."

We can wonder at times about how Jesus looks on our neediness.  The compassionate Jesus who healed this man with the "shriveled hand," is the same Jesus who looks upon us.  He is also compassionate as He looks on our needs.  When we who are Christians look at a needy person with compassion, it comes from His heart—as He fills our heart with His concern for others.

"Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue,"  In Luke 6:6, we learn that this took place "on another Sabbath."

(2) His answer to the religious leaders (12:11-12)
"He said to them, 'If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.'"  Jesus points out to them that even in their own version of the "Sabbath," they had made a provision for an animal in need.  He concludes that if it is okay to help a sheep in need, it is even more lawful to help out a fellow man in need.

"has a sheep"  Jesus was not saying that they would pull someone else's "sheep" out of "a pit," but that they would pull "a sheep" out if it belonged to one of them.  Their motive, in this case, would have been selfish.  Jesus' motive for healing the man was His compassion for him.

The Pharisees, also were not concerned about the sanctity of the "Sabbath," but they were concerned that Jesus was gaining more popularity than them.  The Pharisees were self-concerned and Jesus was concerned for others.

(3) The healing (12:13)
"Then he said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other."  Jesus' compassion led Him to completely heal this man.  How did that man feel after Jesus healed him?  He no longer had a useless hand, but one that functioned perfectly like "the other" hand.  He could earn a living and he was able to easily do what he had once been unable to do.

(4) The hate (12:14)
"But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus."  How can a wonderful act of love produce so great a hate toward the One who acted in love?  Ray Stedman in his commentary on Mark gives what I believe is the answer.  Those who have the preeminence or desire the preeminence find it "necessary to destroy" those who are competing with them for the hearts of men. "Taken from The Servant Who Rules by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."  In the eyes of these men, Jesus needed to be eliminated.  He was upsetting their whole system, and their position of power at the top of their system was in danger because of Him.

In the Gospel of Mark, we get a better picture of how Jesus felt about them.  "Then Jesus asked them, 'Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?' But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.  He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored." (Mark 3:4-5)  Also, in Mark it says that they united with their enemies the "Herodians" against Jesus.  "Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus." (Mark 3:6)

"The Herodians" sided with King Herod.  Normally, they were the hated enemies of the Pharisees.  But, we learn in Mark 3 that these enemies united against Jesus, because He was their common foe.

c. Because of the religious leaders' plot to kill Jesus, He withdraws from them (12:15-21)
"Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 'Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.'"

Thought Question: What do we learn here in how Jesus handled His enemies' plot to kill Him that helps us to know how we should deal with those who are our enemies?

 

 

"Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was."  We can see from these words that Jesus was not looking for a fight.  He withdrew from His enemies rather than provoking a showdown.  And He told those He healed not to go around telling people who had healed them.  His miracles were signs that He was the promised Messiah, but He was not trying to start a public uprising.  Instead, He came to those who desired a kingdom of heaven in their hearts.  He came to those who wanted His rule in their hearts.  The way he came fulfilled the prophecy about Him in Isaiah 42:1-4:  "'Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.'"

"This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 'Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.'"  Isaiah describes what the Messiah will be like.  Here, Jesus is fulfilling that prophecy by Isaiah.  He was the One the Father has "chosen."  One with whom the Father would "delight" in.  The Father's "Spirit" was in Him.  And He would "proclaim justice to the nations."  All of these predictions of the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus.

Then, we are told that he would be different than an Alexander-the-Great type of conqueror.  "He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets."  He will not seek to out-quarrel His opponents.  He spoke with authority, but He was not like those who win arguments by screaming louder than others, until their anger and loudness intimidates their opponents.   "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out."  Many of us, at times, feel like a "bruised reed" or "a smoldering wick." We feel like it would not take much to crush the life or the fire out of us.  But this verse from Isaiah 42 that is quoted here in Matthew 12 is very comforting to us.  Our weak faith, Jesus will not "snuff out."  He will not despise it, but He will seek to gently blow on it and bring it back to a strong flame.  These verses in Isaiah predict Jesus' gentleness.  And they predict a gentle but conquering Messiah.

"till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.'"  Psalm 22 describes Jesus' time on the cross.  But, it also describes the results of His time on the cross.  "All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn— for he has done it." (Psalm 22:27-31)  As it says in this quote of Isaiah 42 here in Matthew, we who read these words are some of those from "the nations" who have "put" our "hope" in Jesus. 

7. The Master Harvester with the hardened (12:22-37)

a. Jesus power over Satan demonstrated (12:22-23)
"Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, 'Could this be the Son of David?'"

Thought Question: What do these verses tell us about what demons are able to do? (Are they able to cause physical symptoms?)

 

 

"Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, 'Could this be the Son of David?'"  Matthew does not tell us whether or not the man had been blinded and muted by the demon that possessed him, but the demon was probably the reason that the man was both blind and mute.  Jesus demonstrated His power over Satan by delivering him from the demon, the blindness, and the inability to speak.  The people wonder at what He did, and ask, "Could this be the Son of David?" 

"They begin to wonder if this Jesus could be the Son of David, so long promised and so long expected, the great Saviour and Liberator.  Their doubt was due to the fact that Jesus was so unlike the picture of the Son of David in which they been brought up to believe.  Here was no glorious prince with pomp and circumstance; here was no rattle of swords nor army with banners; here was no fiery cross calling men to war; here was a simple carpenter from Galilee, in whose words was wisdom gentle and serene, in who eyes was compassion, and in whose hands was mysterious power." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press." 

b. The Pharisees' response to Jesus' power over Satan (12:24)
"But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, 'It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.'"  They had so hardened their minds to Jesus that they could say that what He was doing, that was coming from God, was coming from Satan.  Resisting God takes men in a scary direction, for it not only leads people away from God, but it also leads them toward Satan and all of his evil.

c. Jesus' defense (12:25-29)
"Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, 'Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.'"

Thought Question: According to Jesus' words, what must happen before someone is delivered from demon-possession?

 

 

(1) Satan does not fight against himself (12:25-26)
"Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, 'Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?"

A king would never be supportive of someone conquering his "kingdom."  Therefore, Jesus could not be conquering Satan's "kingdom" and also be part of Satan's "kingdom."  It makes no sense at all.  When there was no rational answer to resist what Jesus said and did, His enemies resorted to irrational answers.

The argument of the "Pharisees" is also called ad hominem argument.  When someone has no reasonable response to those in opposition to him or her, they attack the person.  Saying that Jesus was empowered by Satan is the darkest attack on Jesus that could have been made—they said the totally good One was totally evil.  Hatred toward someone empowers us to see no good in the person that is hated.  Their hatred caused them to see only evil in the One who was only good.

(2) "Your followers drive out demons, does their power come from Satan?"
"And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges."  There were exorcists at this time who claimed to have the ability to "drive" out "demons."  Jesus points out that these "Pharisees" did not say that what these men were doing was being done by the power of Satan.  Jesus points out their inconsistency in saying He was driving out "demons" by Satan's power and these exorcists were driving out "demons" by God's power.  The difference is that He was a threat to them and the exorcists were not.

"So then, they will be your judges."  Instead of them judging Jesus, they will be judged for the inconsistency of their words.  The exorcists will recognize that inconsistency.

(3) "If my power does not come from Satan, it comes from God and the kingdom of God is now among you. (12:28)
"But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."  Jesus turned them full circle.  He first showed them that He could not have been driving out "demons" by Satan's power.  That leaves them with only one alternative, He must be doing it with God's power.  They are once more confronted with the fact that it is God's power that is at work through Him.  Which, of course, is the last thing that they wanted to be true.

(4) And if Satan did not stop me from conquering demons, I must have overpowered him. (12:29)
Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.'"  Luke gives us more detail in this parable of Jesus.  "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils." (Luke 11:21-22)  When this man was delivered from demon-possession, Jesus demonstrated that He was stronger than Satan.

When was Satan tied up or bound?  There are at least two times when Satan is bound.  First of all, Jesus defeated Satan in the wilderness.  Jesus was tempted as a man.  Yet, Jesus fully resisted his temptation; whereas, Adam and Eve gave in to his temptation.  From that point on, Satan had no hold on Jesus.  Also, Jesus won the victory for us when He died on the cross.  "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." (Hebrews 2:14-15)  "We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him." (1 John 5:18)

d. Jesus challenges them: "Are you with me or against me?" (12:30-37)
"'He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.'"

Thought Question #1:  How can we tell whether we are gathering or scattering?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  According to these words of Jesus, what is the unforgivable sin?

 

 

(1) "You must either be with me or against me." (12:30)
"'He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.'"  After Jesus clearly established that His power is from God, that He is more powerful than Satan, and that He is opposed to Satan,He asks them if they are with Him or against Him.  They cannot be both.

In Ephesians 1, God's purpose is revealed.  "And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ." (Ephesians 1:9-10)  If we are working at the goal of bringing people under the rule of Jesus as their King, we are with Him.  Otherwise, we are against Him.  These Pharisees were also either with Him or "against" Him.

He also says here that they were either part of those who were bringing all men together under one Head or they were part of the force that was scattering.  At any moment, we are either gathering through spreading humility, truth, and love, or we are scattering through lies, pride, and hate.

(2) Those who reject me are in danger of committing the unforgivable sin. (12:31-32)
"'And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.'"

They had said that His miracles were of the devil.  Jesus is saying here, that they can be forgiven if they say this "blasphemy" against Him; but if they reject the moving of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and He reveals to them who Jesus is, and they still say this "blasphemy," then they will never be forgiven.  For, then, they will have truly recognized Who it is that they are rejecting and will still have rejected Him.

Paul rejected Jesus Christ and even was part of those sentencing Christians to death, yet he was forgiven.  Why was he able to be forgiven?  It was because he did not yet have the enlightening of the Holy Spirit enabling him to really understand who Jesus is.  "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief." (1 Timothy 1:13)

Those who are enlightened by the Holy Spirit who reject Jesus will never be forgiven.  What is the difference between rejecting Jesus—which people who are now Christians did before they were Christians—and rejecting Jesus when one is enlightened by the Holy Spirit?  Those who are enlightened by the Holy Spirit know Who it is that they are rejecting.  Satan knew who it was that He was rejecting.

The "blasphemy against the Spirit" does not mean that the Holy Spirit is higher and holier than Jesus Christ, and that cursing Him will bring the severest punishment.  It does mean, though, that there is a difference between rejecting Christ and rejecting Him when the Holy Spirit has made it clear to us who He is.

"Blasphemy against the Spirit" is a willful hardening of oneself that results in someone choosing evil over good and choosing the evil one over the Holy One. See Numb. 15:30-31; Deut. 29:18-20; Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26-29 

Notice that Jesus is warning them not to commit the "blasphemy against the Spirit."  So, they had not committed it yet.  But they were dangerously close to committing it.  Calvinists teach that people are dead in sin and, like a corpse, are unable to make any movement toward God.  They, then, teach that God chooses some to be saved and draws them in an irresistible way to Himself.  But, here, Jesus warns them not to choose to reject God's Spirit as He reveals to them who He is.  Jesus' worldview and the Calvinists' worldview are not the same.  Jesus teaches here that we can either reject or receive Jesus after God's Spirit reveals to us who He is.  Calvinism puts us in a passive role in our salvation.  Jesus says here, though, that we are able to choose and reject; and we are responsible for the choices that we make.

Years ago, a young man came to me who said that he believed that he had committed the "blasphemy" of the "Spirit."  Is it something we can do in a weak moment, and then regret it later?  It is my belief from what I see in the Bible, that if you are worried and do not want to commit it, you have not.  Those who commit the horrible "blasphemy against the Spirit" have reached the last stage of hardness, and no longer desire to have a relationship with God.  "The sin is unforgivable only because it reflects a heart too hard to repent." "Taken from Matthew by Craig Keener.  Copyright 1997 by Intervarsity Press."

The promise in James 4:6-10 still applies to all who want God's forgiveness.  "But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:6-10)  That promise is for everyone.  But the person who is completely hardened to God has permanently chosen against humbling himself or herself before God.

(3) Your words reveal what is in your hearts (12:33-37)
"'Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.'"

 

 

Thought Question: What do Jesus' words tell us about what we can do to control the words that come out of our mouths?

 

 

"'Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks."  Jesus reveals to us that we can tell what is in a person's heart by what he or she says.  These Pharisees said what they said because evil was in their hearts. See also Matt. 7:17-19

Just like a tree that is healthy will bear good fruit, so a good man will speak what is good.  And like an unhealthy tree will bear bad fruit, so an evil man will speak evil.

"You brood of vipers,"  In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, "Blessed are the gentle," "the merciful," and "the peacemakers." (Matt. 5:5, 7, 9)  How can Jesus be showing these qualities when He is calling the Pharisees "brood of vipers"?  We can conclude that because Jesus never sinned, that there is a time when it is appropriate and right to use very strong words.  Paul said the following to Titus: "Even one of their own prophets has said, 'Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.' This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth." (Titus 1:12-14) 

Soft words are appropriate at times, and very strong words are also appropriate at other times.  John the Baptist used the same strong words to the religious leaders of Israel that Jesus used.  "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: 'You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.'" (Matthew 3:7-10)

Years ago, while my wife and I were working at a Christian boys' home in Los Angeles with troubled boys, I heard some unusual noises coming from the bathroom.  I found three boys shoving a smaller boy's head into the toilet.  There is a time for strong words!

Jesus and John the Baptist used strong words to expose strongly that these religious leaders were leading Israel in the very opposite direction from the direction that God wanted Israel to go.  They were not good men but evil men, and they were leading Israel toward evil and not toward good.  Strong words were needed to signal to Israel this truth.  The people of that time might have thought the Pharisees were leading Israel away from idolatry and toward God.  But, they were doing it in a self-righteous way.

Paul summed it up as follows.  " Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: 'God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'" (Romans 2:17-24)

"The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.'"

"careless word" is the Greek word aergos.  An "a" before the Greek word for "work" ergon.  "'Aergos' described that which was not meant to produce anything.  It is used of a barren tree, of fallow land . . . ." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Jesus' words here should cause us to be careful about what we say, particularly when we talk about others.  For, one day, we will be held accountable for what we have said before Jesus' listening ears.  The best solution is to watch our heart.  If our heart is good, then good will come from our heart.  "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." (Proverbs 4:23)  "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." (Proverbs 11:2)  See also Matt. 15:17-20

8. The Master Harvester with His wicked generation (12:38-50)

a. He exposes their unbelief (12:38-42)
"Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, 'Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.' He answered, 'A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.'"

Thought Question: Why is it "wicked" to ask for a "miraculous sign"?

 

 

"Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, 'Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.' He answered, 'A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign!"  Paul said in I Cor. 1:22:  "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom."  Here, "the Pharisees and teachers of the law" want to see "a miraculous sign."  Jesus says that they are "a wicked and adulterous generation" because they asked this. 

Why was it wicked for them to ask "for a miraculous sign."  Their spirit was not at all like the spirit of Nicodemus:  "He came to Jesus at night and said, 'Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.'" (John 3:2)  They were not humble and reverent before Jesus as Nicodemus was.  Instead, they put Jesus on trial and demanded that He impress them at the specific time, place, and way that they demanded of Him.  They treated Him as if they were lords of Him.  They did not come to Him humbly acknowledging that He had already done enough to prove to them that He was their Lord.

Jesus knew that their motivation in asking this question was "wicked."  Their real motivation was revealed in the 14th verse of this chapter:  "But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus." (Matthew 12:14)  "They despised and rejected the Teacher and were determined not to accept His teaching; yet they called him 'Teacher'!  They came with this request [for a sign] while they were filled with willful and wicked unbelief." "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company."

They had recently seen him heal a shriveled hand and deliver a man from demon-caused blindness and muteness.  Their demand of a sign was not all due to their desire to believe in Him, but it was the demand of those who refused to believe.

"adulterous"  These religious leaders did not see themselves as 'adulterous.'  After all, they rejected idolatry.  But they had in self-righteousness, wedded themselves to a religious system that exalted them and not God.

"But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

Jesus predicts that just as God rescued "Jonah" from a deathlike experience after being swallowed by "a huge fish," so He would be rescued by God after His death and burial.  The premiere "sign" that would be given to Israel would be His resurrection from the grave, after being "three days and three nights" in that grave.

"three days and three nights"  "Three days and three nights.  Including at least part of the first day and part of the third day, a common Jewish reckoning of the time." "NIV Study Bible note." 

"'The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.'"  The people of "Nineveh" "repented at the preaching of a prophet of God" and after a lesser sign—Jonah surviving after being in a fish—was shown to them; whereas, the people of Israel did not repent after the Son of God spoke to them and after a greater sign was given to them—Jesus' resurrection from the dead.  "Nineveh" had very little revelation to them, yet they repented; whereas, Israel would have the greatest of all revelations and still they would not repent. See Jonah 3:1-10

"'The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.'"  The "Queen of the South" who was the Queen of Sheba, recognized her lack of wisdom compared to the wisdom of "Solomon."  So, she went to "Solomon" so that she would benefit from his "wisdom."  Yet, God Himself was present in Israel and their religious leaders and the nation as a whole did not seek His infinite wisdom. See II Chron. 9:1-8

Jesus compares Israel with two groups of Gentiles and, in each case the Gentiles' faith was greater than the faith of the Israelites.  This must have horrified those listening to Him.  They thought that they were far superior in the eyes of God than any Gentile or any group of Gentiles.  But there are clearly those who are more receptive to God and those that are not receptive to God.  This challenges the Calvinistic view that all are spiritually dead and incapable of any response to God at all.  In their view, we are unable to make any response to God until and if God chooses us and irresistibly draws us to Him.  If this is true, then, why would there be a difference between how the people of "Nineveh" and "the Queen of the South" responded to God and how the people of Israel responded to God?  My answer is simply that some will choose to humble themselves and admit their slavery to sin and cry out to God for help, and others will not.  This does not earn them any favor with God, it simply means that they are acknowledging that they are completely unable to earn any favor with God and that they desperately need His grace.  "Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." (Romans 3:27-28)  Nothing we do earns us any points with God.  But God does give grace to the humble. See James 4:6

b. He exposes their wickedness (12:43-45)
"'When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, “I will return to the house I left.” When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.'"

Thought Question: How do you believe that this applied to Israel?

 

 

"'When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, “I will return to the house I left.” When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.'"

Jesus compares Israel to a man who has a demon leave him, but does not fill that void with a relationship with God.  So, the original "evil spirit" returns to find that everything in the life of the formally demonized man is neat and tidy, but there is still nothing in his life to replace the demon.  So, the demon decides to return, and invites "seven other spirits more wicked than itself" to come on in along with him.

Israel had cleansed themselves of Idolatry and Greek philosophy, but they had not replaced idolatry with a relationship with God—they even rejected their Messiah Jesus when He came to them.  In the end, what replaced the idolatry was worse than the idolatry.  For, what could be worse than murdering Jesus, the Son of God?

The message to us is that the Christian life is more than turning from sin, it is turning to Christ to empower us to live a godly life.  "To cast out the unclean is of no lasting value, unless there follow new possession by the clean."  "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company."  Mere religion is not what is needed, but we are to pursue a vital relationship with God, beginning with being born of the Spirit.  "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (2 Timothy 2:22)

9. The Master Harvester's outlook on His earthly family (12:46-50)
"While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, 'Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.' He replied to him, 'Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?' Pointing to his disciples, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.'"

Thought Question: According to Jesus' words, how can we become members of Jesus' family?

 

 

"While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, 'Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.' He replied to him, 'Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?' Pointing to his disciples, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.'"

In Mk. 3:21, we learn why His family wanted to speak to Him:  "When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind.'" (Mark 3:21)  His earthly family was not in agreement with what He was doing, and they were seeking to bring Him under their control.  Here, in Matthew, Jesus points out that His true family were not His earthly family, but those who had become part of His heavenly family by choosing to do "the will of" His "Father in heaven." 

Still, today, our closest family on earth are those who are fellow members of God's family.  There are no closer relationships on earth than between those who are mutual laborers in God's work—those who are serving and obeying Jesus along with us.  There were none closer to Christ than His disciples.  We know that His brothers James and Jude also became part of His heavenly family, for they wrote the books of James and Jude that are part of our Bible today. See also Jn. 7:5, where we learn that Jesus' brothers did not believe in Him at first.

THE MYSTERIOUS OR SECRET PRINCIPLE OF THE HARVEST IN GOD'S KINGDOM (13)

1. The Parable of the Soils (13:1-23)

a. The earthly story (13:1-9)
"That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: 'A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.'"

Thought Question: What do you think is the heavenly meaning of Jesus' earthly story?

 

 

"That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying:"

G. Campbell Morgan gives us this thorough definition of what a "parable" is:  "Literally, it is a throwing or placing of things side by side, with the suggestion of comparison.  Something is placed by the side of something else, with the intention of explaining the one by the other.  Such a method is that of the parable.  The old and simple definition comes back to us.  'A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning;' that is to say, some familiar thing of earth is placed alongside of some mysterious thing of heaven, that our understanding of the one may help us to an understanding of the other.  The method is that of taking some one set of facts, familiar and material, and making them explanatory of others, strange and spiritual." "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company."

Why did Jesus teach in "parables"?  Jesus will give us an answer to this question later in Matthew 13.  The answer, in short, goes back to the "wise and learned" who did not feel that they needed what Jesus had to offer, and the "children" who were eager to learn from Him. See 11:25  Those who felt themselves to be "wise and learned" would  have no desire to understand these "parables"; whereas, those with a child's eagerness would find the stories helpful in understanding Jesus' ways.

"and sat by the lake."  These "parables" were not taught to the scribes and Pharisees, and they were not taught in the Synagogue; but they were taught "by" a "lake."  "The lake" was the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus was no longer welcome in the Synagogue.  There came a time when John and Charles Wesley also needed to start speaking to people outside of the church buildings because they also were no longer welcome in these buildings.

"'A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.'"

Because Jesus told earthly stories that were familiar to those He spoke to, but are not as familiar to us, there is a need to explain a little about each earthly story.  We do not see a "farmer" with a sack of "seed" randomly scattering "seed" today, but it was a common sight in Jesus' day.  As a result of this manner of scattering seed, all of the seed did not land on fertile soil.  In short, all of the "seed" that was scattered did not produce a crop.  "Seed" that landed on the hardened "soil" of a "path" would just lie on top of the ground where "birds" could easily come down and eat the "seed." 

The "seed" that fell on ground that was mostly rocks or where there was rock just below a thin layer of soil would come up quickly due to heat from the sun-baked rock quickly germinating the "seed," but then it would also quickly die.  The rock heated by the sun would kill it.

And the "seed" sown among "thorns" would be "choked" out by the thorn bushes.  The "farmer" could sow his "seed" when there was no sign of "thorns," but the seed of thorns could already be present.  Then, the seeds of the "thorns" "grew up," with the crop sown by the "farmer" and the "thorns""choked the plants." 

But the "seed" sown on fertile "soil" would produce a crop.  And this "seed" would be multiplied by as much as a "hundred times."  "A hundred-fold yield was an unusually productive harvest." "NIV Study Bible note on Mark 4:8."

That is the simple story.  Later in this chapter, Jesus will explain the heavenly meaning.

When the "farmer" spread his "seed," he could not always tell the good "soil" from the bad.  The path through the fields were easier to tell, but one could not tell by looking what "soil" was "rocky" (the rock and rocks could be below the surface of the soil) and what soil contained thorn bush seed.  So, we also cannot by looking know who will be receptive to the gospel message and who will not.

b. Why did Jesus use earthly stories or parables? (13:10-17)
"The disciples came to him and asked, 'Why do you speak to the people in parables?' He replied, 'The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.'"

Thought Question: So, from Jesus' words, shortly state why you believe that Jesus spoke in "parables"?

 

 

(1) Their question:  Why do you speak in parables?  Why not speak plainly to us? (13:10)
"The disciples came to him and asked, 'Why do you speak to the people in parables?'"  The fact that they asked the question explains why Jesus spoke to them in "parables."  The hungry and thirsty will eagerly seek to understand the "parables"; whereas, the disinterested will not seek a greater understanding—they feel they are doing just fine with what they already know.  After all, they already know more than most people.

(2) Jesus' answer (13:11-17)

(a) The rich will get richer and richer (13:11-12)
"He replied, 'The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him." 

What is it that the disciples had that others did not have?  In this section is contained a tremendous insight into what God is doing in this world and why He is doing it.  There are those in this world that understand and believe in God and His Son Jesus Christ.  But, the vast majority of people do not understand and do not care that they do not understand.  To this last group, the "message of the cross is foolishness." (I Cor. 1:18)  To those who have received such truths as the truth about man's sinfulness, the deity of Jesus Christ, and the purpose of the cross, more truth can be given to them.  But those who reject these beginning truths, even what they have will be taken away—it will not be comprehended.

These disciples were receiving Jesus' message, and they could be given more.  They also would seek to understand the "parables" that Jesus would tell them.  But those who had not received the message that Jesus had given so far would not seek to understand the "parables."  They would leave with a "who cares" attitude.  His stories had no relevance to them.

"the secrets of the kingdom of heaven"  They are also called "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven."  John Walvoord gives a good definition of what is meant by "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven."  "Mysteries, a word used of secret rites of various religious cults, refers to truth that was not revealed in the Old Testament, but is revealed in the New Testament, all following the basic definition of Colossians 1:26, which defines a mystery as that 'which had been hid from ages and generations, but now is made manifest to the saints.'  A mystery truth, accordingly has two elements.  First, it has to be hidden in the Old Testament and not revealed there.  Second, it has to be revealed in the New Testament.  It is not necessarily a reference to a truth difficult to understand, but rather to truths that can be understood only on the basis of divine revelation." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press." See also Eph. 3:1-13

(b) The blind get blinder (13:13-15)     
"'This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.”'"

Those whose minds are hardened and "calloused" to God's truth will never "understand" the message of the Bible, even though they read it and hear it read.  They hear, but they do not really "understand" the meaning of what they hear.

Anyone who has taught or preached from the Bible knows that there are those who hang on every word and even ask questions afterwards; but there are others where it appears that very little gets past their ears.  They hear the words, but see little or no relevance to them and to their lives.

"'“Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”'" See also Jn. 12:40; Acts 28:26-27; Rom. 11:8  This part of verse fifteen can give the impression that God hardened these people's hearts because He did not want to heal them.  But, men harden their hearts, and it is this hardening that prevents them from experiencing the healing that God holds out to all who will receive His message of grace.

It is this truth that is hard to deal with for every compassionate Christian—when those we love are not receptive to God's good news.  As a result, they will not turn to God, be healed, and receive His salvation.  Jesus, Himself, speaks of this sad truth in Matthew 23, after He describes the hardness of the Pharisee.  "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." (Matthew 23:37)

(c) But blessed are those who see and hear (13:16-17)
"But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.'"

Who are those who are "blessed" by God?  It is those who are eager to hear and understand Jesus' words and the words of the Bible.  And today, we are blessed beyond the "prophets and righteous men" of the Old Testament.  They did not have the New Testament with all of its truths, and we have.  We who are receptive to God's truth and who have been enlightened by God's truth have found the true path to happiness. See Matt. 5:1-12

c. The heavenly meaning of the Parable of the Soils (13:18-23)
"'Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.'"

Thought Question: Do you think that the different soils represent a permanent state?  In other words, can someone be like the "path," but later be like "good soil"?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

(1) The heavenly meaning of the path (13:18-19)
"'Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.'" 

We learn here that the "seed" that is sown is "the message about the kingdom."  In Luke, "the seed is the word of God."  Obviously, "the message about the kingdom" is also "the word of God."

"The path" are those who do "not understand" this "message."  This hardened soil represents those whose hearts are so hardened that God's truth gets no farther than the surface of their minds.  The hear "the message" and that is about it.  Most of the Pharisees were like this.  They had no interest in understanding Jesus' message.  Their hearts were hardened by pride, self-deception, and self-interest.  This soil represents those who hear the word in one ear and it goes out the other.  Talking to them is like talking to a wall.  Nothing sinks in.

This is the state of most people.  They are not receptive to the Christian message at the present time.  That does not mean that they will not become receptive at some later time.  Many of us can remember a time when we were not receptive to the gospel message.

"the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart."  How does Satan snatch truth from these hardened people?  In II Corinthians 4, Paul speaks of Satan's role in blinding non-believers.  "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (II Corinthians 4:4)

Satan can take away truth by building up a prejudice against Christians by stereotyping them as narrow-minded legalists.  He can help to keep the focus on self-pity, resentment, and off Christ.  Jesus and Paul make it clear, Satan does have a hand in blinding people to the truth.  "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." (Ephesians 2:1-3)  "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12)

(2) The heavenly meaning of the rocky soil (13:20-21)
"'one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.'"

The "rocky" soil represents those who respond to God' message of the kingdom with impulsive and emotional excitement, but when the going gets tough, their interest in God's kingdom cools and dies.  They accept God's truth with only their minds or their emotions, but it does not get down to their hearts.  The first soil represented the hardened heart; this soil represents the shallow heart.  These are those who treat Christianity as their current fad.  They are not prepared to pay any serious cost in following Jesus.  They did not deeply and seriously consider the cost when they were shallowly receptive to God's truth.

(3) The heavenly meaning of the thorny soil (13:22)
"'The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.'"

The thorny soil represents those who respond to God's message, but afterwards, their love for the world's wealth and their fear of losing it begins to more and more dominate them.   This love for the world's wealth crowds out God's word in their lives—it leaves little room for the rule of God's kingdom in their lives.  Their lives revolve around worldly things rather than God's concerns.  "Demas" represents this thorny soil:  "for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. . . ." (2 Timothy 4:10a)  

Jesus warned us about being like this thorny soil in the Sermon on the Mount.  "'Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.'" (Matthew 6:19-21) "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:33-34)  See also Deut. 6:10-12; Matt. 6:19:21-23; Rev. 3:14-18

"It is characteristic of modern life that it becomes increasingly crowded and increasingly fast.  A man can become too busy to pray, he becomes so preoccupied with many things that he forgets to study the word of God . . . His business can take such a grip of him that he is too tired to think of anything else." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  If that was true of Barclay's world of 1976, it even more true in the twenty-first century.

(4) The heavenly meaning of the good soil (13:23)
"'But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.'"

The "good soil" represents those who hear God's word and act on it no matter what the cost.  It is God's truth, the truth, and their truth!  Jesus' kingdom is first in their lives.  What Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount is true of them.  They are "poor in spirit" (Matt. 5:3) and they are those who seek His kingdom first.  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)  Also, they are like the man who built his house on the rock.  "'Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.'" (Matthew 7:24)  They see their need and recognize that the only answer is to wholeheartedly seek after God and His kingdom.

"He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.'"  This could represent different categories of fruitfulness among whole-hearted Christians—such as the apparent different degrees of fruitfulness among even Jesus' disciples.  For example, Peter and John seem to have been more fruitful than the other disciples.

What is the overall message of the Parable of the Sower to us?  We are not to be discouraged with the first three soils.  There will always be people with hardened hearts, shallow hearts, and crowded hearts.  So, we should not focus on their lack of responsiveness to God's word.  But, there will also always be those with open hearts.  If we persist in the ministry of the word of God, our ministry will bear fruit.  And these people will multiply themselves up to as much as a hundred-fold.  This has been true for more than 2,000 years.

2. The Parable of the Weeds (the earthly story) (13:24-30)
"Jesus told them another parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?” “An enemy did this,” he replied. The servants asked him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?” “No,” he answered, “because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.”'"

Thought Question: What do you believe is the heavenly meaning of this earthly story?

 

 

"Jesus told them another parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared." 

Barclay quotes from Thompson to explain what Jesus is talking about here.  "Thompson in The Land of the Book tells how he saw the tares in the Wady Haman . . . when both [wheat and the tares—the weeds] are less developed, the closest scrutiny will often fail to detect them.  I cannot do it at all with any confidence.  Even the farmers, who in this country generally weed their fields, do not attempt to separate the one from the other.  They would not only mistake good grain for them, but very commonly the roots of the two are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate them without plucking up both.  Both, therefore, must be left to grow together until the time of harvest.' . . . The picture of a man deliberately sowing darnel [weeds] in someone's field is by no means only imagination.  That was actually sometimes done.  To this day in India one of the direst threats which a man can make to his enemy is 'I will sow bad seed in your field.'" "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

"his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away."  This "enemy" has nothing to gain from sowing "weeds."  His only goal is to harm his "enemy."

"'The owner’s servants came to him and said, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?” “An enemy did this,” he replied. The servants asked him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?” “No,” he answered, “because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.”'"

The farmer has little choice but to let the "weeds" grow right along with the "wheat."  It is only when the "weeds" and "wheat" are mature that the "weeds" and "wheat" can be recognized for what they are.  Also, even if they were recognizable earlier, pulling out the "weeds" would result in the "wheat" being pulled out as well, because their roots will have become intertwined with each other.  But, at "harvest" time, both the "wheat" and the "weeds" need to be pulled up anyway.  Then, they can be separated.

3. The Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Parable of the Yeast (13:31-33 ) (their mysterious growth)

a. The Parable of the Mustard Seed (13:31-32)
"He told them another parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, 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.'"

Thought Question: What do you believe the birds in this parable symbolize?

 

 

Again, Barclay quotes from The Land and the Book by Thompson. "'I have seen the plant on the rich plain of Akkar as tall as the horse and its rider.'  he says, 'with the help of my guide, I uprooted a veritable mustard tree which was more than twelve feet high.'" "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  So, from a tiny seed comes a tree that is big enough for "the birds of the air" to "come and perch in its branches."

Now, we come to the interpretation of the this parable.  In the Parable of the Sower, the seed is the word of God or "the message about the kingdom." (Matt. 3:19)  The "birds" in that parable represented the evil one.  So, is the "mustard seed" also the word of God and the "birds" also the evil one in the Parable of the Mustard Seed?  If the same meaning was intended for these two symbols in the two parables, the meaning of this parable is as follows: 
The gospel message, though it is a very small message among the multitude of messages and teachings in the world, will grow in an amazing fashion.  It will grow so large that the evil one will find a place in it.  We know now that the tiny start of the church in Israel has grown into a world-wide church that numbers in the millions.  We also know that the evil one has found a place in this church.

But do the "birds" represent the evil one?  Some hold that the amazing growth of the "mustard seed" describes the effect of satanic activity on the church, causing it to grow with unnatural growth.  The only basis for this interpretation is that the "birds" represent evil being at home in the church.

G. Campbell Morgan held this position.  Here is his explanation of this viewpoint.  "The Spirit of the Church which desires worldly power and worldly authority, is the very opposite of the spirit of lowliness and meekness and service.  The small and lowly seed has become a great tree, and into its branches the fowls of the air have come to lodge.  Greatness in external and material things is but a false greatness, and wherever the Church has risen to anything like worldly power it has become a refuge for the things that are unclean and polluting and life-destructive." "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company."

But, it appears to me that another interpretation of this parable is more likely.  In this interpretation the "birds" do not represent the evil one, but they are used by Jesus to show the size of the tree.  It is big enough for "birds" to sit on its branches.  A "mustard" plant that we are most familiar with has very flimsy branches that will not hold up a bird.  So, this interpretation of this Parable of the Mustard Seed is that the "mustard seed" represents the church starting out as very small, but growing into the worldwide church that it now is.

Some also can see this parable as teaching the post-millennial view that the church will grow until, in the end, the church will Christianize the world.  In other words, the church's growth will change the world until the world becomes so good, it will bring in Jesus' kingdom.  This, though, contradicts other Scripture that teach that the world will become more evil at the end. See Matt. 24:3-8; II Tim. 3:1-5; Rev. 14:14-16

Rather, it appears that Jesus' purpose was simply to predict that His kingdom would have amazing growth, similar to the amazing growth of a tiny "mustard seed" into a large tree.  I believe that he was seeking to encourage these first followers of His that the message of the kingdom that they were sharing would start very small, but would grow very large.  We know now that the message of Jesus' kingdom that they were sharing did start small, but has grown very large, just as Jesus predicted.  Even though the church has grown and impacted people in all the world, the world outside the church is still dominated by the evil one. See Eph. 2:1-3

b. The Parable of the Yeast (13:33)
"He told them still another parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.'"

Thought Question: Do you believe the yeast represents the growth of good or evil?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"He told them still another parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.'"  This parable can also be interpreted in two totally different ways, depending on what one sees the "yeast" as representing.  Normally, "yeast" is a symbol for evil.  On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened bread, families went on a search to remove all "yeast" from their homes.  This symbolized the removal of all evil from their homes. See Exod. 12:12-20  In other places in the Bible, "yeast" also symbolizes evil.  "'Be careful,' Jesus warned them. 'Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.'" (Mark 8:15)  "Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?" (1 Corinthians 5:6)  "You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 'A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.'"  (Galatians 5:7-9) See also Matt. 16:6; Lk. 12:1

If Jesus is using "yeast" as a symbol for evil, then he is describing how evil will spread through God's kingdom—and how evil will spread through His church.  This has taken place as churches have been infiltrated by such motivations as greed, the pursuit of power, moral corruption, and hypocrisy.  Jesus exposes the evil that corrupted some churches in Asia Minor in Revelation two and three.

The other interpretation of this parable is that the "kingdom of heaven" will spread throughout the world just like "yeast" spreads throughout a piece of "dough."  It is this last meaning that I believe is what Jesus intended.  It is what He said: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast . . . . "  Here are the reasons that I have come to that conclusion:  (1) The meaning of a symbol is not always the same.  For example, a lion is both a symbol of Satan (see I Pet. 5:8) and Christ (see Rev. 5:8).  (2) It appears that the "yeast" has a similar meaning as the "mustard seed."  Has not the church spread throughout the world, just as "yeast" spreads throughout "dough"

Jesus, then, was encouraging His disciples by telling them that though His "kingdom" was having a very small beginning, it would have, in the end, a world-wide influence.  We should also be encouraged by the impact God's message can still has on our world today.  Like "leaven" transforms dough, so the message of the "kingdom" transforms our society.

Arguments that the "leaven" symbolizes evil are the following:  (1) The other parables teach that the "kingdom" of God will be hampered by a different reception by different people (the Parable of the Soils); and that evil will infiltrate the church (the Parable of the Weeds).  (2) The church will not bring in the kingdom by transforming the world, until it is all Christian (the post-millennial view).

So, in the end, we are left with two possibilities:  (1) Jesus was encouraging the disciples by telling that that the "kingdom of heaven" would spread throughout the world; and (2) He was warning them about how evil would spread throughout His "kingdom."  Again, my conclusion is that He was encouraging them that His "kingdom" would start small, but it would nevertheless have a transforming effect on the world.  Taken together with other teachings in the Bible, though, He was not predicting that the "kingdom of heaven" would completely Christianize the world; but He is teaching that the Christian influence would be worldwide.

The interpretation that the 'leaven" refers to the good and transforming effect of God's "kingdom" also teaches us that the influence of God's "kingdom" is internal and invisible—like yeast's influence, rather than external and political.  We are salt and light in our world, to the degree to which our lives are changed by God.  Paul makes the same point in the book of Colossians: "the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:26-27) See also Matt. 5:13-16; I Tim. 3:15-16

c. Jesus speaking in parables fulfills a prophesy. (13:34-35)
"Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: 'I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.'"
Matthew explains, here, that Jesus speaking in "parables" "fulfilled what was spoken through" a "prophet."  Matthew quotes Psalm 78:2 by Asaph.  In II Chron. 29;31, Asaph is described as a "seer," which is a "prophet."  "King Hezekiah and his officials ordered the Levites to praise the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness and bowed their heads and worshiped." (2 Chronicles 29:30)

4. The Parable of the weeds (13:36-43) (the heavenly meaning)
"Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, 'Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.' He answered, 'The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.'"

Thought Question: How does this parable apply to us today?

 

 

"Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, 'Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.' He answered, 'The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels."

Notice that Jesus started this time of teaching by going "out of the house." (13:1)  And, now, He goes back "into the house." 

The disciples, as examples of those who genuinely seek after the truth, ask Jesus about the meaning of "parable of the weeds."  Jesus explains that the wheat are "the sons of the kingdom" sown by Jesus.  And the "weeds" are "the sons of the evil one" sown by "the devil."  Jesus was saying that there are genuine Christians and counterfeit Christians in the world.  At this point, you cannot tell them apart.  Just as Satan placed Judas in their midst and they did not recognize that he was a child of Satan, so there are Judases in the church today.

What should we do about it?  Jesus warned them and us not to launch a campaign to purify the church of all counterfeit Christians—for we are unable to tell who are genuine and who are counterfeit.  Also, if we try to root out the counterfeits, we will pull up the good with the bad. See 13:28-30

"As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.'"

It will not be until Jesus' "angels" remove the counterfeits Christians "at the end of the age," that the church will finally be purified.  The counterfeit Christians will be purified in the fires of hell.

What does this mean to us today?  Jesus is describing the world today.  There are many today who describe themselves as Christians.  Some teach what is clearly contrary to what is taught in the Bible, but others use Christian language.  How can we tell who are Christians and who are not?  Jesus' point is that this decision is not to made until "the end of the age."  Who is a fleshly Christian and who is fleshly because he or she is not a Christian?  Again, we need to leave that decision with Jesus Christ.  We can seek to encourage everyone who call themselves Christians to seek to move toward Christ and His ways.  If they do not respond, we leave the determination as to whether or not they are Christians up to God.

"They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."  This is the same description of the torment experienced by those in hell that is found in a number of places in the Bible. See Matt. 8:12; 13:50, 22:13, 24:51; 25:30; Lk. 13:28   "This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?" (2 Corinthians 13:5)

5. The Parable of the Treasure and the Pearl (13:44-46)
"'The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.'"

Thought Question: How do these two parables apply to people today?

 

 

"'The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.'"

In these two parables, Jesus describes two of the most exciting experiences a person could have in his day: discovering a great "treasure" and finding a flawless "pearl."  Today, it might be finding gold or finding oil.  If someone today found a large amount of gold or oil on a piece of land that was up for sale, he would eagerly sell his own land and home to purchase that land.  For, the gold and the oil would be worth much more than all that he owned.  Jesus' point: if we see the value of His "kingdom," pursuing His "kingdom" will replace the pursuit of everything else.  Jim Elliot, the missionary who died trying to reach the Auca Indians in South America said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."  He understood the principle taught in these two parables of Jesus.  Most in this world are pursuing what they believe will bring them happiness.  What will bring us happiness is experiencing the life of Jesus Christ.

The Bible is clear about this.  Jesus said " . . .  I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)  See also Matt. 5:6; Col. 1;27, 2:2-3; Phil. 3:7-11  Also, the book of Proverbs tells us that God's wisdom is worth more than gold or silver. See Prov. 3:13-18, 4:5-9, 8:17-21  If we understand that the value of being part of Jesus' "kingdom" is much greater than anything this world has to offer, we will pursue His rule in our lives above all else.

Another interpretation is that the church is the "treasure" and the "pearl"; and because Jesus valued us so much, He was willing to pay for us by giving His life for us.  But, the more obvious interpretation is more likely—that we see His "kingdom" as having such great value that we willingly give up all that we might be part of it.  His "kingdom" becomes the treasure that we seek first, above all else.  "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)

6. The Parable of the Dragnet (13:47-50)
"'Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"

Thought Question: What do you believe is the heavenly meaning of the earthly story?

 

 

"'Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"

Barclay explains the type of fishing that Jesus describes in these verses.  "The seine was a great square net with cords at each corner, and weighted so that, at rest, it hung, as it were upright in the water.  When the boat began to move, the net was drawn into the shape of a great cone and into the cone all kinds of fish were swept.  The net was then drawn to land, and the catch was separated. . . . . It is in the nature of the drag-net that it does not and cannot discriminate.  It is bound to draw in all kinds of things in its course through the water." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Barclay's conclusion is that the church, like this net, draws different types of people to become part of its people.  It is not for us to be their judge.  God will do that through His "angels" "at the end of the age."

From this parable of Jesus, we need to recognize that all churches probably contain a mixture of true Christians and those who are not Christians.  Who are the Christians and who are not Christians?  Only God knows for sure.

"This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"  "What does the expression 'weeping and gnashing of teeth' mean?  'Weeping' is a very strong word, indicating much more than tears . . . . The meaning of this particular word is 'wailing, not merely with tears, but with every outward expression of grief' [Bullinger]  The weeping of the wicked in hell will be triggered by all the factors which make hell so terrible—the environment, company, the remorse, the torment and agony, the shame and contempt and the never-ending sense of God's anger.  The tears of the wicked will be those of 'inconsolable, never-ending wretchedness, and utter, everlasting hopelessness.' [Hendriksen]." "Taken from Whatever Happened to Hell p. 156 by John Blanchard.  Copyright 1993 by Evangelical Press.  The Bullinger quote is from A Critical Lexicon and the Hendriksen quote is from his Matthew commentary."

7. The Parable of the Treasures (13:51-52)
"'Have you understood all these things?' Jesus asked. 'Yes,' they replied. He said to them, '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.'"

Thought Question: What do you believe is the heavenly meaning of the earthly story for us today?

 

 

"'Have you understood all these things?' Jesus asked. 'Yes,' they replied. He said to them, '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.'"  The disciples learn here their role in God's kingdom.  They were to seek to understand His teachings and then to teach others from the treasures that they learned.

They were to be "'the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.'"  The Christian teacher who truly understand God's ways as explained in the Old Testament and as explained in the New Testament has at his or her disposal a wealth of unspeakable worth.  Those who truly understand the teachings of the Bible and Jesus are like the owner and possessor of great riches.  Only those who are "poor in spirit" (Matt. 5:3), though, understand these riches. See Matt. 11:25  They are riches that we are to share with others.

THE KING'S LESSONS ON FAITH (13:53-14:36)

1. Profiles of unbelief (13:53-14:12)

a. A profile of unbelief: Jesus is rejected in His hometown  (13:53-58)
"When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. 'Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?' they asked. 'Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?' And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, 'Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.' And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith."

Thought Question: From Jesus' words, why is that "a prophet" is "without honor" "in his hometown"?

 

 

"When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. 'Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?' they asked. 'Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?' And they took offense at him."

Jesus is returning home for the second time during this period of His ministry.  On His first visit, as recorded in Lk. 4:14-31, the people drove Him out of town and attempted to kill Him.  So, we can understand it if He was not excited about this second reunion.  We see in these verses that the people would not believe that the man who was performing miracles right before them was any more than the son of the carpenter and "Mary."  They were offended that He would claim that He was any more than one of their townsmen.  If their hearts were genuinely open to what God wanted to reveal to them, they would have seen this "carpenter's son" perform miracles, speak with amazing wisdom, live a sinless life, and make the claims that He did, and they would have been eager and hopeful that He was the One He claimed to be.  They would have been very excited that the Messiah and the Son of God came from their hometown!  They should have been hanging on to His every word.  But, instead, they hardened themselves to all that they saw, and they totally rejected Him.  Why were they so unreceptive to Him?  They were rejecting Him because they preferred to continue in their self-centered world, rather than opening themselves up to God and His world. "It was unpardonable for Jesus not to be commonplace like them." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

This is what unbelief is: choosing to blind ourselves to what we do not want to believe.  Unbelief in God is choosing to blind ourselves to God because we do not want any knowledge about Him to interfere with our lives and our plans for our lives.  The people of Nazareth went on with their own self-oriented lifestyles from that day and afterwards, even though the Son of God had lived in the same town with them; and even though He had revealed to them that He was Divine.

How does this apply to us today?  Barclay has the following enlightening thoughts about how we can apply this to what happens each time a Christian teacher, pastor, or missionary speaks to an audience.  "There is a great lesson here.  In any church service the congregation preaches more than half the sermon.  The congregation brings an atmosphere with it.  That atmosphere is either a barrier through which the preacher's cannot penetrate; or else it is such an expectancy that even the poorest sermon becomes a living flame. . . . " "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

"But Jesus said to them, 'Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.' And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith."  Why "is a prophet without honor" "in his hometown"?  Why was Jesus "without honor" "in his hometown"?  I believe we can form hardened attitudes to those who are familiar to us; and it is very human for us to not be receptive to something different that what we already believe.  In a dynamic atmosphere where God is doing new things, it is hard for some to be receptive to these new things.  I became a Christian at the beginning of the Jesus movement in the late 1960s.  The church I attended—Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, California—was receptive to the new things that God was doing among the college students and other young people.  Other churches were not open to it.  For some, it was an exciting time to be a Christian, and for others, it was a threatening time.  Like the people of Nazareth that ridiculed Jesus, they ridiculed the uncouth youth who claimed to be Christians.  The people of Nazareth had a perception of Jesus as a son of the carpenter Joseph and no more.  He had not gone off to a university or to a school for scribes.  He had not been the student of some famous Rabbi.  To them, He was just the man Jesus who had been raised in their village like every other person who had been raised there, and He was no more than that.  They had little or no interest in changing their perception of Him.

"And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith."  I do not believe that their lack of faith made Him incapable of doing "miracles" there.  Rather, their unbelief meant that "miracles" would not change their perception of Him.  So, for this reason, He chose "not to do many miracles there." 

Also, certainly part of unbelief is that we want to feel superior to others for some reason—our skin color is superior to their skin color, etc.  Jesus was not just "the carpenter's son," He was the Son of God.  The people of Nazareth were not ready and willing to have Jesus be that superior to them.

"and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us?"  This and the parallel section in Mark are the only time Jesus' "sisters" are mentioned.  His "brothers" are also mentioned in John 7:3-10.  "James" and "Judas" (or Jude) wrote two books of the New Testament.  James is mentioned a number of times as a leader in the early church. See Acts12:17, 15:12-21, 21:18; I Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:19, 2:9, 12; James 1:1; Jude 1

b. A profile of hardened and murderous unbelief (14:1-12)
"At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, 'This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.' Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: 'It is not lawful for you to have her.' Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered him a prophet. On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, 'Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.' The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus."

Thought Question: What do we learn here about what might happen if one of us confronts someone about their sin? (Should we do it anyway?)

 

 

"At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, 'This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.'"  This "Herod" was ruler, under Rome, of Galilee and Perea.  His father was Herod the Great who tried to have Jesus killed after His birth, by seeking to kill all the babies in Bethlehem. See Matt. 2:16  This "Herod the tetrarch" had killed "John the Baptist."  He appears to have realized that "John" was blessed by God, and he was fearful of what God might do to him for murdering His prophet.  When he heard of the miracles of Jesus, he concluded that Jesus was "John the Baptist" "risen from the dead."  We will see later in these verses how "Herod" killed "John the Baptist."

We call people sociopaths who can do wrong without being bothered by their consciences.  But we see here that even "Herod" was bothered by his conscience.  He had killed a spokesman for God and he could not forget it.

Only the blood of Christ can cleanse our consciences so that we will be free from our consciences rightly condemning us.  Jesus took our guilt on Himself when He died on the cross.  "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:4-5)  "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Hebrews 9:14)  "let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:22)

"Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: 'It is not lawful for you to have her.' Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered him a prophet. On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, 'Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.' The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother." See Mk. 6:14-29; Lk. 9:7-9

The Gospel of Mark tells us that though "Herodias" had been "Herod's brother's wife, she married "Herod."  Then, Mark tells us, that "John the Baptist" told "Herod," "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." (Mk. 6:18)  Then, we are told in Mark that "Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him." (Mk. 6:19)

Herod's marriage to "Herodias" was wrong for at least three reasons:  (1) He seduced her away from his "brother."  (2) He left his former wife to marry "Herodias."  (3) She was his niece—the daughter of his brother Aristobolus. See Lev. 18:16, 20:2  In "Herod," "Herodias," and Salome the "daughter of Herodias," we see unbelief, self-indulgence, and weakness at their worst.

"John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus."  "John's disciples . . . risked their own lives to show up and bury John's body in one final act of love. (v. 12).  With nowhere else to go, these disciples then found Jesus, the One to whom John had borne witness (3:11-15)." "Taken from Matthew by Craig Keener.  Copyright 1997 by Intervarsity Press."
Now, what "John" had predicted had happened.  "He must become greater; I must become less." (John 3:30)

The cold-hearted and ruthless "Herodias" has been compared to Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab, who hated the prophet Elijah. See I Kings 19:1-3, 21:1-26

2. In Christ's schoolroom of faith (14:13-36)

a. Lesson time—the feeding of the 5,000 (14:13-21)
All four Gospels have this account of the feeding of the 5,000. See Mk. 6:30-44; Lk. 9:10-17; Jn. 6:1-14

(1) Jesus' attempt to go to a solitary place, but the crowds find Him
(14:13-14)
"When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick."

Thought Question: What will it take to enable us to respond to unpleasant and untimely interruptions in the way that Jesus did here?

 

 

"When Jesus heard what had happened [to John the Baptist], he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns."  It had been a very stressful time for Jesus.  He had been busy, by Himself, with the crowds of people and their needs during the time the disciples had gone out on their own. See 10:1-11:1  His disciples had been accused of breaking the Sabbath. See 12:1-14  He had been accused of being of the devil. see 12:22-36  He had been rejected in His hometown. See 13:53-58  "Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'" (Mark 6:31)

But, the people would not allow Him to have this time of rest.  We see how He handled this interruption of His plans to get some rest in 14:14: "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick." (Matthew 14:14)  When we feel that God has lost patience with us, we can remember how patient Jesus was with this crowd.

We see in 14:14, one of the many examples of Jesus not focusing on His own needs, but on the needs of others.  He was fully a man with our physical needs and physical limitations—He got tired, needed rest, got hungry and thirsty, and could listen to only one person at a time.  He was very weary of it all at this time, but He continued to focus on other's needs.  On the cross, at His weakest moment, He reached out to a thief and directed John the apostle to care for His mother. See Lk. 23:32-42; Jn. 19:25-27  We can all admit how often we fall short of this type of love.  It should comfort us, though; that the God we trust in has this type of love toward us.

"he had compassion on them"  When we see a "crowd," the tendency is to feel walled in and it is easy for us to focus in on how the people who are cramming in on us are obstructing us from reaching our immediate goals.  Road rage is one of the responses made by people when they feel crowded and are hindered in reaching their goals by a crowded road.  In short, it is human to resent "crowds.""Crowds" rarely think of us.  They are usually wrapped up in themselves and their needs and wants.  The "crowd" Jesus saw was no different.  Yet, when He looked on them, He did not see that they were preventing Him from getting some rest, but He saw their neediness and "he had compassion on them." 

Barclay gives us this explanation of how Jesus' pattern can be applied to us:  "We must never be too busy for people and we must never even seem to find them a trouble and a nuisance.  Premanand also says: 'My own experience has been that when I and any other missionary or Indian priest showed signs of restlessness or impatience towards any educated and thoughtful Christian or non-Christian visitors, and gave them to understand that we were hard-pressed for time, or that it was our lunch- or tea-time and that we could not wait, then at once such enquirers were lost and never retuned again.'  We must never deal with people with one eye on the clock and as if we were anxious to be rid of them as soon as decently can . . . . Jesus never found any man a nuisance, even when his whole being was crying out for rest and quiet." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

(2) The disciples show their lack of faith (14:15-17)
"As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, 'This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.' Jesus replied, 'They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.' 'We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,' they answered."

Thought Question: Think of a situation where you have looked only at your own resources and became discouraged, rather than looked at God's resources and were hopeful?

 

 

"As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, 'This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.'"  "The disciples" made a good and accurate partial appraisal of the situation—the people were hungry and there was no food there, so Jesus should send them home to get some food.  It was a partial appraisal because they forgot that the One they were speaking to had made all the food in the universe.

This is a very human way of looking at life.  We all typically assess our situation accurately based on what we see and are aware of, but we do not include God in our assessment.  Right now, one of our cars is having electrical problems.  I will need to take it to our mechanic.  The last time, we took our car in, we were charged a very large bill.  What will it cost this time?  That is my human assessment.  Next, I need to include God in my assessment.  He knows our need, and has promised to take care of us.  He has taken very good care of us down through the years.  We will trust that He will continue to take good care of us with regard to this car.  But, then, we tend to look at our checkbooks and our limited abilities, instead of looking at our all-powerful and loving God.  We look at our little rather that looking at His much.  The message here and throughout the Bible is that little is much in God's hands.  Can you relate to any of this?  Can we relate to what the disciples said about the people needing to go home and get some food?

"Jesus replied, 'They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.'  'We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,' they answered."  Again, they had made an accurate partial assessment of the situation.  The disciples were about to learn that to Jesus, "'no situation appears to Him desperate, no crisis unmanageable.' (Bruce)" "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  He quote Bruce.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

(3) Jesus feeds the 5,000 with five loaves and two fishes (14:18-21)
"'Bring them here to me,' he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children."

Thought Question: In what way is what Jesus did an encouragement to you in the situation you now find yourself in?

 

 

"'Bring them here to me,' he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied,"

He who created the universe, performed a creative miracle before their eyes. See Jn. 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-17  In John 6, we learn that after the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus says that He is "the bread of life." (Jn. 6:35)  The filling of their stomachs with bread symbolized the filling of their empty spirits with Jesus' life.  All who have believed in Him since the coming of the Holy Spirit, experience this spiritual filling of our greatest hunger.  "To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)

"and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children."  Jesus not only fed "five thousand men," but there were also "women and children" "besides."  So, it was a larger group than "five thousand."  There were at least another thousand, and probably more.  Also, after feeding this large crowd, there were "twelve basketfuls of broken pieces" "left over."  God's provision for us both physically and spiritually is much more than ample.  "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

b. Exam time: a storm comes! (14:22-36)

(1) The storm comes (14:22-24)
"Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it."

Thought Question: Describe a storm that you have faced recently or are facing right now.

 

 

"Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it."

While Jesus is on the shore enjoying a peaceful time with The Father, "the disciples" find themselves in one of the violent storms that come suddenly on the Sea of Galilee.  This storm is a picture of the storms that can come into our lives suddenly.  While we are in these storms, the all-powerful Son of God is peacefully watching over us and desiring that we put our trust in Him.  As I wrote earlier, we just took one of our cars to the mechanic for electrical problems.  We just got a phone call from the mechanic today, and we learned that all the wires under the car's dashboard are fried.  He will call back later to tell us the cost.  It is a small storm, but it is also different from a normal day where both cars are working well.

"made the disciples get into the boat . . . while he dismissed the crowd."  "made.  The Greek word used here is strong.  It means 'to compel' and suggests a crisis.  John records that after the miracle of loaves and fish the crowds 'intended to . . . make him [Jesus] king by force." "NIV Study Bible note."  Jesus needed "the disciples" to leave the area quickly, and He also needed to leave to prevent the crowds from crowning Him as their "king"; thus increasing the antagonism among the Jewish leaders prematurely.  So, Jesus went out "on a mountainside" and His "disciples" were out on the Sea of Galilee.

(2) Jesus walks on the stormy waters out to the disciples. (14:25-27)
"During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. 'It’s a ghost,' they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: 'Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.'"

Thought Question: Think of a time in your life when you were startled by something unexpected.  It may help you to better identify with how the disciples felt when they saw Jesus coming toward them, on that stormy night, walking on the water.

 

 

"During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. 'It’s a ghost,' they said, and cried out in fear."

"fourth watch"  The Romans divided the night into four watches.  The "fourth watch" was from 3:00 A.M. to 6:00 A.M.

In Mark, we are told in more detail how desperate it became for "the disciples" at this late hour.  "When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, 'Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.'" (Mark 6:47-50)

Jesus could have rescued His followers in many ways.  The way He chose to rescue them was to walk out on the water in the midst of this powerful storm, demonstrating to them His complete mastery of even the most troubling of circumstances.  Certainly, "the disciples" would never forget Jesus coming to them like "a ghost."  Also, they would never forget His words to them.

"But Jesus immediately said to them: 'Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.'"  How helpful these words were, coming at a time of complete panic by "the disciples."  Jesus also allows storms to come into our lives.  But, every storm is under His complete control.  In spite of this fact, there are times when we like "the disciples," go into panic mode.  There are many ways that Jesus affirms His complete control over our storms.  It can be through a book that we are reading, a song we hear, a message we hear, a passage of Scripture we read, an unexpected gift, the kind words of a friend, and in many other ways.  I remember years ago, at the end of a difficult year, I was asked to lead a New Year's Eve service.  As we and others shared God's provision for that year, I become deeply appreciative of how God had taken care of us that year.  Then, we sang the song, "Great is Thy Faithfulness."  I will never sing that song without remembering that night.

Paul had one of those times of encouragement during a particularly difficult time by "the coming of Titus."  "For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever." (II Corinthians 7:5-7)

(3) Peter's exam (Peter tries his hand at walking on water) (14:28-31)
"'Lord, if it’s you,' Peter replied, 'tell me to come to you on the water.' 'Come,' he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord, save me!' Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. 'You of little faith,' he said, 'why did you doubt?'"

Thought Question: Describe a time when you began by trusting God, but then looked at the waves and lost your faith in God?

 

 

"'Lord, if it’s you,' Peter replied, 'tell me to come to you on the water.' 'Come,' he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus."  "Peter" volunteers to walk to Jesus out on the water.  He both failed and passed this test.  "Peter" thought that if Jesus could walk on the water, they could too.  Jesus did not invite them to walk out to Him on the water; that was totally Peter's idea.  Jesus' miracles were not done to entertain men, they were lessons to teach them about His goal of spiritually transforming their lives.  They are also meant to teach us about His goal of spiritually transforming our lives.  "Peter" had never walked on water, and he wanted to do it.  Jesus graciously granted Peter's request.

"Peter" did demonstrate his faith in who Jesus is.  He believed that Jesus could enable Him to walk on water.  Each of us who are Christians have trusted Christ in the way that "Peter" did.  We have ventured out in trust, even though we lacked the resources to accomplish the task.  Years ago, I ventured off to seminary without the money to pay for it.  God provided through a friend who let me use his car to drive to work.  We split a forty hour job into two twenty hour jobs.  By the way, he nicknamed the car he lent me, "Grace."  By the end of seminary, I was married and had gotten a job where I could work full-time at a state boys' institution.  On this job, I could study during my graveyard shift.  Along with this job and my wife working as a stewardess, we earned enough to help other struggling students financially.

I would like to say that I was always peaceful during this time.  But, there was the time when I lost a large cashier's check that was to pay off a loan that I had taken. I found out that I would not be able to get a replacement check before the deadline for paying off the loan.  When I called the bank from which I had taken out the loan, I found out that I was speaking to one of the deacons at the church I attended.  He told me not to panic.  It was too late, I had already panicked. 

"But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord, save me!'"  Peter's first time at water walking was not a total success.  As "Peter" was out there on top of the waves and in the midst of "the wind," he began to think logically, based on his own abilities.  According to all he had learned in life and based on what his eyes could see, he should not be out there walking on the top of the water.  Immediately, he began "to sink." 

In the split second that followed, "Peter" again passed the test; he did not look to himself, but he "cried out" in a short and desperate prayer of faith: "Lord, save me!" 

"Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. 'You of little faith,' he said, 'why did you doubt?'"  I have noticed in the Psalms that what we put our focus on determines our moods.  When we focus on our troubles, whether they be cars that need to be repaired, people who despise us, or on our guilt, we become consumed by fear and guilt.  But, if we focus on God's power, forgiveness, and compassion, our mood is transformed to praise and thanksgiving.  Like, "Peter," there are times when we look on the "wind" and the waves and doubt God's power and love.  Jesus asks us at those times, "why did you doubt?" 

"Peter" sinking into the water removes any possibility that Jesus was not miraculously walking on top of the water.  It has been suggested that Jesus was not walking on the water, but only appeared to be walking on the water.  Instead, they say, he was walking on a sand shoal that was hidden from the disciples' sight.  But, how does that explain "Peter" first walking on the water, then sinking into the water.  He could not sink into a sand shoal.  The easier interpretation is that both Jesus and "Peter" were miraculously walking on top of the water in the middle of the sea.

(4) The storm immediately calms (14:32-33)
"And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God.'"   This is similar to what happened in an earlier storm.  "Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, 'Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!' He replied, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, 'What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!'" (Matthew 8:23-27)

Here, "the disciples" come to the correct conclusion: the One who had walked on the water is "the Son of God." see also Matt. 16:13-16  Notice, they "worshiped him."  Only God is to be "worshiped."  "'You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,'" (Exodus 20:3-5)  Yet, He did not refuse their worship of Him.  What is the reason He accepted their worship of Him?  It is because He is God.  It was, then, appropriate for them to worship Him.

(5) On the other side of the Sea, the needy came to Jesus and were healed (14:34-36)
"When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed."

" Gennesaret."  "Gennesaret.  Either the narrow plain about four miles long and less than two miles wide, on the west side of the Sea of Galilee near the north end (north of Magdala) or a town in the plain.  The plain was considered a garden spot of Palestine, fertile and well-watered." "NIV Study Bible note."  In John, we are told the people searching for Him first looked at Capernaum.  "Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus." (John 6:24)

"People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed."  In Matthew 9, we read of a woman who "touched the edge of his cloak" and was healed. (Matt. 9:20)  It appears that the word got out that people could be healed in this way```.  Jesus, in Capernaum, allowed this to happen, "and all who touched him were healed."

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. ®   NIV ®   Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

Studies in Matthew