Download This  Study For Free!


Please feel free to Download this study.


Matthew 15-22

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)

THE KING VERSUS THE RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS OF MEN (15:1-20)
Why do we do what we do in our churches?  Why do we have pulpits, pews,       11 A.M. services on Sunday mornings, and Sunday School?  Usually, there was a good reason at the start; but are our traditions the best way to accomplish God's purposes today?  This is not always the case.  In the midst of our human traditions, we can lose sight of what God's primary purposes are.  When this happens, our traditional practices can begin to replace a genuine and growing relationship with God and an uncluttered pursuit of His purposes.  This is what was happening in Jesus' time.  The goal that religion had come to serve was the exaltation of the religious leaders of Israel over the other people of Israel and the exaltation of the Israeli people over the people of other nations.  Can this happen today?  Can our churches end up being a way to exalt a man or people rather than a means to exalt God and fulfill His purpose?  Actually, exaltation of ourselves is a very common and human direction for us to go.  Exaltation of God, though, is the pursuit of those who humbly recognize their own fallenness—for there is nothing in us that deserves to be exalted.  In Matthew 15, we will see how Jesus dealt with human tradition's challenge to His kingdom—the human traditions that are leading us away from God and not toward Him.

1. Tradition challenges the King (15:1-2)
"Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 'Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!'"

Thought Question: Why do you believe that these Pharisees were wrong in their concerns about Jesus' disciples not washing their hands?

 

 

"Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 'Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!'"  We see tradition's challenge to Jesus in these verses.  Jesus is confronted by what might have been a specially appointed team that was sent from Jerusalem to challenge Jesus and His teaching.  Jesus and His disciples were not honoring one of their most valued traditions.  They were not washing their hands before they ate.  Undoubtedly, this "tradition" came from the teaching in Leviticus about what was and was not ceremonially clean, and the need to be ceremonially cleansed when one became unclean.  Certain unclean foods, contact with the dead, and other types of uncleanness are described in Leviticus. See Leviticus 11-15

This physical uncleanness was meant to symbolize our need to be cleansed from our sinful and unclean hearts—cleansed from sin.  Israel's religious leaders had missed the point of God's teaching and had come to emphasize the outward and ceremonial cleansing.  Also, they added to the teaching in Leviticus their own manmade rules that enabled them to be more meticulous in their requirements than God is in Leviticus.  They believed that one could become unclean without knowing it, so it was necessary to ceremonially "wash" one's "hands" in a specific way before every meal.

This scriptural account provides us with a good example of the difference between God's requirements and legalistic requirements.  Is it good to "wash" one's "hands" before every meal?  Yes, for we know now that it cuts down on disease that is caused by germs.  But, legalists are not interested in encouraging people to do what is healthy and wise; instead, they are interested in condemning and punishing those who do not meticulously obey all their rules.

"Edersheim in The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah outlines the most elaborate of these washings.  Water jars were kept ready to be used before a meal.  The minimum amount of water to be used was a quarter of a log, which is defined as enough to fill one and a half egg-shells.  The water was first poured on both hands, held with the fingers pointed upwards, and must run up the arm as far as the wrist.  It must drop off from wrist, for the water was now itself unclean, having touched the unclean hands, and if it ran down the fingers again, it would again render them unclean.  The process was repeated with the hands held in the opposite direction, with the fingers pointing down; and then finally each hand was cleansed by being rubbed with the fist of the other.  A really strict Jew would do all this, not only before a meal, but also between each of the courses." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

What happened to one Rabbi, as told by Ray Stedman, will help us to understand how important it was to them.  When this Rabbi was in imprisoned, he used his drinking water to ceremonially cleanse himself and nearly died of thirst.

Human religion focuses on outward ceremony and not on the inward heart attitudes.  Jesus came to offer a kingdom that takes place in our hearts.  Man's religion and God's kingdom will always have different goals—they will always be in conflict with each other.

2. The King meets the challenge (15:3-9)
"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.” But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,” he is not to “honor his father” with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”'"

Thought Question: When do you believe it is okay to ignore men's religious traditions and when is it wrong to ignore them?

 

 

"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.” But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,” he is not to “honor his father” with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.'"

Jesus' example here should teach us a very important principle.  Right should never be intimidated by wrong.  Jesus and His disciples are accused of breaking the religious traditions of the Jews, but Jesus accuses them of breaking God's commandments with their traditions.  He gives them an example of how their traditions were making it possible for men to ignore one of God's commandments.  They were using a religious practice developed by men to help them ignore the fifth of the Ten Commandments—"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)

The practice was called "Corban," which means "dedicated to God."  "But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is “Corban” (that is, a gift devoted to God)." (Mark 7:11)  Instead of honoring their fathers and mothers by supporting them in their old age, they would dedicate their properties to God.  Then, they would say that because it was dedicated to God, they could not use it help their aged parents.

"Whenever a man takes upon him to make additions to the Scriptures, he is likely to end with valuing his additions above Scripture itself." "Have we never read how some have exalted canon, rubrics, and ecclesiastical laws above the word of God, and punished disobedience to them with greater severity than open sins?" "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

"'You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”'"  Jesus called them "hypocrites" because they appeared outwardly to be worshipful toward God, but inwardly they were full of self-interest.  "Isaiah" had predicted that this is the direction that Israel would go—by "their lips" they would continue to appear to be religious, but their hearts would move farther and farther away from God.  Jesus quotes Isaiah's words in Isaiah 29:13, that predicted what Israel's religion would be like—they would have outward zeal, but inwardly they would not be seeking God and His ways.

It is possible for us today to also be "hypocrites" like "Isaiah" predicted—to "honor" God with our "lips" and not "honor" Him in our "hearts."  It is possible for us to attend our church meetings, sing our Christian songs, and listen regularly to messages from the Bible, and yet not be allowing God to rule in our "hearts."  If we do this week after week, it gets easier and easier for us to ignore God and still convince ourselves that we are people of faith.  The key question is, do our religious practices and traditions draw us near to God or are they routine rituals to us that become more stale as time goes on?

"What is the first thing we need in order to be Christians?  A new heart.  What is the sacrifice God asks us to bring to him?  A broken and contrite heart.  What is true circumcision?  The circumcision of the heart.  What is genuine obedience?  To obey from the heart.  What is saving faith? To believe from the heart.  Where ought Christ to dwell? To dwell in our hearts by faith. . . . Let us leave the passage with honest self-inquiry as to the state of our own hearts.  Let us settle it in our minds, that all formal worship of God, whether in public or private is utterly in vain, so long as our 'hearts are far from Him.'" "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

"Worship is only what is going on inside of you.  It is 'in spirit'—your spirit.  It is your attitude toward the greatness and glory of God, your response to his goodness and his truth.  It has nothing to do with what your body is doing at the moment, whether it is bowing, or closing your eyes, or saying certain words.  God is looking for those who will worship him in spirit and truth." "Taken from The Servant Who Rules by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

3. The King's principles on how to deal with traditions (15:10-20)

a. The guiding principle: uncleanness comes from inside and not from the outside (15:10-11)
"Jesus called the crowd to him and said, 'Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him “unclean,” but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him “unclean.”'"

Thought Question: How does what is inside of us make something unclean?

 

 

"Jesus called the crowd to him and said, 'Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him “unclean,” but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him “unclean.”'"  Religion focuses on what is on the outside of us; God focuses on what is on the inside of us.  "'Man,' as Aquinus had it, 'sees the deed, but God sees the intention.'" "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  Someone may give a lot of money to a worthy cause, Men see what he did, but God is concerned with why he did it.  If he did it for impure reasons, his giving is unclean.  If he did for pure reasons, it makes him clean.

b. the truth needs to be expressed, even if it is going to offend. (15:12-14)
"Then the disciples came to him and asked, 'Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?' He replied, 'Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.'"

Thought Question: When do you believe that it is okay to offend someone and when is not okay?

 

 

"Then the disciples came to him and asked, 'Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?' He replied, 'Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.'"  The disciples were concerned that Jesus had "offended" "the Pharisees" by what He had said.  Pharisaism was the only religion that Peter and the other disciples had known.  For Peter and the others, it was hard not to be in awe of these religious leaders and their teachings.  They were concerned that Jesus had gone too far when he had challenged the Pharisees' teachings on cleansing and inferred that they needed to clean out their own hearts.  Jesus tells them that these Pharisees' false religion is like weeds in a garden that need to be pulled out by the roots—to keep them from affecting what had been planted by God.  In other words, do not be concerned about offending that which God Himself is against.

Jesus here teaches that there are religious systems and religious leaders that are not planted by God, but have been planted by men and by Satan.  "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." (Matthew 13:38-39)

There are religious systems and religious leaders that are respected in our world, that God sees as pernicious weeds that are infecting the garden He has planted.  Webster's dictionary defines "pernicious" as "that which does great harm, by insidiously undermining or weakening."  As weeds do this type of harm to a garden, false religion does this type of harm in the church.  Ultimately, these weeds will be pulled up by God.

Our concern is that we are careful to be among those who have been "planted" by God.  How can we be sure we are among those "planted" by God?  In a parable, Jesus contrasted a repentant tax collector with an arrogant Pharisee.  "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.'" (Luke 18:9-14)  May we seek to be like the repentant tax collector and not like the arrogant Pharisee.

How can we be sure we are those who have been "planted" by God?  Jesus gives us this promise in John 6:37: "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away." (John 6:37)  I have also found James 4:6 to be very helpful: "But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'"  He always receives us when we humble ourselves before Him.

"Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.'"  In other words, do not continue to follow these religious leaders.  They are "blind" and are unable to lead you.  They, like a blind person, need someone to guide them.  When you see a blind person today, you don't ask him to guide you somewhere, but you may ask if you can guide him.  These religious leaders were, because of their blindness to God, unable to lead the disciples—except to lead them into a hole or into some other place they did not want to go. See Matt. 23:16; Rom. 2:19

4. The guiding principle explained (15:15-20)
"Peter said, 'Explain the parable to us.' 'Are you still so dull?' Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man “unclean.” For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man “unclean”; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him “unclean.”'"

Thought Question: What do Jesus' words tell us about what our focus should be on when we go to church and when we live the Christian life?

 

 

"Peter said, 'Explain the parable to us.' 'Are you still so dull?' Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man “unclean.”'"

"Peter" did not understand what Jesus had meant in verses 10-11.  Jesus rebukes him for missing something so basic.  Jesus explains that food or anything external does not make us unclean before God, for food goes into us and through us without polluting our heart.  But, an impure heart pollutes our words, our actions, and our world.

This is the uncleanness that God wants us to deal with.  True religions will always have a cleansing effect on our hearts.  Eating with dirty hands does not make our hearts dirty. 

"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man “unclean”; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him “unclean.”'"

God gave the Israelite people many instructions about what was clean physically.  He gave them a list of "unclean" foods and substances.  God intended that these "unclean" physical substances would teach us about the uncleanness of a moral sin before Him.  Here, Jesus gives a partial list of moral sins. See also Gal. 5:19-21  But the religious leaders emphasized the ceremonial and physical uncleanness and missed God's point about our need to be cleansed from our moral uncleanness before Him.  It is heart uncleanness that is obviously most important to God.  God taught this clearly in the Old Testament.  "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”" (Jeremiah 17:9-10)  "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips." (Proverbs 4:23-24) See also Ps. 139:23-24; Jer. 11:20, 20:12; Ezek. 38:10

MORE LESSONS ON FAITH (15:21-17:21)

1. A demonstration of great faith (15:21-28)
"Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, 'Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.' Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, 'Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.' He answered, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.' The woman came and knelt before him. 'Lord, help me!' she said. He replied, 'It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.' 'Yes, Lord,' she said, 'but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.' Then Jesus answered, 'Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.' And her daughter was healed from that very hour."

Thought Question #1: Why do you believe that Jesus led His followers out of Israel into Phoenicia (the north of Israel)?

 

 

Thought Question #2: Why do you believe Jesus treated this woman so coldly at first?

 

 

"Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, 'Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.' Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, 'Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.' He answered, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.' The woman came and knelt before him. 'Lord, help me!' she said."

Earlier in Matthew, we saw how people from Jesus' own hometown rejected Him.  Even though they had more than ample evidence to lead them to faith in Jesus as their Messiah, they chose not to believe in Him.  They had eyes and ears, but chose not to see nor hear what was obvious.  In these verses, we are introduced to a lady who had little exposure to Jesus Christ and the Bible, yet she believed in Him.  Also, we learn in Mark that she was a "Greek."  "The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter."  She was a Gentile.

My brother Lynn is a pastor in Southern California.  He is excited about and is leading a ministry in their church that reaches out to neighborhoods with practical help to needy people—such as painting an older man's home.  He says that they are looking for "people of peace."  Jesus sent the "seventy-two" out searching for "a man of peace."  "'When you enter a house, first say, “Peace to this house.” If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.'" (Luke 10:5-7)

Also, I just read the prayer letter of a family of missionaries to Indonesia.  They described an Indonesian lady, whose husband just left her, who was open to the gospel message.  They referred to her as "a person of peace."  As we reach out with the gospel, there will be those who will recognize that we are from God and they will discern that we have a message from Him to them—people like this "Canaanite woman."  Rahab the prostitute was a person of peace. See Josh. 2:1-24

"the region of Tyre and Sidon."  "Tyre and Sidon" are to the north of Israel—our Lebanon.  Jezebel, the wicked wife of King Ahab was from this region. See I Kings 16:29-33  God's judgment on this region is described in Isaiah 23.

Why did Jesus leave Israel at this time?  It appears that Jesus wanted to spend more time alone with His disciples so He could focus on them, free from the intrigue being stirred up by the Jewish religious leaders.  Shortly, He would be gone and they would be required to carry on His ministry without His physical presence with them.  This was a crucial time of training for them.  Withdrawing to the north of Israel gave Him more precious time to be alone with His disciples. See Matt. 16:5-17:3

"He replied, 'It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.' 'Yes, Lord,' she said, 'but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.' Then Jesus answered, 'Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.' And her daughter was healed from that very hour."

"To call a person a dog was a deadly and contemptuous insult.  The Jews spoke with arrogant insolence about 'Gentile dogs,' 'infidel dogs,' and later 'Christian dogs.'  In those days the dogs were the unclean scavengers of the street—lean, savage, often diseased." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Barclay also brings up that Jesus certainly did not speak to this woman as though she were a dog.  Rather, He states that she was thought of as a dog by the Jews. "We can be quite sure that the smile on Jesus' face and the compassion in his eyes robbed the words of all insult and bitterness." "Barclay"

Furthermore, the word Jesus used for "dogs" "is the diminutive word for dogs (kunaria) which is used, and the kunaria were not the street dogs, but the little household pets, very different from the pariah dogs who roamed the streets and probed the refuse heaps." "Barclay"

In other words, Jesus was not being harsh and arrogant with her, but He was gently posing to her the problem.  How could she, a Gentile, ask the Jewish Messiah for help?  She very humbly responded that she was willing to, like a little household pet, "eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.'" 

She was content to be a little dog, if she could still be part of God's kingdom.  Some are very offended when the writer of a hymn describes himself, herself, or us as a wretch or a worm.  These hymn writers did not have a poor self-mage—rather, they saw themselves accurately as being rotten to the core and desperately in need of God's mercy.

Jesus' responds by telling her that she has "great faith!"   As a result, "her daughter was healed from that very hour."  "Then he told her, 'For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.' She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone." (Mark 7:29-30)

What can we learn from this "Canaanite woman" about "faith"?  First of all, her "faith" was in the Jewish Messiah.  She called Him the "Son of David."  Her eyes were opened to see the truth.  She was willing to believe in Jesus, even though He was a Jew—and the Jews despised Gentiles, Greeks, and Canaanites.  Are we willing to follow the evidence where it leads us, even if it leads us to a Jewish Messiah?

Next, she "knelt before him."  She was willing to humble herself before this Jewish Messiah.  James 4:6 has been one of my favorite verses in the Bible for many years.  "But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'"  This woman's "great faith" came from great humility.  She was willing even to be a little dog who ate small crumbs from this Jewish Messiah.

Thirdly, she came to Jesus as her "Lord."  "A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, 'Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! . . . '" (Matthew 15:22a)  "'Yes, Lord, she said, . . . " (Matthew 15:27a)

Finally, she persevered in her faith.  She did not give up in seeking God's help.  Perseverance is a sign of "great faith."  "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8) See also Lk. 18:1-8

Men of "faith" persevere in asking God for help.  George Mueller was such a man of "faith."  "In his youth, Mueller began praying for the salvation of five friends.  He never stopped.  One accepted Christ as Savior within two years.  Two more confessed their sin and need for Christ's righteousness after ten years.  Mueller died with the remaining friends yet unsaved, despite fifty-two years of praying for them.  But a few months later, these two placed faith for eternity as well." "Taken from Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell.  Copyright 2005 by Baker Books."

May we also come to Jesus humbly, in submission to His Lordship over us, and seek Him for our needs and the needs of others with this woman's type of perseverance.  And may we know that Jesus is pleased with us when we do it, just as He was pleased with this woman's "great faith." 

Also, may our "faith" conquer the obstacles this woman faced.  Her "faith" conquered the silence of Jesus.  She asked for help and He said nothing.  "Jesus did not answer a word." (Matthew 15:23a)  When we are in need, how do we handle God's silence?  Do we get discouraged when there is no immediate response by God when we cry out to Him?

The next foe she conquered was the words of man.  The "disciples" were annoyed by her persistent pleading and wanted her to leave.  "So his disciples came to him and urged him, 'Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.'"  Do we get discouraged when we can see that others think our faith is not going to be rewarded?  And, finally, when Jesus did speak, it was not too helpful for her.  He seemed to be saying, "Sorry, you do not fit into my plans right now."

Do we become discouraged when God's word does not seem to have anything to say to us that is helpful to us right now?  She was not discouraged; she still pressed on.  It was as if she were saying, "Though you have given me no encouragement, I will still believe in you and I will still worship you."  Still, she says, "Lord help me."

Why was Jesus so rough on her?  Why didn't he heal her "daughter" immediately after the first request?  It is not an easy question to answer, but it seems likely that He was teaching her that He was not only the Savior of the Jews, but He is the Savior of all who come to Him like this "woman" came to Him.

What can we learn from Jesus not healing her "daughter" immediately?  When Jesus does not respond to our prayers immediately, it does not mean that He is indifferent or that he does not love us.  Just as He loved this "woman" and admired her "faith," so He loves us and desires that we also have her kind of "faith" in His love and His desire to respond to our prayers.

2. A demonstration of little faith: the feeding of the 4,000 (15:29-39)

a. Little faith is unable to conquer in spite of much knowledge and much encouragement. (15:29-33)
"Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 'I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.' His disciples answered, 'Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?'"

Thought Question: Why do you think that the disciples did not believe that He could feed the 4,000 when He had just fed the 5,000? (See Matt. 14:13-21)

 

 

"Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel."

Barclay makes the following observations about this period of time in Jesus' ministry.  "Jesus' period of retiral with His disciples was very much longer than we might think from a casual reading of the story.  When Jesus fed the five thousand (Matthew 14:15-21; Mark 6:31-44), it was spring time, for at no other time would grass be green in that hot land (Matthew 14:19; Mark 6:39).  After his discussion with the Scribes and Pharisees he withdrew to the districts of Tyre and Sidon (Mark 7:24; Matthew 15:210.  That in itself was no small journey.  For the next note of time and place we go to Mark 7:31 'Then he returned to from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of Decapolis.'  That was a strange way of traveling.  Sidon is north of Tyre; the Sea of Galilee is south of Tyre; and the Decapolis was a confederation of ten Greek cities on the east of the Sea of Galilee.  That is to say, Jesus went north in order to go south. . . . It is clear that Jesus deliberately lengthened out this journey to have as long as possible with his disciples before the last journey to Jerusalem." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Jesus healed many types of conditions—the "mute" spoke; the "lame" and "crippled" were healed; and the "blind" saw.  His miraculous abilities should have made it obvious that before them stood no ordinary man.  Here was a Man that could reverse the effects of the curse on man for our sin.  It was God's way of introducing us to the promised Messiah.  Isaiah predicted that there would be this type of healing.  "say to those with fearful hearts, 'Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.' 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 35:4-6)

"And they praised the God of Israel."  It appears that "they praised the God of Israel" because those that were healed were probably mostly Gentiles in this Gentile region.

"Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 'I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.' His disciples answered, 'Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?'"

We see that Jesus' "disciples" did not believe that He could perform a miracle that He had already performed before them in a very similar set of circumstances.  Previously, He had miraculously fed five thousand men plus women and children. See Matt. 14:13-21  See also Matt. 16:8-10

Also, they had just seen Him heal incurable diseases.  Again, instead of looking at what Jesus could do, they focused on what they could not do.  Instead of focusing on His limitless resources, they focused on their little resources.  Why did they have so little faith in Him?  Why do we at times have so little faith?  I have called it narrowItis.  It is when our focus becomes very small and narrow.  We see the overwhelming circumstances and the limits of our human abilities very clearly.  God's limitless love and power are out of focus in the hazy margins of our life.  So, we see the situation as hopeless.  As J. B. Phillips put what happens to us in the title of his book, Your God Is Too Small.  But, outside of our narrow focus is the God of compassion and limitless strength.  He is the same God that opened the Red Sea and raised Jesus from the grave.  He is the God who was about to feed four thousand men plus women and children.

b. Little faith, nevertheless, saw a great miracle. (15:34-39)
"'How many loaves do you have?' Jesus asked. 'Seven,' they replied, 'and a few small fish.' He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was four thousand, besides women and children. After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan."

Thought Question: Has God provided for you in the past, yet you have a difficult time believing that He will provide for you in the future?  Give an example of something you are having trouble trusting God for.

 

 

"'How many loaves do you have?' Jesus asked. 'Seven,' they replied, 'and a few small fish.' He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was four thousand, besides women and children."

Morgan points out that there is a different Greek word for "baskets" used here than the Greek word that was used in the account of the feeding of the five thousand; though both are translated as "baskets."  "The difference is that the first word translated basket refers to a receptacle that was peculiarly Hebrew, a small basket in which the traveling Hebrew carried his food.  The second word basket refers to a much larger receptacle, platted and woven, the basket carried by the Gentile merchant man on his journey." "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company."

"He told the crowd to sit down on the ground."  "No mention of  'grass' as in 14:19 for this time, midsummer, the grass would be parched and gone." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

So, Jesus performed the same miracle as the feeding of the five thousand men plus women and children; only this time he fed a mostly Gentile crowd of four thousand plus women and children.  The "twelve basketfuls" in the first miracle may have pointed to the "twelve" tribes of Israel.  The "seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over" in this miracle could point to a number of completion.  For example, a week is complete after the seventh day.  The "seven" could point to the gospel message reaching out beyond Israel to the whole world—the completion of Jesus' mission is to reach the world.  "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)

"After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan."  This city was the home of Mary Magdalene.  It was on the west side of the Sea of Galilee.  So, Jesus and the disciples return to the Jews for a short time.

3. Unbelief demands a sign (16:1-4)
"The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, 'When evening comes, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,” and in the morning, “Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.” You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.' Jesus then left them and went away."

Thought Question: Weren't His miracles meant to be signs?  See Heb. 2: 3-4  Why, then, does Jesus say that it is wicked to look for "a miraculous sign"?

 

 

"The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven."  The "Pharisees and Sadducees" were bitter enemies.  They believed the exact opposite of each other in many areas.  The "Pharisees" believed in the supernatural—they believed in angels and the resurrection; whereas, the "Sadducees" rejected the supernatural.  The "Pharisees" were legalists and traditionalists; the "Sadducees" despised their traditions.  Yet, these bitter foes had one thing in common, they both rejected Jesus Christ.  He had convinced neither of them that He was the Son of God.  They both decided that He needed to submit to their combined cross-examinations.  He must prove to them in their way that He was who He claimed to be.  They would like for Him to produce a particularly spectacular sign from heaven for them at the time that they demanded Him to do it.  "Jews demand miraculous signs . . . . " (1 Corinthians 1:22a) See also Matt. 12:38-39

They certainly were not seeking a "sign" because they wanted to believe in Him.  Instead, they were seeking to prove that He was not from God.  They were convinced that He could do nothing that would convince them that He was from God.

"a sign from heaven."  They may have been demanding some "sign" in the heavens like an eclipse of the sun.  Or, they may have simply wanted Him to perform a miracle when they demanded that He perform it.

" He replied, 'When evening comes, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,” and in the morning, “Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.” You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.' Jesus then left them and went away."

These astute and intelligent men were able to tell by examining the sky what type of weather was coming; so, they also had the ability to recognize that the man standing in front of them was the Son of God.  They had seen more than enough already to tell them who He was and who He is.  They did not believe in Him, because they did not want to believe in Him.  This type of unbelief always asks for more proof; and it will never be satisfied with the evidence.

Earlier, they saw miraculous signs, but they concluded that He had done the miracles by the power of Satan.  "But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, 'It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.'" (Matthew 12:24)

"A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign," See Deut. 32:5 where Moses calls Israel "a warped and crooked generation."  Jesus did not seek to reason with these religious leaders, for He recognized that it would be a waste of His time.  Because their hearts were not in allegiance with Him, they did not want to be convinced.  Like adulterers, their hearts were with another—they had another love.  Their hearts were in love with their own reputation and the power in society that it gave to them.  Therefore, they were "wicked"—they were using God and people to gain for themselves a high position in society.  Their religious positions had not been sought out because they loved God; instead, they had sought them out for the prestige that these positions gave to them.

"'but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.'" See also 12:38-42  Jesus' resurrection—after they killed Him and after three days in the grave—is the supreme "sign" to Israel that He was and is their promised Messiah.

"Jesus then left them and went away."  In Matthew ten, Jesus instructed His disciples, when they were not accepted by people in a certain region, to "shake the dust off" their "feet." (Matt.10:14)  Jesus was not accepted by these religious leaders, so He shook "the dust off" His "feet" and "left them."

4. Little faith's blindness to God's truth (16:5-12)
"When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 'Be careful,' Jesus said to them. 'Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.' They discussed this among themselves and said, 'It is because we didn’t bring any bread.' Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, 'You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.' Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

Thought Question: What do you believe is "the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees"?

 

 

"When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 'Be careful,' Jesus said to them. 'Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.' They discussed this among themselves and said, 'It is because we didn’t bring any bread.' Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, 'You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread?" 

The "disciples" were without "bread" again, and the focus was once more on their physical need and not on the spiritual realities that Jesus was concerned about.  As I heard a pastor say recently, they were concerned about "king stomach."  We should not be hard on them, for we all are just like them.  We also can be distracted from pursuing God's direction because we are worrying about some physical need or want.  Jesus, though, instructs us to put His kingdom first and He will take care of our worries about our physical needs.  "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)

"'You of little faith,'"  Jesus rebukes them for forgetting how He had miraculously provided "bread" for them on two occasions; yet, they were worried about "bread" again.

"How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread?"  Jesus was concerned about the effect on them of the unbelief and legalism of the "Pharisees and Sadducees."  They, on the other hand, were occupied with where their next meal was coming from.  Jesus and His "disciples" were on two totally different wave lengths; so, they totally missed His very important warning to them.  Jesus rebukes them for their lack of "faith" in believing that He could once again provide for them.  He had been providing for their food and would continue to do so, but they should be concerned with more important matters.  They responded to His rebuke and came to understand that He was talking about the false "teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 

"Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees."  What is the "teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees"?  It is still present in our world today.  "The Pharisees" were legalists.  They used religious achievement as a means for exalting themselves.  Can that happen to us today?  The answer, of course, is Yes.  True Christianity is completely a work of God's grace.  We do what we do because God empowers us to do it.  We get what we don't deserve—we depend on God's grace, rather than earning favor with God and men because of our religious zeal.  Paul had been on the legalistic path.  He describes the value of his religious zeal with one word: "rubbish." (Phil. 3:8) See also Matt. 23  We also need to be on "guard against the yeast of the Pharisees . . . . " 

What is "yeast of the . . . . Sadducees"?  The "Sadducees" were the liberal rationalists of their day.  They rejected the miraculous and anything that did not make sense to their human brains.  In other words, they walked by sight and not by faith.  Of course, there are liberals and rationalists in our day who only believe in what they can understand with their brains or see with their eyes.  Many, in history, did not give heed to Jesus' warning here, for liberalism has spread through the church like "yeast" spreads through bread dough.  In many churches, men and women do not believe in the virgin birth, the resurrection of Jesus, and the inerrant verbal inspiration of the Bible.  Just as Jesus left these "Sadducees," He has left churches that do not believe in Him as the resurrected Son of God.

5. Looking through the eyes of faith (16:13-28)
Every person who has supernaturally entered into Christ's church has somehow triumphed over all the intellectual efforts in society to explain God away.  We have believed in the God of the Bible rather than believing in one of the myriad of different religions and philosophies that offer explanations for the meaning of life.  We each have believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  In Matthew 16, we learn what enabled us to have this certain belief in Jesus as the Son of God.

a. Peter sees who Jesus is! (16:13-17)
"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say the Son of Man is?' They replied, 'Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' 'But what about you?' he asked. 'Who do you say I am?' Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'  Jesus replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.'"

Thought Question #1: Who do people say that Jesus is today?

 

 

Thought Question #2: According to these verses, how did you come to believe that Jesus is 'the Christ, the Son of the living God"?

 

 

"When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, 'Who do people say the Son of Man is?'"  Jesus again takes His "disciples" north where He is able to have some individual time with them.  Here, Jesus asked His disciples what type of impression He was making on the people.  "'Who do people say the Son of Man is?'" 

"Caesarea Philippi,"  "Caesarea Philippi was about twenty-five miles north-east of the Sea of Galilee.  It was outside the domain of Herod Antipas, who was the ruler of Galilee, and within the area of Philip the Tetrarch.  The populations was mainly non-Jewish, and there Jesus would have peace to teach the Twelve." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

"They replied, 'Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.'"  Jesus' disciples had mingled with the crowds and heard what they were saying; whereas, Jesus had not heard what they were saying.  Unless, of course, Jesus knew what they were saying through supernatural knowledge about what they were saying about Him.  Whether or not He always exercised omniscience is a matter of disagreement among the scholarly Christians.  I believe He sometimes had supernatural knowledge and at other times did not, according to God's will. See Matt. 24:36; Jn. 5:19, 30 

"Some" said that He was "John the Baptist."  Herod thought that Jesus was "John the Baptist" risen from the dead.  " "But when Herod heard this, he said, 'John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!'" (Mark 6:16) See also Matt. 14:1-12

"others say Elijah"  It is predicted in Malachi 4:5 that "Elijah" would be the forerunner of the Messiah.  "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes."

"and still others, Jeremiah"  "Jeremiah had a curious place in the expectations of the people of Israel.  It was believed, before the people went into exile, Jeremiah had taken the ark and the altar of incense out of the Temple, and hidden them away in a lonely cave on the Mt. Nebo; and that, before the coming of the Messiah, he would return and produce them, and the glory of God would come to the people again (2 Macabees 2:1-12)." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

"'But what about you?' he asked. 'Who do you say I am?' Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'  Jesus replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.'"  "Peter" was always the fastest out of the starting gate—the first to answer.  "Peter" saw Jesus to be the central figure in the Jewish world; the fulfillment of all their hopes and expectations; the Anointed One—the Messiah or "the Christ."  Messiah is Hebrew word meaning the Anointed One, Christos or Christ is the Greek name for Anointed One.  "Peter" believed that Jesus was that predicted Messiah; but not just a man, "Peter" believed that He was the "Son of the living God." See also Jn. 6:69

b. The disciples are told of their heavenly authority. (6:18-20)
"'And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.' Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ."

Thought Question: What do you believe is "the rock" upon which Jesus "will build" His "church"? (Peter? Peter's type of faith? What Peter put his faith in?)

 

 

"'And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.'"  "The Father" had just revealed to "Peter" who Jesus is, and now Jesus reveals that this revelation of who Jesus is will be the foundation of the "church."  Jesus also reveals that now that "Peter" knew who Jesus is, he would become the rock that Jesus predicted he would become.  "And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, 'You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas' (which, when translated, is Peter)." (John 1:42)

"'And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,"   "Peter" is the Greek word petros; and "rock" is the Greek word petra.  The Greek word petra translated here as "rock" is a word for a massive ledge of rock.  The Greek word translated "Peter" is petros and it is a word for a large stone.  So, Peter was a stone; whereas, the "rock" on which the church was to built was not a stone, but a stone ledge.  Clearly, the church was not to built upon "Peter," but on something greater than "Peter."

What is the "rock" upon which Jesus will "build" His "church"?  Constable makes this point:  "If Jesus had wanted identify Peter as the rock on which he would build the church, the clearest way to do this would have been to use the same word." "Dr. Constable's notes."  Jesus could simply have said, "You are Peter and on you I will build my church."  But, instead, it was the Peter who had just come to believe, through a revelation of the "Father," that was the "rock."

It is the God-given faith that Jesus is the "Christ, the Son of the living God" that brings everyone into the "church."  What happened to "Peter" has happened to thousands and even millions.  This God-given faith in Jesus is the "rock" ledge upon which the "church" is built.

The Roman Catholic Church believes that "Peter" himself is the "rock" upon which the church is built.  They see Jesus, here, commissioning "Peter" as the first Pope.  Again, Jesus did not say, "Peter," you are the "rock"; for "Peter" himself was not a "rock."  We will see in the coming verses and also in the chapters ahead, that Peter remained unstable.  It is God's revelation that Jesus is the "Christ, the Son of the living God" that is the "rock"!

"I will build my church"  This is the first use of the word "church" in the New Testament.  It is the Greek word, ekklesian or "called out ones."  Jesus was saying, "I am going to call out a special people from the world who will believe in me just as you have just believed in me."  "Peter" and the other apostles—and their faith—were the foundation for this "church."  "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord." (Ephesians 2:19-21) See also I Pet. 2:4-8

"and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."  "Hades" is "the Greek name for the place of departed spirits." "NIV Study Bible note."  "The word Hades is used only ten times in the NT (eleven times if one includes I Cor. 15:55 . . .) . . .  Hades is the place to which the rich man went when he was buried, in contrast to 'Abraham's bosom,' to which poor Lazarus was transported by angels when he died (Luke 16:23)  This passage (a parable by Jesus) gives far more information about Hades than any other in the NT, but to what extent the language describing Hades in this passage is parabolic and to what extent it is to be taken literally is a question on which commentators are not agreed.  Hades is described here as 'a place of torment' in which the wicked dwell in flames, a condition which produces 'anguish' and specifically a desire to have one's tongue cooled by water." "Zondervan Pictoral Encyclopedia of the Bible."  "Hades" is said to be emptied at the final judgment.  "The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death." (Revelation 20:13-14)

What is mean by "the gates of Hades will not overcome it"?  I believe that Morgan's answer to this question is the correct one.  "Careless reading would give us to think that Jesus meant, I build My Church, and though all Hades come up against it, it cannot overcome it.  The figure the Lord uses does not admit that interpretation.  An attacking force never carries its city gates up when it goes to fight.  It is not a figure of the defensive strength of the Church.  Neither does it mean that the Church shall be able to capture Hades.  The Church does not desire to possess Hades." "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company."

Jesus is saying that the world is walled in by the death that has come from man's sin.  "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned." (Romans 5:12)  Here "Hades" symbolizes that eternal state of death.  The "church," due to belief in Jesus, will escape this eternal death and burst forth, crashing death's "gates," and bursting forth into life!  "For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." (Romans 5:17-19)

"The gates of Hades" will not prevent believers in Jesus Christ from passing through these "gates" and into life.  Also, "the gates of Hades" around the lost will not prevent the "church" from reaching the lost with the gospel message.  "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (Romans 1:16)  "The gates of Hades will not overcome it" symbolizes the "church" bursting from "Hades"—from death's reign on men. See Eph. 2:1-10  It is Jesus' conquest of "Hades" that leads to His "church" conquering "Hades."

"The gates of Hades, will not prevail against her [the church] by keeping Him [Jesus] imprisoned . . . Christ's church will prevail and survive because He will burst the gates of Hades and come forth conqueror." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades." (Revelation 1:18)

"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.'"  The "keys of the kingdom of heaven" is the authority given to the "church" to tell people what will bring them into God's "kingdom" and what will prevent them from coming in.  "Later after the Resurrection Christ will use this same language to all the disciples (John 20:23). "Robertson."  "If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." (John 20:23)

"'whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.'"  "Bind" equals to what God requires, and "loosed" equals to what God does not require.  So, "Peter," the others (See Jn. 20:23), and ultimately the "church" (See 18:18) is given authority to say what God requires and what God does not require.  Our authority is based on `what the apostles and their followers taught and left for us in the New Testament.  For example, we are taught that God no longer requires that we be absolutely holy in our actions to enter into Jesus' kingdom—for, then, no one could be good enough to be part of God's kingdom.  Here are some verses that tell us that none of us can meet God's requirements of absolute holiness:  "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23)  "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)  "know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 2:16)  Here are some verses that tell us that we can enter God's kingdom by faith in Jesus' death for us:  "Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man. So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God." (Romans 7:1-4)  "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)  "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." (John 5:24)

A precious possession of some church members is the "keys" to the church building.  That church member can lock the church door and he or she can unlock the church door.  We learn here that God gave to "Peter" the "keys" that will open the way to become part of Jesus' "kingdom."  Every time we share the gospel, we exercise that authority.  We tell people that they cannot enter God's "kingdom" by their works, but they can enter God's "kingdom" by believing in Jesus' death for them. See Isa. 22:22; Rev. 1:18, 3:7

"Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ."  It seems like Jesus would have wanted people to know that He was the promised Messiah.  Why, then, did he warn "disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ"?  The reason He did not want them to start proclaiming He is the Messiah is that it was not yet time to provoke the reaction to Him that would ultimately lead to His crucifixion.  In God's time, "Peter" would proclaim it and three thousand would be enlightened by God as "Peter" had been enlightened by God; and they would turn to God as "Peter" had turned to God. See Acts 2:36-41, 10:34-44; Lk. 9:20-22

c. Yet, even Peter is blinded by Satan to Jesus' sacrificial mission (16:21-23)
"From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 'Never, Lord!' he said. 'This shall never happen to you!' Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.'"

Thought Question: How could Peter go so quickly from being enlightened by God to being a spokesman for Satan? (Could this happen to us?)

 

 

"From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 'Never, Lord!' he said. 'This shall never happen to you!'" 

"Peter" had hopes that things were going to turn around for Jesus and them.  They would go to Jerusalem, Jesus would be recognized as the Messiah by the religious leaders, and Jesus would be enthroned as their King.  Instead, Jesus predicts He would go to Jerusalem and be tortured and "killed" by these same religious leaders.  He did add one thing, though, He would be "raised to life" "on the third day."  They appear to have missed that part or they did not believe it; for after He died, they did not expect Him to rise from the dead.

The "disciples" needed to face the reality of what was ahead for Jesus and for them.  The time was near.  The bitterness of the leaders was growing, and it would not be long before their hatred would grow into a murderous rage.  Jesus had predicted His death and resurrection before, but at that time He used symbolic language.  "Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.'" (John 2:19)  "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." (Matthew 12:40)  But, even after Jesus states clearly here that He would die and rise from the dead, "Peter" and "the disciples" were not yet ready to give up their hopes and dreams so easily.

"must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things . . . ."  "When Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem, saying, I must go, and I must suffer, and I must be killed, and I must be raised up again, the force propelling Him was not merely the force of human devotion to an ideal, it was the force of His own ageless life; the Divine and eternal counsels of God were operating in Him and through Him, and driving Him along that pathway." "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company."

"Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 'Never, Lord!' he said. 'This shall never happen to you!'"  "Peter" took Jesus the great Lord of the universe "aside" to explain to Him that what He had said did not fit into his plans for Him.  Peter's words contradict themselves.  "Never, Lord!"  It is obviously completely inappropriate for Peter to tell Jesus that He was entirely incorrect and that what He had just said would happen would not happen; and then call Him "Lord." 

We should not be too hard on "Peter."  Don't we often try to fit God into our plans and get upset when He does not go along with us?

"Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.'"  Jesus' famous response to "Peter" is "Get behind me, Satan!"  Jesus, just a few minutes before, had said that the "Father" had revealed to "Peter" the truth about His identity.  And He had said that this revelation from God would be the "rock" upon which the "church" would be based.  Now, Jesus says that "Satan" is using him to be a "stumbling block" in Christ's path.  Moments before "Peter" was seeing with God's eyes; now, he is seeing only with human eyes that are guided by "Satan."  "Peter" was telling Jesus to save Himself.  Jesus had heard this before, when he was tempted in the wilderness.  "Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 'If you are the Son of God,' he said, 'throw yourself down. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Jesus answered him, 'It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”'" (Matthew 4:5-7)

"''Get behind me, Satan!'"  The name "Satan" means "adversary."  "Peter" had become Jesus' adversary.  He was, along with "Satan," opposed to what God had purposed for Jesus.  "Peter" was opposed to the central plan of God with regard to man.  Mankind needs a Redeemer.  All the blood sacrifices in the Old Testament pointed to the blood sacrifice Jesus was about to make to pay for our sins.  "Peter" was opposed to this ever happening.  He could not have been more wrong.

"'you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.'"  Years ago, while I was working at a Boys' home, a fellow counselor said, "Teenagers cannot see past lunch."  It is not just teenagers that are short-sighted.  "Peter," like all of us, tended to be short-sighted.  His focus narrowly included his own life and the circumstances of the moment.  God's focus includes all of time and all of the universe.  Peter's plans included what affected him and what made sense to him.  God's plan include all people of all time, man's sins, and our eternal state.  Peter was focused on his hopes and plans for himself; Jesus was focused on God's plans for man eternally.  The only solution for our sins was that the Son of God must die for us.  "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2) See also Rom. 8:18-25

d. Jesus reveals to them that their life is to be like His life   (16:24-28)

(1) The cost (16:24)
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." See also Matt. 10:38-39; Mk. 8:34-38 and Luke 9:23-26, 14:25-27, 17:33; Jn 12:25  Jesus tells us here that if we follow Him, it is necessary that we be willing to do three things:  (1) We must be willing to "deny" ourselves.  This does not mean that we are to "deny" things to ourselves; it goes much deeper than that.  We are to "deny" ownership of ourselves.  If we follow Christ, we can no longer say what has been put to music during my lifetime: "I did it my way" and "It's my life, and will do what I want." 

Mankind took over ownership of our lives when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, and we have been demanding our own way ever since.  Denying ourselves means returning ownership back to God.  If we understand this, the Lordship of Christ will take on new meaning.

Does the Bible really teach this?  "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;" (1 Corinthians 6:19)  "And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." (2 Corinthians 5:15)  "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)  "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." (Romans 12:1)

Ray Stedman has this to say about the meaning of denying ourselves "We are to deny that we own ourselves.  We do not have the final right to decide what we are going to do or where we are going to go.  When it is stated in these terms, people sense immediately that Jesus is saying something very fundamental.  It strikes right at the heart of our very existence because the one thing that we, as human beings, value and covet and protect above anything else is the right to make ultimate decisions for ourselves.  We refuse to be under anything or anybody but reserve the right to make the final decisions in our lives.  This is what Jesus is talking about.  He is not talking about giving up this or that, but about giving up ourselves." "Taken from The Servant Who Rules by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

2) We are to "take up" our "cross."  This means we are to be willing to pay whatever cost is necessary to follow Christ.  We need to be willing to pass through disappointments, shame, dishonor, humbling defeats, losses, and offenses, and still respond in obedience to the Father as Christ did.  For Christ, it meant the ultimate in shame and suffering; it meant the "cross."   

3) Finally, it means we must "follow" or obey Christ.  Just as Jesus Christ obeyed the Father every moment of His life, we must seek to obey Jesus Christ every moment of our life.  Just as Jesus chose the Father's will at Gethsemane, we are to choose Jesus' will over our will.  Our way is the easiest, least difficult, and least painful way; obeying Jesus' will is doing whatever He wants us to do no matter how hard a  path it leads us on.  Our path leads us to selfishness, unforgiveness, prideful, and other such impurities; God's path includes selfless service, patience, forgiveness, humility, and other such pure pursuits.

The way of the "cross" is the very opposite of what the world pursues.  "Jesus put it precisely when he said, 'That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God [Lk. 16:15].  What is highly esteemed among men?  Prestige and status, success, wealth and money, influence and fame and power.  They, Jesus says, are abomination in the sight of God.  His standard of values is entirely different." "Stedman"  See Phil 3:3-11

Please pardon me for quoting so much from Ray Stedman.  He was my first pastor, and I believe that he had a good handle on this subject.  "This does not mean only big things in our life; it is the little things as well.  Do you feel hurt when someone forgets your name?  Do you get upset when a cashier will not cash your check?  Does criticism hurt, even when you know it is justified?  Are you rankled when you lose at tennis or golf?  All these are minor forms of the cross at work in our lives.  The Lord's word is that if we are going to be a disciple, we are not to be offended by these things, we are not to get upset about them; we are to welcome them."  "Stedman."

Why did Jesus describe the cost of following Him at this time?  The disciples thought that following Him had no down side.  To them, it was onward and upward to power, prestige, wealth, conquest, and victory.  They did not realize that they were heading toward a cross—a cross that they would also experience.  Tradition tells us that nearly all of these closest "disciples" of Jesus died a martyr's death.  It was not onward and upward.  It was, instead, a life of often unappreciated service that lay ahead of them.  Like Jesus, they would be hated and misunderstood by most.  Following Christ does lead to glorious and Divine rewards, but that has not been experienced by Jesus' servants on this side of the grave.

Thought Question: Please put in your own words what denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus means to you.

 

 

 

(2) The reward (16:25-28)
"'For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.'"

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

 

 

"'For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.'"  If we make the pursuit of riches, honor, and the pleasures of this world our supreme pursuit, Jesus says, we will not find life, but we will actually lose it.  Howard Hughes, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and many others have had all the riches and pleasures they wanted, but they also found emptiness and death to a degree that few have experienced it.  But Jesus said that if you give up the pursuits of the world, you will find life.  Those who have given up all to fulfill His purposes have a deepness and richness that most do not think is possible in this life.

"What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?"  Jesus asks us, "If we have the whole world, but our soul is dead, then what do we have?"  As someone has said, "some climb the ladder of success only to find that it is leaning against the wrong wall."  Many have pursued happiness in the world's way, reached their goals, and were still empty.  The greatest satisfaction, happiness, and fulfillment comes from obedience to Christ in His kingdom.  "and he began to teach them, saying: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:2-12)

"For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done."  Not only will we be rewarded in this life as we experience Christ's life in us, but we will also be rewarded in our life after death.  For, just as the Father rewarded Jesus for His faithful obedience to Him during His life on this earth, so we will be rewarded by Jesus Christ for our obedience to Him.  The famous missionary Jim Eliot said, "He is no fool who gives up what He cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."  He gave up his life in service to the Auca Indians of South America, and he gained what he cannot lose.

"'I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.'"  Robertson gives us five possibilities of what Jesus is predicting here:  "the Transfiguration, the Resurrection of Jesus, the great Day of Pentecost, the Destruction of Jerusalem, the Second Coming and Judgment." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

I believe that Jesus was speaking of the Transfiguration that would come "after six days." (17:1)  "Peter, James and John" (17:1) saw what Jesus' Second Coming would be like at the Transfiguration.  We come to that event in the next chapter of Matthew.

"It is clear . . . that the reason the transfiguration happened was to encourage the disciples.  He had just announced the way of the cross and his coming death in Jerusalem.  So he gives them this incident to strengthen their faith, to encourage them that it is not going to end in darkness and disaster; rather, it would end in triumph and victory and glory.  And it is intended to encourage us when we, too, must take up our cross.  We can be assured it is not going to end in disaster but in glory." "Taken from The Servant Who Rules by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

6. The disciples are given a glimpse of Christ's glory that the world will see when He comes "in his Father's glory." (17:1-13)
Most of us have heard of the term "a mountain-top experience."  Peter, James, and John had a "mountain-top experience" that surpasses all of ours.  Jesus had been leading His disciples to the north—away from the crowds of Galilee and into a Gentile area.  "After six days," they came to "a high mountain" in this area.  Mount Herman is the highest "mountain" in that region.
a. Jesus' glorification (17:1-3)
"After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus."

Thought Question #1: Why do you believe that Jesus chose just three of them to experience His Transfiguration?

 

 

Thought Question #2: Why do you believe God chose just "Moses and Elijah" from Old Testament times to be there?

 

 

"After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light."

What will it be like in heaven?  We get a taste of it described for us here.  Jesus was transfigured into what He will be like when we see Him in heaven.  He stood before them in glistening purity and shining glory. See II Pet. 1:16-18; Jn. 1:14

"Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus."  "Moses"—the man who received God's Law and who was used by God to begin the nation of Israel—and Elijah—the first of Israel's prophets—both had their "mountain-top experiences." See Exod. 19:20-23, 24:12 and I Kings 19:8-18  The two of them, then, represent the whole Old Testament period.

"Moses and Elijah" We have in these verses, an unanswerable proof of the resurrection of the body, and the life after death. . . . They were seen in bodily form." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

What a privilege for "Moses and Elijah" to be present with Jesus at this central time in history—it was just before Jesus took His last journey to Jerusalem, where He would die not only for New Testament people but for Old Testament people as well.  What comfort they must have been to Jesus.  Now, He is able to talk with those who understood why He must die.  "Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem." (Luke 9:30-31)  Luke 9:32 tells us that the three disciples were weary and had dozed off.  They awoke to see the transfigured Jesus talking to "Moses and Elijah." "Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him." (Luke 9:32)

Why "Moses and Elijah"?  Ray Stedman's words are helpful in answering this question.  "But why Moses and Elijah?  Many have puzzled over that.  Why not one of the other prophets—Isaiah or Jeremiah; why not David or some of the other great leaders of the Old Testament—Abraham, perhaps or Noah?  But it was particularly Moses and Elijah who appeared with Jesus on the mountain.  I think the commentators are right when in general they say that it is because these two were preeminently the representative of the Law and the Prophets, those two great divisions of the Old Testament which pointed forward to the coming of the Messiah—Moses, the great law-giver; Elijah, the first, and in some ways the greatest, of the prophets." "Taken from The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

"a high mountain"  Mount "Hermon was fourteen miles from Caesarea Philippi.  Hermon is 9,400 feet high; 11,000 feet above the Jordan valley, so high that it can actually be seen from the Dead Sea, and at the other end of Palestine, more than one hundred miles away.  It cannot have happened on the very summit of the mountain that this happened.  The mountain is too high for that."  "There is a tradition which connects the transfiguration with Mount Tabor, but that is unlikely.  The top of Mount Tabor was an armed fortress and a great castle; it seems almost impossible that the Transfiguration could have happened on a mountain which was a fortress." "Both quotes Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

"transfigured" translates the Greek word metemorphothe.  It is a form of the same word used in Romans 12:2 that is translated "transformed."  It also a form of the same Greek word translated "transformed" in II Corinthians 3:18.  "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 12:2)  "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."          (II Corinthians 3:18)

b. Peter brings them back to earth (17:4)
"Peter said to Jesus, 'Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.'"

"Peter" was totally out of his element—he was a human in the midst of the supernatural.  He did not know what to do.  He should have done nothing, but "Peter" always did something.  Someone has said, some have something to say and some have to say something.  "Peter," on that mountain, was the latter.  We talk about not getting in the way of what God is doing.  That is exactly what "Peter" did.  He tried to bring heaven down to earth, rather than allowing himself to be drawn up into this heavenly experience.  He invited "Moses and Elijah" to camp out on the mountain.  And they did not need to worry about the arrangements, for he would take care of that.  "Peter" was trying to get the glorified Jesus, "Moses," and "Elijah" to join him in his earthly way of life rather than seeking to be drawn into the heavenly reality that he had been blessed to see.

Mark adds: "He did not know what to say, they were so frightened." (Mark 9:6) See also Lk. 9:33  Luke tells also that "Moses and Elijah" were in glorified bodies.  "Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor . . . ."                (Luke 9:30-31)

"If you wish, I will put up three shelters"  "Peter" also may have thought that the millennial kingdom was about to begin.  The Feast of Tabernacles was near, that symbolized both the wilderness wanderings and the future millennial rule of the Messiah.  "'So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the Lord for seven days; the first day is a day of rest, and the eighth day also is a day of rest. On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the Lord for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. Live in booths for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.'" (Leviticus 23:39-43)

The Feast of Tabernacles, where the people lived in temporary shelters as they did in the wilderness wandering, also pictured what would take place in the millennial kingdom.  "Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles." (Zechariah 14:16)  "Peter" may have thought that this time had begun.

c. The Father intervenes (17:5)
"While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!'"  Many of us have had the experience of discovering in a shocking way that we are talking out of place.  We start talking and realize abruptly that it is not the time for us to talk.  "Peter" certainly had this realization as the Father talked to them out of that cloud on that mountain.  It was not the time to talk, but the time to "listen!" 

"'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'"  This is one of the three times that the Father identifies Jesus as His "Son" and affirms His work on earth.  The Father spoke at Jesus' baptism.  "And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" (Matthew 3:17)  The third time is found in John 12:  "'Father, glorify your name!' Then a voice came from heaven, 'I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.'" (John 12:28)  The Father was describing how Jesus would be glorified at the cross.

"'This is my Son . . . . Listen to him!'"  The Father clearly sets Jesus apart as superior to "Moses and Elijah."  Only Jesus is the "Son" of God the Father.  The Father honors Him above all others.  "Moses and Elijah" needed a Savior; Jesus, God's "Son," is the Savior.

"a bright cloud enveloped them,"  This is one of a number of times that God spoke from a "cloud." See Exod. 13:21-22, 14:19, 16:10, 16-19, 24:15-18, 40:34-38, I Kings 8:10-11; II Chron. 5;13-14; Ps. 1-4;3; Rev. 14:14-16

d. Back to earth (17:6-8)

(1) Jesus returns to them (17:6-8)
"When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. 'Get up,' he said. 'Don’t be afraid.' When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus."

Thought Question: What do you believe it will be like when we see the glorified Jesus? (Will we do what "the disciples did"?)

 

 

The Father's voice was more shocking than seeing Jesus, "Moses, and "Elijah" in their glorified state.  When they heard Him speaking, " they fell facedown to the ground, terrified."  The "disciples" were not ready for heaven yet.  It was much too much for them.  Today, they can handle it, for they are in heaven.  It is we who are not ready for it.

"But Jesus came and touched them. 'Get up,' he said. 'Don’t be afraid.'"  Jesus gently brings them out of their terror with a kind touch and some helpful words. See 8:3, 15, 9:29  Can you remember a time when someone was helpful to you in this way?

"When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus."  Suddenly, all the glory had vanished and it was back to normal.  Again, Jesus looked like any other man.

(2) They came down from the mountain (17:9-13)
"As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, 'Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.' The disciples asked him, 'Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?' Jesus replied, 'To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.' Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist."

Thought Question: Why did Elijah's appearance on this mountain not begin the earthly rule of Jesus Christ as predicted in Mal. 4:5-6?

 

 

"As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, 'Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.' The disciples asked him, 'Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?'"

The "disciples" thought that the presence of "Elijah" on the "mountain" meant that the promised millennial kingdom was about to begin.  It was predicted that "Elijah" would come before the coming of the Messiah.  "'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)

"Jesus replied, 'To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.' Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist."

Jesus tells them "Elijah" would come—17:11—and had come—17:12.  He was referring, first of all, to "Elijah" who will come before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the "Elijah" who came before His first coming—"John the Baptist."  As "John the Baptist" was murdered, so would Jesus be murdered.  The first "Elijah" shared His cross and the second "Elijah" will share His crown.

The disciples were perplexed that Jesus the Messiah came first and then they saw "Elijah" on this "mountain."  It was supposed to be "Elijah" first and then the Messiah.  Then, they realized that "John the Baptist," was "Elijah"—if the nation of Israel had received him.  Instead, they killed him.  It appears that for some reason, Israel will be ready to receive "Elijah" the next time. See Lk. 1:11-17 when an angel of the Lord predicts that "John" will go before the Lord in the spirit and power of "Elijah."

7. How to move a mountain (17:14-23)
All of us have some type of mountain in our lives.  Jesus says that we can move it, if we have faith that is the size of a mustard seed.

a. The mountain that did not move—the disciples were unable to heal a demon-possessed child (17:14-17)
"When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 'Lord, have mercy on my son,' he said. 'He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.' 'O unbelieving and perverse generation,' Jesus replied, 'how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.'"

Thought Question: Why do you believe the disciples were unable to heal this man's son, when they had been successful in healing people on their mission described in Matthew 10?

 

 

"When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 'Lord, have mercy on my son,' he said. 'He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.'"  Mark 9:4-18 adds that the boy was possessed by a spirit and that the disciples were unable to drive the spirit out.  If a boy had cancer or AIDS, we would also see the healing of that boy as mountain-sized.  But the "disciples," were not new to being used by God to drive out spirits, for Jesus had sent them on a special mission to cast out demons.  "He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness." (Matthew 10:1)  Why, then, were they not successful in casting the spirit out of this man's son?

They probably started out quite confident that they were going to be able to help this man's son.  They may even have bragged about their former successes.  But, then, in front of the father, a number of religious authorities, and a large crowd, they were unable to do anything.  So, there before Jesus, as He returned from the mountain was the desperate father, the demonized son, the embarrassed disciples, and a group of religious authorities who were enjoying the disciples' failure.  This was the sight Jesus saw as He came down from the mountain after His special time with the Father, Moses, and Elijah.  Jesus immediately learns of the son's tragic condition and of His disciples' failure.  Next, we learn of Jesus' response.

"'O unbelieving and perverse generation,' Jesus replied, 'how long shall I stay with you?'"  Why were the "disciples" unable to heal this boy?  Ray Stedman gives us some insight into why they failed.  "Why did they fail?  I think it is clear that our Lord put his finger on the basic reason: their lack of faith.  But notice something very important.  They did not fail because they did not expect something to happen.  They were surprised when it did not happen.  They expected the boy to be delivered.  They had seen people delivered before from demons when they said the word in Jesus' name.  But this time it did not happen . . . Well, if you think it through you can see what happened.  They had faith, but it had changed from faith in God to faith in the process they were following.  They thought that if you said the right words and followed the right ritual, the demon would have to leave." "Taken from The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

"perverse generation,'"  "Distorted, twisted in two, corrupt." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  This word describes every "generation" of man.  "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)  Instead of receiving our wisdom from God, we receive it from below.  "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." (James 3:13-17)

Because Jesus says "generation," He was not just talking about His disciples' failure to heal the boy.  He had just come from experiencing heavenly glory on that mountain top.  Then, in contrast to the heavenly reality He had just experienced, He was experiencing the earthly unbelief in that crowd.  His heavenly experience made their unbelief even more obvious.  "'how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?'"  Jesus, understandably, was ready to return to His heavenly home.  Their sinful and twisted unbelief and self-centeredness was very difficult for this perfect Being to bear.

b. Jesus heals the epileptic demon-possessed boy (17:18)
"Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment."  The reality is that God, if He so chooses, always has the power to immediately change any destructive effect of sin in our world.  Here, He chooses to heal the "boy", and the "boy" was immediately healed.

c. Why couldn't we heal him? (17:19-21)
"Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, 'Why couldn’t we drive it out?' He replied, 'Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.'"

Thought Question: How do Jesus' words help us to have greater faith?

 

 

"Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, 'Why couldn’t we drive it out?' He replied, 'Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.'"

We can see here that the faith that they were lacking was more than their expecting that the boy was going to be healed.  I can expect that a chair is going to hold me up, but my expecting that the chair will hold me up does no good if the chair is unable to hold me up.  Also, we can choose to believe that God is going to do something, but it does no good if God has not chosen to do it.  Faith comes from being so in touch with God that we know what He wants us to trust Him for.  The Scriptures are clear that God will bless those who abide with Him.  "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." (John 15:7-8)

Jesus said that if we have this type of genuine faith that is only the size of a tiny "mustard seed," we will be able to move mountains.  Later, these same "disciples" did have genuine faith in God, and God did  use them to turn the world upside down—or right side up.  They went from being out of tune with God to being in tune with Him.

"'Nothing will be impossible for you.'"  When something is God's will, "nothing" is "impossible."  A man can rise from the dead, a sea can be crossed, a hardened Pharisee can become a Christian, a world can be reached with a ragtag group of disciples; and you and I can become indwelt by God.

In the account of this healing in Mark, we learn that the father, at this time, said these well-known words: " . . .  'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'" (Mark 9:24)  This is honest mustard-seed sized faith.  We can all echo his words: "I believe, help me in my unbelief."  Most will admit that we need God's help so that we will believe in Him more.  The unbelief all around us, the unbelief in ourselves, our human weakness, and the forces of hell all weaken our faith in God.  But we can begin by asking God to strengthen our faith.  We can't, but God can.  It is not us against the world; it is God and us against the world.  May our faith in this reality grow.
In Mark, we are also told that Jesus said, "He replied, 'This kind can come out only by prayer.'" (Mark 9:29)  (Some manuscripts say, "prayer and fasting."  Also, some manuscripts add these words as Matthew 17:21)  It appears that the disciples had not prayerfully depended on God, but had depended on the repeating of a formula.  We can do this also.  We also can forget that God's works can only be done by God and by God working through us.  We depend on Him and He does something through us.  Then, we forget that we were depending on God when He did something through us.  Then, the next time we seek to do it all by ourselves and fall flat on our face—as these "disciples" did here.  It can be teaching a Sunday school class depending on God and having it go well, and then thinking we did it.  So, we depend on our own resources the second time.  We can even believe that we can live the Christian life without depending on God, and also fall flat on our face.

LESSONS ON SERVANTHOOD (OR TRUE GREATNESS) (17:22-18:18)
The Bible does not discourage us from seeking after greatness, but it does tell us that true greatness is the opposite of what we often think is greatness.  Because only a few are able to attain greatness in the entertainment field, politics, business, athletics, etc., most have resigned themselves to the reality that true greatness is beyond us.  But Jesus' type of greatness is not dependent on our abilities, but on our willingness to follow Him and to depend on Him in seeking to serve others.

1. Jesus' example of service (17:22-23)
"When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, 'The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.' And the disciples were filled with grief."

Thought Question: Why do you think that Jesus' disciples grieved that Jesus was going to die, but missed what Jesus said about being raised from the dead?

 

 

"When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, 'The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.' And the disciples were filled with grief."

Jesus repeats again His prediction of His death and resurrection.  What He is about to allow to happen to Him is the ultimate expression of His servant's heart.  He knew He was going "to be betrayed," yet He would continue on for our sake.

"And the disciples were filled with grief."  It appears that they understood that He would "be betrayed" and be killed, but they still missed the resurrection part.

2. Jesus submits to the world's authorities and pays the temple tax that He did not need to pay. (17:24-27)
"After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, 'Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?' 'Yes, he does,' he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. 'What do you think, Simon?' he asked. 'From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own sons or from others?' 'From others,' Peter answered. 'Then the sons are exempt,' Jesus said to him. 'But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.'"

Thought Question: Why do you believe Jesus chose here not to "offend" the Jewish leaders, while at other times He chose to "offend them"? (See Matt. 15:12-14)

 

 

"After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, 'Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?' 'Yes, he does,' he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. 'What do you think, Simon?' he asked. 'From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own sons or from others?' 'From others,' Peter answered. 'Then the sons are exempt,' Jesus said to him."

"The temple at Jerusalem was a costly place to run.  There were the daily morning and evening sacrifices which each involved the offering of a year-old lamb.  Along with the lamb were offered wine and flour and oil.  The incense which was burned every day had to be bought and prepared.  The costly hangings and the robes of the priests constantly wore out; and the robe of the High Priest was itself worth a king's ransom.  All this required money.  So, on the basis of Exodus 30:13, it was laid down that every male Jew over twenty years of age must pay an annual temple tax of a half-shekel." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press." See Exod. 30:13-16; II Chron. 24:6, 9; Nehem. 10:32-34

"two drachma"  One half shekel was equal to two Greek drachmae . . . The tax was in fact the equivalent of two days' pay." "Barclay."

The "collectors" of this "tax" asked the "disciples" if their Master paid this tax.  Apparently hoping that He would refuse to pay.  Because a king was not taxed in Jesus' time, He was actually exempt from paying a "tax" on His Father's house.  When Jesus brought this up to His "disciples," He was not trying to argue His way out of paying the "tax," but He was showing His "disciples" that He had every right not to "pay."  The way He did "pay," however, demonstrated that He is the Son of the Ruler of the universe.

"'But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.'"  The money for the "tax" was miraculously provided through the "fish" that "Peter" caught.  Jesus was demonstrating to His "disciples" that He had not come to demand His rights, but to serve even those who were blind to who He is.

"'But so that we may not offend them,"  Jesus had chosen to say what offended the Jews.  "Then the disciples came to him and asked, 'Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?' He replied, 'Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.'" (Matthew 15:12-14)  Here, offending the "collectors" was not necessary.  Paul chose to continue in the practices of the Jews after he became a Christian, in hope that it would enable him to win them to Christ.  "Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law." (I Corinthians 9:19-20)

3. Who is the greatest in the kingdom of God?  He who humbles himself and becomes like a little child. (18:1-5)
"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.'"

Thought Question: Jesus' standard of greatness differs from the world's standard of greatness.  What do these words of Jesus tell us about what His standard of greatness is?

 

 

"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." 

In Mark 9:33-34, we see what had happened just before the disciples asked Jesus, "'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?'" "They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, 'What were you arguing about on the road?' But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest." (Mark 9:33-34) See also Lk. 9:46

A number of incidents had just happened to the "disciples" that may have stirred up jealousy among them: "Peter" had been called the "rock." (16:18); only three had gone up on the mountain where Jesus was transfigured; and only three had seen Elijah and Moses.  As a result, all the "disciples" may have become concerned with why some of the "disciples" were being treated as if they were "greater" that the others. See also Matt. 20:2-28; Lk. 22:24-30

Jesus teaches them here that greatness in His "kingdom" is the opposite from what is considered to be greatness in the world.  In the world, greatness is sought after by seeking to be first—the wealthiest, the most successful business person, and the most powerful.  In their idea of the "kingdom" that Jesus was going to set up, they thought that "greatest" would be like the "greatest" in the world.  They were soon to learn that they were seeking after "greatness" in the complete opposite direction from what true greatness is.  Instead of seeking to be first, they would need to be willing to be last.

Through a little "child," Jesus shows them that they cannot become great in His "kingdom" or even enter it until they are willing to humble themselves and "become like little children."  Jesus does not discourage them from seeking after greatness, but He says that true greatness is the complete opposite of what the world calls greatness.

Barclay has this observation about those who are first in the world.  "Jesus may well be saying that the most important people are not the thrusters and those who have climbed to the top of the tree by pushing everyone else out of the way, but the quiet, humble, simple people, who have the heart of a child." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

How do we "become like little children"?  We must begin with a child's outlook on the world.  As children, we realized that we were completely new to this world and its ways.  All of us are, like a child, new to God's ways.  I have enjoyed, through the years, spending time with new Christians.  They are often wide-eyed and eager to learn—they are in this way "like little children." 

Should we ever cease to be "like little children" in regard to our relationship with God?  Will we ever have Him and His ways all figured out?  When we find ourselves in heaven, will we be "like little children," or will we be like those who already know everything?  We will be "like little children"!  We will be amazed at all that we see, and we will be full of questions.  Why should that not be our attitude today?  We do not know it all.  Like these "disciples," we have more to learn than we will ever learn in a lifetime.  Even more, we have so much to unlearn.

Also, "like little children," we are very far from perfection.  "Like little children," we need to be trained, corrected, and redirected.

To enter God's kingdom, even full-grown men and women need to come to a place where we recognize that we have been going the wrong way—a sinful and destructive way.  We need to see that we need to start all over again "like" a "little" "child."

Is it not true that those who come to Christ after a life without Him become "like" a "child," as they realize that they are beginning a whole new chapter in their life—that is all fresh and new to them?  Anyone who has helped a new Christian to begin to understand the ways of God, has experienced this childlike spirit in the new Christian.  If we can think back that far, is that not what we were like as a new Christian—as a child or an adult; whatever was the case with us.  Is it not also the spirit that we should have even after having been a Christian for some time.  The ways of God should still create in us a childlike spirit—as we realize how little we really understand His ways.

"'And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.'"  One of the least recognized important roles in a church is the little children's Sunday School teacher.  Those who faithfully serve in this area usually receive little appreciation or recognition for their months and even years of labor.  Their tiny students may not even remember them or what they taught them.  Nevertheless, their influence at this impressionable age is significant.  Also, as we learn here, their selfless service is as if they were serving Jesus Christ.  These words of Jesus certainly also apply to us when we are receptive to welcome the childlike new Christian or older childlike Christian.

Often, the most difficult areas of service to fill are finding those who will serve in children's ministries.  It is a low position from our world's expectation, but a high position in Jesus' eyes.

3. Who is least in the kingdom of heaven? (18:6-14)
In this section, we will learn that what men prize, God can despise.  Jesus uses the strongest language possible to describe how much He hates it when men use His church as a vehicle in pursuing their own greatness (the worldly type of greatness), and when they lead His little ones to follow them in this ungodly pursuit.

a. Those who lead God's little ones into sin are least in God's kingdom (18:6-9)
"'But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.'"

Thought Question: Who do you believe are the "little ones"  that Jesus is talking about here? (Is He talking only about children?)  Please explain your answer.

 

 

 "'But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."  Jesus, here, tells us how much He hates it when He sees someone causing someone to sin.  He uses a figure of speech to describe how bad it will be for the one who is responsible.  "It would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."  Sometimes, it is hard for us to find the words to describe how much we hate something.  Jesus uses this figure of speech to express how serious the consequences will be for those who are responsible for leading people into sin.  Jesus was talking about a stone so large that it took a large animal to move it—so that grain could be ground beneath the stone.

"The millstone  in this case is a mulos onikos. . . . A mulos onikos was a grinding-stone of such as size that it needed an ass pulling it (onos is the Greek word for ass and mulos is the Greek work for a millstone)." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

To the Jews, death by hopelessly drowning would be the most horrible death they could imagine.  To us, it might be being eaten by a shark or something else.  Jesus used this horrible death to describe how much God hates it when His children are led astray and how strong His judgment is against those who lead them astray.  If we are in any way using the church to gain prestige or gain selfish goals, Jesus warns us that we must cut out this area in our lives no matter what it costs.

"Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.'"

Pride is not easy to deal with in our lives.  Spurgeon, the English preacher of the late 1800s and the early 1900s believed that it was the last to go in our Christian lives.  It is sinfully pleasant to think that we are a cut above others, and we all know the swelling up inside that can come when someone tells us how great we are.  But, there is no place in God's church for this.  We are to be like Christ who came to serve and not to be served.  This part of us is to go, even though it will be like cutting off a hand or a foot.  Like a cancer, it must be cut out before it destroys us and others.  It must go, for otherwise, our whole life will be worthless as garbage; and will need to be burned so that we will not pollute God's holy universe.  Those who choose pride over God's kingdom of love and humility, choose also the judgment of hell's fire on their pride.

In the history of the church, there have been those who have led Christians away from God's ways.  The way that we know that is that many churches and church denominations are now far away from the Bible.  How did they get this far away from what the Bible teaches?  It usually started with a few who led Christians astray.  There are those who are leading Christians astray today.  Pride, greed, lust, and other sins is at the root of what is happening.  Jesus says here that the future of these men and women is very grim.  They, at this point, think that they are getting by with it.  But, Jesus warns them here of the horrible fate that awaits them.  We do not at all want to be like them.  So, we need to cut out of us anything that is leading us in this direction.

"Woe to the world"  The whole world system leads people away from God.  "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:15-17)

"cut it off and throw it away."  "The analogy he draws is very clear and taken from life itself.  If you have an infected arm that develops gangrene, it is threatening your very life, and the doctors cannot do any more for you, there is only one thing left to do: cut it off, amputate it.  Your life is at stake!  Jesus uses that very dramatic analogy to tell us how serious it is when we are involved in wrongful and hurtful attitudes and actions, and what we must do about it.  We must deal dramatically with these things, otherwise they involve us in hell." "Taken from The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

According to Jesus, "eternal fire" and "fire of hell" is the destination of evil people who do evil works.  "Hell" is the Greek word geenan or "Gehenna."  The valley of Ben Hinnom was at one time a place where human sacrifices were offered to false gods.  King Ahaz sacrificed his sons at Ben Hinnom.  "He [Ahaz] burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his sons in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites." (II Chronicles 28:3)  King Manasseh did the same.  "He [Manasseh] sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger." (2 Chronicles 33:6)  King Josiah cleansed Israel of idolatry and the Valley of Ben Hinnom ceased to be a place where sacrifices were made.  "He desecrated Topheth, which was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so no one could use it to sacrifice his son or daughter in the fire to Molech." (II Kings 23:10)  By Jesus' time it was a garbage dump where fire continually burned.  It came to be called "Gehenna," which became a picture of the fires of judgment.

"eternal fire"  "This is the first use in Matthew ainios [eternal] . . . . The word means ageless, without beginning or end as of God (Romans 16:26)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  Just as eternal life lasts forever, "eternal fire" lasts forever.

And, so, we have every reason to want to remove all that is part of our lives that will be burned up in God's wrath.  Though we have trusted in Jesus for salvation, and Jesus took the judgment for our evil, we still need to desire to cut from us all that is deserving of God's judgment.

b. Those who despise God's little one are last in God's kingdom (18:10-14)
"'See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.'"

Thought Question: What is there in Jesus' words that helps us not to "look down on" others?

 

 

"'See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.'"  "Look down on" is translated "despise not" in the KJV, and "not despise" in the NASB and ESV.  "Literally 'think down on.'" "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  Thinking down on someone is inappropriate for a Christian.  It shows that we are thinking too highly of our self; and that we are not thinking properly about the greatness of our sin.

We have a picture of a Pharisee looking down on and despising a tax collector, who was one of Christ's little ones 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.'"

"For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven."  We may feel small and unimportant, especially where there are uppity people who "look down on" us and despise us.  But, if we are one of the childlike believers in Christ, we are important in heaven.  For in heaven, there is an angel that is concerned individually about us.  And that angel always has immediate access to the "Father in heaven." 

Are there other verses that teach that we each have a guardian angel?  Though they are not as plain as these words of Jesus, here are some verses that also teach that we have guardian "angels."  "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" (Hebrews 1:14)  "'You’re out of your mind,' they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, 'It must be his angel.'" (Acts 12:15)

There is an angel that watches over Israel.  "At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book . . . ." (Daniel 12:1)  There are angels that look over churches.  "The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches." (Revelation 1:20)

Those who "look down on" others need to know that those who are childlike in their faith are not despised and looked "down on" by those who are in heaven.  The very opposite is true.  They are a high priority in heaven.

Again, looking "down on" others should not ever be a part of our Christian attitude—it is not Christian.  James chapter two makes that clear.  " My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here’s a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?" (James 2:1-7)

"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.'"

Sadly, churches today can see people come and go with little concern for them.  Leaders and people in these churches can be concerned about the loss in church attendance, but be little concerned that the people who no longer attend may be lost souls who have drifted away from the church.  If ten new people start attending on a certain Sunday and one person stops attending on that same Sunday, never to return, they can be excited about the new people and oblivious to the person who is now gone.  This is obviously not the spirit of Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd.  It is really the pursuit of church success in a worldly way rather than a shepherd's heart for people.  When that lowly individual silently steps away from the church, he is a personal concern of Jesus Christ, even if His absence is not noticed by the church leaders.  Our "Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost." See Luke 15

LESSONS ON UNITY (18:15-17)
"'If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.'"

Thought Question: Why is this a wise pattern in preventing disunity in the church? (What will happen if these steps are not followed?)

 

 

"'If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”'"

These verses are a protection against slander and division taking place in a church.  Someone offends us and we do not go to that individual, but to individuals or groups of people who have also been offended by that person; or we go to those whom we believe will be sympathetic with our side of things.  And, so, we slander the person who has offended us.  And as a result, there is now a group of people mutually offended and united against that person.  What has just been described sadly takes place much more often than church people handling it in the way that Jesus commands us to handle it.  It is much easier to go to someone whom we believe will be sympathetic to our side than it is to go to the person who has offended us.  But, following Jesus' instructions is the way to actually resolve issues; whereas, the way of slander is the way to create deep divisions.

"'If your brother sins against you,'"  Some manuscripts do not have "against you."  But, Jesus is clearly speaking of a sin that can lead to resentment and division.  So, it is a sin that is "against" the person who is offended by it.

It will be easier for the person to confess his sin to one person.  He will not feel ganged up on.  "If he listens to you, you have won your brother over." 

"'But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”'"  If the individual that is confronted does not accept that he or she has sinned, then it is simply your version of what happened against his or her version.  "One or two" more "witnesses" make it more likely that he will admit to doing what was wrong.

"'If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church,'"  It can be taken to the church because there are now at least "two" "witnesses."  It is hard to know what is meant by the "church" here.  At the time Jesus was speaking these words, there was no organized "church."    The Greek word translated "church" means "called out ones"—those who are called out of the world to follow Jesus.  He was clearly not talking about some type of ecclesiastical leadership.  What is described in Acts 15 is probably what is meant.  There, the problem of Paul and the Gentiles Christians was dealt with by the whole "church."  Peter and James (Jesus' earthly brother) gave good leadership to the whole process.

"If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.'"  His refusal to listen to the church shows that he is hardened in his disobedience to God and can no longer be considered a member of the fellowship.  He is to be treated as a non-Christian—one who is not obedient to Jesus and His ways.  This seems harsh and it will almost never be received well by those who are turned out, but we must take every opportunity to explain that we are not rejecting him or her, but we are rejecting what he or she is doing.

J. C. Ryle points out how difficult it is for churches to have a balanced and proper approach to Jesus' instruction in these verses.  "It is vain to deny that the whole subject is surrounded with difficulties.  On no point has the influence of the world weighed so heavily on the action of churches.  On no point have churches made so many mistakes—sometimes on the side of sleepy remissness [a neglect to do anything], sometimes on the side of blind severity." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle." See also I Cor. 5:9-12; II Thess. 3:6-13

2. Our authority for church discipline (18:18)
"'I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.'"  One of the main reasons that we do not take the steps that were outlined in the previous verses is because we do not believe that we have the right or authority to do so.  The Bible clearly gives us the authority to discipline our children and most Christian parents believe that we have that right, but we are not sure that we have that right to discipline our fellow Christians.  In this verse, Jesus gives us that authority.  We have the authority to say what is required—"bound"—and what is not required—"loosed."    

This is obviously not to be an arbitrary choice by us, but it must be based on what the Bible forbids and permits.  It must also be based on a clear understanding of Biblical principles.  For example, we are not to have a judgmental and self-righteous attitude when we do it—a "plank" in our eyes. See Matt. 7:4-5  Without a humble self-examination before taking this action, we can do much more harm than good.  " Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load." (Galatians 6:1-5)

We should not be seeking our own best, but the best of the person being disciplined.  "If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother."
(II Thessalonians 3:14-15)

If someone repents, he or she must immediately be received back.  "If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes." (2 Corinthians 2:5-11)

Church discipline should obviously never be used as a political device to eliminate those we disagree with.  It also should never be used in a legalistic way to force our non-biblical rules on others as the Pharisees did.  "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)

It should only be used by the gentle and humble in heart to lovingly correct those they love so much that they would give their lives for them if necessary.  We should lovingly correct our fellow Christians only as we lovingly correct our own children.  "We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory." (1 Thessalonians 2:6-12)

3. Church unity—the most powerful force on earth. (18:19-20)
"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them . . . . '"

Thought Question: What do we learn from Jesus' words here that will help us to have our prayers answered?

 

 

"'Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.'"  The word "agree" here is the same word from which we get our word "symphony": sumphonesosin.  Jesus is sharing that a small group in symphony with him and with each other can accomplish much more than a large group that is full of discord.  A few united are stronger than many divided.  Jesus is describing here, the most powerful and authoritative group on earth—a small group gathered with Christ as the center of their desires and their faith.  For their prayers move the hand of all-powerful God.  When we read through the letters to the churches in the rest of the New Testament, we will notice that the main concern in these letters is about the purity, truth, and love in the church that is already there.  Why?  Because if we are united in these qualities, we are the most powerful force for God on earth.  We know that Jesus' closest followers did become of one mind.  The book of Acts is the story of the power of the church begun by them.

"'For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them . . . . '"  Jesus may, within this context, be speaking of the "two or three" who go to tell the person who has sinned that he or she needs to turn from the sin.  As they agree and seek God's guidance in prayer, they are not going alone.  Jesus is with them.  Of course, they should seek, most of all, that they are in agreement with Him.  If they go in Jesus' name, they should go and confront this person in the love, gentleness, and strength of God's Spirit.

4. Unity through forgiveness (18:21-35)
The third solution to the disunity that was developing among the disciples was that they were to forgive each other, rather than becoming bitter toward each other.  So, the three solutions to disunity presented by Jesus are as follows: 1) They needed to humble themselves and become like little children.  2) They needed to lovingly confront each other rather than gossip about each other.  3) They needed to forgive each other.

a. How many times should we forgive each other? (18:21-22)
"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'"

Thought Question: According to Jesus' words, how often should we forgive each other?

 

 

"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'"  Peter probably asked this question because he was concerned about how many times he must forgive someone when he or she sinned against him.  The scribes believed that one should only forgive someone three times.  They took this from the way that they interpreted Amos 1:3, 6.  "This is what the Lord says: 'For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because she threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth . . . . '" (Amos 1:3)  "This is what the Lord says: 'For three sins of Gaza, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because she took captive whole communities and sold them to Edom . . . . '" (Amos 1:6)  Here, God ceases to be patient with "Damascus" and "Gaza" because of their continual sin.  "Three sins" and "even for four" was a symbolic way of saying that their sins had multiplied beyond what God could tolerate.  It is obvious that more than "three" or "four" "sins" were involved.  In fact, it was a way of describing that they had reached the last stage of hardness toward God.  But, the Rabbis had taken this literally and taught that it was only necessary to forgive someone three times.

"Peter" obviously thought that Jesus would be impressed with his willingness to "forgive" over twice as many times as the Rabbis taught that he needed to "forgive."  But, compared to Divine forgiveness, this was not even forgiveness.  True forgiveness and Divine forgiveness are  based on a genuine love for another.  True love does not forgive three times or "seven times,""but seventy-seven times."  "Seventy-seven times" is Jesus' way of saying forgiveness without end.  This type of love is described in I Corinthians 13: " . . . it [love] keeps no record of wrongs . . .  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."              (I Corinthians 13:5-7)

"seventy-seven times"  "It is not clear whether this idiom means seventy-seven or as the Revised Version has it (490 times)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  The NEV and NASB also has "seventy times seven."  Whatever Jesus intended, His point was that forgiveness should not have a limitation.

b. A parable about a servant who was forgiven, but did not forgive (18:23-34)
In these verses, Jesus uses a parable to tell how forgiven we are.  Then, He uses that to very dramatically demonstrate why we should forgive others.

(1) How forgiven are we? (18:23-27)
"'Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay back everything.” The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.'"

Thought Question: What do these words of Jesus tell us about God's forgiveness of us?

 

 

"'Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt."

The amount that this servant owed was so great, that it would be impossible for him to ever pay it back.  Jesus used this debt that was so large it could never be paid back to describe the size of the debt that we owe Him and the Father.  Do we think about this often or do we rarely think about it?  Or do we even never think about it?  Apart from God intervening on our behalf, there was nothing but eternal hell that would pay for our infinite debt to God.  Do we think that our life as a Christian has somehow been paying for our debt?  The truth is that our debt to God will never be paid by us.

"'The servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay back everything.” The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.'"

The "king" in this parable is moved with compassion when his servant cries out for mercy, and he totally cancels the debt.  The "servant" goes totally free and the "master" totally absorbs the loss.

"ten thousand talents"  "A talent was 6,000 denarii or about a thousand dollars. . . . Ten thousand times this is about ten or twelve million dollars, an enormous sum for that period." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  That would be an even larger amount today.  Robertson wrote in the 1930s.  Keener estimates that it would be "between thirty and one hundred million days' wages for an average peasant." "Taken from Matthew by Craig Keener.  Copyright 1997 by Intervarsity Press."  It would be much more than the poor "servant" in the parable could pay in his lifetime.

Our unpayable debt to God was also absorbed by our Master and King.  He has absorbed our ingratitude, our rebellion against Him, our voluntary unbelief, our selfishness, our defiance of His moral standards and His teachings, and our abuse of and insensitivity to others.  He has taken on Himself the penalty for it all; and placed it all on His Son.  He was punished for it all!  No one knows how much our forgiveness cost Him—how much He was willing to absorb for us.  Twelve million does not even begin to describe what God has been willing to pay so that we might be forgiven.  He not only has forgiven what we have done in the past, but He is forgiving our present sinful ways.  And He has already forgiven our future sins as well.  We should never take His amazing forgiveness for granted. We should always keep it fresh in our minds.  This is what the Lord's Supper is meant to do—to ever remind us of the cost the Father and Jesus paid for our forgiveness.

(2) How forgiven are we? (18:28-30)
"'But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.” But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.'"

Thought Question: How does this apply to us today?

 

 

"'But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. “Pay back what you owe me!”'"  How should we respond to God's forgiveness?  Our response should not be like the "servant" in this parable!  He meets a "fellow servant" and remembers he owes him something.  It turns out that what his "fellow servant" owed him would be equivalent today to twenty dollars.  We would expect that this small amount would be easy to forgive and that he would be eager to forgive this man this small amount after his "master" had forgiven him such a huge amount. 

"'His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.” But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.'"  Here, his "fellow servant" begs for mercy just as he had "begged" for mercy.  But, instead of giving him mercy, he chokes him and has him thrown into prison.  The obvious message here is, "How do we respond when others hurt us and sin against us?  Are we willing to absorb the pain and release them from their debt to us, or do we retaliate and try to hurt them as they have hurt us?  Does this parable describe us when we are not willing to forgive a brother some small offense, even though God has been willing to forgive us of a life full of offenses against Him?

(3) How forgiven are we if we are not willing to forgive?
"'When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.'"

Thought Question: How does this apply to Christians?

 

 

"'When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?”'"

It is equally inappropriate not to forgive someone when we have been forgiven so much.  In fact, God is forgiving even what we did that was sinful today—prideful thoughts, slander, impatience, and other sins.  The unforgiving "servant" in the parable is showing, by the way he treated his "fellow servant," that he did not truly appreciate what his "master" had done for him.  When we do not forgive, we also are showing our lack of appreciation for how much we have forgiven.

"'In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.'"  Because this "servant" was unwilling to forgive his "fellow servant," his "master" now is unwilling to forgive him his "debt."  The unforgiving "servant" is now also the "servant" who is not forgiven.  He is back again to owing the "debt" he could not pay.  It may now be worse, for he not only is sent to jail, but he is now also to be "tortured" until he pays back "all he" owes.

c. So our heavenly Father will treat us if we do not forgive our brothers (18:35)
"'This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.'"

Thought Question: Does this mean a Christian who does not forgive will lose his or her salvation and go to hell after he or she dies?

 

 

"'This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.'"  There are a number of ways we can interpret Jesus' words here.  I just read a book that had a parable in it where a lady who had not been willing to forgive, died and stood before Jesus.  He told her that she was going to hell because of her unwillingness to forgive, even though she had once been a Christian.  Is this what Jesus meant?

I will repeat the possible interpretations of this verse by quoting what I wrote on a similar statement by Jesus at the end of the Lord's prayer:  "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15)  Here are the possible interpretations of Jesus' words in both cases:  "1) One possible interpretation is that it means that a Christian can lose his salvation when he or she does not forgive someone.  That would mean that we could lose and gain back our salvation on a regular basis as we hold a grudge against someone for however long we hold that grudge.  We could go through a day and be a Christian for part of the day and not a Christian for another part of the day.  2) Another interpretation is that our fellowship with God can be lost each time we choose not to forgive someone.  3) Finally, it could mean that unforgiveness is a sign that we are not a Christian.  The first possibility goes against what is clearly taught in the Bible that once we truly become a Christian we are eternally saved; though we may lose rewards due to making sinful choices: "his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." (I Corinthians 3:13-15)  The second and last possibilities are both biblical possibilities.  If we hold on to unforgiveness, it may be because we have not yet chosen to humbly come to God and to seek out His forgiveness.  In this case, we are not forgiving others because we have not yet become a Christian."

Since Paul speaks to Christians to get rid of bitterness, rather than telling them that they are no longer a Christian, I believe that we do not lose our salvation if we hold on to a grudge.  But, I do believe that holding on to bitterness will result in severe judgment from God until we forgive the person we are holding the grudge against.  "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:30-32)

In I Corinthians, Paul describes God severely judging Christians.  "Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world." (1 Corinthians 11:27-32)

It is also possible that Jesus is describing torment by demons that will happen to those who are unwilling to forgive.  "'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." (Ephesians 4:26-27)  Once the "devil" has a "foothold," it also opens the door for the Christian to be tormented by him and his evil angels.

This was King Saul's experience when he became jealous and bitter toward David.  "When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. As they danced, they sang: 'Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.' Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. 'They have credited David with tens of thousands,' he thought, 'but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?' And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the harp, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, 'I’ll pin David to the wall.' But David eluded him twice." (1 Samuel 18:6-11)

JESUS' PATTERN OF MINISTERING TO DIFFERENT TYPES OF PEOPLE (19:1-20:16 )
Because Jesus is in us, His pattern of ministry is also to be our pattern of ministry.  From His pattern of ministering to different types of people, we can learn how we are to minister to the different types of people that we encounter today.

1. Jesus' ministry to the needy (19:1-2)
"When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there."

These two verses briefly summarize a very busy period in Jesus' ministry that is covered in more detail and in more length in Luke 9:51-18:14 and John 7-11.  During this period, Jesus leaves Galilee—the focus of most of His ministry, goes through Samaria, and heads toward Judea; heading ultimately for Jerusalem and His crucifixion.  Matthew sums up this time by saying that "large crowds followed him, and he healed them."  Jesus always had time for the needy.  By this time, He had been ministering for three years continually, and it had to have been draining on Him.  Certainly, He knew that these very multitudes would be transformed into the ugly mob that would brutally and publicly murder Him.  Yet, He loved them, tirelessly reached out to them, and healed them.  If Christ ministers through us, we will also experience His endurance, concern, and forgiveness in our outreach to the needy around us.

A friend of mine is a chaplain at a Union Gospel Mission.  I have seen Jesus' type of ministry in him.  The needy continually come to the mission, and he continually ministers to them; even though he knows that few appreciate the service they are receiving and only a few respond to the gospel message about Jesus' sacrifice for them that they continually hear.  But, this last week when a friend and I went to lead the service there, we were surprised by what we saw.   A man, who has been there for some time, who quietly laughs during the services—communicating that he despises the services; was singing heartily, paying attention during the message, and was reading the Bible.  Sometimes, even in what can feel like an unappreciated ministry, there are breakthroughs.

2. His opponents attempt to lure Him into a "can't win" situation (19:3-9)

a. The trap (19:3)
"Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?'"

Thought Question: Name an issue that divides people in a similar way that this question divided the Jews.

 

 

"Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?'"  The "Pharisees" in asking this question, had one goal: to end Jesus' popularity with the people.  Here, they were attempting to get Him to alienate Himself from those on one side or the other of a controversy about divorce.  The controversy was over the interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1.  "If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house."

The controversy was over what is meant by "something indecent."  Two schools of Pharisees differed completely on the meaning of it.  Rabbi Shammai's school believed that "something indecent" meant adultery.  Rabbi Hillel taught that divorce was allowed for most any reason.  Hillel "had been dead for about twenty years when Christ was teaching." "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company."

Which school would Jesus agree with?  As soon as He took one side, He would immediately alienate Himself from the other side.  They had led Him into a trap.  They had Him right where they wanted Him.

b. Jesus takes them back to the basics (19:4-6)
"'Haven’t you read,' he replied, 'that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.'"

Thought Question: How can you apply Jesus' way of answering this question to other divisive issues? (Example: Should homosexual marriage be legalized?  Do you believe the Bible is the word of God?)

 

 

"'Haven’t you read,” he replied, 'that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.'"

Jesus ignores the present controversy and goes back past Moses to God's original intent for marriage.  It was hard for them to deny that God's original purpose for marriage was for a man and a woman to be united into one.  Jesus concludes, then, that what God "joined together" no "man" should "separate."  And there is no marriage that is not of God, for the very fact there are men and women was God's idea.  And the purpose for men and women is there to be marriages and children coming from the marriages.

So, when the religious leaders of His time were looking for a loophole in the marriage contract, they were attempting to break up what God had put together.  Jesus did not try to resolve man's controversy by siding with one side of the other, but He took a third position, the position that is based on God's word—divorce was not a part of God's original plan.

c. Jesus turns the table on His opposition. (19:7-9)
"'Why then,' they asked, 'did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?' Jesus replied, 'Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.'"

Thought Question: Why do you believe Jesus' answer foiled their attempt to get the people to turn against Jesus?

 

 

"'Why then,' they asked, 'did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?' Jesus replied, 'Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.'" 

The "Pharisees" were not willing to give up yet; they still thought they had the upper hand, for it seemed to them that He was saying that "Moses" was wrong in Deuteronomy 24.  If they could show that He was disagreeing with "Moses," they had Him.  But, Jesus explains that "Moses" did not command people to "divorce," but he only permitted or tolerated "divorce" because they were a hard-hearted people.  The purpose of the "certificate of divorce" was not to encourage "divorce," but its purpose was to restrain men from divorcing their wives for a period of time and then returning to their first wives—its purpose was to slow down the number of divorces that were taking place.  But, in God's original intent for marriage, even the first divorce was wrong.  So, the "certificate of divorce" was not God's ideal, but it was a step forward from their unrestrained promiscuity.  "then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance." (Deuteronomy 24:4)

Now, the "Pharisees" are between a rock and a hard place, for now they have two choices: 1) They can say that "Moses" contradicted himself in Genesis 1:26 where marriage is for life and Numbers 24 where "divorce" is allowed.  2) Their second option is that they can agree with Jesus that "divorce" was allowed by "Moses" because of the hardness of the Jewish people's hearts.  The truth can turn the tables for us when people try to put us between a rock and a hard place.

"I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.'"  Notice that Jesus says here, "anyone who divorces his wife."  In the parallel passage, Mark adds that Jesus also said, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery." (Mark 10:11-12")  Dr. Constable gives this explanation for why Matthew only writes what Jesus said about divorcing "his wife."  "Matthew recorded only Jesus' words concerning a man who 'divorces his wife,' probably because in Judaism wives could not divorce their husbands.  However, Mark records Jesus as also saying that the same thing holds true for a woman who divorces her husband (Mark 10:12).  Mark wrote originally for a Roman audience.  Wives could divorce their husbands under Roman law.  Matthew's original readers lived under Jewish law, which did not permit wives to divorce their husbands. "Constable's notes."

"'I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.'"  There are a number of difficulties with this verse:  1) Does this verse allow "divorce" and remarriage in some cases?  2) What is the meaning of the Greek word porneia that is translated here "marital unfaithfulness."  3) Why is this exception that allows "divorce" not found in the parallel passages in Luke and Mark? See Mark 10:11 and Luke 16:18

First of all, does this verse allow "divorce" and remarriage in some cases?  There are those who adamantly believe that "divorce" is always wrong and never permitted.  This view can mean, then, that a husband and/or wife could have regular adulterous relationships and their husband or wife would be required to remain in their marriage.  Although attempts are made to change the meaning of Jesus' words, the plain and normal interpretation is that Jesus taught that "divorce" is allowed when a man or woman commits porneia

Robertson, the noted Greek scholar, gives us this conclusion:  "It is plain that that Matthew represents Jesus in both places [here and in Matt. 5:32] as allowing for divorce for fornication as a general term. (porneia)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

Although Jesus does not mention a woman divorcing her husband, it is certain that Jesus would not apply this teaching only to men—then a man could "divorce" his wife and remarry without committing adultery, but his wife could not "divorce" her husband.

Next, what is the meaning of porneia, translated here as "marital unfaithfulness"?  It is certain that porneia includes adultery.  Does it, though, refer to other sexual sins such as addiction to pornography?  "The best solution seems to be that porneia is a broad term that covers many different sexual sins that lie outside God's will. This conclusion rests on the meaning of the word. These sexual sins, called 'fornication,' ["marital unfaithfulness" in the NIV] would include: homosexuality, bestiality, premarital sex, extramarital sex, incest, adultery, prostitution, and perhaps others. Essentially it refers to any sexual intercourse that God forbids (i.e., with any creature other than one's spouse)." "Constable's notes."  If Jesus meant just to include adultery, He could have used the Greek word for adultery which He uses in other places.  "The normal Greek word for adultery is moicheia, which Matthew used back to back with porneia previously (15:19).  Therefore, they must not mean the same thing." "Constable's notes."

Again, it is God's desire that there be no "divorce," but He allows it when one of the partners breaks the marriage commitment by serious sexual involvement outside of marriage.

Last of all, why did Mark and Luke not also include this exception that permitted "divorce" in cases of porneia? See Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18  "Probably they did so because it expresses an exception to the rule, and they wanted to stress the main point of Jesus' words without dealing with the exception situation." "Constable's notes."

3. Jesus' style of ministry with His followers (19:10-12)
The Pharisees are no longer interested in talking with Jesus about divorce, but His followers who had been influenced by the Pharisees' teaching are confused by what Jesus said.  They concluded that if they had to stay with one woman all of their lives, it is better not to marry at all.  We are often like the disciples.  God's ways can seem difficult to understand, difficult for us to do, and impractical to us.
"The disciples said to him, 'If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.' Jesus replied, 'Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.'"

Thought Question: Why do you think that the disciples concluded that it was better not to marry if they needed to stay married to one woman?

 

 

"The disciples said to him, 'If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.' Jesus replied, 'Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.'"

The "disciples" were basically saying, "Jesus, let's get realistic about this.  You cannot really expect us to spend all of our lives with one woman, can you?  Jesus, in His response to them, does not belittle them for their ignorance—as it is easy for a knowledgeable teacher to do.  Instead, He takes advantage of opportunity to teach them further.  The "disciples" were saying that the single life is be preferred to the married life.  Jesus then says the opposite is true.  It is harder to be single than to be married.  In fact, only a few can handle it—the "eunuchs" who are physically incapable of "marriage"; and those who for spiritual reasons have chosen not to marry.  "I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am." (1 Corinthians 7:7-8) See also I Cor. 7:26, 32-35

Jesus, here, predicts that there would be those, like the apostle Paul, who would be so preoccupied with thinking of God and his work that they would choose not to marry—so that they will not lose their effectiveness in God's work.

So, Jesus does not express irritation with His disciples' exasperation with Jesus' high standard for marriage, but He uses their questions as an opportunity to teach them more about His view of marriage.

"The disciples said to him, 'If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.'"  Barclay explains how the culture affected their
outlook on marriage without the possibility of "divorce."  There were sayings at that time about it being horrible to have an unhappy marriage.  "It was even laid down: 'If a man has a bad wife, it is a religious duty to divorce her . . . Their reaction was that, if marriage is so final and binding a relationship and if divorce is forbidden, it is better not to marry at all, for there is no escape route—as they understood it—from an evil situation." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Another factor, at that time, is that marriages were often arranged by the families.  An escape clause provided a way out for those whose marriages did not work out.  These parts of the Jewish culture may explain Jesus' patience with them for not liking His teaching on marriage.

"For some are eunuchs"  Again, Barclay gives an explanation about who "eunuchs" were in the culture of Jesus' time.  "A eunuch is a man who is unsexed.  Jesus distinguishes three classes of people.  There are those who, through some physical imperfection or deformity, can never be capable of sexual intercourse.  There are those who have been made eunuchs by men.  This represents customs which are strange to western civilization.  Quite frequently in royal palaces servants, especially those who had to do with the royal harem, were deliberately castrated.  Also, quite frequently priests who served in temples were castrated; this, for instance, is true of the priests who served in the Temple of Diana in Ephesus." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press." See Acts 8:26-40  The third category, are those who have chosen not to marry so they might more effectively serve God.

4. Jesus' style of ministry with little children (19:13-15)
"Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.' When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there."

Thought Question: Why do you think that the disciples did not want the children to come to Him?

 

 

"Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them."  The "disciples" appear to be sincerely trying, here, to protect Jesus from the "little children."  They either thought that the "children" would be a nuisance to the tired Jesus and/or they were a nuisance to them.  Besides, they were too young to understand His teaching.

"Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.' When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there."  Contrary to what the "disciples" thought, these "children" were coming to Him in a way that He wanted all people to come to Him.  These trusting, uncomplicated, pliable, and responsive "children" were preferred by Jesus, compared to those who were coming to Him with hardened and unreachable hearts.  When anyone comes to Jesus we are, compared to Him, unknowledgeable "children."  We are all like "children" to Him; the question is whether or not we realize we are "children."  When we appear before Him in heaven, we will not act like know-it-alls.  Nor, should we be that way now.  Today, we can delight God's heart by coming to Him like these pliable children—come to Him like these trusting, uncomplicated, and pliable children.  The irony here is that instead of the "children" needing to become more mature like the "disciples," the "disciples" needed to become more like the "little children." 

We also need to become more like "little children."  We may understand the ways of the world, but we know very little about the ways of our Lord. See also Mk. 10:13-16; Lk. 18:15-17  Mark says that Jesus was "indignant" at His disciples for preventing the little children from coming to Him. (Mk. 10:14)

"When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there."  Mark says, "And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them." (Mark 10:16)

Often, it is difficult to find teacher and workers for the children's ministry.  a book that addresses this issue is a book titled, Too Small To Ignore.  The author gives the following story to describe the attitude that D. L. Moody had toward the importance of children.  "Late one evening D. L. Moody, the premiere American evangelist of the 1800s, arrived home from speaking at a meeting.  Emma, his wife, was already asleep.  As her exhausted husband climbed into bed, she rolled over and murmured, 'So how did it go tonight?'  'Pretty well,' he replied, 'Two and a half converts.'  His wife lay silently for a moment pondering this response, then finally smiled.  "That's sweet' she replied, 'How old was the child?'  'No, no, no,' Moody answered.  "It was two children and one adult!  The children have their whole lives in front of them.  The adult's life is already half-gone." "Taken from Too Small To Ignore by Wess Stafford.  Copyright 2005 by Compassion International Inc."

5. Jesus' ministry to the rich who love their riches—the rich young ruler (19:16-26)
The next person that comes to Jesus is a man that the disciples do not prevent from coming to Jesus.  We read about him in three of the Gospels.  In all of them, he is described as rich.  According to Matthew, he is young and Luke tells us he is a ruler; hence, he is the rich, young ruler.  It would appear that he was the type of man that Jesus was looking for: he was rich; he had a high position in society; he was young so most of his life was still before him; and he was a man of good character.  How, then, did Jesus respond to him?  How would we respond to him?  We see how Jesus responded to him in these verses.

a. The rich, young ruler's question (19:16)
"Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, 'Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?'"

Thought Question: How do you believe this man would be received by a church leader today?

 

 

"Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, 'Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?'"  We learn immediately that this young man was not coming to Jesus in a state of poverty seeking God's kingdom, but he was coming in his riches seeking to earn God's kingdom.  Also, we see that he believed that it was possible for him to be good enough to earn God's kingdom.  He was not the only Jewish person that believed that he could earn "eternal life."  "For I can testify about them [the Jews] that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness." (Romans 10:2-3)  Today, many or most, believe that they can earn heaven by their "good" works.

b. Jesus says, "You must obey the Ten Commanments" (19:17-20)
"'Why do you ask me about what is good?' Jesus replied. 'There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.' 'Which ones?' the man inquired. Jesus replied, '“Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,” and “love your neighbor as yourself.”' 'All these I have kept,' the young man said. 'What do I still lack?'"

Thought Question:  Why do you believe Jesus rebukes this young man for calling Him good?

 

 

"'Why do you ask me about what is good?' Jesus replied. 'There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.'"  Jesus implies that no one is able to do what is truly "good" but God.  Isaiah stated this clearly in Isa. 64:6:  "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."

Nevertheless, the young man continues in this direction.  "'All these I have kept,' the young man said. 'What do I still lack?'"  When the "young man" asks, "which" commands? Jesus lists off the "commandments" dealing with our relationship with other people, ending with the "Golden Rule"—which summarizes these last six "commandments."  He ends up, out of order, with "honor your father and mother."  Possibly, this was an area where the "young man" had a problem with, and Jesus was gently pointing that out.

Matthew omits a question that Jesus asked this young man that is given in Mark and Luke:  "'Why do you call me good?' Jesus answered. 'No one is good—except God alone.'" (Luke 18:19) See also Mk. 10:17  Some, with a desire to prove that Jesus is not God, say that Jesus is saying here that He is not "good" and that He is, therefore, saying that He is not God.  But, since, the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is God, Jesus is, rather, pointing out to this young man that he is addressing Him as God when He says, "good teacher."

"'Why do you ask me about what is good?' Jesus replied. 'There is only One who is good.'"  Jesus desires that this "young man" look more closely at what He is saying.  We can lightly throw terms around without thinking much about their meaning.  Jesus asks this "young man" to think more seriously about what it means to call someone "good."  In other words, Jesus is asking, "Do you realize that you are calling me God?"

"'All these I have kept,' the young man said. 'What do I still lack?'"  It appears that he sincerely believed that he had been successful at obeying the commands, yet did not feel that he had done enough.  Martin Luther tried to earn God's acceptance as an Augustinian monk; yet, he also did not feel that he had done enough to be saved.  He discovered in Romans 1:17 that a man is not saved by trusting in one's good works, but by putting faith in what God has done for us.  "For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'" (Romans 1:17)

This "young man" was ignorant of what Isaiah had concluded about himself.  "'Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'" (Isaiah 6:5)  "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)  The Bible is clear, no one can gain eternal life by obeying the law.  "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)  "know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 2:16)

How could this "young man" believe that he had successfully obeyed the "commandments"?  He probably felt that, according to man's version of the law, he was doing quite well.  Many feel that God grades on the curve, and compared to hardened criminals, they are doing quite well.  But, when we feel that way, we do not see ourselves as the self-centered beings that we are.  Jeremiah had it right.  "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)  Solomon also had it right.  "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." (Ecclesiastes 7:20)  In the eyes of this "young man," he was doing quite well.  In the eyes of God, though, he was, along with everyone else, doing quite poorly.  "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23)

c. Jesus asks him if wants to be perfect, he must sell all that he has; but the young ruler leaves, for he was unwilling to give up his wealth. (19:21-22)
"Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth."

Thought Question: Does this mean that we need to give up all of our possessions to become a Christian?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'"  Jesus knew what was preventing the "young man" from experiencing His kingdom, and He gets right to the point.  Jesus could not be the Ruler of his life and money be number one in his life at the same time.  Jesus taught on this subject 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)

What is competing for Jesus' rule in our lives?  It may not be money, but it may be some other love we have, such as love for sports, love for television viewing, love for the praise of men, or other loves.  As we will see, Jesus was not number one in this rich, young ruler's life.

"When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth."  When this "young man" was asked to get rid of his wealth, it undoubtedly shocked him, for it was the one area in his life that was more important to him than following Christ.  Jesus hit him right where it hurt.  He needed Christ as we all do, but for him the price was too high.  And, so he chose earth's paltry riches over heaven's infinite treasures.

Does this mean that it is necessary for all rich men and women to give up their riches in order for them to go to heaven?  Also, do each of us need to sell all that we own before we can follow Jesus?  The issue is not riches, but whether or not we love God more than our riches.  Paul speaks to this in I Timothy 6:6-10: "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

Keener makes a very good point: "Disciples do not always lose all possessions upon conversion—but they lose all ownership of them, for they themselves belong to a new ruler." "Taken from Matthew by Craig Keener.  Copyright 1997 by Intervarsity Press."  Keener also observes, "That he is unwilling to spare all his goods to help the poor will soon bring into question whether he really loves his neighbor as himself." "Keener."

The issue, also, is what we believe will lead to true happiness.  If we believe that riches will lead to happiness, we will, like this "young man," seek first after wealth and money.  If we believe that godliness will lead to true happiness, we will seek first after Jesus' kingdom and righteousness.  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6)  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)

"Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect . . . . . "  Our goal should to be to seek after "perfect" holiness and godliness.  We know that we will never attain it, but the holier we are, the happier we will be.  "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)  "Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.' (I Peter 1:13-16) 

d. After Jesus' disciples learn how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, they wonder how anyone can be saved. (19:23-26)
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.' When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, 'Who then can be saved?' Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'"

Thought Question: Why do you think that it is harder for a rich man to be saved than a poor man?

 

 

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'" 

How does Jesus respond when this fine "young man" turns away from Him?  Does He chase him or soften His terms to make them more acceptable to him?  No, He lets him go.  We cannot come to Jesus on our own terms.  He is not satisfied with anything but first place in our lives.  Otherwise, we are not experiencing His kingdom.

That is why Jesus said that "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."  There are at least three different interpretations of what Jesus meant by this figure of speech.  1) There was a low gate next to the main gate in walled cities that was the only gate that was opened at night.  "So it is said that sometimes that gate was called 'the Needle's Eye.'  So, it is suggested that Jesus was saying it was just as difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven as for a huge camel to get through the little gate through which a man can hardly pass." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

2) Also, their word for a hawser sounds like their word for "camel."  So, Jesus could have been saying that it is as difficult "for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" as it is to thread a "needle" with a ship's hawser. 

3) But the best interpretation of Jesus' words is the obvious one, that it is "easier" for a humpy "camel" to squeeze his way "through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

"When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, 'Who then can be saved?' Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'"

But God can put a "camel" "though the eye of a needle," humps and all; and he can also change the heart of the rich, so that they will choose Him over their riches.  God did it with Abraham, Moses, and Joseph of Arimathea; and He is still doing it today.  "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10)  "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward." (Hebrews 11:24-26) See also Lk. 19:1-9; Matt. 27:57

Why is it "impossible," humanly, for a "rich man" to become part of God's "kingdom""Rich" people often seek their happiness, comfort, and power over others through their riches.  Unless God changes their hearts and view of life, they will see no need for God. See James 1:10-11

We in America are rich compared to most of the world.  It is hard for us to see our need for God.  The church at Laodicea also had this problem.  "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." (Revelation 3:17) See also Rev. 3:14-21

6. Jesus' ministry with the poor who are truly rich (19:27-20:16)
In a flash of insight, Peter realizes that God had worked in their lives, and he sees that they had been willing to leave all and follow Him.  In his enthusiasm, he asks what would be in it for them.  This showed that he had half of the Golden Rule down—the love yourself part.

a. The rewards for those who follow Christ (19:27-29)
"Peter answered him, 'We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?' Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.'"

Thought Question: When do you believe that the disciples will "sit on twelve thrones"?

 

 

"Peter answered him, 'We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?'"  Those who follow Christ, do so because they recognize that the riches in Christ are far greater than all that the world has to offer.  They enjoy the wealth of having joy and peace within; they enjoy being excited about the future no matter how many dark clouds are now in the sky; they enjoy having a life that truly means something; and they enjoy the satisfaction come from genuinely loving and caring for someone beside themselves.

"'I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.'"

Jesus reveals here that for those who choose the wealth of following Christ over the wealth of the world, there will be even greater riches ahead.  What Peter and the others left was nothing compared to the wealth of the rich, young ruler, but because they loved Him more than anything else, their reward would be great.  Undoubtedly they did not understand what type of thrones Jesus was promising them.  They may have thought they were going to rule with Christ after He had defeated the Romans and set up His earthly kingdom.  They undoubtedly believed that Jesus' kingdom was in their near future.  They did not really understand what type of reward was ahead for them, nor do we.  But we do know that it will be far greater than what we gave up for Him.

"will also sit on twelve thrones,"  Here is Robertson's explanation of the meaning of the "twelve thrones":  "What is meant by the disciples also sitting on twelve thrones is not clear." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  But, we can take an educated guess.  When the world is renewed during the millennial rule of Christ, those who have served Him here will share in His reign.

b. But many who are first will be last (the Parable of the Workmen in the Vineyard) (19:30-20:16)
Most of us have heard the statement: "many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first."  Most, also, have wondered what it means.  Simply, it means that we will surprised in heaven at how God will reward our efforts in this life.  Those that we think now will receive the greatest reward will receive the least reward, and those whom we think will receive the least reward will receive the greatest reward.  This is a humbling thought to us.  Jesus' words were also meant to be humbling and shocking to Peter.  Peter had concluded that because they had been willing to leave all to follow Christ, and the rich, young ruler had not been willing to leave all and follow Christ, they would be rewarded greatly for their sacrifice.  Jesus does, though, graciously tell them of their reward. See 19:28-29  But, first, He warns them to be cautious; for many who think that they will be first will be last and many who think they will be last will be first.  Then, in 20:1-16, He gives them a parable to explain still further the meaning of this statement.

(1) His warning: many who are first will be last. (19:30)
"But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first."

Thought Question: What do you believe Jesus means by this statement?

 

 

"But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first."  Since we are not in a law and works relationship with God but, instead, are in a grace-based relationship with God, our rewards for our labors are on a different basis from what we are used to.  On this basis, those who feel that they are doing well—see themselves as "first," are actually "last."  For they are laboring in their own strength to gain supremacy over others.  On the other hand, those who feel completely inadequate and see that they need to fully and continually rely upon God, are last in a worldly sense.  Yet, they are "first."  "If then we are so conscious of our failures, and shortcomings, and transgressions, and if we have to cry for mercy even on our holy things, and to confess sin in them, how can we suppose that any reward that may be given can be otherwise than of grace, seeing that their whole service itself must be of grace?  Think again.  The ability to serve God is a gift of God's grace.  I refer not only to the mental ability, but the capacity which men of substance have to help the cause of God by their generous gifts.  It is God who gives the power to get wealth, as it he who gives the brain to think, and the mouth to speak.  "What has thou that thou didst not receive?" "Taken from Charles Spurgeon's message titled, 'The First Last and Last First.'"

(2) The hiring of the workers in the vineyard (20:1-7)
"'For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?” “Because no one has hired us,” they answered. He said to them, “You also go and work in my vineyard.”'"

Thought Question: Based on what you have read so far, how do you expect the workers to be paid?

 

 

"'For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?” “Because no one has hired us,” they answered.'"

The common practice at that time was for landowners to go to the marketplace to hire the laborers that gathered there hoping to find work.  There, the landowners and laborers would bargain about the "pay" the laborers were to work for.  Here, the "landowner" agrees to "pay" one "denarius," which was the normal pay for a day's work.  The work day at that time was typically from 6 AM to 6 PM.  Keener notes that "twelve hour work days were only customary during harvest time." "Taken from Matthew by Craig Keener.  Copyright 1997 by Intervarsity Press."  Here, the "landowner" also hires workers at 9 AM, Noon, 3 PM, and 5 PM.  He hired the group of laborers that began at 6 AM for one "denarius,"  He tells the others that are hired that he will pay them "whatever is right."  The others would have been happy to receive anything, for a day without a day's work meant a day without the essentials of life for him and his family.  So, we have five categories: those that we hired at 6 AM, 9 AM, Noon, 3 PM, and 5 PM.  The first were hired at 6 AM and the last at 5 PM.  The last group of workers hired at 5 PM will come to represent "the last" who will "first."

(3) The rewarding of the workers in the vineyard (20:8-12)
"'When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.” The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. “These men who were hired last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”'"

Thought Question: How do you believe this applies to our heavenly reward?

 

 

"'When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.” The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. “These men who were hired last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”'"

The laborers are paid at the end of the day.  The "landowner" pays them in the opposite order from which they were hired.  This creates a problem, for he gives those who worked for one hour, three hours, six hours, nine hours, and twelve hours all the same wage.  The first group that had worked all day in the scorching sun did not think it was fair.  They certainly seem to have a point, for didn't the last group work but one hour during the time that the sun was down?  Peter was expecting that he and the other disciples would be rewarded greatly for their great sacrifice.  But in this parable, it is not those who made the greatest effort that received the greatest reward.  Jesus is telling "Peter" that those in His kingdom will not be rewarded on the same basis of merit that they were used to being measured by.  It is very human for us to expect God to deal with us on a merit basis.  We expect to be rewarded according to our efforts.  If we pray a long time, suffer greatly for Jesus, and work faithfully for Him, we may feel that He is obligated to bless and reward us.  That was also the attitude of the older brother of the Prodigal Son.  He resented his father when he treated his younger brother so well.  He believed that he deserved the royal treatment his runaway brother received, for he had stayed at home and worked. See Lk. 15:11-32

But is there anything that we can do to cause God to owe us anything?  Obviously, there is nothing we can do to pay off the infinite debt that we owe God.  The apostle Paul was a debtor when he began his ministry, and he was still very much a debtor when he ended it—for everything in his ministry was done by God.  Any good that any of us do can only comes from God.  "For both the service and the reward are all of grace.  The service itself is given us of God, and God rewards the service which he himself has given. . . . God gives us good works, and then rewards us for the works which he himself has given.  So all is of grace from first to last, and must never be viewed with a legal eye." "Taken from Charles Spurgeon's message titled, "The First Last and the Last First."

(4) Why the last will be first and first will be last (20:13-16)
"'But he answered one of them, “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.'"

Thought Question: How do you believe that this applies to the way God deals with us?

 

 

"'But he answered one of them, “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.'"

In these verses, Jesus explains how the method of rewards in His kingdom differs from the method of rewards we are used to.  God does not owe us anything—He does not owe us happiness, success, or rewards in heaven.  But, He does desire to be "generous" to us, just like the "landowner" in the parable was "generous" to those he hired at the "eleventh hour."  He knew their need.  They needed a full day's pay to meet their family's needs for food and other essentials.  He knew their need, and generously met their need by graciously giving them a full day's wage when they had only worked one hour.

It is likely that he paid the last workers first because it gave him the greatest pleasure to give them what they did not deserve.  It gave him more pleasure than to give the other workers what they did deserve.  The labor that God will reward most is the labor that is done out of a sense of total indebtedness.  "So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'" (Luke 17:10) See also Lk. 17:1-10

The "first" who feel that they have done great things for God, will be last in God's eyes.  But those who feel that they deserve nothing at all, will be "first" in His eyes.  Do we feel like the "first" who look down, for example, on the young person who has just been saved out of a life of sin and drug addiction?  Or, are we like the "last" who feel that we deserve nothing and that we are just as unworthy to be saved as this young man saved out of drug addiction? See also James 4:10 and I Pet. 5:6

There may have been an additional meaning for Jesus' Jewish disciples in this parable.  In the future there would soon be a time when God would reach out to the Gentiles.  If the Jews felt that they deserved to be God's people and the Gentiles were unworthy to be God's people, the Gentile people who would see themselves as "last" would be "first"; and the Jews who saw themselves as "first" would be "last."

MORE LESSONS ON SERVANTHOOD (20:17-28)
In these verses, we learn that the disciples were still looking forward to a kingdom where they would be served.  But Jesus was seeking to lead them into a kingdom where they would be servants; and where He, their King, would be the greatest Servant of all.

1. Jesus' path of sacrificial service—He tells them once again that He is about to be killed. (20:17-19)
"Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, 'We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!'"

Thought Question: Why do you think that Jesus' disciples did not really accept what Jesus explains so clearly here?

 

 

"Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, 'We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!'"

For at least the third time, Jesus explains to His "disciples" what is ahead for Him. See Matt. 16:21, 17:22-23  See also Lk. 17:25  Luke describes the disciples' lack of understanding of Jesus' words.  "The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about." (Luke 18:34) They did not understand, then; but they did understand after the events He predicted had occurred.  Then, they would understand that He had committed Himself to giving His life in service to mankind, even though it meant that He needed to experience horrible suffering to do it.  Here, in these verses is summarized the type of suffering He was willing to endure for us.  He would be "betrayed"—His heart would be broken by the religious leaders of the nation that He chose to be His people.  He would be subjected to the supreme injustice—He, the innocent One, would be unlawfully tried and the given the death sentence.  He would be "mocked"—be laughed at and purposely humiliated by both Jews and Romans.  He would be "flogged"—He would experience the type of physical torture that often ended in death.  And He would be "crucified"—He would die in a way that was designed both to torture and humiliate Him.  But He would, in the end, conquer it all—for He would rise from the grave triumphantly "on the third day!"

Jesus shows here that during His earthly life He foreknew how His life would end.  We are protected from knowing how our lives will end.  He, though, knew all the details of how He would die.  That helps us know even more clearly how much He loved us and loves us now.  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) 

He not only knew how His life would end while He was a man on earth, but He had known it from all eternity.  How He would die was predicted in the Old Testament, hundreds of years before He was born.  "I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me!" (Isaiah 50:6-8)  "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 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. 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. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand." (Isaiah 53:3-10)  " . . . My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?" (Psalm 22:1)  "But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 'He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.'" (Psalm 22:6-8)  "Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." (Psalm 22:16-18)

"going up to Jerusalem"  "Soon now, they would be crossing the Jordan, passing through Jericho, below sea level, and then up the steep winding road to Jerusalem, about 2550 feet above sea level." "Taken from Matthew Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."

2. Our path of selfish egotism—the mother of James and John asks Jesus to allow her two sons to sit out his right and left in His kingdom (20:20-21)
"Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. 'What is it you want?' he asked. She said, 'Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.'"

Thought Question: Name a situation where we could be tempted do the same type of thing today?

 

 

"Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. 'What is it you want?' he asked. She said, 'Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.'"

Did the disciples understand what He had just said was ahead of Him—torture and death?  His humble service would be completed with His death on a cross.  But, we can see here that they were still thinking that they all were heading to honor, ease, and a throne.  In 19:28, Jesus had promised them thrones.  Apparently, that is all they could think about. For here, James, John and their "mother" wanted to get in line first so that James and John would receive the best places of honor.

From the crucifixion accounts, we learn that her name was probably Salome and that she probably was the sister of Mary, Jesus' mother. Compare Matt. 27:56; Mk. 15:41, 16:1-2; and Jn. 19:25

We also learn here that she was very human in her desires, for she wanted to get special treatment for her sons.  She was not satisfied with them having two thrones, as Jesus promised in 19:28.  She wanted them to have the thrones that were the supreme places of honor.  In Mk. 10:35-37, we learn that it was not only their mother's idea, James and John were in on it also.  All three of them, together, were asking Jesus to be like the corrupt kings of their time and show favoritism toward them.  This "mother" and her "two sons" were not abnormally self-centered.  J. C. Ryle's quote of Martin Luther is very appropriate here: "the flesh ever seeks to be glorified before it is crucified." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

3. The path we are to follow—the path of sacrificial service (20:22-28)
The disciples did not realize that if they were to sit next to Jesus, they would also need to follow Him to the cross and drink the cup that He was to drink.

a. We must share His cup. (20:22-23)
"'You don’t know what you are asking,' Jesus said to them. 'Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?' 'We can,' they answered. Jesus said to them, 'You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.'"

Thought Question: What is the "cup" that all Christians are "to drink"?

 

 

"'You don’t know what you are asking,' Jesus said to them. 'Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?' 'We can,' they answered."  To understand what Jesus was saying, we need to understand what He meant by "cup."  "Cup" was their way of summarizing what life had in store for someone.  For example, Jeremiah told Israel that God had said that they would experience the "cup filled with the wine of my wrath." (Jer. 25:15)  In other words, the people of Israel that Jeremiah was writing to were about to experience God's judgment on them when the Babylonians came and totally conquered them—that was their "cup."

Jesus' "cup" was the cross.  In the garden of Gethsemane, He said, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:39)

Jesus' disciples did not understand that if they were to share His glory, they would also need to share his sufferings.  With the naive zeal of a Peter, they say, "You name it, we will do it."  They had no idea about the hard road of suffering that actually did lie ahead of them.  Peter did become aware of it later.  "But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." (1 Peter 4:13)

Jesus' disciples would share His suffering,  In fact, James would be the first of the apostles to die a martyr's death and John would live his last days in captivity, after most of the other apostles had died a martyr's death.

Are we ready to pay the cost that is required for those who follow Christ in His type of ministry?  "Are we ready to be purified by affliction, weaned from the world by bereavements, drawn nearer to God by losses, sicknesses, and sorrow?" "Ryle."

"Jesus said to them, 'You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.'"  James and John had no idea what truly following Christ would lead to.  They did not know about the martyrs' deaths that all but John would face—that is what tradition tells us.

James did not know that he would die a martyr's death shortly after the beginning of the church.  "It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword." (Acts 12:1-2)  John did not know that he would end his life on a prison island call Patmos.  "I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus." (Revelation 1:9)

"These two brothers formed a kind of 'parenthesis of martyrdom" within which all the apostles in turn were put to death for the sake of Jesus." "Taken from The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

They did not know that people would hate and kill Jesus; then hate and kill all but one of them.  That is surely why Jesus is so patient with them here.  He knew that their love for Him would lead them to make great sacrifices, as they choose to be obedient to Him to the end.

Who, though, was to sit on His right and left in His kingdom?  It belongs "to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father."   Stedman gives us the following insightful words on this passage.  "He says something very illuminating here.  He does not say, as we might expect, 'It is for those who are prepared for it.'  That is how we would put it.  But he says, 'It is for those for whom it has been prepared.'  If you think carefully on those words, you can see that he is implying that the Father chooses men for this honor.  He prepares the man for this place by the circumstances, by the cups and baptisms that he puts him through.  And then he prepares the honor for the man.  Did you notice that?  God always starts with people, not with events. His goal is the shaping and molding of lives.  That is where he begins.  And he fits the events to that end.  So, two of them were going to sit at the right hand and the left hand of Jesus.  But God is going to mold these two and prepare them for it, and then he will prepare that height of glory for them as well." "Stedman."

b. The greatest among you will be your servants. (20:24-28)
"When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'"

Thought Question: According to Jesus' words here, who are the greatest to Him?

 

 

"When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave."

We see here that it was not only James and John who were out of touch with Jesus' ways at this time, but the other "ten" disciples were also deaf to the truths in Jesus' words.  The other disciples' anger at James and John show that they also wanted the highest place of honor in Christ's kingdom.  They wanted that place as much as James and John did; and they wanted it for the same self-serving reasons.

Jesus patiently continues to teach them that in His kingdom, it would be different.  In the world, the "great" ones are those who are able to successfully "lord it over" others—or, as Robertson translates it, "play the tyrant." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

In the world, it is a rat race; and as someone has said, the goal is to become the head rat or the head rats.  In this system, people are viewed as competitors, obstacles, or useful in one's pursuit of money, prestige, and power.

In Jesus' kingdom, it is the complete opposite.  People are to be seen as opportunities for service.  That service can be expressed in many different ways.  Recently, my wife had surgery.  There have been those who have seen our need as an opportunity to serve us.  For example, yesterday a lady whom we do not know, who has Multiple Sclerosis, left a bag with all types of encouragements in it.  This lady was great in our eyes and certainly is great in God's eyes.  We feel the same about those who brought meals to us and sat with my wife Shirley so that I could minister in the local jail and in the church.  Other ministries, I needed to suspend for a while; but those two I wanted to do.  Those who served us made it possible.

Stedman points out that Paul used the human body to describe what God desires for the church to be like.  "Paul brings this out so beautifully in his development of the Body of Christ, in I Corinthians 12, where he says that because we have gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit and a ministry opened to us by the Lord Jesus and power granted to us by the heavenly Father, we do not need to be in competition with anybody.  Each one has his own ministry, and no one is a rival of any other.  We do not need to envy one another. . . Every apostle is careful to remind us of the danger of lording it over the brethren, of those in positions of authority thinking they have the right to tell others what to do or how to act or what to think or how to behave, thinking they have the right to make decisions which others must follow.  This is not true in the church." "Taken from The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books."

Years ago, someone asked me in a adult Sunday School class that I was teaching if it was okay to disagree with me.  In lighthearted way, I said that what I preferred was that I had a wire attached to each person's chin so that after I taught something, I could pull it and everyone would nod their heads in agreement with me.  My point was that the class was a place where both agreements and disagreements could be freely discussed.  The purpose of a church leader is to serve the church, not to "lord it over" the church.

"— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'"  The pattern for our life is to be like the One we are following.  "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 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 2:5-8)

Jesus' whole purpose in coming to us was to serve us.  That service needed to end in a horrible death.  So, are we, then, to seek to become bosses in the church He died for?  No!  No!  Rather, we are to seek to become servants like He was, no matter what the cost.  Then, we will be seeking to be the greatest in His kingdom.

"and to give his life as a ransom for many.'"  What did Jesus mean by a "ransom"?  We are familiar with kidnappers requiring that a "ransom" be paid before they will free the one who has been kidnapped.  In Jesus' time, the most common use of the word "ransom" was when it was used to describe a payment that was necessary to free a slave.  Every man and woman that has lived on this planet has been born a slave to sin and a slave to Satan.  What "ransom" price needs to be paid to set us free from sin's penalty and power and Satan's rule in our lives?  Peter sums it up in this way:  "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." (1 Peter 1:18-19)

Jesus' blood satisfied God's justice against us.  It cleansed us completely from God's just condemnation, and it puts us in a righteous position before God's holiness.  "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)  "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," (Romans 5:1)  "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," (Romans 8:1)  "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 2:24)

Origen, an early church leader, taught that the "ransom" that Jesus paid was paid to the devil.  But, he was wrong.  The price that Jesus paid needed to be paid to satisfy God's own justice.  God could not simply overlook our sin and still be an absolutely just God.  A just judge cannot overlook it when someone is guilty of some crime.  For there to be justice, a penalty must be paid.  God's love led Him to pay that penalty Himself.  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

With the pattern of Jesus in mind, how should we seek after greatness?  We should not seek to rule over men, be praised by men, or excel over other men.  Rather, we should serve others as God gifts us and empowers us to be able to do it.  "For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10)

Let us seek to discover that area of ministry that God has given to us.  It may seem unimportant, but God gives us joy and strength so that we can do it.  In the end, we will have faithfully done what God called us to do.

THE GOAL OF HIS MINISTRY SYMBOLIZED: TO BRING US OUT OF THE DARKNESS AND INTO THE LIGHT (Two blind men are healed) (20:29-34)
Jesus' healing of two blind men demonstrates how the disciples could be delivered from their blindness.  If they would come to Jesus as these two blind men came to Him, He would open their eyes too.  Obviously, there is a message for us here also, for we also can learn from these blind men how to be delivered from our darkness, and we also can be brought into the light.  Let us look at this short episode and the process they went through and see what it says to us.

1.  They cried out to Jesus in their darkness. (20:29-30)
"As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, 'Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!'"

Thought Question: How can we be like these blind men?

 

 

"As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, 'Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!'"

The process of going from being "blind" to God and His ways to being able to see God and His ways begins when we experience something similar to what these "blind men" experienced.  Imagine that you are one of the "blind men" sitting alongside a road outside of "Jericho," hopelessly imprisoned in a cell of darkness.  Your only hope at all is a man named Jesus that you have heard of; but, because of your blindness, there is no way that you can go to where He is.  But, you hear that He might be coming your way.  Then, you hear the crowds approaching.  You realize that the crowds are following Him.  Next, you can tell that Jesus is passing by, so you cry out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!"  Do you see how this applies to us?  They were very aware that they needed to have their eyes opened, and they believed that Jesus was their only hope.  That is the message for the disciples and for us—do we recognize our need to see and do we also cry out?

Did Jesus come primarily to deliver physically "blind men" from their physical blindness?  Or, did He come primarily to deliver spiritually "blind men" from spiritual blindness?  Obviously, the answer is that man's main problem and greatest need is our spiritual blindness.  Also, if we cry out in our spiritual blindness and darkness for healing, as these "two blind men" did, we can expect the same results as they received.  The problem is that we do not cry out.  We are too busy.  We are too proud to cry out for mercy.  We deny our need for spiritual sight.  The disciples, at this time, did not yet fully recognize their blindness to God and His ways.  But they would become aware of their need to be delivered from their spiritual blindness in the coming days, weeks, and years.

How often do we cry out to God like these "blind men" did?  Here, we have the reason why some Christians are more motivated than others.  Some are deeply aware of their need for God's mercy and cry out to Him.  Others, have only a lukewarm awareness of their need for God's mercy. See Revel. 3:14-22  Certainly, Jesus has no greater joy than responding to those who cry out in their darkness for mercy and light.  There is also no greater joy in the ministry than when we minister to those, like these "blind men," who are wholeheartedly crying out for light.

"leaving Jericho" Luke 18:34 says "As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging."  Also Mark 10:46 says "Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging." (Mark 10:46)  Were they, then, "leaving Jericho" or approaching "Jericho"?  Here is Robertson's possible solution to what appears to be a contradiction:  "It is probable that Mark and Matthew refer to the old Jericho, the ruins of which have been discovered, while Luke alludes to the new Roman Jericho.  The two blind men were apparently between the two towns." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"Two blind men"  "Mark (10:46) and Luke (18:35) mention only one blind man, Bartimaeus ((Mark)." "Robertson."  The solution is simple.  If there were "two blind men," there was also one "blind" man—a blind man named "Bartimaeus." 

2. In spite of discouragement, they continue cry out in their darkness. (20:31)
"The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, 'Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!'"  What response did these "blind men" get from their cries for "mercy"?  The first response they got was not the loving and encouraging words of Jesus, but the irritated, impatient, and discouraging words of the crowd—basically telling them to shut their mouths so they could hear what Jesus was saying. 

These "two blind men" would not be discouraged.  Their need was so great and Jesus was their only hope.  So, they cried out even louder!  What is the key teaching here?  Those who see that their need is great and that Jesus is the only answer, will not be discouraged when men try to discourage them.  They will cry out even more loudly and they will seek Jesus even more desperately.

They provide a model for us when we recognize our need is great and when men try to discourage us.  How willing are we to persevere through discouragements is a test of how well we recognize the greatness of our need and how much we recognize that only Jesus can give us what we need.  For example, if we want spiritual light as much as they wanted physical light, we will not give up—no matter how many times we are told to give up.  "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." (Luke 18:1)

Why did the "crowd" try to discourage these "blind men"?  They probably felt that someone of Jesus' stature had no time for these "blind" beggars who were shouting in an annoying way.  We can feel like this also—we can feel that Jesus gets annoyed by all our cries for help.  We will see by the way He responds to these "blind men" in the next verses the heart of Jesus.

3. We want our sight! (20:32-33)
"Jesus stopped and called them. 'What do you want me to do for you?' he asked. 'Lord,' they answered, 'we want our sight.'"  Now, we see Jesus doing something remarkable.  He goes up to them and asks them what it is that they "want" Him to do.  This may not sound too amazing, unless we are aware of what was involved in Jesus stopping to talk to them.  It was not just a small group that Jesus stopped, but it was probably a whole town or more.  It was a custom at that time for the whole town to come out and join in whenever an interesting group came through a town.  And Jesus and the multitudes that followed Him certainly fit in this category.  Jesus stopped everything that was happening in "Jericho" to go over and talk to these "two blind men." 

So, into their dark world came a ray of light—a ray of hope!  "What" did they "want"?  They wanted to have "sight."

4. Out of the darkness into the light (20:34)
"Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him."  In the final verse, we have Jesus' response to their humble and persistent cry for mercy.  They were unable to see the look of "compassion" on Jesus' face as He "touched their eyes."  But, the first sight that their eyes focused on after they were able to see was the loving face of Jesus.

My first roommate, as a new Christian in college, was "blind."  He had be born with sight, but something was put into his eyes shortly after his birth, by accident, that took his sight from him.  He often said that the first face he would see would be the face of Jesus.  That was the first face these "two blind men" saw. 

"Immediately they received their sight and followed him."  Those whose need is greatest, often have a greater love for Jesus.  That was true of these "blind men" when He opened their eyes.  Certainly, these "two blind men" followed Jesus out of love for what He did for them.

When our spiritually blinded eyes are opened, we will begin to see how selfish, bitter, rebellious, and proud we are.  We will also see how much our ways differ from His ways.  Out of the darkness and into the light, we will follow Him who is "the Light of the World": "I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness." (John 12:46)  "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12)

May we remember these "two blind men" and Jesus' compassionate response to them, at times when we are crying out to God.  It is not because we have mastered the principles of prayer that God responds to us, but because of His compassion that prayers are answered.

LAST DAYS OF THE KING (21-28)
We come to a very familiar part of Christ's life: His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the cleansing of the temple.  But, let's not approach these accounts as only being familiar stories, but with a desire to see what God wants to say to us through them.  There is a message for us in the way He came to them.  For as He came to them, He comes to us.  He came to them in gentleness and humility.  He also comes to us to cleanse the temple.  For you and I are the modern-day temple—we are the dwelling place of God.  We are the temples of the Holy Spirit. See I Cor. 3:16, 6:18-19

1. Jesus comes to Jerusalem in humility and gentleness, riding on a donkey. (21:1-7)
"As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, 'Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.' This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 'Say to the Daughter of Zion, “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”' The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them."

Thought Question: Why do you believe that God chose to have Jesus come into Jerusalem as the promised King, riding on a donkey?

 

 

"As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, 'Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.'"

The Son of God could have come to this world in any way He chose—for example, He could have come at the head of a glorious procession of angels or in the midst of earthshaking thunder.   But He chose to come as a baby born in a barn.  He also could have presented Himself to Jerusalem as their King in any way He chose—for example, He could have come into Jerusalem 20 feet tall floating in the air in shocking glory.  But He chose to come to Jerusalem riding on a tiny beast of burden—He came on a donkey rather than on a white stallion.

"Bethphage on the Mount of Olives,"  It is to the east of Jerusalem.

"you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her."  It is not clear whether this was arranged by Jesus beforehand or if it was arranged supernaturally.  Ryle believed that it was supernatural omniscience by Jesus; Ray Stedman believed that there was nothing supernatural about it—he believed that Jesus prearranged the use of this "donkey."  Whatever was the case, Jesus is able to predict that when these  "two disciples" say "that the Lord needs them," the one with the "donkey and the "colt" will immediately cooperate with them.  Mark describes what happened when they began to take the "donkey" to Jesus.  "They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, 'What are you doing, untying that colt?' They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it." (Mark 11:4-7)

"'Go to the village ahead of you,'"  "Mark also mentions Bethany (Mark 11:1)  No doubt the village was Bethany." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Barclay believed that the "village" was Bethany.  But, since "Bethphage" was closer to Jerusalem, it seems to me be more like that the "village" was "Bethphage."  Both villages were close to each other and close to Jerusalem.

We will see that Jesus will enter Jerusalem in an open and public way.  This supported the view that He was their promised King.  He had been quiet about this before, as it was not time yet for the animosity against Him to boil over, leading to a determined effort by those in power to eliminate Him—to eliminate Him because He had become a direct threat to their positions of power and prestige.  His ride into Jerusalem as the promised King changed all that—He was coming into Jerusalem as the One they needed to submit to.  They would not submit!  He must be eliminated.  See Matt. 8:4, 9:30, 16:20, and 17:9 for examples of times Jesus instructed people not to tell others what He had done, what was said of Him, or what they had seen.

"This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 'Say to the Daughter of Zion, “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”'"  See Isa. 62:11; Zech. 9:9

Zechariah predicted how the future King of Israel would enter Jerusalem.  He would not come as a victorious conqueror riding on a white stallion, but He was to come "riding on a donkey."  The "donkey" was "an animal symbolic of humility, peace, and Davidic royalty." NIV Study Bible note."

"The  ass was used by judges and kings in the Old Testament on errands of peace; the horse was used mainly as a charger for battle." "Taken from John the Gospel of Belief by Merrill Tenney.  Copyright 1948 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."

Jesus' entry on a "donkey" fulfilled a prophecy in Zechariah.  It is found in Zech. 9:9.  Zechariah was a prophet after Israel's exile to Babylon and Medo-Persia.  They were a humbled nation without a king.  Zechariah prophesied that a future King would come "riding on a donkey."

As Jesus humbly came as King to Jerusalem so many years ago, so He comes to us today.  He comes not to force Himself on us, but he comes to all who choose Him as their King.  "'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.'" (Matthew 11:28-30)  We can receive Him or reject Him as King.  "He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—" (John 1:11-12)

"The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them."  "On them" refers to the "cloaks," not that He sat on both "the donkey and the colt." 

2. He comes in glory—"Hosanna to the Son of David." (21:8-11)
"A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, 'Hosanna to the Son of David!' 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' 'Hosanna in the highest!' When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, 'Who is this?' The crowds answered, 'This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.'"

Thought Question: Do you believe that this crowd that "shouted, 'Hosanna' was the same people who shouted, "crucify"?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, 'Hosanna to the Son of David!' 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' 'Hosanna in the highest!'"

Someone has said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a "donkey" has told us more than a thousand words.  His humble ride tells us that He came to serve; He came to bring peace; and He humbly came down to our level—no matter how low that level might be.  Also, He did not need to impress men—He knew who He was and men's impression of Him could not change that.

They welcomed Him to Jerusalem as their King—their long-promised Messiah.  They "spread their cloaks"; they broke off palm "branches from the trees and spread them on the road"; and they "shouted, 'Hosanna to the Son of David!'"  "Hosanna" means "save us."  See Jn. 12:13 for "palm branches"  "Hosanna" comes from the cry for deliverance found in Psalm 118:25-26.  "O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you." (Psalm 118:25-26)

"When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, 'Who is this?' The crowds answered, 'This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.'"  The enthusiasm of the "crowds" followed Jesus until it was like an earthquake going through the city.  The Greek word that is translated as "stirred" is the Greek word from which we get our word "seismic."  The city was "stirred" in a way similar to how an earthquake would have "stirred" the city.  It is tragic, beyond what words can convey, that when Jesus came through these same crowds on the way to the cross, they would yell to have Him crucified.  Their devotion to Christ did not go deep enough.  Their hearts were like the rocky soil in Matthew 13.  "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." (Matthew 13:20-21)

Psalm 188, from which the words came from that  the "crowds" chanted, also has these words in it.  "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;" (Psalm 118:22)  Here, we learn how fickle people can be.  They can love us and have high praise for us one day and turn on us at a later day—as if they never saw any good in us at all.  "This is a faithful picture of human nature.  This is a proof of the utter folly of thinking more of the praise of men than the praise of God.  Nothing is so fickle and uncertain as popularity.  It is here today and gone tomorrow." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."  Jesus went from being seen as a honored and praised King to being seen as a rejected and mocked villain in three short days.

3. He comes to purify. (21:12-13)
"Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 'It is written,' he said to them, '“My house will be called a house of prayer,” but you are making it a “den of robbers.”'"

Thought Question: What does Jesus' actions here tell us about when it is and when it is not appropriate to be angry?  (Or is it never appropriate to be angry?)

 

 

"Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves."  After Jesus entered the city, He went directly to the heart of the problem.  Mark tells us this happened on the Monday following Palm Sunday. See Mk. 11:12-17  The condition of the temple court at this Passover feast revealed the state of the Jewish nation and the state of the hearts of the Jewish people.  The temple that had been dedicated to God was at that time dedicated to the selfish interests of the Jewish leaders.  Most of us are familiar with what was happening there.  The Jews were required to pay a yearly temple tax of "two drachma" (Matt. 17:24) See Matt. 17:24-27; See also Exod. 30:13-15 where the payment was to be a "half shekel."  Two drachma is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "half shekel."

The Jewish religious leaders had established that the tax could be paid only in the currency that was acceptable to them.  "It must not be paid in ingots of silver, but in stamped currency; it must not be paid in coins of inferior alloy or coins which had been clipped, but coins of high grade silver.  It could be paid in shekels of the sanctuary, in Galilean half-shekels, and especially in Tyrian currency which was a very high standard." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Those with unacceptable money needed to pay to have it exchanged into an acceptable coinage.  "The money changers made a fixed charge of about one and a half pence (English money).  This charge must have brought in a large revenue. . . .  Some have estimated the bankers' profits at forty thousand to forty-five thousand dollars." "Taken from Unger's Bible Dictionary.  'Money changers' Copyright 1957 by Moody Press."  Jesus' anger at the money changers clearly demonstrates the degree of corruption that was taking place.

Also, the sacrifices that were offered needed to meet the standards acceptable to the official inspectors.  If the sacrifices that were brought did not pass inspection, they were forced to buy sacrifices at the temple that were considerably more expensive than the normal cost of buying an animal.

In short, the religious establishment had turned the Passover into a money-making time; and they had made a farce of God's intention for this holy time.  Could this happen today?  Can, for example, Christmas also be more about money-making than remembering the birth of Christ?

"'It is written,' he said to them, '“My house will be called a house of prayer,” but you are making it a “den of robbers.”'"  Jesus combines the words of two prophets to express the hypocrisy of what was happening in the temple.  "House of prayer" is Isaiah's description of the temple in Isa. 56:7 and "den of robbers" is Jeremiah's words in Jer. 17:11  God's house had become little more than a "den of robbers."  Robbers' dens were caves where "robbers" hid as they waited for unsuspecting victims to pass by, so they could swoop down on them, overcome them, and steal from them.

Here, we see another of the many sides of Jesus—His uninhibited hatred toward sin.  Especially, we see His hatred toward the sin that resulted in the desecration of his Father's house.  Even though the temple was jammed full of people, they could not stand in the way or prevent His fury.  He is just as zealous to purify each of us who are His temple today.  A previous cleansing of the temple is recorded in Jn. 2:12-17  See also Mal. 3:2-3

We see here that there is a time for anger.  Anger is a healthy emotion when it is directed at righting wrong.  Jesus did not lose it here, for if He had lost it, much more would have happened than tables being turned over.  It was a controlled anger, to express His disgust at that which was very disgusting—the corruption of the holy temple with unholy greed.

4. He comes to heal. (21:14)
"The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them."  When He comes as our King and when He comes as Israel's King, He will come not only to cleanse us from sin, but to heal us from the effects of sin.  Physical healing points to the greater sickness of the soul—Jesus' healing always symbolized the greater healings He most desired to do—the healing of the soul.  The greatest miracle is still being performed today—the healing and the transforming of lives.  So, Jesus first cast out the greedy, but then He healed the outcasts.
5. Some received Him and their King and others strongly rejected Him. (21:15-17)
"But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, 'Hosanna to the Son of David,' they were indignant. 'Do you hear what these children are saying?' they asked him. 'Yes,' replied Jesus, 'have you never read, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise”?' And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night."

Thought Question: Why do you think that "the children" praised Him; whereas, the religious leaders "were indignant"?

 

 

"But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, 'Hosanna to the Son of David,' they were indignant."  In this verse, we see totally different responses to all Jesus was doing—different responses to the triumphal entry, the cleansing of the temple, and the healing of "the blind and the lame."  The children were able to see Jesus for who He was—humble, loving, and a hater of sin.  There are times when our hearts are soft and open to the truth.  It's times like these when we are able to see who Christ is.

On the other hand, the religious leaders were hardened by their own "bitter envy and selfish ambition." (James 3:14)  They saw Jesus through the eyes of greed, pride, and bitterness.  All they saw was Someone who was getting more praise and attention than they were getting.  Our hearts can get like their hearts also if we do not do what James instructs his readers to do in James 4:8-10: "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 4:8-10)

"'Yes,' replied Jesus, 'have you never read, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise”?'"  Children have not yet devised heart-hardening reasons for rejecting God.  As someone has said, "children are wet cement"—rather than them being like hardened cement.  As we get older, we can choose sin over God and thereby "suppress the truth" in doing so. (Rom. 1:18) See Rom. 1:18-21; Eph. 4:17-19

"And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night."  By leaving Jerusalem, he temporarily put Himself  out of danger of being arrested in Jerusalem that night.  He probably stayed at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. See Jn. 11 where it describes Jesus resurrecting Lazarus from the dead shortly before this time described here in Matt. 21

THE REJECTION OF THE KING (21:18-22:46)

1. No fruit for the King—the fig tree withers, symbolizing the rejection of the King (21:18-22)
"Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, 'May you never bear fruit again!' Immediately the tree withered. When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. 'How did the fig tree wither so quickly?' they asked. Jesus replied, 'I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.'"

Thought Question: What are some mountains that we Christians face today? (Can God remove those mountains like He cursed this fig tree?)

 

 

"Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, 'May you never bear fruit again!' Immediately the tree withered." See also Lk. 13:6-9

A "fig tree" with leaves would indicate, at that time of year, that it would also have figs.  "At Passover season in late March or early April, fig trees are often in leaf on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives.  At this time of year the trees contain only green figs . . . They ripen around June but often fall before that time, leaving only leaves on the tree.  Because of their unpalatable taste, these early figs rarely were eaten; but someone too hungry to care about taste would eat them anyway, as some do today.  A leafy tree lacking early figs, however, would bear no figs at all that year." "Taken from Matthew by Craig Keener.  Copyright 1997 by Intervarsity Press."

Mark divides this account into two events on two days.  First, what occurred before the cleansing of the temple took place on the first day.  "The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again.' And his disciples heard him say it. On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves," (Mark 11:12-15)  Then, he describes what happened on the following day.  "In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!'" (Mark 11:20-21)

"Mark gives the probable chronological order, while Matthew gives a literary compression of the account.  Thus the tree was cursed most likely on Monday morning on the way into the city, and on Tuesday morning the disciples react to the withering on the way back to Jerusalem." "ESV Study Bible note."  Another solution is that there were two fig trees—one withered on Monday and the other withered on Tuesday.

What is the meaning of the "fig tree" withering?  Certainly, it symbolizes Israel's rejection of Jesus as their Messiah.  Also, it symbolizes the lack of fruit and life in Israel as a result of their rejection of Him who is "the life." (Jn. 14:6)

After all the nurturing and cultivating of Israel by God, the nation of Israel should have produced "fruit."  But, like this fruitless "fig tree," Israel also was without fruit.  They were very religious, but they had no fruit from God.  They had the "leaves" of profession, but they had no genuine godliness.  Just as Jesus rejected that "fig tree" for its failure to be fruitful, so He rejects Israel for failing to bear fruit. 

"The fig-tree, full of leaves, but barren of fruit, was a striking emblem of the Jewish church, when our Lord was upon earth.  The Jewish church had everything to make an outward show.  It had the temple, the priesthood, the daily service, the yearly feasts, the Old Testament Scriptures, the rituals of the Levites, the morning and evening sacrifice.  But beneath these goodly leaves, the Jewish church was utterly destitute of fruit.  It had no grace, no faith, no love, no humility, no spirituality, no real holiness, no willingness to receive its Messiah. (John 1:11)  And hence, like the fig tree, the Jewish church was soon to wither away.  It was to be stripped of all its outward ornaments, and its members scattered over the face of the earth.  Jerusalem was to be destroyed.  The temple was to be burned.  The daily sacrifice was to be taken." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

The judgment of Israel for rejecting their Messiah will be soon explained by Jesus in a number of His parables. See 21:28-22:14  After Jesus' death and resurrection, the predicted reign of Christ does not immediately take place in Jerusalem. See Zech. 14:9-21  Instead, Jesus' kingdom will take place in the hearts of those who believe in Him, both Jew and Gentile.  The Bible does predict, though, that the promises to Israel will be fulfilled at a later time. See Rom. 11:1-32; Matt. 24:32-34

"When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. 'How did the fig tree wither so quickly?' they asked. Jesus replied, 'I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.'"

Jesus uses the miraculous withering of the "fig tree" to teach His "disciples" about the "faith" they would need to have to deal with the mountains that would soon face them.  They would need mountain-sized "faith" to move the mountain-sized obstacles that they were about to face.  They would need God to do more than cause a "fig tree" to die.

Today, we have our mountains as well.  Sometimes, it seems to be getting worse instead of better.  We need to remember that Jesus never said it would be easy.  Just as Jesus fulfilled God's purpose for Him against all odds, so God can fulfill His purpose for us against all odds. See Matt. 17:20; Zech. 4:7

"if you have faith and do not doubt,"  Like the Israelite spies who entered the Promised Land looked at the mountain-sized obstacles rather than at God, so we can look at the unbelief and spiritual opposition all around us and think, "It is hopeless." See Numb. 13

Can God use us today to accomplish purposes?  "'I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.'"

Israel's unbelief was a "mountain," but Israel's unbelief would not prevent the message of the gospel spreading to the world through Jesus' tiny band of men.  Today, Israel is still in a state of unbelief about Jesus.  But, the Bible predicts that even this "mountain" of unbelief will change in the future.  "'And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, and all the rest of the clans and their wives.'" (Zechariah 12:10-14)

2. No throne for the King (21:23-46)
In the rest of the chapter, Jesus reveals why Israel did not genuinely receive Him as their King.  He reveals also why most are not receiving Him as their King today.

a. They rejected His authority (The religious leaders challenge His authority—"What right do you have?") (21:23-27)
"Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. 'By what authority are you doing these things?' they asked. 'And who gave you this authority?' Jesus replied, 'I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?' They discussed it among themselves and said, 'If we say, “From heaven,” he will ask, “Then why didn’t you believe him?” But if we say, “From men”—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.' So they answered Jesus, 'We don’t know.' Then he said, 'Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.'"

Thought Question: If someone challenged your authority to say something from the Bible, how would you respond?

 

 

"Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. 'By what authority are you doing these things?' they asked. 'And who gave you this authority?'"

At this time, teachers based their teachings on some famous Rabbi.  For example, they would say, "According to Hillel . . . ."  These religious leaders who were challenging Jesus were quite sure that Jesus was not basing His teaching on a recognized authority.  Edersheim has the following to say about what took place at that time.  "For there was no principle more firmly established by universal consent than that authoritative teaching required previous authorization.  Indeed,  this logically followed from the principle of Rabbinism.  All teaching must be authoritative since it was traditional—approved by authority and handed down from teacher to disciple.  The highest honor of a scholar was, that he was like a well plastered cistern, from which not a drop had leaked of what had been poured into it.  The ultimate appeal in cases of discussion was always to some great authority, whether an individual Teacher or a Decree by the Sanhedrin." "Taken from The Life and Times of the Messiah Vol. II p. 381 by Alfred Edersheim.  Copyright 1971 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."

This was undoubtedly an agreed-upon strategy of these leaders.  They thought that this question would expose to the people that Jesus had no authority to teach—He was just a rogue teacher whom they could ignore.  These arrogant leaders felt that with these questions, they had Him boxed into a corner.  They were about to finally silence Him.  For they knew that His teachings were not based on any accepted Rabbi's teaching.  So, how would Jesus handle this attempt to silence Him? See Prov. 26:4

"Jesus replied, 'I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men?' They discussed it among themselves and said, 'If we say, “From heaven,” he will ask, “Then why didn’t you believe him?” But if we say, “From men”—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.'"

Jesus had been baptized by "John" the Baptist.  "John" had also declared that Jesus was greater than him.  "'I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.'" (Matthew 3:11-12)  "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, “A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.' Then John gave this testimony: 'I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.'" (John 1:29-34) See also  Matt. 3:13-17

These religious leaders who had put Jesus into a tight spot found themselves in an even tighter spot.  For if they said that "John's baptism" was from God, then Jesus is who "John" had proclaimed Him to be—greater than John and "the Son of God."  But if they rejected "John's baptism," as not being from God, then the people who believed he was a "prophet" would turn on them.  We can see by what happened between Jesus and these religious leaders, that it is possible to be very religious and at the same time be rejecting God's rule in our life.

"So they answered Jesus, 'We don’t know.' Then he said, 'Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.'"  By saying that they didn't "know," they were making a profound admission.  They were the religious leaders of God's nation; yet, they did not know whether or not "John" the Baptist was a spokesman for God.  "They ought to have known; it was a part of the duty of the Sanhedrin, of which they were members, to distinguish between true and false prophets; and they were saying that they were unable to make that distinction.  Their dilemma drove them to shameful humiliation." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."

Also, by saying they didn't know, they were exposing their willful unbelief.  The term "agnostic" is used by those who say that they do not have enough knowledge to know about something—particularly, they are saying that they do not have enough knowledge to know whether or not there is a God.  The truth, though, is that most often the problem is that they do not want to know.  There is more than enough evidence easily available to us for us to know whether or not there is a God.  "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles." (Romans 1:20-23)   " . . . The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' . . . " (Psalm 14:1)  These religious leaders did not want to know whether or not "John's baptism" was from God.

How does this apply to us today?  Religious leaders or church people can see themselves as being the ones who determine what is acceptable religion and what is not acceptable.  Each of us can be doing this type of thing without realizing it.  I was a young Christian around the time of the Jesus Movement among young people.  It was interesting how different churches and church leaders responded to it.  Some welcomed what God was doing among young people; others despised these uncouth people who were seen as a contaminant in their religious world and a threat to their cherished traditions.  We need to be careful not to be like the arrogant and self-righteous leaders that rejected Jesus.  For we can be like them and also reject what God is doing, because it is not our way of doing things.  We need to be discerning of false teaching, but we also need to realize that God often does not consult us before He does something.

b. They rejected His invitation to them to enter His kingdom. (21:28-32)

(1) The Parable of the Two Sons (21:28-30)
"'What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, “Son, go and work today in the vineyard.” “I will not,” he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, “I will, sir,” but he did not go.'"

Thought Question: Give an example of someone giving each of these two responses in today's world.

 

 

"'What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, “Son, go and work today in the vineyard.” “I will not,” he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, “I will, sir,” but he did not go.'"  One "son" flatly refuses to do the work the father in the parable asks him to do, but later regrets it and chooses to do the work.

"Changed his mind" translates the Greek word that could be translated, "repented."  "This word really means 'repent,' to be sorry afterwards, and must be sharply distinguished from metanoeo used 34 times in the N. T. as in Matt. 3:2 and metanoia used 24 times as in Matt. 3:8.  The verb metamelomai [the Greek word used here] occurs in the N. T. only five times (Matt. 21:29, 32, 27:3; II Cor. 7:8; Heb. 7:21 from Ps. 109:4).  Paul distinguishes sharply between mere sorrow and the act 'repentance" which he calls metanoian." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament on Matthew by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

The second "son" eagerly says that he will work in the "vineyard"; but, then, he never gets around to doing the "work."  Jesus asks in 21:32, which of the sons did what the father wanted him to do.  They gave the obvious answer, "the first."

An example of each one of these responses happened to me years ago.  We started an AWANA group in our church in the late 1970s.  Two ladies were quite adamant that they would not be part of it.  But, then, both of them changed their minds.  One of them was the AWANA secretary for many years, and the other one went door to door with me in a housing project and helped drive the children from there to where we met each week.  They both said no at first, but later said yes—a very firm yes.  There were others who said yes at first, but did not do it.  But, even some of them, got involved in the program later.  That AWANA program is still going.  In fact, my wife and I still volunteer in it.

(2) The application (21:31-32)
"'Which of the two did what his father wanted?' 'The first,' they answered. Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.'"

Thought Question: What we really believe is what we do.  How do your actions back up what you say you believe? 

 

 

"'Which of the two did what his father wanted?' 'The first,' they answered. Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.'"

The religious leaders acted like they loved God's ways of life, but they did not live it.  "The formal Pharisees, pretended willingness to go, but in reality went not." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

"The tax collectors and prostitutes" represent those that are crooked and the people of the world—those who have rejected God's way of life; yet, they responded to "John" the Baptist and turned away from their ungodly way of life.

Barclay observes that neither of the two sons is the ideal son.  The ideal son would say, 'Yes,' and also do it.

This is a warning to all of us—Christian beliefs and teaching mean nothing if they are only what we say we believe.  For, what we truly believe will be what we choose to do and live by.  We are not truly receiving Jesus and His rule in our hearts unless we are also whole-heartedly embracing His style of life.

c. Israel will fully reject Him—Jesus predicts that they will murder Him by telling the Parable of the Tenants. (21:33-46)

(1) The parable (21:33-41)
"'Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son,” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.” So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants? “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”'"

Thought Question: In what ways does this parable trace Israel's history?

 

 

"'Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son,” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.” So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him."

"Jesus is borrowing almost the exact words of Isaiah chapter 5, when the nation is described as a vineyard." "Taken from The Ruler Who Serves by Ray Stedman.  Copyright 1976 by Word Books." See Isa. 3:14, 5:1-7

The meaning of the parable is obvious: the "landowner"—God—planted a "vineyard"—Israel—and then turns it over to "some farmers"—the religious leaders of Israel.  At "harvest time," "he"—God—sends "his servants" the prophets—to get his share of the "fruit"—the honor due Him.  But, the "farmers"—the religious leaders—beat and killed them—the prophets.  "Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—" (Hebrews 11:36-37)  "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12)

The "landowner"—God—sends more "servants"—the prophets sent by God just before God's judgment of Israel and Judah by Assyria and Babylon receive the same treatment.  Finally, the "landowner"—God—sends his son—Jesus.  But, they are even more eager to kill Him.

We see here that the "landowner" made a significant effort to build this "vineyard."  Building a "wall" is never easy, and it was more difficult in Jesus' time than it is today.  And he "built a watchtower."  The "landowner" did much of the hard work.  Also, God exerted much effort to build His country—the nation of Israel.

The "farmers" benefitted from the land they did not own and from a "vineyard" they did not build.  Israel benefitted from God's work that formed them as a nation.  Yet, they killed God's prophets and they were about to kill His Son.

"'Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants? “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”'"  Like David saw clearly how wrong the individual in the prophet Nathan's story was, without recognizing that Nathan was describing him; so, the religious leaders saw how wrong the "farmers" were in Jesus' parable, without recognizing that the "farmers" in Jesus parable were them.  They did not realize that Jesus was predicting that they were going to kill Him, God's Son. See II Sam. 12:1-15

d. The application of the parable (21:42-46)
"Jesus said to them, 'Have you never read in the Scriptures: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes”? Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.' When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet."

Thought Question: What, do you believe, is Jesus predicting here?

 

 

"Jesus said to them, 'Have you never read in the Scriptures: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes”?'"  To understand the meaning of Jesus' application to them, we need to change Jesus' figure of speech from a "vineyard" to a building.  It was predicted in Ps. 118:22-23 that Israel would, in trying to erect a building, reject the most important "stone" in their building.   "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes." See also Rom. 9:32-33; I Cor. 1:23; Eph. 2:20-21; I Pet. 2:4-8

"capstone" "lit. 'head of the corner'—either a capstone over a door (a large stone used as a lintel), or a large stone used to anchor and align the corner of a wall, or the keystone of an arch (see Zech. 4:7, 10:4)." "NIV Study Bible note on Ps. 118:22."  In short, the Psalmist was led by God's Spirit to predict that Israel would try to build a building without the most important stone that the master builder had provided for his building.  They would try to build God's kingdom without the King—without King Jesus.

"Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.'"  The "stone"—Jesus—they were about to reject would then reject them and crush them as a piece of pottery is crushed by stone.  Jesus is predicting their destruction by the Romans in A.D. 70.  He could also be talking about their eternal destruction in hell.  The "rejected" "stone" will become their judge.  He judged them as a nation when they ceased to be a nation in A.D. 70, and He will judge each one of them Person to person at the final judgment. See Isa. 8:13-15, 28:16; Dan. 2:34-35, 44-45

"and given to a people who will produce its fruit."  In the Beatitudes in Matt. 5:1-12, Jesus describes the heart attitudes that are necessary to be a fruit-bearing member of His kingdom.  It is the opposite of the attitude of the self-righteousness religious leaders of Israel.  God's kingdom is for those who seek it, recognizing how undeserving they are to be part of it—they recognize their need for God's mercy, forgiveness, help, and life.

"When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet."

Here, we see the hardness of heart of these religious leaders.  They knew He was speaking of them, but they refused to humble themselves and repent.  Instead, they were looking for a way to arrest Him when He was not with the crowds.  Judas would give them that opportunity.  They were afraid of the crowds, for the crowds believed that Jesus was "a prophet." 

How does this apply to us today?  We do not want in any way to be like these hardened religious leaders.  Just as they did not escape God's wrath, so those who harden themselves today against the plain teaching of the Bible will also not escape God's wrath.  There are those in the entertainment field, the intellectual culture, and the religious world who are hardened toward God.  Will they get by with defying God and ignoring their consciences?  No!  They also will one day face Jesus Person to person.

e. They rejected His wedding banquet—the Parable of the Wedding Banquet. (22:1-14)

(1) The first invitation to the Jews. (22:1-3)
"Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.'"

Thought Question: When was this invitation offered to Israel?

 

 

"Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.'"

The Jewish wedding was divided into two main periods: 1) the betrothal period—like our engagement, but more binding and 2) the actual wedding.  The actual wedding took place at the home of the groom's parents and involved a time of feasting followed by the couple being led to the bridal chamber.

When the king's son was to be married, it was the most important occasion in the whole kingdom and it was a great honor to be invited to the "wedding banquet."  "The actual invitation was given twice.  First, the invitations were given out with a day and time of the banquet.  Second, at the time of the wedding, the king sent out servants to tell the guests the feast was now ready for them. 

Jesus uses this "wedding banquet" to dramatize God's invitation to Israel and Israel's refusal to respond to His invitation.  Israel had already received their invitation to God's "wedding banquet" through God's spokesmen in Old Testament times.  They were told of the God-man who would lead them into a time of great prosperity and abundance.  That God-man was the One delivering this parable to them.  But, they were about to, as a nation, completely and murderously, reject God's invitation to the "wedding banquet" of God's Son.

(2) The second invitation to the Jews (22:4-7)
"'Then he sent some more servants and said, “Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.” But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.'"

Thought Question: When was this invitation offered to Israel?

 

 

"'Then he sent some more servants and said, “Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.” But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.'"

The "king" had his "servants" tell the already invited guests that it was time for the "wedding banquet."  But the invited guests had what they felt were more important business matters to attend to.  So, they ignored his invitation.  To make it still worse, they "mistreated" and "killed" the king's "servants."  In anger, the "king" kills them and destroys their city.

God, also, invited Israel to His "wedding banquet" through John the Baptist, His Son Jesus Christ, and Jesus' disciples to come to the "wedding" feast of His Son.  The Gospels describe how Israel rejected this invitation and even killed God's Son.

Ultimately, Israel's rejection of their promised King led to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70.  At that time, Israel ceased to be a nation.  They ceased to be a nation until 1948.

(3) The near invitation to the Gentiles (22:8-14)
What should we wear in a church service?  We each have our own opinion on what is appropriate dress for Sunday morning worship services.  Some would emphasize a suit and tie for men; others emphasize that we wear a smile; and still others deemphasize the importance of what we wear in these services.  As we look at the final half of Jesus' Parable of the Wedding Banquet, Jesus will tell us what to wear in church.

(a) Those who do respond to this new invitation (22:8-10)
"'Then he said to his servants, “The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.” So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.'"

Thought Question: When do you believe that this invitation took place? (or is taking place?)

 

 

"'Then he said to his servants, “The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.” So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.'"

In the parable, the "king" is determined to have guests at his son's "wedding banquet."  So, he tells his "servants" to invite anyone who will come.  This, of course, is describing how the church began.  Israel rejected God's invitation when they rejected their Messiah Jesus Christ.  So, God now invites anyone who will come, to come.  In the last 1900+ years, invitations have been given to people in every nation in the world and to every type of people—from the poorest of people to the richest of people; from those on death row to the most law-abiding people.  As a result, God's "banquet" is filled with those who have come from every nation and every walk of life.

(b) Those who do not respond to this new invitation (22:11-14)
"'But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. “Friend,” he asked, “how did you get in here without wedding clothes?” The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, “Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are invited, but few are chosen.'"

Thought Question: What do you believe are the "wedding clothes" that we must wear to be acceptable at God's "wedding banquet"?

 

 

"'But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. “Friend,” he asked, “how did you get in here without wedding clothes?” The man was speechless."  The high point of the feast came when "king" himself came into the "banquet."  Jesus is picturing what will be the absolute high point for us who are in His church—when we will come into His presence!  We see here, that for some, it will not be a time of celebration.  What will it be like when we come into the very presence of God?  In the Garden of Eden, the fallen Adam and Eve hid from God's presence.  When Isaiah came into God's presence, he cried out, "'Woe to me! . . . I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'" (Isaiah 6:5)  The people of Israel were terrified when God appeared to them at Mount Sinai. See Exod. 20:18-21  How can we be acceptable to God, when we come into His holy presence?  The answer is given here: we must be properly dressed for the occasion.

In the parable, the "king" sees a man who was not properly dressed.  At the king's wedding, everyone was to wear only the garments that the "king" provided.  If someone came wearing his own clothes, it was an insult to the "king."  In the parable, the original Greek word for "not wearing" tells us that this guest had deliberately chosen not to wear the proper clothing.  "It implies, as Dr. Morison observes, that the man was conscious of the omission when he entered, and was intentionally guilty of the neglect."  "Taken from Word Studies by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors."  Vincent makes this distinction based on the meaning of the Greek article for "not" used.  It is the Greek particle me ("e" has a long "a" sound).  The other Greek particle for "not" oun.  "This distinction between the two negative particles rests on the law of the Greek language, according to which ou and its compounds [oun is one] stand where something is to be denied as a matter of fact and me and its compounds when something is to be denied as a matter of thought [a thoughtful choice]." "Vincent."
Because of this man's deliberate disrespect of the "king" and "his son," he is thrown out of the "banquet."

"Then the king told the attendants, “Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”'"  Jesus is obviously describing what will happen to those who appear before His holy presence improperly dressed.  They will be cast into hell!  What can we wear, so that we be acceptable to God?  We cannot come into God's holy presence dressed only in our good deeds.  Isaiah describes clearly what our good deeds are like to God.  "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)  We must take off our filthy rags and put on Christ's righteousness.  "I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." (Isaiah 61:10)  "Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, 'The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?' Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, 'Take off his filthy clothes.' Then he said to Joshua, 'See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.' Then I said, 'Put a clean turban on his head.' So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by." (Zechariah 3:1-5)  "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)  "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24)  "'Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, Write: “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, 'These are the true words of God.'" (Revelation 19:6-9)

What should we wear in church worship services?  We must wear the garments that Jesus has provided for us through His death on the cross—His righteousness.  We have our choice, we can wear our own garments with pride as did the man in this parable or we can wear the garments of righteousness that God provides for us—we can wear, by faith, Jesus' righteousness with gratitude and humility.

Jesus is predicting here that there will be those in our churches who will trust in their good works and will not trust in what Jesus did for us on the cross.  The greatest tragedy of all time will occur when these people appear in God's presence.  For they will be, as was the man in the parable, "speechless" before the King.  So, will those who trust in their good works be "speechless" when they appear before Jesus.  These very religious people will discover that they have come into the very presence of God dressed in filthy clothes.  Instead of greatly enjoying the glorious wedding for Jesus Christ and His bride the church, they will be thrown "outside" "into the darkness"; and they will be separated from God forever in a place of eternal torment.  "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power" (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9) "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death." (Revelation 20:11-14)

Jesus concludes the parable with these words:  "For many are invited, but few are chosen.'"  All are invited to come to Jesus—"many are invited."  We see that all are invited by the following invitations.  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)  "Whoever" means "whoever" chooses to believe.  "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." (Matthew 11:28-30)  "All" means "all" who want to find rest.  "If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." (John 7:17)  "Anyone" means "anyone" can choose.  Also, in the parable, the invitation is made to every—"anyone you find." (22:9)

But, only those who choose to believe in what Christ has done for them are chosen for an eternal relationship with God.  Only a "few are chosen," for only a "few" will choose to come to God's "banquet" dressed in Christ's righteousness.  "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)

f. The religious leaders attempt to trap Jesus (22:15-46)
In this section of verses, two totally different groups try to trap Jesus.  In verses 15-22 and 34-40, He is attacked by the Pharisees; and in 23-33, He is attacked by the Sadducees.  The Pharisees were the religious separatists.  They believed in total separation from sinners, pagan systems, and all that was impure and unclean.  They believed in the supernatural—angels, miracles, and life after death.  The Sadducees were the religious rationalists of their day who did not separate themselves from the world.  They rejected the supernatural—they did not believe in angels, miracles, or life after death.  In Matthew 22, we see that Jesus dealt with attacks from both groups.  From the way He handles them, we can learn the type of narrow road that we are to walk on so that we will neither be religious legalists nor worldly religious people.

(1) An attack from the religious legalists—Is it right to pay taxes? (22:15-22)

(a) The trap (22:15-17)
"Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. 'Teacher,' they said, 'we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?'"

Thought Question: Why did the "Pharisees" think that they had Him in a trap no matter how He answered?

 

 

"Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. 'Teacher,' they said, 'we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are."

  J. C. Ryle gives the following helpful words on how these men approached Jesus.  "What smooth and honeyed words were these!  They thought, no doubt, that by good words and fair speeches they would throw our Lord off His guard.  It might truly be said of them, 'his mouth was smooth as butter, but his heart was war.  His words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.' (Psalm 55:21).  It becomes all professing Christians to be much on their guard against FLATTERY.  We mistake greatly if we suppose that persecution and hard usage are the only weapons in Satan's armory.  The crafty foe has other engines for doing us mischief, which he knows well how to work." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

The "Pharisees" did not go to Jesus themselves, but "they sent their disciples to him."  They also sent their archenemies "the Herodians."  "The Herodians" were the political party that supported King Herod—the king appointed to rule over them by the Romans.  The "Pharisees," of course, rejected the rule of the Romans over them.  "The Pharisees were supremely orthodox, who resented the payment of the tax to a foreign king as an infringement of the divine right of God." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew by William Barclay Volume 2.  Copyright 1975 by The Westminster Press."  "'The Herodians'—of course, not a sect nor religious school, but a political party at the time." "Taken from The Life and Times of the Messiah Vol. II p. 384 by Alfred Edersheim.  Copyright 1971 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."

"Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?'"  So, the trap was laid.  If Jesus said, "No," they should not pay their taxes, then He would have been seen as leading a rebellion against Rome and King Herod.  The "Herodians" would be sure to pass Jesus' position on paying taxes on to Herod and the Roman leaders.  If He said, "Yes," He would have been siding with the Romans and Herod against the people of Israel.  They must have been certain that their trap would lead to the end of Jesus, no matter how He answered.

(b) Jesus eludes their trap. (22:18-22)
"But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, 'You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.' They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, 'Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?' 'Caesar’s,' they replied. Then he said to them, 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.' When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away."

Thought Question: Why did Jesus' answer enable Him to elude their trap?

 

 

"But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, 'You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?"  Jesus clearly was not fooled by their false flattery of Him.  He saw that they were being "hypocrites" when they were saying wonderful things about Him with their mouths, for He knew that in their hearts they despised Him. See Ps. 5:9, 12:2; Prov. 26:28, 28:23, 29:5; I Thess. 2:5 for God's view of flattery.

"'You hypocrites,'"  When is it appropriate for us to use strong words like Jesus uses here? See Also Matt. 23  There is a time for strong rebuke.  "For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 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 1:10-14)  When someone is hardened in their deceitfulness, there is a need to strongly expose their hypocrisy for what it is.

"Show me the coin used for paying the tax.' They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, 'Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?' 'Caesar’s,' they replied. Then he said to them, 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.'"  Suddenly, Jesus is out of the trap.  The "Herodians" now had nothing to say against Jesus.  He had said, in so many words, that Caesar had the right to tax Israel, for he was the one who minted the money.  They got the money from him, so it was appropriate to give some of the money back to him.  Also, the people had heard Him say that they were to give some of what God had given to them back to God.  So, they also could not oppose what Jesus had said.

Jesus would soon tell Pilate that His "kingdom is not of this world." (Jn. 18:36)  He would tell Pilate that He had not come to replace the human government of the Romans with His kingdom, for His kingdom was not like worldly kingdoms.  Today, Christianity's goal is not to replace the earthly governments that we are under with Christ's kingdom.  On the contrary, we are to be its best citizens, while we also submit to Jesus' kingdom. See Rom. 13:1-7; I Pet. 2:13-17

But, Ryle makes a very good point.  "If Caesar [or any government] coins a new Gospel, he is not to be obeyed." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."  "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! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.'" (Acts 5:27-32)

"When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away."  They came to lay a trap for Jesus, but they went away amazed at how easily He had eluded their trap. See Mk. 1:22, 2:12, 5:20, 42, 6:2, 51, 7:37, 10:26, 32, 11:18 and 15:5 for other times that people were amazed at Jesus' words and actions.

(2) The attack from the worldly-minded (22:23-33) (The second attack came from the worldly Sadducees.)

(a) The trap (22:23-28)
"That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 'Teacher,' they said, 'Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?'"

Thought Question #1: Why did the "Sadducees" think that Jesus could not answer their question?

 

 

Thought Question #2: Can you think of some question that unbelievers give that they believe cannot be answered?

 

 

"That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 'Teacher,' they said, 'Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?'"

The Sadducees, who did not believe in a resurrection from the dead, ask Jesus a question that they also do not believe that He can answer.  If He agreed with them, He would side with them against the Pharisees.  They believed that their question proved that there was no life after death.  Their argument was the following: "If someone married more than once, due to the death of a spouse or spouses; how could they be married to all of them in the resurrection life?"  They were sure that Jesus would have no answer to their question, but would agree with them that there is no life after death.  They were ridiculing what the Bible says about life after death, similar to the way the people make fun of the Bible today.

In Deuteronomy 25:5-6, Jewish men were given the responsibility to marry a brother's widow if she was childless, to insure that the brother's name would be carried on to the next generation.  "If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel." (Deut. 25:5-6)

So, the Sadducees cite a case where a woman has seven husbands.  "Whose wife will she be" in the resurrection?  They were sure He could not give any answer but agree with them against the Pharisees.

(b) Jesus eludes the trap. (22:29-33)
"Jesus replied, 'You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.' When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching."

Thought Question: What problems that unbelievers have is revealed here by Jesus?

 

 

"Jesus replied, 'You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven."  The "Sadducees" were looking at life in a totally materialistic way.  They were like university professors who have never seen a miracle, so conclude that miracles could never have happened.  These "Sadducees" were also depending on their own observations and conclusions.  Jesus tells them that they "do not know" "the power of God"—God's power over death.  They also did not know that in the next life there will be no "marriage," but that resurrected men and women "will be like the angels in heaven."  God, by His "power," will transform us into a completely different order and form of beings than we are familiar with today.

"There are the same number of angels in existence today as when they were created.  They do not propagate their kind." "Taken from Word Studies on Mark by Kenneth Wuest.  Copyright 1950 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company."  "Since angels did not die (unless God destroyed them), they had no need to procreate." "Taken from Matthew by Craig Keener.  Copyright 1997 by Intervarsity Press." 

"But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.'"  Jesus concludes by pointing out that they did "know the Scriptures."  For in "the Scriptures," "God said" that He is "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."  Jesus was simply telling them that when God told Moses this, He was saying that He was not "the God of" men who had died and were gone forever, but He was "the God of" the living "Abraham," "Isaac," and "Jacob."  He is not "the God of" people who will live for a short time, die, and then are gone forever; He is "the God of" people who will never die.

Jesus' quote, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" is from Exodus 3:6.  This is significant, for the "Sadducees" only believed that the first five books of Moses were Scripture—Genesis through Deuteronomy.  Jesus quoted from their Scripture to refute their view that there was no resurrection.

"When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching."  Jesus spoke these words to the "Sadducees" with such authority that the "Sadducees" were silenced.  For them to stand against the resurrection was also saying that God was "the God of" three dead men whom He was powerless to keep alive.  Jesus was able to defeat these "Sadducees" because the supernatural world was just as familiar to Him as the natural world was to these "Sadducees." 

(3) "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment?" (22:34-40)

(a) The trap (22:34-36)
"Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?'"

Thought Question: How would you answer this question?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?'"

In Jesus' time, there was a controversy over which of the commandments was greater than the others.  They had divided the commandments in the Torah—the first five books of the Bible—into 248 positive commands and 365 negative commands.  "The scribes declared there were 248 affirmative precepts, as many as the members of the human body; and 248 negative precepts, as many as the days of the year; the total being 613, the numbers of letters in the Decalogue." "Taken from Word Studies by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors."

There was disagreement among the Rabbinic schools over which of the Ten Commandments was the greatest.  For example, "there was a school of interpretation which thought that that the third commandment in Decalogue was the supreme commandment, and that all the rest were minor ones . . . . " "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company."

In Mark, we see that this "expert in the law" was actually interested in how Jesus would answer this question.  In his case, he "tested" Jesus not only to trap Him, but he also was wondering how Jesus would answer the question.  "One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, 'Of all the commandments, which is the most important?'" (Mark 12:28)  As we will see in what follows in Mark, he actually liked Jesus' answer.

(b) Jesus eludes the trap. (22:37-40)
"Jesus replied: '“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'"

Thought Question: Why do you believe that "these two commandments" sum up all of the "commandments"?

 

 

"Jesus replied: '“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'"

Jesus' well-known answer to "which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" is given in these verses.  From Deuteronomy 6:5, He said that that we are to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind ("strength" in Deut. 6:5)."  And from Leviticus 19:18, we are told to "Love your neighbor as yourself." 

One word sums up His answer: "love."  "Love" fulfills all these commandments.  "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not covet,' and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:8-10)

We do not murder, steal from, or lie to someone we love.  I can remember one of my early pastors saying in a sermon that we do not need to have a sign above the bathtub that says, "Do not drown your child."  When we love our child, there is no need for such a sign.  Love for others removes all of what the first group of commandments prohibit.

We do not worship other gods or blaspheme God if we love Him.  Love for God is to be the motivating factor for all we do—for studying the Bible, prayer, church fellowship, evangelism, and worship.  Our hymns and choruses are an expression of a love relationship with God.  The type of love we have for God is to come from the very center our being—from our "heart," "soul," and "mind."

We also are to love each other in the same way that we love ourselves.  This says a lot, for we have no trouble loving ourselves.  We can be very creative when we are seeking to meet our own needs and to gain our wants.  Even a poor self-image does not come from our inability to love ourselves, but because we are so absorbed with ourselves that we are hyperconscious when we are not measuring up to others socially, physically, and intellectually.  Our self-centeredness enables us to discover whether or not we are inferior or superior to others.  It is only when our love for ourself is balanced off by our love for God and for others that our self-love begins to be purified.  When we love God and others, we are just as diligent in seeking after others' needs and desires as we are in seeking after our needs and wants.  And our love is greater for God and others when we put God's desires above our own and when we put others' needs first.  "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

Jesus is not commanding us here to love ourselves.  He assumes that we already do this.  The teaching that we must first love ourselves before we can love others is the opposite of what Jesus was teaching here.  We are not to love ourselves more, but we are to love others in the same way that we already love ourselves.
Probably, what the teaching that says we are to love ourselves is really pointing to is our need to believe that we are loved and not condemned by God.  Our need, then, is to believe in God's love for us.  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)  "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:7-11)  "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." (1 John 4:16)  "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion," (Psalm 103:2-4)  "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;" (Psalm 103:12-13)

We learn in Mark, that this "expert in the law" approved of Jesus' answer.  "'Well said, teacher,' the man replied. 'You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.'" (Mark 12:32-33)  Then, Jesus approved of his answer.  "When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.' And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions." (Mark 12:34)  This man was near "the kingdom of God," but he was not yet part of it.  What was missing?  He had not yet understood his sinfulness and need for a Savior.  Receiving God's love starts us on the path to loving God and others.  "We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

(4) Jesus traps them. (22:41-46)

(a) The trap (22:41-45)
"While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 'What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?' 'The son of David,' they replied. He said to them, 'How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him “Lord”? For he says, “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’” If then David calls him “Lord,” how can he be his son?'"

Thought Question: What reality was Jesus forcing them to deal with?

 

 

"While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 'What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?' 'The son of David,' they replied. He said to them, 'How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him “Lord”? For he says, “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’”'"

In these final verses of Matthew 22, since both the "Sadducees" were "silenced" (22:34) and "no one dared ask him any more questions" (Mk. 12:34), Jesus asks them two questions: 1) "What do you think about the Christ (the Messiah)?"  2) "Whose son is he?"  He knew that they would say, "The son of David."  They were expecting a king from the line of David who would rescue them from the Romans.  Then, Jesus follows these two questions with the question that they could not answer.  "'How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him “Lord”'?"  Then, He quotes Psalm 110:1, which is from a Psalm by David.  In the first verse of this Psalm, David refers to the Messiah as his "Lord."  " Of David. A psalm. The Lord says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.'" (Psalm 110:1)  Jesus changes "a footstool for your feet" into "under your feet," which has the same meaning. See Acts 2:34-35; Heb. 1:13

Jesus creates the following dilemma:  How could the Messiah be both David's "son" and His "Lord"?  "It could only be explained by conceding the preexistence and divinity of the Messiah." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."  The only One who met both of these requirements was standing in front of them—Jesus was both in the line of David and He preexisted both His birth as a man and He preexisted David. See Jn. 1:1-3, 14, 17:5

(b) Jesus catches them in the trap. (22:46)
"No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions."  Those who are seeking to close their eyes to God, do not like to be around Someone or someone `who is continually opening their eyes to God and exposing their attempts to close their eyes to God.

So, we end this section of the Gospel of Matthew with the religious leaders unable to verbally challenge Jesus.  From this point on, they are left with no other alternative but to take Him physically by force; for they were no match for Him verbally, spiritually, and morally.

 

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