All The Difference In The World
All The Difference In The World
Let me ask you, do you know the difference between these two:
- Believe in Jesus
- Believe Jesus
There is a big difference isn’t there?
I believe that this story that ___________ read illustrates that…that there is a big difference in believing in Jesus and believing Jesus…and that difference is what actually determines what real, sincere faith is…and we all know how important faith is…because “without faith it is impossible to please God.”
So let’s look at this story and see what the difference is between believing in Jesus and believing Jesus. Notice first of all verse 22:
And immediately He made the disciples get into the boat…
- Do you see here where it says, “He made” the disciples get into the boat?
- That phrase, “He made” in the Greek is a strong word and it means “to constrain, to compel, to drive.”
- There are a couple of reasons why Jesus may have made his disciples get into the boat but the main thing is these disciples are doing exactly what Jesus has told him to.
Now look at verse 23: And after He had sent the multitudes away, He went up to the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening He was there alone.
Verse 24: But the boat was already many stadia away from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary.
- That word “stadia” is translated “Furlong” in some versions and a Furlong is about 600 feet and if you go to John’s account and John chapter 6 in verse 19 you find that the disciples have gone about three or 4 miles on the sea.
So they are out here on the sea and the wind picks up and their boat is being battered by the waves and as you can imagine these disciples are probably rowing as hard as they can and bailing water as fast as I can.
Now verse 25: And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.
- If you look at your marginal notes you’ll find that the “fourth watch” was sometime between three and six in the morning.
- So what you have here is the disciples in this boat the winds pick up, the waves are battering against this boat, it’s dark because it’s between 3 and 6 AM, and they are probably rowing and bailing water as fast as I can… And Jesus comes to them walking on the sea.
Now let me make two quick points here.
One: Many Christians have the idea that obedience to God always produces “smooth sailing”, but this is not true.
- These disciples found themselves in “rough waters”, not because they were disobedient to Christ, but because they were obedient to Him.
- So just because you follow Christ that does not mean that everything is going to be easy and trouble-free, the fact is it may be just the opposite.
And then number two: Notice that Jesus walked on the water? Why do you think He did that?
- The reason he did that was to show the disciples that the very thing they feared was only a walking path for Him.
- Often we fear difficult experiences in life, only to discover that those experiences are no obstacle for Jesus at all and those experiences often bring Jesus closer to us.
Verse 26: And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were frightened, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried for fear.
- Now let me stop there for just a minute. Why were they so afraid?
- And you might say, “These guys are out here in this small boat, it’s dark, it’s early in the morning, they’ve been fighting this wind and waves for a big part of the night, they are rolling and bailing water as fast as they can, and they look up and see what they think is a ghost! No wonder they are afraid.
Let me ask you this, just a few days before this took place what have these disciples been doing?
- If you look in chapter 10:1 Jesus has given these guys “authority over unclean spirits to cast them out, to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.”
- If you go over into Mark chapter 6:7 what you find is Jesus had sent these same disciples out on what we call, “The Limited Commission” and they went out “preaching and teaching and casting out demons in healing the sick, the blind, and the lame.”
- When they come back from this, “Limited Commission”, they come to Christ and they report all that they had done and taught.
- At that time Jesus makes an effort to take them to a “lonely place to rest” but when they get there the multitudes are waiting for them and that’s when we have the feeding of the 5000.
- And if you remember Jesus commanded these disciples to “give the people something to eat.”
- But in their minds they saw it as an impossible task.
- Could they have fed the people? Were they not able to perform miracles? Had not Jesus given them that ability?
And now they are out here on this sea, the waves are battering the boat, the wind is strong, it is early in the morning, and they look up and see what they think is a ghost… And they cry for fear!
- The same men who had the power to cast out demons and perform miracles are struggling with this storm and afraid of what they think is a ghost!
- Now obviously they believe in Jesus but have they believed Jesus?
- He has told them that they have the authority to perform miracles… They believe in Jesus but have they believed Jesus?
Now these disciples think Jesus is a ghost.
- Isn’t it amazing all the different impressions people have about who Jesus is?
- In the Gospels some say He is just a prophet; some said He was a devil: others said He was mixed up and crazy; and now He even gets called a ghost.
- Look at the next verse and notice who Jesus says he is.
Verse 27: But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
- Therefore he says, “It is I”, in the Greek that is “Ego Ami” or “I Am”.
- Now what does it mean in the Bible when someone says, “I Am”?
- “I Am” means “He was yesterday, and today, and will be tomorrow.”
- That means he always is…which means he is eternal… “I Am” is a term that speaks of God.
- In essence, not only by the miracle of walking on water does Jesus confirm who he is, but he comes right out and tells them again.
- Now, they believe in Jesus but do they believe Jesus? Don’t answer to hastily.
- Look at what happens next.
Verse 28: And Peter answered him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And he said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
- Now, at this time does Peter believe in Jesus or does he believe Jesus?
Verse 30: But seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”
- What caused Peter to sink?
- The verse says, “But seeing the wind, he became afraid.”
- Was it because he was distracted? Was it because he took his eyes off of Jesus? What caused him to sink?
Look at verse 31: And immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
- Why did he sink? Did it have something to do with his faith?
- Was it because Peter still believed in Jesus but he no longer believed Jesus?
You know a lot of people criticize the other disciples in this story because they didn’t get out of the boat.
- I am not sure we should criticize them because who told them to get in the boat in the first place? As far as I can tell they are still doing what Christ told them to.
Look at verse 32: And when they got into the boat, the wind stopped.
Now verse 33: And those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, you are certainly God’s Son!”
- Remember what Jesus told them back in verse 27 when he said, “it is I” or “I Am”?
- Had He ever done anything before this to confirm who He was, or had He ever told them before this who He was?
- Did they believe Him or did they just simply believe in Him?
You see there is a huge difference between the two and that difference is what actually determines what real, sincere faith is.
- And it is also the determining factor between those who claim to be Disciples of Christ and those who really are Disciples of Christ.
- You see the primary difference between believing in Christ and believing Christ is that believing in Christ does not require obedience; but if you believe Christ then obedience will follow.
Now, let me give you some teachings and as I do ask yourself if you simply believe in Jesus or if you really believe Jesus:
“I tell you, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:3.
- Now if you believe Christ what we do?
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34.
- Again, if you believe Christ what are you going to do?
“For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ in God” Ephesians 5:5
“Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” John chapter 5:28 and 29.
“Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sand; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38.
You could go all the way through the New Testament and look at all the teachings and commandments of Christ and what you will find is a lot of people believe in Jesus but comparatively only a few really believe Jesus.
- And that makes all the difference in the world.
Give Him What You Have
GIVE HIM WHAT YOU HAVE
I would like for you to look at verse 16 again.
- Here in this verse Jesus asks His disciples to do that which seemed impossible to them.
- Jesus has been teaching a crowd that verse 21 says numbered “5000 men”…so if you figure in the women and children…you have a crowd that probably exceeds 15,000 people.
- And if you look at verse 15 you find that these people were in a place that was “desolate” and it was late at night…which means that there wasn’t much way to access food for these people.
- And yet, in verse 16 Jesus commands His disciples to “give them something to eat!”
- How do you do that?
- When the Lord gives you a seemingly impossible task…what do you do?
As disciples’ of Christ we have been commissioned by Christ, “to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that He has commanded…
- And when you think about the fact that there are over 7 billion people in this world…
- And the majority of those people live in what we call “non-Christian” nations.
- And when you think about the money needed…and the time that is required…and the people it will take…and when you think about all the other obstacles that exist in trying to fulfill our commission…it is pretty easy to feel overwhelmed…
- What do you do when the Lord gives you a seemingly impossible task?
And what about here in Brady…there are a lot of people in this town that are in need of the word of God.
- And there are a lot of people here in Brady who have all kinds of problems in their lives.
- And we know that the Lord wants us to help those people, and to reach out to those people, and try to teach those people, but the task seems so overwhelming.
- There are not enough teachers, not enough busses, not enough hours in the day.
- What do you do when the Lord gives you a seemingly impossible task?
Well, here in this story about the feeding of the 5000 Jesus is going to tell us.
- Let me explain the situation for you.
If you look at the accounts of this story in Mark, Luke, and John the disciples had been sent out by Jesus to preach, and heal, and cast out demons.
- It is what we call the “Limited Commission.”
And so they come back to Jesus to give Him an account of all they have done.
- And they are tired.
- And if you look at the first 12 verses here in Matthew 14, Jesus has just received word that John the Baptizer has died.
So Jesus says, “Let’s go to a lonely place where it is quiet and so you can get some rest.”
- So they take off in a boat to just get away.
- But the people see them and so the people go to where they know the disciples are sailing.
- And when the disciples get near the shore, instead of getting away from the people for a little while, they find this huge crowd.
So what do you do?
- What do you do when you are tired and weary and you want to get away from people and their demands, and you can’t?
- What happens when you set aside some time for you to rest…or to do what you want to do for a change….and the phone rings? Or someone comes and rings your door bell?
- What spills out of you when the crowd keeps pressing in?
Well, look at what Jesus does in this situation. Look at verse 14.
- 14 says that when Jesus went ashore, “He saw a great multitude and He felt compassion for them, and healed their sick.”
- He didn’t see them with eyes concerned only for Him-self.
- He didn’t say, “I am upset, John has just died…I am tired…don’t bother me…leave me alone.”
- Instead, He saw them with eyes full of compassion and concern.
And one thing that each of us as disciples has to ask ourselves this morning is, when we are in a situation like this…
- When people are demanding our time and energy….
- When people have all of these needs, how do we see them?
- Do we see them as a burden? An inconvenience? A bother?
- I am afraid that much of the time when we are tired and wanting to get away, and someone comes with a need, I am afraid a lot of things come out of us but compassion isn’t one of them.
Jesus felt compassion for them…and so Jesus spends the day with them, compassion pouring out of His soul for them…but notice what His disciples do?
Vs. 15, it is late in the day and the disciples say, “Lord this is a desolate place and the time is already past so send them into the villages that they may buy food for themselves.”
- Isn’t that a common response to peoples needs?
- It is getting late and these people haven’t eaten…there is 15,000 of them…the numbers are overwhelming.
- And when you are overwhelmed with more needs than you can possibly meet, when the numbers overwhelm you, one of the most popular answers to an overwhelming situation is simply say, “Send the people away.”
- “Send them somewhere else.”
- Sending people away has always been a very popular way of dealing with the needs of people.
And it is the same for us today.
- Some spontaneous need shows up on your porch or the phone rings during one of those times when you are wanting to rest, and what do we do?
- “Let me give you the preacher’s phone number.”
- “You will have to talk to one of the elders? “
- “Don’t we have a benevolent committee up at that church?”
- “Isn’t there someplace that we can send these people?”
And don’t misunderstand me.
- I believe the church should have programs structured to meet the needs of people.
- But there is a danger there.
- And the danger is that we depend so much on the organized programs of the church that we use them to actually distance ourselves from people and their needs.
- We pass the problem off without ever getting personally involved.
- And the greater problem is, we don’t communicate compassion.
- We communicate structure.
- We communicate organization.
- But we don’t communicate compassion.
- You see, “Sending people away” is one of the most common responses to human need today.
But there is another response to human need and it isn’t nearly as popular.
- It isn’t as popular because it requires more of us.
Look at verse 16. Look at what Jesus says.
- He says, “They don’t need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
- And in the Greek language the word “you” is emphatic.
Jesus is saying to His disciples, “NO, NO. Don’t send them away. You do something for these people. You meet their needs.”
And you say, “Well that is absurd Jesus.”
- “How are you going to ask 12 men to feed thousands of people?”
Don’t you remember what these disciples have just been doing?
- They have been preaching that people should repent.
- They have been casting out demons…and they have been healing sick people.
- They have just returned from a trip where God has been routinely doing the impossible through them.
- So is Jesus asking such and incredible thing after all?
You see, what Jesus is doing is he is putting them to a test saying, “God has been doing all these impossible things through you yesterday and the day before that.
- Now can you take God’s past trustworthiness and apply it to your present dilemma?
- “YOU give them something.”
And He says the same thing to us.
- We come up against a situation where the needs of people are just overwhelming.
- There has been a flood…or a fire…or some other tragedy.
- And Jesus says, “You are my church. You are my disciples.”
- “Do something for these people? “
And what do we do?
- Well, there is always two reactions.
- Number one is, “We don’t have enough.”
- “We don’t have enough.”
That is what the disciples said here in verse 17.
- Jesus says, “You give them something” and they say, “WE only have 5 fish and 2 loaves.”
- In other words, they are saying, “We can’t.”
As a church, we sometimes do the same thing don’t we?
- I mean, lets be honest.
- We say, “Jesus we love you. And we worship you. And we want to follow you .But sometimes you ask us to do what we all know is beyond what we can do. You give us these great commissions, and we all know that we can’t really do that.”
- We do that don’t we?
But you know, when we do that we are doing the same thing these disciples did.
- You see, they had forgotten about Jesus being a factor.
- And they have made their judgment based on the limitations of their own potential.
- And that thinking has been passed down through the centuries to the church so that most Christians today look only at their own potential.
- And because we do we get together and we decide that the task is so overwhelming that there is just not much we can do.
But do you know what?
- God doesn’t lead a church to see a need if it is not in the mind of God to use the church to meet the need.
- And one thing we can learn from Jesus is, “Where God is there is a surplus.”
What are you going to do when Jesus puts an incredible need in front of you?
- Well, you can say, “I don’t have enough.”
OR you can hear what Jesus says in vs. 18. Look at verse 18: “Bring them to Me.”
- “Five loaves and two fishes.”
- That’s not much.
- But you see, that is what we need to learn.
- “Not much” is a lot when God is in it.
Look at what happens next starting in verse 19:
- All the people sit down and Jesus says a prayer and He starts passing out food.
- There was so much food that the crowds were satisfied and there were 12 basketfuls of food left over.
And Jesus says, “Pick it up.”
- Why do you think He did that?
- Is He teaching that it is bad to waste?
I don’t think so.
- I think they collect the basketfuls to illustrate the principle of Divine Sufficiency…that Jesus never comes to the end of his resources.
- And we need to learn that but our dependence on our flesh obscures that.
- And we often don’t do because we think it is too much and we are too little.
Here is the answer to fulfilling those overwhelming tasks that we are faced with.
- Whether it is “going and making disciples of all nations”…
- Or meeting the needs of the people of Brady…
- Or meeting the needs of our elderly in this congregation…
- Or working with the youth…or doing benevolence…our supporting missionaries…or organizing VBS…or preaching two sermons every week…or helping victims of a fire or flood…
- Giving Jesus what you have, no matter how insignificant you may think it is, is the key to fulfilling those overwhelming tasks.
On your own, you can’t do it.
- If you rely solely on your own potential, you will fail.
- Sometimes, you won’t even get started.
- Sometimes what we have to offer seems so little that we think, “Why give at all?”
But what we need to understand is, success doesn’t depend solely on us.
- We have got to quit leaving Jesus out of the equation.
- We have got to “Bring what we have to Jesus” regardless of how small or how little it seems…and let Him do great things with it.
Here we are, we are the Lord’s church…and unfortunately we are like the elephant in the circus that is tied to a little stake in the ground.
- We have so much resource available to us…and yet we think and dream so small…all because we are tied and bound by our own small imaginations.
- As His disciples we need to realize that we are not commissioned to talk about what we can’t do.
- But we are challenged to go and bring what we have to God, and see what He can do.
An Unpleasant Surprise
AN UNPLEASANT SURPRISE
I read a story this past week about a high school student who took a math test…and the reason his story caught my attention is because I have done the same thing.
- Even though it was his final exam this student didn’t study much for the test …after all, he was a pretty sharp guy and he had always gotten good grades in math.
- And the test seemed pretty easy…so he was pretty certain that he had aced it.
Well, the teacher started handing back the test papers…and as she did the student glanced over and saw the grade of the student next to him…and it was a D-.
- He kind of smirked and thought to himself, “What a loser! He will probably flunk the class.”
About that time the teacher put his paper upside down on his desk. He turned it over expecting to see a nice, big “A”…but instead, it said, “37%, “F”!
- He was completely surprised! Couldn’t believe it.
Here in this passage that was read we find some people who had an even more unpleasant surprise!
- They too thought they had all the right answers only to find out that they couldn’t be more wrong.
- It is an interesting passage that has the potential of having a very happy ending…but that really is dependent on each one of us learning what Jesus has to say here.
- We will begin in verse 20 but first let me give you some background.
If you remember John the Baptizer is in prison and has been there for about 12 months.
- And John seems to having some doubts so he sends his disciples to Jesus to ask if Jesus truly is the “Expected One, or do we need to look for someone else.”
Well, Jesus sends back confirmation to John that He really is the “Expected One” and for John to remain faithful to Him no matter what happens.
- And as John’s disciples leave to take the message to John, Jesus begins to speak to the multitudes…and He vindicates John.
- He speaks of John’s character…how strong and bold he was…how unwavering he was.
- And He says that John was the “spark” that caused people to seek after the kingdom of God.
- And He confirms that John was the Elijah that Malachi spoke of 400 years before…and like the prophet of old John came preaching a message of repentance.
But then Jesus makes a comparison in verses 16-17.
- He compares the “generation” of people that He has been teaching to children who can’t make up their mind…children who don’t like anything…children who are fickle….if they thought John was fickle they needed to look at themselves.
- They were so fickle that when John came preaching they said he had a demon because he came “neither eating nor drinking.”
- Then when Jesus came along they said that he was a “gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners” because He did “eat and drink.”
- What it amounted to is regardless of the evidence…regardless of the miracles…regardless of the healings that confirmed who John and Jesus both were…these people, like a lot of people today…were intent on denying and rejecting Jesus.
- They think they are pretty smart…they know a lot…it fact they are a little arrogant in their intelligence…but just like the student who thought he knew it all…who thought he had it made…they are in for a big surprise.
Look at verse 20: Then He began to reproach the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.
- If you look at the next few verses the cities that Jesus “reproaches” are Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.
- All of these were in very close proximity of one another…so what Jesus is doing here is He is “reproaching…upbraiding…reviling” all of the people in that immediate area.
And notice why He is reproaching them: They had seen the miracles…not just a few…but “most of His miracles”…we don’t know for sure how many but John says in John 20 that there were “many that were not even recorded.”
- So these people had seen “most of His miracles”…they had seen the blind receive their sight…they had seen the crippled walk…they had seen the lepers cleansed…they had seen the deaf hear…they had even seen the dead raised up…and they had heard the Gospel preached to the poor…
- All of these were proof of who Jesus was…and they stubbornly hardened themselves…and refused to repent…and refused to believe in and obey Christ.
- They refused to change…they just stayed with their old, condemning way of thinking…their old condemning way of living…their old condemning beliefs and practices…even when they knew better!
- It is the same thing that many people do today…they just flat refuse to accept the truth and change.
As a result, look at what Jesus says next: 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 “Nevertheless I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you.
- Listen, it is a dangerous thing…it is a condemning thing…to deny…to reject Jesus.
- When you know the truth, especially about Christ…and you refuse to acknowledge it…when you refuse to accept it…when you refuse to repent…you are subject to a very, very unpleasant surprise!
23 “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You shall descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. 24 “Nevertheless I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”
Now, let me go back and point out a couple of things.
Back in verse 21 Jesus mentions Tyre and Sidon…and in verse 23 He mentions Sodom.
- Now, at first glance it looks as though these three places weren’t justly treated.
- Jesus says, “If the miracles occurred in these places like they did in Bethsaida, Chorizin, and Capernaum, they would have repented”; so it sounds as though they weren’t given a full chance to repent or to be saved.
I don’t think that is what Jesus is saying here.
- First of all it is impossible for God to be unjust…it is completely against His nature.
If you go over to Isaiah 23 and Ezekiel 26-28 and Amos 1:9 and Joel 3:6 the people of Tyre and Sidon were some of the most money-mad and cruel people you will ever find.
- They were Phoenicians and they sold many of the Israelites into slavery to the Edom-ites and the Greeks.
- They were a pleasure-mad, arrogant, wicked people that the Jews despised.
And we know what the Sodomites did.
- And what Jesus is doing here is He is not saying that they were treated unjustly…that they weren’t given a fair chance…
- What Jesus is doing here is he is pointing out to these Jews who have rejected Christ just how hard hearted and wicked they are!
- He is saying, “If you Jews think that the people of Tyre and Sidon were hard-hearted and stiff necked and refused to repent, you are much worse than they ever were!”
- “You have had all of these miracles…these signs…these wonders that speak volumes to you about who Jesus is…and still you reject Him…
- All the people of Tyre and Sidon and Sodom got was the prophets and the angels warning them….you got so much more than they did…and still you refuse to repent.”
- “Why, these people that you despise and have no use for…you are worse than they are.”
- Jesus is pointing out their hypocrisy: “You despise Tyre and Sidon for not repenting…for not doing what is right…but you are worse than they are.”
Now, notice the end of verse 22: “Nevertheless I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you.
And look at verse 24: “Nevertheless I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”
- A lot of people take these two verses and use them to say that there are different levels of punishment in hell. (“You are going to get it worse than they are.”)
Are there different degrees of punishment in hell…is there punishment level 1, and punishment level 2, and punishment level 3?
- Will some sins be punished more severely than others?
I don’t think so.
- I don’t know of any passage of scripture in the Bible where God says, “If you are going to go to hell, if you won’t do this…and if youj won’t do that…then it won’t be as bad on you.”
- What God says is hell is a horrible place…it is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth…it is a place of eternal punishment…it is a fiery hell…a place of outer darkness…a place where the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched and you want to do whatever it takes…if you have to cut off your arm…cut off your foot or gouge out your eyes to keep from going there…whatever it takes you do it because hell is that bad.
- Hell is hell…and it only takes one sin to condemn us to hell…it is so bad that God has provided a means of atonement for our sins so we can escape the fires of hell and even if there are degrees of punishment the lowest degree is still more than you want to endure.
- So, I don’t believe that Jesus is indicating here that there are different degrees of punishment in hell.
I believe that what Jesus is doing here is He is emphasizing how far God has pulled away from these people…how revolting they are in the sight of God…how disgusting they are to God!
- He is saying, “If you think the people of Sodom were disgusting to God…you are much worse.”
Why? Because in spite of all the evidence…in spite of what the prophets of old said…in spite of what John came preaching…in spite of all the miracles…in spite of people being raised from the DEAD…they hardened themselves…would rather believe a lie instead of the obvious truth…
- They would prefer to continue in their sin…they would rather cheat, steal, rob, lie and commit acts of immorality and adultery…than repent and obey Christ.
And I don’t mean to be negative, but isn’t this what a lot of people do today?
- No country in the world today has heard more about Christ than this one. (crosses everywhere)
- No country has seen Christ’s influence more than this one. (Bibles every where)
- No country has more churches than this one.
- No country in the world has been more blessed by Christ than this one.
- No country has access to the word of God more than this one.
- And yet our culture and society is continuing to harden themselves against God, refusing to repent, all the while thinking they are “Christians.”
Catholic Church taking a softer stand on same sex marriages and abortion.
- And state after state calling that which is “evil, good, and that which is good, evil.”
- I am afraid that so many who call themselves Christians are going to be in for a very unpleasant surprise!
Now, we can look at this passage and say it is so negative…talking about the judgment!
- A lot of people don’t like that.
So, let’s look at it from a positive point of view…this passage manifests Jesus’ love for all because He is warning those who are in danger and calling them to repent and be saved.
- That is love.
- In fact, look at the following verses….this is extended to all, even those who have refused to believe.
Matt 11:25-30 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes. 26 “Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight. 27 “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. 30 “For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”
- As hard-hearted as they were…as arrogant as they were…as sinful as they were…as disgusting as they were to God…if they would come to Christ…and learn from Him…they could find “rest for their souls.”
- And that is true for all today.
On a regular basis I meet people who are good people…they are smart, intelligent, well- people.
- They make their own way in life, they pay their bills, they are responsible with what they possess, and they are well liked.
- And compared to them there are some that you might say are “losers.”
But some day, they will stand before the Lord, and they might snicker at what others receive…but because they have rejected Jesus…because they didn’t need Jesus…because they only wanted the parts of Jesus they liked…because they think they can do it on their own…or because they want to continue to live a life of sin…when the verdict is read…they will be in for a very unpleasant surprise.
- Don’t let that happen to you.
Jesus Vindicates John
JESUS VINDICATES JOHN
Have you ever been accused of something that you didn’t do or of something that wasn’t true?
- That can be extremely frustrating especially if you are not able to defend yourself from the accusations. (Anita and the alarm clock)
- In a situation like that it is a source of great comfort and relief to have a vindicator…or to have someone come along and prove that the allegations that have been made against you to be wrong.
In this passage that was read Jesus is going to vindicate John the Baptist.
- If you remember from last week, John has been in prison for about 12 months and as a result he sends his disciples to Jesus to ask Him if He really was the “Expected One or did he need to look for someone else?”
- John seems to have some doubt about Jesus.
- Well, Jesus sends John’s disciples back to John and in essence tells John that He is the “Expected One” and that John needs to continue to trust in Jesus no matter what.
But in spite of Jesus reassuring John that He was the “Expected One” some of his opponents would pick up on John’s question and use it in an attempt to discredit John.
- “John has lost his faith…John is fickle…John is vacillating…you can’t trust what John says.
- If they can discredit John then they can discredit Jesus…and justify themselves.
Well, here in the verses that were read Jesus vindicates…He substantiates…He refutes the accusations that might be made…and He confirms John to be the faithful servant of God that he actually was.
Now, as Jesus vindicates John in this passage I found myself asking, “What would He say about me? And what would He say about you?”
- Would He be able to say the same things about me…about us…that He says about John?
- ”Still some of the Jews are a little perplexed by this…
- Let’s look at Jesus’ vindication of John and as we do ask yourself, “Would Jesus say any of these things about you?”
Look at what Jesus says about John starting in verse 7: And as these were going away, Jesus began to speak to the multitudes about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind?
- This is a rhetorical question. Some of these people had gone out from Judea to the wilderness in the past…and they had seen John…and they had heard John…and when they did what kind of man did they find?
- Was he easily shaken like a reed?
We have all seen reeds along the bank of a creek or pond…and what happens when the wind blows? (They just sway back and forth…whatever direction the wind is blowing that is the way they are going to go…there is no rigidity…whatever influence is on it that is the way they go.)
- They bend under pressure…yielding to the slightest pressure.
There is an old Jewish fable that is about a reed and an oak tree…and the reed was boasting to the oak tree saying, “Because of my ability to compromise I will survive…it doesn’t matter how hard or what direction the wind blows…I just bend and go with the flow! But you old oak tree…when a big enough storm comes along you are going to fall over…you always speak about how strong you are…and all the shade you give to others…how valuable you are to the birds…but someday you will fall.”
- And the old oak tree responded to the reed and he said, “That may be true. But it better to stand for something than fall for anything.”
When these people went out to see John in the wilderness they saw a man that stood for what was right in the sight of God…they saw a man that stood strong against the “winds” of evil and unrighteousness…they saw a mighty servant of God who was willing to be imprisoned for standing up for the truth…and for what was right in the sight of God.
- And I wonder…would Jesus say the same about me…would He say that about you?
Look at vs. 8: “But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces.
- Those who wore “soft clothing” were found in the king’s palace…they were courtiers who flattered the king in order to receive his favor…they kowtowed to the authority of the king with a desire to be rewarded with a high office…a position that enable them to wear “soft clothing.”
- They didn’t have any “backbone.”
- That is not what they saw in John.
What they saw in John was someone who stood up to the king and even rebuked him instead of flattering him.
- They saw someone that refused to kowtow to the king in order to wear “soft garments” and live in luxury…instead he boldly stood up for God speaking the truth.
- They saw someone who was willing to live in poverty for the cause of Christ rather than live in luxury for an ungodly king.
- He was uncompromisingly faithful to God.
- And I wonder…would Jesus say that about me…or about you?
Look at vs. 9: But why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than a prophet.
- When these people went to see John in the wilderness they saw something much better than kings or those wearing soft, fancy clothes….they saw a prophet of God…one who spoke for God.
But he was “much more than a prophet”…he not only foretold the coming of the Messiah but his own coming was foretold (Mal. 3:1).
- He was also born in a miraculous manner; he was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15); he was a self-denying and righteous man; and he bore direct, open testimony to Jesus, baptized Him; saw the spirit descend on Jesus; and he was the link that joined the old and new covenants.
And as I look at what Jesus says here about John, would He say that I am much better than kings or those who compromise in order to wear soft clothing?
- Would He say that I am one who “speaks forth the word of God?”
- Would He say that I am a self-denying and righteous man who bears testimony of Jesus?
- Would he look at me and say that I am fulfilling the purpose that God has given me?
Now, look at verse 11: “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
- John was spoken of by preceding prophets; he pointed out the fulfillment of the prophets concerning the Messiah…he spoke of the Messiah and the direction His life would take…and yet, Jesus says, “he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
- What does Jesus mean by this? What is He talking about?
When Jesus speaks these words He has not yet established His kingdom, so John was not in the kingdom.
- Therefore, the humblest member or citizen of the kingdom is greater than John because that member of the kingdom is elevated from the position of a servant under the law to the place of a child of God in the kingdom.
- The least in the kingdom is greater than John simply because he enjoys fuller and richer blessings in Christ Jesus.
So would Jesus look at me and say that I am greater than John because I am in Christ’s kingdom…or would he look at me and say that I am still living under the Law….a system that was made obsolete by Christ? (Heb. 8:13) A system of justification by works and performance or a system of justification by faith and grace?
Look at vs. 12: From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.
- John’s work had not been in vain.
- He initiated the spark!
- He pointed people to the Messiah and His kingdom.
- And from that time the kingdom of heaven had been basically under siege by those wanting to get in.
- Vast crowds came to be baptized by John; the people pressed each other in order to gain the kingdom’s benefits. (We have read accounts where the people pressed Jesus as He tried to walk through them).
- Entrance into the kingdom requires earnest endeavor, untiring energy, utmost exertion.
- In Luke 13:24 Jesus told His disciples to “strive” to enter into the kingdom.
- In Luke 16:16 Jesus says that after John preached the gospel, “everyone was forcing their way into the kingdom.”
Satan is a mighty adversary and he has a large army of helpers to block the way into the kingdom.
- Therefore it takes vigorous, determined men and women…men and women who are eager to fight and to conquer, to overcome Satan and thus to take possession of the kingdom.
- Those who are weaklings, waverers, compromisers will not gain the kingdom.
- The kingdom is not gained by deferred prayers, unfulfilled promises, broken resolutions, and hesitant commitments.
- John started it…and people still must strive daily to obtain it.
And when Jesus looks at me would He say that I am pointing people to the Messiah and the kingdom too that they might seek it and find it?
Look at vs. 14: And if you care to accept it, he himself is Elijah, who was to come.”
- 400 years before God said through the prophet Malachi in Mal. 4:5 that He would send “Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord.”
- And God went on to say that this “Elijah” would “restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.”
- Here in vs. 14 Jesus says that John is the fulfillment of that prophecy…he is the “Elijah” who was to come…and like the Elijah of old, John too was a preacher of repentance.
Would Jesus say that same thing about me…or about you?
So Jesus vindicates John here and in verse 15 He says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
- These people had seen these things that Jesus has said about John…surely they would listen!?
- Or would they? Look at what Jesus says in verse 16: “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, 17 and say,’ We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ 18 “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ 19 “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
- It wasn’t John who was fickle…it was instead those who were listening to the Pharisees and Rabbis.
- They weren’t happy with anything!
- “One minute they play the flute…and no one dances; so they switch to a dirge or a funeral song…and no one mourns!”
- They can’t make up their minds…there is no satisfying them.
John comes along neither eating nor drinking and they say, “He has a demon!”
- But then Jesus comes along eating and drinking, and they say, “He is a gluttonous man and a drunkard, and a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners!”
- If you want to talk about being “reeds blowing in the wind” they were reeds.
And once again…would Jesus say this same thing about me…or about you?
- Are you one of those individuals that are so dead set against Christ that you are going to deny Him and anything that He says or does?
Look at verse 19: Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
- People may deny and ridicule God’s messengers…they may ridicule God’s method of doing things.
- But in the end His truth…His wisdom always justifies itself.
- Those who deny John…and who deny Christ are fools.
Now I want to show you something…in this passage Jesus vindicates John against the potential criticisms and accusations that the people might have.
- And the way that Jesus vindicates John is by talking about John’s character and the things he did.
But let me show you something…turn if you would to Romans 8: 33. The apostle Paul says, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?”
- I will tell you who…it is not people who will bring the charge…Satan will…Satan is going to charge us with being sinners…and as such we should be condemned to eternal punishment!
- He is our accuser and he is right…we are sinners!
Look at the beginning of verse 34: “Who is the one who condemns?”
- Well, I will tell you…it is Satan! Because of our sin Satan says, “You are guilty and you must pay!”
But look at the end of verse 33 again: God is the One who justifies!
- And look at the second part of verse 34: Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God who also intercedes for us.”
- Listen, this is talking about vindication!
The difference between us and John is John was being accused falsely by men.
- And Jesus, pointing out the things that John did, showed those allegations to be false.
- But for us Satan brings the charges and we are guilty…we are as guilty of sin as we can be…and we deserve exactly what sin demands…eternal punishment.
- But God vindicates us…not on what we have done…not on our merits…not on how good we are…but on the merits of Jesus.
Satan says, “Virgil is a sinner…he has done this and he has done that!”
- And God says, “Yes, Virgil is a sinner…but Jesus is without sin…and because of Virgil’s faith and obedience to Christ by being baptized into Christ…having clothed himself with Christ…it is Christ’s performance that Virgil will be judged by…therefore, Virgil is vindicated from all charges and accusations.”
You know, it is a very frustrating thing to be accused of something and not be able to prove yourself innocent.
- But it is an amazing thing to be guilty as charged…condemned to die eternally…and then be vindicated by what someone else has done.
- Jesus vindicated John…and He can and will vindicate you if you will let Him.
The Kingdom Of God
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
We are in the study of the gospel of Matthew…and this morning we are going to look at Matthew chapter 13.
- Matthew 13 is a chapter of parables…and more specifically it is a chapter of parables that all speak of the “kingdom of God” or the “kingdom of heaven”
- Back in chapter 3:2 John the Baptizer announced the coming of the “kingdom of heaven”…in chapter 4: 17 Jesus said that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Now, here in Matthew 13 Jesus once again talks about the kingdom of God.
- He will tell us how to obtain it…He will tell us what to expect…He will tell us about its nature…and He will warn us about the danger of failing to be a part of it.
So, let’s look at these parables…we won’t have time to cover every lesson that is contained in them but we will cover those lessons that are primary.
Now, the first parable is very familiar to most of us…we often call it the “Parable of the Soils” or the “Parable of the Sower.”
- In the parable Jesus speaks of 4 kinds of soils or 4 places in which the “Sower” cast his seed.
- Some was sown beside the road…some fell on the rocky places…others fell among the thorns…and others fell on good soil.
But now look at verse 18. Jesus gives the explanation of the parable.
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, (the “word” is relative to the kingdom…it is what guides one into the kingdom of God…if you want to enter into the kingdom of God here is the instructions on how to get there) and does not understand it (this isn’t talking about not understanding what a verse might say. This is talking about someone who chooses not to understand it. It is the individual who is calloused against the word…who is unresponsive to it…who has no desire to know what the word means), the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. 20 “And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23 “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it (he accepts it, he is open to it, he desires to know what the word means); who indeed bears fruit, and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”
- Now notice in each example Jesus speaks of “hearing the word.”
- This parable is about “hearing” the word of the kingdom…and what each one does with that word when he hears it…how each one receives it.
And the primary lessons from this parable are three fold:
- First, not everyone that you share the word of God with wants it…and not everyone you share the word with will accept it…and some that you share the word with will eventually abandon it. But don’t let that keep you from sowing it!
- And the second lesson from this parable comes in the form of self-evaluation: What kind of soil are you? What are you doing with the word of the kingdom? How are you receiving it?
- And that is important because it brings us to the third important lesson and that is: Only those who are “good soil”…only those who have honest and sincere hearts…only those who accept the word and allow it to bring forth fruit in their life…only those individuals will obtain the kingdom of heaven.
Now, look at the second parable starting in verse 24: He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 “But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away. 26 “But when the wheat sprang up and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27 “And the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 “And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ And the slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29 “But he said, ‘No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them. 30’Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘ ”
- Now this parable is not hard to understand because Jesus gives us the meaning. Look at verse 36:
Then He left the multitudes, and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37 And He answered and said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 “Therefore just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
- I don’t know if you picked up on it or not but did you notice why it is important for us to teach our children about Christ….Jesus raises “good seed!”
- It is risky business to keep your sons and daughters from learning about Christ…to refuse to teach them. (I knew a couple that went to church with us and any time one of their kids got in trouble they grounded them from coming to church and participating in the youth activities).
- Teach a child, train a child, show a child Jesus and seldom will a child grow up to be a “bad seed.”
Now, there are a couple more lessons from this parable to learn:
- We as Sons of the Kingdom are to co-exist in the field with the sons of the evil one.
- And we are not to carry out an “inquisition” against them…we are not to pluck them out of the world. (Like we see some radical Muslims are attempting to do).
- Our mission is not one of judgment but to be “the light of the world and the salt of the earth.”
- We are not to withdraw from the world into isolation…go into some monastery…but we are to strive to teach them and bring them to Christ.
- If we were to try and eliminate the tares we very well could destroy the wheat in the process. ( I mentioned the radical Muslims who try to eliminate those they consider to be infidels…other Muslims are repulsed by their actions…that is one way we could pluck up the wheat.)
- And then there is the lesson of the judgment…those who are stumbling blocks and who are lawless will be cast into the furnace of fire where there will the weeping and gnashing of teeth.
- And again, the all important lessons comes in the form of self-evaluation: Which are you, a tare or good seed? (It is not too late to change.)
Now, look at verse 31: He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 and this is smaller than all other seeds; but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
- I don’t know that I have ever seen a mustard seed but Jesus says it is the “smallest in the field.”
- But then when you plant it and it is full grown it is “larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree!”
- And I think that what Jesus is saying at least in part is “never underestimate the great things that can come from small, seeming insignificant beginnings.”
- And I believe that is especially true when you plant the seed of the kingdom of heaven in someone’s heart…that seed has the potential to grow into something more glorious than you might have ever imagined.
- You can look around you in this room and see the evidence of this in several who are seated here this morning. (One seed is hardly a fitting meal for a bird, but if planted it has the power to feed a nation. It is up to us to plant that seed.)
More than likely though, what Jesus is doing here in this parable is teaching His disciples that His Kingdom will be glorious in spite of its weak, despised meaning.
Look at verse 33: He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three pecks of meal, until it was all leavened.”
- I don’t know much about “leaven’.
- But what Jesus seems to be saying here is “You add just a small amount of the kingdom into the hearts of people and you cannot stop where it spreads to.
Jesus told two more parables starting in verse 44:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
- A couple of years ago I thought that a boat would bring me great joy…so I bought one.
- Now, I didn’t sell all that I had to get it but I did spend a few dollars on it…and it did…it brought us some great joy…until it blew a piston and ruined the power-head.
- Now it is going to cost more to fix it than it is worth…and because of that I have no more joy…at least not from the boat.
Jesus’ point here is the kingdom of heaven is worth all that you possess…even life itself…and it will bring you joy that will never fade away.
And now verse 47: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; 48 and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. 49 “So it will be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
- What would you consider to be a “bad fish”? A Carp? A Gar? A “hard head?”
- What kind of fish would you consider yourself to be? Are you a big mouth bass? How about a sunfish or a perch…always nosing around? A shark…a predator? A Grouper?
- I think that is one of the primary lessons of this parable…to make us give some thought to the kind of fish that we are?
But this parable also speaks of the final judgment.
- And whether you are a good fish or a bad fish will not change after you are judged.
- There will be no second chances.
So, what has Jesus taught us?
- Not everyone is going to accept the “word of the kingdom.”
- Only those who do accept it will be “in the kingdom.”
- We need to learn of and teach our children to follow Christ because He produces “good seed.”
- We are to co-exist with the “tares” in this world and it is not ours to conduct an inquisition.
- Neither are we to withdraw ourselves from the “tares” of the world.
- We need to, while we have time, decide if we are a “tare” or “good seed.”
- Glorious things come from small beginnings if we will only plant the seed.
- You plant the kingdom in the hearts of a few and you never know where it will go to.
- The kingdom is worth all that you have including life itself.
- What kind of fish are you?
Who Do You Say Jesus Is
WHO DO YOU SAY JESUS IS
I think most of us have seen the TV game show Jeopardy.
- I watched a little bit of it just a few days ago and everything came down to the very last question…whoever was going to win the prize…whoever was going to be the champion…whoever was going to “move on”…everything came down to that one question.
As I thought about that I found myself thinking that when it comes down to eternal life…when it comes down to being victorious…when it comes down to obtaining the prize of heaven…it all comes down to one question…”Who do you say Jesus is?”
- Wouldn’t that be an interesting question for Jeopardy?
- And what might be even more interesting would be the answers given?
Here in this passage that was read the Pharisees are faced with this question…and the answer they give is rather interesting.
- But what is more interesting is as we study this Jesus will cause each one of us to have to make a decision about who He is also.
So, let’s look at the passage…in verse 22 a man who was possessed by a demon and who was blind and dumb is brought to Jesus…and Jesus heals him.
- And in verse 23 all those who saw this were amazed…and they begin to ask, “This man (Jesus) cannot be the Son of David, can he?”
- In other words they are asking, “Who is this guy…who is this Jesus?”
- It is the same question that every one must give answer to.
Well, look at their answer in verse 24: But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”
- Now I want you to notice something here about these Pharisees.
- They didn’t deny the supernatural work of Jesus…nobody tried to deny that Jesus did miracles.
- They just tried to explain them in different ways.
They say, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul” or in other words, “He is in partnership with the devil.”
- Now, there are some things you can say and get away with.
- But there are some things you cannot say without a confrontation.
- Look at what Jesus says starting in verse 25.
25 And knowing their thoughts He said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself shall not stand. 26 “And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then shall his kingdom stand? 27 “And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Consequently they shall be your judges. 28 “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 “Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. 30 “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.
The first thing I want you to notice is what Jesus thinks of Satan.
- Jesus doesn’t think that Satan is just a superstition that a bunch of ignorant people have come up with.
- He doesn’t say, “Since they came up with this idea of Satan I will go along with it in order to teach them a couple of lessons.”
In this passage Jesus says that Satan is a real, malevolent being that is as intent on destroying you as Jesus is on saving you.
- In 1 Peter 5: 8, Peter says that “Satan prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.”
- Just like you don’t trifle with a lion you don’t trifle with Satan…you don’t trifle with evil forces.
- You don’t dabble with things that are dark…and you don’t involve yourself even playfully with anything that belongs to the other kingdom.
- Satan is real and he is intensely devoted to destroying you.
- And one of the great needs of the church today is to take our enemy more serious and do all we can to resist him.
There is something else implied here in what Jesus says.
- Jesus says, “Satan can’t or won’t rise up against himself.”
- That implies that there is an essential unity in the kingdom of evil.
- The kingdom of evil, by nature is a unit….Satan will never wage war against his own kingdom.
- In the kingdom of evil there is no gossiping, no slander, no backbiting or accusing.
- They all have one foe and they work together against it.
- Wouldn’t it be great if the Kingdom of God would be as united as the kingdom of evil?
Let’s get back to the major point of the lesson.
- Now, keep in mind what these people are saying about Jesus.
- They are saying that He is in “league with the devil.”
- And Jesus isn’t going to let them get away with it.
Jesus says two things here: If Satan doesn’t wage war against himself…if Satan doesn’t cast out demons…
- And yet, Jesus is casting out demons…then Jesus cannot be in league with Satan.
And, not only that, if Satan is the strong man…but no one enters the strong man’s house and plunders his property unless He first binds the strong man…then Jesus is stronger than Satan.
And look at verse 30: “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.
- In this struggle between Christ and Satan neutrality is impossible.
- There are two great empires…that of God with Christ as head…and that of Satan.
- You either belong to one or the other…but be aware…those who stand with Christ shall be victorious over the devil.
Now, look at what Jesus says in verse 31:
“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 “And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come.
Now, the question is not the existence of an unforgiveable sin…Jesus says here that there is one.
- The question is, “What is it?” “What is this unforgiveable sin?”
And we have all heard lessons on it.
- Some say it is “taking the Lord’s name in vain.”
- Others say it is suicide.
- Where are those things talked about in this text?
I think the key for understanding what Jesus is talking about when He refers to an “unforgivable sin” is found in verse 28.
- In verse 28, how was Jesus casting out the demons…how did He cast out the demon in the man up in verse 22? (By the Holy Spirit…the Holy Spirit confirmed who Jesus was.)
- All the miracles that Jesus performed whether it was healing the lame, cleansing the diseased, giving sight to the blind, or raising the dead, he did “by the Spirit of God.”
- The Spirit continually testified as to who Jesus was and still does.
Now, when Jesus came and proclaimed to be the Messiah or the Son of God a lot of people misunderstood Him…and some simply denied Him and rejected Him.
- And that is understandable because in Matthew 24:5 we are told that there were others who were claiming to be the Messiah.
- And there were a lot of other Rabbis who were teaching and preaching.
- So it wouldn’t be unusual for people to wonder about Christ and for some to just simply reject him and deny Him.
- And for that you can be forgiven.
But when the Holy Spirit confirmed who Jesus was…when the Holy Spirit through the miracles testified that Jesus was the Son of God…when the Holy Spirit set Jesus apart from all the others who claimed to be the Messiah or a Rabbi…
- And when the Holy Spirit did it over and over again…
- And these Pharisees just continually, defiantly, irreverently refused to believe what the Holy Spirit was proclaiming…not only in the miracles but also by the prophets of old.
- When they repeatedly and deliberately harden themselves against the truth…and refused to believe…then there would be no forgiveness of their sin.
Let me show you something.
- Do you realize that in every case where Jesus drove out demons there were witnesses?
- Jesus never cast out demons privately…people always watched.
- And there was a reason for that. Look at John 20: 30-31.
20 Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
You were supposed to learn something and believe something when you watched Jesus drive out demons.
- You were supposed to learn and believe that “Jesus is Christ, the Son of God.
- And these Pharisees should have recognized that, not only because of Jesus’ miracles, but also because the O.T. prophets said that He was coming.
- But, what did they do?
- They rejected Him…and the denied Him.
- And regardless of what they saw…and regardless of what they should have known, they continued to say, “He works for the devil.”
- Their hearts were so hardened that they would rather call “light, darkness, and good, evil.”
And the eternal sin is fundamentally this: it is the “willful and deliberate rejection of the Holy Spirits witness concerning the divinity of Jesus.”
- God has reached out to humanity in the person of Jesus Christ.
- And Jesus has been attested to…and confirmed by the Holy Spirit to be the Son of God.
- And the eternal sin is to see the Holy Spirit’s confirmation of who Christ is…and to comprehend it…and then refuse it.
Can a person do that today?
- Of course he can.
- The Spirit of God still confirms Jesus today through the written word, and through the spoken word, and through the empty tomb.
- And still today, people continue to harden their hearts against what the Spirit says about Christ.
This text is not about God’s refusal to forgive sin.
- In fact, it is just the opposite.
- Jesus says in a bold statement, “All sins and blasphemies can be forgiven.”; 31.
- So, it is not about God’s refusal to forgive sin.
This text is about men’s refusal to accept Jesus once they have been exposed by the Spirit of God to the truth of who He is.
- To be blunt…this is a text that says, “You cannot be right with God if you choose to be wrong about Jesus.”
There are only two possibilities…eternal life and eternal condemnation.
- And whether you have eternal life…or eternal condemnation all comes down to what you think of Jesus.
And some people will say, “I don’t believe there is an eternal sin and I don’t believe there is an eternal judgment.”
- Why would Jesus mention it if it were not so?
The question of “who Jesus is” is not one about which men can remain neutral.
- Eternal consequences weight in the balance.
- It matter eternally what you think of Jesus…in fact, what you think of Jesus matters more than anything else.
Let me tell you a story. Just a few years ago, Dr. Leo Winters, one of the most respected surgeons in the mid-west, woke up to a phone call at 1:00 in the morning, at his home in Chicago. He picked up the phone and they said, “Dr. Winters, there has been an accident and a little boy has been seriously hurt. We need you to come do surgery.” He said, “Can’t someone else do it?” And they replied, “No, Dr. Winters, you are the only one skilled enough in this region to save his life.”
So, Dr. Winters threw on some clothes, and he got in his car and drives through a tough part of town on the south side of Chicago because it is the quickest way to get to the hospital. And Dr. Winters didn’t have his doors locked when he came to a stop at a red light, and a man rushed up in a flannel shirt and an old grey hat, and he threw the door open, and grabbed Dr. Winters and threw him in the street and said, “I need your car”, and before Dr. Winters could explain where he was going, the man took off and left Dr. Winters behind.
It took Dr. Winters 45 minutes to find a phone and call a taxi and get to the hospital. When he arrived a nurse met him and said, “Dr. Winters, the boy just died. His father is in the chapel…and he is upset…He doesn’t understand why you didn’t get here sooner. Could you go and talk to him.
Dr. Winters goes down the hall…and goes in the chapel…and there in the front, kneeling and sobbing was the man in the old gray hat and the flannel shirt. The man who had pushed away the one who could save.
What do you say about Jesus?
- There are thousands of answers you could give to push Him away.
- There is only one that can save.
- And you cannot deal with the sin question until you settle the Son question.
- Who is Jesus?
Faithful No Matter What
FAITHFUL NO MATTER WHAT
When we read this passage of scripture I am not sure we really understand what God is trying to teach us here. We may just read over this and not really grasp the lessons.
- In this passage God shows us two things that are a real threat to our faith in Christ and consequently they are two things that are a real threat to our salvation.
- They are two things that can happen to anyone and when we see either one of these two things happening in our lives we need to make sure they don’t make us stumble and fall.
Look again at the passage that was read…look at vs. 2-3: Now when John in prison heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples, 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
- Now, if you look down at verses 7-19 there is no doubt that this John here is John the Baptist.
- And notice again the question he asks of Jesus: “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
- John, how could you ask this? How could you even think this?
Prior to this John had no doubts about Jesus being the “Expected One.”
- Back in chapter 3 when Jesus came to be baptized by John, John said, “I have need to be baptized by You!”
And remember in John chapter 1 when John saw Jesus coming to him at the Jordan River, John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”
And John was there when Jesus was baptized and the voice from heaven declared, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
- Before this John didn’t have any doubts about who Jesus was.
But now things are different. John is asking, “Jesus, are you the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
- Why is it that John seems to have these doubts now?
- What has changed?
Well, I think there are basically two things that have made John doubt and wonder…and I think they are the same two things that make a lot of faithful Christians have doubts at times as well…and may cause some of us to doubt in the future and those two things are “Hardships and Misunderstanding.”
- Let me show you what I mean.
Look at verse 2 again.
Now when John in prison…
- When this takes place John is in the infamous Machearus Prison which lies about 5 miles east of the Dead Sea.
- If you go over to Mark 6 starting in verse 17 the scriptures tell us that “Herod Antipas (who was the king) had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her.”
- John had boldly told the king that he was committing adultery and was not right with God.
- As a result John winds up in prison…
And let me tell you, in Bible days prisons were much different than they are today.
- They didn’t have air conditioning…and they didn’t have a library…or a weight room…or cable TV…and there was no government agency monitoring how you were treated.
- Their prisons were dark and dingy rat infested holes in the ground…what we might call a dungeon…and they didn’t get 3 square meals a day…they were glad to get bread and water.
- So, what you have here is, John is in this prison.
And John was familiar with difficult circumstances…he lived in the wilderness and wore camel skin and ate locust and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4)
- But now this is different…conditions in prison are worse than horrible…and John is used to being out in the open, wide spaces. He is not used to being confined like this.
We read this and we think, wow! Prison is not where John should be…after all he has lived his entire life for the Lord!
- The Bible says in Luke 1:15 that he was “filled with the Spirit of God from his mother’s womb;”
- He had surrendered at an early age to be God’s spokesman…a forerunner of the Messiah.
- But now he has been in prison almost a year…and it doesn’t appear that he will get out soon. (You might expect something like this for an ungodly man but not for someone who was serving the Lord…not for someone who was faithful to God)
- This is not at all what John had in mind…he envisioned something better than this.
- And so his hardships caused him to ask, “Are you the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
And isn’t that true for us as well? Don’t our hardships cause us to question God? Question Christ?
- We may not like to admit it but hardships have the same effect on us as they did John.
But it wasn’t only the hardships that made John doubt…he apparently misunderstood what he expected the “Expected One” to do.
- You see, when John was preaching of the coming Messiah before, he spoke of someone who would come in judgment;
- In chapter 3:7 when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
And in Matthew 3: 10 he said , “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “
And then in chapter 3:12 John spoke of the Messiah as having “His winnowing fork in His hand, thoroughly clearing His threshing floor; and gathering His wheat into the barn, but burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
- You see, that is the idea that John had in mind…he had in mind a Messiah that was coming in judgment; cutting down the “bad fruit”; “clearing the threshing floor and gathering His wheat, and burning the chaff.”
But when John hears of the works of Christ…when he hears of the miracles of mercy and the words of grace that were coming from the lips of Jesus…this may have very well not harmonized with what John was expecting.
- He may have well been expecting a Messiah that was going to set up a kingdom and bring judgment on the wicked…
- And as Isaiah 42:7 says, he may have expected someone who “He will bring prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison.”
And so the combination of the hardship that he is enduring and some wrong ideas of what he expected…is causing him to doubt…and so he asks, “Are you the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
You see, hardships alone can cause faithful people to doubt but combine those hardships with some misunderstanding of the will of God and you get what you have here with John.
One of the most popular misconceptions that people have today, including perhaps some of us, is the idea that “I believe in God…I am faithful to God…therefore bad things shouldn’t happen to me.”
- “And, if it does…if something bad does happen…then I can pray to God and He will take it away from me.”
- But, what if He doesn’t…what if God doesn’t take it away…what if He doesn’t remove the problem? What do you do then?
- Why this Covid-19? We have prayed and it is still here!
- I have lost my job! Why God?
- My wife is sick! Make her well?
- What happens if He doesn’t do that? Does, like John, does doubt set in?
Well, look at how Jesus responds to John’s question, vs. 4: And Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
- Here Jesus quotes from Isaiah 35: 5-6 and Isaiah 61:1…and what Jesus does here is, He doesn’t rebuke John for his doubt…or even rebuke him for what he thought the Messiah was to do.
- Jesus would do all those things…He would “cut down the tree that did not bear good fruit and cast it into the fire…
- And yes, He will clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire…”
But, the prophet Isaiah also said that the Messiah would “give sight to the blind, heal the lame, cleanse the lepers, cause the deaf to hear, raise up the dead, and preach the gospel to the poor.”
- The Messiah didn’t come to just bring judgment on the wicked and ungodly…He also came to take “the captive to sin, captive for God.” 4:8.
- He came to bring people into the kingdom of God.
- He did these things that they might believe that He is the Son of God and that they might have eternal life through Him. (John 20:30-31)
- It seems that John may not have understood this…or because of his hardship lost sight of this.
- And I believe that this same thing happens to many today…we see one perspective of Christ while failing to see another….we may see Him as Judge…and fail to see Him as Savior.
Because of John’s misunderstanding of what he thought the Expected One was to do….because of his misunderstanding of the will of God…John struggled with doubt.
- And that same thing happens today…perhaps to some of us.
- God has never told us that we would live problem free.
- And when problems come He has never told us that He would remove them.
- What He has told us is how He will use them to increase our faith, make us stronger, so that we might be an example to others.
Now there is something else here…Jesus says, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”
- No false prophet ever did this…no system of false religion ever promised this or fulfilled this.
- And yet these are the very things that were happening…and what this indicated to all and especially to John was “Jesus was no imposter.”
- He is the real deal…the Messiah…the Expected One.
And look at verse 6 because this is, what I believe the all important lesson to be learned from this. Jesus says, “And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me.”
- In Rom 9:32 the apostle Paul quotes from Isaiah 28 and Isaiah 8 and he says:
They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
Many of the Jewish religious leaders, the scribes, Pharisees, the Priests, and Rabbis stumbled over Jesus.
- Even when they saw the miracles, the healing, the dead being raised…even when they heard the gospel being preached…they still refused to believe that Jesus was the Messiah…the Son of God.
- And what Jesus is saying here in Matthew 11:6 is “Blessed is he who believes in Me.”
- “Even when you are going through severe hardships…even when He is doing things that you don’t fully understand…even when He doesn’t do what you think He should do…even when it seems as though He has forgotten you…or He doesn’t seem to care about you…you continue to trust in Jesus…you remain faithful to Him.
- In fact, look at the very end of Romans 9:33: “And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
Jesus is saying to John…and to all of us…”You be faithful no matter what.”
For the past couple of months Lonnie Jameson has been teaching a class on “The Creation vs. Evolution” and I am confident that we all believe that God created the “heavens and the earth and all things in them.”
- What we may fail to understand is that the world that God created ceased to exist because of sin…and the world we now live in is cursed.
- God created life, harmony, and joy…but death, hostility, and pain now fill the earth.
- And when those things come into our lives we are prone to doubt: ‘Why God? Why is this happening? Why am I going through this?”
- “God’s ways are not our ways…and God’s wisdom is higher than our wisdom”…and we often do not understand why we are going through the hardships…the thing we must do is “trust in the Lord with all our heart…and lean not on our own understanding” Prov. 3:5.
There are a lot of things going on in our world…in our society…in our lives that we don’t fully understand…but regardless…you stay faithful to Christ.
Getting The Word Out
GETTING THE WORD OUT
Matthew 10 (Read 5-8)
When you get to chapter 10 here Jesus has been “going about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.”
- And you can imagine how time consuming that was…and how exhausting it was (night and day; getting very little rest – Mark 2).
- And there are so many more places to go and so many more people that need to hear what He had to say…these people had been “sitting in darkness and in the land of the shadow of death” for years…they were “distressed and downcast”…and they needed to hear the “good news” of the kingdom of heaven…they needed hope…and the sooner the better!
- But it was more than one man could do by Himself.
- How is He going to get the word out so that all can hear?
- He doesn’t have a telephone…there were no computers or emails.
- If He is going to get His message out to the people…or even to all the world He is going to need some help?
- Who can He turn to…who can He send?
Well, look at verse 1 of chapter 10: And having summoned His twelve disciples…
- Your disciples…that is who you turn to in order to get the “good news” out!
Jesus has always turned to His disciples to get the “good news” of His kingdom out…and it is no different today.
- Remember Matt 28:18-20, what we call the Great Commission: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. “
- You see, Jesus has turned to every one of us in this room who is a disciple of His to go t and get His word out to others…we are to make people disciples of Christ.
- And what makes Matthew 10 so important to us is it contains some very important truths that will help and encourage us as we go forth on our mission.
- So let’s look at Matthew 10 and let’s learn some things about “GETTING THE WORD OUT.”
First, notice in verse 7 what the disciples were to preach…they were to preach, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
- In other words they were to give the people hope…to tell them that those who let God reign in their hearts will receive great blessings.
Now, just think about all the different things the disciples could have spent their time preaching about.
- They could have preached against the Roman Empire…and stirred the people up.
- They could have preached about the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders.
- They could have spoken about the need of honest tax-collectors.
- But those things weren’t of first priority.
- What the people needed was a message of hope…of assurance…a message of repentance and salvation.
And it is the same with us today…there are so many things we could preach about in our world today.
- We could preach about the hypocrisy of our political leaders and rile people up…and some do that.
- We could talk about the government handouts and the abuses that are taking place.
- We could preach about the wrongs of the Benghazi attacks…or the issues of Obamacare.
- Some actually preach hatred and bigotry and bias. (Jeremiah Wright).
We could preach all kinds of things but what is it that Jesus has commissioned us to do: “Go and make disciples…baptizing them…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
- He says this in Mark 16:16: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel (the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ) to all creation. 16 “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.
- Remember what the apostle Paul said in Romans 1:16: I am not ashamed of the gospel…for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, for the Jews first, and also for the Greek.
- And in 1 Cor. 1:23 the apostle Paul says, “We preached Christ and Him crucified.”
- Listen, if we preach the kingdom of heaven…if we preach Christ…if people accept that message…these other issues will take care of themselves.
So the disciples were sent to preach the kingdom of heaven….we are to go and make disciples…or followers of Christ…we are to preach the gospel to all creation and not get sidetracked on all these other issues.
I also want you to notice from Matthew 10: 5 that the assignment to preach belonged to every disciple.
- This is an assignment given to everyone who is a disciple of Christ.
A baseball team went out to play a game of baseball. Just as the umpire was saying, “Batter up!” the catcher for the home team arrived and took his place behind the plate.
- The center fielder didn’t show up at all but sent his regrets.
- The third baseman failed to come to the game also because he had been up late the night before.
- The short stop was there but left his glove at home.
- Two other fielders were away on a weekend trip but said they were there in spirit.
- The pitcher went to the mound and looked around for his teammates…but his heart was heavy because their positions were empty.
- The umpire called “Play Ball!”; the fans were in the stands, and there was nothing to do but pitch the ball and hope for the best.
- But in addition to pitching, the pitcher had to cover first, second and third base as well as play center field.
- When the absent players heard that the team lost, they were very upset. They held a meeting and decided to get a new pitcher.
Like a baseball team, we as disciples’ of Christ can’t effectively do what we are to do unless everyone does their part.
- The pitcher is important but unless everyone else shows up and fields their position the game will be lost.
- I wonder if we did our part just here in Brady, what kind of difference would we see?
Notice verse 8 again. The disciples were sent to “heal the sick.”
- Now, we must understand something here. These men were empowered by Jesus to heal.
- The apostles and the people that the apostles passed this miraculous gift a long too had the power from the Holy Spirit to do some amazing things…and the purpose for using those powers was to prove that the message they were preaching was true.
Now, we as disciples’ of Christ are not able to heal in the same sense that the apostles were able to heal.
- But we can bring healing to people who are hurting.
- Hurting form the effects of sin; hurting from loneliness; hurting from hopelessness.
- Everyone that the disciples physically healed, eventually died.
- However, when we show people that the ultimate source of healing is found in the hope of eternity, we are doing more than healing them for a while…we are showing them that Christ can heal forever.
And look at the very end of verse 8. Why in the world would any one accept the commission that Jesus has placed upon us?
- Look at what Jesus says, “…freely you received, freely give.”
As disciples’ of Christ we have been commissioned by our Lord to “go and make disciples of all nations.”
- We are to preach the “gospel”…the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
- It is an assignment that has been given to every one of us.
- And we are to bring “healing” to those who are hurting…and we do it because of the salvation that has been freely given to us.
But now, as you go forth on your mission assignment you need to learn some other things here from Matthew 10. Look at vs. 14: And whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet.
There are going to be people who will not listen.
- But, that does not mean that we are supposed to give up and quit.
- All that means is we are to preach somewhere else.
- It is extremely frustrating to teach someone and them to reject it but there is something we should all remember: If people rejected God in the Old Testament; If they rejected Jesus in the New Testament; if they rejected the apostles who were men filled with the Holy Spirit and power…the people will reject us.
Not only will there be people who don’t want to listen to our message but some people will be combative…look at verse 17: “But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the courts, and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you shall even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.
- We may not face the same type of persecution that the disciple had to face, but we will face people who will be combative to the message of Jesus Christ.
- Why? Because Satan knows the power of the Gospel message and he will do all he can to stop it.
And when they persecute you…look at verse 28-30: And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 “Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows.
- When you go forth to fulfill the commission that has been given to you, you will face persecution and the potential of persecution can and often does immobilize you.
- But it is much better to “fear God and keep His commandments” than it is to fear men.
- Besides, God knows and sees what happens to you and just as He provides for the sparrows He will provide even more for you.
Jesus has always depended on His disciples to “get the word out” and it is obvious that people need to hear it.
- This past week in Oklahoma 3 young men killed a baseball player from Australia just for the “fun of it.”
- A couple of weeks ago the California Legislature passed a law that allows boys to go to the girl’s bathroom and the girls to go to the boy’s bathroom.
- Here in our own community in the past few weeks we have had men sexually assault young girls…things are a mess!
- If for nothing more than to possibly deter some of the immoral things that are happening we need to be talking to people about the kingdom of God.
Justice of the Peace: Committed suicide…”better off.” No, he is not! But that is what most people think.
- We need to be “getting the word out” if it doesn’t do anything more than make people think about it.
And we need to be talking to our friends, our family, the people we come in contact to about the death, burial, and crucifixion of Christ…not in a smug way…not in an arrogant way…but with love and grace…reassuring them that salvation can be theirs if they will repent and come to Christ.
- We need to all do what we have been commissioned to do.
- We need to be busy “healing” others the best we can and reassuring them where “real healing is found.”
The Compassion of Jesus
THE COMPASSION OF JESUS
At the first of the year the challenge that was extended to all of us was to “Learn More About Jesus.”
- More about who He is; more about what He did; more about what He said.
- And that is important because before I will ever surrender my will to the will of Jesus, I first must believe that the will of Jesus is supreme.
- And before I will ever commit my life to the word of Jesus, I must first believe that the word of Jesus is certain.
- And before I will ever give myself as a slave to Jesus, I must first believe that Jesus is the Lord.
- It is all about Jesus! Unless you are converted to Jesus you have nothing.
A lot of people are converted to a way of thinking (We stand and pound doctrine and ritual); a lot of people are converted to the church (they are actively involved in the activities of their church); a lot of people are converted to baptism (baptized because that is what it takes to be saved); people are converted to a lot of different things…but unless you are converted to Christ…unless you truly become His disciple…unless He sincerely becomes your Lord…you have nothing!
- You see, Jesus is not just some prophet to just be listened to…He is God; He is the Savior; He is the Messiah; He is to be worshipped, honored, and praised. (It may be that Christianity is the only religion where the “author and perfecter” of what we believe is to be worshipped)
- It is all about Jesus…and the only way you will ever commit yourself to Him, and obey Him even when you don’t want to, and serve Him is if you fall in love with Him…so it is critical that we learn more about Jesus.
So, let’s look at the passage that was read…and let’s each one dedicate ourselves to be more like Jesus. Look at verse 35 again:
35 And Jesus was going about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
- Now, when we read this we just read it in black and white and we just go on.
- But I want you to notice the things that Jesus is doing: He is going; He is teaching; He is proclaiming (or preaching), and He is healing.
- And notice what He is “proclaiming” or “preaching”; “the gospel of the kingdom”…”good news!”
- If you look back in chapter 4:16, 17 these people that Jesus is preaching to were “sitting in darkness…and in the land and shadow of death”…they were lost and without hope.
- And for many of them their religious leaders had convinced them that God would have nothing to do with them…that they had no possibility of ever entering into the kingdom of God.
- But then Jesus comes to them…and He doesn’t just sit around…He doesn’t just find a comfortable place to stay…He goes…to all the cities and villages! (He had a message that these people needed to hear…what does that say about how He felt, about how God felt about them?)
- And He was “teaching in their synagogues…and proclaiming the “good news” of the kingdom” (He is telling these people that they CAN enter into the kingdom of God), and to prove that what He was saying is true He was “healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.”
- And that set Him apart…that made Him special…because there were a lot of other people going around teaching and preaching…but none of the others could heal “every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.” (Just think about the “every kind”.)
- This didn’t just set Him apart…but it declared Him to be the “Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
- You see, unless you are converted to Him, unless you put your faith, hope, trust, and obedience in Him you have nothing.
But there is something else here. Look at this found in Luke 4:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are downtrodden, 19 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
- You see, what Jesus is doing here in Matthew 9 is exactly what the Prophet Isaiah said He would do in Isaiah 61. (730 years before Isaiah said, “This is what the Messiah…the anointed One will do.)
- Jesus is not only the Messiah…He is the fulfillment of prophecy…”all things are summed up in Him”…you see, it is all about Him and if you don’t have Him…if you aren’t converted to Him you have nothing.
Now, let’s learn something else about Him…look at verse 36: And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.
- I want you to notice the people…”they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.”
- The NIV says that they were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
- The King James says they “fainted and were scattered abroad.”
The word “distressed” or “harassed” comes from a Greek word that means to “flay” and it means to “strip off the skin”…”to strip away”…to strip away their money, their possessions…to strip away their dignity…to criticize harshly…it is to harass.
- The people that Jesus feels compassion for are people who have had everything stripped away from them…and they are constantly being harassed!
And notice that they were “downcast” or “helpless.”
- This comes from a Greek word which means “to fling with a quick toss”; to fling indiscriminately.”
- This isn’t talking about “taking aim” and tossing like you would a waded up piece of paper at the trash can; or like you would a basketball toward a hoop.
- Those are both focused aims.
- This is talking about just “flinging something aimlessly…just getting rid of it…getting it out of the way!”
So basically the people that Jesus has compassion on here are those people who have been “stripped of everything” and just “tossed aside” as if they had no value….they are the poorest of the poor. (“Get out of the way, we don’t want you around us, just get!)
- And because they have been “stripped” and “shoved aside” and “tossed away”…they are like sheep without a shepherd (wondering aimlessly; no protection; at risk; easy prey; no security).
- Why would they not have a shepherd? Two possibilities: they were lost and the shepherd hasn’t found them yet; or the shepherd doesn’t want them back…he isn’t looking for them…that is pretty much the way their spiritual leaders, the Pharisees, and the Scribes, and the Priests, and the Rabbis looked at these people.
You see the Pharisees became the religious police and they became the standard bearers of what was acceptable, what was clean and unclean, and who could come to the synagogue and who couldn’t.
- Now in the mind of the Pharisees when they saw people that were blind, deaf, or paralyzed, or diseased, or sick, to them that was a punishment from God on those people for sins they committed or will commit…or it was a punishment from God for sins their parents or their families committed…and as far as they were concerned you were “unclean.”
And it wasn’t only the blind, deaf, or paralyzed or diseased and sick who were declared “unclean” there were others.
- People who were considered to be “sinners.”
- To us, we consider a sinner as someone who is outside of a relationship with God.
- But the people here were Jews…they weren’t Gentiles…they weren’t unbelievers…they were Sons of Abraham…they were in covenant relationship with God through the Law of Moses.
- So it wasn’t because these people were outside of a relationship with God.
- They were “sinners” because the Pharisees and Scribes designated them so.
- You see, for them “sinners” included almost everyone except for the Pharisees and the scribes, and the Priests, and the Rabbis.
- Tax Collectors were “unclean” and not allowed to enter into the synagogue (because they were in league with the Romans and because they handled Gentile money).
- Mule Drivers (because they did business with Gentiles).
- Tanners…the people who made leather; because a lot of the leather goods were sold to Gentiles.
- And money loaners…all these different people were considered “Unclean” by the spiritual leaders….and “discarded and tossed aside.” (“We don’t want you anymore.”)
But look at verse 36 again: “And seeing the multitudes He felt compassion for them…”
- The Greek says literally says, “His bowels yearned for them”…this was a deep down sorrow for them.
- But He didn’t just simply feel sorry for them…Verse 35 says He extended His compassion to them by teaching them, and preaching the good news of the kingdom to them, and by healing them.
- And how did He heal these people…well He didn’t do it in every case but most of the time He was touching, and touching, and touching.
- And in verse 37 and 38 He instructs His disciples to “beseech Him to send forth workers” to teach, and preacher, and heal the sick…in other words “Beg Him to let you go too.”
- And in chapter 10:1…His disciples go…and in chapter 10:7 and 8 the disciples “teach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and they heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons.”
- In other words He is trying to give these “distressed and downcast” people HOPE.
Now I want you to look at this…there is a great verse in Isaiah 65:2
2 “I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts,
Jesus says it this way in Matthew 23:37:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.
- When you consider Matthew 9; Isaiah 65; and Matthew 23 together…what is the picture you get of Messiah?
- It is Him with His hands out trying to bring His people home to God…especially the unwanted, the unwelcomed, and the unclean. (He even died with His hands out trying to bring people home.)
- But that picture is not just limited to Matthew 9…it is also found in Matthew 27.
Who else would do this for you? Who else would reach out like this to give you hope…to add you to the kingdom of God…to restore you back into full relationship with God…to save you from the condemnation of your sins?
- Your friend?
- Your parents?
- Your preacher?
- There is only ONE who would die for you so you can someday go to heaven.
- What will you do for Him?
Jesus is before you with His hands and arms stretched out…you will find no greater love for you.
Sad, Shrunken, and Stretched
SAD, SHRUNKEN, AND STRETCHED
Here is the title to today’s lesson: “Sad, Shrunken, and Stretched.”
- This is a pretty strange title but it will in fact relate to some people that Jesus not only encounters here in Matthew chapter 9, but perhaps also to some He encounters today.
- So, let’s look at this…let’s begin with the “sad.”
Now remember when we left last week Jesus has concluded the Sermon on the Mount, large crowds followed him down off the hillside, and as He moves on He is interacting with a lot of these people from the hillside.
- And He is still healing, and helping, and teaching, and touching.
- And then finally He calls this guy named Matthew to become one of his new disciples, to follow him.
- And that is rare because Matthew happens to be a tax collector and in that culture to be a tax collector is not good, it’s not healthy because they are considered to be traitors…and greedy…and as a result they are outcasts…they are considered to be unclean…and they can’t go to temple and they can’t go to synagogue.
- They are pretty much hated especially by the religious leaders.
- But Jesus wants Matthew in his ministry and so He calls him and Matthew is so touched by this that Luke 5:29 says that he put on a big reception or a dinner in his home.
And the guest list, other than Jesus and his disciples, includes other tax collectors and sinners.
- And basically they consist of people who have all been “cast out”, and who are unwanted.
- “We don’t like you, we don’t want you.”
- This is the guest list for dinner.
Now the spiritual leaders of this area, the rabbis and the Pharisees, see Jesus and his disciples eating in Levi’s house with this crowd and they are very unhappy about it and feel critical and judgmental that Jesus would eat with such people.
- That is the context and Jesus responds to that. Look at verse 14.
Vs. 14: Then the disciples of John (John the Baptist) came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?”
- Now Mark 2:18 and Luke 5:30 tells us that the “scribes and Pharisees” were the ones grumbling about this…so it is very likely that they prompted or coerced John’s disciples to be a part of this question.
Now initially this sounds like a fair question but actually it has veiled criticism.
- First, in the Jewish Law there were only one day in which fasting was required and that was on the Day of Atonement; Lev. 23:27.
- The fasting that we see mentioned here is an additional fast…one that they could participate in but it was not one that was commanded.
- But, you know how the Pharisees are…the want to “bind things” especially their practices on others.
They also fasted to show how “holy” they were.
- Do you remember the parable that Jesus told in Luke 18 about two men who came into the temple to worship?
- One was a Pharisee and he lifted his face up to God and he said, “I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax gatherer. I fast twice a week.”
- In other words, “See how holy I am!”
And remember back in chapter 6:16 how they would fast and “put on a gloomy face and neglect their appearance in order to be seen by men.”
- So what these scribes and Pharisees were doing is they were saying, “Here is what holiness is, and this is what it means to be acceptable to God, here is a test of true fellowship if you want to be with us. You have to fast when we fast, and you have to fast how we do and for the reasons we do and if you don’t fast the way we fast then we don’t like you…and you are out!”
And also notice, they say, “Why do your disciples not fast?”
- What is implied here?
- Did Jesus teach this, did Jesus say “that it is enough for a student to be like his teacher?
- If they are criticizing His disciples who then are they really criticizing?
- “What are you teaching Jesus?” They are actually using this to criticize Jesus!
Well look at vs. 15 at Jesus’ response: “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them can they?” (Is a wedding time for morning?) But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them and then they will fast.”
The Pharisees and the scribes and the disciples of John couldn’t stand it.
- “What’s wrong with Jesus’s disciples? They are just too happy. They are too joyful. They are eating with sinners and they are eating with tax collectors and they shouldn’t be. They should be devout and they should be hating every one we hate.”
- “They should be more like us!” “Twice a week and you are in!”
But Jesus says here that His time here on earth…and His spending time with His disciples and teaching them and showing them the kind of heart they should have, and healing people…and showing mercy and grace is no time to mourn!
- Instead it is a time of celebration…a time of joy like that of a wedding celebration!
- For them to “fast” or “mourn” while their Master is performing works of mercy, and teaching…is absurd…it would be rude!
You see, that is what is “sad” here…these scribes and Pharisees preferred “sacrifice…ritual” more than “mercy.”
- Many religious people are the same way today.
Well Jesus follows this up with two parables, very simple, very brief.
- We have covered the sad people and now here are the “shrunken.”
Verse 16: “No one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the worst terror results.”
- Now there are some pretty basic things here.
- The parallel text in Luke 5: 36 says that, ”No one takes a patch from a new garment or a new cloth and puts it on an old garment.”
- The idea of “unshrunk” is not in the original language…that is a transliteration.
So what you have here is actually the idea that you have an old worn-out garment and it has a tear…and you patch it with a piece of new cloth…
- Then you wear the garment and put a strain on the new piece of cloth…is the new piece of cloth going to tear? No! It will pull away tearing the old garment.
- Putting the new on the old just will not work.
Then in verse 17 you have the next parable; the stretched. “Nor do men put new wine into old wine skins; otherwise the wine skins burst, and the wine pours out, and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”
- Here’s what happens…the old wine skins have already been stretched as far as they can…they have already gone through the stretching process with the wine that was in them.
- But now, if you fill that wineskin that has already been stretched as far as it can with new wine…when that new wine starts to ferment and swell…that old wineskin is going to burst and the new wine will be lost.
- So, once again, putting the new in the old just will not work.
So, what do these two parables have to do with the Pharisees and scribes being upset with Jesus’ disciples not fasting?
- What is Jesus talking about? What is this teaching really about?
Many scholars think that Jesus is making a comparison between the old and new as in the old covenant and the new covenant, the Old Testament and the New Testament, the Temple and the church, Judaism and Christianity, Law and grace.
But I don’t think that is what Jesus is talking about here.
- Remember what the context is: Criticism from Jewish leaders.
- And we need to remember that when Jesus taught this there is no New Testament, there is no new covenant yet, the church doesn’t exist yet, there is no Lord’s Supper yet, there is no baptism in Jesus name yet, there’s no grace yet.
- So it doesn’t seem that Jesus would have been alluding to these things in these two parables.
- So, what is Jesus saying here?
In both parables Jesus says that putting the “new” on the old just won’t work.
- In the parables the Pharisees and the scribes would be the “old garment” and the “old wineskins” and they are set in their thinking…
- They are legalistic, judgmental, condemning, arrogant, self-righteous, un-merciful and un-loving and their minds are closed to anything that does not fit with their way of thinking.
But here Jesus is bringing a new way of thinking…bringing new teachings…He is humble…He is showing mercy and compassion, and understanding, and He is reaching out to sinners and outcasts…and what Jesus is doing with these two parables is He is making a statement about the Pharisees and the scribes…
- He is saying, “Here I am trying to show you how you really should be…but your sad, shrunken, stretched out hearts” won’t allow Me to “put the new wine” of my teaching into you.
- “What I am doing is “new wine” and neither your mind nor your heart is open to it.”
And that is what He is saying to me…and to us…either my mind is open and my heart is soft or my mind is closed and my heart is hard.
- And if I am one of these old, close minded, hardhearted, pharisaical, legalistic, judgmental and condemning people, His teaching cannot find its way into me.
You see, I have to ask myself…and maybe you do to…just how receptive am I to Jesus’ teachings…and His example for me?
- Am I so set in my ways that I won’t do what He says?
You know I love both of my parents…and they taught me some things…but what I have come to learn over the years is that some of the things my parents taught me…especially spiritual and Biblical principles…aren’t in agreement with what Jesus teaches.
- Both of my parents believed in “eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth”…and they both had some prejudices…and they both had some questionable ideas about conduct and what was ok and what wasn’t ok…
- But then Jesus came along and He taught me some things that were counter to what I had always believed…
- And even today as I learn more and more from the scriptures I encounter some things and I have to ask myself…am I going to listen to what Jesus says…am I going to follow His example…or am I going to be close minded and hard hearted…and stay the way I am?
Several times I have studied with people and they have told me that what Jesus says is right and true…but if they did what He said their parents would disown them…and they walked away.
- Sometimes family traditions…family relationships can keep Jesus from being allowed into your heart.
So how is your heart? And how is mine?” How receptive are we to the teachings of Christ…especially when they contradict what we have always believed?
- I need to be open to whatever Jesus teaches.
- I should never be content with the status quo…there is so much that I still need to learn.
- I do not need to think that I have been a Christian for so long and been preaching for so many years that there is nothing more that I can get.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2022