Gospel Wednesday | Jeremiah 33

GWLast week, we looked at the story of Joseph and his life foreshadows the first advent of Jesus Christ. We shared an hour-long audio teaching from Pr Chris Rosebrough via Fighting for the Faith, so if you haven’t yet listened to that I encourage you to set aside some time to listen (Link). The week prior, we looked at how the story of Noah also points forward to our salvation in Jesus Christ. This week, we find ourselves within the Advent season, 4 weeks to when the Church celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. The local CCM radio channel is already playing a full set of Christmas music. We’ll discuss some concerns with that in tomorrow’s post. In this season of Advent, I think it is important that we not simply jump straight to the virgin birth and the gold, frankincense and myrrh without first understanding our need for a Savior. Throughout the year, we review a lot of music and internet memes that confuse Law and Gospel, or simply skip over the Law to present a different gospel than what is found in God’s Word.

 The Prophet Jeremiah

Jeremiah was a great Prophet of the LORD who lived through a truly dark time in the history of Israel. Let’s look at the introduction to his book:

Jeremiah 1:1-12 (ESV)

The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, until the captivity of Jerusalem in the fifth month.

The Call of Jeremiah

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord.”

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me,

Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.

11 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” 12 Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”

Wow. This is quite the calling. It is no wonder that today’s false-prophets and false anointed ones (false christs) make reading themselves into Jeremiah such a common practice. We’re not going to do that here. God is speaking to His Prophet, whom He formed, consecrated, and appointed before he was born. Notice that Jeremiah is appointed Prophet to the Nations, not just to Israel. This is important to hold onto, because as he prophesies of the coming Messiah, the prophetic word is not just for Israel, but for the Nations.

A Blessing to the Nations

We see this in the Promise given to Abraham.

Genesis 17:1-8 (ESV) | Abraham and the Covenant of Circumcision

17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

Abraham and the nation of Israel would then serve as God’s chosen people, or primary agent of the Promise of God, but the Promise would be to the nations (plural). Shortly after this covenant, we see a conversation within the Godhead regarding this Promise to Abraham just before He tells Abraham of the judgement that is coming to Sodom and Gomorrah.

Genesis 18:17-19 (ESV)

17 The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

God’s Wrath and Grace

Through all of Israel’s unbelief and transgressions, God preserved her, rescued her, time and time again. Fast-forward to Jeremiah’s time, the northern kingdom of Israel had been scattered by the Assyrians. God sends Jeremiah to prophecy against the remaining kingdom of Judah for her sins and transgressions, but she does not repent. God then uses the king of Babylon to punish Judah, destroying the city of Jerusalem and taking most of its inhabitants (except the very poor) into Babylonian exile for 70 years. Jeremiah isn’t taken to Babylon, but Daniel and Ezekiel were. Jeremiah is imprisoned by the king of Judah for prophesying of the coming judgement against Judah at the hands of Babylon. That’s a high-altitude flyover of Jeremiah, but let us look at the word of the LORD to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 32 that will set up our main text.

Jeremiah 32:26-35 (ESV)

26 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 27 Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me? 28 Therefore, thus says the Lord: Behold, I am giving this city into the hands of the Chaldeans and into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall capture it.29 The Chaldeans who are fighting against this city shall come and set this city on fire and burn it,with the houses on whose roofs offerings have been made to Baal and drink offerings have been poured out to other gods, to provoke me to anger. 30 For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth. The children of Israel have done nothing but provoke me to anger by the work of their hands, declares the Lord. 31 This city has aroused my anger and wrath, from the day it was built to this day, so that I will remove it from my sight 32 because of all the evil of the children of Israel and the children of Judah that they did to provoke me to anger—their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 33 They have turned to me their back and not their face. And though I have taught them persistently, they have not listened to receive instruction. 34 They set up their abominations in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. 35 They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

Notice the language here of total sin, total depravity, from their youth, from the day the city was built. They have done nothing but evil. God isn’t only speaking of Judah, but of all of mankind. Romans 1 and 2 follow after this pattern of declaring everyone unrighteous for having forsaken the Creator, and refusing to worship Him as God. Worse, they’ve taken to worshiping false gods and doing what is evil. Similarly, we are born dead in our sins and trespasses, and God’s grace delays the judgement so that we might listen and receive instruction and turn our faces toward Him…. but we don’t… and we can’t on our own. Judgement is coming, but we serve a God who Saves. But God doesn’t save by making the Law go away or by refusing to judge; rather, He carries His remnant through the judgment, as God carried Noah and his family through the global flood in the Ark, and how God placed Joseph in a position to save all of Israel… a position that began with being sold into slavery and wrongful imprisonment.

Jeremiah 32:36-44 (ESV) | They Shall Be My People; I Will Be Their God

36 “Now therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, ‘It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by sword, by famine, and by pestilence’: 37 Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety.38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them.40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

42 “For thus says the Lord: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them. 43 Fields shall be bought in this land of which you are saying, ‘It is a desolation, without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.’ 44 Fields shall be bought for money, and deeds shall be signed and sealed and witnessed, in the land of Benjamin, in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, in the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb; for I will restore their fortunes, declares the Lord.”

Amen. Judgment is coming, for it is due. His wrath must be satisfied, for He is a Just and Holy God. But He will also preserve His people, for He is Gracious and Merciful. He will gather them, He will give them one Way, and will make an Everlasting Covenant. God isn’t just talking about the end of the Babylonian exile… He’s talking about the New Covenant of the Blood of Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God.

Jeremiah 33:1-16 (ESV) | The Lord Promises Peace

33 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah that were torn down to make a defense against the siege mounds and against the sword: They are coming into fight against the Chaldeans and to fill them with the dead bodies of men whom I shall strike down in my anger and my wrath, for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil. Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first.I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.

10 “Thus says the Lord: In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste without man or beast,’ in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again 11 the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord:

“‘Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,
    for the Lord is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!’

For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the Lord.

12 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: In this place that is waste, without man or beast, and in all of its cities, there shall again be habitations of shepherds resting their flocks. 13 In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb, in the land of Benjamin, the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, flocks shall again pass under the hands of the one who counts them, says the Lord.

The Lord‘s Eternal Covenant with David

14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

Again, while the promise of the LORD here to Israel and Judah had an immediate (well, after the exile) fulfillment, God’s Wording is goes beyond the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple… God is pointing to His Son, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Branch of David. The Way the Truth and the Life who will take away the sin of the world. The chief priests and elders of Jesus’ day were looking for a temporal fulfillment of this prophecy. Their messiah was going to turn Israel into a once great nation where none, not Rome or any other nation would dare come against them. But that is not the Promise we’ve received… for we are looking for the consolation of all of Creation, that which has been subjected to futility as a direct result of the sin of Adam. When God talks about healing the land, we should see healing in a salvific sense… a redemption of the good creation that was in the beginning, before sin entered creation. The New Heaven, the New Earth, with a New Jerusalem.

Revelation 21:22-23 (ESV)

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

Until Next Week

As Christmas approaches, please resist the urge to skip over the Truth of our desperate need for a savior, and our complicity in tempting the Wrath of God. We deserve judgement, we have since the fall. We are born into it, and we perpetuate it in sinful flesh. But Praise be to our God and Father for sending us His Only Begotten Son, Jesus. Repent and be forgiven in Jesus’ Name.

Philippians 2:1-11 (ESV) | Christ’s Example of Humility

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 27:11-56

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 26:30-27:10.

Last week’s look at the remainder of Matthew 26 flowed into the beginning of 27 so that we could close the loop on Judas. His life ended in a repentance that only led him back to the murderous, unbelieving chief priests and elders who paid Judas to betray the Christ. Judas then took his own life in condemnation. The witness of the Gospel accounts confirms Judas, the betrayer, did not truly repent and indeed died in his unbelief.

Matthew 27:11-56 (ESV)

As we continue working through Matthew 27, we see Jesus standing before Pilate. There were legal limits imposed upon the Jews as a result of the Roman occupation. Crucifixion was a Roman form of execution, not a Jewish one, so these chief priests and elders sought the most destructive, painful, and disgraceful form of execution in the known world, and they needed Rome to do it.

Matthew 27:11-14 (ESV) | Jesus Before Pilate

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Jesus was innocent of every charge. His silence was a necessary part of His obedience to God the Father unto death. The fact of the matter is this: Jesus couldn’t be guilty of blasphemy because He is, in truth, God the Son. Jesus is the pure and spotless Lamb of God.

Matthew 27:15-23 (ESV) | The Crowd Chooses Barabbas

15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

Your flesh chooses sin, it doesn’t choose Jesus the Christ, Son of the Living God. It is corrupted by sin and drawn to itself rather than to God. Here, the chief priests and the elders have led Israel to destroy the Son of Man. Unjustly. Praise be to God for His Grace and Mercy in allowing this to happen, so that by His stripes, we are healed from our death and sealed with the promise of new life in the Resurrection. I know, I’m getting ahead of myself, but I can’t help it.

Matthew 27:24-26 (ESV) | Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified

24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

I wonder if Pilate modeled the ceremonial hand washing of which the chief priests chastised Jesus and His disciples for skipping before eating (Mark 7:1-8). The Tradition of the Elders had invented ways of washing off the uncleanliness that may have been transferred onto them from those in the market place, so that they would not be made unclean in eating with unclean hands. None of it is Scripture, it’s from the so-called Oral Tradition (Pharisaical). Interesting how even in being dead in sins and trespasses, we have an inkling of an understanding that we need to have our sins and transgressions (Baptism) but this is a work that God must do for us, not one that we can do for ourselves. Pilate is no more innocent of blood for having washed his hands than the elders who seek His crucifixion. It is eerie to see the people declare boldly, “His blood be on us and on our children!” No doubt this pierced the hearts of all who listened on the day of Pentecost when Peter declared the following:

Acts 2:22-23 (ESV) “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Peter points out that the Jews crucified Jesus by the hands of lawless men (the Romans who are not under the Mosaic Law). Yet, God in His Mercy and Grace to His creation… made this the very means by which our sins and transgressions are washed away… by the Blood of Jesus… shed on the Cross.

Matthew 27:27-31 (ESV) | Jesus Is Mocked

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

Matthew 27:32-44 (ESV) | The Crucifixion

32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Matthew 27:45-56 (ESV) | The Death of Jesus

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.”48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Truly this is the Son of God! The detail of the curtain of the temple is vitally important. The significance of this is something the Jewish readers of Matthew’s account would have recognized immediately. Being a Gentile, I’m very grateful for the writer of Hebrews expounding on this for us so beautifully. If you wish to understand the covenants, read through Hebrews as a single document. In the interest of time, we’ll read through portions pertaining to the curtain of the temple and the significance of its rending at Christ’s death on the cross.

God’s Promise to Abraham

As Christians we are made sons of Abraham by faith, into the Promise that God made to Abraham after he did not withhold his son, his only son Isaac.

Genesis 22:14-18 (ESV) So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

We’ll be revisiting this passage as a foreshadowing of Christ in the Old Testament in the weeks following our closing of the Gospel According to Matthew. But this is the backdrop for what we will  now read in Hebrews.

Hebrews 6:13-20 (ESV) | The Certainty of God’s Promise

13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

The writer of Hebrews is delineating the Mosaic Covenant from the New Covenant of Christ’s Blood, so in this next portion where he writes “the first covenant” he’s referring to that of Moses.

Hebrews 9:1-10 (ESV) | The Earthly Holy Place

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

Hebrews 10:1-4 (ESV) | Christ’s Sacrifice Oncefor All

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Hebrews 10:12-14 (ESV) But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Hebrews 10:19-25 (ESV) | The Full Assurance of Faith

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Amen. The rending of that curtain isn’t just about showing God’s power, but about the end of the first covenant… because it was now superseded by the Blood of Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross.

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through the remainder of the Gospel According to Matthew. I do hope you join us for that. In the meantime, spend some time in the Word and in fellowship with the Body of Christ. Love God, Love Neighbor, repent and be forgiven in Jesus’ Name.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 21

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 20.

Last week’s look at Matthew 20 ended with Jesus opening the eyes of 2 blind men, who were then able to follow Jesus. This is a significant miracle, one that would not go unnoticed by the Jewish readers of the Gospel According to Matthew. Before moving into the next chapter, let us reflect back on a prophesy regarding the Messiah

Isaiah 42:1-9 (ESV) | The Lord‘s Chosen Servant

42 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
    he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
    or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
    till he has established justice in the earth;
    and the coastlands wait for his law.

Thus says God, the Lord,
    who created the heavens and stretched them out,
    who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
    and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
    I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
    a light for the nations,
    to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
    from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the Lord; that is my name;
    my glory I give to no other,
    nor my praise to carved idols.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
    and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
    I tell you of them.”

With that review in our minds, let us move to the next chapter in the Gospel According to Matthew.

Matthew 21 (ESV)

Matthew 21:1-11 (ESV) | The Triumphal Entry

21 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Now, Matthew quotes from the Prophet Zechariah 9:9. The people recognized it and celebrated what they thought was the coming of the king setting up an earthly kingdom. They were partly correct, but they weren’t seeing Jesus. They were blind to Who He Is. Instead, they were honoring what they thought the Messiah was going to be. Most of these very same people will soon be crying out for His crucifixion… yet He will still call for their forgiveness… Praise be to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Matthew 21:12-17 (ESV) | Jesus Cleanses the Temple

12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,

“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
    you have prepared praise’?”

17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

Here, we see Jesus opening the eyes of the blind and lame who come to Him humbly… and we also see the blindness of the chief priests and scribes, who upon seeing the work of God become indignant. We also see Jesus referring them to Psalm 8… a Psalm of praise to the LORD our Lord. That’s huge. Jesus is flat-out telling them Who He is, and they remain blind to it. Jesus leaves the city and lodges in Bethany.

Matthew 21:18-22 (ESV) | Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

18 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.

20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

This is a tough passage. Prosperity and Word of Faith pushers twist this passage to justify their false teaching that as long as we have faith we can get whatever we claim/decree/declare. Similarly, I’ve also heard Muslims use this passage to refute the validity of the Gospels asserting that the writers can’t agree on what happened here… and both the Muslim and the false-teacher share a common interpretive problem… they both tend to read this as a vindictive act of Jesus against the fig tree because he was hungry. Yes, Jesus became angry, and yes he went to he fig tree and found nothing in it. However, Jesus cursed the tree for what it represented. Remember what we’ve seen in this chapter so far, Jesus entered Jerusalem in fulfillment of the Prophecy by Zechariah, and the people seemed to believe and gave a great showing, but we know they will bear no fruit, for in a short time they will cry out for His crucifixion. We see the chief priests and scribes bear witness to miracles that only the Messiah can perform, yet they are indignant and blind. We see Jesus clear out the Temple, for it has become a den of robbers (also a reference to prophecy of judgment against Israel). The fig tree represents Israel… full of leaves, giving the indication of life, but bearing no fruit. Jerusalem had an outward form of godliness, but inwardly they were dead.

Jesus was speaking of the Kingdom of heaven, of spiritual matters, not temporal. We have no record of any of the disciples rebuking a tree to wither it, nor speaking to a mountain for it to be uprooted and cast into the sea literally. What we do have in the New Testament, is the foundation of the Church laid by the Apostles with Jesus Christ as both its cornerstone and Head.

Matthew 21:23-27 (ESV) | The Authority of Jesus Challenged

23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

So many times Jesus declared His identity and Authority, and the chief priests and scribes denied Him and hardened their hearts. This time, Jesus turns it on them and then declines to answer their question in like manner. Instead, He answers with a set of parables. Remember Jesus said that He spoke in parables so that only to those whom understanding had been given might understand, and for the unbelievers, they would not understand (Matthew 13:10-17 ESV). We’ll look at 2 of them today, and the third we’ll cover next week.

Matthew 21:28-32 (ESV) | The Parable of the Two Sons

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Point-blank, Jesus tells them that the very people who are despised and rejected by the religious leaders will — by faith — enter the Kingdom of God before them… for the religious leaders are blinded by their self-righteousness and remain condemned in their unbelief. The fig tree just got rebuked.

Matthew 21:33-45 (ESV) | The Parable of the Tenants

33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.

The fig tree just got rebuked, again. This time, they realized He was speaking about them. Rather than repent and bear fruit, the fig tree withered… and plotted to do the very thing Jesus was saying they were plotting to do… This is the Heir. Come, let us kill Him and have His inheritance….

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through chapter 22. We’ll be looking at the parable in this series, the parable of the Wedding Feast. We’ll see more direct confrontations now that the battle lines have been clearly drawn. I look forward to continuing our trek through the Gospel According to Matthew. Until then, continue walking in faith and growing in knowledge of Christ through the reading of His Word.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 20

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 19.

Last week’s look at Matthew 19 ended with the cost of following Jesus. We who believe are called to take up our crosses daily, dying to self, dying to our flesh, and living in the Spirit. This takes a while to sink in for the disciples… and I’d say it take even longer for us to get a grasp on this. Is it any wonder there are so many denominations that get bogged down in the quagmire of works-righteousness? Keep this thought in mind, the thought of what it means to die to self, to the flesh, and live by the Spirit as we look to Matthew chapter 20, where Jesus begins with a very difficult teaching regarding the Kingdom of Heaven… one that confronts the “it’s not fair, why should he get full pay for doing less work than I?” that springs forth from our self-seeking flesh.

Matthew 20 (ESV)

Matthew 20:1-16 (ESV) | Laborers in the Vineyard

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them,‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

What a powerful parable. I’ve been mulling over this parable in my mind all week. Each time I try to work out the analogy of the hiring of the laborers throughout the day, my mind skips down to the complaint levied against the master of the vineyard. For this round, we will focus on this grumbling, and the Lord’s response to the grumbler.

Let us begin by establishing the relationship between the master and the first laborers. These first laborers are in need of work, in need of wages, and they agree to the wage for a day’s labor, and so begin the work granted to them by the master of the house. The agreement is between them and the master. Had no one else been hired, they’d have received their wage with gladness, even if work yet remained. The master didn’t change the terms, didn’t change conditions or the contract. He simply paid the same wages for those who had spent more time standing idly in the marketplace. From where did the grumbling come? From the laborers who were chosen first comparing their compensation to that of the laborers who came last. Rather than praise the master for his generosity to those who came last, they were incensed and offended, because in their eyes, they had done more work and they demanded that the disparity should be reflected in their compensation. The master rebukes this secondly. The master’s first rebuke is far more pointed. One might read it this way, “Do you presume to judge the Master in how I choose to use what is Mine?” I’m reminded of the LORD’s response to Jonah’s tantrum:

Jonah 4 (ESV) | Jonah’s Anger and the Lord’s Compassion
1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. 2 And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?” 5 Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. 6 Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. 7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind,and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” 9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” 10 And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?

While this isn’t an exact parallel, there is an overlap. Did Jonah have a true right to be angry? No. Sure, he could (and did) make excuses for his anger, but they simply didn’t stand up to the Word of the Lord and His compassion. The Master of the house showed compassion to the laborers hired in the eleventh hour… God’s Grace is His to extend, and we have no right to grumble against the Master of His House. The greater theme of this parable and of God’s response to Jonah, is that God is Sovereign over all. Our sinful flesh is quick to grumble and grow angry when God doesn’t follow our plan or properly compensate us according to our own measure.

As for application of this parable moving forward, I cannot help but think about the Apostle Paul. From Paul’s perspective, he is the least of the Apostles (1 Cor 15). He ended up working harder than the rest but I want to focus more on the time of his Apostleship. For that, let’s look at select portions from Acts.

Acts 1:15-17 (ESV)
15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”

Acts 1:21-22 (ESV) 21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

Acts 9:10-22 (ESV) 10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

The disciples were the first laborers hired by the Master of His House. Paul came much later, and yet was called to the same office of Apostle. This is just an example… we see the disciples welcome Paul quickly and acknowledge Paul’s calling as an Apostle of Jesus Christ. Sine Paul was the last Apostle, maybe we can find a broader example of application for this parable. Let us remain in the book of Acts and look to the example of welcoming Gentiles into the Promise, on equal footing with the Jews who believed and were baptized into the Name of Jesus.

Acts 15:1-11 (ESV) | The Jerusalem Council
1 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. 3 So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. 5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.” 6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

The point being made here is not one of ecumenical lack of discernment; rather, that the Lord is the Master of His House, and He extends grace as He sees fit. Rather than take offense, or accuse God of being unjust, we should praise Him for His Gracious Gifts.

I got a lot out of reading through this parable this week… several days of reading through the same chapter. I hope I didn’t belabor the point too much today.

Matthew 20:17-19 (ESV) | Jesus Foretells His Death a Third Time

17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

Jesus warned His disciples of what was going to come. Still, with all of the warning, they were not prepared. God’s patience endures, even when our strength fails us.

Matthew 20:20-28 (ESV) |  A Mother’s Request

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered,“You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The point being made here reflects that of the first parable in the chapter. There is a tendency for us to view experience, or time-in-service as a qualifier for greater authority and rule over those with less experience. That is not how the Kingdom of Heaven works. God does set up offices of authority, but those called to these offices are called to be servants as stewards of God’s grace. The offices serve the church. This is one of the reasons the CEO model of church is so abhorrent… for the corporation serves its CEO, where the Overseers, Deacons, and Pastors serve the church and are held more accountable to God for their stewardship.

Matthew 20:29-34 (ESV) | Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

29 And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. 30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33 They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him

These men were blind, so they couldn’t see and follow Jesus of their own. But they had heard of Him, and so cried out to Jesus for mercy. They asked the Lord to open their eyes, and after He did, they followed Jesus. While this happened literally, we prayerfully ask that the Holy Spirit continue to open our eyes to the Truth in His Word, that we might walk in the Spirit and not by the flesh.

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through chapter 21. We’ll be looking at the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem, cleansing of the temple, cursing of the fig tree, and the question of Authority, followed by some more parables. I look forward to continuing our trek through the Gospel According to Matthew. Until then, continue walking in faith and growing in knowledge of Christ through the reading of His Word.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 19

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 18.

Last week’s look at Matthew 18 ended with the parable of the unforgiving servant. In this parable, Our Lord Jesus Christ is demonstrating the proper framework or perspective from which we should view the call to forgive our brothers who have sinned against us. That framework being of one who is fully aware (by faith) of the insurmountable debt of sin of which we have been forgiven by God for the sake of His Son, Jesus. In light of what we have been forgiven, we have no right to withhold forgiveness from our fellow sinful man. I think it is extremely important that we maintain this proper perspective, since the very next topic that presents itself in the Gospel According to Matthew is that of divorce and marriage.

Matthew 19 (ESV)

Matthew 19:1-12 (ESV) | Teaching About Divorce

Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

There is a common teaching that takes verse 9 to indicate that Divorce is allowed in cases of adultery, but not in anything else. I think that is a poor reading of this text. The Pharisees had their own laws regarding divorce, and some had gone so far as to make the slightest infraction (burned dinner) capable of warranting a divorce. They sought to draw Jesus into their dispute, to get Him to weigh in on their laws with their initial question, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”. That is the opening question. The question is open for a fully open “yes” meaning that any cause is lawful or a limited answer of “yes” in which they would debate to establish the left and right limits of lawful divorce. I don’t think they were expecting Jesus’ answer, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate”. His answer was “no”, there is no lawful case for divorce. What does that answer mean? It means that in all cases, divorce is a sin. The Pharisees were white-washed tombs, on the outside they were clean… this is an “on the outside” question. They wanted to establish a way to divorce their wife while still coming out the “good guy”, the “clean” guy… or in our modern-day language, the “innocent victim”. According to the Law, the punishment for adultery is death. Death ends the marriage covenant. A widow or widower is free to remarry without incurring the sin of adultery (provided the new spouse is free from adultery).

The Pharisees then attempted to refute Jesus’s answer by pointing to Moses and the certificate of divorce. Jesus points out that it was a concession made as a result of their hardness of heart, from their sin. Jesus is directing the Pharisees beyond Moses and the Mosaic covenant… this is an important distinction, one that the author of Hebrews conveys wonderfully in chapter 10:

Hebrews 10:1-10 (ESV) | Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All
1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

That Moses granted a certificate of divorce does not indicate that God was in any way pleased by divorce in any circumstance. King David rightly understood that it wasn’t the sacrifices that pleased God; rather a broken and contrite spirit were pleasing sacrifices to Him (Psalm 51, specifically vs 16-17).

So, by the time we get to verse 9, Jesus isn’t presenting a get-out-of-marriage-lawfully card, He is saying that every case of divorce and remarriage is the sin of adultery. The case of adultery is a different case under the Law because the adulterer is put to death. Under the Law, there is no lawful case for divorce, because even if there was no adultery and both divorcees lived, if they remarry they are committing adultery. What does this all mean? Sin. Those who are under the New Covenant must repent of their sin and be forgiven… the sin of divorce is the sin of adultery (as is the sin of adultery). Does this mean we are to place the burden of the Law on the necks of Christians and deny them remarriage after having repented of the sin of divorce? I don’t think so. In fact, I believe we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven and extend Grace. God is not mocked, He disciplines His own. All cases of divorce is sin… Christ’s Finished Work on the cross is sufficient for all sin. This takes discipline, discernment, rebuke, repentance, grace, and forgiveness. This is the role of the church, to build up one another in the faith that was once-for-all delivered to the saints. Marriage is not to be taken lightly, neither dare we take sin lightly. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

The permanence of marriage is so strongly conveyed here by Jesus, that the disciples decide it’s better not to marry at all, then. Jesus doesn’t disagree… but He does make clear to them that not everyone can live that way, for such a life is a call to celibacy, since sex is only lawful within the covenant of marriage. I find it very interesting that Jesus (through Whom everything was created) declares that some are born eunuchs. Some people are born without a driving sexual desire, and that is by design. Now, the world perverts this idea by insisting that everyone has sexual desires that need to be satisfied, so those who God designed to be born a eunuch are tempted to seek gratification in sinful ways. The world is all to eager to push us into sexual immorality, even those for whom sex isn’t as strongly wired as others. Just a thought that has no bearing on what is sin and what is righteous but the church should remember that Jesus plainly taught that some are born eunuchs… by design. Then there are those individuals who are made eunuchs (castration) and still others who choose celibacy for the sake of the ministry of the Kingdom. Not all can accept this life, so as Paul will teach later, better to marry than to be burned up with passion.

Matthew 19:13-15 (ESV) |  Let the Children Come to Me

13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.

This was a major theme in last week’s posts, and here I think it is important to remind parents that their children are their first ministry. We are called to bring our children (even infants as we see in the language used by Luke) to Christ… for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 19:16-30 (ESV) | The Rich Young Man

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments. 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

What a passage. In the first part, we see a man seeking to be commended for his good deeds. He was prepared to demonstrate his righteousness and was awaiting the approval of Jesus. Jesus crushes that notion with His first comment, there is only One who is good. His actual answer to the question of what goo deed, is keep the commandments. God is the only One who is good, and Jesus (the God-Man) is good for He is the only One who kept all of the commandments. God is One. The next question from the man is diagnostic question… leading to the “what do I still lack?” Jesus’ response is a picture of repentance, dying to self, and following Christ. This lesson is further given to His disciples. We generally refer to this notion by quoting a different passage:

Luke 9:23-26 (ESV) | Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

How wonderful it is to see the Gospel message remains the same across writers and circumstances. Eternal Life is found in none other than Jesus Christ.

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through chapter 20. We’ll see a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven, and we’ll see Jesus give a third warning of His death. I look forward to continuing our trek through the Gospel According to Matthew. Until then, continue walking in faith and growing in knowledge of Christ through the reading of His Word.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge