Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 5:1-12

bibleLast week we looked at the start of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 4. This week, we will start looking at the first recorded sermon preached by Jesus, often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. This isn’t His first sermon, merely the first one recorded in detail by Matthew. We’ve already seen how Jesus traveled throughout the region preaching, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”.

The Sermon on the mount is rich with theology and clarity of the Law. Jesus is preaching repentance here, and He is preaching the Law to convict those present (and us) of our sins. That is the purpose of the Law. Jesus IS the Gospel, He is the Messiah, the Lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the world. Jesus preaches the Law and presents Himself as the remedy, for He will lay His life down to bear the wrath of God in our place, so that by His Blood we might be saved. This sermon is going to take a few weeks for us to work through.

Matthew 5:1-12 (ESV)

The Sermon on the Mount

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

The Beatitudes

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Is Jesus preaching something “new” here? Are these completely new and unheard of declarations? No. Remember that everything in the Old Testament points forward to Jesus, in as much as everything in the New Testament points back to the cross and testifies of Jesus who is returning. Let’s pause for a moment and look at each of the Beatitudes and see where these are found in the Law and the Prophets.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Isaiah 66:1-2 (ESV) | The Humble and Contrite in Spirit
1 Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
2 All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
    he who is humble and contrite in spirit
    and trembles at my word.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted

Isaiah 61:1-4 (ESV) | The Year of the Lord’s Favor
61 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion
 to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.

It’s important to note that in Luke 4, we see Jesus opening up the scroll of Isaiah 61, reading to those present in the synagogue and proclaiming, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” [Luke 4:16-21 (ESV)]. Yes, Jesus is the Word made flesh, and He is preaching from God’s Word already revealed to Israel. Moses and the Prophets wrote about Jesus, and now Jesus is teaching about Himself from the Law and the Prophets.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth

Psalm 37:5-11 (ESV)
Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
    and your justice as the noonday.
7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off,
   but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land
    and delight themselves in abundant peace.

The crowd gathered, because Israel longed for the Salvation of the Lord. Jesus is preaching to them that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. He is now preaching of who He is, and that the meek shall inherit the land, the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied

Isaiah 55:1-2 (ESV) | The Compassion of the Lord
55 “Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy

Proverbs 19:17 (ESV)
17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,
and he will repay him for his deed.

This is a theme Jesus will expand upon greatly in his harsh rebuke of the Pharisees for their lack of mercy and compassion upon those whom they were supposed to shepherd (the Children of Israel). We see it included into the Lord’s Prayer when He taught the Disciples to pray, “and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matt 6:12)”.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God

Psalm 24:1-6 (ESV) | The King of Glory
A Psalm of David.
1 The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
2 for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not lift up his soul to what is false
    and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
    and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
 who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God

Exodus 23:4-5 (ESV)
4 “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.

This section finds itself in an interesting spot. Most of the laws are bout not cheating someone, not breaking any of the laws and statutes of the Lord, but here, God specifically points out how we are to treat our enemy and one who hates us. Interesting. I find this to be an excellent example of being a peacemaker under the Law. Most commentaries I’ve read on this passage interpret this passage spiritually, that repentance and faith in Jesus grants us peace with God and we are adopted into the Kingdom of light and we become the sons of God, heirs and joint-heirs with Christ. I agree, as far as looking forward in the Gospel goes. I just wanted to demonstrate how this is anchored in the Law.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

The remaining beatitudes are more of a summary and conclusion of this portion. Notice Jesus aligns those who are persecuted on Jesus’ account with the prophets who were martyred before Christ. True to form, we see the Law being preached and its conclusion is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In this case, He is pointing to Himself… He’s right there teaching His disciples and the crowds that had surrounded them.

Until next week…

We will pick up in verse 13 and work through Jesus’ expansion of the Law from that which man can perform outwardly down to the root of sin that lies within the very heart of man, in the flesh. Jesus preached the Law… and part of the reason He sent God the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of their sin.  We do the Church a disservice when when we stop preaching the Gospel to believers, and we do a disservice to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the World when we skip or gloss over the Law when preaching the Gospel to unbelievers. Until then, spend time in the Word of God, pray for understanding, repent and be forgiven in the Name of Jesus.

Romans 15:5-6 (ESV) 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In Christ Jesus,

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 4:12-25

bibleLast time, we looked at the Temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus overcame every temptation using the Word of God to refute and resist the Devil. Afterward, we saw Jesus being ministered to by the angels.

Remember that upon being baptized by John the Baptist, God the Father testified of His Son before the people in an audible voice and God the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. We know that the Holy Spirit then sent Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted… and that temptation picks up in the texts after 40 days. Today, we pick up the Gospel According to Matthew in verse 12. The ESV marks this portion of Matthew’s account as the beginning of His ministry.

Matthew 4:12-25 (ESV) | Jesus Begins His Ministry

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee.13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
    the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
    have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
    on them a light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew is still focused on demonstrating to his Jewish audience how completely Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. We, Gentiles, tend to focus on the prophecies that point to Christ’s death and resurrection (as we should) for the forgiveness of our sins and our adoption into the Kingdom of God. The Jews, however, were God’s chosen ones. Matthew (under the influence of the Holy Spirit) isn’t waiting for those prophetic references, he is  presenting the very life of Jesus in light of Prophecy, particularly here from the Prophet Isaiah. Let us pause Matthew for a moment and read from Isaiah 9, beginning in the first verse.

Isaiah 9:1-7 (ESV) | For to Us a Child Is Born
1  But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

2 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
3 You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
4 For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

This is such a beautiful passage of Scripture. The Jews of Jesus’s day longed for this prophecy to come to pass. They had come out of the Exile but the throne of David had not yet been reestablished. They were an occupied people. They longed for the Messiah… only they still wanted a king like the other nations, only they wanted their king to rule as David did. They weren’t ready for Jesus. The next portion of this prophecy speaks of judgment upon Israel. This was initially a prophecy of the coming judgement upon Israel, the northern kingdom. I’ll leave it to you to read on and see if Matthew isn’t also pointing ahead toward the judgement against the religious leaders of Jesus’s Day also. Jesus was coming to fulfill the Law and the Prophets and very soon the Temple would be replaced by Christ’s body. Isaiah has historical context that cannot be subverted, but in its historicity, we see a foreshadowing of what Jesus, the Messiah, was coming to accomplish. Great stuff. Okay, let’s get back to Matthew.

Matthew 4:18-22 ESV | Jesus Calls the First Disciples

18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Jesus saw them, called them, and they followed Him. Maybe it happens to you, but I didn’t grow up in a fishing community, so often when I read through this passage I picture Jesus walking along the side of a lake at a KOA campground with a few weekend families out on a fishing trip. I have to remind myself that this isn’t their recreation, this is their profession. This isn’t some isolated lake, but it is an integral part of the local economy. The seashore was likely full of fishermen. I don’t like pulling in extra-biblical material, but since I needed an external reference to better picture this scene, let’s look at how historians describe this area around the time of Jesus.

When Herod Antipas took over Galilee in Jesus’ time, it was a rural region on Judea’s margins. Larger towns such as Bethsaida, a fishing center on the Sea of Galilee, could hold as many as 2,000 to 3,000 people. However, most people lived in small villages such as Nazareth, the home of Jesus’ foster father Joseph and his mother Mary, and Capernaum, the village where Jesus’ ministry was centered. The populations of these hamlets rarely rose above 400 people, according to archaeologist Jonathan L. Reed in his book, The Harper Collins Visual Guide to the New Testament.
(ref: About.com)

Another website claiming to quote Josephus (I’ve not yet chased down it’s veracity) assesses that each village in the area of Galilee held populations in excess of 15,000 each. Suffice it to say that my mental image based on how I grew up is far too small. This draws extra significance to the fact that Jesus saw these men and called them. It would be like walking into the food court area of the popular local mall and spotting 4 individuals to call upon… not at random… not by asking for volunteers, but seeing them and calling them. Matthew didn’t need to tell his audience what a busy scene Jesus would have been walking into… they knew. I hope that at least in some way, now you do, too.  Let us continue.

Matthew 4:23-25 ESV | Jesus Ministers to Great Crowds

23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

What was the focus of Jesus’ Ministry? Teaching and proclaiming the Gospel. Did He also heal the sick and cast out demons? Yes. Was this a “healing and deliverance crusade”? No. Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the Gospel. What was he preaching? While we don’t have specifics in this passage, Matthew’s reference point coming into this portion is “Now when he heard that John had been arrested…” What was John’s Gospel?

Matthew 3:1-2 (ESV) 1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 3:11-12 (ESV) 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Jesus was most likely teaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, only He wasn’t a herald for one who would come after, He is the One, the Only Begotten Son of God, who came to take away the sins of the world. John’s preaching brought many out of Jerusalem to be baptized… Jesus’ preaching brought out many more, from the entire region. Next week, we’ll be diving into the Sermon on the Mount.

Romans 11:33-36 (ESV)
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed. May the Lord bless you and keep you in Him until that great day.

In Christ Jesus,

When Artistic License is Unacceptable

On February 28th, 2014, the movie “Son of God” opened in theaters.  The film is simply a repackaging of the History Channel’s “The Bible” series. The promos for the movie demonstrate a complete disregard for the Biblical account of the events that took place. It is one thing to try to script moments in between Biblical accounts, but to completely retell events that are recorded in Scripture in an attempt to portray a different version of Jesus is reprehensible. One of the more popular scenes used for promos is the calling of Simon (whom Jesus renamed Peter according to John 1:42). I will not be watching the film. I questioned the authenticity of the film based on some of the individuals promoting it. However, lets just look at the promo I saw of Jesus calling Peter:

Yikes. For now, lets just ignore Max Lucado’s exegesis (from the film, NOT the Scripture) and focus on the film clips. By including the fishing event, I assume the film is at least inclined toward the Luke account. Let us look at what is recorded in Luke 5:

Luke 5:1-11 (ESV) 5 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and He saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Not a lot of text here, yet the movie manages to ignore and change every line. Jesus was teaching when he came to the boat. The crowd was pressing in on Him, so He asked Simon to put out a little so He could continue teaching. No, Jesus did not wade out into the water to compel Simon to let him into the boat (something Max exegeted from the film that isn’t in scripture). They knew Jesus was a teacher, because they heard him teaching and knew the crowd was there. Jesus gives Simon the name Peter. When Jesus told him to go into deep water, Peter did let Jesus know that they had fished all night with no results, but he obeyed. The bit that gets me the most is the clip they like to throw in at the end of most of their promos, where Peter asks Jesus “what are we gonna do?” and Jesus responds, “change the world”.  It may seem like a subtle thing, but Jesus didn’t come to merely change the world. He came to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29-30). You see, as fishers of men, the disciples were not called to merely improve the social atmosphere, but to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of Salvation.

While we will undoubtedly have an impact on the world, it will not always look like a positive one, because our primary goal is not to “make the world a better place”; rather, it is to call those who are lost in the world to repentance so that in Christ they may have eternal life. The disciples, the Apostles, were persecuted. The early church faced horrific persecution. And we know that the Tribulation that is coming to the church before Christ’s return will be greater than ever before (Matt 24). But Jesus also had some tough things to say in Matthew 10:

Matthew 10:16-25 (ESV) 16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. 24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

Matthew 10:34-39 (ESV) 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

The writers of the film went to great lengths to paint Jesus as a positive world changer. However, what He said of His purpose is far different. Jesus came to call sinners out of the world. That is going to divide the world in two: those who follow Christ versus everyone else who have rejected Him. The primary charge of the church is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We know that in Him, we are made free to do good works; however, that freedom is so that we can freely preach the Gospel, not so that our good works can become a goal on its own. A purpose-driven life doesn’t atone for your sins, repentance and faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross does. Even if the church were capable of ending world hunger, that feat would not save a single person from the curse of sin. Only the Gospel is capable of such a feat. When you tell some random person, “you can change the world”, you are falsely elevating their level of impact in a humanistic attempt to motivate them to strive to be better than they are. Its one of those politically acceptable lies. However, when you say that Jesus came to change the world… you are diminishing and ignoring what He actually came for, and that is a tragedy of eternal proportions.

I’m sure some will be very emotionally touched by this film, after all it was very well produced by folks who know how work your emotions (that is what the film industry is excellent at… itching ears and all). I’m not worried about those who know the Scriptures and know the true Gospel. But how common is such a person in these days, even within the church? The Gospel that is presented in “Son of God” is a false gospel. The artistic license taken on this film is completely unacceptable. Not only are they ignoring and changing scripture, they got creative with the very words of God the Son, Jesus Christ. If you do take someone to see the film, please correct their false Christology as soon as possible by having them read the Word. What’s worse, is some might grow overly attached to scenes or comments that aren’t in the Bible, or are contradicted by the Bible… then you’ve got a real problem. Please pray for those who you know that are going to see the movie, or who have recently seen it. Challenge them to read their Bibles to get the real story.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,