Gospel Wednesday | Mark 12

GWWelcome back as we continue working through the Gospel According to Mark. Last week was a rough week for me, personally, so I was unable to share anything until Friday. The week prior, we covered Mark 11, where we saw Jesus enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. We saw Him curse the fig tree, cleanse the Temple, and be challenged by the scribes and Pharisees regarding His authority.

Today, we’ll resume reading, beginning in Chapter 12 of the Gospel According to Mark.

Mark 12:1-12 (ESV) | The Parable of the Tenants

And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture:

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

And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.

The focus of this parable is its conclusion, this parable was a rebuke against the Pharisees, the chief priests and elders of Jerusalem. They were the tenants in the story who rejected and beat the servants sent to them (the Prophets) and killed the Master’s Son (Jesus Christ). We see later in Peter’s Epistle a reflection back to this teaching point using this wording regarding the stone that the builders rejected.

1 Peter 2:4-10 (ESV) As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”

and

“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Getting back to the Parable of the Tenants, the meticulously laid out vineyard complete with fence, winepress, and tower represents Israel. The tenants are those placed as stewards over Israel, the chief priests and elders. Notice at the conclusion of the parable, rather than repent, the enemies of Christ hardened their hearts.What follows is an attempt to trip Him up theologically. If they can get Him to commit blasphemy or fail the test of a false prophet (but teaching false doctrine), they can claim their victory over Him.

Mark 12:13-17 (ESV) | Paying Taxes to Caesar

And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.

Here, they were so sure they had Jesus in an inescapable trap between either speaking against the Temple or against Caesar, they were marveled by His answer. Truth has that effect. Jesus IS the Word of God made flesh, after all… He knows the Father and the Father knows Him. There is no tripping Him up.

Mark 12:18-27 (ESV) | The Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection

And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the manmust take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring.And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died.In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”

Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

Pardon the anachronism, but this is a total #micdrop moment. Jesus began and ended with a flat-out “you’re wrong”. Sit down, Sadducees, you’re done here.

Mark 12:28-34 (ESV) | The Great Commandment

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this:‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

This one is very curious to me. It seems as though this question started as a “gotcha” question anticipating some sort of answer that might over-emphasize one commandment against the others… but Jesus instead summarizes the whole Law and includes the second table in His answer. What is interesting is the apparent realization by the scribe at how completely Jesus answered the trick question… his response to Jesus demonstrated this understanding and garnered a comment of approval from Jesus. Here, Mark lets us know that from this time forward, no one dared ask Jesus any more questions. I think, given the context, Mark is talking about these sort of trap-questions, not legitimate questions.

Mark 12:35-37 (ESV) | Whose Son Is the Christ?

And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.”’

David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.

Mark 12:38-40 (ESV) | Beware of the Scribes

And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

Mark 12:41-44 (ESV) | The Widow’s Offering

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Here, we see Jesus warning against the sin of pride and sinful pietism. The religious acts of the scribes were not done in service of their neighbors, but to make much of themselves. They enjoyed being regarded as the honorable ones, the pious ones. When Jesus comments on the widow’s offering, He isn’t so much rebuking the wealthy for contributing out of their abundance; rather, He is drawing attention to the offering of the widow. Unlike the scribes, He isn’t accusing the wealthy of sin; rather, He is pointing out that greater attention is given to the one who gave out of her poverty. This offering is clearly a gift of faith, for reason or abundance cannot explain this offering. It is her faith in the provision of God that is being credited to her as righteousness.

Brothers and sisters, let us resist the temptation of turning this into some sort of formula for manipulating the favor of God through “sacrificial giving”. Let’s look to Paul’s instruction in 2 Corinthians 9.

2 Corinthians 9:6-14 (ESV) | The Cheerful Giver
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,

“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

When you serve your neighbor, do so bountifully in faith and love, as an extension of the surpassing Grace of God upon you.

Conclusion

Consider the empty tomb this week, consider the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, consider your baptism into eternal life in Christ Jesus. Until next week, spend time in the Written Word of God and do not forsake the gathering of the saints, hearing of the Preached Word… both Law and Gospel.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will,working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Mark 7

GWWelcome back as we continue working through the Gospel According to Mark. Last week we covered Mark 6, where we saw Jesus rejected by Nazareth, we saw Him send out the Apostles to preach, we saw Christ feed the multitudes in the wilderness, and we saw Him walk on water and heal many. We saw Mark sort of close out a theme at the end of chapter 6, and we will see Mark begin another arc in his Gospel account.

Today, we’ll resume reading, beginning in Chapter 7 of the Gospel According to Mark.

Mark 7:1-13 (ESV) | Traditions and Commandments

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

Dear fellow discerning Christian… when someone calls you a Pharisee to silence you from pointing to the Word of God to correct, reprove, rebuke, and to teach… don’t back down. Don’t be silent. Don’t let the individual get away with such sloppy attempts at playing the Pharisee card. The Pharisees were not guilty of holding to the Law of God; rather, they were guilty of passing their own commandments, their own traditions, their own law and calling it the Oral Law or the Tradition of the Elders. Later (approx 200 A.D.) this oral law (Mishnah) would be included in the Talmud, when Judaism had to completely change now that the temple was no more. What modern-day Jews practice now is nowhere near the Judaism of the Bible. The Covenant with Moses has been superseded by the New Covenant with the Messiah of God, Jesus Christ, God the Son.

Jesus calls these Pharisees out for their hypocrisy, yes, but it isn’t of the form that we usually consider today where someone says “don’t steal” while they live a secret double-life as a cat-burglar. No, this is more insidious… they teach a whole bunch of rules (that they can outwardly keep) and make the claim that they are teaching how to live lives pleasing to God and that this stems from an oral tradition that reaches all the way back to Moses and complements the Written Law. There’s the hypocrisy, the Law is a closed book to them, they don’t see Christ in the Scriptures and cannot recognize Christ standing before them as a result, yet they remain standing in the place of teachers of the law and teach their own traditions which only serve to bolster their own “righteousness”. Much like our modern-day self-appointed vision-casting leaders who teach their own dreams and impressions and read themselves into every text, completely missing Christ about whom all the Law, the Prophets, and the Apostles wrote/taught. And they teach their own traditions (while claiming they are new and innovative) hypocritically, for they do not in any way complement the Scriptures, in-fact, they contradict the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That, my friend, is a Pharisee.

Mark 7:14-23 (ESV) | What Defiles a Person

And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them,“Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

The Law of Moses did have designations of things that were clean and things that were unclean, and there were strict prohibitions in the Law of things that made a person ceremonially unclean if touched (like a dead person) and there were procedures that needed to be observed for a person who had become ceremonially unclean to follow in order to be allowed back into the camp, to be made ceremonially clean. These were but type and shadow of Christ. The traditions of the elders had added to the Written Law and obscured and subverted it. Jesus, being the Son of God, the Word made flesh, cut right through the noise and made it clear that what truly defiles a person comes from within the heart, not by what the person ate. For whatever a person eats passes through the body and is expelled. I love how plainly and directly He addressed it, too. The tradition of hand washing was powerless to prevent what the Elders taught. It was meaningless. It was a vain tradition, empty of power. Furthermore, the problem of sin was not something that strict dietary laws could avoid, for the true source of sin lay not outside in the world, but in the very heart of man. No tradition or ceremony could address that. Mark didn’t give us a detailed record of what transpired after this engagement, but what he moves to next gives us an understanding that what is required is Faith in the Son of Man.

Mark 7:24-30 (ESV) | The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith

And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

This Gentile woman, heard of Jesus, and believed. She had faith because she heard of Him. And it was great faith, for she was not deterred by Jesus point-blank telling her that His primary mission was for the children of Israel, she knew that crumbs of the table were sufficient. The LORD blessed her that day, delivered her child, and granted her child rest. I find it beautiful that the story ends with her little one lying in bed, free from the demon. We find rest in Christ alone.

Mark 7:31-37 (ESV) | Jesus Heals a Deaf Man

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Remember the Decapolis? It’s where the demoniac of the Gerasenes proclaimed what Jesus had done for him, and the people marveled (Mark 5:1-20). Jesus returned to this region once more. As a sidenote, growing up in church it really occurred to me how often Jesus went to the Gentiles in His earthly ministry. Fascinating. He came first for the Jew and then for the Gentile. Okay, back to the text, the people brought out a deaf man who had a speech impediment. I really need to learn Koine Greek but we know that this impediment is severe because later he was described as a mute who had been made to speak. Again, we see here that Jesus charged them to tell no one. They praised Jesus as a miracle worker, that He has done all things well. I take this as an indication that while they recognized the miraculous good work, they didn’t understand who Jesus is just yet.

But we do see something pretty cool here. The man was deaf and his speech was impeded. Jesus opened up his ears and loosed his tongue, so that he could speak plainly. When we are born, we are born spiritually dead. We have ears, but they are blocked by our sin and fallen state to the things of God. As such, our speech is impaired, we are muted by our own fallen natures unable to worship God, to please God, even to repent. Spiritually, we are born deaf and mute. Until the Holy Spirit opens our ears to the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Bible is a closed book to us, something we use to build our own false gods, our own means of righteousness to suit our own desires. But when the Lord opens our ears to the Word of God, granting us saving faith, we are set free to Worship the Only Living God. All praise be to the God of Mercy and Grace.

Conclusion

Next week we’ll be looking at another action-packed chapter in the Gospel According to Mark. Until then, I pray you make some time to study the Word of God. I pray the Holy Spirit open your eyes and ears to the Truth of God’s Word, both Law and Gospel, that by His Grace, through Faith you might enter into Christ’s rest. Preach the Word, repent, be forgiven, and forgive others their sins in Jesus’ Name.

Romans 16:25-27 (ESV) | Doxology

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Amen, Indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 23

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 22.

Last week’s look at Matthew 22 ended after the silencing of the Sadduccees. Jesus then stumped the Pharisees with a question on who the Christ is and we learn with the closing statement from the writer that from that time forward none would seek to trip Jesus up in His words. If you remember from the past couple of weeks that we’ve been reading these encounters in light of the demonstrated parable of Jesus cursing the fruitless fig tree and it withering up and dying. The religious leaders, the chief priests, the scribes, the Pharisees are the fruitless fig trees being cursed for their lack of fruit. What follows in today’s reading, is the final declarations of curses or woes to the scribes and Pharisees.

Matthew 23 (ESV)

Matthew 23: 1-36 (ESV) | Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant.12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Seven woe’s to the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy… but it was more than that. As we see at the beginning, they sit on Moses’ seat. They were given the highest authority under the Law. Remember what James tells us in the first verse of chapter 3, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” And being the ones charged with overseeing Israel, they were lost in unbelief, not able to recognize Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and actually waging war against Him.

Matthew 23:37-39 (ESV) | Lament over Jerusalem

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Here we see Jesus crying out over Jerusalem… not just over His last 3 years or so of ministry; rather, for centuries before the Word became flesh and walked among us. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ lamenting over Jerusalem and her unwillingness to submit to Him. The closing comment is interesting, because it is what the crowds were singing back in Chapter 21, but now they were not singing it. So the triumphal entry, while it was itself a fulfillment of prophecy pointing to the Messiah is here pointed out as a foreshadowing of the next time we will see Christ… the next and final time, Praise be to God.

Now at this point, some tend to use this chapter to support a notion that Jerusalem is permanently doomed until the Judgement, when Christ Returns. I think the Apostle Paul’s words in his letter to the Romans regarding this thought bears some reading.

Romans 11:25-36 (ESV) | The Mystery of Israel’s Salvation

25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27 “and this will be my covenant with them
    when I take away their sins.”

28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience,31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

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.

Paul’s writing is… well, as Peter put it, “There are some things in them that are hard to understand (2 Peter 3:14-17 ESV)”. But what we can understand, is that the hardening of Israel is both partial and for our (Gentile) benefit… but Israel is still part of God’s eternal plan.

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through chapter 24. We’ve worked through this chapter once before when we were working through our eschatology. We’ll work through it once more and I think it is wonderful timing given the recent rash of doomsday prognostications engaging in fear-mongering for selfish gain (4 blood moons, Mystery of the Shemitah, and now the Super-Shemitah). 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 22

bibleLet us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 21.

Last week’s look at Matthew 21 ended with a look at 2 parables Jesus taught that clearly rebuked the Pharisees for having a form (appearance) of godliness, but lacking fruit… just like the fig tree He cursed. We’ll pick up in the same vein with another of Jesus’ parables.

Matthew 22 (ESV)

Matthew 22:1-14 (ESV) | The Parable of the Wedding Feast

And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business,while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The kingdom of heaven sent out invitations, yet those who were invited ignored the call to the wedding, and some even mistreated and killed the servants of the King. So the King widened the call because of the unworthiness of the invited. Still, the King did not accept the unworthy, and those not clothed for a wedding were cast out. This is a very interesting parable. I see a lot of parallel here with what Paul taught in Romans 11. I’m going to intentionally avoid a deep-dive into certain schools of thought and their academic squabbles (dispensationalism, covenantalism, replacement theology, etc.) and just focus on the patterns we see in the parable and how we see the Gospel of Jesus Christ being demonstrated. The Kingdom of Heaven has a King and a Son who is getting married. The wedding feast is prepared and a specific set of invitations have gone out. Clearly the King sent out His invitations by His own free will. He is the King. He determines who is invited. That those who were invited to the wedding did not come only serves to condemn them as unworthy… it has no bearing on the King’s authority. The King then opens the invitation to everyone and sends His servants out to gather all, both good and bad. The King has not changed the event, it is still a wedding feast for His Son. The call has gone out to the ends of the earth… but not all who are called will be dressed for the wedding, and those who are not dressed for the wedding will not be chosen, though they were indeed called. Why would someone who is allowed to attend the wedding feast of the Son, without an official invitation, still not come dressed for a wedding? Unbelief in the Son to whose wedding feast you’ve been brought.

John 3:17-18 (ESV) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

One thing is for sure, the Pharisees were not only targeted as those who ignored their invitations to the wedding feast, but those who mistreated and killed the servants of the King sent to remind them of their invitations. As we saw after the last parable in chapter 21, the Pharisees already realized that Jesus was talking about them.

Matthew 22:15-22 (ESV) | Paying Taxes to Caesar

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

Jesus called out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and for dismissing the Law of God for their traditions. Their response: they plotted in how to entangle Him in is words. I find it funny that in our day, those who rebuke false teachers of hypocrisy, self-righteousness and for dismissing the Law of God for their ideas/inclinations/dreams are called Pharisees while the false teachers spin and plot to entangle the discerning in their words.

Matthew 22:23-33 (ESV) | Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection

23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”

29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.

Jesus says they were wrong because they didn’t know the Scriptures nor the power of God. Jesus cut to the very underlying premise of this question as utterly false. These were religious leaders who were teaching falsely in addition to the sin of the Pharisees. This is probably the worst attempt at tripping Jesus up. Jesus didn’t only dismiss the question, but struck down a doctrinal distinctive of their sect.

Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV) | The Great Commandment

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

We’ve looked at this teaching before, mostly from the Gospel According to Luke. Many Christians make the mistake of thinking this is a Gospel truth… it isn’t… Jesus is answering a question of the Law. This is a Law we cannot keep ourselves, therefore, it exposes our sin. We need the Gospel of Jesus Christ to forgive us of our sin and to cleanse us from our unrighteousness until the Day of His Return.

Matthew 22:41-46 (ESV) | Whose Son Is the Christ?

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he? ”They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,

44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
    until I put your enemies under your feet”’?

45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son? 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

And with that, Jesus ended the “debate” stage of the war against the unbelieving religious rulers. Remember that this is after the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where Jesus fulfilled prophesy of the Messiah, the Christ, and everyone was singing, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt 21:1-17)

Until Next Week

Next week we’ll be working through chapter 23. We’ll work through Jesus’ judgement against the scribes and Pharisees and His lament over Israel. It’s not pretty, and it is quite damning. I think this next chapter is the equivalent of Jesus’ curse against the fig tree. 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 9:9-38

bibleLast week, we followed Jesus as He continued to perform miracles demonstrating who He is, the Messiah, the Son of Man prophesied to come. We left off with Jesus making a major point that He was given authority to forgive sin, and the demonstration of that authority was given in the form of healing a paralytic. The crowds are following the spectacle and seeking healing and deliverance from demons, but Jesus purpose is an eternal one, not merely temporal. So that we do not get mired in analyzing miracles in isolation, today we’ll work through the rest of Matthew Chapter 9 so that we can keep the over-arching context of what we are seeing here. Jesus is the Gospel, not the miracles. The Miracles testify of Him.

The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Laborers Few

Matthew 9:9-38 (ESV)

Jesus Calls Matthew

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

This is a good opportunity to point out the principle of interpreting the unclear with the clear in Scripture. Jesus’s response to the Pharisees is a bit of pointed sarcasm here. The last statement is the key to the sarcasm, Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous, He came to call sinners. Is He saying the Pharisees are righteous? Only in their own sight, by their own measure. The Apostle Paul addressed this very well in his letter to the Romans:

Romans 3:9-20 (ESV) | No One Is Righteous
9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18   “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Clearly, Jesus was not acknowledging the righteousness of the Pharisee, but dismissing them according to their unbelief. A sick person needs a physician, but a sick person who believes himself to be well will not seek a physician. In fact, even when a physician tells the person, “you are not well” the sick person who esteems himself more highly than the physician will think the physician a fool and reject his call. When it comes to sin and salvation, there are no valid “second opinions”. Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous, for there were none to be called. All have sinned. Jesus came to call sinners to repentance.

Matthew 9 | A Question About Fasting

14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.

I’ve seen this passage used to justify mandating some proposed change in church practice, structure, or doctrine. Such approaches usually compel the listener to git rid of the old and become new so that you can get a new and fresh (word/anointing/impartation/etc.). That is not what Jesus is teaching here. Notice that the disciples of John include themselves with the Pharisees in the fasts being questioned. The old wineskin is NOT about orthodoxy, stubborn resistance to change, or Pharisaism. What fasts are these disciples (and Pharisees) observing that Jesus’ disciples were not? The fasts of the Mosaic Covenant. The old covenant points forward to Christ. Now that Christ had arrived, He would usher in a New Covenant (wineskin) by His body and by His blood into which He will pour His Spirit (Pentecost) to all who are brought into the covenant by faith.

Hebrews 8:1-7 (ESV) | Jesus, High Priest of a Better Covenant
8 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

Hebrews 8:13 (ESV)13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Acts 2:38-39 (ESV)38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

Jesus made it clear that fasting in and of itself was not going away, just that the mandated fasts of the old covenant were not binding on the disciples who lived in the presence of God the Son, Jesus.  A time would soon come when the disciples will fast, when the bridegroom is taken away from them. New wine in a new wineskin, we fast in worship to God in light of the Gospel, not the mere observances of the Law.

Matthew 9 | A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live. 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples.20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well. 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well. And instantly the woman was made well. 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion,24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.

Faith. The father had faith that Jesus could raise his daughter from the dead. The woman had faith that touching His garment would make her well (as opposed to making Him unclean). I’ve seen many a teaching follow rabbit trails out of this passage, stay focused on the message of faith in the person of Jesus. There were doubters (the flute players and crowd making commotion) who laughed at Jesus. These were unable to interfere with God’s work. Jesus put them outside, and healed the girl. The focus is on faith in Who Jesus Is.

Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” 28 When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.”31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.

Faith. Not in the miracle, but in the person of Jesus the Messiah.

Jesus Heals a Man Unable to Speak

32 As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. 33 And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” 34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”

Unbelief. Dangerous, stubborn, prideful, arrogant, narcissistic, unbelief. The sin of unbelief is our birthright in Adam. Praise be to Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for by His blood we might be made sons and daughters of the Most High, adopted into the kingdom of Heaven and into the Promise of Eternal life as our inheritance, in Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Amen. I want to take this moment also to point out a major distraction within the Pentecostal community. An unhealthy fixation on the apostolic signs and wonders is unhelpful for the preaching of the Gospel of Salvation. Jesus was walking in the flesh, preaching of His Father’s Kingdom and performing miraculous signs and wonders and unbelief yet remained. As the Apostles were sent out from Pentecost, the signs and wonders that followed them did not end their persecution either, but served as a testimony to their preaching, that they were indeed sent by Jesus Christ out into the world to preach. We have that word and the same Holy Spirit, but we dare not trade the preaching of the Word of God for the preaching of signs and wonders. That is backward and a huge distraction from our Commission as Stewards of the Gospel of Grace. Preach the Word, and God the Holy Spirit who remains Sovereign over His Gifts will convict the hearts and call sinners to repentance. I think it is fair to say to the Evangelical Church in general, “Stop trying to major in the minors, preach the Gospel, make disciples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them all that Jesus has commanded.”

Matthew 9 | The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Laborers Few

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

We serve a truly Great and Compassionate God. Jesus taught in the synagogues and proclaimed the gospel of the Kingdom. He healed every disease and every affliction. There was nothing He couldn’t heal. There is nothing He can’t heal. Did everyone believe in Him? No, for if they had there wouldn’t have been anyone to plot His death.

We need more laborers today. Jesus told His disciples to pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. One final warning for this post to the modern-day evangelical church industry… the Lord of the Harvest sends out laborers into His harvest. It does not fall to men to scheme, manipulate, woo, and entice the lost into the Kingdom of Heaven. There is no call to “church the unchurched” or to make the Gospel “more Relevant” to our culture. That’s not our call, that’s not our commission.

2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV) | Preach the Word
4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge