Thu, May 31st - 12:06PM
STUDY IN MATTHEW
"Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. One these two commandments hang all of the law and the prophets (22:37-40)."
Here's a lawyer asking for just the greatest commandment of them all, and Christ provides him with that plus more. By placing these two commandments over our lives we become painfully aware of how far short we come to meeting them. It is not acceptable to simply say that I love God, it must be done with everything I have got. I must love Him with all of my heart. Nothing else can come before Him in my heart. I must love Him with all of my soul. Here is the part of me that is more valuable than all of the silver and gold in this world. I must love Him with all of my mind. There are some who claim that the human body is the soul. I do not believe that there is enough evidence provided within the Bible to support such a claim. Souls are reported in Revelation to be calling out to God from beneath His altar up in heaven. How could they be there in body when glorified bodies have not yet been handed out? Sin-filled bodies in heaven? Can't happen according to God. So that does not fit the scriptures if we choose to claim that our physical bodies are our souls. My mind is separate from my soul and my heart. It contains my emotions and thoughts, it contains my memories of things past. It also contains current knowledge gained. But from where does wisdom come? Not from knowledge or emotions. Not from memories either. Wisdom arrives from elsewhere. From where does determination come from? Or faith? Or love? What part of me contains these concepts?
Jesus tells this lawyer that loving God will require a total comittment, there is no room for reservation. You are either completely in, or else you must remain out. There can be no fence sitting, no procrastination, no hedging of bets. I must choose.
Then Christ throws in a bonus for the lawyer: a second great commandment like unto the first. Love your neighbor just as you love yourself! Perhaps this is why some neighbors do not treat me very well. They do not really love themselves at all! In order for me to love myself properly, I must accept God's love of me first. That gives me affirmation, it gives me value, it gives me validation. It means that I am someone.
These two "great" commandments essentially summarize the entire Mosaic Law. Christ's answer was so accurate that if the Pharisees were honest with themselves they would have admitted openly, "We have fallen short. We cannot be saved by the Law; we do need a Savor." It would have been most advantageous for them since here was their Savior, almost under the shadow of the cross. But the legalists of that day refused to admit they were wrong in their chosen beliefs.
"While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, What do you think of Christ? whose son is He? They say to Him, The son of David. He said to them, How then does David in spirit call Him Lord, saying, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool? If David then call Him Lord, how is He his son (22:41-45)?"
OOps! They were caught in their own errors. Jesus did not wait for them to figure out what to ask Him next, He asked them a specific question. And they answered wrong. Jesus quoted Psalm 110:1 and put them to the test. First, David wrote Psalm 110, he wrote it by the influence of the Holy Spirit, and he wrote it about the Messiah who was to come. The only logical conclusion to reach here is that of the Virgin Birth. Jesus is David's son, but He is greater than David. A son of David can't be greater than David unless there is something greater introduced into the lineage to make a greater one than David. The supernatural conception and then birth of Jesus provide us with the only satisfactory answer. The LORD of David got into David's lineage as stated in Luke's gospel account. Jesus is greater than David because He is the Living God from heaven. Jesus forced the Pharisees to face up to the real issue at hand and to acknowledge Him as both David's son and David's Lord.
"And no man was able to answer Him a word, neither dared any man from that day forward to ask Him any more questions (22:46)."
No more verbal attacks were made against Him after this. They could not trip Him up into giving them a false answer or even a partially wrong answer. There was only one thing left for them to do. Figure out how to kill Him. They can't answer Him anymore, so they begin moving towards contriving His death in order to remove Him from their presence. As believers, this is the place to which we all must be moving. We, too, must attain that place where the unbelievers can't answer our questions any longer and are forced to cease their incessant verbal attacks upon us. Will it translate into our becoming martyrs? Perhaps. But that outcome can't be a determinant of our conduct and choices as believers in Christ. If it were to be so then Stephen never would have allowed himself to end up being stoned to death by an angry mob bent on revenge. They could no longer verbally answer Stephen's questions thus they resorted to physical violence against him. The cost of being a Christian can be very, very, high. We Americans simply have not had to experience any of that cost in recent memory, have we? But it is coming, the clouds are gathering out on the distant horizon.
That is all for today. Next time I shall open up to chapter 23, where Jesus warns the common people against the lawyers and Pharisees; where Jesus pronounces woe upon both of these groups and eventually weeps over all of Jerusalem, the Holy City of God. May you find grace and peace today! I pray that any of you who find yourselves in the midst of severe storms will not panic, that you will rest in the assurances of Christ and be able to think clearly of what must be done to remain safe. God be with us all this day!
Wed, May 30th - 11:57AM
STUDY IN MATTHEW
"The same day the Sadducees came to Him, which claim that there is no resurrection, and they asked Him, Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed to his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no offspring, left his wife to his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? For they all had been married to her (22:23-28)."
This is a rather ridiculous illustration by a group of men who did not even believe that there was a resurrection. They were hoping to trap Christ by asking Him to tell them whose wife she would be when all of them reached heaven. But the Sadducees messed up in a couple of ways here.
"Jesus answered and said to them, You do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are they given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven (22:29-30)."
Christ points out where the Sadducees remained ignorant: they were ignorant of the Scriptures and ignorant of the power of God Almighty. Their ignorance in these two areas caused them to bring up such ridiculous illustrations. Jesus pointed out to them that in the resurrection we do do not become angels, we simply will live like the angels do. In other words, since angels do not marry and have offspring neither shall believers. The human race will have no need to perpetuate the race via biological birth. It does not mean that loved ones down here on earth can't remain close to one another once they reach heaven. If they want to be together then they can be together. All of us will be "married" to Christ and therefore there will be no need of marriage to anyone else. Of course, our dispositions will be new and so we shall get along with everyone in heaven much better than we ever could down here on earth! There will not be family units in the kingdom of heaven for there will not be any children being added through natural births. Now notice how Christ continues this response to the Sadducees.
"But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at His doctrine (22:31-33)."
God does not rule over a kingdom of dead people. No, He rules over those who remain alive by faith in salvation from God. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob may have died long before but their spirits remained alive in the bosom of God awaiting the time when God would come to obtain redemption for all of them through the efforts of Christ Jesus. This is true as well of your loved ones who have died after expressing acceptance of Jesus as their Lord and Savior. They are all awaiting us, to be joyfully reunited together as the Bride of Jesus Christ. The crowds of people listening in on this conversation were simply astonished at what they heard.
So Jesus Christ put the Herodians and the Sadducees back into their proper places. They have been silenced. But the Pharisees continued to watch Him as He interacted with these two groups. They were a religio-political party. They desired to have the kingdom of David brought back into power in order to rid themselves of the Romans who had taken over the entire region. In restoring the kingdom they could join the Herodians, but on religious grounds they opposed the Sadducees. The Pharisees today would correspond to the conservative wing of the church, and the Sadducees would correspond to the liberal wing of the church. Perhaps this is why in America we are having such difficult times within our government? We are witnessing conservative and liberal religio-political beliefs conflicting with each other without any movement towards compromise.
But we must remain focused upon the actions of these Pharisees, for they send one of their own, a lawyer, to pose a very interesting question to Christ.
"But when the Pharisees had heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked Him a question, tempting Him, and saying. Master, which is the great commandment in the law (22:34-36)?"
These legalistic guys huddle together, reach a conclusion, and one of them goes to ask Jesus a legal question. They did not believe that Jesus was any sort of "Master." They did not really mean to be respectful at all. This lawyer, or scribe, is an expert in the Mosaic Law and hopes to trap Jesus into picking one specific commandment as being the greatest of all of them. But he fails in his trap!
But that comes next time! Until then, beloved, I pray that you all have a blessed day and enjoy the grace and peace of Christ. Enjoy the glorious weather and be thankful to have survived any severe weather passing through your area. God is good, all of the time!
Tue, May 29th - 12:05PM
STUDY IN MATTHEW
"Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent out to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth, neither do You care for any man: for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us therefore, What do You think? Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not (Matthew 22:15-17)?"
It appears that the Herodians were already going to go out and speak with Jesus Christ. The Pharisees took this opportunity to send their disciples out with them. Now the Herodians were a political party which favored the house of Herod and looked to those of that house to deliver them from the Roman yoke. They were not a religious group but a strongly political party. But the Pharisees apparantly used them, with the distinct possibility that many Pharisees were also Herodians.
Quite obviously this group were not out there desiring to get Christ's opinion. They had already chosen in their hearts what the proper answer had to be. This was a trick question. If He said "No, you can't pay tribute to the Emperor," He could be accused of being a traitor to Rome. If He said, "Yes, you must pay tribute to the Emperor," He couldn't possibly be the Messiah. This group of men believed that they had pinned Jesus by the horns of this dilemma.
"But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why do you tempt Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tribute money. And they brout to Him a coin. And He said to them, Whose is this image and superscription? They said to Him, Caesar's. Then said He to them, Render therefore to Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's (22:18-21)."
Christ Jesus identified these men for what they were: hypocrites. Jesus asked them to supply Him with an example of the "tribute" money. The people of the region were using the legal tender of the Roman Empire, not their local money.
Christ informed them, and ultimately all of us today, that people owe tribute to the authority/ies that govern over them. If we use the government's coins, we walk down government sponsored roads, if we enjoy the peace provided by the government, then we do owe something to the government. Therefore, render unto the government the things that are the government's. But we are to also render to God the things that are God's. This demonstrates that there are two distinctly different groups of "things." Many people stumble over this point today, claiming that God commands us to not pay taxes, or serve in the military.
"When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left Him, and went their way (22:22)."
Their well laid trap got sprung upon themselves! Whereas they did have an obligation to the Emperor of Rome they nonetheless still had an obligation to God. They were left speechless, and simply turned and went away.
Next time I will look at who comes up to Christ next and tries to entrap Him with a different sort of question. But that is next time. May Christ shine out through your life today! May your words, actions, and thoughts all honor God, and may all that you do this day direct attention to Jesus Christ as God.
Thu, May 24th - 9:41PM
STUDY IN MATTHEW
Let us get back in the swing of things, shall we? Chapter 22 of Matthew sees Jesus giving a parable of the marriage feast for the king's son. It also gives us Jesus answering and silencing the Herodians, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees.
This first parable is a continuing answer to the chief priests and the elders which Jesus had begun in the previous chapter.
"And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables, and said. The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king, who made a marriage for his son. And sent out his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again he sent out other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinners: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come to the marriage (22:1-4)."
Jesus spoke repeatedly to the chief priests and elders of Israel. He used this parable to teach them a vital truth that was escaping them. "A certain king" is God the Father, and "his son" is the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to note that it is the "kingdom of heaven" and not the "kingdom of God" being spoken about here. This parable parallels the Matthew 13 parables that came earlier. The emphasis here is upon how and why this age began rather than upon the conclusion of the age, which is what we saw in chapter 13.
God sent His servants out to call them that were invited to the wedding. Who were invited to come? The lost sheep of nation Israel: God had sent out His prophets all during the Old Testament to invite people to come to God and now He had sent out His apostles to call them to come again. But notice, the people refused to respond to the invitation and come to the "wedding."
"But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard of this, he was enraged: and he sent out his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city (22:5-7)."
God sent out messengers to nation Israel once more in the form of the disciples and apostles to invite the people to come to the prepared feast. Some simply turned and went about doing their own business while the remainder seized these servants, persecuted and killed them. Israel rejected God's open invitation to come and enter into an intimate relationship with Him. Christ was the final messenger, and they killed Him as well. The Lord thus orders His forces to go out and execute judgment upon Israel for their unbelief and sin. We have the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 by Titus the Roman.
"Then said he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were invited were not worthy. God therefore into the highways, and as many as you shall find, invite them to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment (22:8-10)."
We see at this point a definite change in the method and manner of the invitation extended, and it refers to the present age in which we all live. What is this "wedding garment?" The king's invitation is for everyone, but there is an inherent danger of coming without meeting the demands of the king. This wedding garment is the righteousness of Jesus Christ which is absolutely essential for salvation, and it is applied to all who believe in Christ. Apostle Paul spoke about this imputed righteousness: "But now the righteousness of God without the law (that is, apart from the law) is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference (Romans 3:21-22)." All persons have to have a wedding garment that is acceptable.
"And he said to him, Friend, how did you come in here not having a wedding garment? And the man was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen (22:12-14)."
This man was speechless! Many people today say that they don't need to accept Christ, that they will take their chances before God, that they fully intend to argue their case to be allowed into heaven. I do not think that that approach will be successful.
Whether or not you choose to accept the wedding garment is up to you, but Jesus Christ has provided it for you. The invitation has gone out to everyone, but you will have to come on the King's terms or else you will be forcibly removed.
God issues the invitation to every single person on this planet to come and join Him in the marriage feast of the Lamb, to enter into the kingdom of heaven. But entrance requires wearing the wedding garment, which is the righteousness of Christ Jesus. You can attempt to enter in by wearing some other sort of garment, but you will be detained and permanently removed.
That is all for today, beloved. Next time we shall see the response of Jesus to the Herodians who come to attack Him verbally. They sought to trap Him into a false answer to their questions. But that is next time. Until then, I pray that you have an encounter with Jesus. I pray that He touches you and changes you for all eternity. For if He touches you, you will become whole once more and your heart will be flooded with joy. Christ shall give you this "wedding garment" for He will impute His righteousness to your account and you shall be able to attend the marriage feast of Christ. I sincerely hope that I get to see you there! Oh, what a day that will be! Grace and peace be yours!
Fri, May 11th - 9:08AM
STUDY IN MATTHEW
"Jesus, whose name is not so much written as plowed into the history of this world."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Jesus promised His disciples three things: that they would be entirely fearless, absurdly happy, and that they would get into trouble."
~ W. Russell Maltby
"Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and dug a winepress in it, and built a tower, and leased it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.
And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did to them likewise.
But last of all he sent to them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.
But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheiritance (21:33-38)."
Do you understand God's message here? This is God's final warning to the religious rulers of Israel. The Son from the parable was standing right in front of them. The Son was giving them the parable that was all about the history of their actions. What did they want to do with God's Son? They are being told exactly what is harbored within their hearts: Kill the Son and seize His inheritance for their own.
"And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him (21:39)."
Think that any of these men were beginning to fidget? Think that some of them were getting rather uneasy as they listened to Jesus reveal their deepest heart's desires? I am sure that a few of them were startled, disturbed, at hearing these things. Nicodemus comes to mind here.
"Because of that, when the lord of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those husbandmen?
They said to Him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard to other husbandmen, which shall render to him the fruits in their seasons.
Jesus said to them, Did you never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?
Because of that I say to you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing out the fruits from that (21:40-43)."
God sent these religious rulers back to the Old Testament for the analogy of the stone to Himself. These religious rulers are the "builders" and they are rejecting the "stone" which is to become the head of the corner of God's church of believers.
It is noticeable here that it becomes the "kingdom of God" rather than the "kingdom of heaven." Jesus is revealing here that very soon the Gentiles are to be included in the kingdom. Everybody is to receive the call from God to come to Him through Jesus the Son.
I can imagine the jaws dropped rather suddenly on some of those rulers when they heard that last statement. Others most likely were furiously thinking to themselves "How outrageous! We are the Chosen People of God! Seed of Abraham, born to the promise!" It is understandable how they must have felt, but God could see that they were not His children any longer for they had surrendered themselves over to sin and the rule of Satan. So God had decided to offer eternal life to the non-Jewish people as well, desiring to use the Gentiles as an example for the Israelites to learn from. "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should outwardly show the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light (I Peter 2:9)." The church is that "holy nation" of peculiar people who have been called by God to separate ourselves from the spiritual darkness of this world around us and enter into spiritual light provided by God Himself. You see, it is insufficient to just separate oneself from something. That merely creates a vacuum into which something must come to fill it. Believers must separate from sinful living and move to following Christ's teachings. The church may be a royal priesthood but it is not a call to become sanctimonious priests, or to begin wearing all sorts of elaborately decorated clothing to draw attention to ourselves being priests within God's family. Each and every believer in Christ is a priest, not just certain believers. We are all called upon to outwardly show our praise of God who summoned us to come and walk in the light.
"And whomever falls upon this stone shall be broken: but upon whom it shall fall, it will grind him to powder (21:44)."
The first phrase refers to Christ's first advent into this world of ours. He is the Rock on which the church is built (I Corinthians 3:11). To fall on that Stone is to come to Christ Jesus for redemption/salvation in this current day of grace. To reject Christ is to end up having the Stone fall at a later time in the judgment about which Daniel prophesied (Daniel 2:34, 44-45), which relates to Christ's second advent into our world. I can either choose to fall on the Rock now and be saved, or I can reject the Rock and suffer the consequences of having it fall upon me.
"And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard His parables, they perceived that He spoke about them.
But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitude, because they took Him for a prophet (21:45-46)."
These guys knew what Christ was talking about. It angered them a lot. They wanted the multitudes to be fawning over them, not over Christ. They coveted the inheritance of Christ Jesus, and eventually would take steps to kill Him. It is unfortunate that today a great many people don't see that this applies to them as well. Especially those who are in the church, or claim to be in the church, need to examine their motivations for persecuting those who wish to live according to the New Testament scriptures.
We also must recognize that even though these religious rulers tried to snatch Jesus and murder Him, preventing Him from speaking to the people out in the streets, when they tried to lay hands upon Him they stopped due to fear of the immense crowds of people who had decided that He was a prophet of God. Today we do not find that sort of restraint to be present. Christians are seized, interrogated, asked to recant their beliefs, and kept imprisoned. If they refuse to recant their belief in Christ then they are summarily executed. That has not been the case in America up to now, but the stage has been set for it to begin happening in the future. Hate crimes legislation has been passed with language that will allow Christians to be arrested and thrown into prison for speaking their beliefs about homosexuality and other sinful behavior. It will be considered to be "hateful rhetoric" and they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Mark my words, it is coming.
That is all for today beloved. I wish all mothers a beautiful Mother's Day this coming Sunday! Early Saturday morning (3AM) I will begin driving 750+ miles to spend Sunday with my mother and sister whom I have not seen in roughly five years. Keep me in prayer for safe driving both to and from their home (return trip same time frame on Monday). May the grace and peace of Christ our Lord and Savior be yours this day. May I finally get to see some of you in heaven one day soon! For there we shall be known, even as we shall know others. What a glorious day that will be! Hallelujah!
Thu, May 10th - 6:55AM
STUDY IN MATTHEW
"We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another."
"Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile."
"But what do you think? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. The son answered and said, I will not; but afterward he repented, and went. And the man came to the second son, and said likewise, And the son answered and said, I go, sir: and he did not go. Which of the two of them did the will of his father? They said to Him, The first. Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you (21:28-31)."
Here is a parable that lands a terrible insult in the faces of Israel's religious rulers of that day. Christ compares them to the second son who said he would go and work for his father but then did not. Jehovah expected them to be working for Him among His people Israel, not going around doing their own will at counter purposes to His will. Thus the publicans and harlots had a greater chance of entering into the kingdom of God ahead of them for they were willing to accept Christ as God made manifest in the flesh.
This parable continues to be applicable today. Many people have joined a church and are quite religious and think they are Christians, but sadly they are not. They know how to perform their church's rituals and give mental acknowledgement to the doctrines, but they are not genuine believers unless there has been a transformation in their lives. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (II Corinthians 5:17)." The publicans and harlots could recognize their sinfulness and then come to Christ Jesus for redemption and salvation. They came late, first saying no to God, but they repented and came to Him, and God received them with open arms of welcome.
"For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and you, when you had seen it, did not repent afterward, that you might believe him(21:32)."
Just like today, those religious leaders had a religion of exterior decorations with nothing of substance internally. When a person accepts Jesus the Christ as Savior, the interior is not only redecorated, it is made new. Those religious rulers of the Sanhedrin had in essence said "Yes, we will work for You." Then they chose to go and do their own thing. Today people claim to be Christians and to be doing "God's work" yet they have not repented of anything in their lives, there has been no transformation internally. This is where I believe the homosexual person is who claims to be a Christian and yet continues their homosexual behavior. They have had no internal change for they have not repented of anything in their conduct, they choose to believe that God has approved of the lifestyle they lived before. It is a nice, neat, way of avoiding to have to change daily into becoming more and more like Christ. When I accepted Christ as my Savior I changed my lifestyle, my behavior changed, for I needed to become more like Christ and less like Eric had been before.
Well, that is all for this morning beloved! May God's rich blessings fill your "cup" today, may it overflow into the lives of those all around you!
Sun, May 6th - 3:57PM
STUDY IN MATTHEW
“And when the disciples saw this, they marveled, saying, How soon the fig tree withered away! Jesus answered and said to them, Truly I say to you, If you have faith, and do not doubt, you shall not only do this that is done to the fig tree, but also if you shall say to this mountain, Be removed, and be cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive (21:20-22).”
Jesus Christ instructed them in prayer when faced with their utter amazement at the fig tree’s demise. He told them there is to be faith in their prayers. Their problem, and ours, is lack of faith to believe that God can move such miraculous ways.
Our task today as believers is not to be cursing fig trees and casting mountains into the ocean. Christ was illustrating that no problem or obstacle ought to overwhelm us, as long as we have the faith to believe God can conquer it. From where does our help come? Psalm 121:1-2 says, “Shall I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” The hills, or mountains, do not provide the help, God provides the help. However, I am to turn and look upward at them as a reminder that God created them, and me. There is something bigger and more important to do than moving mountains and cursing fig trees. I am to preach the gospel of Christ, to give out the Word of God so that the Holy Spirit of God can use it to touch hearts and change lives. That is a miracle! I need faith to believe that God can and will use His Word to reach lives through me.
“And when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him as He was teaching, and said, By what authority do you do these things and who gave you this authority (21:23)?”
The religious authorities of the day challenged Jesus. It is easy to see that they are becoming uglier and more hateful in their attitude towards Jesus. They cannot question what Jesus is doing it is beyond being obvious. They cannot deny that He is performing miracles and is teaching wisdom to the people. Notice that? They have no other recourse but to question His authority to do these things. They know that they cannot do these things, and they are supposed to be the leaders of God’s Chosen People.
“And Jesus answered and said to them, I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I in return will tell you by what authority I do these things.
The baptism of John, where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say to us, Why did you not then believe him?
But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet (21:24-26).”
What a dilemma they found themselves confronted with! Simply because they felt compelled to discredit this man. These religious rulers had come to try and trap Jesus, however, He immediately placed them upon the horns of their own dilemma. They could not say that John baptized by the authority of heaven for Jesus would have claimed the same for Himself. They did not wish to accept John’s nor Jesus’ authority having come from heaven on high. Yet, they knew that they could not say that John’s authority to baptize came from men for they were afraid of the power of the multitudes for the multitudes believed John was a prophet. They chose to not pick.
“And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And He said to them, Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things (21:27).”
Think there was much tension between Jesus and these religious men? I think that you could have cut it with a knife it was so thick in the air. Since they refused to tell Jesus by whose authority John baptized people Jesus in turn refused to tell them by whose authority He did these things. This was not a veiled rebuke of the authorities. It was a backhanded slap to their face. But it was amply deserved for they ought to have known by whose authority Jesus and John were doing these things, and they should have been honest enough to publicly admit it.
Next time I will look into our LORD’s stinging denunciation of these religious rulers. It will come in the form of a parable that places publicans and harlots above them. Until then, grace and peace be yours.
Wed, May 2nd - 7:20PM
STUDY IN MATTHEW
"Now in the morning as He returned into the city, He hungered for food. And when He saw a fig tree along the way, He came to it, and found nothing upon it, but only leaves, and said to the tree, Let no fruit grow on you ever again. And presently the fig tree withered away (21:18-19)."
Now the atheists claim that this proves that God is spiteful and wrathful for no good reasons to all living things, if He even exists. Granted, this incident is difficult to comprehend. But Jesus did not act out of petulance or a fit of peevishness. Yes, Jesus was hungry and walked up to that fig tree looking for some fruit upon it. The question to ask is "What does this fig tree represent?" In God's Word the fig tree often represents Israel as a nation. When Jesus came into this world as a babe there was no spiritual fruit to be found in the land of Israel, it was barren. Israel showed all of the outward trappings of a religious lifestyle, but it was empty of faith. Israel was just like this fig tree. It looked as if it ought to be bearing much fruit, but upon close inspection the discovery was made that it was barren, fruitless. Jesus came to the fig tree and desired to be fed, but found nought. Any person who would have come to Israel to be fed spiritually would have found nought. Israel had turned what God had given them into a dead, lifeless ritual, choked with traditions, without any vitality and virility. Israel no longer was accomplishing God's purpose. It becomes rather clear that God will deal the exact same way with the organized church which has turned its back upon the Person of Jesus Christ. There will be judgment. Christ's cursing of this tree is symbolic, He was signifying the coming condemnation of nation Israel for turning its back on Jehovah.
"And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away! Jesus answered and said to them, Truly I say to you, If you have faith, and doubt not, you shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if you shall say to this mountain, Be you removed, and be cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive (21:20-22)."
The disciples were simply flabbergasted. They had never seen such a thing done to a tree. However, Christ then proceeds to give them instruction in prayer and the power of prayer. They are amazed at the fig tree withering and dying while Jesus informs all of them that their basic problem in life is that they do not have faith to believe that God can move in such miraculous ways.
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