1 At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. 3 But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; 4 How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shew bread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?
Tom is middle aged and claims to have been saved when he was just a boy. He attends one of my Bible studies semi-regularly, he is a deacon at his church and very well liked. In spite of this, I believe that Tom has had his eyes blinded to the truth of the gospel. He is always quick to take offence and to argue with the Bible lessons when they are on topics such as, our duty to witness to others, our need to put God's work before personal gain, or our need to love people of different ethnic and cultural groups. He never participates in any church ministry and often speaks as though he looks down on those who do. I pray for him, because he has never shown any real signs of having a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The Pharisees in our story were just like Tom. They were very religious, but were blinded to the truths of God's word. Whatever Jesus said bounced right off of their hardened hearts. Chapter Twelve of Matthew's gospel chronicles the growing tension which resulted between them, and which climaxed in a plot to kill Jesus. (V.14)
Matthew says that this event happened "at that time," which we presume to mean shortly after His invitation to come to Him. In that invitation Jesus told them that His yoke was lighter and easier to bear than the burdens of the Pharisees. His words must have bounced, because here we find them trying to hold Jesus and His disciples to the letter of the law, as they misunderstood it.
The disciples must have been very hungry. We know that it was Jesus' habit to rise early to begin teaching. Perhaps they had a lengthy devotion and prayer time together, did not have time to eat before going to the synagogue and were attempting to grab a quick bite along the way. So, they picked some grains (probably Barley) and, rolling them between their hands to crack away the chaff, began to eat.
The Pharisees, however, must have had their spies out, because they were quick to come and point out that picking grain was work and, on the Sabbath, work was a sin. This is how their additions to the fourth Commandment defined work.
God intended the Sabbath to be a blessing to man, not a hardship, so Jesus seized the opportunity to teach again. He reminded them of the time when David was in hiding from Saul. Going to the tabernacle, he asked the chief priest for food, but the only thing available was the show bread, which, according to the law, only the priests were allowed to eat. (Lev. 24:5-9) The priest gave this holy bread to David and his men. Though it was not stated in the story, this act set a precedent for making an exception to the law of the Sabbath, when failure to do so would create a hardship. The law was given in a spirit of love and should be applied in that same spirit.
Another scripture, Numbers 28:9, directs the priest to prepare two lambs, an offering of flour and oil and a drink offering on the Sabbath day. Jesus pointed out that this was a lot of work, but the priests are not held accountable as though they had sinned. They were doing the Lord's work and that was acceptable on the Sabbath.
The disciples were hungry, like David, and commissioned by Jesus Christ to do God's work, like the priests. Therefore they were justified in what they did. God never intended the Sabbath to be a hardship, and Jesus never intended us to profane it with football games, golf, and fishing tournaments. It is a holy day for rest, worship, and peaceful meditation. Isaiah wrote:
"If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. " (Isaiah 58:13,14)
When we delight in the Lord Jesus Christ, His yoke is easy, and we are blameless before Him; but many, even today, want to burden us with the yoke of religiosity, rituals, rules, and enforcement.
Before The Throne:
Ask God to help you find a balance in your understanding. Pray that you could delight in Him and enjoy keeping His law, while maintaining a loving and understanding heart toward the failures of others. Thank Him for making your burden light and for holding you blameless through the work of His Son Jesus Christ.
For Further Study:
(v.1) ** went. Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5; ** to pluck. De 23:25;
(v.2) ** Behold. Exod 20:9-11; Exod 23:12; Exod 31:15-17; Exod 35:2; Num 15:32-36; Isa 58:13; Mark 3:2-5; Luke 6:6-11; Luke 13:10-17; Luke 23:56; John 5:9-11, 16-17; John 7:21-24; Joh 9:14-16;
(v.3) ** Have. Matt 19:4; Matt 21:16; Matt 22:31; Mark 12:10, 26; Luke 6:3; Luke 10:26; ** what. 1Sam 21:3-6; Mark 2:25-26;
(v.4) ** the shew-bread. Exod 25:30; Lev 24:5-9; ** but. Exod 29:32-33; Lev 8:31; Lev 24:9;
(v.5) ** on. Num 28:9-10; John 7:22-23; ** profane. Neh 13:17; Ezek 24:21;
My Yoke Is Easy
"For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
A recent email that came to me listed some of the author's favorite quotes. Among them was this: "Following the path of least resistance is what causes both rivers and men to be crooked." People tend to take whatever path of life seems to be the easiest, and that almost certainly brings trouble.
Jesus never intended us to think that coming to Him was the path of least resistance. He constantly warned His disciples about the hatred and persecution that they would suffer for His name's sake. (Mt 23:34; Lk21:12; Jo 15:18-21) However, persecutions and hatred are not the products of our relationship with Jesus. They are the products of a world full of sinners, who cannot face the truths of God. Those who live in darkness cannot stand the light and they will make its path difficult for others to follow.
In this verse, Matthew used the Greek word "chrestos" which is translated as "easy," but does not seem to have a good equivalent in the English language. Its original meaning was "good, serviceable". It was also used to mean "wholesome" and "kind." In this passage all three meanings, "wholesome, serviceable, kind," are combined in the word.
The yoke, as we said previously, is an allusion to the burdens of the Mosaic laws and the Jewish Rabbinical laws, but we must not confuse these two.
The Mosaic laws were given as the absolute inerrant word of God. These laws were designed to instruct us in the ways of righteous living, to keep Israel safe from disease and idolatry, and to demonstrate the depravity of mankind. These Old Testament laws provided swift and merciless punishment and condemnation for those who violated them.
The rabbinical laws, on the other hand, were man made. They violated the sanctity of God's laws by adding to them. (Pr 30:5-6: Rev22:18) The burdens of obedience were increased a hundredfold by these ill conceived additions. As a result, many were discouraged from seeking any relationship with God.
The manner in which the Jews administered both sets of laws was cold and without any mercy. The self-righteousness of its administrators blinded them to their own sins and their own need to be compassionate, so that the yoke which they imposed was unwholesome, unserviceable, and unkind.
Jesus said, "My yoke is wholesome!" It is the ultimate in goodness. Put on His yoke and you put on the garments of His righteousness. You are crucified with Christ so that He lives in you and you will live according to His faith, which is saving faith, instead of by your own.(Ga 2:20) What more wholesome life can you have than to have Christ living in you?
"My yoke is serviceable." Jesus' yoke, unlike that of the law, is one that is capable of providing service. It helps the one who carries it to accomplish his tasks. It is the yoke that provides the strength needed to wear it. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear.." (Ps 46:1-2a) It is a yoke that comes with many wonderful promises…… to always be with us, to provide for all our needs, and to give us eternal life. The yoke of Jesus also makes those who bear it capable of serving the rest of humanity through Jesus Christ.
"My yoke is kind." Unlike the law which condemned without pardon, the yoke of Jesus provides a pardon from all condemnation. It is kindly and forgiving, a characteristic that is born by all who wear the yoke.
Jesus' calls us not to the path of least resistance, but to the one with the lightest burdens. Surely we shall meet with all sorts of troubles and resistance to our faith, but we have been given so light a burden that the path will be easy by comparison.
Before The Throne:
What kind of load do you carry? Pray that God will give you Jesus' yoke to bear. It is the yoke of the cross. Ask for His help in lifting it. Pray for a wholesome life, for a useful life, and for a kind and forgiving attitude toward others. Praise Him for making your load so easy to bear.
For Further Study:
(v.30) ** my yoke. Prov 3:17; Mic 6:8; Acts 15:10, 28; Gal 5:1, 18; 1John 5:3; ** burden. John 16:33; 2Cor 1:4-5; 2Cor 4:17; 2Cor 12:9-10; Phil 4:13;
Take My Yoke
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
The expression, "the yoke of the kingdom of heaven," was a common rabbinical phrase in Jesus' day. It was used to teach the principle that man had to place himself under the rule of God and to walk in obedience to His law. So, it would seem almost paradoxical that Jesus would call all those, who labor and are heavy laden under the burdens of the law (v. 28), into His rest, and then say, "Take my yoke upon you…" Every person, however, is a servant. The sinner is the servant of sin (Jn 8:34) and is unable to secure his own release. On the other hand, the Christian is the property of Christ, purchased at a high price (1 Cor 6:19-20; 7:23). He is the servant of Jesus Christ (Rom 1:1 et al), but it is in His service that the Christian finds true freedom…. the freedom to be everything that he was intended to be.
"Take my yoke…" is a call to discipleship. Jesus was the Master Teacher and He continues to teach everyone who desires knowledge, even to this day. The yoke that He calls us to carry is the yoke of opportunity…..opportunity to obtain knowledge of the truth and of the mysteries of God. It is this knowledge and truth that, although you are under the yoke of divine service, gives you real freedom. (John 8:32)
Why should we pick up the yoke of discipleship? Jesus gives us two reasons.
First, He says that He is "meek and lowly in heart." These characteristics are seen by His deeds. He left His sovereign glory to become a lowly creature like us. He submitted Himself to every ordinance of God. Walking the countryside teaching and healing others, He had no place to lay His own head. Even His triumphal entry into Jerusalem was done on the back of a lowly donkey. He was beaten and spit upon, ridiculed and laughed at, crucified and run through with a Roman spear, but never once responded with violence nor even an angry word.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." (Mat 5:3-5) Jesus exemplified the characteristics of the people who will occupy both heaven and earth when He returns to claim His throne. Discipleship insures us that we will be there too.
Meekness and lowliness are difficult traits for us to exhibit when we are up in the spotlight. We worked hard to feed the hungry, we studied diligently to teach Sunday School every week, we practiced and practiced to sing that gospel song. Isn't it natural to feel proud of our accomplishments? Can we handle it when many shake our hand to tell us how well we did the job? Can we be meek and humble when a fellow Christian is not performing at our level and is hampering our hard work? Can we put self aside and encourage others or do we manipulate and discourage, in order to make them go away and keep the praises coming our way?
Think back about the times when poor performance vs. pride has been a problem in the ministry of your church. Can you remember how unpleasant that situation was? Can you still feel the tension? That is the yoke of legalism. It is the Pharisaical expectation of perfection from another who is incapable of it. That poor person is like the sinner in God's creation. The Pharisees discourage and get rid of the person. Jesus died for him.
The second reason to follow Jesus in discipleship is "to find rest unto your souls." Meek and lowly people do not create the kind of tension that we are speaking about. They are peace makers. Their eyes are focused on the peaceful forgiving nature of Jesus, and their souls are rested from the tensions, hatred, pride, resentment and other problems of the world around them.
"Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." (John 6:29) Now that is not a very heavy yoke to carry, especially when you have been trying to live up to the expectations of men. Come and learn and receive your rest.
Before The Throne:
Pray that Jesus would begin to disciple you in the art of meekness and lowliness. Confess your pride and self-centered attitude and seek forgiveness. Pray for a heart that is sacrificial, loving, and understanding of others. Praise God and thank Him for the example that He has set before you in the person of Jesus Christ.
For Further Study:
(v.29) ** my. Matt 7:24; Matt 17:5; John 13:17; John 14:21-24; John 15:10-14; 1Cor 9:21; 2Cor 10:5; 1Thess 4:2; 2Thess 1:8; Heb 5:9; ** and learn. Matt 11:27; Matt 28:20; Luke 6:46-48; Luke 8:35; Luke 10:39-42; John 13:15; Acts 3:22-23; Acts 7:37; Eph 4:20-21; Phil 2:5; 1John 2:6; **for. Matt 12:19-20; Matt 21:5; Num 12:3; Ps 131:1; Isa 42:1-4; Zech 9:9; Luke 9:51-56; 2Cor 10:1; Phil 2:7-8; 1Pet 2:21-23; ** and ye. Matt 11:28; Jer 6:16; Heb 4:3-11;
Come and Rest
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Here is an invitation that exists nowhere else in the New Testament. Jesus, the eternal God, Creator, and Author of our salvation invites us to come "to" Him. All of the other invitations in the New Testament are to "come after" Him and to "follow" Him. Only here are we invited to come to Him.
When we are invited to follow after Him, the invitation implies that we are to copy His lifestyle, share in His work, and obey His commandments. Coming to Him, however, is a much more intimate act. When we come to Jesus, we become one with Him (John 17:21-24) and one with the Father. Our lives are hidden in God with Christ (Col. 3:3).
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,…." The word "all" is inclusive of all peoples, Jews and Gentiles. The kingdom of heaven makes no cultural nor racial distinctions.
The invitation is limited, however, to those that "labour and are heavy burdened." This refers to all of those people who are under the burdens of religious laws and, having repented of their sins, are working laboriously to abide by the rules of their religion. It applies to those who are honestly seeking God's approval, but admit their continuous failures.
Every heathen and false religion, including the Jewish religion, requires its followers to "earn" their salvation. Those who are sincere will labour tediously to comply with the rules and ordinances of their religion, but can never be good enough to enter into the kingdom of God. Therefore, they struggle under a burden that is too heavy to bear. They are like the people of Israel laboring under the burden of Egyptian slavery. No matte rhow much they did, it was not sufficient to earn their freedom. To all of these, Jesus calls, "Come to Me!"
"And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest."(Exodus 33:14) Rest! It is the great reward for being in the presence of God. The burdens of our sinful human nature are taken away by our Lord Jesus Christ. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."(Romans 8:1) The burden of the fear of condemnation is lifted from those who are "in Christ Jesus," from those who have come to Him.
You can be a deacon or elder in your church; or you might be the minister of music; or perhaps you are a choir member or the guitarist in the praise band; you might even be the pastor of a church, but if you believe that you need to follow some rules, obey some commandments, practice certain rituals, or achieve certain levels of spirituality before you can get to heaven, your burden is too heavy. You are lost in sin, a slave with no hope of eternal rest.
Jesus invites you to come to Him. Regardless of how much you have sinned, He offers you forgiveness and freedom from the burdens of the law. This is not a license to sin, but a pardon for when you fail. The burden of eternal punishment will be immediately lifted from your shoulders, and your faith will be your justification. You will be able to rest in Christ, being clothed in His righteousness.
Before The Throne:
Ask God to help you shed the guilt of sin. Ask Him to lift the burdens of religious conformity and to set you free. Pray for a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Ask for the opportunity to show others what it means to come to Jesus and shed their burdens. Praise Him for the rest He has given you.
For Further Study:
(v.28) ** Come. Isa 45:22-25; Isa 53:2-3; Isa 55:1-3; John 6:37; John 7:37; Rev 22:17; ** all. Matt 23:4; Gen 3:17-19; Job 5:7; Job 14:1; Ps 32:4; Ps 38:4; Ps 90:7-10; Eccl 1:8, 14; Eccl 2:22-23; Eccl 4:8; Isa 1:4; Isa 61:3; Isa 66:2; Mic 6:6-8; Acts 15:10; Rom 7:22-25; Gal 5:1; ** and I.Matt 11:29; Ps 94:13; Ps 116:7; Isa 11:10; Isa 28:12; Isa 48:17-18; Jer 6:16; 2Thess 1:7; Heb 4:1;
You Can Know Him
27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
How do you know Jesus? Do you think of Him as a great teacher and philosopher, who lived 2000 years ago? Perhaps you think of Him as a man sent by God, a great prophet who taught us the word of God. When you pray to Him, are you aware that He is a real person, listening to you and acting upon your requests? Or do you view Him as the eternal God, as John did in the famous opening to His gospel?
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made."(John 1:1-3)
As the eternal Creator, all things belong to Him. Jesus Christ, the man, however, gave up all the advantages of a heavenly existence, in order to be on earth and to save His people. To Him, God delivered everything.
God delivered the authority over all people to Jesus. He delivered the angels, both good and bad, the elect of God, the mysteries of God's grace, the treasures of heaven, all knowledge and wisdom, judgment, forgiveness, and the promises of God.
Jesus also received all of the power of heaven. The Father returned to Him both the creative and destructive forces of an eternal Creator. The power to execute justice, to reward good, to dissolve the earth in a fervent heat, and to create a new heaven and earth. More importantly, He has been given the power to change the hearts and lives of people and to deliver the gift of eternal life.
Is your Jesus too small? The above description of Him is inadequate. We cannot limit His attributes by a simple man made list of powers and authorities. He is infinite and beyond our understanding, the incarnate revelation of the Divine.
"And no man knoweth the Son but the Father." He and the Father are one…."and the word was God." Who can know Him? Who can even understand the concept of Trinity, and Godhead, and the incarnation? The Psalmist wrote, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it." (Ps 139:6)
Likewise we might ask, "Who could know the Father?" The sovereign God to whom Jesus prayed in the previous passage; the God who can blind someone to the truth and open the eyes of others; the God who knows every hair on the head of every one of the billions of people on this earth, who is involved in the birth and death of even the tiniest sparrow, and who plans the weather and controls its storms.
Answering our questions before we thought of them, Jesus said that only the Father can know the Son, and only the Son can know the Father. They are one, and the one must reveal the other.
Jesus was, as we said, the incarnation of God. He had the authority and the power to reveal the Father to us. Through Jesus Christ we can know the Father. He has opened the throne room for us to enter anytime we want. He has sent the Holy Spirit to act as comforter and teacher and to give us understanding of the things of God. He is our Mediator proclaiming our righteousness and healing our relationship with the Father.
Perhaps there are still many things that we do not understand, but we know God better now than any men have since Adam. Through Jesus Christ, we can have a relationship with the Father, and relationships are the key to knowing someone.
Before The Throne:
Pray about your relationship with God. Seek to ever know Him better. If you do not have a relationship with Him, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:"
For Further Study:
(v.27) ** are. Matt 28:18; John 3:35; John 5:21-29; John 13:3; John 17:2; 1Cor 15:25-27; Eph 1:20-23; Phil 2:10-11; Heb 2:8-10; 1Pet 3:22; ** no man. Luke 10:22; John 10:15; ** neither. John 1:18; John 6:46; John 10:15; John 14:6-9; John 17:2-3, 6, 25-26; 1John 2:23; 1John 5:19-20; 2Jo 1:9;
It Is Good!
25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. 26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.
If you want to really get to know someone, have prayer with them regularly. Prayer is such an intimate thing in which our soul is bared to God and there is nothing hidden. The veils of hypocrisy are torn down, because God sees through them. Praying with someone helps us to understand the real passions of their heart.
What a treat it is for us, then, to be able to listen in on even a short prayer offered by our Lord Jesus Christ.
"At that time Jesus answered and said…." The time being referred to is after Jesus had taught and preached in "their cities" (11:1) and when He had warned them about their unbelief (11:20-24). At that time He answered His own statements. The phrase "answered and said" was a Jewish expression that did not necessarily need anything before it which could be answered. Jesus was answering His own frustrations with the people of these cities.
"I thank thee,…" He said to His Father.
There will be times in the ministry of every Christian when frustrations will seem to come endlessly, one after another. People may seem hard and unreceptive to what we are doing. Ministers, teachers, worship leaders and the witness on the street can feel like the people are not responding spiritually to the work they have been called to do. Instrumentalists can feel like they are not wanted, appreciated, or needed …… especially in this age of recorded music.
"I thank thee, O Father…." expresses the heart of Jesus in such moments. For us, it should be an example of the proper Christian attitude. Why?……Because it is the Father's will that these things occur. God's will is what is right, although we may not understand.
Jesus acknowledged His Father's sovereignty over all things as the "Lord of heaven and earth." That includes all things. There is nothing outside the power of God. There is nothing that can happen without Him either causing it or allowing it. Everything that happens is being used to fulfill the purpose of God's master plan.
"I thank thee, O Father …" shows us Jesus' willingness to submit to God's will in all things. How can we thank God for rejection, for failure, and for frustrations in our daily ministries? We must have submissive hearts. Our thoughts must be willing to yield to His thoughts. His purpose must become our purpose. Then we can say, "I thank you , O Father," and mean every word of it.
Jesus thanked God for hiding the truth from the wise and the prudent. Perhaps He understood why God did that. I don't understand it, but I know that Satan has no power to thwart the evangelistic efforts of God's children and especially not those of His Son Jesus Christ. If people do not respond to our ministries, we are either teaching false doctrine, or for some reason it is not God's will for them to understand. He is sovereign even over the salvation of His people.
The childlike and simple people of this world receive the gospel message. Some might say that this is proof of how nonsensical the gospel is. "No intelligent person would believe such bunk!" But we know that it is not a matter of intelligence, but of grace. "For so it seemed good in Thy sight."
Before The Throne:
What is good in God's sight is worthy to be praised. Take your problem's and frustrations to Him right now and give Him the thanks that He deserves. Acknowledge that he is in control. Ask Him to forgive you for being overly absorbed in your problems and not in the understanding and acceptance of His will.
For Further Study:
(v.25) ** Jesus. Lu 10:21-24; ** I thank. 1Chr 29:13; Dan 2:23; John 11:41; 2Thess 2:13-14; ** Lord. Gen 14:19, 22; Deut 10:14-15; 2Kgs 19:15; Isa 66:1; Dan 4:35; Acts 17:24; ** because. Matt 13:11-16; Isa 5:21; Isa 29:10-14, 18, 19; Mark 4:10-12; John 7:48-49; John 9:39-41; John 12:38-40; Rom 11:8-10; 1Cor 1:18-29; 1Cor 2:6-8; 1Cor 3:18-20; 2Cor 3:14; 2Cor 4:3-6; ** and hast. Matt 16:17; Matt 18:3; Matt 18:4; Matt 21:16; 1Sam 2:18; 1Sam 3:4-21; Ps 8:2; Jer 1:5-8
Mark 10:14-16; 1Cor 1:27;
(v.26) ** for. Job 33:13; Isa 46:10; Luke 10:21; Rom 9:18; Rom 11:33-36; Eph 1:9, 11; Eph 3:11; 2Ti 1:9;
20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: 21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.
One of the great political debates of our day has focused on whether or not the proper role for the United States is to be the world's policeman. There is no doubt that we could muster up sufficient military power for the job, but being a policeman requires more than brute force.
In order to administer justice, a society must have a good sense of right and wrong. A close look at ourselves will show just the opposite. With over thirty million unborn babies slaughtered for our convenience, government supported gambling in nearly every state, wide acceptance of perverted sexual preferences, popular music that urges young people to kill policemen, and a seemingly insatiable hunger to watch sex and violence on TV and in other media, we hardly qualify as a people who know right from wrong.
Sin is a disease that spreads until it affects whole societies. It has now overcome the people of United States. Therefore, if the greatest nation in history has become morally disqualified from administering justice, what hope does the world have?
Jesus was concerned, not only with individual sin, but also with the plagues of sin that were infecting the cities of His day. We do not know where Chorazin was, but Bethsaida was the home town of Andrew and Peter, and Capernaum was the place where Jesus seems to have lived. These cities were warned by Him that their failure to repent would result in severe punishment in the court of the only One qualified to be the world's policeman and judge, God Himself.
By comparing them to the most wicked of all the cities, Jesus was able to emphasize the seriousness of what He was saying. These cities were idolatrous societies where every sin imaginable was accepted and practiced openly. Even the Jewish people, as wicked as they were, recognized the depravity of these heathen cities and they knew what God had done to Sodom.
Jesus pointed out the great advantage that the Jewish cities enjoyed. They had seen many miraculous things from Jesus. They had heard His preaching, seen lepers healed, watched as demons were cast out, and known the blind who were now able to see. Yet they rejected Jesus and His message. If the heathen cities had seen these things, their people would have repented.
Justice, however, will be done on earth. Jesus said that there will be a Day of Judgment in which entire societies will be judged. Yes, even many people who think themselves to be good folks will suffer the judgment of God. Each of us is a part of the society in which we live. We cannot be idle bystanders. We cannot be tolerant of sin, but are expected by Jesus to speak out.
No passage could emphasize this more dramatically than Ezekiel 9:4-6: "And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary."
Woe unto you, United States of America. You have had many advantages that even the cities addressed by Jesus did not have. You have been given accurate historical records of not just a few, but of many miracles which Jesus performed. You have been given the New Testament to explain the significance of Jesus and His work. You have knowledge of His death and resurrection and have been invited to partake of His mercy and grace. Since you have received so much more than others, much more will be expected of you.
Before The Throne:
Pray for the people and leaders of your country, your state, and city. Ask for godly leadership. Ask God to bring revival before it is too late. Pray that you will have the courage to speak out against the sins of your society and to spread the gospel of hope through Jesus Christ and Him alone.
For Further Study:
(v.20) ** began. Lu 10:13-15; ** upbraid. Ps 81:11-13; Isa 1:2-5; Mic 6:1-5; Mark 9:19; Mark 16:14; Jas 1:5: ** because. Matt 12:41; Matt 21:28-32; Jer 8:6; Acts 17:20; 2Tim 2:25-26; Rev 2:21; Rev 9:20-21; Rev 16:9, 11;
(v.21) ** Woe. Matt 18:7; Matt 23:13-29; Matt 26:24; Jer 13:27; Luke 11:42-52; Jude 1:11; ** Bethsaida. Mark 6:45; Mark 8:22; Luke 9:10; John 1:44; John 12:21; ** for. Matt 12:41-42; Ezek 3:6-7; Acts 13:44-48; Acts 28:25-28; ** repented. Job 42:6; John 3:5-10;
(v.22) ** It shall. Matt 10:15; Luke 10:14; Luke 12:47-48; Heb 2:3; Heb 6:4-8; Heb 10:26-31; ** Tyre. Isa 23:1-18; Jer 25:22; Jer 27:3; Ezek 26:1-28; Ezek 29:18; Amos 1:9-10; Zech 9:2-3; ** the day. Matt 12:36; 2Pet 2:9; 2Pet 3:7; 1John 4:17;
(v.23) ** Capernaum. Matt 4:13; Matt 8:5; Matt 17:24; Luke 4:23; John 4:46-54; ** which art. Isa 14:13-15; Lam 2:1; Ezek 28:12-19; Ezek 31:16-17; Obad 1:4; Luke 14:11; 2Pe 2:4-9; ** in Sodom. Gen 13:13; Gen 19:24; Gen 19:25; Ezek 16:48-50; Jude 1:7; Rev 11:8;
(v.24) ** more. Matt 10:15; Lam 4:6; Mark 6:11; Luke 10:12;
Will You Dance?
16 But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, 17 And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. 19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
As church service leaves
out on Sunday morning, the people begin to gather on the front lawn in small groups of family and friends. Everyone is smiling and laughter is abundant. Walking between them, I can overhear pieces of their conversations. One group is talking about their farms, another about the afternoon football game, ladies are telling about what is cooking in the crock pot for dinner, and others about a problem at their business.
There is no mention of God, no outward sign that anything had happened in the worship service to change their lives, and no sense that they had encountered God just moments before. Life will go on as usual this week.
"But whereunto shall I liken this generation?" Jesus asked. "What am I to think of them? What could they be compared to?" John was in prison, his disciples had come to Jesus on his behalf, and the people seemed to be unconcerned, gossiping perhaps, and unresponsive to both John's and Jesus' messages. "What kind of people are you?"
It is natural for children to imitate the things that they see adults do. In those days, the biggest events in a Jewish child's life were weddings and funerals. Jesus compared the people to children who played in the market place while their parents shopped. One would pretend to be the piper, while the others would imitate the dances they had seen the adults doing at weddings. Or, perhaps, one would mourn like a professional mourner at a funeral, while the other children would follow and do the same, just as they had seen the adults do.
In this parable, Jesus represents the child who piped for the others to dance. His innocence was as a child. His message was one of mercy, forgiveness, joy and hope. He preached good news for all men, a message that should have brought joyous responses from the other children ……. but, no one danced. No one was responding to what He had to say. Imagine the child who pretends to play his pipe so that the others could dance, but everyone ignores him.
There are too many churches where the children do not dance anymore. (I am speaking metaphorically, of course.) The people hear the piper and ignore the message. Untouched by the joy of what God has done for them through Jesus Christ, they leave worship and go about their business as usual. Jesus is ignored.
John on the other hand was like the child imitating the professional mourner. He preached about the sins of the people. He reminded them of the consequences of sin, calling them to come and to mourn for what they had done. He commanded them to be baptized as a sign of their repentance ………but no one mourned. There were none who felt the sorrows of sin. They were having too much fun.
We do not respond to Jesus, because we have not responded to John and the other prophets, who have warned us of our sins. Jesus brings us forgiveness, but only if we first respond to the mourners. Our hearts must be such that we can acknowledge our sin, understand its dire consequences, and be truly sorrowful for the condemnation that we have brought on ourselves. Only then will the music of the piper cause us to dance. Only then can we truly appreciate the joy of God's marvelous grace.
John lived a very austere lifestyle, demonstrating the seriousness of his message. Repentance meant putting aside the distractions of life in order to focus ourselves on God. Jesus came eating and drinking without guilt or shame, representing the freedom from the burdens of sin that He would offer His people. Both were criticized.
God has given us Baptist churches, Presbyterian churches, Lutheran churches, Pentecostal churches, and many other denominations. Each as different as Jesus and John in their approach to the ministry, but no one responds. We have high church, blended worship, and contemporary worship services, but the world criticizes them all.
Oh, their pews might be full on Sunday morning, but are the people dancing in the joy of God's salvation, or at least mourning about their sins and seeking forgiveness. Listen to what they talk about as you leave church this Sunday……Or will you be too busy discussing the offensive line of your favorite team?
"But wisdom is justified of her children." Jesus is the wisdom of God, (Proverbs
While the world may reject Him, His righteousness, love, mercy, forgiveness, salvation and joy are evidenced in those who receive Him and respond to His call.
Before The Throne:
Pray for our churches. Ask God to help the people respond to the message that they bring. Ask Him to put the power of the Holy Spirit behind your preacher and behind your own hymns and songs. Pray that He would meet with you personally during worship this week and fill you with a joy that will overflow onto others all week long.
For Further Study:
** whereunto. Lam 2:13; Mark 4:30; Luke 13:18; ** this. Matt 12:34; Matt 23:36; Matt 24:34; ** It is. Lu 7:31-35;
** We. Isa 28:9-13; 1Cor 9:19-23; ** piped. Matt 9:15, 23; 1Kgs 1:40; Isa 30:29; Jer 9:17-20; Jer 31:4; Luke 15:25;
** We. Isa 28:9-13; 1Cor 9:19-23; ** piped. Matt 9:15, 23; 1Kgs 1:40; Isa 30:29; Jer 9:17-20; Jer 31:4; Luke 15:25;
** came. Luke 5:29-30; Luke 7:34, 36; Luke 14:1; John 2:2; John 12:2-8; Rom 15:2; ** a friend. Matt 9:10-11; Luke 15:1-2; Luke 19:7; ** But. Ps 92:5-6; Prov 17:24; Luke 7:29, 35; 1Cor 1:24-29; Eph 3:8-10; Rev 5:11-14; Rev 7:12;
The Turning Point
11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. 15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
History has taken many strange turns during the few thousand years for which we have a written record. There have been changes in world powers. Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire, the United States, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union are just a few of the governments that have changed the course of history. History has also recorded great social changes, agricultural changes, economic changes, and scientific changes.
In our passage for today, however, Jesus teaches about the greatest turning point in all of history, the change in the dispensation of God from the law of the Old Testament to the grace of the New Testament. He began with the word "Verily," which is the way He always began when He was about to say something very important. The first part of His defense of John's ministry was based on the fulfillment of written prophecy (v.10). Now, He would introduce something new and very important.
Jesus declared that John was the greatest of all men born until that time,. Of all the Old Testament prophets, only John had the privilege and the responsibility for announcing the arrival of the Messiah. "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."
John's introduction finished an era. From this point forward, there would be a new message preached. The new message would emphasize grace, love, forgiveness, and hope. It would grant men the opportunity to find freedom from their life of sins and from the condemnation of the law.
As great as John the Baptist was in relation to the other prophets, however, he could not compare to even the least of the preachers who would spread the new gospel. These statements were not about John as an individual, of course, but about the message that was to be spread. Care must be taken not to think of John as an outsider. He certainly gained entrance to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is speaking only in terms of the impact of the ministry. John ended an era of prophetic warnings and promises of the Messiah. The new preachers would be delivering the message of grace that had been promised.
There are four different ways to interpret verse 12. Each interpretation has its own impressive list of knowledgeable supporters. Interested readers will have to take the time to investigate the passage in more detail, since I will only explain the one that seems most reasonable to me.
Since John baptized and introduced Jesus as the Messiah, there had arisen a great deal of opposition to both Jesus and the doctrines that He preached. The kingdom of heaven, as it existed on earth, was under constant attack. John the Baptist was the first of its martyrs. Imprisoned for preaching the truth about Herod's illicit affair with his sister-in-law, John would eventually be beheaded. The violent were attempting to take the kingdom by force, in order to preserve the old established customs of religious ritual.
Jesus did not meet the expectations that the Jewish people had for the Messiah. They certainly did not expect him to suffer and die on the cross. Neither did they expect someone to come in the place of Elijah, but John was the fulfillment of that prophecy. He came in the spirit and power of Elijah. Neither was Elijah expected to end his ministry in the dungeon of a Roman governor.
"And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come." We twenty-first century Christians are still a part of that historical turning point. Each of us has a message far greater than John's and of the prophets before him. The Messiah has come. He has died, has taken away the sins of all those who will receive Him, and now sits at the right hand of the Father where He intercedes for each one of us.
History has turned the corner from law to grace and there is just one more turn to make at the second coming of our Lord. We have a message to deliver to the world, an opportunity to share in the writing of a new chapter, an introduction to eternity. Don't sit in the church pew and watch this opportunity pass you by. Go out and make disciples for Christ.
Before The Throne:
Although the kingdom is still under attack, pray that you will have the faith to continue the work of your Savior. Ask for the boldness to speak out and the courage to stand in the face of danger. Ask God to prepare the hearts of those to whom you witness and pray that He will provide you with the words that will have the greatest impact on their lives.
For Further Study:
(v.11) ** born. Job 14:1, 4; Job 15:14; Job 25:4; Ps 51:5; Eph 2:3; ** a greater. Matt 3:11; 1Sam 2:30; Luke 1:15; Luke 7:28; John 5:35; ** he that. Matt 5:19; Isa 30:26; Zech 12:8; Luke 9:48; John 1:15, 27; John 3:30; 1Cor 6:4; 1Cor 15:9; Eph 3:8; ** greater. John 7:39; John 10:41; Rom 16:25-26; Col 1:26-27; 2Tim 1:10; Heb 11:40; 1Pe 1:10;
(v.12) ** from. Matt 21:23-32; Luke 7:29-30; Luke 13:24; Luke 16:16; John 6:27; Eph 6:11-13; Php 2:12;
(v.13) ** Matt 5:17-18; Mal 4:6; Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:46-47; Acts 3:22-24; Acts 13:27; Ro 3:21;
(v.14) ** if. Ezek 2:5; Ezek 3:10-11; John 16:12; 1Cor 3:2; ** this. Matt 17:10-13; Mal 4:5; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:17; John 1:21-23; Rev 20:4;
(v.15) ** Matt 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; Mark 7:16; Luke 8:8; Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29; Rev 3:6, 13, 22;
Why Did You Go?
7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
There is something in the human nature, some kind of wickedness, that gives us pleasure when another person's flaws are exposed. This seems to be especially true when that person is well known or has exhibited some form of greatness. We love scandal and gossip.
Jesus understood what was going through the minds of the crowd when John the Baptist's disciples came to Him to publicly question His identity. We can only imagine the gossip that was being passed along. "Even John, who baptized Him, doesn't believe that He is the Messiah." Or, "See how weak John's faith was? He has already begun to doubt."
Jesus waited until John's disciples had gone, so that His defense of John would not appear to be mere flattery. He began by asking the crowd what their motives were for going to John, in the first place. Did they go out to see a reed shaken with the wind? The reed was a symbol of strength and permanence in their culture. The rains and the winds could come and, when the storms ceased, trees may have been brought down and buildings damaged, but the reed would still be standing straight. Did they go to John to hear the truth preached or to find fault with a great preacher?
Or did they go to see someone who dressed fancily and put on a good show of righteousness? Why would they go into the wilderness to find him? If that is what they wanted, they were in the wrong place. John lived in the wilderness and dressed in the appropriate clothing. He wasn't trying to draw attention to himself, but to the One who was better than himself.
We might ask these same questions of those who enter our worship services today. "Why do you come? Are you there to gossip, start a scandal, or find fault with the preacher? Perhaps you come because you think it is expected of you by your family and friends. Or do you come to hear the message that God has prepared for you?"
Some people go to church because it is a place to flaunt their fashions, make important business acquaintances, or to present themselves as more righteous than others. They reject those who come "improperly dressed" and certainly would not accept a preacher who came dressed in rough clothing that was more appropriate for a wilderness camp out.
"Do you go to church to worship and hear the word being preached or because you have to play the piano or sing in the choir? Are you there to demonstrate your righteousness, to put yourself on display and flaunt your 'holiness', or to draw attention to the Messiah, Jesus Christ?"
Jesus asked the people if they went to see a prophet? Is that the spectacle that drew them to John? Did they want to be able to tell their grandchildren that they had seen a great prophet? Whatever it was that brought them to John, they missed the real benefit of going to see him.
We might go to see Billy Graham or some other world renowned evangelist. If that is our reason for going, the chances are that we too will miss the real benefit that God has prepared.
John was more than a prophet. He was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi 3:1. That prophecy was pointing the way, not to the messenger in the wilderness, but to the Messiah whom he would serve. Billy Graham and other evangelists are more than great preachers. They are faithful messengers fulfilling the prophecies concerning those who would lead others to Christ. These men are the miracle of a God who is working through them to accomplish His will.
Jesus will defend the integrity of His servants. Though John expressed a doubt and revealed a human flaw in himself, he was personally chosen by God to accomplish His purpose. Therefore, no man had any right nor reason to criticize him. Human weaknesses are not to be our focus. We must come to church for one reason and one reason only….. to experience the wonder working power of God. If we use worship time to focus on the qualities or flaws of men, we are the losers.
Before The Throne:
Pray for a cleansing of your own heart. Ask God to help you lay your prejudices and selfish motives aside, so that your focus might be on Him. Pray for your pastor and church leaders, asking God to keep them humble and to use them for His purpose.
For Further Study:
(v.7) ** Jesus. Lu 7:24-30; ** What. Matt 3:1-3, 5; Matt 21:25; Mark 1:3-5; Luke 3:3-7; Luke 8:18; John 1:38; John 5:35; ** A reed.
Gen 49:4; 2Cor 1:17-18; Eph 4:14; Jas 1:6;
(v.8 ) ** A man. Matt 3:4; 2Kgs 1:8; Isa 20:2; Zech 13:4; 1Cor 4:11; 2Cor 11:27; Rev 11:3;
(v.9) ** A prophet. Matt 11:13-14; Matt 14:5; Matt 17:12-13; Matt 21:24-26; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:15-17, 76;
(v.10) ** Matt 3:3; Isa 40:3; Mal 3:1; Mal 4:5; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:26-27; John 1:23;
Dealing With Doubt
1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. 2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, 3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? 4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
Has there ever been a Christian who did not struggle with moments of doubt? We all have had that slight twinge of fear or doubt when we were called to do something for which we felt unqualified or to do something that we felt is risky. We have doubted when faced with failure, illness, or what seemed to be problems without solutions.
You might have doubted when having to teach a Bible class or to lead worship with insufficient time to prepare. Perhaps opposition to your ministry or dissention within the ministry has caused you to question whether Jesus was really on your side.
It seems everyone has doubted at one time or another. Jesus' disciples often struggled with doubts. They all deserted Him in the final hours before He was nailed to the cross. Even His brothers and sister did not believe in Him until after the resurrection.
In our passage, we have the opportunity to see how John the Baptist struggled with some important questions, and how Jesus answered Him. If we apply Jesus' answer to our own circumstances, it will be easier for us to overcome our doubts.
The first verse is probably best looked at as being the last verse of the previous chapter. After giving His disciples adequate instructions, warnings, advice, and assurances, He sent them on their missions. Jesus, was not a leader who thought of His leadership as a means of piling all the work onto His disciples, so, when they departed, He went straight to work Himself. He went to "their cities" to teach and to preach. We are not certain to whose cities this refers. Some think that He went behind the disciples, allowing them to prepare the way for Him much as John the Baptist did.
Shortly, however, two of John's disciples came to Jesus to question Him on John's behalf. John was in the prison of Machaerus, having been put there by Herod. We are told that John had heard of Jesus' miraculous works. Surely this news was encouraging and one of the few sources of joy that John had in prison.
Nevertheless, he developed some doubts and needed the assurance of Jesus Himself. If Jesus was the Messiah, why did He leave His servant to suffer in prison? If He was the one the people had been longing for, why did He not seem to be preparing to conquer and to rule? Hardship, solitude, rumor, and alienation must have borne down heavily on John. The Bible never covers up nor excuses the human flaws of its heroes, so it tells us that John sent two disciples to Jesus.
"Are you he that should come?" This was a common way of referring to the Messiah. John obviously had no doubt in God, nor in His faithfulness to send the Messiah. He simply wanted the assurance that he was suffering for the real thing. Was Jesus truly the Messiah? If He wasn't, the disciples indicated that John and they would continue looking for the Messiah.
Jesus' answer to John's disciples was that they should go and relate to John the things that they had seen and heard from Him. However, He said it with short quotes from the scriptures. Compare verse 5 with Isaiah 35:4-6 and 61:1. Jesus said to compare what they saw happening with the prophecies in God's word. That is the standard by which we must learn to judge all things.
Jesus had opened the eyes of the blind (Matthew 9:30), had caused the lame to walk (Matthew 9:2,6,7), had healed the lepers (Matthew 8:3), had caused the deaf to hear (Mark 7:33-35) and had raised the dead (Matthew 9:18,25: Luke 7:15). The question for John was whether there was any beside the Messiah who would or could fulfill all these things. If not, then Jesus was He.
It is important to us as Christians to be able to look beyond our doubts. We should look at what God has done and compare them with scripture. God's word is the standard by which all things must be judged. When you have doubts about your ministry, read the scriptures. Is there anything else that God has said you should be doing? Can you find prophecies which have not been accurately fulfilled or any of God's promises that have been broken?
We should also feel comfortable taking our doubts to Jesus in prayer, just as John's disciples did. Jesus is always available to us. He said that He would never leave us and that we may enter boldly into the throne of grace to obtain help. Take your doubts and fears to Him right now. He will help you to find the assurances you need and the courage and faith to continue your work.
Before The Throne:
Confess your doubts to the Lord. Ask Him to forgive you and to provide the assurance that you need to continue in your walk with Him. Ask Him to help you to walk by faith and not by sight. Pray that the circumstances in this world will never distract you from seeking that which is above. Thank Him for all the assurances that He has already provided to you through His word.
For Further Study:
(v.1) ** commanding. Matt 28:20; John 15:10, 14; Acts 1:2; Acts 10:42; 1Thess 4:2; 2Thess 3:6, 10; 1Tim 6:14; ** he departed. Matt 4:23; Matt 9:35; Isa 61:1-3; Mark 1:38-39; Luke 4:15-21; Luke 8:1; Acts 10:38;
(v.2) ** in. Matt 4:12; Matt 14:3; Mark 6:17; Luke 3:19; Luke 7:18-23; John 3:24; ** he. Matt 9:14; John 3:25-28; John 4:1; Acts 19:1-3;
(v.3) ** Art. Matt 2:2-6; Gen 3:15; Gen 12:3; Gen 49:10; Num 24:17; Deut 18:15-18; Ps 2:6-12; Ps 110:1-5; Isa 7:14; Isa 9:6-7; Jer 23:5-6; Ezek 34:23-24; Dan 9:24-26; Hos 3:5; Joel 2:28-32; Amos 9:11-12; Obad 1:21; Mic 5:2; Zeph 3:14-17; Hag 2:7; Zech 9:9; Mal 3:1; Mal 4:2; John 4:21; John 7:31, 41-42; ** he that. Matt 21:5, 9; Mark 11:9; Luke 19:38; John 16:14; John 12:13; Heb 10:37;
(v.5) ** blind. Matt 9:30; Ps 146:8; Isa 29:18; Isa 35:4-6; Isa 42:6-7; Luke 4:18; Luke 7:21-22; John 2:23; John 3:2; John 5:36; John 10:25, 38; John 14:11-12; Acts 2:22; Acts 4:9-10; ** the lame. Matt 15:30-31; Matt 21:14; Acts 3:2-8; Acts 14:8-10; ** the lepers. Matt 8:1-4; Matt 10:8; 2Kgs 5:7; 2Kgs 5:14; ** the deaf. Isa 43:8; Mark 7:37; Mark 9:25; ** the dead. Matt 9:24-25; Luke 7:14-16, 22; John 11:43-44; ** the poor. Matt 5:3; Ps 22:26; Ps 72:12-13; Isa 61:1-3; Isa 66:2; Zech 11:7; Luke 4:18; Jas 2:5;
(v.6) **blessed. Matt 5:3-12; Ps 1:1-2; Ps 32:1-2; Ps 119:1; Luke 11:27-28; ** whosoever. Matt 13:55-57; Matt 15:12-14; Matt 18:7; Matt 24:10; Matt 26:31; Isa 8:14-15; Luke 2:34; Luke 4:23-29; John 6:60-61, 66; John 7:41-42; Rom 9:32-33; 1Cor 1:22-23; 1Cor 2:14; Gal 5:11; 1Pet 2:8;
One of Ministry's Joys
40 He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. 41 He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. 42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
We have been painting a grim picture for anyone who desires to follow Jesus. Persecutions, hatred, broken families, torture, deceit and even death are not what most new Christians have come to Christ expecting to find. Some might think we exaggerated, while others might walk away, unwilling to accept such tragic forecasts.
However, the Christian lifestyle, even in the worst of circumstances, is so full of good things that they completely outweigh the bad. Perhaps the best of life's blessings is the Christian fellowship that we enjoy. As we finish the tenth chapter of this gospel, we are given the assurance that good friendships will be developed during the course of our ministry for Him. The word "receiveth" is a present participle in the Greek. It describes those who are receiving and continue to receive Jesus' servants.
This should be an exciting promise for most Christians. We have an opportunity to meet many people when we intentionally spread the good news and we will make many, many lasting Christian friendships.
Jesus' words should encourage everyone to extend their hospitality to His servants. "Receiving them" is more than simply accepting what they have to say. Because of the continuous nature of the verb tense, it implies that Jesus is referring to those who take His disciples into their homes and treat them generously. Those of us, who take the gospel to the people, know how wonderful it is for both parties when strangers receive us with open arms and are willing to form lasting friendships.
He extends His promises not just to those that receive His disciples, but also to those who receive preachers (prophets) and other righteous men. This, He says, is the equivalent of receiving Him. In another passage, He takes it even farther, "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40)
We should try to think of ourselves as being on both ends of Christian hospitality. Missionaries and other Christian workers coming to our neighborhood should find themselves welcomed at our homes. The promises extend to us when we receive a homeless family, an orphan child, or a weary traveler. These are the least of society and are in need of our service to Christ.
Christianity is about relationships. It begins with each person's relationship with Christ and extends through Him to all who have received Him. There is no greater joy than we find when we win someone to the Lord. They become a new brother or sister in Him. Wherever we go, we can also meet other Christians, people with the same calling, the same life focus, and the same love for the same Savior. Our family extends across the entire world, and there is both joy and security in knowing that we can count on one another wherever we might be.
Before The Throne:
Pray that God would provide many new friendships as you spread the gospel. Ask Him to prepare your heart to receive those who are in need. Thank Him for the opportunities to serve that He is presenting to you at this time. Pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ who are on the mission field. Pray for their safety, their success and for their provision.
For Further Study:
(v.40) ** He that. Matt 18:5; Matt 25:40; Matt 25:45; Luke 9:48; Luke 10:16; John 13:20; John 20:21; 2Cor 5:20; Gal 4:14; 1Thess 4:8; ** and he that. John 5:23; John 12:44-49; Phil 2:10-11; 1John 2:22-23; 2John 1:9;
(v.41) ** that receiveth a prophet. Gen 20:7; 1Kgs 17:9-15, 20-24; 1Kgs 18:3-4; 2Kgs 4:8-10, 16-17, 32-37; Acts 16:15; Rom 16:1-4, 23; 2Tim 1:16-18; Heb 6:10; 3John 1:5-8; ** a righteous man's. Matt 6:1, 4, 6, 18; Matt 16:27; Matt 25:34-40; Isa 3:10; Luke 14:13-14; 1Cor 9:17; 2Thess 1:6-7; 2John 1:8;
(v.42) ** one. Matt 8:5-6; Matt 18:3-6, 10, 14; Matt 25:40; Zech 13:7; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2; 1Cor 8:10-13; ** a cup. Mark 9:41; Mark 12:42-43; Mark 14:7-8; 2Cor 8:12; ** he shall. Prov 24:14; Luke 6:35; 2Cor 9:6-15; Phil 4:15-19; Heb 6:10;
Who Is Worthy?
37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
After fully warning His disciples of the dangers involved in the Christian life and giving them the utmost assurances that they do not need to be afraid, Jesus next proceeded to explain the requirements for being a Christian.
The first of these is love. Love destroys any misinterpretation of this text. Jesus does not speak about salvation by works.The requirement is that we love God. "We love Him, because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19) In other words, we must first receive His grace, which was given to us in the form of the sacrifice of His Son for our sins.
There is nothing in this kind of love that we can claim as our good works. It is a love for God that originates from God. Godly love is unconditional. Receiving God's grace induces us to love Him more than we are able to love any family member. We do not love our family any less. It is God's will that we love and honor our parents and that we love and care for our children. However, our love for family does not and can not come before our love for God.
No man is ever worthy of Christ. There is no good deed nor series of good deeds that anyone can do to make himself worthy of Christ, but love that is spawned by God's grace is worthy. When our love for Him is less than the love we have for our families or anything else, it is not the kind which comes in response to God's grace, and it is proof that we have not been saved.
The second requirement is the cross. By the cross, Jesus means every type of persecution and suffering that is required of us for His cause. A willingness to endure whatever the Christian life might bring us is the product of our love for God. Even our own comfort, health, and general welfare takes second place to our commitment to Jesus Christ. We must pick up this cross and go out every day to carry the good news of God's salvation to the world. If the willingness to endure is not present, our love for God is false and we are not worthy.
Obedience is the third requirement. "He that findeth his life shall lose it." No Christian lives life for himself. To do so is to deny the love that Christ demonstrated for us. He died for our sakes. If we are not willing to do the same for Him, we shall lose our eternal life. I do not mean that you lose your salvation, but that you have not been saved.
Obedience is a sure sign of our love for Jesus. He said, "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." (John 14:21)
When we receive Jesus as our Savior, we die, and a new person is born in us. Paul wrote: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal 2:20) And again, "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." (Col 3:3)
The Christian lays aside his life to live in obedience to God. Again, I must repeat that this is not a work that can get you into heaven, but a product of your love for God that comes as a result of His grace. If you have laid your life aside for Christ's sake, you have already found eternal life.
Before The Throne:
Ask God to reveal those things in your life that are being placed ahead of your relationship with Him. Ask Him to let you feel the passion for Christ that is caused by His grace. Pray that He will take your life and use it for His pleasure.
For Further Study:
(v.37) ** that loveth father. Matt 22:37; Deut 33:9; Luke 14:26; John 5:23; John 21:15-17; 2Cor 5:14-15; Php 3:7-9; ** not. Matt 22:8; Luke 20:35; Luke 21:36; 2Thess 1:5-7; Rev 3:4;
(v.38) ** Matt 16:24; Matt 27:32; Mark 8:34; Mark 10:21; Luke 9:23-24; Luke 14:27; John 19:17;
(v.39) ** Matt 16:25-26; Mark 8:35-36; Luke 17:33; John 12:25; Phil 1:20-21; 2Tim 4:6-8; Rev 2:10;
The Divided Earth
36 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36 And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.
"Am I overworking the news that the world will hate and persecute Jesus' followers?" That is a thought that often comes to mind as I write these devotions, but the answer is always a resounding, "No!" I am repeating and expounding on the point, because I am following the exact order of Jesus' words as recorded by Matthew. Jesus felt that this was a very important point that needed to be well understood by those whom He loved. He wanted us to know what was happening to us and why it was happening, so we could respond appropriately.
He was the "Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end,…" (Isa 9:6,7) Yet, His peace was not what men expected. He brought peace between men and God, being the propitiation for their sins. He administers that peace every moment, sitting at the right hand of the Father and interceding for His people. His message, entrusted to His disciples, is the gospel of peace. True peace is not understood by the world, but is found and enjoyed only by Jesus' disciples.
Of course, everyone wants to see world peace, but this was not the peace that was promised in the prophecies of the Messiah. World peace is impossible so long as sin exists on earth. Jesus came to set men free from sin and to set their hearts against sin.
The great sword that He wields is "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:" (Eph 6:17) This sword divides those who believe from those who do not. It uncovers the sins of sinners and sparks hatred and mistrust. The sword of truth knows no boundaries. "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Heb 4:12)
There is no one on this earth who is not affected by the spread of the gospel. Some will receive it and others will not, but everyone is affected. The hearts of those who have rejected the gospel are hardened and have become bitter toward the others. Families are divided. Today, I see so many Christian wives having to struggle to keep their marriage in tact, because of their unbelieving husbands. In other countries, children are disowned by their families and put out into the streets, if they profess a belief in Christ. In other places there is severe political persecution of the saints.
We can see how important it was to learn the lesson of the Sermon on the Mount, which Jesus preached earlier in His ministry: "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father…." (Mt 5:44,45) Those enemies could be our mothers or fathers, our sisters or brothers or our children. Jesus did not come to teach us to hate our families, nor was it God's design to cause such hatred. These things already existed in the world long before Jesus came. However, hearts that are so steeped in sin that they cannot accept the gospel will reveal the hatred they are harboring. We must respond with love and prayer.
The word of God, preached to the lost, will cause many people to resent and hate the messenger but it will also bring peace to those who receive it. This is a spiritual war, not a physical one, in which we are engaged, so we are asked to love those who hate us. In fact, the sword that we carry is their only hope.
Pick up your sword today!
Before The Throne:
Pray for your enemies. Pray for God to help you love them. Pray for the courage to persevere in the ministry of Christ. Thank the Lord for the peace that He has given you.
For Further Study:
(v.34) ** that I. Jer 15:10; Luke 12:49-53; John 7:40-52; Acts 13:45-50; Acts 14:2, 4;
(v.35) ** Matt 10:21; Matt 24:10; Mic 7:5; Mark 13:12; Luke 21:16;
(v.36) ** Gen 3:15; Gen 4:8-10; Gen 37:17-28; 1Sam 17:28; 2Sam 16:11; Job 19:13-19; Ps 41:9; Ps 55:13; Jer 12:6; Jer 20:10; Mic 7:6; John 13:8;
Before Men and God
32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
How many people do you know who have been "Christians" for more many years and have never led a single person to Christ? When you start to count, you will most likely find that fifty to eighty percent of your church can be counted. Will those people gain entry into the kingdom of heaven?
Jesus had gone to the trouble to dispel all the fears of His disciples before sending them on a short mission trip. By assuring them that God was in control of their lives and that He would bring the efforts of their enemies to nothing, He encouraged them to boldly preach the gospel. Faith would be the substance that would sustain them. Faith was their weapon against the fear mongers.
Now, He declared that men, who live by their faith, telling others that Jesus is the Son of God and the only means of salvation, will be represented by Him before the heavenly throne. "To confess" Christ means "to agree" with Him openly and publicly, without shame or fear. This is not to say that we can earn our way into heaven, but our faith is seen in what we do.
Jesus' promise is that He will do the same for us. He is constantly at the right hand of the Father openly agreeing with us, declaring our faith in Him, and claiming us as His own.
On the other hand, Jesus said that whoever denies Him will not have His advocacy before the throne. There are many ways to deny Christ. We deny Him when we are silent about our faith, because the world will assume that we agree with them. We deny Him when we allow others to pressure us into disobeying Him, because this is a rejection of His word. We deny Him when we twist His word to make sinful lifestyles appear to be acceptable. Fear itself is a denial of Jesus' promises to be with us.
Those who deny Him are still lost, though they may call themselves "Christian." They are a mission field that does exist inside the walls of the church building. Unfortunately, many of these have become so hardened from years of rejecting Christ and from lying to themselves about their spiritual state that they will never receive Him. They need our prayers, because only God can change them.
I have found that the only way to confess Christ before men is to be intentional about it. For example, if I go into the corner convenience store without having thought about it beforehand, I will forget to mention anything about Christ to the clerk. However, when I enter the store with the intention of confessing Christ, I may mention Him to the clerk and other customers. Purchasing the things that I need becomes secondary to saying the things that I need to say, and I become an ambassador for Christ.
Try to be intentional in every situation of your daily life. I know that you will feel uncomfortable at first, but with practice you will find yourself sharing Christ with many people, and it will become a natural part of your personality.
Before The Throne:
Ask God to show you ways to reach out in your community. Ask Him to help you be intentional about sharing the gospel message. Wherever there is a group of people, there is the need for evangelism. Pray, and God will open up opportunity after opportunity. Be prepared to take advantage of them.
For Further Study:
(v.32) ** confess me. Ps 119:46; Luke 12:8-9; John 9:22; Rom 10:9-10; 1Tim 6:12-13; 2Tim 1:8; 1John 4:15; Rev 2:13; ** him. Matt 25:34; 1Sam 2:30; Rev 3:5;
(v.33) ** deny me. Matt 26:70-75; Mark 14:30, 72; Luke 9:26; Luke 12:9; 2Tim 2:12; 2Pet 2:1; 1John 2:23;