JESUS' LAST WEEK IN JERUSALEM

 

THE PLACE OF THE LAST WEEK IN THE GOSPEL NARRATIVES

As we enter our study of the Lord’s last week that culminated in His crucifixion and resurrection, I think it’s helpful to make a couple of introductory comments. The first has to do with how much attention, under Divine inspiration, the Gospel writers devoted to Jesus’ last week. Altogether in the four Gospel accounts, there are eighty-nine chapters that chronicle the life, teachings and miracles of our Lord. Of these eighty-nine, four are devoted to the first thirty years of Jesus’ life, while eighty-five chronicle the events of Jesus’ last three-and-a-half years. The emphasis of the Gospel writers, you see, is focused on the last three-and-a-half years of Jesus’ life. Of these eighty-five chapters, twenty-nine chapters are devoted exclusively to the events surrounding Jesus’ last week. In other words, thirty-percent of the Gospel narratives deal with the last week.FN It’s the most important week in history for it was in that week that Jesus paid the debt for our sins and made salvation possible for all men

 

A CHRONOLOGY OF THE LAST WEEK

Second, by way of introduction, I need to talk to you about the chronology of Jesus' last, or passion, week. As we have sought to do all along, we will focus our attention on events, rather than on chronology. The important thing is what happened, and not necessarily the order in which they happened. Academic scholarship and thoroughness, however, demand that I give some attention to chronology. So allow me to address this one matter so that we can dispense it and go on to the truly important things that happened one week nearly two thousand years ago. [Discussing the chronology of Jesus' last week will take up some time. If you're not into this sort of thing and would like to skip ahead to Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem, click here.]

 

THE TRADITIONAL VIEW

Let me begin by saying that scholars are not universally agreed as to the exact day of Jesus’ crucifixion. The traditional, and by far the most popular and widely-accepted, view is that Jesus was crucified on Friday morning, He died that afternoon, was entombed that evening before 6 PM and was raised back to life early Sunday morning. See CHART below.

 

A CRITIQUE OF THE TRADITIONAL VIEW

 

THE TRADITIONAL VIEW

STRENGTHS

*This was the accepted view of the Church from the earliest times.

*The last supper was the Passover Meal.

*In agreement with the synoptic Gospel writers, Jesus was arrested, tried, killed, and entombed on Passover Day, a national Jewish holiday.

*Jesus’ body was in the grave for a portion of three days.

*Whether strength or weakness, the religious leaders place themselves in a glaring violation of the law by arresting, trying, and securing Jesus’ death, on a holy day, that being Passover.

WEAKNESSES

*According to John, Jesus wasn’t crucified on Passover, but rather, on the Day of Preparation, that being the day before Passover. Passover, then, fell on Sabbath, making it a “high Sabbath” (John 19:31).

*Jesus was in the grave for a portion of two nights, contradicting Jesus’ own claim that He would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, Matthew 12:40.

*It is practically inconceivable that the twenty-five events listed in the chart BETWEEN CRUCIFIXION AND RESURRECTION below could have taken place in three hours from the time that Jesus died at 3 PM and 6 PM which was the start of Sabbath.

*Some of the events listed in the chart below would have had to have taken place on Sabbath, which is difficult to conceive as it relates to the religious leaders (point #23) and to Nicodemus who was a Sanhedrinist (points 19-21).

 

THE THINGS WE KNOW FOR A FACT:

1. Joseph and his friends or servants took Jesus’ body off the cross, carried it to the tomb, and placed it in a linen sheet (Matthew 27:59, Mark 15:46, Luke 23:53.

2. When the women came to anoint Jesus’ body, they found the tomb empty. But the cloth that Jesus’ head was wrapped in lay intact in the tomb, as well as the linen clothes, or strips of linen, that was used to wrap His body (John 20:6-7).

3. Sometime after Joseph laid Jesus’ body in the tomb and before Jesus resurrected from the dead, His body was anointed with spices and wrapped in strips of linen cloth. His head, also, was wrapped, but with a separate linen sheet or napkin. Who did this to our Lord? Nicodemus (John 19:39).

 

THE THINGS THAT WOULD HAVE HAD TO HAVE HAPPENED:

In order for the things that we know for a fact to have happened, these are the things that would have had to have happened. See Chart below.

 

BETWEEN CRUCIFIXION AND RESURRECTION

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED OR WOULD HAVE HAD TO HAVE HAPPENED

SCRIPTURE TEXT

1. In order that the crucified bodies not be left hanging on the Sabbath, a deputation of religious leaders went into the city to Pilate and requested that the legs of the crucified men be broken, thus quickening their death and allowing ample time to remove them from the cross and bury them before the start of Sabbath at 6 PM.
2. Pilate granted their request and, from his palace, sent soldiers or a messenger to Golgotha to the captain of the guard with instructions that the legs of the crucified men be broken.
Implied
3. Having received Pilate’s order, the soldiers at Golgotha broke the legs of the two crucified thieves. But seeing that Jesus was already dead, they left Jesus’ legs intact and instead pierced His side.
4. Joseph of Arimathaea left Golgotha, went to Herod’s Palace, and asked Pilate if he could take Jesus’ body and bury it.
5. In order to ascertain that Jesus was indeed dead (for he would not allow a crucified man to be taken off the cross if the man was still alive), Pilate sent a soldier or messenger to Golgotha to summon the captain of the guard to appear before him.
6. The soldier or messenger went to Golgotha with Pilate’s summon and delivered it to the centurion in charge.
Implied
7. The centurion left Golgotha, went into the city, appeared before Pilate, and confirmed the fact that Jesus was indeed already dead.
8. Pilate wrote the permit or order, granting Joseph of Arimathaea charge of Jesus’ body.
Implied
9. Leaving the palace with permit in hand, Joseph went to market to buy a linen sheet that would be used to wrap Jesus’ body.
10. Knowing that he would need help taking Jesus’ body off the cross and carrying it to the tomb, Joseph went and found some men to help him. These men would either be his servants, friends, fellow believers, or hired hands. Seeing that none of the eleven disciples were mentioned in this endeavor, Joseph in all likelihood chose not to seek their help.
Implied
11. Going back to Golgotha with his helpers, Joseph gave the centurion Pilate’s permit of bodily release and was allowed to take Jesus’ body off the cross.
12. Covering Jesus’ body with the linen sheet, Joseph and his helpers carried Jesus’ body from Golgotha and brought it to the tomb.
13. Some of the women who were disciples of our Lord followed behind Joseph to see where Jesus would be laid.
14. At the tomb, Joseph removed the soiled sheet, washed Jesus’ body, and wrapped it in a single clean linen sheet without the customary anointing of the body with burial spices.
15. Joseph and his helpers sealed the tomb by rolling a huge stone over its entrance. Both he, the helpers, and the women, then left the tomb.
16. The women returned to the city and, noticing that Jesus’ body wasn’t anointed, went to market, bought the necessary spices, then went home and began making the burial ointment. This was done by grinding the spices and cooking them.
17. Since the preparation of the burial ointment was a laborious, time-consuming process, with the onslaught of Sabbath, the women ceased their labors and rested for the next twenty-four hours as prescribed by law.
18. In the meantime, and unbeknownst to the women, Nicodemus bought a large quantity of spices and ointment, already made up and ready to use.
19. Nicodemus made contact with Joseph or with other informed followers of our Lord to find out where Jesus was laid and probably enlist their help in anointing Jesus’ body.
Implied
20. Nicodemus and helpers came to the tomb, rolled the stone away, then began anointing Jesus’ body. When they were done, they wrapped Jesus’ body with strips of linen cloth, a customary burial practice. They wrapped Jesus’ head in a separate sheet of cloth.
21. The men rolled the stone back over the tomb’s entrance, then left.
Implied
22. After this time, Jesus’ body remain undisturbed and unvisited until the time He resurrected from the dead.
Implied
23. The next day after Jesus was entombed, some religious leaders came to Pilate and requested that the tomb be guarded so that none of Jesus’ disciples would take His body away and thus give appearance that Jesus resurrected from the dead.
24. Pilate consents and a group of soldiers is stationed at the tomb.
25. After Sabbath was passed, before dawn, the women came to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body and, to their surprise, they found the tomb empty!

 

THE LITERAL VIEW

In view of these above, foregoing concerns, a second view has long since been proposed. I call it the literal view because it takes Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:40 and Mark 8:31 literally. He said in Matthew 12:40, For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. He went on to say in Mark 8:31, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Now we know without argumentation or debate that Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, that being Sunday (John 20:1-8 and parallels). By counting backwards four whole days, this is what we have. See CHART below.

 

A CRITIQUE OF THE LITERAL VIEW

 

THE LITERAL, 3 DAY, 72-HOUR VIEW

STRENGTHS

*It’s true to Jesus’ prediction that He would be in the grave for three days and three nights, after which He would rise again.

*In accordance with John’s timetable, Jesus was crucified on the day of preparation, that being the day before Passover (John 19:14, see also 13:1, 13:29 & 18:28). Thus, Jesus the Lamb of God was slain on the same day as the Passover lamb!

*It doesn’t place the religious leaders in the embarrassing position of holding court and condemning Jesus to death on a holy day, Passover.

*It gives Nicodemus a chance to anoint and wrap Jesus’ body without violating the Passover Sabbath (Leviticus 23:6-7) or the weekly Sabbath.

WEAKNESSES

*The last supper that Jesus instituted was not the Passover meal. The Passover meal could not be eaten until the next evening, but by that time Jesus would already have been dead.

*This contradicts Matthew’s, Mark’s, and Luke’s statement that Jesus observed the Passover meal (Matthew 26:17-20, Mark 14:12-17, Luke 22:7-14). The first day of the feast of unleavened bread was the day of preparation: it was the day before Passover and the day on which the Passover lamb was slain.

*This view makes it difficult to explain why the women didn’t anoint Jesus’ body on Friday, after the Passover Sabbath. Instead, they supposedly waited until after the weekly Sabbath to anoint Jesus’ body. By that time, Jesus was dead for 3½ days! Though not an impossibility, Jews generally didn’t enter a tomb and anoint a dead body past the third day due to the body’s putrefaction.

*While fulfilling Jesus’ prediction that He would be three days and three nights in the grave and that He would rise again after the third day, this view also contradicts Jesus’ other predictions that He would rise on the third day (Matthew 16:21, 17:23, 20:19, Mark 9:31, 10:34, Luke 9:22, 13:32, 18:33, Acts 10:40, 1 Corinthians 15:4.

THE JEWISH VIEW

Though the literal view has much to commend itself, the above-cited objections have led to the proposition of a third view concerning the chronology of Jesus’ last days before resurrection. It is what I call the Jewish view—not because the Jews advocate it, but because the view is based on the Jewish understanding of a day. While a day can mean a 24-hour period, it can also refer to any part of one day. That is, a Jew counted a part of the day as being a whole day. Thus, if a man began a fast at 4:00PM, then even though the Jewish day ended in a couple of hours, his 2-hour fast would be reckoned as being a fast for the entire day. With this understanding of a day in mind, see the CHART below.

 

A CRITIQUE OF THE JEWISH VIEW

 

THE JEWISH VIEW OF THREE PARTIAL DAYS

STRENGTHS

*Like the traditional view, the Jewish view maintains that Jesus ate the Passover meal.

*Like the literal view, there’s a day between the Passover Sabbath and the regular, weekly Sabbath, which likely provided Nicodemus the time he needed to anoint and wrap Jesus’ body without violating any Sabbath laws.

*It places Jesus’ body in the tomb for both three days and three nights, that is, as the Jews understood it, a part of a day or night being counted as a whole day or night.

*It has the added advantage of having Jesus rise from the dead after the third day as the Jews reckoned a day.

WEAKNESSES

*Like the traditional view, whether strength or weakness, the Jewish view puts the religious leaders in the embarrassing position of violating their own laws by holding court on Passover and condemning a man to death on a holy day.

*Like the traditional view, it agrees with the synoptic writers’ claim that Jesus was arrested, tried, convicted, and killed on Passover, but like the traditional view, it’s at odds with John’s account. He maintained that Jesus died on the day before Passover, that is, on preparation day (John 19:14).

*Like the literal view, the Jewish view puts Jesus in the contradiction of not rising on the third day as He repeatedly predicted He would.

JESUS SEEMING SELF-CONTRADICTION

No matter which view of the last week you adopt, two seeming contradictions must be addressed. The first has to do with Jesus’ prediction that He would rise after three days (Mark 8:31). This prediction, as it turns out, is at odds with His many predictions that He would rise on the third day (Matthew 16:21, 17:23, 20:19, et al).

Though difficult at first sight, the contradiction is easily explained. The Jews not only counted a part of one day as being a whole day; but they also regarded after as being the same thing as on. That is, when Jesus said that He would rise after three days, He was using a Hebraism whereby after three days meant the same thing as on the third day.

The Jewish leaders who condemned Jesus to death used this same Hebraism when they asked Pilate to set a guard over Jesus’ tomb. Matthew 27:62-64 reads, Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, {63} Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. {64} Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.

In other words, while after three days could be understood to mean the fourth day, a Jewish Hebraism made allowance for the phrase to mean the same thing as on the third day. Thus, what seems like a contradiction to us really isn’t one when we place the conflicting words within a Jewish mindset. For a Jew, there was no contradiction between saying after three days and on the third day because they meant one and the same thing.

 

THE SYNOPTICISTS AND JOHN

According to the synopticists, Jesus ate the Passover meal (Matthew 26:17-20, Mark 14:12-17, Luke 22:7-14). But according to John, He was crucified on the day of preparation before the Passover meal could be eaten (John 13:1, 29, 18:28, 19:14). Mark furthermore states that Jesus was crucified on the third hour of the day (Mark 15:25), while John unequivocally states that Jesus’ trial before Pilate was still in progress at the sixth hour (John 19:14).

The contradiction between the Gospel writers is rather glaring, especially when you don’t expect to find any contradictions in the inspired, infallible Word of God. Scholars throughout the centuries have sought to explain these contradictions and various explanations have been set forth.

The most credible of these explanations, in my opinion, has to do with the way the Gospel writers reckoned their days. As I’ve stated throughout this study, the Jews calculated their days from sunset to sunset, or from about 6 PM to 6 PM. This, apparently, was the method John used in his Gospel account.FN

But the Jews also recognized and used another method of calculating their days and in this method, a day began from sunrise to sunrise, or from about 6 AM to 6 AM. This, apparently, was the method used by Jesus and the synoptic Gospel writers.FN Hence, the contradiction between the Gospel writers’ version of the last supper and the day of crucifixion is resolved when one keeps in mind the two different ways of reckoning a day. See the CHART below.

 

The contradiction between the Gospel writers’ version of the time of Jesus’ crucifixion is similarly explained. The synoptic Gospel writers reckoned their days from sunrise to sunrise. Their days began at 6 AM. The third hour of the day, then, would be three hours after the day’s start, which would make it 9 AM.

John, however, didn’t use this Jewish method of calculating time. Instead, he used the Roman method. Now the Romans calculated their hours beginning at midnight. The sixth hour, then, would be six hours past midnight, or 6 AM. According to John, Jesus’ trial was coming to its rapid close at about the sixth hour (John 19:14). When you figure the amount of time it would have taken Jesus to make the slow, arduous trip to Golgotha, He would have been crucified at about the ninth hour in Roman time which is 9 AM—the time that Mark said Jesus was crucified (Mark 15:25).

 

 

JESUS ARRIVES IN JERUSALEM TO THE PEOPLE'S ACCOLADEFN

 

Matthew 21:1-9, And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage,FN unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, {2} Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you,FN and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a coltFN with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.FN {3} And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.FN {4} All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, {5} Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. {6} And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, {7} And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. {8} And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. {9} And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.FN Matthew 21:1-9 (NLT), As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. (2) "Go into the village over there," He said. "As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to Me. (3) If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, 'The Lord needs them,' and he will immediately let you take them." (4) This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said, (5) "Tell the people of Jerusalem, 'Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey's colt.'" (6) The two disciples did as Jesus commanded. (7) They brought the donkey and the colt to Him and threw their garments over the colt, and He sat on it. (8) Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of Him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. (9) Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around Him were shouting, "Praise God for the Son of David! Blessings on the One who comes in the name of the LORD! Praise God in highest heaven!"
Mark 11:1-10, And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples, {2} And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat;FN loose him, and bring him. {3} And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither. {4} And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. {5} And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? {6} And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go. {7} And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him. {8} And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way. {9} And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: {10} Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest. Mark 11:1-10 (NIV),  As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples,  (2)  saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.  (3)  If anyone asks you, 'Why are you doing this?' say, 'The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.'"  (4)  They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it,  (5)  some people standing there asked, "What are you doing, untying that colt?"  (6)  They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go.  (7)  When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it.  (8)  Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields.  (9)  Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"  (10)  "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!" "Hosanna in the highest heaven!"
Luke 19:29-38 (NASB), When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, (30) saying, "Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. (31) "If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' you shall say, 'The Lord has need of it.'" (32) So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. (33) As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, "Why are you untying the colt?" (34) They said, "The Lord has need of it." (35) They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. (36) As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. (37) As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, (38) shouting: "BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
John 12:12-16 (ESV), The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. (13) So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" (14) And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, (15) "Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!" (16) His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.

 

It was nearing the time of Passover. The roads were crowded with pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem. By the time the paschal lambs were slain, the city would be filled with over two and a half million people! So you can easily imagine how many people were involved in our Lord’s return to Jerusalem. Riding on a borrowed colt, Jesus and His disciples make their way to the city. They are surrounded on all sides by a vast multitude of traveling pilgrims. To compound matters even more, when the people who were already in Jerusalem heard that Jesus was approaching the city, they went out of the city to meet Him. I don’t think I would be erring or exaggerating to say that there were thousands upon thousands of people who greeted our Lord’s return on that day.

The scene was reminiscent of the time when Jehu was anointed King of Israel (2 Kings 9:13).

Similarly, when the Maccabees were fighting the war of independence from the Syrians, Simon Maccabaeus, a leader in the revolt, proved victorious in a major conflict at Gazara and later at the citadel of Jerusalem. After these victories, Simon was greeted by the people waving branches and singing songs of praise on many musical instruments (1 Maccabees 13:51).

A hundred and fifty years later, Jesus came to Jerusalem and was greeted in much the same fashion. Clearly, it was a hero’s welcome.

The people’s shouts of Hosanna bespeak their Messianic expectations. They saw Jesus as Israel’s Messiah, the promised Son of David who would come and deliver Israel from her enemies, reestablish Israel’s political sovereignty, and usher in the Golden Age of Messiah’s reign on the Earth. It was the day that all Israel longed to see.

To their credit, the throngs of Jews that day did indeed see their Messiah coming to Jerusalem. But they misunderstood Messiah’s mission. He did not come as a conquering, political King. Rather, He came as a Savior. He did not come to wage war with Rome. Rather, He came in peace.

Back in those days, when a triumphant General or King came into a city that he conquered, he came on a steed or horse. In contrast to its relative, a donkey was a beast of burden and a symbol of peace.

When Jesus came to Jerusalem that day riding on a colt He did not come as a victorious warrior. Rather, He came as a Prince of peace to make peace between God and men. Little did the people know that at this time of Passover, Jesus came as the Paschal Lamb who would be slain for the remission of sins. The people cried for salvation from the yoke of Rome. But Jesus came to give them salvation from the yoke of sin. Thus, the people’s accolade and acclaim were a glaring display of their tragic blindness to Jesus’ mission and work.

 

John 12:16-19, These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him. {17} The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record. {18} For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle. {19} The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him. John 12:16-19 (NLT),  His disciples didn't understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into His glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about Him.  (17)  Many in the crowd had seen Jesus call Lazarus from the tomb, raising Him from the dead, and they were telling others about it.  (18)  That was the reason so many went out to meet Him—because they had heard about this miraculous sign.  (19)  Then the Pharisees said to each other, "There's nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after Him!"

 

The throngs of Jews weren’t the only ones who misunderstood the nature of Jesus’ mission and work. The apostles themselves continued to cling to the hope of a politically-oriented Messiah. They thought Jesus was riding into Jerusalem to lay claim to the throne of David and deliver Israel from the yoke of Roman domination. It was not until their hopes and dreams were shattered by Jesus’ crucifixion that they fully understood what Jesus was all about. In fact, John tells us that the disciples didn’t understand what transpired on that momentous Sunday until after Jesus was resurrected and ascended to Heaven.

The triumphal entry was not a matter of Jesus laying claim to a political, national kingdom. Rather, it was a matter of Jesus fulfilling what was prophesied concerning Him. Zechariah prophesied, Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey (ESV, Zechariah 9:9).

Both John and Matthew labor to portray Jesus’ return to Jerusalem as the fulfillment of prophecy. Matthew goes one step beyond John and quotes not only Zechariah 9:9, but also Isaiah 62:11 (NIV), The LORD has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: "Say to Daughter Zion, 'See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.'"

Throughout most of His public ministry, Jesus sought to obscure the fact of He was indeed the promised Messiah. He forbade His disciples from proclaiming it (Matthew 16:20). But on this day, with the triumphal entry, Jesus makes a bold, public statement in deed or act. By fulfilling the Messianic prophecy of Zechariah and Isaiah, Jesus was now publicly proclaiming Himself as Israel’s promised Messiah!

It was a proclamation directed not so much to the masses of people: they already regarded Him as Messiah! Rather, it was directed, I believe, to the nation’s priests and spiritual rulers. It was a sort of last plea for the religious leaders to receive or acknowledge Jesus as God’s anointed Messiah. Jesus fulfilled many prophecies having to do with Messiah and more would continue to be fulfilled in the coming days. On this day in particular, the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 was being fulfilled and that fulfillment led to only one conclusion: Jesus is the promised Messiah!

But instead of seeing the triumphal entry in terms of prophecy, the Pharisees saw it in terms of Jesus’ popularity. They despised the fact that Jesus was so popular with the people! Their envy, you see, blinded their eyes from seeing that a Messianic prophecy was being fulfilled right before their very eyes!

 

Luke 19:39-40, And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master,FN rebuke thy disciples. {40} And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. Luke 19:39-40 (ESV), And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." (40) He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out." Luke 19:39-40 (NLT), But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, "Teacher, rebuke Your followers for saying things like that!" (40) He replied, "If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!"

 

When the Pharisees saw the people receiving Jesus royally, some of them got within hearing distance of the Lord and told Him to silence His followers. But Jesus answered in what must have been a proverb or popular saying of the day: if the people would keep silent, then even the stones would cry out in praise of Him!

Before we continue with our commentary on the Scriptures, I’d like to make four homiletical points that have practical application to us.

 

1. GOD FULFILLS HIS WORD! The first thing we see in this Scripture passage is Jesus’ commitment to Scriptures. In particular, we see His commitment to fulfilling Scriptures. You see, Jesus is very concerned about fulfilling Scriptures. He makes sure that what the Scriptures prophesy comes to pass. HE DOESN'T LEAVE SCRIPTURE UNFULFILLED. Brethren, God keeps His Word! Whether His Word has something to do with current, national or world events; or whether it has something to do with you personally; Jesus will fulfill what Scriptures prophesied or promised. No Word will go unfulfilled! Everything will come to pass! You can count on it because Jesus Himself will see to it!

 

2. OBEDIENCE SOMETIMES GIVES THE WRONG IMPRESSION! A second thing that we see in this incident is the fact that the things we do sometimes give people the wrong impression. That is, people misunderstand what we do or why we do it.

Consider the fact that Jesus was fulfilling Messianic prophecy. There’s nothing wrong with entering Jerusalem in the manner that He did. But the problem is, whenever there’s talk about Messiah, the people always misunderstand the nature of Jesus’ mission and work. Jesus IS Messiah! He’s the Messiah of Scripture. He’s both a political and a spiritual Messiah. But the same Scriptures that prophesy of a political Messiah also prophesy of a spiritual Messiah. Isaiah 53 is a prime example that tells of Messiah’s work in redeeming people from their sins.

So what we have, then, is two pictures of Messiah. Guess which picture of Messiah the Passover Jews had of Jesus that Sunday. They saw Him as a political, conquering King. So here’s Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a colt, fulfilling Messianic prophecy and, in turn, reinforcing the Messianic, but political, expectations of the masses. Jesus is fulfilling Scripture. But the people, even His disciples, misunderstand Him and have the mistaken notion that He’s going to set up His political kingdom at this time.

Brethren, if you knew that God wanted you to do something, but in doing it you knew people would misunderstand you or get the wrong impression, would you do it? Would you obey God? Would do you what Scriptures tell you to do? Or would you opt out in preference for not giving people the wrong impression?

Brethren, there’ll be times when we’ll be misunderstood. FOR THE MOST PART, WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE IMPRESSIONS WE CREATE OR GIVE PEOPLE. If, by our conduct and lifestyle, people get the impression that we’re worldly or that we’re not Christians, then that’s our fault. Their impressions are derived from our actions. So we are in many ways responsible for the impressions people have about us.

That’s a great part of the reason why Jesus told us to be a light and to do good works. He said in Matthew 5:16, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

However, THERE ARE ALSO TIMES WHEN GIVING THE WRONG IMPRESSIONS CAN’T BE HELPED!

*For example, you trust the Lord for healing so you don’t seek medical treatment. You know full well what the people think about you: you’re suicidal, misguided, and deceived!

*You belong to a different kingdom, you’re not a citizen of this world, so you choose not to vote or be in the military. You know what people think about you: you’re unpatriotic, you’re an enemy of democracy, you don’t belong in America!

*Because you want to be holy and pleasing to the Lord, you don’t wear the immodest clothing that’s so popular today: tight and revealing. You believe there’s something wrong with smoking cigarettes or drinking beer. You believe it’s immoral to practice sex outside of marriage. For all this, many people think you’re square, legalistic, psychologically repressed, and religiously unenlightened.

Do you see what I mean? Obeying God will, at times, give people a wrong or false impression of you. THAT CAN’T BE HELPED. Brethren, just because people will likely get a wrong impression of you if you do a particular thing, don’t let their wrong impressions deter you from obeying God or doing the right thing.

Jesus knew that if He rode into Jerusalem on a colt it would only reinforce the people’s political impression they had of Him. But He did it anyway because the Scriptures had to be fulfilled.

You see, THERE’S SOMETHING MORE IMPORTANT THAN NOT GIVING PEOPLE THE WRONG IMPRESSION AND THAT IS OBEYING THE LORD. IT’S WRONG FOR YOU TO DISOBEY THE LORD JUST SO THAT YOU WON’T GIVE PEOPLE THE WRONG IMPRESSION.

In many ways, we live in a time when it’s important to us what people think about us. We should care what people think about us! But when our obedience to God is at stake, then it’s high time for us to quit thinking about what people think about us. Brethren, let’s get on with the business of obeying the Lord!

 

3. GOD WILL GIVE YOU COURAGE WHEN YOU NEED IT! A third thing that we see in our Lord’s triumphal return to Jerusalem is His courage. Here is Jesus. He’s a wanted Man. The Sanhedrin is out to arrest Him and kill Him. The religious leaders have warned everyone to be on the lookout for Jesus. There’s gobs and gobs of people around. There are religious leaders everywhere. All of Israel’s priests who ministered in the Temple—including those who lived in Jericho and in other distant towns—were required to be in Jerusalem for the Passover. So what does Jesus do? He goes into the very city where He’s going to get killed! In broad daylight!

Some of us would have sneaked into the city at night. We would have kept our coming hush. We wouldn’t have let very many people know we were in town.

But in contrast to the fearful or cautious among us who favor a subtle, low-key approach, Jesus very deliberately comes into the city surrounded by a vast throng of people. He lets the people sing His praises, He refuses to silence them. He has, in essence, let everyone, including the religious leaders, know that He’s come back to Jerusalem. Jesus, you see, is unafraid. Even in the face of pending death!

On past occasions, people sought to kill Him and in every instance He escaped out of their hands. He ran for His life. He left the city. But as the time of His sacrifice nears, He boldly steps forward into the net that His enemies have laid out for Him. And do you know what? Jesus isn’t afraid!

Brethren, there will be times when we’ll be tempted to fear. There’ll be times when our courage lacks or fails. But when it does, God gives us the courage we need to face every fear, go through every trial, stand before every enemy, endure every persecution, and calmly, peacefully, and joyfully cross Jordan’s River into an endless, peaceful, and joyful eternity!

Brethren, WHEN WE NEED COURAGE, GOD WILL GIVE IT! DON'T LET YOUR FEARS STOP YOU FROM ENTERING THE CITY. GET ALONE WITH GOD IN PRAYER, ASK HIM FOR GRACE, AND THE LORD WILL ABUNDANTLY GIVE IT TO YOU!

 

4. COURAGE TO THE COMMITTED! Do you know why Jesus came to Jerusalem? He came there to die. He came willingly on His own accord. Jesus came because He didn’t count His own life worth saving. Our life mattered more to Him that His own. Saving us mattered more to Him than saving Himself.

Brethren, UNCOMPROMISING OBEDIENCE TO GOD REQUIRES AN UNCOMPROMISING, UNWAVERING COMMITTMENT TO GOD. And that kind of commitment is possible only when you first put Self or flesh to death on the cross and are willing to lay down your physical life for the Lord. Friends, YOU CAN MAKE ANY SACRIFICE FOR GOD—EVEN THE SACRIFICE OF YOUR OWN PHYSICAL LIFE—IF YOU FIRST LAY SELF ON THE ALTAR AND THE CROSS. When Self is dead, when you’re not being motivated or ruled by Self, you’ll be committed to obedience and God will give you the courage and grace you need to obey Him.

 

 

JESUS WEEPS OVER JERUSALEM

 

 

Luke 19:41, And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it.FN Luke 19:41 (NIV),  As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.

 

As Jesus approaches the city, He looks upon it and weeps. In the original Greek language of Scripture, Jesus literally bursts into tears. Christ wept for the lost.

The psalmist wrote, Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law (Psalms 119:136).

The apostle lamented in Romans 9:2-3 (NLT), My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief (3) for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them.

Brethren, how many times have we wept for the lost? How many tears have we shed for those who turn away from the Lord and His salvation? HAVE WE ANY PITY FOR THE DAMNED SOULS OF THE LOST?

Imagine your friends and loved ones and countless multitudes of people from every nation being led forth from the judgment seat of God and cast into a dark abyss that grows hotter and hotter with every moment’s descent into the pit. Listen to the cries of the damned who have gone into Hell before them. Imagine the horrible agony and pain they must feel as Hell’s fires surround them and torment them mercilessly. Endlessly. Awake to the realization that there will be no end to their torment or pain, no escape from their imprisonment, no moment’s reprieve from the unspeakable tortures they face.

Brethren, this is what the damned of this Earth have waiting for them. It should cause us not only to fear for our own lives and walk uprightly before the Lord; but it should also awaken us from complacent, careless slumber, cause us to weep for the souls of the damned, and arouse us to the work of preaching to them the Gospel of salvation.

Brethren, do we lament for the lost? WE WON'T REACH OUT TO THE LOST IF WE DON'T CARE FOR THE LOST. Before witnessing and evangelism comes caring. WITHOUT COMPASSION, MY FRIENDS, WE HAVE NO MINISTRY TO THE LOST.

HE WHO SHEDS NO TEARS, WHO STANDS IDLY BY AND SAYS NOTHING, DOES NOTHING, WHILE MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS OF DAMNED SOULS DESCEND INTO THE PIT IS TRULY THE HEARTLESS, LOVELESS ONE. SUCH A ONE DOES NOT KNOW THE SPIRIT OR COMPASSION OF CHRIST.

How many people are in hell because we didn’t warn them about hell and tell them about Christ who can save them from hell and sin?

To be like Christ we must love, and cry, and evangelize, like Christ.

 

Luke 19:42, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. Luke 19:42 (CEV), and said: It is too bad that today your people don't know what will bring them peace! Now it is hidden from them. Luke 19:42 (NIV), and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. Luke 19:42 (NLT), "How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.

 

NOT ALL IGNORANCE IS BLISS. IT'S ONE THING TO BE SINCERELY IGNORANT OF THE TRUTH AND ANOTHER THING ENTIRELY TO BE WILLFULLY IGNORANT OF THE TRUTH.

When you hear the truth and turn away from it, and keep on doing that; then the truth that you reject will, in time, eventually be taken from you and hid from your eyes so that you will not hear it, receive it, understand it, believe it, or be saved by it. This is the judgment of God. It’s something that God does while you’re alive, long before you stand before Him on judgment day. And once God does it to you, you’ve got no hope of ever being able to receive it, understand it, believe it, or be saved by it. You are the living damned. God’s Spirit will not always strive with man (Genesis 6:3).

YOUR CONTINUAL REJECTION OF GOD WILL RESULT IN GOD'S IRREMEDIAL REJECTION OF YOU. Proverbs 1:24-32 (NLT), "I called you so often, but you wouldn't come. I reached out to you, but you paid no attention. (25) You ignored my advice and rejected the correction I offered. (26) So I will laugh when you are in trouble! I will mock you when disaster overtakes you— (27) when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster engulfs you like a cyclone, and anguish and distress overwhelm you. (28) "When they cry for help, I will not answer. Though they anxiously search for me, they will not find me. (29) For they hated knowledge and chose not to fear the LORD. (30) They rejected my advice and paid no attention when I corrected them. (31) Therefore, they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way, choking on their own schemes. (32) For simpletons turn away from me—to death. Fools are destroyed by their own complacency. See also 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12.

Friends, do not presume on the mercies or forbearance of God. God is a longsuffering, forbearing God. As we see in these Scriptures, WILLFUL IGNORANCE IS EVERY BIT AS PUNISHABLE AND DAMNABLE AS KNOWLEDGEABLE, WILLFUL DISOBEDIENCE. IGNORANCE OF THE TRUTH WILL NOT SAVE YOU ON JUDGMENT DAY IF YOUR IGNORANCE IS THE RESULT OF YOUR REJECTION OF THE TRUTH AND YOUR REFUSAL TO LISTEN TO THE TRUTH.

Not all ignorance is bliss! There is such a thing as judgment! Judgment on the Earth while you’re alive and judgment in eternity when you stand before the judgment seat of God. Let the reality of God’s judgment fill you with fear and bring you to repentance!

 

Luke 19:43-44a, For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, {44a} And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another. Luke 19:43-44a (CEV), Jerusalem, the time will come when your enemies will build walls around you to attack you. Armies will surround you and close in on you from every side. (44a) They will level you to the ground and kill your people. Not one stone in your buildings will be left on top of another. Luke 19:43-44a (NLT), Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. (44) They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place.

 

NOT ALL JUDGMENT IS RESERVED FOR ETERNITY. SOME OF THE TRAGEDIES THAT BEFALL THE HUMAN RACE IN THE HERE AND NOW ARE THE JUDGMENT OF GOD.

For her rejection of Messiah, the Lord prophesied of Jerusalem’s downfall. Within a mere forty years of the prophecy, the Romans marched against Jerusalem and besieged the city. So severe and longstanding was the famine that thousands upon thousands of dead bodies were left to rot in the streets. When the siege was finally broken, the Romans proved merciless. Men, women, and children, the old and the young, the warrior and the priest, and the rich and poor alike, were massacred. By Josephus’ count, about eleven hundred thousand Jews perished during the siege and capture of Jerusalem.FN

To complete their victory, Titus ordered that the city and its Temple be razed to the ground. He wanted it destroyed in such a manner as to give all future visitors to the city the impression that the city or site had never been inhabited.FN

Jesus’ words, you see, came true. And so will every word pertaining to the judgments that are yet to come as prophesied in the Book of Revelation. Friends, JESUS DOESN'T MAKE IDLE THREATS, PROPHECIES, OR WARNINGS. WHEN YOU REJECT THE LORD YOU’VE GOT NOTHING GOOD TO LOOK FORWARD TO—NEITHER IN THIS LIFE, NOR IN THE LIFE THAT IS TO COME. YOU SPURN AND SPITE THE LORD TO YOUR OWN HURT AND DESTRUCTION.

 

Luke 19:44b, And they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another, because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. Luke 19:44b (CEV), This will happen because you did not see that God had come to save you. Luke 19:44b (NLT), Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not accept your opportunity for salvation."

 

BEFORE JUDGMENT COMES VISITATION AND VISITATION REJECTED IS WHAT BRINGS ON THE JUDGMENT.

The visitation of God takes on many forms. Sometimes, it is the preaching of a sermon. Or the witness of a believer. Sometimes God’s visitation is seen in a revival that takes place in a city. Or the manifestation of the Spirit in miraculous signs and wonders. Sometimes God makes His presence and pleading known by the Spirit speaking directly to you, prompting you to repentance and faith. Other times, by the voice of conscience convicting you and imploring you to do what you know is the right thing to do.

Friends, when God’s Spirit visits you and speaks to you do not reject Him or turn away from Him. GOD COMES TO SAVE YOU. AND IF YOU CHOOSE NOT TO BE SAVED YOU ONLY BRING JUDGMENT AND DAMNATION UPON YOURSELF.

 

JESUS ENTERS JERUSALEM

 

Matthew 21:10-11, And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? {11} And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. Matthew 21:10-11 (NIV),  When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, "Who is this?"  (11)  The crowds answered, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."

 

Not all of the city’s inhabitants or visitors went out to greet Jesus as He neared the city. When they saw all the commotion they wondered what was going on.

The people’s perception of Jesus is an interesting one. They hailed His arrival as the Son of David, the promised Messiah. But once inside the city, they hailed Him as a prophet.

Now the Israel of Jesus’ day was vastly different from the Israel of monarchial times in this one important respect. During the monarchy there was an abundance of prophets. But with the downfall and abolition of the monarchy, prophetic activity had all but ceased in Israel.

After a four-hundred year interlude, John the Baptist emerged as a true prophet of God. And after him came Jesus of Nazareth. There were plenty of priests, scribes, and rabbis in Jesus’ day. But no one was popularly recognized in Israel as being a prophet—except the Baptist and Christ.

Thus, in the midst of this dearth of prophetic activity, Jesus appeared as a Prophet and great multitudes of people recognized and acknowledged Him as one.FN In a word, the great commotion of that day was due to the fact that a great Man had entered the city.

 

JESUS CLEANSES THE TEMPLEFN

 

Matthew 21:12-13, And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, (13) And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. Mark 11:15-17, And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; {16} And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. {17} And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. Luke 19:45-46, And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; (46) Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. Matthew 21:12-13 (NASB), And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. (13) And He *said to them, "It is written, 'MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER'; but you are making it a ROBBERS' DEN."
Mark 11:15-17  And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;  (16)  And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.  (17)  And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. Mark 11:15-17 (NIV),  On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves,  (16)  and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.  (17)  And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written: 'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.'"
Luke 19:45-46, And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; (46) Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. Luke 19:45-46 (NLT), Then Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people selling animals for sacrifices. (46) He said to them, "The Scriptures declare, 'My Temple will be a house of prayer,' but you have turned it into a den of thieves."

 

Coming into the city, Jesus went directly to the Temple. Though none of the Gospel writers say it, I think it’s remarkable or significant that that’s where Jesus went to when He entered the city. Malachi 3:1 prophesied, Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. Messiah, you see, is closely linked with the Temple.

Jesus began His public ministry, and He ended it, with a cleansing of the Temple.

Now the Temple consisted of two main parts: the Temple proper and the Temple precincts. The main part of the Temple, or the Temple proper, consisted of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. When you compare it to the rest of the Temple, the Temple proper was a relatively small building.

But surrounding the Temple proper were several courts and porticoes. The court that surrounded the Temple proper was the Court of the Priests. Only priests could enter this court. It was here that the altar was located on which the sacrifices were burned and offered to the Lord.

Descending this court by stairway you come to the Court of Israel. Only Jewish men were allowed to enter this court. Hence, only men were allowed to carry their sacrifices to the priests who greeted them at the stairway that led up to the Court of the Priest.

Descending once again by a flight of stairs was the Court of Women. Jewish men, women, and children were allowed in this court.

And beyond the women’s court, the outermost court was the Court of the Gentiles. All visitors to the city, all foreigners and proselytes to Judaism, were allowed in this court. This was as close to the Temple proper that they could go. For them to go beyond this court into the other courts would result in death.

Anyways, the cleansing of the Temple took place in this Court of the Gentiles. See Diagram below.

 

Every Jew had to pay a Temple tax. It consisted of a half-shekel that was specially minted for this purpose and it was collected in the towns and provinces a few weeks before Passover. After a certain amount of time, if the tax wasn’t paid, it could only be paid by an actual visit to Jerusalem. Hence, Passover Feast was a good time for tax delinquents to pay up. The function of these moneychangers in the Temple was to exchange the people’s money for the Temple half-shekel. Naturally, they charged a fee for this transaction and, as it turned out, the fee was a rather handsome one. A portion of the fee went into the moneychangers’ pockets, but a portion of it was also paid to the Temple treasury. In this way, the Temple authorities profited from these financial transactions.

Besides the moneychangers, there were also merchants in the Court of the Gentiles who sold oxen, sheep, goats, pigeons, and turtledoves that were to be used for sacrifice. The people could raise and bring their own sacrificial animals to Jerusalem, but it was a lot more handy to just buy one in Jerusalem. These animals could be purchased in the marketplace, but there were also booths set up in the Court of the Gentiles where these sacrificial animals could be bought. It was kind of a 4H flea market. If you’ve ever been to a 4H fair, you can imagine the immense traffic of people and the stench of manure that filled the Temple courts.

Now the Law was rather particular about the animals that were offered in sacrifice to the Lord. They had to meet a number of requirements, the main ones being spotlessness and health. These animals could not be blemished or spotted in any way, nor could they be sickly or deformed.

Now there were professional animal inspectors in the Temple whose sole duty was to inspect every animal presented for sacrifice. If the inspector deemed the animal unsuitable for sacrifice, the worshipper had to go and buy another animal for sacrifice.

Not everything, however, was legally proper. These inspectors could be bribed by the priests and Temple vendors into refusing a worshipper’s perfectly good animal so that the worshipper would have to buy one from a Temple vendor. In the end, the only animals guaranteed to pass inspection were those animals bought in the Temple precincts. Naturally, the price of these animals was quite a bit more expensive than their equivalent outside the Temple. While a pair of doves could be bought in the market for a little more than a nickel, these same doves in the Temple were selling for $4.00 a pair!FN

The inspector made money. The vendor made money. But most of all, the High Priest made money because he controlled who could set up shop in the Temple and sell. He received a financial kickback for every transaction or purchase in the Temple. In fact, all these booths in the Temple were known as Annas’ Bazaar, so named after the High Priest by that name. It was, in a very real way, a money-making racket that used the worship of God as a means of financially exploiting the worshipper. Truly, in Jesus’ words, the Temple had become a den of thieves.

When Jesus entered the Temple and saw how the Temple was transformed into a marketplace and den for thieves, the first order of business was to drive these merchants and moneychangers out of the Temple precincts altogether. Financial exploitation aside, these merchants and moneychangers performed a necessary service. But clearly, from Jesus’ point of view, that service ought not be provided in the Temple or its precincts. Why is that? Because the Temple is to be used as a house of prayer or worship, not as a house of commerce.

Jesus cited a portion of Isaiah 56:7 as the Scriptural basis for His cleansing the Temple: "I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD, who serve Him and love His name, who worship Him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to My covenant. (7) I will bring them to My holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in My house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:6-7 NLT).

He also cited Jeremiah 7:11 which reads in context, Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. {9} Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; {10} And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? {11} Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord (Jeremiah 7:8-11).

 

THE LORD IS ZEALOUS FOR THE PURITY AND SANCTITY OF HIS HOUSE

In our Lord’s action here we learn several important lessons. The first of these lessons is, the Lord is zealous for the purity and sanctity of His house. His House is a house of prayer or worship and He intends to keep it that way. He drove out the merchants and moneychangers because they were responsible for transforming the House of Prayer into a den of thieves. Clearly in Jesus’ eyes, thieves do not belong in His House!

This is where Jesus’ citation from Jeremiah 7:11 becomes an interesting and notable one. In Jeremiah’s day there were all sorts of Jews who were coming to the Temple to worship the Lord. The only thing of it was, many of these worshippers were criminals! They were thieves, murderers, adulterers, and liars. To make matters even worse, many of these worshippers also worshipped the false god Baal. And to make matters their absolute worst, they kidded, pretended, and deceived themselves into thinking that God saved them so that they could keep on doing these sinful things! If you’ve ever met a person who believes he’s a Christian but who doesn’t see anything wrong with getting drunk or high, with pornography, illicit sex, and the like; then you’ll understand that is a phenomenon that isn’t new to our times. This “I can live and do as I please” mentality was existent from Biblical times. In Jeremiah’s day, the House of God, in a very real way, was a house of criminals.

Brethren, the Lord will not have it! Not only must the House of God be kept a holy sanctuary: it must also be kept from becoming a habitations of criminals, sinners, and hypocrites. Friends, IF YOU'RE NOT WALKING WITH THE LORD, DON'T PLAY THE CHURCH GAME. Don’t come from week to week pretending you’re a Christian and worshipping the Lord when, in your heart, you’re a criminal of sorts and don’t see anything wrong with your sinful, backsliding ways. Come to church to worship the Lord. Come to repent and get your life right with the Lord. But don’t come if you’re not intent on getting your life right with the Lord because somewhere along the line the Lord will cast you out of His House. He will not allow people to make His House a den of thieves!

THE HOUSE OF GOD MUST NOT BE MADE INTO A HOUSE OF COMMERCE

A second lesson that we learn in this passage of Scripture is, the house of God must not be made into a house of commerce. Now the service that the merchants and moneychangers provided was a necessary one. Financial exploitation aside, these vendors were providing the people of God with the means necessary to fulfill their God-ordained religious duty. But from Jesus’ point of view, provide that service somewhere outside the Temple. Provide it in town, provide it outside the Temple, but don’t bring your commerce or merchandise into the Temple grounds or precincts.

Friends, if you’re going to sell God’s people books, CDs and other religiously-oriented merchandise, DON'T SELL THEM IN A BUILDING WHERE GOD'S PEOPLE MEET FOR WORSHIP. ONE, AND ONLY ONE, THOUGHT MUST OCCUPY THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF GOD'S PEOPLE WHEN THEY COME TO CHURCH AND THAT IS, THEY'RE COMING TO MEET WITH THE LORD--NOT TO SHOP FOR BOOKS OR RELIGIOUS MERCHANDISE, AS NECESSARY OR VALUABLE AS THEY MAY BE. Selling stuff in church tends to make you, or transform you into, a money-mongering thief.

THOSE WHO BUY IN GOD’S HOUSE ARE CULPABLE AS THOSE WHO SELL IN GOD’S HOUSE

We learn in the third place that those who buy in God’s house are as culpable as those who sell in God’s house. Notice who Jesus drove out from the Temple: He cast out all them that sold and bought in the Temple (Mark 11:15). The buyers, you see, are the ones who keep the sellers in business. IF IT’S WRONG TO SELL MERCHANDISE IN CHURCH, THEN IT’S LIKEWISE WRONG TO BUY MERCHANDISE IN CHURCH.


GOD WILL ENABLE YOU TO DO HIS WILL

In the fourth place, we learn that WHEN YOU'VE GOT A JOB TO DO FOR THE LORD HE'LL LET YOU DO IT AND FINISH IT. Here’s Jesus driving the vendors out of the Temple and do you know what? No one stops Him! There are all kinds of priests around. The Temple had its own Temple Police whose job was to maintain order and law in the Temple. At Passover time, the Temple would be filled with Sanhedrinists and other such authorities who could have nabbed Jesus: “The guy’s gone mad! He’s berserk! Get him!” They could have restrained Him and imprisoned Him. But no one laid hands on Jesus and no one stopped Him.

Brethren, when you’ve got a job to do for Jesus He’ll make sure you do it without being stopped. You may afterwards be persecuted or even killed for it, as Jesus later was. But for the duration of time that you’re doing the Lord’s will, the Lord will have His restraining hand on the people and authorities and He’ll make sure you finish the job that He gave you to do.

 

JESUS HEALS THE BLIND AND LAME IN THE TEMPLE

 

Matthew 21:14, And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them. Matthew 21:14 (NLT), The blind and the lame came to Him in the Temple, and He healed them.

A fifth lesson that we learn in this incident from the life of our Lord is the fact that our Lord is interested in meeting the physical needs of His people. The same Jesus who moments earlier drove the merchants and moneychangers out of the Temple reached out His healing hand to the infirmed and He healed them in His House. The interesting thing of it was, they weren’t afraid to come to Him and ask Him for healing. You would think that after seeing Jesus drive out a bunch of vendors and worshippers from the Temple He would be too upset to trifle with. “He’s not in a very good mood right now.” Not so with our Lord. His Spirit or demeanor was such that the sick came to Him for healing and He healed them.

Brethren, God set the gift of healing and miracles in the church (1 Corinthians 12:7-10, 28). He expects miracles and healings and deliverances to take place in church during the church’s meetings—that’s why He set these gifts in the church. This isn’t to say that you couldn’t get healed at home or during the course of your week. But of all places and of all times, CHURCH IS THE ONE PLACE WHERE MIRACLES OUGHT TO TAKE PLACE! JESUS WROUGHT MIRACLES IN THE TEMPLE AND IN HIS ABSENCE HE GAVE THESE GIFTS TO BELIEVERS SO THAT THEY TOO COULD DO THE SAME THING!

You see, God is interested in the welfare and well-being of His people. It’s not His will for His people to be sick, but rather, that His people be healed. When you come to church to worship and meet with the Lord, the Lord comes to you in Divine visitation to make sure that your physical or bodily needs are met: JESUS WANTS YOU HEALED AND DELIVERED!

Brethren, as many of you as have been gifted by our Lord, stir up the gifts and come to church ready to move with the Spirit and minister at His prompting because God’s people sure do need some miracles today! The gifted may be quenching the Spirit and refusing to minister by the Spirit in the church. But as 1 Corinthians 12 and our text intimates, JESUS HASN’T QUIT HEALING IN THE CHURCH! THE MIRACLES MUST GO ON BECAUSE GOD’S PEOPLE NEED THEM AND GOD WANTS THAT NEED MET! Brethren, pray for the gifts to manifest and operate in the church!

 

THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS SEEK TO SILENCE THE PEOPLE'S PRAISES

 

Matthew 21:15-16, And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased, {16} And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?FN Matthew 21:15-16 (ESV), But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant, (16) and they said to him, "Do you hear what these are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, "'Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise'?"
Matthew 21:15-16 (NLT), The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, "Praise God for the Son of David." But the leaders were indignant. (16) They asked Jesus, "Do You hear what these children are saying?" "Yes," Jesus replied. "Haven't you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, 'You have taught children and infants to give You praise.'"

 

A lot of people in the Temple saw what Jesus did to the merchants and moneychangers. They saw Him heal the infirmed in the Temple. But curiously, perhaps for fear of the priests and religious leaders, the adults kept silent. It was the children who shouted praises for our Lord! This really bothered the Temple authorities because they didn’t think that this kind of praises was befitting our Lord. They wanted these praises silenced!

But the sixth thing that we learn here is, THE PRAISES OF GOD’S PEOPLE WILL NOT BE SILENCED! GOD WILL NOT TELL HIS PEOPLE TO QUIT PRAISING HIM! AND MEN, WHETHER THEY BE RELIGIOUS OR REPROBATE, WILL NOT SUCCEED IN SILENCING THE PRAISES OF GOD’S PEOPLE!

Brethren, when God’s people are praising the Lord take great care not to silence their praises! You may not like their voice. You may not like their songs. But if they're singing to God, GOD WILL NOT STOP THEM AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU. Leave them be and let God be glorified.

 

GOD WANTS TO TEACH YOU SOME THINGS

 

Luke 19:47a, And he taught daily in the temple. Luke 19:47a (NIV), Every day he was teaching at the temple.

The seventh and final lesson that we learn in this Scripture is that GOD IS NOT ONLY INTERESTED IN MEETING THE PHYSICAL-BODILY NEEDS OF HIS PEOPLE, BUT HE’S ALSO INTERESTED IN MEETING THEIR SPIRITUAL NEEDS AS WELL. Jesus not only healed the infirmed: He also took time to teach the people.

Brethren, do you come to church interested in hearing what the Lord has to say to you? Do you come intent on hearing what God is trying to tell you or teach you? GOD HAS A LOT OF THINGS TO SAY TO YOU AND TEACH YOU AND CHURCH IS ONE PLACE WHERE HE’S SPEAKING.

Now every minister has to work at getting his messages directly from the Lord. Too many times, a minister comes up with his own sermon, or he preaches what he read or heard another preacher preach. But if he does it right, a sermon should be a personal and direct message to you from the Lord. It should be, in a very real way, a “thus saith the Lord.”

But while the minister has to work at getting his messages directly from the Lord, nevertheless, when he gets it, that is, when he’s passing on to you the things that he’s heard God speak to him; then you all have to change your basic perception of the preacher’s sermon and see it not as a preacher’s sermon, but rather, as a “thus saith the Lord.”

I’m not saying that a preacher is infallible or inerrant because no man aside from the Lord is. But couched in this mortal vessel’s message is a word from the Lord.

Jesus taught when He was here on Earth and, in His absence, He ordained teachers to teach the people (1 Corinthians 12:28).

Brethren, WHEN YOU LABEL OR RELEGATE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR THE PREACHER SAY TO BE THE WORD OF MAN OR THE PREACHER’S PERSONAL OPINIONS, THEN THE PREACHER CEASES TO BE A VOICE OF GOD’S INSTRUCTION TO YOU. WHEN THAT HAPPENS, CHURCH CEASES TO BE A PLACE OF LEARNING AND INSTRUCTION TO YOU. YOU WON’T LISTEN, LEARN, OR GROW SPIRITUALLY AS LONG AS YOU DON’T SEE THE LORD SPEAKING DIRECTLY AND PERSONALLY TO YOU THROUGH HIS DIVINELY-APPOINTED MINISTERS.

If you’re not growing or learning anything in church, check your hunger or teachability. Examine your perception of the minister. If you don’t see God speaking through him, then you won’t listen to him and that’s why you’re not learning anything from him.

 

THE JEWISH LEADERS LOOK FOR A WAY TO GET RID OF JESUS

 

Luke 19:47-48, And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him, {48} And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him. Luke 19:47-48 (NIV),  Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him.  (48)  Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

 

On this triumphal Sunday, the cumulative effect of Jesus’ actions led to the authorities’ resolve to kill him. But they couldn’t do it just now because there were so many people around Jesus and they were all in rapt attention of Him.

Brethren, when one person or any person has this kind of power with the people he becomes a dangerous person to established leadership, the leaders fear him, and they will devise ways to silence him, discredit him, or remove him altogether. Mark puts it this way: And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine (Mark 11:18).

The Temple priests and leaders feared Jesus’ power and following; they feared His ability to attract and enrapt multitudes of people. Jesus wasn’t a part of the established leadership. He wasn’t a priest or scribe. He didn’t consult their opinion or ask their permission to cast the Temple vendors out of the Temple. He wouldn’t silence the praises of the people who hailed Him as Messiah and Prophet.

The people weren’t gathering around their priests and rabbis: they were gathering around Jesus. The people weren’t listening to their priests and rabbis: they were listening to Jesus. Doubtless, the things Jesus was telling them wasn’t an endorsement of rabbinical teaching, but rather, a reproof of it.

Murder, I’m saying, was on the minds of these Jewish leaders because they feared Jesus. They were jealous of His power to attract, enrapt, and bless people.

Brethren, WHEN YOU FEAR SOMEONE, TAKE HEED AGAINST MURDER BECAUSE MURDER , FEAR, AND JEALOUSY SOMETIMES GO HAND IN HAND: YOU WILL MURDER THE PERSON YOU FEAR OR ARE JEALOUS OF. If not literally, then remember that hatred is murder (1 John 3:15).

WHEN SOMEONE IS MALIGNING THE GOOD NAME, CHARACTER, OR WORK OF A SAINT OF GOD, LOOK AT THE ASSAILANT BECAUSE THE PERSON WHO’S WRONG IS THE PERSON WHO’S DOING THE KILLING.

Character assassination of a perfectly good Christian is one sign that murderous chief priests are still with us today. Villainous attitudes like fear, jealousy, and hatred, are at work when good people are being shot up, shot down, and dragged through the mud.

DON'T THINK THAT MINISTERS ARE ALWAYS SPIRIT-LED AND DOING THE WORK OF GOD. As we see here with these religious leaders, GOD'S MINISTERS WHO HAVE WRONG ATTITUDES OR MOTIVATIONS CAN VERY MUCH GET IN THE FLESH AND DO THE DEVIL'S WORK.

 

JESUS RETURNS TO BETHANY

 

Matthew 21:17, And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there. Matthew 21:17 (NIV),  And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.
Mark 11:11, And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve. Mark 11:11 (CEV) After Jesus had gone to Jerusalem, he went into the temple and looked around at everything. But since it was already late in the day, he went back to Bethany with the twelve disciples.

 

With nightfall approaching, Jesus left Jerusalem and made His way back to Bethany with His disciples where they spent the night.

 

JESUS CURSES A FIG TREEFN

 

Mark 11:12-14, And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:FN {13} And seeing a fig treeFN afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. {14} And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever.FN And his disciples heard it. Mark 11:12-14 (CEV), When Jesus and his disciples left Bethany the next morning, he was hungry. (13) From a distance Jesus saw a fig tree covered with leaves, and he went to see if there were any figs on the tree. But there were not any, because it wasn't the season for figs. (14) So Jesus said to the tree, "Never again will anyone eat fruit from this tree!" The disciples heard him say this.
Matthew 21:18-19, Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. (19) And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. Matthew 21:18-19 (NLT), In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, He was hungry, (19) and He noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then He said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" And immediately the fig tree withered up.

 

THE APPARENT UNREASONABLENESS OF JESUS’ CURSE.

Of all the things Jesus did on this Earth, His cursing of the fig tree is the most problematic for a lot of people to explain.

(1) Why would He come to Jerusalem hungry? It’s inconceivable that His hosts in Bethany did not feed Him. Did Jesus decline to eat, choosing instead to use that time to pray or get an early start on His trip back to Jerusalem?

(2) Jesus cursed the fig tree because the tree couldn’t be used to satisfy His hunger. Herein is the problem. It’s so much unlike Jesus to be governed by His human appetites and doom a tree just because He couldn’t find anything to eat on that tree. If He wanted to, Jesus could have turned stones into bread (Matthew 4:3-4). He could have bought something to eat when He got to Jerusalem. Why couldn’t He wait till then?

(3) This act of our Lord is made all the more inexplicable in Mark’s account. The reason why there were no figs on the tree is because the time of figs was not yet. In other words, figs weren’t in season! Why would Jesus punish a tree for failing to have fruit when the fruit wasn’t even in season? The curse makes it look as if Jesus was taking His anger or frustration out on a poor tree that couldn’t rightly be expected to have fruit for another couple of months.



THERE WAS SOMETHING PECULIAR ABOUT THIS FIG TREE.


The unreasonableness or inexplicableness of our Lord’s curse vanishes when we understand the fruit-bearing nature of the fig tree. A fig tree produces fruit twice a year: once in spring and the other in fall. Early in the year, a fig tree looks pretty much like our trees in winter. All you see is branches without leaves. When April comes, the first thing that happens is green knobs begin to appear at the end of the branches. These knobs will later on mature to become ripened figs. If a person was extremely poor or hungry, he would eat these knobs. But for all practical purposes, during this early stage of development, these knobs would be inedible. After the knobs appear, the tree starts bearing foliage: the leaves would start to appear and the flowers would bud. The peculiar thing of it is, a fig tree is in full fruit, full leaf, and full flower, all at the same time. This takes place in late May or early June and that’s when figs were in season. In other words, figs weren’t picked from the trees and eaten until June.

Now when Jesus cursed the fig tree, it was April. Figs weren’t in season until two months later. Why then did He curse it when it wasn’t the season for figs? Both Gospel writers tell us that the fig tree was in full foliage (Matthew 21:19, Mark 11:13). Herein, I believe, lies the true understanding of Jesus’ curse. A fig tree doesn’t have leaves until late May or early June. Remember the fruit-bearing habits of the fig: you start out with nothing but leafless branches, then come the knobs in April, followed by the leaves and flowers in May or June, then the ripened fruit in June.

When Jesus came upon this particular fig tree in April, the tree, strangely enough, was in full foliage—a full month before a fig tree ordinarily starts to have leaves. It wasn’t the season for figs, but neither was it the season for foliage. When a fig tree has leaves, the leaves give indication that it has fruit. Even though it wasn’t the season for figs, this particular fig tree gave appearance of having fruit. If a fig tree has leaves, then it automatically follows that it also has fruit. But this particular tree had none. When our hungry Lord saw the fig tree with its foliage, the foliage gave indication of having fruit. But upon closer examination, there was no fruit. Jesus cursed it—not because the tree failed to satisfy His hunger, but because the tree gave indication that it had fruit when, in reality, it didn’t. The tree in full foliage was, in a way that’s understandable to us, deceiving or misleading.

Brethren, if Jesus cursed a tree for not having fruit, what will the end be of those of us His followers who do not have fruit? Will we fare better because we’re human? Will we fare better than the fig tree? Brethren, we’ll fare infinitely worse than the fig tree!

The worst thing that can happen to a tree is die. But for a human being with an eternal soul, death is not the end of life, but rather, the beginning of a life that’s without end. That life can be a life of eternal torment or eternal bliss.

As we saw in our commentary on the parable of the barren fig tree in Luke 13, and as we’ll see again in John 15, FRUITLESS CHRISTIANS GET THE AXE. THEY GET BURNED. UNLESS A PERSON GETS SAVED JUST BEFORE THEY DIE, WE CAN CONFIDENTLY SAY THAT THERE AREN’T ANY FRUITLESS CHRISTIANS IN HEAVEN.

Jesus expects fruit. When He sees leaves, He expects fruit. When He sees us adorned in the leaves of Christianity—we profess we’re saved, we go to church, we pray, we praise Him, we go through all the formalities of religion—He expects to find us fruitful. When all He finds is a leafy tree of profession without the fruit of true salvation, then we have nothing good to look forward to. If a fig tree paid for its false advertisement of fruit, how much severer will we pay for making that same false advertisement and giving that same false impression of being fruitful when, in reality, we’re barren and fruitless! God help us learn the lesson of the fig tree and fear. HYPOCRITES HAVE NO PART IN HEAVEN!

 

A LESSON IN FAITH

 

Mark 11:20-21, And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. {21} And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. Mark 11:20-21 (CEV), As the disciples walked past the fig tree the next morning, they noticed that it was completely dried up, roots and all. (21) Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree. Then Peter said, "Teacher, look! The tree you put a curse on has dried up."
Matthew 21:20, And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away! Matthew 21:20 (NIV),  When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. "How did the fig tree wither so quickly?" they asked.

The effect of the Lord’s curse on the fig tree was amazingly, supernaturally quick. By the next morning it was visible to all that the fig tree was dead. It was not merely in the process of dying: it was completely dead.

When I look at the power of Jesus’ words and the immediacy of all creation to obey His every word, I appreciate ever so much His self-restraint or His ability to control His emotions and His mouth. Think of all the times you’ve failed Him and you’ll see all the times He could have cursed you. But He didn’t! You see, HIS SELF-RESTRAINT, MERCY, AND LOVE FOR YOU, SPELLS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH. O SAINTS OF GOD, PRAISE HIM FOR HIS MERCIES!

 

Mark 11:22-26, And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. {23} For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain,FN Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. {24} Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. {25} And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. {26} But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. Mark 11:22-26 (NLT), Then Jesus said to the disciples, "Have faith in God. (23) I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, 'May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. (24) I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you've received it, it will be yours. (25) But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. " (26) [But if you refuse to forgive, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins.]
Matthew 21:21-22, Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. (22) And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. Matthew 21:21-22 (CEV), But Jesus said to them, "If you have faith and don't doubt, I promise that you can do what I did to this tree. And you will be able to do even more. You can tell this mountain to get up and jump into the sea, and it will. (22) If you have faith when you pray, you will be given whatever you ask for."

 

*IT'S FIGURATIVE, BUT LITERALLY TRUE.

Before we get too far into our commentary, let me say that I believe Jesus is speaking figuratively when He talks about us moving mountains. This isn’t to say that a literal mountain couldn’t be moved by faith if a person was genuinely believing God for it to move. But, for the most part, I believe Jesus is speaking figuratively here.

This being the case, however, let me hasten to say that behind every figure is a literal truth. That is, even though Jesus was speaking figuratively when He spoke about us moving mountains, nevertheless there’s a literal truth behind what He said.

Now a figure is based on something that’s literal. For example, a mountain can be used figuratively, but only because there’s something real and literal called a mountain. We can figuratively describe a man as a lion. It's a figure. He's not really a lion. But a lion is a real, actual, living animal. Do you see what I mean? A figure is a figure, but it reflects something that's actually real or existent.

When used figuratively, a mountain stands for something that’s huge, something that’s permanent or immoveable. A mountain, for all practical purposes, isn’t going to move. It’s going to stay put. And in this way, a mountain is a marked contrast to man that reminds us of our finiteness and the limitations of our power. Generations of men will come and go, but Mount Everest remains right where it is.

Man can do a lot of things, but he can’t move a mountain—at least, unaided without a lot of strong machinery. Thus, when Jesus speaks about moving a mountain, He’s not talking about a literal mountain as much as He’s talking about moving something that we ordinarily deem to be immoveable, something that won’t budge or go away on its own accord, something that, in the natural, we’re powerless against.

*You can call this mountain something incurable, like cancer or diabetes.

*You can call it someone who just won’t change his or her mind about something, for example, an unrepentant son or an irreconcilable spouse.

*You can call this mountain something that, in the natural, is so impossible for you to do, like living life without anger, nicotine, pornography, or alcohol.

You can call it by a lot of names. But the promise of God remains the same: WHAT CANNOT BE DONE IN THE NATURAL CAN NEVERTHELESS BE DONE SUPERNATURALLY BY FAITH. WHAT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO MAN IN THE FLESH IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE TO A MAN WHO’S BELIEVING. WHAT WILL NOT HAPPEN IN THE NATURAL WILL HAPPEN WHEN THE WORD OF FAITH IS SPOKEN.

 

*THE EMPHASIS IS ON YOU!

There is a lot of comfort, as well as instruction, that we gain in these words of our Lord. The first of these is, the Lord’s emphasis is on you! He wants you to believe. It’s you who must speak to the mountain. It’s you who tells the mountain what to do. It’s your desire at stake. It’s you who must pray. It’s you who must believe. It’s you who must forgive. It’s you who will receive the answer to prayer. And it’s you who will have whatsoever you desire.

So what’s the point? The point, brethren, is YOU ARE NOT AN EXCEPTION TO THE LORD’S PROMISE OF MIRACLES OR ANSWERED PRAYER. Many a dear saint of God have prayed and received a glorious answer to prayer. But answers to prayer aren’t limited to everyone else but you! The faith of others may prevail, but God wants your faith to prevail too! He wants you to have answered prayers too! He wants you to have your miracles! He wants to see your mountains removed! Friends, quit making yourself an exception to receiving miracles and answers from God! Miracles can happen to you! Your prayers can be answered too!

*YOU CAN DO THE SAME THING THAT JESUS DID. AND GREATER!

We’re not Jesus. We’re supposed to be like Jesus. But, even then, in the final analysis, we’re who we are. We’re not Jesus.

Jesus did a lot of things that we’ve never done. But the truth is, we can do the same things that He did! What's even more staggering yet, we can do greater things than He did! John 14:12 reads, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

If Jesus didn’t say it, I probably wouldn’t believe it. But I believe we all can do the works of Jesus, and even do greater works than He ever did, because Jesus said we could. Brethren, do you know what Verily, verily means? It means ‘of a truth’. A good way of translating this Hebraic way of speaking is, Truly, truly. In other words, Jesus is speaking truthfully here: HE'S BEING ABSOLUTELY HONEST AND TRUTHFUL WHEN HE SAYS WE CAN DO THE SAME THINGS THAT HE DID AND DO EVEN GREATER THINGS THAN HE DID. Jesus isn't a liar. That's why I choose to believe what He said. I find it hard to believe what He said at times, but I choose to believe Him anyway because He said it and what He said is always true, never wrong.

Mark doesn’t say it the same way that Matthew does. In Matthew’s account of this same incident, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done (Matthew 21:21). Did you catch it? Jesus cursed the fig tree and He said we can do the same thing.

Brethren, take the limitations off of your faith or power and realize that you’ve got the power to do what Jesus did. And more! The Devil loves to have us see ourselves as impotent and powerless against him. He loves to see us helpless against his works. Brethren, we’ve got to stop seeing ourselves in this impotent way!

The Devil may have mountains and he may cast them in our way. But we can move mountains! None of the Devil’s mountains remains permanent and immoveable to us who believe! Hallelujah! You can be triumphant in a trial that is, in the natural and to the rest of humanity, impossible and terminal. WHAT’S IMPOSSIBLE IN THE NATURAL ORDER OF THINGS IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE WHEN FAITH AND GOD ARE IN OPERATION. WHAT CAN’T, OR DOESN’T, HAPPEN IN NATURE WILL HAPPEN WHEN THE WORD OF FAITH IS SPOKEN.

*Do you think that a lump or tumor can’t be removed except by surgery? Jesus said that the spoken word of faith would remove it.

*Do you think that cancers can’t be healed without extensive medical treatment? Jesus said that the spoken word of faith would get you healed.

*Do you think that a stubborn mind or heart won’t ever change? Jesus said that the spoken word of faith would do whatever you want it to do.

*Do you think that a nagging habit or oppression won’t ever leave you? Jesus said that the spoken word of faith would move a mountain to wherever you want it moved.

I know, cancers and tumors are not rational beings like humans and demons. But a fig tree or a mountain isn’t a rational creature either! But they respond to the word of faith and they obey it. Listen to Jesus’ words: It shall be done (Matthew 21:21). Nothing shall be impossible unto you (Matthew 17:20). All things are possible to him that believeth (Mark 9:23).

Brethren, take the limits off of God, take them off of yourself and your faith. IN YOUR VERY HEART AT THIS VERY MOMENT LIES THE VERY POWER THAT WILL DEFEAT EVERY WORK OF SATAN AND REMOVE EVERY MOUNTAIN THAT HE PUTS IN YOUR WAY. But the only way it’ll work is if you use it and speak the word of faith.

 

*THE GENEROSITY OF GOD.

It would be pure selfishness and presumption if we boss God around and tell Him what to do for us and tell Him what to give to us. God, friends, isn’t a celestial Santa Claus. He isn’t our slave.

But the truth of the matter is, God clearly, unambiguously, and unequivocally promised to give us whatever we need, desire, or want. That’s a pretty staggering thought and many of God’s people have explained it away. Their arguments are pretty anemic when you compare them to the Word of God that shall endure unchanged and last forever.

*God said, All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive (Matthew 21:22).

*He said, He shall have whatsoever he saith. What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them (Mark 11:23-24).

Jesus’ words pretty much throw Heaven’s doors wide open and it makes faith, or the faith-filled believer, or the message of faith, such a terror to the rest of Christendom because of the sin and fleshliness that’s associated with having whatever you want to have.

To be sure, you can be carnal and selfish and materialistic in wanting to have a whole lot of things. You can ask God for anything you want, but ask Him for the wrong reasons or with an impure heart.

But WHEN YOU’RE WALKING WITH THE LORD, OBEYING HIM, AND SEEKING FIRST HIS KINGDOM, IT ISN’T CARNAL OR UNRIGHTEOUS OF YOU TO HAVE A DESIRE. IT ISN’T A SIN TO PRAY AND ASK GOD TO GIVE YOU SOMETHING THAT YOU NEED OR DESIRE!

Jesus promised that if you seek first the kingdom, all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33). What things? Those very things that the Gentiles seek after, Matthew 6:32. The psalmist said it best when he wrote, Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart (Psalms 37:4).

Brethren, WHEN YOUR HEART IS SET ON GOD, YOU’LL NOT WANT ANYTHING THAT WILL GRIEVE THE LORD OR COME BETWEEN YOU AND THE LORD! YOU’D RESIST THE TEMPTATION BECAUSE YOU VALUE THE LORD MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE THAT YOU COULD POSSIBLY DESIRE. YOU’LL NOT WANT ANYTHING THAT WILL ONLY LEAD YOU TO SIN. YOU WOULD CRUCIFY SUCH DESIRES BEFORE THEY EVEN GOT TO THE POINT OF SERIOUS CONSIDERATION FOR PRAYER!

THE LORD CAN BLESS THE RIGHTEOUS WITH THE DESIRES OF THEIR HEART BECAUSE THEIR HEART IS RIGHTEOUS. AND BECAUSE THEIR HEART IS RIGHTEOUS, THEN THEIR DESIRES WILL BE RIGHTEOUS TOO – NOT CARNAL OR SINFUL.

Brethren, don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask if your heart and life are right! It isn’t sinful or carnal to ask. It isn’t sinful or carnal to desire something. As Psalm 37:4 clearly intimates, IT’S POSSIBLE TO DELIGHT YOURSELF IN THE LORD AND STILL HAVE A DESIRE FOR SOMETHING ELSE BESIDES THE LORD, i.e. a house, a car, a refrigerator, a new dress, a vacation, ad infinitum.

 

*THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS. BUT THERE ARE CONDITIONS.

Our faith will do whatever we want it to do. It will procure us whatever we want to have. There are no exceptions! The Lord’s promise is whosoever and whatsoever.

But, while there are no exceptions, nevertheless, there are conditions. There are several of these given throughout the Scriptures, but if we look only at the text before us we see four conditions that we must meet in order for faith to do what God promised it would do.

 

1. LET YOUR FAITH BE IN GOD. The first is, our faith must be in God. Not in ourselves. Not in our faith. Not in our religiosity, faithfulness, or spiritual accomplishments. The faith that moves mountains is a faith that rests in God.

Brethren, without God we are nothing. Without Him we can do nothing. FAITH ISN’T A POWER THAT WORKS INDEPENDENTLY OF THE LORD: IT’S A POWER THAT’S DEPENDENT ON THE LORD TO DO FOR US WHAT WE NEED TO HAVE DONE. The reason why our faith can do so much for us is because of who our faith is in, namely, God.

 

2. YOU MUST NOT DOUBT. Second, in order for faith to do the impossible you must not doubt. Note what Jesus said, Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart (Mark 22:23).

Faith cannot work as long as you’re doubting. Brethren, get rid of your doubts before you try to exercise faith and remove mountains. As we see clearly, though implicitly, in our Lord’s words here, OUR DOUBTS MUST GO BEFORE THE MOUNTAINS WILL.

 

3. FAITH IS BELIEVING THAT IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN. A third condition that we must meet in order for faith to work miracles is, we’ve got to believe that things are going to happen the way we want them to happen.

Now the striking thing about Jesus’ requirement that we have faith in God (Mark 11:22) is the fact that Jesus spoke these words to His disciples. They were believers. And in this respect, their faith was already in God. So why did Jesus tell them to have faith in God?

Faith is faith, regardless of what you’re believing. It’s like money. Money can buy you a whole lot of different things. But, in the end, it’s this one thing called money that enables you to buy whatever you want to buy. In much the same way, the faith that believes God exists is the same faith that believes in the resurrection of the dead, it’s the same faith that believes there’s a Heaven and a Hell, it’s the same faith that believes the Bible is true, and so on. Faith believes many different things. But it’s one and the same faith that’s believing.

When Jesus tells us to have faith in God, the faith that He’s talking about is the faith that specifically believes one thing, namely, we believe that we’re going to get what we’re believing and asking God for. Notice what Jesus said in Mark 11:24, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

What are we supposed to believe? We’re supposed to believe that we will get what we’re believing and asking God for.

Here's something that's really radical and awesome. In the Greek text of Scripture, we’re supposed to believe what we’ve already got it! The Greek past tense is accurately translated in many of the modern translations that we have and use today.

New International Version Mark 11:24,  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

New Living Translation Mark 11:24, I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you've received it, it will be yours.

New American Standard Version Mark 11:24, "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.

English Standard Version Mark 11:24, Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Since God answers prayer when He hears it (I John 5:14-15), then God answered our prayer when we prayed and it’s only a matter of time before that answer is manifested to our sight. If we believe this, then the promise is, ye shall have them.

Faith, brethren, is not generic or something that’s vague. Faith is very specific. It’s believing that something specific—something desired—will happen before it ever happens. It’s believing that what we command to happen will happen; what we tell a mountain to do, the mountain will do.

Notice once again what Jesus said in Mark 11:23, Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.

Friends, YOU'LL ALWAYS KNOW IF YOU'RE TRULY BELIEVING GOD FOR SOMETHING TO HAPPEN BY THIS ONE TEST: DO YOU KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN? DO YOU KNOW HOW THE TRIAL WILL END? Do you know what God is going to do for you? Do you know what God’s going to give you? Are you sure the mountain will move? Do you expect the fig tree to die?

If you’re not sure, then it isn’t faith and you’re not really believing. It’s that simple. FAITH KNOWS WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN BEFORE IT HAPPENS. IT KNOWS HOW SOMETHING IS GOING TO END BEFORE IT ACTUALLY ENDS. Faith receives its desired answer before that answer is ever seen, held, or experienced.

 

4. YOU’VE GOT TO BE RIGHT WITH GOD AND MAN. A fourth and final condition that Jesus lays out for us in the text of Scripture is, we’ve got to be forgiving.

Brethren, faith can do a whole lot of things. But IT TAKES MORE THAN JUST FAITH TO GET OUR NEEDS AND DESIRES MET. FAITH ISN’T THE ONLY THING THAT’S NEEDED TO GET US A MIRACLE OR ANSWER TO PRAYER.

We need to be holy. We need to be obedient. Specifically in the text of Scripture, we need to be forgiving towards others. Brethren, if we harbor resentment or hatred our faith will not work. If we have grudges or ill feelings towards people God won’t hear or answer us. Unforgiveness, like doubt, is a sure fire way to hinder God and faith from doing what God promised He would do.

Brethren, BEFORE YOU LOOK HEAVENWARD TO GOD FOR A MIRACLE OR ANSWER TO PRAYER, LOOK IN YOUR HEART, THEN LOOK AT THE PEOPLE AND RELATIONSHIPS IN YOUR LIFE AND SEE IF THERE’S SOME REPENTING OR FORGIVING THAT YOU NEED TO DO. FAITH WON'T WORK WITHOUT FORGIVENESS.

Brethren, SOME PRAYERS, ANSWERS, AND MIRACLES WILL NOT COME TO MANIFESTATION OR FRUITION UNTIL WE FIRST GET OUR HEART RIGHT TOWARDS GOD AND MEN. You see, IF WE’RE NOT FORGIVING TOWARDS MEN, THEN WE’RE NOT RIGHT WITH GOD. As far as He’s concerned, we aren’t forgiven (Mark 11:26). We can ask Him a million times over to forgive us. But if we’re not forgiving others, neither will God forgive us. IF WE ARE UNFORGIVING, WE ARE UNFORGIVEN. And as long as we’re unforgiving and unforgiven, we’re not right with God. Something’s wrong. And faith can’t work.

Brethren, do you know what forgiveness implies? It implies that someone has done you wrong. You are the innocent party in this grievance. You’re not the one who’s wrong or who’s done wrong: you’re the one who’s been wronged.

Now when you’re the innocent party it’s so easy to hold on to unforgiveness because you’re the one who’s innocent, you haven’t done anything wrong. And that may well be the truth. You may not have done anything wrong.

BUT GOD STILL REQUIRES YOU TO FORGIVE. AND WHEN YOU’RE NOT FORGIVING, YOUR UNFORGIVENESS MAKES YOU WRONG. YOU MAY NOT HAVE DONE ANYTHING WRONG, BUT IF YOU’RE UNFORGIVING YOU’VE JUST DONE SOMETHING WRONG. TO NOT FORGIVE SOMEONE MAKES YOU WRONG.

 

THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS QUESTION JESUS' AUTHORITY

 

Luke 20:1-2, And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple,FN and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders,FN {2} And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority? Luke 20:1-2 (CEV), One day, Jesus was teaching in the temple and telling the good news. So the chief priests, the teachers, and the nation's leaders (2) asked him, "What right do you have to do these things? Who gave you this authority?"
Mark 11:27-28, And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders, {28} And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things? Mark 11:27-28 (NLT), Again they entered Jerusalem. As Jesus was walking through the Temple area, the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders came up to Him. (28) They demanded, "By what authority are You doing all these things? Who gave You the right to do them?"
Matthew 21:23, And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said,By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? Matthew 21:23 (NIV),  Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. "By what authority are you doing these things?" they asked. "And who gave you this authority?"

 

Having left Bethany where He spent the night, Jesus entered Jerusalem and went directly to the Temple. What transpires in the course of that day is what various commentators have called “A Day of Conflict.” The conflict between Christ and the religious leaders centers around five questions.

1. A Legal Question. A delegation of religious leaders question Jesus’ authority, Matthew 21:23-27.

2. A Political Question. A group of Pharisees and Herodians question Jesus about the legitimacy of paying taxes to Caesar, Matthew 22:15-22.

3. A Doctrinal Question. The Sadducees question Jesus about the resurrection, Matthew 22:23-33.

4. A Personal or Ethical Question. A scribe asks Jesus which is the greatest commandment, Matthew 22:34-40.

5. A Messianic Question. Jesus asks the Pharisees about the Sonship of Messiah, Matthew 22:41-46.

Remember that it was the time of Passover. There are multitudes of people in Jerusalem and you can easily envisage a large host of people gathered around Jesus as He taught in the Temple. These religious leaders did not question Jesus in private, which is to say that their public questioning of Jesus in front of the people was quite deliberate and planned on their part. To wit, they wanted to trap Jesus in front of all these people.

To understand this trap it is necessary for you to understand that everything connected with the spiritual life of the nation, and most especially the service of the Temple, proceeded from authority. That is, you have to have authority to teach, to heal, to lead, to make laws, to govern the people, to disrupt the Temple service by driving out the merchants, and the like. To have authority, the authority must be given to you—either directly from God, as in the case of the prophet; or from the Sanhedrin. You cannot act independently of authority. To do so would make you a false teacher or leader leading the people astray.

Now when this delegation of religious leaders confronted Jesus with the question of His authority the trap was laid.

(1) If Jesus answered that He didn’t have authority from the Sanhedrin, He would, in Jewish mind, convict Himself of acting outside authority, hence, convict Himself of being a false leader.

(2) However, if Jesus answered that His authority came from God, this would be an opportune time—in the presence of the multitude—to question Jesus concerning His Divine Sonship and, on that ground, condemn Him for blasphemy.

Either way, it was a no-win situation for Jesus. So these leaders thought.

 

Matthew 21:24-25a, And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. {25a} The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? Matthew 21:24-25a (ESV), Jesus answered them, "I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. (25) The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?"
Mark 11:29-30, And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. {30} The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me. Mark 11:29-30 (NLT), "I'll tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question," Jesus replied. (30) "Did John's authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human? Answer Me!"
Luke 20:3-4, And he answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing; and answer me: {4} The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? Luke 20:3-4 (NASB), Jesus answered and said to them, "I will also ask you a question, and you tell Me: (4) "Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?"

 

Asking questions was a common, indeed, a prevalent, form of teaching in Israel. Rabbis asked their students a lot of questions because that was one way to stimulate their thinking about the issue under discussion.

Jesus used this same method and He countered the leaders’ question with a question of His own. When John baptized the multitudes of people, did he do this by the will or authority of men, or did God give him the authority to baptize?

Remember that prior to the baptizer’s ministry, baptism in Jewish faith was an act of ceremonial cleansing or purification. But with the advent of the baptizer, baptism became wholly identified with repentance. It was a sign that a sinner turned from his sins and now pledged himself to walk in the laws of God. Repentance, in the Old Testament economy, was expressed in the sacrificial offerings—not in baptism. So what John did, then, was institutionalize a whole new meaning and use of baptism.FN It was a substantial departure from Old Testament revelation concerning purification and offerings.

Jesus’ question, then, had to do with John’s authority to apply a different meaning to baptism than the institutionalized one having to do with ceremonial purification.

 

Matthew 21:25b-27a, And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? {26} But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. {27a} And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. Matthew 21:25b-27 (ESV), And they discussed it among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe him?' (26) But if we say, 'From man,' we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet." (27a) So they answered Jesus, "We do not know."
Mark 11:31-33a, And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him? {32} But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed. {33a} And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. Mark 11:31-33a (NLT), They talked it over among themselves. "If we say it was from heaven, He will ask why we didn't believe John. (32) But do we dare say it was merely human?" For they were afraid of what the people would do, because everyone believed that John was a prophet. (33a) So they finally replied, "We don't know."
Luke 20:5-7, And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not? {6} But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet. {7} And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was. Luke 20:5-7 (NIV),  They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask, 'Why didn't you believe him?'  (6)  But if we say, 'Of human origin,' all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet."  (7)  So they answered, "We don't know where it was from."

 

We see in this passage of Scripture the manifest wisdom of Jesus. He could have answered the question directly, as I suppose many of us would do: if Jesus’ authority came from God, then admit it and be done with it. But herein lies the wisdom of Jesus. If He answered the question directly, it would have an undesirable, two-fold effect.

(1) He would have given the religious leaders ground to convict Him of blasphemy, thus bringing about a premature end of His life. It wasn’t time to die yet, so Jesus would not hasten His death by being hasty with His mouth.

(2) Equally plain, if Jesus came outright and told the leaders the Divine source or origin of His authority, the multitudes of people who surrounded Him would likely have crowned Him King on the spot, preventing His death. Clearly, from the people’s standpoint, you don’t crucify or kill God!

Jesus wasn’t afraid to tell the truth. But, as we see here, He was very discreet about telling the truth. He knew how to convey the truth without frustrating the plans and purposes of God. Instead of answering the religious leaders directly, Jesus appealed to, of all people, a man! Instead of appealing directly to God the Father, He appealed to John the baptizer.

Why did He do that? In light of what happened, I believe Jesus appealed to the baptizer to turn the tables on His enemies and expose the fear and unbelief in their hearts. If they answered that John’s baptism was from Heaven they would have had to recognize the Divine legitimacy of the baptizer’s ministry and the baptizer’s testimony concerning Jesus, namely, that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the very Son of God (John 1:34).

The problem for these religious leaders is, they didn’t believe John had Divine credentials for his ministry. They didn’t believe him. Consequently, they didn’t believe his testimony regarding Jesus.

You see, Jesus brought them face to face with their unbelief. In their heart of hearts, they believed John was just an ordinary man. But they couldn’t bring themselves to admit this publicly because they feared public opinion or sentiment. The masses of people held John to be a prophet. The depth or strength of public sentiment was such that the leaders really believed that the people would stone and kill them if they told the people what they really believed about John!FN

So instead of risking death, they lamely answered Jesus with an “I don’t know.”

 

Matthew 21:27b, And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. Matthew 21:27 (ESV), So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And he said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
Mark 11:33, And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things. Mark 11:33 (NIV),  So they answered Jesus, "We don't know." Jesus said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."
Luke 20:8, And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. Luke 20:8 (NLT), And Jesus responded, "Then I won't tell you by what authority I do these things."

 

Jesus didn’t obligate Himself to answer every question that He was asked. How well we know that! There’s been times in our life when we asked the Lord all sorts of questions. Sometimes, we asked them critically or defiantly in opposition to the Lord’s way of doing things; and sometimes we asked questions in an honest, sincere attempt to know the reasons why things are the way they are. Yet, the Lord keeps silent and His silence is, in truth, His admonition to us to keep on believing in spite of the things we don’t understand or like.

 

THE PARABLE OF THE TWO SONSFN

 

Matthew 21:28-32, But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. {29} He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. {30} And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. {31} Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. {32} For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him. Matthew 21:28-32 (ESV), "What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' (29) And he answered, 'I will not,' but afterward he changed his mind and went. (30) And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, 'I go, sir,' but did not go. (31) Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. (32) For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Still talking to the religious leaders who questioned Him, Jesus tells them a parable. Then, on the basis of that parable, He asks them a second question.

A story or an illustration has a way of getting people to see things that they wouldn’t see otherwise. To help these leaders see the contradiction of their own unbelief, Jesus tells them a parable about two sons. Both are told to go work in their father’s vineyard. One refuses to go, but afterwards repents and goes to work in the vineyard. The other agrees to go, but never went. Jesus’ question to the religious leaders was, which of the two sons did his father’s will? Obviously, the son who refused to go, but later went.

Tax collectors and prostitutes, like the obedient son, refused to obey the Lord. But when John the baptizer came along and preached a word of repentance and judgment, these sinners believed him and they got their lives right.FN They changed their minds and went to work in the Father’s vineyard.

When the religious leaders saw these sinners repenting of their sins, it should have brought these religious leaders immense joy to see their countrymen getting their lives right and obeying the Lord. They should have looked at the effects or fruits of the baptizer’s ministry and, like their sinning countrymen, given heed to the baptizer’s words. The fruit of the baptizer’s ministry was good, which should have lent credence or validity to his ministry. But the religious leaders still didn’t believe the baptizer! Like the disobedient son, they professed to obey God. But when it came down to brass tacks, they refused to believe God’s prophet, they refused to give heed to the voice of God that spoke through the prophet and thus proved themselves to be a disobedient son.

So what can we learn from the parable, the Lord, and the religious leaders?


*OBEDIENCE IS PROVEN IN WHAT YOU DO, NOT WHAT YOU SAY.

It’s not what you say that proves you’re obedient to God: it’s what you do. Like the courteous, but disobedient son, you can make all sorts of promises to God that you’re going to obey Him. But if you don’t put those promises into actions, your words are meaningless and you prove yourself to be disobedient to God.

*You say you’re a Christian. But are you living the Christian life?

*You say you’re a crucified life Christian. But are you dying out to Self?

*You say you’re not conformed to this world. But does your life prove you’re like the world or unlike it?

*You say you’re believing? But are the circumstances telling you what you should, or should not, be believing? Does your faith and confession change with the circumstances?

*You say you’re going to the vineyard to work. But are you going there?

The bottom line is not what you say, but rather, what you do. If you aren’t obeying the Lord, then you’re disobedient. And the fact that you’re a chief priest, scribe, or elder doesn’t mean, or prove, you’re obedient. Obedience or disobedience is proven in what you do, not what you say.

*CHIDING YOURSELF AS WELL.

Another thing that we learn in this incident from the life of our Lord is, we see a delegation of religious leaders challenging our Lord and standing in opposition to Him. Naturally, they failed because they were coming against a perfect, sinless Man.

Can I be perfectly frank with you for a moment? Let me say in all honesty that there are a number of things wrong with our ministers today. For all their wrongs, inadequacies, and imperfections, you can challenge and oppose any minister and, most likely, you’d be right in the accusations you make against them. Unlike Jesus, these ministers are not perfect. They’ve made mistakes. Some of these mistakes were done in ignorance or immaturity. Others were done deliberately or maliciously. So whatever charges you make against the ministers, chances are, you’d be right about them. And because there are things wrong with the ministers, you can do what so many Christians have done--leave church, call it a cult, level all sorts of accusations against the church, and quit going to church because you don't want to be a hypocrite like so many church-going, professing Christians.

But the thing that I see in these men who came against our Lord is, they were focused on what they believed was wrong with our Lord, but they ignored what was wrong with themselves. They only thing they looked at, and were concerned about, was the fact that Jesus didn’t get His authority from them. But what they ignored was the fact that they were an unbelieving bunch. For all of Jesus’ miracles, they wouldn’t believe Him. For all of the baptizer’s good fruit, they wouldn’t believe him. The point is, these leaders were preoccupied about coming against our Lord, but they refused to admit their guilt or sins.

Brethren, ministers make mistakes. Some have learned from their mistakes and have gotten it right, or are trying to get it right. Others are still wrong to one degree or another. But in speaking harshly against them and in dealing severely with them, what about yourself? Are you as hard on yourself as you are on the ministers or the church?

*Your main grievance against the minister is the fact that he believes he’s the only true minister around. You just don’t believe that. But are you guilty of believing the same thing? Do you believe you’re truly a Christian and all the other Christians in the churches really aren’t?

*You lament the fact that the minister gets angry, scolding, and chiding in the pulpit. But are you angry, scolding, and chiding towards people or your children? What’s the diff?

*You’re upset because of the way the minister dealt with people. But have you fared any better than him? Have you always dealt fairly and kindly with people?

*You’re up in arms because the minister failed a time of trial or temptation. But have you failed too?

*Sure, the minister may be wrong about a matter of doctrine or conviction. But have you ever been wrong about what you believed?

Do you see what I’m trying to say? To can get your eyes so much on the ministers and blame them for the sorry state that the church’s in. But aren’t you, in some ways, just as guilty for the sorry state of the church? When you’re proud, critical, self-righteous, judgmental, impatient, intolerant, unkind, unforgiving, unforbearing, unteachable, and unloving; don’t you contribute to the sickness that’s in the church?

Brethren, there’s sickness in the ministers. But if you look at yourself long enough and honestly enough, you’ll find that the ministers aren’t the only ones with the problems. Truth be told, you’ve got problems of your own too.

Beloved, be repentant and obedient sons. Be forbearing of the ministers as you’ve been forbearing towards yourself. We can make the church better. But betterment begins with us. Let's fix ourselves first so that we'll know how to fix the problems that other Christians have.

*GOD SPEAKS THROUGH OUTSIDERS TOO.

Brethren, what was it that kept the religious leaders from believing in the baptizer? Was it because the baptizer wasn’t a priest like them? He wasn’t one of them? He wasn’t a member of the clique? He wasn’t part of the establishment?

Granted, John was an outsider. He was a bit eccentric. Weird by our standards today. But his message of repentance was a perfectly good one and the impact that he had on the lives of sinners was compelling proof of the hand of God upon his life. In all honesty, there wasn’t anything deceptive, false, or ungodly about the baptizer’s message or ministry. Yet, these religious leaders didn’t believe him!

Brethren, you’ve got to judge a man’s message and ministry by the Word and you’ve got to be honest with the fruit of that man’s ministry. IF THE MESSAGE IS SCRIPTURAL AND THE FRUIT IS GOOD, THEN IT CAN ONLY MEAN THAT THE MAN IS GOOD--IN SPITE OF THE FACT THAT HE ISN'T A PART OF YOUR CHURCH OR DENOMINATION.

Brethren, when you get to a point where the only person you’ll believe and receive is someone from your own church, camp, circle, conference, or clique; then you run the risk of missing out on what God’s trying to say to you through others.

The plain fact of the matter is, GOD SOMETIMES USES PEOPLE WHO ARE OUTSIDE YOUR CLIQUE, CHURCH, OR CIRCLE TO SPEAK TO YOU. When the establishment as a whole is bad or wrong, God uses outsiders to try and get through the establishment. The blind cannot lead the blind. The Jewish religious establishment was corrupt, unbelieving, and disobedient. The establishment could not, and would not, correct or remedy itself. So God sent an outsider by the name of John the baptizer. But the establishment would not believe or receive him.

Brethren, as long as your church, circle, or camp has obedient sons, listen to them, receive them, and believe them. But if your ranks are corrupt and your pastors or ministers are disobedient sons; then you need to listen to the outsiders that God is sending your way. Discern them with the Word. Prove them by their fruit. But DON'T LET THE FACT THAT THEY'RE OUTSIDERS AUTOMATICALLY CAUSE YOU TO REJECT THEM AND LABEL THEM AS DECEIVERS. GOD SPEAKS THROUGH OUTSIDERS TOO!

 

 

THE PARABLE OF THE WICKED HUSBANDMENFN

 

Matthew 21:33-39, Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower,FN and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:FN {34} And when the time of the fruit drew near,FN he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.FN {35} And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.FN {36} Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. {37} But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. {38} 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 inheritance.FN {39} And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. Matthew 21:33-39 (ESV), "Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. (34) When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. (35) And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. (36) Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. (37) Finally he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' (38) But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.' (39) And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
Mark 12:1-8, And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. (2) And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. (3) And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. (4) And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. (5) And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. (6) Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. (7) But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. (8) And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. Mark 12:1-8 (NLT), Then Jesus began teaching them with stories: "A man planted a vineyard. He built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country. (2) At the time of the grape harvest, he sent one of his servants to collect his share of the crop. (3) But the farmers grabbed the servant, beat him up, and sent him back empty-handed. (4) The owner then sent another servant, but they insulted him and beat him over the head. (5) The next servant he sent was killed. Others he sent were either beaten or killed, (6) until there was only one left—his son whom he loved dearly. The owner finally sent him, thinking, 'Surely they will respect my son.' (7) "But the tenant farmers said to one another, 'Here comes the heir to this estate. Let's kill him and get the estate for ourselves!' (8) So they grabbed him and murdered him and threw his body out of the vineyard.
Luke 20:9-15a, Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. (10) And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. (11) And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. (12) And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out. (13) Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. (14) But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. (15a) So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Luke 20:9-15a (NIV)  He went on to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time.  (10)  At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed.  (11)  He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed.  (12)  He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.  (13)  "Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.'  (14)  "But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. 'This is the heir,' they said. 'Let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.'  (15a)  So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

 

Of all the parables of Jesus, the parable of the wicked husbandmen is the closest to resembling an allegory. That is, while a parable has one main point, an allegory has several. The details of a parable are incidental and provide a backdrop for the main lesson or truth being imparted. But the details of an allegory are vitally important to the various lessons or truths being communicated.

In this parable, the nation of Israel is likened unto a vineyard.FN The householder who planted the vineyard is God. The husbandmen to whom the vineyard was entrusted are Israel’s spiritual leaders.FN The householder’s servants are the prophets.FN And the householder’s son is Jesus Himself.

God planted the nation of Israel, then entrusted her care to the priests and scribes. These men, however, defaulted in their obligations to the Lord. So the Lord sent them prophets who looked for the fruit of righteousness from the vineyard. But the priests and scribes rejected the prophets of God. Many of these prophets were stoned and killed in real life. Last of all, God sent His Son Jesus to the vineyard. But, in the end, the priests and scribes would kill Him too. In every way, the nation’s spiritual leaders showed themselves unfaithful, treacherous, and murderous. Theirs was a campaign of power, control, and possession. They wanted the Lord’s vineyard for themselves!

Brethren, BEWARE OF POWER-HUNGRY MINISTERS. MISCHIEF AND MURDER FOLLOW ON THEIR HEELS. Not physical murder per se, but the spiritual assassination of the saints of God who threaten their power or rule.

The most outstanding thing that we see in this parable is the mercies and forbearance of God. When the first group of servants returned, wounded and battered, carrying the dead bodies of their master’s servants; you would think that the landowner would take immediate action against the wicked, treacherous husbandmen. But he didn’t. Instead, he sent them more servants, only to have them wounded, battered, and killed.

For generations of time, from the establishment of the monarchy to the time of Jesus, nearly eleven hundred years!, the Lord sent His holy prophets to reprove His wayward ministers and collect the fruits of the vineyard. Many of His prophets were killed. And still the Lord forbeared with the husbandmen! Last of all, He sent His only Son. But, as it turned out, He too would be killed.

Brethren, the Lord God of Heaven spared no expense in treating the wicked husbandmen mercifully and forbearingly. His forbearance towards the husbandmen resulted in the death of many of His prophets. And still the Lord forbeared!

Why such an expense? Because the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance (Romans 2:4). Friends, IF YOU WONDER WHY THE WICKED PERSIST IN THEIR WICKEDNESS AND WHY GOD DOESN'T SMITE THEM IMMEDIATELY, IT'S BECAUSE HE'S GIVING THE WICKED EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO REPENT.

Sadly, continued unrepentance in the face of such great opportunity can only lead to irremediable ruin and loss.

 

Matthew 21:40-41, When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? {41} They say unto him, He will miserablyFN destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Matthew 21:40-41 (ESV), When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" (41) They said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons."
Mark 12:9, What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. Mark 12:9 (NLT), "What do you suppose the owner of the vineyard will do?" Jesus asked. "I'll tell you—he will come and kill those farmers and lease the vineyard to others.
Luke 20:15b-16, What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? (16) He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid. Luke 20:15b-16 (NIV),  So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. "What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?  (16)  He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others." When the people heard this, they said, "God forbid!"

 

What these religious leaders failed to see in real life, the Lord helped them see in story form. The conduct of the husbandmen was blatantly obvious and wrong that the priests had no trouble recognizing the husbandmen’s sins. Though unknowingly, they agreed with the Lord’s just judgment of these wicked sinners: the husbandmen should be killed and the vineyard rented out to others who will respect the householder’s rights over the vineyard.

 

Matthew 21:42, Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner:FN this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Matthew 21:42 (ESV), Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?
Mark 12:10-11, And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: (11) This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Mark 12:10-11 (NLT), Didn't you ever read this in the Scriptures? 'The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. (11) This is the LORD's doing, and it is wonderful to see.'"
Luke 20:17, And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? Luke 20:17 (NIV),  Jesus looked directly at them and asked, "Then what is the meaning of that which is written: "'The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone'?

 

In making practical application of the parable, the Lord focuses on the theme of rejection and He shows how the rejection that’s involved in the parable is being played out in the lives of these religious leaders.

Rejection in the story was about the husbandmen’s rejection of the vineyard owner and his servants and son. In real life, Jesus likens the husbandmen’s rejection to a rejection that was most familiar to the Jews. He quotes Psalm 118:22-23 which, incidentally, was a Messianic psalm. The throngs of Jews who greeted Jesus in His triumphal entry just the day before cited a portion of this very same Psalm, namely, verses 25-26, Hosanna! Save now! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!

Now the Jews understood the stone to refer to the nation itself, while the builders who rejected the stone were the nations of the world. In other words, the nations of the world rejected and persecuted the stone Israel. But by the Lord’s wisdom and power, Israel became the cornerstone, the chief among nations.

The peculiar thing about Jesus’ use of this Messianic psalm is, He took a familiar concept of rejection as it applied to the world’s rejection of Israel and He applied that rejection to Himself. In other words, just as the wicked husbandmen rejected the landlord and his son; and just as the nations of the world rejected Israel; so the chief priests, elders, and scribes were now rejecting God’s Son, Jesus. You see, Jesus is trying to help these religious leaders see who is being rejected and who is doing the rejection. He’s trying to help them see that rejection isn’t just history, it’s not just a story. Rather, rejection is going on right now and you priests are the ones who’s doing the rejecting.

 

REJECTION

NOT JUST A STORY, NOT JUST HISTORY, BUT PRESENT-DAY FACT AND REALITY

WHO'S DOING THE REJECTION

The Wicked Husbandmen

The Nations of the World

Israel's Priests and Scribes

Jewish Chief Priests, Scribes, and Elders

WHO'S BEING REJECTED

Vineyard Owner's Servants and Sons

Israel the Stone

God's Prophets

God's Son Jesus

 

Jesus, friends, is on the offensive here. He’s accusing and convicting these religious leaders of repeating their forefathers’ rejection of God’s true prophets. Worse yet, they’re rejecting Him who, in reality, is God the Landlord’s Son.

To aggravate matters even more, He adds a new twist to the popular understanding of the stone by saying that He Himself is the rejected stone of the Messianic psalm and He will, by the Lord’s wisdom and power, be made the Cornerstone. Needless to say, it was a very new, if not radical, way of looking at the psalm and, as you would understand, the religious leaders took offense at Jesus’ use of the Scriptures in this way.

 

Matthew 21:43, Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. Matthew 21:43 (ESV), Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.

 

Rejection of the vineyard owner and his son will bring about judgment. In accordance with these priests’ opinion of what should be done to the husbandmen, the priests would be destroyed or barred from the kingdom of God and their place given to others who would render to the Lord the fruits of the vineyard.

Here in these words of our Lord we see what is truly tragic with regards to these religious leaders. They were the nation’s spiritual leaders. The spiritual well-being of the nation was entrusted to their care. As priests, they were religious and pious. They were terribly learned. But for all this, the kingdom of God was taken away from them. Brethren, you will not see these religious leaders in Heaven! You will not see harlots, adulterers, murderers, liars, and a host of other unregenerate people in Heaven. But religious leaders who know and serve God? Brethren, these men devoted themselves to the worship and service of God and His Scriptures. But they will not have any place in the kingdom because of their rejection of God’s Son and their fruitlessness.

 

THE JUDGMENT OF THE HUSBANDMEN PRIESTS

BECAUSE THEY REJECTED CHRIST

ROOT CAUSE: UNBELIEF

They Would Not Respect God's Son

THE LESSON: UNBELIEF GIVES RISE TO REJECTION

Rejecting Jesus Will Cost You Dearly!

BECAUSE THEY WERE FRUITLESS

ROOT CAUSE: GREED

They Wanted The Son's Inheritance

THE LESSON: THE LUST FOR WEALTH MAKES YOU FRUITLESS

The Fruitless Don't Make It To Heaven!

 

The point in all this is, IT’S POSSIBLE TO BE MORAL, RELIGIOUS, SCRIPTURALLY-LEARNED, AND DEVOUT TO GOD, AND STILL END UP LOST OR DAMNED! Friends, it doesn’t matter who you are or what position or pew you occupy in the church. You can think yourself to be religious, committed, and faithful. But SPIRITUALITY DOESN’T PROFIT YOU WITHOUT FAITH, WITHOUT OBEDIENCE, AND WITHOUT FRUIT.

God’s looking for fruit. What kind of fruit are you bearing? Are they the fruits of the flesh or the fruits of the Spirit? Labor to be fruitful because, as we see in this passage of Scripture, there is a direct correlation between being fruitful and being in the kingdom. THE FRUITLESS DON’T MAKE IT IN.FN

 

Matthew 21:44, And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.FN Matthew 21:44 (ESV), And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him."
Luke 20:18, Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. Luke 20:18 (NLT), Everyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on."

 

The judgment and destruction of the priestly husbandmen are pictured in relation to the Stone that the priests rejected. On the one hand, the Stone is pictured as stationary. Those who stumble over it will fall. But, on the other hand, the Stone is pictured as moving. Those whom the Stone falls on will be pulverized.

Some commentators, even those from ancient times, believe that Jesus was speaking about His two advents. At His first advent, many stumbled over Him because they would not believe or receive Him. At His second coming, Jesus will come in judgment to pulverize those who reject Him.

 

Matthew 21:45-46, And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. {46} But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet. Matthew 21:45-46 (ESV), When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. (46) And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.
Mark 12:12, And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way. Mark 12:12 (NLT), The religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus because they realized He was telling the story against them—they were the wicked farmers. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left Him and went away.
Luke 20:19, And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them. Luke 20:19 (NIV),  The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

 

The meaning and intent of Jesus’ two parables here were not at all difficult to discern. The chief priests, scribes, and elders got the message loud and clear: they knew Jesus was referring to them. Had they not feared the people, they would have taken Jesus on the spot and done away with Him.

Two things are rather glaring here as they relate to these religious leaders.

1. UNREPENTANCE MAKES YOU MURDEROUS.

Upon hearing the parables and hearing Jesus accuse them of being the wicked husbandmen, these priests and Pharisees wanted to take Him right there on the spot and kill Him. Friends, they continued to play the role of the wicked husbandmen! They continued to reject the Landowner’s servants, in context, John the Baptist. And they even sought to kill the Landowner’s Son, Jesus!

You see, friends, THERE’S A CONNECTION BETWEEN UNREPENTANCE AND MURDER. UNREPENTANCE, ESPECIALLY IN THE FACE OF A REBUKE OR REPROOF OF SIN, HAS A WAY OF MAKING AN UNREPENTANT PERSON HATEFUL, VINDICTIVE, AND EVEN MURDEROUS. Jesus reproved these leaders and convicted them of rejecting God’s Son. How did they respond to the reproof? They were all the more resolved to kill Him!

Brethren, do you remember how you acted when you were rebuked much to your dislike? Do you remember how venomous and vindictive you became? Your mouth became an Uzi of death. You set off on a campaign to attack to discredit the person who rebuked you. Isn’t it something, how that after all these years, we still have some of the chief priestly spirit within us?

2. IT’S MUCH EASIER TO SEE THE WRONGS IN OTHERS, MUCH HARDER TO SEE THE WRONGS IN US.

The second thing that I’d like to draw to your attention is the fact that there are some things about ourselves and the way we’re acting, living, or behaving that are not easily seen by us. We just don’t see it.

*Sometimes it’s because we sincerely just don’t see what’s going on in our life.

*But sometimes it’s because we don’t want to see it and so we suppress the sad truths and realities about ourselves.

Let me tell you what I mean. The religious leaders were engaged in a campaign to discredit, arrest, and kill our Lord. Theirs was a campaign of rejection and murder. What they were wanting and trying to do was very clearly wrong. But they didn’t see it this way.

So to help these religious leaders see what they were doing, Jesus made up this story of the wicked husbandmen. As I said earlier, there are some things that are best seen and understood in story form.

Jesus’ story was quite effective and the religious leaders saw the wrongness and wickedness of what the husbandmen were doing. But they refused to see themselves guilty of doing the very same thing! They saw the husbandmen’s rejection of the landowner, but they refused to see themselves as rejecting the Lord, His prophets, and His Son. They understood that what the husbandmen were doing was wrong, but they refused to admit that what they were doing to Jesus was wrong. In their eyes, the husbandmen were wrong. But they weren’t.

Like these murderous priests, brethren, IT'S FAR EASIER TO SEE THE FAULTS AND WRONGS OF OTHERS. FAR HARDER TO SEE OUR OWN. As long as we’re talking about husbandmen and other people, we readily see what they’re doing wrong. But when the Lord substitutes names and characters and puts our name and face in the plot, then, suddenly, we refuse to admit the guilt and the wrong that we so readily see in others who are doing the very same thing. For example,

*We see other people getting mad and we say they’re wrong. But when we get mad, we’re really not wrong. We’re righteously indignant. What we’re “mad” about justifies us getting mad so that we’re not wrong for getting mad.

*We see ministers dealing harshly with people and we say they’re wrong. But when we become harsh towards someone we don’t see ourselves as being harsh. We’re being uncompromising. We’re contending earnestly for the faith. We’re not going to excuse, minimize, or condone sin!

*We see warring saints failing or refusing to reconcile and get their relationship back on track and we say that they’re both wrong. But when we’re the ones who are involved in the conflict, we don’t see ourselves as being wrong. We’re the innocent party and we’re waiting for the offending brethren to come to us and apologize. In other words, we’re not wrong for not taking the initiative to try and patch things up with the brethren.

*We see other people abandoning the things they were taught and once embraced and believed. We say they’re deceived. But when we do the same thing and reject something that we were taught and once embraced and believed, we say we’re enlightened—not deceived.

Do you see what I’m trying to say? It’s so easy to see the wrong things that other people are doing. But, brethren, if you’re doing the same thing that other people are doing; and if you agree that what they’re doing is wrong; do you readily see the wrong in yourself? Or do you loudly proclaim your innocence?

MORE AND MORE IN THESE LAST DAYS I'M BEGINNING TO SEE THIS MENTALITY THAT IF I'M DOING IT, OR IF I'M INVOLVED, IT'S NOT WRONG. WHAT'S WRONG FOR OTHERS ISN'T WRONG FOR ME BECAUSE I'M ME AND I'M NOT WRONG.

Brethren, WRONG IS WRONG NO MATTER WHO’S DOING THE WRONG. If what the husbandmen are doing is wrong, and if the priests are doing the same things that the husbandmen are doing; then both the husbandmen and the priests are wrong. And the fact that you’re a priest and not a husbandman doesn’t make you innocent. Your status as a priest doesn’t absolve you from the guilt of your wrong. Friends, it doesn’t matter who you are. If you’re doing what the husbandmen are doing, that makes you wrong. And who you are cannot make you innocent in a matter of wrong doing.

Brethren, let us learn a lesson from the priests. They were so engrossed in their crusade against Jesus that they never bothered to stop and ask themselves if what they were doing to Jesus was really right. They were so focused on what was wrong with Jesus that they didn’t once consider what was wrong with themselves. They so readily saw that what the husbandmen were doing was wrong, but they couldn’t quite see the connection between the husbandmen and themselves. They had a hard time seeing themselves as wicked husbandmen.

So what’s the lesson? Brethren, WHEN WE BECOME SO FOCUSED ON THE WRONGS OF OTHERS, IT MAKES IT THAT MUCH MORE DIFFICULT TO SEE THE WRONGS IN US. WE BECOME SO FOCUSED ON WHAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE DOING WRONG THAT IT SELDOM OCCURS TO US TO EXAMINE OURSELVES AND SEE IF PERHAPS WE OURSELVES ARE WRONG. Brethren, WE CAN GET OUR EYES SO MUCH ON PEOPLE THAT SELF-EXAMINATION JUST DOESN'T HAPPEN.

We can conduct an earnest and zealous campaign to correct and help others while we neglect to correct and help ourselves. This is what Jesus had reference to in Matthew 7 when He spoke about seeing the mote in a brother’s eye but not seeing the beam that’s in our own eye.

Brethren, we’ve got to quit focusing on other people's problems and start focusing on , and remedying, our own.

 

 

THE PARABLE OF THE MARRIAGE FEAST

 

 

OF THE KING'S SONFN

IN THE TEMPLE

 

Matthew 22:1-7, And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, {2} The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, {3} And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. {4} Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlingsFN are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. {5} But they made light of it,FN and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:FN {6} And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully,FN and slew them. {7} But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Matthew 22:1-7 (NIV),  Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying:  (2)  "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.  (3)  He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.  (4)  "Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.'  (5)  "But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business.  (6)  The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.  (7)  The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

 

Still surrounded by a multitude of people and religious leaders in one of the Temple’s porticoes, Jesus countered the chief priests’ challenge to His authority with this parable of the marriage feast.

Like the parables of the two sons and the wicked husbandmen that preceded it, this parable is a parable on rejection. But, whereas the parables of the two sons and the wicked husbandmen were directed towards Judaism’s religious leaders and served as an indictment of their rejection of God’s Son; the parable of the marriage feast is directed towards the Jewish nation as a whole and it serves as an indictment of the nation’s forthcoming rejection of God’s Son.

Anticipating the marriage of his son, a certain king sent invitations to a certain number of his subjects and friends to attend the royal marriage celebration. In accordance with Eastern custom, two invitations were given. The first gave notice to the invitees that they were invited to a marriage feast. No specific day or time was given. It was simply a notice that a marriage was coming up and the invitees needed to make plans to attend. When the actual day of the wedding came, a second invitation was given and this was the summons to show up forthwith.

The honor and privilege of being invited to a royal feast, however, were spurned from the very get go: they would not come (verse 3). The invitees treated the occasion and invitation with careless indifference. “Who cares about the royal wedding? I’ve got work to do! I’ve got other things planned!”

The invitees' indifference and disregard were a good reflection of the Jewish nation’s ignorance of who Jesus really was. Jesus put it this way when we He wept over Jerusalem: "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. (43) The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. (44) They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you" (Luke 19:42-44 NIV).

What the Jews did to Jesus they did in ignorance. Peter said so in Acts 3:17 and so did Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:8.

But the Jews are not alone in their ignorance. MEN TO THIS DAY REFUSE TO HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH GOD'S SON BECAUSE THEY'RE STILL TOO PREOCCUPIED WITH THEIR OWN AFFAIRS. THEY'RE TOO BUSY TO TAKE TIME OUT FOR JESUS.

Now you would think that the king would be angered and insulted by the rudeness and disrespect what was shown him and his son. But, like the longsuffering, merciful vineyard owner of the previous parable, the king was generous and forbearing. He sent his servants with the second invitation.

This time, however, the servants were shamefully treated. Some were even killed. What were these invitees thinking? Didn't they know that their mistreatment of the king's servants would invite the king's anger and retribution? Did they seriously think they wouldn't suffer the deadly consequences of their mockery and murder? How thoughtless and short-sighted they were, as we are too!

Predictably, the king’s forbearance had it limits: he sent his armies to kill these murderers and burn up their city. This is Jesus’ second explicit reference to the coming destruction of Jerusalem which took place in 70 A.D. His first explicit reference was given the day before and it’s recorded in Luke 19:43-44.

 

Matthew 22:8-10, Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. {9} Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. {10} So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good:FN and the wedding was furnished with guests. Matthew 22:8-10 (NLT), And he said to his servants, 'The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren't worthy of the honor. (9) Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.' (10) So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests.

 

More servants were sent out with invitations to the feast and, this time, all kinds of people showed up. The parable pointed to a time soon coming when Gentiles would be invited into the kingdom of Heaven.

The Jews who were first invited spurned the offer of the kingdom. They thought they were simply rejecting a Man called Jesus. But in rejecting Jesus, they rejected a whole lot more. In truth, they rejected God and His invitation for their inclusion in the kingdom. Jesus, you see, is the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by Jesus (John 14:6). You can’t enter Heaven without Jesus. Friends, WHEN YOU REJECT JESUS YOU’LL END UP LOSING A LOT. TRUTH BE TOLD, YOU’LL LOSE IT ALL.

 

Matthew 22:11-14, And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: {12} And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.FN {13} 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. {14} For many are called, but few are chosen. Matthew 22:11-13 (NIV),  "But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.  (12)  He asked, 'How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?' The man was speechless.  (13)  "Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

 

This is a continuation of the same parable. It was customary to be properly attired in a king’s presence. In fact, if a person wanted to see the king but was not appropriately dressed, a garment or robe from the royal closets would be put on him before he got to see the king.

Remember that all of these who now sat in the banquet hall were hastily brought to the feast with no advance notice or personal preparation. Many of them would undoubtedly be poor, as was the case in real life Palestine. Thus, there were people there who didn’t have clothes that were befitting the king’s presence. Though no mention of it is made in this parable, those who were not suitably attired would be given robes that they could use while in attendance of the feast. This fact is subtly hinted at in the king’s dismay: How did you get in here without wedding clothes?

Notice that the word not is used two times in verses 11 and 12. The first not in verse 11 is the Greek word oúk and it simply refers to the fact that a certain man didn’t have a wedding garment on. But the second not in verse 12 is the Greek word mé and this word expresses thought, emotion, or will. That is, the man intentionally decided not to put a wedding garment on. He may have had a wedding garment at home. If not, he was offered one by the king’s servants. But in either case, he deliberately chose not to wear it. Apparently, he thought he was suitably attired; what he had on was alright; the king wouldn’t mind how he was clothed or mind what he was wearing.

But the man could not have been more wrong! The king ordered him bound and cast into outer darkness. Friends, the man was cast into perdition because of how he was dressed!

So does this mean we’ll lose our salvation and go to Hell if we wear, or don’t wear, certain kinds of clothes? Of course not. OUR SALVATION ISN’T DEPENDENT ON THE CLOTHES WE WEAR. “The LORD doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).

However, as we shall soon see, what the man wore, or rather, decided not to wear, was a true reflection of the inner condition of his heart. But first things first.

 

A. OUR CLOTHES MATTER TO GOD.

This parable of our Lord teaches us some things. One of these is, OUR CLOTHES MATTER TO GOD. GOD’S CONCERNED ABOUT WHAT WE WEAR. God made this very clear in the Law when He ordained, A woman must not put on men's clothing, and a man must not wear women's clothing. Anyone who does this is detestable in the sight of the LORD your God (Deuteronomy 22:5 NLT).

Speaking through Pastor Timothy, the Lord said, And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. (10) For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do (1 Timothy 2:9-10 NLT).

1 Peter 3:3-4 (NLT) go on to say, Don't be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. (4) You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.

I’m not one to set rules about the clothes people ought to wear. I have my own preferences and tastes. I also have my own ideas about what’s modest and what isn’t. What some people consider modest I find to be a temptation and hindrance. But legalism, rules, and enforced conformity are not God’s way of doing things. GOD WORKS ON THE OUTSIDE BY WORKING FIRST OF ALL IN THE HEART. THE HEART IS WHERE IT ALL STARTS AND THAT’S WHERE WE NEED TO START WHENEVER WE TALK ABOUT MATTERS OF DRESS OR ARTICLES OF CLOTHING.

But, having said all these, we nonetheless see from the parable that God is concerned about the clothes we wear.

*What we wear must be gender-specific: the genders and their clothes must be distinguishable and separate from one another.

*We should be modestly attired, not showy, drawing attention to ourselves. Instead of being preoccupied about looking beautifully outwardly, we should concentrate on looking beautifully inwardly.

THE SPIRIT OF GODLINESS IS WHAT MATTERS THE MOST TO GOD. AND WHEN WE’RE CLOTHED WITH THAT SPIRIT, THE SPIRIT OF GODLINESS WILL SHOW ITSELF IN THE HUMBLE AND MODEST, GENDER-SPECIFIC WAY IN WHICH WE DRESS.

 

B. SELF-ESTEEM ISN’T NEARLY AS IMPORTANT AS GOD’S ESTEEM.

Why didn’t the man wear a wedding garment at the royal feast? Evidently, he thought he was all right just the way he was. He felt he was suitably attired. But what he thought about his attire differed radically from what the king thought. The man and the king, to the man’s unawares, didn’t feel the same way about how the man was dressed.

Now psychology’s gospel of self-esteem has taken the world by storm and it has taught a generation of sinners to feel good about themselves. TO A CERTAIN EXTENT, AND WITHIN LIMITS, I THINK IT'S HEALTHY FOR A PERSON TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT HIMSELF OR HERSELF. BY THAT I MEAN THAT IT'S A GOOD, HEALTHY THING TO LIVE LIFE IN SUCH A WAY THAT OUR CONSCIENCE DOESN'T CONVICT OR BOTHER US. That is, we’re doing what we believe is right; we’re not doing anything that we know is wrong. Brethren, it’s a satisfying thing to feel good about ourselves.

However, IF WE AREN'T WALKING IN OBEDIENCE TO THE LORD IN ANY PARTICULAR AREA OF OUR LIFE, THEN WE SHOULDN'T FEEL GOOD ABOUT OURSELVES. If we don’t have the wedding garment on, we shouldn’t think we’re alright just the way we are when we know full well that we’re going to a royal wedding and know that what we have on is not suitable for the occasion.

Friends, when we get to a point where we feel good about ourselves in spite of the fact that we’re not in obedience to the Lord in some areas of our life, we’re begging to be noticed by God in a less-than-pleasant manner that leaves us speechless.

As the parable shows, HOW WE FEEL ABOUT OURSELVES IS ONE THING. HOW GOD FEELS ABOUT US IS ANOTHER. JUST BECAUSE WE FEEL GOOD ABOUT OURSELVES DOESN’T MEAN THAT GOD FEELS THE SAME WAY ABOUT US. You see, in spite of the fact that the man felt good about the way he was dressed, the king didn’t feel the same way. In fact, He objected to the way the man was dressed! Why was that? Because the man wasn’t wearing a wedding garment. He was not appropriately dressed for the occasion. What he had on was not suitable for the kind of party that it was. In the vernacular, he didn’t have his party clothes on.

The man himself ought to have known that he wasn’t dressed properly for a wedding because people at that time and in that culture dressed properly when in the king’s presence or palace. This fact is corroborated by the king’s shocked dismay at finding this improperly-clad man in the banquet hall. Without a wedding garment on, the man shouldn’t have been in the hall.FN If he had nothing nice or suitable to wear, he was offered one by the king’s servants. But the man refused to put the wedding garment on! You see, in spite of the fact that he felt he was alright just the way he was dressed, he was deluded and presumptuous to think this way because his cultural training and background taught him otherwise.

This is what I meant earlier when I said that what the man wore was a true reflection of the inner condition of his heart. Even though the man thought he was alright just the way he was, his heart and conscience were telling him, “You don’t go to a royal feast dressed like this!”

The point in all this is, IT’S POSSIBLE TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF AND THINK YOU’RE ALRIGHT EVEN WHEN YOU KNOW YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING WRONG. Sinners prove this point every single day. A lot of Christians feel good about themselves even though they’re involved in pornography, fornication, and drunkenness.

Brethren, self-esteem and feeling good about yourself only works when you’re walking in the light and are obedient to God. No matter how good you feel about yourself, if you’re not obedient to the Lord and the light, then God doesn’t feel the same way about you.

Learn a lesson from the parable. What you think about yourself isn’t nearly as important as what God thinks about you. A MAN WAS CAST INTO OUTER DARKNESS IN SPITE OF THE FACT THAT HE FELT GOOD ABOUT HIMSELF! Friends, don’t let this happen to you! In spite of the fact that you think you’re alright just the way you’re dressed, put the wedding garment on.

 

C. TO REJECT SALVATION BY GRACE IS TO REJECT SALVATION ITSELF.

First and foremost, the parable of the marriage feast is a gospel of grace. The king’s invitation to the wedding feast was an act of grace. The second invitation was an act of grace. Those who sat in the banquet hall were there because of the king’s grace. And it was by grace that all, with the exception of a single man, were clothed appropriately in wedding clothes.

In Scripture, when God clothes His people He puts on them a garment of salvation and righteousness.

*For example, we read in Isaiah 61:10 (NIV), I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

*Revelation 19:7-8 (NIV) similarly reads, Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. (8) Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God's holy people) (see also Psalm 132:16 and Zechariah 3:4).

The robe of salvation that God offers us is a salvation by grace and not of human effort or works, Ephesians 2:8-9.

The man who refused to wear a wedding garment is typical of all those who insist on working for their salvation. Friends, WHEN YOU REJECT SALVATION BY GRACE AND CHOOSE INSTEAD TO WORK FOR YOUR SALVATION, YOU’LL FORFEIT SALVATION AND NEVER ATTAIN IT BECAUSE NO ONE CAN EARN SALVATION. God doesn’t save those who work, but rather, He saves those who believe.

Galatians 2:16 instructs us that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Salvation isn’t earned. It’s a gift of God. It’s grace. It’s a garment that God gives you and the only way you can get it is to humbly receive it by faith. IF YOU REJECT GOD’S GARMENT OF GRACE, GOD REJECTS YOU.

 

D. NOT EVERYONE IN THE KINGDOM WILL REMAIN IN THE KINGDOM.

The fourth and last thing that we see here is the fact that many, both good and bad, enter the banquet hall of the kingdom called the church. But not everyone in the hall is truly saved; not everyone is accepted by the Lord.

Many people go to church for many different reasons. But not every one comes with the intent of being clothed with the Lord’s garment of salvation or righteousness. Some don’t want what the Lord’s offering them. They insist on the deluded notion that they’re alright just the way they are, they don’t need to change, they don’t need to put off their soiled clothes and wear something else, they don’t need to listen to the king’s servants advising their departure from the banquet hall.

Brethren, fear God. Nothing escapes His eye or His notice. He knows who’s dressed properly and who isn’t. And He will, at some time, weed out of the church those who don’t belong there. Friends, NOT EVERYONE WHO’S IN CHURCH IS GOING TO BE IN HEAVEN. SOME WHO GO TO CHURCH WILL GO TO HELL. Let’s make sure that we’re not a part of that pathetic company. Brethren, put on the wedding garment and walk in the paths of righteousness. The alternative isn’t pleasant. IF YOU MAKE LIGHT OF WHAT'S RIGHT, YOU'LL BE LEFT IN THE DARK.

 

 

PAYING TAXES TO CAESAR

IN THE TEMPLE

 
Matthew 22:15-16a, Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangleFN him in his talk. {16a} And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians.FN Matthew 22:15-16a (NLT), Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which He could be arrested. (16a) They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with Him.
Mark 12:13, And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. Mark 12:13 (CEV), The Pharisees got together with Herod's followers. Then they sent some men to trick Jesus into saying something wrong.
Luke 20:20, And they watched him, and sent forth spies,FN which should feign themselves just men,FN that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor. Luke 20:20 (NIV),  Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor.

In what is known as a day of conflict, Jesus began His day by going to the Temple. He was met there by a delegation from the Great Sanhedrin consisting of chief priests, elders, and scribes who questioned Him about His authority. Refusing to answer their question, Jesus instead gave them three parables, whereupon He was promptly asked three different questions from three different individuals or groups of people that constituted the Great Sanhedrin. The first question is in the text that that we want to look at just now.

As the Gospel writers tell us, the Pharisees engaged themselves in trying to entangle Jesus in His words. Their plan, according to Luke, was politically motivated. They wanted to deliver Jesus into the hands of the Roman Governor. But in order for the Romans to pass judgment against Jesus, they needed to have just cause for doing so. They had to be shown or persuaded that Jesus was guilty of a political, treasonous, or criminal misdeed.

The Romans would not arrest, imprison, or execute a person on religious grounds. The devious genius of the Pharisees is thus shown here in their realization that the best and only real way to remove Jesus from the public scene was to involve or incriminate Him in a political or criminal misdeed. In other words, they had to get Him involved with politics or crime; they had to get Him in trouble with Roman Law or Caesar. But how? A bunch of them got their heads together to think upon the question.

 

Matthew 22:16b-17, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.FN {17} Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? Matthew 22:16b-17 (NLT), "Teacher," they said, "we know how honest You are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don't play favorites. (17) Now tell us what You think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
Mark 12:14-15a, And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? {15a} Shall we give, or shall we not give? Mark 12:14-15a (NIV),  They came to him and said, "Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?  (15a)  Should we pay or shouldn't we?"
Luke 20:21-22, And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any,FN but teachest the way of God truly: {22} Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no? Luke 20:21-22 (CEV), The spies said to him, "Teacher, we know that you teach the truth about what God wants people to do. And you treat everyone with the same respect, no matter who they are. (22) Tell us, should we pay taxes to the Emperor or not?"

 

After some deliberation, the Pharisees decided to question Jesus about the legality of paying taxes to Caesar.FN

Now Caesar was the supreme leader of the Romans and at this particular juncture in history, more and more Romans were subscribing themselves to the notion that Caesar was God incarnate, he was divine.

When the Romans subjugated the Jews, this placed the Jews in a rather precarious situation in two respects.

*First, Caesar was King throughout the empire. But the Jews regarded Messiah as their one and only true King. For a pious Jew, it was treasonous to acknowledge, and submit themselves to, any other King besides Messiah.

*But worse than this, in the second place, the Jews in good conscience could not submit themselves to a proclaimed, divine Caesar because that was an act of blasphemy and idolatry. For the Jews, there was no other God beside God. Hence, to submit themselves to a foreign and false god was idolatrous. For pious Jews like the Pharisees, submission was unthinkable!

Unfortunately, not every Jew felt this way about the Romans. While Caesar was the supreme authority throughout the empire, the Romans granted their foreign subjects a certain amount of autonomy or self-governance. For the Jews in Judea, this limited right of self-rule was given to Antipater and passed on to his son Herod the Great who was eventually installed as King over all Palestine. Upon his death, this limited right of rule was passed to his sons Herod Archelaus, Philip II, and Antipas; and later on, to his grandson Agrippa I and great-grandson Agrippa II.

Now the Herodians were followers of the Herods.FN They were a political party that concerned itself with the preservation of power or political rule. In principle, they opposed Roman domination. But unlike the Zealots and Pharisees, they submitted themselves to that domination as a reality and fact of life. They believed that the limited autonomy given to the Herods was about as close as the Jews were going to get to being really free and independent. And because this right of rule was ultimately a privilege or prerogative that could be taken away from the Jews at any time, the Herodians stood for peaceful collaboration or collusion with Rome. For them, it was more advantageous to be at peace with Rome and have a limited measure of self-rule, rather than make war against Rome, lose the war, and, as a consequence, lose their limited autonomy.

So what does taxes have to do with the Pharisees’ plan to deliver Jesus into the hands of the Roman Governor? Well, when it comes to taxes there is no middle ground. You either pay it or you don’t.

*If Jesus answered that it was lawful for the Jews to pay their taxes, He would, in the Jewish mind, be condoning Jewish submission to a foreign king and god.FN To the Pharisees, this was unthinkable! Jesus would never advocate that!

*What the Pharisees rather hoped was that Jesus would take a public stance and declare the unlawfulness of paying taxes to Caesar. Naturally, Rome would regard this as an act of treason or rebellion against Caesar; the Herodians would report Jesus to Pilate; Pilate would have Jesus arrested, imprisoned, tried, and executed; and the Pharisees would be effectively rid of Him. It was a deviously ingenious plan and, for the moment, it looked as if the Pharisees would finally win one over Jesus.

 

Matthew 22:18-22, But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?FN {19} Show me the tribute money.FN And they brought unto him a penny.FN {20} And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? {21} They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, RenderFN therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. {22} When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way. Matthew 22:18-22 (NLT), But Jesus knew their evil motives. "You hypocrites!" He said. "Why are you trying to trap Me? (19) Here, show Me the coin used for the tax." When they handed Him a Roman coin, (20) He asked, "Whose picture and title are stamped on it?" (21) "Caesar's," they replied. "Well, then," He said, "give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God." (22) His reply amazed them, and they went away.
Mark 12:15b-17, But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. {16} And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. {17} And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him. Mark 12:15-17 (NIV),  Should we pay or shouldn't we?" But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. "Why are you trying to trap me?" he asked. "Bring me a denarius and let me look at it."  (16)  They brought the coin, and he asked them, "Whose image is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied.  (17)  Then Jesus said to them, "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." And they were amazed at him.
Luke 20:23-26, But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me? {24} Show me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar’s. {25} And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s. {26} And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace. Luke 20:23-26 (CEV), Jesus knew that they were trying to trick him. So he told them, (24) "Show me a coin." Then he asked, "Whose picture and name are on it?" "The Emperor's," they answered. (25) Then he told them, "Give the Emperor what belongs to him and give God what belongs to God." (26) Jesus' enemies could not catch him saying anything wrong there in front of the people. They were amazed at his answer and kept quiet.

 

Rome levied several different kinds of taxes upon its subjects. One of these was the poll or head tax. Every Jewish male between the ages of 14 and 65, as well as every Jewish female between the ages of 12 and 65, was required to pay this tax once a year, every year.FN That tax amounted to one denarius.

Now back in those days, one of the things that a newly-enthroned king would do was mint his own coins. Coinage, you see, was a sign of kingship.

When Tiberius acceded to the throne after the death of his stepfather the Emperor Augustus, he minted his own coinage and stamped his image on them. On a denarius from that era, the head of the emperor was stamped on the obverse side with these letters, TICAEASARDIVI AVGFAVGUSTUS, meaning, TIBERIUS CAESAR OF THE DIVINE AUGUSTUS, SON OF AUGUSTUS. On the coin’s reverse side, Tiberius is stamped seated on a throne, wearing a diadem on his head and clothed in the vestments of a high priest. Its lettering read, PONTIF MAXIM, meaning HIGHEST PRIEST. With claims such as these, you can understand why pious Jews like the Pharisees had a really hard time paying taxes to Caesar.

Now a king’s coins were not only a sign of his kingship, but they were also held to be his property. In other words, the king’s coins belonged to the king. Thus, when Jesus told His antagonists to Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, He was simply acknowledging the fact that the tribute coin belonged to Tiberius, Tiberius wanted the coin back, and the Jews were morally and legally required to give back to Tiberius what was rightfully his.

In a masterful stroke of inspired, Divine genius, Jesus foiled the trap that was laid for Him. It is lawful and right to pay taxes to the Roman Emperor—not as an acknowledgement of the Emperor’s divinity, but simply as an acknowledgement that whatever belonged to the Emperor should be given back, or returned, to the Emperor whenever the Emperor demanded it back.

Jesus, however, didn’t stop there. He made recognition of the fact that, in this world, some things belong to Caesar and some things belong to God. To Caesar belongs the right and power to govern, with all that that governance entails, including the right of taxation.FN And to God belongs the worship and devotion that is due Him as Creator and Lord of all creation.

At the time that Jesus spoke these words, there was no real conflict between the two kingdoms. Tiberius gave his foreign subjects considerable latitude in religious matters. For all practical purposes, the Jews were truly free and independent in matters pertaining to religion. Thus, it was wholly compatible for the Jews of Jesus’ day to give to Caesar what was Caesar’s and to God, what was God’s.

In later years, especially during the reign of Nero, Caesar would encroach in matters that pertained to God and not himself. In that case, God’s people are duty-bound to obey God: they must not give to Caesar the things that belong wholly and only to God.

At Jesus’ response, the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians were left speechless. They marveled at Jesus’ wisdom and left Him, unable to pin any political or criminal charges against Him.

 

 

THE SADDUCEES ASK JESUS ABOUT THE RESURRECTION

IN THE TEMPLE

 

Before we proceed with our commentary on the next episode that took place in the Temple, I find it beneficial to tell you a little something about the Sadducees.

 

THE SADDUCEES WERE A POWERFUL, RELIGIOUS PARTY.

The Sadducees, like the Pharisees, were a religious party. But, sadly so and to our surprise, unlike the Pharisees, the Sadducees were not as concerned about matters of faith or religion as much as they were concerned about matters of power and governance.

Their power laid, first of all, in the fact that they were priests. The High Priest, chief priests, and all the priests in Israel were Sadducees. Since the Levitical sacrifices could only be performed by a priest and sacrificed only in the Temple at Jerusalem, the Sadducees enjoyed tremendous prestige and respect by virtue of their priestly office.

The Sadducees were also a wealthy, aristocratic party as well. So their power was also due, in part, to their wealth.

But perhaps greatest of all, at least in their eyes, the Sadducees were a politically powerful and influential bunch. You see, the Herods and Roman procurators gave the Great Sanhedrin broad, sweeping power over the Jewish nation. The seventy men on this great supreme court of the Jews governed the religious and civil affairs of the Jews.

Now the High Priest, being a Sadducee, was President of the Great Sanhedrin. Several Sadducees served as judges on that court. Hence, it was only inevitable that the Sadducees became preoccupied with the maintenance of their power and rule over the Jewish nation.

In this respect, then, the Sadducees and Herodians were alike: both were concerned with power. And since power was a privilege that could be taken away by the whims of the Herods and procurators, then the Sadducees and Herodians both were collaborationists with Rome.

Moreover, since Jesus and His mass, popular following threatened the peace of the nation, then both Sadducees and Herodians found in Jesus a common enemy that needed to be eliminated.

 

WHAT THE SADDUCEES BELIEVED.

Religiously, the Sadducees and the Pharisees stood on the opposite ends of a great theological divide. For your convenience, I’ve outlined their major differences in the chart below.

 

THE MAJOR THEOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE SADDUCEES AND THE PHARISEES

 

BELIEF

THE PHARISEES

THE SADDUCEES

SCRIPTURES
Regarded the entire Old Testament as inspired Scripture, but made the Oral Law with its wide minutiae of rabbincal interpretations equally inspired, authoritative, and binding. Accepted only the Old Testament as inspired Scripture, with most of their beliefs concentrated on the five Books of Moses. Rejected the Divine inspiration and binding authoritativeness of the Oral and Rabbinical Law.
RITUALISM
Observed the Levitical laws of cleanness and uncleanness, but in accordance with Rabbinical interpretation, applied those laws to a wide variety of matters or instances not explicitly addressed in the Law. Observed only the laws of cleanness and uncleanness revealed in Torah. The many things that defiled a Pharisee did not defile a Sadducee. Hence, the Sadducees were in many respects free from the fear of defilement that plagued the Pharisees.
INHERITANCE
If the male heir presumptive died having several sisters but only one daughter, his inheritance goes to his daughter. Both the daughter and the male heir’s sisters share equally in his inheritance.
RETALIATION
Were more lenient and merciful towards an offender. Monetary compensation is sufficient to right the wrong inflicted upon another. Were more lenient and merciful towards an offender. Monetary compensation is sufficient to right the wrong inflicted upon another.
LEVIRATE MARRIAGE
The law of Deuteronomy 25:5-10 applied as long as the deceased husband left his wife without any children. The levirate law applied only when the marriage wasn’t consummated. Once the husband sexually consummates the marriage, his brothers are no longer bound by levirate law to marry his wife.
DIVORCE & REMARRIAGE
A man can divorce his wife for any reason whatsoever. Allowed remarriage after divorce. A man can divorce his wife only if she is guilty of adultery or fornication. Allowed remarriage after divorce.
FREE WILL
Everything that happens is predestinated and foreordained by God. Man has free will, but even his choices are foreordained by God. Nothing is predestinated or foreordained by God. Man is totally, entirely free to make his own decisions without Divine influence or intervention.
ANGELS & DEMONS
Believed in angels and demons. There is no such thing as angels or demons. They don’t exist.
IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL BODILY RESURRECTION ETERNAL RETRIBUTION
Believed the soul to be immortal and thus survive the death of the physical body. Only the body of a righteous person will one day be resurrected and be united with the soul. The wicked will not have a resurrected body, but will be eternally tormented anyway. Believed in annihilism. The soul perishes and no longer exists when the physical body dies. There is no life after death, consequently, no such thing as eternal retribution or reward. Since death is the end of all existence, they didn’t believe in the resurrection.

 

With these things in mind, let’s pick up where we left off. The Pharisees and Herodians have been silenced by our Lord, so next came the Sadducees.

Now the Sadducees didn’t believe in the doctrine of the resurrection. While they regarded the entire Old Testament Scriptures as inspired, their beliefs were nearly all based on the writings of Moses. In their studied opinion, Moses didn’t teach on the resurrection. Consequently, the Sadducees were left with no other recourse than to deny the doctrine of the resurrection. In fact, they denied that there was life after death. Death, for a Sadducee, ends it all. To show the utter ridiculousness of believing in the resurrection, they decided to ask Jesus about a particular case of levirate marriage.FN

 

Matthew 22:23-28, The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, {24} Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. {25} Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: {26} Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. {27} And last of all the woman died also. {28} Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Matthew 22:23-28 (NLT), That same day Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. They posed this question: (24) "Teacher, Moses said, 'If a man dies without children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother's name.' (25) Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children, so his brother married the widow. (26) But the second brother also died, and the third brother married her. This continued with all seven of them. (27) Last of all, the woman also died. (28) So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her."
Mark 12:18-23, Then come unto him the Sadducees,FN which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, {19} Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man’s brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. {20} Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed. {21} And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise. {22} And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also. {23} In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife. Mark 12:18-23 (NIV),  Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.  (19)  "Teacher," they said, "Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.  (20)  Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children.  (21)  The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third.  (22)  In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too.  (23)  At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?"
Luke 20:27-33, Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him, {28} Saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man’s brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. {29} There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children. {30} And the second took her to wife, and he died childless. {31} And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died. {32} Last of all the woman died also. {33} Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife. Luke 20:27-33 (NASB), Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection), (28) and they questioned Him, saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that IF A MAN'S BROTHER DIES, having a wife, AND HE IS CHILDLESS, HIS BROTHER SHOULD MARRY THE WIFE AND RAISE UP CHILDREN TO HIS BROTHER. (29) "Now there were seven brothers; and the first took a wife and died childless; (30) and the second (31) and the third married her; and in the same way all seven died, leaving no children. (32) "Finally the woman died also. (33) "In the resurrection therefore, which one's wife will she be? For all seven had married her."

 

The Law of Moses stipulated that if a man died leaving his wife childless, the deceased man’s brother was supposed to marry her and raise up a child for his brother.FN In this way, a man’s name could be carried on to succeeding generations without going into extinction.

This law of marriage is found in Deuteronomy 25:5-10 (NLT), "If two brothers are living together on the same property and one of them dies without a son, his widow may not be married to anyone from outside the family. Instead, her husband's brother should marry her and have intercourse with her to fulfill the duties of a brother-in-law. (6) The first son she bears to him will be considered the son of the dead brother, so that his name will not be forgotten in Israel. (7) "But if the man refuses to marry his brother's widow, she must go to the town gate and say to the elders assembled there, 'My husband's brother refuses to preserve his brother's name in Israel—he refuses to fulfill the duties of a brother-in-law by marrying me.' (8) The elders of the town will then summon him and talk with him. If he still refuses and says, 'I don't want to marry her,' (9) the widow must walk over to him in the presence of the elders, pull his sandal from his foot, and spit in his face. Then she must declare, 'This is what happens to a man who refuses to provide his brother with children.' (10) Ever afterward in Israel his family will be referred to as 'the family of the man whose sandal was pulled off'!

The question that the Sadducees had was, since the woman was married to all of the seven brothers, then whose wife would she be in the resurrection?FN On Earth there really isn’t a problem because a woman couldn’t be married to more than one man at a time. Even if she married seven brothers, she could only do so, one brother at a time and only after her present husband died. As long as her husband was alive and as long as she was married to him, she couldn’t marry any of her husband’s brothers. She could have only one husband at a time.

But in the resurrection, when you have all seven brothers alive at the same time and having the same woman for a wife, what results is a gross violation of the Mosaic prohibition against marrying your sister-in-law! Leviticus 18:16 commanded, Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness.FN In the vernacular, Don’t have sex with your sister-in-law because that would dishonor your brother.

Unless you believe that there’s sin in the after-life, then the only conclusion left to the Sadducees was, there is no after life! And if there is no after life, then there is need for the resurrection. As far as the Sadducees saw it, the law of levirate marriage was adequate proof to refute the doctrine of the resurrection.

 

Matthew 22:29, Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. Matthew 22:29 (ESV), But Jesus answered them, "You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.
Mark 12:24, And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? Mark 12:24 (NLT), Jesus replied, "Your mistake is that you don't know the Scriptures, and you don't know the power of God.

 

IT’S ALRIGHT TO TALK WITH SKEPTICS.

Before we get to the specifics of Jesus’ response, I’d like to point out three things about Jesus. The first is, Jesus responded to His Sadducean skeptics. They came to Him with a question and an argument. They challenged Him concerning the veracity of the doctrine of the resurrection. And do you know what Jesus did? He talked with them and reasoned about the resurrection.

Friends, THERE’S A PLACE FOR REASONED CONVERSATION WITH SKEPTICS. Christianity will always have its skeptics and foes. There will always be a host of arguments raised against the truths of Scripture. This fact alone, coupled with the example of Christ in our present text, ought to convince us that THE CHURCH NEEDS APOLOGISTS TODAY. Brethren, we need people who know how to argue and reason with skeptics. We need people who are unafraid or unabashed to stand up for what they believe and defend it. But above all, we need people who know their Bibles well enough to silence the mouths of skeptics.

 

IT’S NOT UNCHRISTIAN OR WRONG TO TELL PEOPLE THEY’RE WRONG.

Second, we see in these brief words from the narrative that Jesus was unafraid and unashamed to reprove these religious doubters. He came right out and told them point blank that they were wrong. I’m sure He said it nicely. He proceeded to tell them where they were wrong or why they were wrong. But the point of it is, He told them they were wrong. Which is to say, from Jesus’ perspective, they needed to know they were wrong. And they only way for them to know they were wrong was for someone to tell them they were wrong.

Brethren, if you’ve got the truth and Scripture on your side, DON’T BE AFRAID TO TELL PEOPLE THEY’RE WRONG. A lot of times, it’s exactly what they need to hear. SINCERE SEEKERS OF THE TRUTH CAN'T CORRECT WHAT THEY BELIEVE UNLESS THEY'RE FIRST TOLD, AND SHOWN, THAT THEY'RE WRONG.

 

WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW PROVES YOU WRONG.

And last of all, the Sadducees erred in what they believed because they didn’t know the Scriptures or the power of God.

Brethren, WHEN IT COMES TO THE WORD AND THE LORD, WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW HURTS AND HARMS YOU. YOUR IGNORANCE MAKES YOU WRONG.

Now get this. Here were the Sadducees who were ardent sticklers of the five Books of Moses. They thought they had those Books down pat. They thought they had a convincing, air-tight, unassailable, irrefutable argument. But do you know what? In Jesus’ sight, they were ignorant and mistaken!

Friends, NO MATTER HOW SMART AND CONVINCING A SKEPTIC MAY BE, A SKEPTIC WHO DOESN’T KNOW THE BIBLE IS IGNORANT IN A VERY SERIOUS WAY. In Jesus’ later words, Ye do err greatly (Mark 12:27).

As I’ve already said, and scholars are pretty much agreed on this point, the Sadducees based just about everything they believed on the five Books of Moses. The Writings and the Prophets were inspired Scripture, too. But, for reasons that I don’t yet know, the Sadducees just didn’t pay much attention to these Scriptures. For all practical purposes, they acknowledged it as inspired, but neglected it as a basis for belief. Had they paid as much attention to the Writings and the Prophets as they did the Law, the Sadducees would not have erred concerning the immortality of the soul, the resurrection, after-life, and angels. Their errors were due in large part to their rejection of the Writings and Prophets as a foundation or basis for belief. See chart below.

 

THE OLD TESTAMENT ON IMMORTALITY, RESURRECTION, AND THE AFTER-LIFE

HISTORICAL EXAMPLES OF BODILY RESURRECTION
1. The Widow's Son In Zarephath, 1 Kings 17:17-24
2. The Shunnamite Woman's Son, 2 Kings 4:17-37
3. A Man Placed In Elisha's Tomb, 2 Kings 13:21
HISTORICAL EXAMPLES OF BODILY TRANSLATION TO HEAVEN
4. Enoch, Genesis 5:22-24
5. Elijah, 2 Kings 2:11
HISTORICAL EXAMPLE OF THE DEAD LIVING BEYOND THE GRAVE
6. Samuel Appearing To Saul, 1 Samuel 28:12-19

 

OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES THAT TEACH THE RESURRECTION AND AFTER-LIFE

A SMALL SAMPLING

 

2 Samuel 12:22-23, And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? {23} But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.

Job 19:25-27 (NLT), "But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand upon the earth at last. (26) And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! (27) I will see Him for myself. Yes, I will see Him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought! See also Job 14:14.

Psalms 16:10 (NLT), For You will not leave my soul among the dead or allow Your holy one to rot in the grave.

Psalms 73:23-24, Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. {24} Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.

Isaiah 26:19, Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.

Ezekiel 37:12-14, Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. {13} And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, {14} And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord. See also Hosea 6:2, 13:14.

Daniel 12:2, And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

 

The point is, the Sadducees erred, in part because they rejected a huge portion of the Old Testament as a basis for doctrine. It was inspired, but not “meant” to be a matter of doctrine!

Many Christians, sadly, are not unlike these Sadducees. They accept only certain books, certain chapters, or certain verses, as authoritative and binding for Christian belief. But they explain away and reject huge portions of Scripture, especially those Scriptures that do not particularly suit their fancies. You see, the Sadducees haven’t entirely died out. There’s a Sadducee in many of us today. And the reason why the Lord is spending so much time talking to us about these Sadducees is, we need to recognize the Sadducee in us and get that Sadducean spirit or mentality out of us.

Brethren, WHEN YOU DISREGARD PORTIONS OF SACRED SCRIPTURE, YOUR DISREGARD, LIKE THE SADDUCEES, WILL LEAD YOU AND LEAVE YOU IN ERROR. YOU CAN’T SET ASIDE ANY PART OF GOD’S WORD AND STILL BE TRUE, BE RIGHT, AND BE FREE FROM ERROR OR DECEPTION.

YOU MAY DISREGARD CERTAIN SCRIPTURES FOR YOURSELF. BUT GOD DOESN’T. THE VERSES THAT YOU’VE CUT OUT OF YOUR BIBLE ARE STILL IN GOD’S BIBLE. And those verses that you’ve cut out will one day be used to indict and reprove you of wrong, and you will hear our Lord say once again, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures or the power of God.

Brethren, learn from the Sadducees. Keep the whole revelation and counsel of Scripture together, believe it, and it will keep you from error and reproof.

 

Matthew 22:30-32, For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. {31} But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, {32} 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. Matthew 22:30-32 (NLT), For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven. (31) "But now, as to whether there will be a resurrection of the dead—haven't you ever read about this in the Scriptures? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, God said, (32) 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' So He is the God of the living, not the dead."
Mark 12:25-27, For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven. {26} And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? {27} He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err. Mark 12:25-27 (NIV),  When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.  (26)  Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?  (27)  He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!"
Luke 20:34-38, And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: {35} But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: {36} Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels;FN and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. {37} Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. {38} For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him. Luke 20:34-38 (CEV) Jesus answered: The people in this world get married. (35) But in the future world no one who is worthy to rise from death will either marry (36) or die. They will be like the angels and will be God's children, because they have been raised to life. (37) In the story about the burning bush, Moses clearly shows that people will live again. He said, "The Lord is the God worshiped by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." (38) So the Lord isn't the God of the dead, but of the living. This means that everyone is alive as far as God is concerned.

 

(1) THERE IS A RESURRECTION AND AN AFTER LIFE!

Jesus responded to His Sadducean skeptics by correcting their errant beliefs and laying down four principal truths. First, He affirmed the doctrine and reality of the resurrection: In the resurrection...But as touching the resurrection of the dead. And because there is a resurrection, then there is also an after-life.

Contrary to Sadducean belief, the resurrection and after life are not fables or myths. In spite of the fact that men may disbelieve and reject the whole notion of an after-life, their disbelief does not do away with what’s fact and with what’s real.

Friends, THERE IS SUCH A THING AS LIFE AFTER DEATH AND YOUR REFUSAL TO ACCEPT THAT FACT WILL NOT ALTER OR OBLITERATE THAT FACT. Your disbelief does not turn a fact into a fable. It does not make what’s true, untrue.

 

(2) THERE WON’T BE MARRIAGE IN THE AFTER LIFE!

The Sadducees proceeded on the premise that life in the resurrection would, more or less, be a familiar continuation of life on Earth. That is, there will be marriage in the after-life. A big part of the reason why they rejected the notion of the resurrection was because they couldn’t reconcile themselves to the notion that, in the after-life, a resurrected man or woman would have more than one spouse at a time.

Jesus destroyed their errant premise by declaring the nature of the after-life: In the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage. Notice how Jesus speaks so matter-of-factly about what the after-life is like. How does He know there won’t be marriage in the after-life? How can He be so sure? HIS KNOWLEDGE AND CERTITUDE, MY FRIENDS, MAKE APPARENT HIS DIVINITY.

 

(3) ANGELS DO EXIST!

Despite what the Sadducees believed, Jesus affirmed the reality of angels: They are like the angels. In the sense that angels don’t marry, angels don’t die, angels live forever.

It’s at this point that the Sadducees’ rejection of the existence and reality of angels is most perplexing and inexplicable. Angels are found throughout the entire Old Testament Scriptures. Admittedly, the Sadducees’ real Bible, that is, the source of their core beliefs, consisted only of the five Books of Moses. But even in those Books, Moses made repeated mention of them.FN What did the Sadducees do with these Scriptures? They explained them away by saying that angels were nothing more than temporary manifestations of God! As far as being a separate class of beings, there are no such things as angels!

It’s a lesson to us that even if you choose to base your beliefs on Scripture, in this case, the five Books of Moses, it’s possible for people to deny or disbelieve portions of Sacred Scripture in spite of the clarity of those Scriptures.

Friends, WHEN YOU MAKE YOUR REASON, LOGIC, OR INTELLECT THE FINAL DETERMINANT OF WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO BELIEVE OR DISBELIEVE, THE SCRIPTURES CEASE TO BE THE SOLE BASIS OF WHAT YOU BELIEVE.

While many Christians make loud proclamation that their beliefs are based on Scripture, the sad fact of the matter nevertheless remains, their beliefs are based on Scripture only when logic permits it. When a Scripture defies or contradicts reasoned intellect, then intellect holds sway and the particular Scripture is Sadduceanly explained away.

Brethren, THE ONLY WAY TO MAKE THE SCRIPTURES DETERMINE WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO BELIEVE OR NOT BELIEVE IS, IF YOU DETHRONE INTELLECT FROM BEING THE SUPREME DETERMINANT OF YOUR BELIEFS AND INSTEAD REPLACE IT WITH CHILDLIKE FAITH IN THE WORD OF GOD AS IT’S WRITTEN, WITHOUT COMPROMISING, MANIPULATING, OR RATIONALIZING THE TEXT OF SACRED SCRIPTURE.

Friends, accept the Word of God as it’s written. IF YOU DON’T LIKE OR UNDERSTAND A CERTAIN PORTION OF SCRIPTURE, IT’S YOU WHO MUST CHANGE! NOT SCRIPTURE! Get rid of your biases, ask God for understanding, and in the mean time, take the Word at face value and believe it.

 

(4) THE DOCTRINE IS IN THE BOOK!

Lastly, and perhaps most devastatingly of all, JESUS USED THE SCRIPTURE TO SUPPORT AND VALIDATE THE DOCTRINE OF THE RESURRECTION.

The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection because they claimed that Moses didn’t teach the resurrection. But, according to Jesus, they were wrong. True, Moses didn’t explicitly teach on it. But in an implicit way, he did. You can find the resurrection in Moses!

The Sadducees placed great stress on the five Books of Moses and, to what must have surely been their surprise and amazement, Jesus took them to the Books of Moses and showed them where the resurrection could be found. He cited Exodus 3:6. These were the words that God spoke to Moses when Moses was before the burning bush: I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

God, Jesus said, is not the God of the dead, but rather, of the living. That is, in order for God to be someone’s God, that someone has to be alive. God can’t be the God of someone if that someone is dead or non-existent. God is the God of those that are alive.FN Hence, even though Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were, at one time, alive; the fact that God still calls Himself in the present tense as still being the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—I AM, not I was—is implicit proof that these patriarchs, though having died, are nevertheless still alive. In other words, there’s life after death, the soul of man is immortal, the dead are indeed raised back to life.

Thus, WHILE MOSES DIDN’T EXPLICITLY TEACH THE RESURRECTION, THE TRUTH OF THE RESURRECTION IS NEVERTHELESS LATENT OR IMPLICIT IN WHAT GOD SAID TO MOSES!

O the depths of the manifold wisdom of God! Brethren, THERE’S MORE TO SCRIPTURE THAN MEETS THE EYE! THE SCRIPTURES SAY A LOT MORE THAN WHAT YOU THINK IT SAYS.

 

Matthew 22:33, And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine. Matthew 22:33 (NIV),  When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.
Luke 20:39-40, Then certain of the scribes answering said, Master, thou hast well said. {40} And after that they durst not ask him any question at all. Luke 20:39-40 (CEV) Some of the teachers of the Law of Moses said, "Teacher, you have given a good answer!" (40) From then on, no one dared to ask Jesus any questions.

 

As with the Pharisees and Herodians before them, Jesus’ answer silenced these Sadducees. He proved them wrong, using the very Scriptures that they claimed didn’t teach the resurrection. Though Exodus 3:6 is not the strongest proof text to defend the doctrine of the resurrection in the Old Testament, Jesus’ use of it nevertheless was adequate to refute the errant belief of the Sadducees. They could not, or would not, argue with His interpretation or understanding of the proof text. From that day forward, the Sadducees didn’t ask Him any more questions.

 

 

THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT

IN THE TEMPLE

 

Matthew 22:34-36, But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. {35} Then one of them, which was a lawyer,FN asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, {36} Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Matthew 22:34-36 (NLT), But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees with His reply, they met together to question Him again. (35) One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap Him with this question: (36) "Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?"
Mark 12:28, And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? Mark 12:28 (CEV), One of the teachers of the Law of Moses came up while Jesus and the Sadducees were arguing. When he heard Jesus give a good answer, he asked him, "What is the most important commandment?"

 

Having foiled the trap that was laid for Him by the Sadducees, the Pharisees stepped in once again in a last desperate attempt to trap Jesus in His words. This time, instead of letting their disciples do the dirty work, they worked in collusion with the scribes and commissioned a particular lawyer who, from Mark’s Gospel account, seemed to be an honest and sincere man. Surely Jesus would not suspect this sincere scribe of being in cahoots with the murderous Pharisees! So they thought.

 

WHO THE SCRIBES WERE

Now the scribes were religious professionals. Some of them were priests, hence Sadducees; and others were Pharisees. But what they all had in common was their preoccupation with the Scriptures—that was how they made their livelihood.FN

*Some scribes were copyists. That is, since there were no duplicating machines in those days, the Scriptures had to be laboriously copied by hand and the only people authorized to do this were scribes.

* While some copied the Scriptures, other scribes devoted themselves to studying the Scriptures. Like the Pharisees and unlike the Sadducees, the scribes believed that the Oral Law was divinely inspired and binding upon every Jew. So in addition to poring over Old Testament Scriptures, the scribes also studied the Oral Law and their findings, interpretations, or judgments of the law were as good as law. That is, their interpretations of the law became synonymous with the law. In our day, you would say that the teachings and opinions of the scribes were gospel truth.

*Because of their comprehensive and thorough knowledge of the Law, many of the scribes were rabbis, that is, teachers of Old Testament and Rabbinical Law.

It was for this reason that the Pharisees naturally gravitated towards the scribes. They appear in close relation throughout the Gospel accounts and the reason for this was, the Pharisees were, for all practical purposes, students of the scribes. The scribes taught the law and the Pharisees concentrated on obeying the Law and putting it into practice in their everyday life.

In a very real sense, the responsibility for the religious instruction of the Jews fell upon the scribes. With that tremendous responsibility came tremendous respect.FN In a society and time when the vast majority of people were illiterate, the scribes were held in high esteem among the populace for their knowledge and propagation of the Scriptures.

But with tremendous responsibility also comes tremendous accountability and as we shall soon see, Jesus laid the blame for the people’s spiritual waywardness squarely on the shoulders of the scribes (Matthew 23, Mark 12:38-40).

 

TWO SCRIBAL APPROACHES TO THE LAW

1) PARTICULARIZATION. Among the rabbis there was a two-fold tendency. The first was to look at the Law and find all the ways that a particular law could be applied. Naturally, when you do this, what results is a great expansion of the Law whereby one law—let’s say, the law’s prohibition against working on the Sabbath—would give rise to many Sabbath laws with each of these laws carrying the same weight of Divine authoritativeness as the originally-inspired Mosaic Law.

We are not far different from the rabbis in that we have done the same thing with the admonitions and prohibitions of Scripture. For example, from the one admonition of Scripture to be ye holy come our many laws about what clothing styles we can, or cannot wear; what forms of entertainment we can, and cannot watch; what kinds of music we can, or cannot, listen to; what kinds of people we can, or cannot, hang around with and befriend; and the such like. We've made so many rules for ourselves, and others! We're pretty good at being rabbis!

The point is, there’s a place for finding ways in which to practically apply the admonitions and prohibitions of Scripture. The commandments are general and they need to be made specific so that every facet and area of our life is lived in obedience to the Word. This is what the Pharisees and Scribes sought to do.

But where they erred was, they made their practical applications of the Law the same as inspired Law. What started out as being a personal desire to put the law into practice eventually became a nationwide attempt to bring every Jew into conformity to their own personal understanding and application of the Law.

When we require or expect others to live by our own convictions, we’re doing what the Pharisees and scribes did. Brethren, let’s not chide or condemn the rabbis for doing something that we ourselves are guilty of doing.

While it remains needful for God’s people to find ways in which to practically apply the principles, admonitions, and prohibitions of Scripture, there is a danger that we encounter when we use the Word of God to generate a whole host of minute, precise, or very specific laws. And that is, we get caught up and distracted by the details that we miss the things that are really important in God’s sight.

This is what Jesus meant when He later went on to reprove the Pharisees and scribes in Matthew 23:23-24, Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. {24} Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

You see, these men who were so intent on obeying the Scriptures got so busy with the little stuff—looking for gnats in their wine that would render both the wine and themselves unclean if they drank it—that they ended up overlooking the really big and important things—the camels—that also made them unclean.

2) GENERALIZATION. This is where the second tendency of the rabbis comes in. They were well aware of the danger of being distracted by the small stuff so they compensated for it by trying to find what was really the most important things in the Law. They would pore over the scrolls of Scripture, look at all of the laws, and then try to figure out which of the laws was really the greatest or most important of all.

Hillel, one of Judaism’s most distinguished rabbis who lived before the time of Christ, was once asked by a proselyte to teach him the whole law while the rabbi stood on only one foot. Standing on two feet you can teach the entire law. But when you stand on only one foot, you don’t have the time to go over each facet of the law. So what Hillel was asked to do, in essence, was condense or summarize the law so that he could teach the law in a relatively short period of time. His answer? “What thou hatest for thyself, do not to thy neighbor. This is the whole law. The rest is commentary. Go and study.”FN

So when this law expert in our present text decided to ask Jesus about what the greatest law was, he was asking Jesus’ opinion on a matter that was of great interest to every rabbi.

 

Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. {38} This is the first and great commandment. {39} And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. {40} On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matthew 22:37-40 (NLT), Jesus replied, "'You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' (38) This is the first and greatest commandment. (39) A second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (40) The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments."
Mark 12:29-31 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: {30} And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength:FN this is the first commandment. {31} And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.FN There is none other commandment greater than these. Mark 12:29-31 (CEV), Jesus answered, "The most important one says: 'People of Israel, you have only one Lord and God. (30) You must love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.' (31) The second most important commandment says: 'Love others as much as you love yourself.' No other commandment is more important than these."

 

If someone asked you to summarize or condense all of the Scripture’s commands into one or two statements, what would your basic requirements be? We all have our own opinion as to what really are the most important things in life. But the greatest commandment according to Jesus is the central creed of Judaism and that is to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

THE GREATEST THING THAT GOD WANTS FROM US, BRETHREN, IS ALL OF US. Not just a part of our heart or soul. Not just a part of our mind or a part of our strength. God wants us to love Him with our entire being.

Now some of us would likely have thought that our greatest duty to God would be to trust Him. Or obey Him. Or walk with Him. Of course, all these are very important and necessary. But the simple and profound truth is, God just wants us to love Him—not partially. But entirely. When we do that, the rest of Christian obligation or responsibility will fall into place.

The scribe asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment. Jesus didn’t cite just one commandment, but He cited a second one. In addition to loving God with everything we’ve got, we’re supposed to love our neighbors as our self.

LOVE IS THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT. IT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN GOD’S SIGHT. IT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT DUTY AND OBLIGATION THAT WE HAVE IN LIFE. First, we love God. Then we love people.

You see, God isn’t selfish with love. He wants us to love Him with everything we’ve got or love Him with all the love that’s in our being. But even after doing that, He still wants us to love our fellow human beings. Brethren, IT’S POSSIBLE TO LOVE GOD FULLY OR ENTIRELY AND STILL HAVE ENOUGH LOVE LEFT TO LOVE PEOPLE WITH.

God, friends, doesn’t want us to ignore people. He doesn’t want us to be so engrossed in our walk with Him that we neglect or reject the people around us. The thing that I’d like for you to see here is, IT ISN’T A SIN TO LOVE PEOPLE. IT ISN’T COMPROMISING OR WRONG TO LOVE PEOPLE. God wants us to love. Love is a requirement. It’s the greatest commandment that we have from the Lord and we’re wrong—we miss it in a big way—if we fail to love our neighbors in the same way that we love our self.

Another thing that I’d like for you to see here is, these two laws of God remain unchanged over generations of time and history. The first or greatest commandment is taken from Deuteronomy 6. The second, from Leviticus 19:18. From the time of Moses to the time of Christ, God’s basic requirements for His people did not change. Thousands of years passed between Moses and Jesus. But God still required the same things of His people, namely, love God and love your neighbor.

Brethren, two thousand years have passed between the time of Christ and now and God’s core, essential requirements for us still haven’t changed! He still wants us to love Him and love others.

Paul wrote in Romans 13:8-10 (NIV), Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. (9) The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not covet," and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (10) Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Brethren, we can give all kinds of reasons why we shouldn’t love certain people. But in view of this second foremost of commandments, it should be plain and obvious to us that, from Jesus’ perspective, NO ONE SHOULD BE UNLOVABLE AND NO PERSON SHOULD BE EXEMPT FROM OUR LOVE. Brethren, God wants us to love!

Since love is the greatest commandment—it’s the most important thing God wants us to be doing—then the question that we’re faced with is, How much time and attention are we spending on fulfilling the greatest commandment? What kind of energy and effort are we putting into loving God totally and loving our brethren and our fellow men? Is our zeal for faith, separation, holiness, and doctrine keeping us from obeying the law of love?

 

Mark 12:32-33, And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: {33} And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.FN Mark 12:32-33 (NIV),  "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.  (33)  To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

 

The scribe really was a keen and perceptive man. In spite of all the laws contained within the Written and Oral Laws, He knew that the entire sum of religious duty and devotion could be boiled down to two essential, indispensable requirements and that is love of God and love of men. To what must have surely been the Pharisees’ surprise, here was an expert in the law actually agreeing with Jesus! In public! Though he started out wanting to get Jesus in trouble with the Scriptures, he could not deny the fact that Jesus answered correctly and he was honest enough to admit that in front of a whole multitude of people in the Temple.

Far from being a religious deceiver or heretic, Jesus was truer to the Law than many of the leaders in the crowd that day.

 

Mark 12:34, And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question. Mark 12:34 (NIV),  When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

 

Imagine. Here was an expert in the law. A wise and discerning man. Highly respected by the public and a certain shoo-in as far as the kingdom is concerned. Yet, for all his spiritual acumen, the man was not saved!

SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING OR KNOWLEDGE IS AN INVALUABLE THING TO HAVE, MY FRIENDS. BUT WITHOUT A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS YOUR GRASP OF SPIRITUAL AND SCRIPTURAL TRUTHS STILL LEAVES YOU SHORT OF THE KINGDOM. You need Jesus to make it to Heaven!

Note Jesus’ tact in relaying what must certainly have been disconcerting news to this lawyer. Instead of coming right out and saying, “You’re not saved!,” He said, “You’re not far from the kingdom.” It’s the same truth, but presented in such a way as to encourage the scribe that he was not too far from being saved. So what’s the point? BE TRUTHFUL, BUT BE TACTFUL TOO. The truth that is so offensive to people is a lot easier to receive when it’s presented tactfully and lovingly.

 

JESUS' UNANSWERABLE QUESTION AND A FINAL REVELATION

OF HIMSELF TO ISRAEL'S LEADERS

 

Matthew 22:41-46, While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, {42} Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David. {43} He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, {44} The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? {45} If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? {46} And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions. Matthew 22:41-46 (NIV),  While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,  (42)  "What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?" "The son of David," they replied.  (43)  He said to them, "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him 'Lord'? For he says,  (44)  "'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet."'  (45)  If then David calls him 'Lord,' how can he be his son?"  (46)  No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Mark 12:35-37, And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the son of David? {36} For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. {37} David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly. Mark 12:35-37 (NLT), Later, as Jesus was teaching the people in the Temple, He asked, "Why do the teachers of religious law claim that the Messiah is the son of David? (36) For David himself, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said, 'The LORD said to my Lord, Sit in the place of honor at My right hand until I humble Your enemies beneath Your feet.' (37) Since David himself called the Messiah 'my Lord,' how can the Messiah be his son?" The large crowd listened to Him with great delight.
Luke 20:41-44, And he said unto them, How say they that Christ is David’s son? {42} And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, {43} Till I make thine enemies thy footstool. {44} David therefore calleth him Lord, how is he then his son? Luke 20:41-44 (CEV), Jesus asked, "Why do people say that the Messiah will be the son of King David? (42) In the book of Psalms, David himself says, 'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right side (43) until I make your enemies into a footstool for you.' (44) David spoke of the Messiah as his Lord, so how can the Messiah be his son?"

 

Having silenced His critics, Jesus now goes on the offensive and He asks them a question of His own. If Messiah is the son of David, why does David call him ‘Lord’? You see, based on Old Testament Scripture, the Jews rightly understood Messiah to come from David’s lineage.FN But the problem with this limited, but wildly popular perception of Messiah, is the fact that Scriptures had other things to say about Messiah than just his lineage.

Psalm 110:1 is a good case in point. The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. Now the Jews rightly understood this Psalm to be a Messianic prophecy. Clearly, it’s talking about Messiah in terms of being a victorious, conquering Ruler.

But contained within the prophecy is a clear reference to Messiah’s Divine nature. You see, the Lord went by several Hebrew names. For example, the common names for God in the Old Testament were Yahweh, Adon, Adonai, El, and Elohim.

Now the Hebrew text of the Messianic Psalm reads, Yahweh said unto Adonai, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. In other words, while Messiah will be a man from the tribe of David, He will also be Divine Lord. How is that possible? How can Divine Lord also be man? And how can a man be the Divine Lord of Heaven? Scriptures don’t explain that. It simply treats it as fact.

Isaiah 9:6 is further proof and confirmation of this union between Messiah’s humanity and Divinity: For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. In other words, according to Scripture’s prophecies, the human Messiah will also be Divine Lord! David’s son is also David’s Lord.

So what is the Lord doing here? He’s giving these religious leaders a revelation of Himself. He’s telling them who He really is. Remember that throughout His public ministry Jesus was called the Son of David. When He entered the holy city just a couple of days earlier, He was hailed by the multitudes of worshippers as the Son of David. It was a public acknowledgement of the people’s faith that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah. And in accordance with the inspired prophecy of King David, the human Messiah will also be Divine Lord. In other words, Jesus is more than just a man! He’s Messiah! He’s Divine Lord!

Why this revelation of Jesus as Divine Lord? Remember that Jesus has just got done telling a legal expert that he was not far from the kingdom of God. To further him along into the kingdom, Jesus, without directly calling Himself the Son of David and thereby further antagonizing His critics, makes mention of the fact that Messiah is also Lord.

To make it into the kingdom, friends, you’ve got to believe that Jesus is Lord (John 1:1-14, 3:14-18, 1 John 2:22-24). Jesus is the Son of God! The revelation of Himself, you see, is meant to inspire faith in your heart so that you’ll believe Jesus for who He really is.

One last thing of historical note. This is Jesus’ last public encounter with these religious leaders. From here on out, these men will never again be with Jesus. It'll be the last time they see Him and talk with Him.FN So what does Jesus do? He reveals Himself as Messiah and Lord. In doing that, He's giving them one last opportunity to believe in Him.

Friends, you may not believe in Jesus. In fact, you may hate and despise Him. But Jesus still loves you and He's kind enough to give you one last chance--many such one last chance--to come to Him in faith and be saved. Don't squander your chance to be saved because what you do with Jesus will affect you for the rest of your life and the life hereafter.

 

CHRIST DENOUNCES THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES

 

Matthew 23 bears a two-fold distinction in the pages of Holy Writ. First, it is a litany of Jesus’ severest denunciations against Israel’s spiritual leaders, the Pharisees and Scribes. And second, it is Jesus’ last-recorded discourse in the Temple prior to His crucifixion. His last public discourse, that is. Everything He says after this is spoken in private to His disciples.

Notably, JESUS RESERVED HIS LAST PUBLIC DISCOURSE TO CATALOGUE OR LIST EVERYTHING THAT WAS WRONG WITH ISRAEL'S SPIRITUAL LEADERS AND TEACHERS.

The Chapter is easily divided into three parts.

1. WARNING – Addressed to the disciples and the public at large, verses 1-12.

2. WOES – Addressed to the Scribes and Pharisees specifically, verses 13-36.

3. WEEPING – Addressed to the nation and to Jerusalem in particular, verses 37-39.

 

JESUS' ADMONITION TO LISTEN TO YOUR MINISTERS

 

Matthew 23:1-3a, Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, {2} Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: {3a} All therefore whatsoever they bidFN you observe, that observe and do. Matthew 23:1-3a (CEV), Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: (2) The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are experts in the Law of Moses. (3a) So obey everything they teach you. Matthew 23:1-3a (NLT), Then Jesus said to the crowds and to His disciples, (2) "The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. (3a) So practice and obey whatever they tell you.

 

In every synagogue there was a raised platform at the front where the ark containing the sacred scrolls was located. In front of the ark were a podium and a seat. The main speaker for the service would stand at the podium and read the Scriptures. Then he would sit down at this especially reserved seat to teach the congregation the Law or the Scriptures that he just read, hence, the term Moses’ seat. From time to time, laymen would be invited to speak in the synagogue. But by and large, the duty of teaching the Law fell upon the Scribes—most of whom were Pharisees and others, Sadducees.

Because of the sacred office that these men held and the sacred function that they served in teaching the Law of Moses, Jesus admonished His disciples and countrymen to observe everything that the Scribes taught or commanded them: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do. You see, no one can rightfully or truthfully accuse Jesus of inciting rebellion against, or disrespect for, the Jewish religious leaders. In fact, in so many words, He admonished His followers to respect the Scribes and Pharisees as to the office they held. And He also admonished them to observe everything their teachers instructed, taught, or commanded them to do!

 

1. JESUS DIDN'T TEACH US TO OBSERVE THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN.

Having noted what Jesus said, let me hasten to note for you three things that Jesus didn’t say. First, Jesus didn’t teach us to observe the commandments of men.FN The Scribes were professional students of Moses’ Law. They sought for ways to practically apply that Law to every aspect of their life, down to the minutest detail. So, based on what they read in the Law, they came up with a wide minutiae of man-made laws that were meant to make the Jews obedient in every way to the Law of Moses.

When Jesus commanded us all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do, He was not referring to the man-made laws that the Scribes extrapolated from Moses’ Law. He was referring to whatever the Scribes were teaching when they sat on Moses’ seat every Sabbath day. You see, Moses’ seat was reserved especially for the teaching of Moses’ Law, that is, the inspired Scripture that we call the Old Testament. That seat was not a place to expound on their rabbinical commentaries on the Law; it was not a place to legislate their man-made laws. It was a place where the Scribes would sit and teach directly out of Inspired Scripture. When the Scribes sat on Moses’ seat on the Sabbath and expounded the Law, then whatever they taught and commanded the people to do—based on that Law—was binding upon the Jews. Binding even upon the disciples and followers of our Lord.

Brethren, God’s ministers and teachers are Divinely called to teach God’s people His Word. For what purpose? So that God’s people can put God’s Word into practice. So that they can obey God and apply His Word to their daily life. Said another way, the Word of God, first of all, is meant to be taught by God’s ministers so that God’s people can know what God said. And the Word of God, in the second place, is meant to be obeyed, put into practice, and done. Not just listened to. But done. All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do. Brethren, Jesus didn’t teach us to obey the doctrines and commandments of men. But He did teach us to obey His Word. To put it into practice. To apply it to our daily life.

2. JESUS DIDN'T TEACH US TO DISREGARD OUR TEACHERS.

Second, Jesus didn’t teach us to disregard our teachers. There were so many things wrong with the Scribes. True, they were extremely knowledgeable of the Scriptures. Quite admirably, they gave their entire lives to the study and propagation of the Scriptures. But so much of what they taught were man-made laws. As we’ll soon see in the remainder of this chapter, so much of their interpretations and applications of the Scriptures to daily life were wrong. Their teachings and ministry had a damning effect on the people, verses 13 and 15! And yet, in what is surely beyond our wildest imagination and comprehension, Jesus commanded us to listen to them and obey them!FN

In a day when many preachers fall short of our expectations and desires, some of us lack respect for our ministers. We either don’t listen to the sermons or else we don’t take them to heart. We see them only as men who study the Bible, then tell us what they studied. We don’t see them as vessels that God is using to speak to us, help us, and change us. Obedience or submission to ministers is something that doesn’t even enter into our thinking. In fact, some among us reject ecclesiastical authority all together—even though it was God Himself who established leadership, authority, and ministers in the Church. We all have our reasons or excuses: he’s not anointed, he didn’t go to seminary, he’s so young, he’s not an ordained minister, he doesn’t have a denominational affiliation, and so on. Reasons such as these are enough reasons for us not to sit under, listen to, or obey, our ministers.

And yet, despite whatever faults we find with them, sinning and deceiving ministers aside, the Scribes and Pharisees were far worse than any minister that we despise or disregard today! Brethren, they had a damning effect on the people! And yet, our Lord commanded His followers to observe and do everything that the Scribes taught and commanded them to do. He iterated this command in the church when He enjoined us in Hebrews 13:17, Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Brethren, we must respect and honor our ministers. We must listen to them as they teach us the Scriptures. And we must obey them. That is, do what they teach or admonish us to do based on Scripture. Why? Because that’s what the Lord told us to do. It has nothing to do with who they are by name. But it has everything to do with who they are by calling and office: our ministers are they whom our Lord has placed over us to watch over us and guard us against perdition. Friends, lay your criticisms aside. Come to church. Honor and obey your ministers as unto the Lord. That is His will.

3. JESUS DIDN’T TEACH US TO QUIT COMING TO SYNAGOGUE OR CHURCH.

And third, Jesus didn’t teach us to quit coming to synagogue or church. The local synagogue was a place of worship and religious instruction. It was an institution of religious education that was dominated by men who were preaching man-made doctrines. Its teachers were misleading and damning the people. And yet, implicit in Jesus’ words—All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do—is His instruction for His disciples to continue coming to synagogue, continue sitting under the ministry of their Scribes, and continue doing what these Scribes taught and instructed them to do!

Jesus could just have easily said, "Come out of the synagogue and have nothing to do with your Scribes. 6½ weeks from now will be the day of Pentecost, the Spirit of God will descend upon you, and My Church will be born. They’re going to kick you out of the synagogue anyways once you get vocal and start preaching that I am the Messiah. So, before things get messy, you may as well quit going to synagogue now, start gathering together with fellow Christians, and pray for the birth and establishment of My Church on the Earth."

Even though Pentecost and the birth of the Church was just about 45 days away, Jesus, in effect, commanded His disciples to stay put in the synagogue, listen to their teachers expound on the Law, then put those teachings into practice.

The fact that the institution was doctrinally and damningly corrupt, coupled with the fact that the disciples were eventually going to be excommunicated from that institution, did not give them the liberty or right to quit being a part of that institution for the present.

Brethren, THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A PERFECT CHURCH. Every church you go to will have its own problems or faults. Why is that? Because a church is made up of people. Imperfect people. And because they’re imperfect, they’ll have their faults. The bigger the church, the more faults will be found. Naturally, there’ll be more reasons to quit going to that church. And that’s exactly what most Christians do.

But, brethren, this isn’t what the Lord would have us do. He didn’t allow His disciples to quit going to synagogue—in spite of all the things wrong with the synagogue and the Scribes. The Lord, dear friends, isn’t going to change things for His disciples today. Instead of quitting the church, Jesus tells us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, Hebrews 10:25.

Brethren, we all have what we consider to be good reasons for wanting to leave the church or for staying home, away from church. In view of Jesus’ admonition here, LET'S START LOOKING FOR REASONS TO COME AND STAY IN CHURCH. IF WE LOOK, WE'LL FIND THEM!

 

A WARNING ABOUT YOUR MINISTERS

 

Let me preface my commentary by saying that Jesus had some secret followers who were current, practicing Scribes and Pharisees. Nicodemus in John 3:2 tells the Lord, we know that thou art a teacher come from God. His use of the plural we gives indication that he was speaking on behalf of other Pharisees who were convinced, like himself, that Jesus was indeed a Man of God.

John 12:42 tells us that among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.

Jesus, I am saying, had His followers among the Scribes and Pharisees. Many would have opted not to say anything bad about the Scribes and Pharisees for fear of losing the handful of followers among them.

His followers not withstanding, Jesus let loose a barrage of warnings and denunciations against the teachers of His day. Though highly esteemed among the people, the Scribes and Pharisees were not immune from Divine censure and rebuke. They were in the wrong and they needed to be publicly reprimanded and dealt with—for the people’s sake.

Brethren, do you think it’s wrong and unchristian to publicly expose the sins of an errant minister? Think again and consider Jesus’ example here in Matthew 23. Read 1 Timothy 5:19-20 and you will see that AN ERRANT MINISTER IS NOT BEYOND PUBLIC CENSURE: Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. {20} Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

Dear ministers, don’t hide your sins behind the pulpit. Don’t use your title or position as a badge of immunity against being publicly exposed and dealt with. If you’re wrong, Jesus will call the church’s attention to you and you will, sooner or later, be discovered. Fear, therefore, and turn from your sins. Be a true example of righteousness and truth to the flock of Christ that you lead.

 

Matthew 23:3b, But do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. Matthew 23:3 (CEV), So obey everything they teach you, but don't do as they do. After all, they say one thing and do something else. Matthew 23:3 (NLT), So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don't follow their example. For they don't practice what they teach.

 

The Scribes and Pharisees must be listened to and obeyed. But Jesus’ followers must not emulate their example. Why not? Because of several reasons. First, the Scribes and Pharisees don’t practice what they preach. They tell everybody what to do, but they themselves don’t do it. They tell everyone else how they should live their lives, but they don’t live it themselves. True ministers of God don’t just preach the Word: they live it. Ministers are not exempt from obeying the Word that they preach.

 

Matthew 23:4, For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. Matthew 23:4 (CEV), They pile heavy burdens on people's shoulders and won't lift a finger to help. Matthew 23:4 (NLT), They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

 

In the second place, the Scribes and Pharisees are not to be emulated as to their conduct because they burden, instead of lighten, the load of men. What Jesus has reference to here is the wide minutiae of rules and regulations that the Scribes derived from the Law. There were so many rules to obey that the walk and worship of God became too heavy a burden to bear: Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear (Acts 15:10 ESV)? In truth, no man could bear the yoke and burden of Rabbinical Judaism. None in all of Israel could do every single thing that the Rabbis exacted of the nation.

WHILE GOD EXPECTS EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US TO MAKE PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF THE WORD, THE WALK AND WORSHIP OF GOD IS NOT MEANT TO BE TRANSFORMED INTO A BURDEN consisting of minute rules that are remotely based on, or extrapolated from, the Word.

Whether we speak of ministers in the pulpit or as individual believers seeking to guide other believers in the way of our Lord; no matter how zealous or sincere you are and no matter how good or how right you think your laws are; brethren WE ARE NOT CALLED TO BURDEN GOD'S PEOPLE WITH A MULTITUDE OF BURDENSOME, UNBEARABLE RULES.

Let us apply the Word to our own lives. Let us have our own convictions and live by them. But when we make laws out of our own interpretations and convictions of Scripture; when we take a verse or principle of Scripture and extrapolate any number of rules and laws out of the Sacred Text; and when we universalize those laws and make them mandatory upon every child of God; then we find ourselves as Scribes and Pharisees—burdening God’s people with a burden that they can’t bear and a burden that God never intended for them to bear.

GOD, BRETHREN, DOESN'T WANT US TO BURDEN HIS PEOPLE, OUR BRETHREN, WITH OUR OWN MAN-MADE RULES AND LAWS.

Our laws may be based on, or extrapolated from, the Scriptures. But so were the whole host of Scribal, Rabbinical laws. The Rabbis and Scribes got their laws "right out of the Word." They read the Law, then came up with all kinds of ways to obey that Law, then made all those Scripture-based laws binding upon the people. And yet, do you know what Jesus called those laws? He called them the doctrines and commandments of men! Even though all these laws were derived in some way from Inspired Scripture!

Brethren, THERE'S A POINT WHERE A SCRIPTURE-BASED LAW CEASES TO BE SCRIPTURAL AND INSTEAD BECOMES A DOCTRINE AND COMMANDMENT OF MAN.

If you want to extrapolate a law or conviction from the Scripture, then do that for yourself and keep that between you and God.

But WHEN YOU IMPOSE YOUR LAWS AND CONVICTIONS ON OTHER BELIEVERS, THEN WHAT YOU DO IS NOT ADMIRABLE OR COMMENDABLE IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. TRUTH BE TOLD, YOU'RE SETTING YOURSELF UP TO BE REBUKED BY OUR LORD FOR MISTREATING AND MISLEADING HIS PEOPLE WITH THE DOCTRINE OF MAN!

The thing that I can’t help but think is the fact that many of the Scribes and Pharisees were sincere in what they sought to do for the nation. After the Babylonian captivity, the Jews awoke to the realization that their sins and violations of Torah were their own downfall; it was why God allowed them to be taken away into captivity in a foreign, heathen land. When the Lord freed them from captivity, Israel’s priests vowed Never again! Never again would they forsake the Lord and His Law. So the Scribes, beginning with Ezra, set themselves to teach God’s people the Law and demand that God’s people obey the Lord and His Law.

Sadly, their sincerity and zeal got out of hand and they ended up burdening God’s people with a yoke that no one could bear. But the thing about it all was, these Scribes and Pharisees were sincere. And, in great part, they succeeded! The Jewish nation—since their return from exile in Babylon—has never turned its back on God or the Law! They disbelieved and rejected Jesus, God’s promised Messiah. But they never forsook or forgot Torah! And in this way, the Scribes and Pharisees succeeded in keeping the nation faithful to her God.

But did Jesus commend their sincerity and zeal? No! Jesus, brethren, denounced and rebuked them for the burdening, damning effect that their sincerity had upon God’s people.

Beloved, take no comfort in your zeal and sincerity for the Lord and His Word, take no solace in the fact that you desire God’s people to walk as you walk; if, by legislating and imposing your rules and convictions on others, you end up weighing God’s people with a burden that they just can’t carry and thereby grieve and condemn them for not living a kind of life that they just cannot live. Make no mistake, my friends. Jesus doesn’t commend you. He rebukes you.

Beloved, DO NOT BURDEN GOD'S PEOPLE WITH YOUR RULES AND CONVICTIONS. LET THE LORD SHOW HIS PEOPLE, AND DICTATE TO THEM, WHAT KIND OF RULES OR CONVICTIONS THEY SHOULD HAVE AND LIVE BY.

 

Matthew 23:5a, But all their works they do for to be seen of men. Matthew 23:5a (CEV), Everything they do is just to show off in front of others. Matthew 23:5a (NIV),  "Everything they do is done for people to see.

 

The Scribes and Pharisees are not to be emulated, in the third place, because they are motivated by an ostentatious spirit. That is, they do everything with the express purpose and aim of being noticed and glorified by men. They clothe their conduct in a false cloak of piety and sincerity when, in truth, they seek the notice and praise of men.

Friends, WHEN YOU'RE MOTIVATED BY THE NOTICE AND PRAISE OF MEN YOU'LL EVENTUALLY FIND YOURSELF AT ODDS WITH GOD. You’ll do the things that merit praise from men and if that means disobeying the Lord, you’ll disobey Him: you won’t do anything that will cause you to fall into disfavor with men, John 12:42-43.

Christians are not to be motivated by the love of men’s praises. They're not supposed to be ostentatious in their piety, Matthew 6:1-18.

 

Matthew 23:5b-7, They make broad their phylacteries,FN and enlarge the borders of their garments,FN {6} And love the uppermost rooms at the synagogue,FN {7} And greetings in the markets,FN and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.FN Matthew 23:5-7 (NIV),  They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long;  (6)  they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues;  (7)  they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called 'Rabbi' by others.
Mark 12:38-39, And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, {39} And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts. Mark 12:38-39 (NLT), Jesus also taught: "Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. (39) And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets.
Luke 20:45-46, Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples, {46} Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts. Luke 20:45-46 (CEV), While everyone was listening to Jesus, he said to his disciples: (46) Guard against the teachers of the Law of Moses! They love to walk around in long robes, and they like to be greeted in the market. They want the front seats in the meeting places and the best seats at banquets.

 

For a group of men who were accustomed to being revered and honored by the general populace, it must have come as quite a surprise when Jesus rebuked them for being ostentatious.

As an example of the ostentation that Jesus’ disciples are to avoid, Jesus calls attention to six things that proved the ostentatious spirit that motivated the Scribes and Pharisees.

(1) They broaden the straps of their phylacteries, thus necessitating a larger phylactery and thereby making it even more noticeable.

(2) They lengthened the tassels on their garments.

(3) They sought the best seats around the table.

(4) The best seats in the synagogue.

(5) They loved to be acknowledged in public.

(6) And called Rabbi, an honor that reinforced the feeling of pride and superiority that plagued Israel’s teachers and scholars.

Brethren, WHEN OUR PIETY IS MOTIVATED BY THE DESIRE FOR THE PRAISE OF MEN, THEN OUR PIETY BECOMES A MATTER OF DIVINE REBUKE, NOT DIVINE COMMENDATION.

As we’ll soon see, this kind of piety only produces hypocrites, not saints.

 

Matthew 23:8-12, But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. {9} And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. {10} Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. {11} But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. {12} And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. Matthew 23:8-12 (NIV),  "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.  (9)  And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.  (10)  Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah.  (11)  The greatest among you will be your servant.  (12)  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

 

Jesus’ disciples are not to be ostentatious like the Pharisees and Scribes. They are not to draw attention to themselves and seek the glory of men. Nor are they to ascribe lofty titles to one another—titles that rightfully belong only to God.

While we are to honor and respect our brethren in ministry or leadership, they nevertheless are not our masters. We have only one Master, that is, Christ Jesus. And we mustn’t call those who were instrumental in leading us to the Lord our father because we have only one Father in this spiritual, heavenly family; and it was He who begot us as His children.

Friends, WE MUSTN'T SEEK GLORY FROM ONE ANOTHER! Don’t seek glory for yourself. All the glory that’s due must go to our Heavenly Father alone!

 

JESUS' EIGHT WOES UPON THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES

 

We begin with a few words of introduction. Jesus left the public scene with a final denunciation of Israel’s religious leaders. Now John 12:42 tells us that Jesus had followers among the chief rulers and Pharisees. But because they feared being excommunicated from the synagogue, they didn’t openly confess Him as Messiah, nor did they openly confess their faith in Him. So it is quite likely that some of the Scribes and Pharisees who were present in the Temple at this time were true sympathizers of our Lord. But the fact that Jesus had followers among the Scribes and Pharisees didn’t stop Him from denouncing them as a whole.

Friends, THOSE WHO ARE IN LINE FOR DIVINE REBUKE, THE LORD REBUKES. AND THE FACT THAT HE HAS FRIENDS AND FOLLOWERS AMONG THOSE WHOM HE WOULD REBUKE DOES NOT THWART OR SILENCE OUR LORD’S REBUKE.

Jesus pronounced eight woes against the nation’s leaders. Now the word ‘woe’ invokes the twin ideas of wrath and sorrow. It denotes that God’s wrath is coming upon you. And because it’s coming, it can’t help but instill a sense of sorrow and grief upon all those who know you. So there’s a sense of fiery, but righteous, indignation here in our Lord—coupled with the sadness of knowing that these who led, or rather misled, the Chosen Nation were doomed to destruction.

Seven times in this public discourse and denunciation Jesus called the Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites. What is a hypocrite? A hypocrite is a play actor. One who assumes a role that really isn’t real. He puts on a facade and gives everyone the impression he’s someone he’s really not. Jesus goes into more detail as to the custom or mask that these leaders were wearing and masking over. For now, the important thing is to understand that the Scribes and Pharisees were not who they appeared to be.

And lastly, as we delve into our Lord’s denunciation we see that the Lord had quite a few things to say about the religious leaders that weren’t exactly very nice. If anyone of us said what He said, we would have been accused of being critical and unloving. Unchristlike. Yet, because we know that our Lord was without sin, then what He said here, how He said it, and why He said it, could not be rightly called criticism and a lack of love.

Brethren, JUST BECAUSE YOU SAY THINGS THAT AREN'T VERY NICE DOESN'T NECESSARILY MEAN YOU'RE BEING CRITICAL AND UNLOVING.

A lot of things that are said that aren’t very nice are indeed spoken from a critical and unloving heart. But just because the things we say aren’t nice doesn’t automatically mean we’re being critical and unloving.

As we see here from our Lord’s example, IT'S POSSIBLE TO EXPOSE THE WRONG IN PEOPLE AND STILL BE RIGHTEOUS IN DOING IT. IT'S POSSIBLE TO REBUKE OR CASTIGATE PEOPLE WITHOUT BEING WRONG FOR DOING IT.

As we see here in Matthew 23, there comes a time when some things have to be said and the things that have to be said aren’t very nice. But they have to be said for the sake of those who are wrong—that they might be warned and brought to repentance. And they have to be said for the sake of those who are closely associated or affiliated with those who are wrong—the people of God—that they might not imitate the wrong in others.

Brethren, don’t let the fact that what you have to say isn’t very nice stop you from saying it. Search your heart first and make sure that there is no trace of criticism, malice, self-righteousness, or judgmentalism working in you. Ask the Lord for wisdom as to whether you should say it or else keep your mouth shut. And if the Lord bids you speak, then pray for those whom you would rebuke, love them, and ask the Lord to give them a repentant heart. Then go to them and speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

 

FIRST WOE

BARRING OTHERS FROM THE KINGDOM

 

Matthew 23:13, But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Matthew 23:13 (NIV),  "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Matthew 23:13 (CEV), You Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses are in for trouble! You're nothing but show-offs. You lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. You won't go in yourselves, and you keep others from going in.

 

Jesus’ first denunciation against the Scribes and Pharisees had to do with the fact that they weren’t saved at all and that they were barring people from entering the Kingdom.

Now for a sincere, wholehearted Scribe and Pharisee, these words of our Lord must have greatly infuriated them! Why, the very thought of these learned men of Torah not being saved was preposterous! The accusation must have made many people wonder if Jesus really was insane or off His rocker.

But THE LUDICROUSNESS OR PREPOSTEROUSNESS OF AN ACCUSATION DOESN NOT, IN AND OF ITSELF, PROVE THE ACCUSATION WRONG.

For the true child of God, what Jesus said was perfectly true. Because these religious leaders rejected Jesus as God’s Messiah and as the Son of God, there was no way they could be saved. Friends, YOU CAN'T REJECT JESUS AND STILL END UP IN HEAVEN.

John 3:14-18 (NIV) plainly tells us that if you don’t believe in Jesus you won’t be saved: Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, (15) that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him." (16) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (17) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (18) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

The Scribes and Pharisees didn’t only disbelieve and reject Jesus, but they also, under threat of excommunication from the synagogue, gave the Jews a lot of incentive to disbelieve and reject Him too (John 9:22 and 12:42). Many of the Jews ended up missing the Kingdom because they didn’t believe or confess Jesus. And for this great tragedy, the Scribes and Pharisees were directly responsible.

Brethren, when you hinder people from believing in Jesus—let’s say because of your attitudes, your lifestyle, your beliefs, or your fleshly, sinful actions; when they don’t want to become a Christian because they don’t want to be like you—then you’ve got some explaining to do before the Throne!

Friends, DON'T GIVE PEOPLE A REASON NOT TO BELIEVE IN JESUS OR GET SAVED! YOU'LL BE IN TROUBLE WITH THE LORD IF YOU DO.

 

SECOND WOE

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF WIDOWS

 

Matthew 23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.FN Matthew 23:14 (NLT), [What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! You shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, you will be severely punished.]
Mark 12:40, Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation. Mark 12:40 (CEV), But they cheat widows out of their homes and pray long prayers just to show off. They will be punished most of all.
Luke 20:47, Which devour widows’ houses, and for a show make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation. Luke 20:47 (BBE), Who take the property of widows and before the eyes of men make long prayers; they will get a greater punishment.

 

The Pharisees had a habit of cozying up to widows and getting these widows to entrust the management of their estate to them. Then little by little, by the machinations of all their laws of tithes and alms, they robbed these women out of house and home. Of course, they would do it under the cloak of piety, in this case, prayer.

The Pharisees were given to long periods of prayer. In fact, it was their custom to pray at least three hours at a time: one hour for meditation, one hour for praying, and another hour for meditating again. They would do this three times a day! Brethren, that’s nine hours a day in prayer! And that doesn’t even include the time they spent in morning prayer, which every Jew was required to observe daily.

The reading of the text gives the impression that these Pharisees prayed for profit: they would pray for the widows and, in return, exact payment from them for this service. It was a form of robbery and oppression, cloaked in the guise of piety.

For this, Jesus pronounced the same woe that the Law pronounced on all those who oppressed the widows: Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, (2) to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless (Isaiah 10:1-2 NIV)!FN

You see this same sort of thing, or variations of it, all the time in churches and on televisions throughout the land: You give, I’ll pray.

Brethren, be wary of paying anyone to pray for you. Beware of those who demand some sort of payment before they will pray for you. Ministers who pray for profit are an unscrupulous lot. People who use the needs and wealth of others to enrich themselves are consumed with greed.

Friends, DON'T PUT A WHOLE LOT OF STOCK IN THE PRAYERS OF GREEDY PEOPLE, no matter how spiritual and sincere they may appear. As we see here, the Lord rebukes those who are pretentious, greedy, and self-serving. He rebukes those who prey on others. If He rebukes them, what makes you think He’ll answer their prayers? PRAYERS MOTIVATED BY GREED GO UNHEARD AND UNANSWERED, James 4:3.

 

THIRD WOE

PROSELYTZING AND MAKING CONVERTS WORSE OFF

 

Matthew 23:15, Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte,FN and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Matthew 23:15 (NLT), "What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!

 

The Scribes and Pharisees would travel the world over and work to convert Gentiles to Judaism and, in particular, to their own rabbinical brand of Judaism. But instead of saving these proselytes, they made them worse of a sinner! So sad! To keep all those laws and still end up in Hell!

Friends, IF YOU WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN, LISTEN TO, AND FOLLOW, THE ONE WHO'S GOING THERE. Don’t convert to any of the world’s religions because these people, like Scribes and Pharisees, aren’t going to Heaven. Consequently, they can’t take you there!

Our Lord’s interest here is not so much with the proselytes as it is with the proselytizers. These zealous, religious proselytizers were Hell-bound people and they made their converts even more Hell-bound than themselves!

Friends, it’s a good thing to be zealous for the Lord and to make converts to Christianity. But if you’re not right yourself—let’s say, you’re in sin, you’re a carnal Christian, you believe a lot of wrong things, you’re in serious doctrinal error—then your zeal and proselytizing work are not a good thing. All you’re doing is making your converts worse off than before.

Why is that? Because converts are characterized by zeal, hunger, and enthusiasm. They are, at first, very gullible in the sense that they believe just about anything you say. They’re too young and ignorant spiritually to know any better. They imitate you. So when they see you in sin, they automatically think it’s all right for them to do what you’re doing: it mustn’t be sinful! They believe what you believe. They behave how you behave.

As we see here, THE LORD HOLDS YOU RESPONSIBLE AND ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE EFFECT YOU HAVE, AND THE FRUIT YOU PRODUCE, IN THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE YOU EVANGELEIZE OR CONVERT.

The Lord is interested in saving people. When you make people worse off than before you’ll get into serious trouble with the Lord—you’re tampering with people’s souls and eternal destiny!

Make sure you’re right with the Lord before you evangelize or witness! If you’re not, have the courage and honesty of heart to admit that. Don’t convert others because you would only be making them worse off than before. Children of the Devil beget children of the Devil! Ungodly people don’t produce Godly proselytes.

 

FOURTH WOE

THE USE AND MISUSE OF THE OATH

 

Matthew 23:16-22, Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swearFN by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! {17} Ye foolsFN and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? {18} And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.FN {19} Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? {20} Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. {21} And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. {22} And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon. Matthew 23:16-22 (NIV),  "Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.'  (17)  You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?  (18)  You also say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.'  (19)  You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?  (20)  Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.  (21)  And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it.  (22)  And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it.

 

Jesus’ fourth denunciation had to do with the Scribal, Pharisaic teaching and practice regarding the oath. When a Jew wanted to make a promise or vow, or when he wanted to convince others about the truthfulness of his statements, he would often resort to swearing an oath.

He could swear using the Lord’s Name, but this was the most serious, sacred, and binding of all oaths that a Jew was loathed to make that kind of oath except under the most dire of circumstances.

As an alternative, he swore by any number of things—in this case, by things most closely associated with the Divine—namely, the Temple and the Altar.

 

A. MISPLACED DIFFERENTIATION

Two things in particular about Jesus' denunciation here. First, He denounced the religious leaders’ distinction between binding and non-binding oaths.

*An oath by the Temple was considered non-binding, but an oath by the gold of the Temple was binding.

*If a man swore by the altar, he wasn’t bound to do what he swore he would do. However, if he swore by the gift that was altar, there was no way he could get out of doing what he swore he would do: he was duty bound to perform his oath.

By distinguishing between binding and non-binding oaths, the religious leaders were, in effect, telling the people that it was all right to renege on an oath, so long as the oath was non-binding.

Now a non-binding oath is of no value whatsoever if it doesn’t obligate or constrain a person to keep his word and do what he swore he would do. For example, if I swore I would paint your house next week, but this was a non-binding oath, then what’s the use of me swearing I’ll paint your house next week if I go on back on my word and end up not painting your house as scheduled? The oath, you see, is of no value to you. You couldn’t count on the oath to be the guarantee of a promise fulfilled.

A non-binding oath is nothing but vain, empty words. It cheapens a man’s word to a point where you couldn’t trust him to keep his word—even if he swore he would keep it! In effect, a non-binding oath makes a liar out of a man: it induces him to swear an oath and then gives him the liberty to break it without incurring any moral, civil, or legal punishments or constraints.

By distinguishing between binding and non-binding oaths, the Scribes and Pharisees were, in a very real sense, teaching the Jews that it was all right to swear an oath and then break it—as long as it was a non-binding oath.

What they should have been teaching the Jews was, if you swear an oath—any kind of oath—you’re duty bound to keep it. Every oath is sacrosanct and inviolable. You can’t swear an oath and then go back on it!

B. MISPLACED SANCTITY

A second aspect of Jesus’ denunciation has to do with the Scribes’ and Pharisees’ misplaced sense of sanctity. They taught that if you swore by the Temple or the altar, you weren’t duty bound to keep your oath. But if you swore by the golden ornaments and treasures that were in the Temple, or by the sacrificial animals that were on the altar, then you were constrained to keep your oath. As far as they were concerned, the gold and the sacrificial animals were consecrated to God, they belonged to God, and therefore if you swore by whatever belonged to God you, in effect, swore to God. And any oath made to God was a binding oath: it had to be kept or fulfilled.

But what these religious leaders overlooked was the whole House of God—the Temple structure itself with all of its furnishings, including the brass altar—belonged to God. It was instituted by God, made, and furnished according to God’s very specific instructions. If the Temple’s gold was sacred and made an oath to it inviolable, then how much more the Temple itself. The sanctity of the gold does not lie in its own self; it’s not inherent in itself. Rather, the sanctity of the gold comes from the fact that the gold is part of the Temple of God.

The Temple, you see, gives everything that is brought to it or placed in it a sense of something that’s Sacred and Divine.

If you had a golden lamp stand in your house, you would consider it a mundane, ordinary part of your house. But if you took this same lamp stand and put it in the Temple, the lamp stand is no longer just an ordinary lamp stand to you: you regard it with reverence because the lamp stand now sits in the House of God and is being used in the service of God.

You can say the same thing with respect to the altar. A lamb in your yard is just an ordinary lamb. But when you bring that lamb to the Temple and present it on the altar, then the lamb is no longer just an ordinary lamb to you because, now that it’s set on the altar, that lamb belongs to God.

Jesus denounced the Scribes and Pharisees for making man’s gift—the gold and sacrifices that he brought to the Temple—more sacrosanct than the Temple itself which was God’s gift to man—the gift of His presence in their very midst!

The point is, if you swear any kind of oath, you’ve got to keep it. And if you swear by anything that’s related to, or associated with, God—whether it’s the Temple, the altar, or Heaven itself—you have sworn to God and that oath is inviolable.FN

 

FIFTH WOE

NEGLECTING THE IMPORTANT STUFF

 

Matthew 23:23-24, Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. {24} Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Matthew 23:23-24 (CEV), You Pharisees and teachers are show-offs, and you're in for trouble! You give God a tenth of the spices from your garden, such as mint, dill, and cumin. Yet you neglect the more important matters of the Law, such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These are the important things you should have done, though you should not have left the others undone either. (24) You blind leaders! You strain out a small fly but swallow a camel.

 

A fifth thing that weighed heavy on the Lord’s heart was the Scribes’ and Pharisees’ lost sense of proportion and their neglect of the things that are greater and more important in the sight of God. Jesus has reference to two things here—the laws of tithes and cleanness—both of which demonstrated the meticulous, scrupulous nature and extent of Scribal, Pharisaic piety.

THE LAW OF TITHES

First, the law of tithes. The Lord mandated the tithe of everything that His people grew for food or commerce.FN Leviticus 27:30 (CEV) stipulated that Ten percent of everything you harvest is holy and belongs to me, whether it grows in your fields or on your fruit trees.

Deuteronomy 14:22-23 (CEV) listed the specific crops that were to be tithed: People of Israel, every year you must set aside ten percent of your grain harvest. (23) Also set aside ten percent of your wine and olive oil, and the first-born of every cow, sheep, and goat. Take these to the place where the LORD chooses to be worshiped, and eat them there. This will teach you to always respect the LORD your God.

In other words, as touching the produce of the land, the Law of tithes applied only to grains, grapes, and olives. The people weren’t required to tithe their herbs.

But this wasn’t how the Scribes and Pharisees saw it. They were intent on applying the Law to every area of their life, no matter how small or minute, and thus they applied the law of tithes to everything they grew, consumed or used—in this case, mint, anise, and cumin.

So the first thing that we see here is, the Scribes and Pharisees did something that the Law did not specifically mention or mandate: they tithed their herbs.

 

1. THE LORD WANTS YOU TO OBEY THE SCRIPTURES.

Notice that our Lord didn’t condemn or chide the Rabbis for tithing things that weren’t specifically written or required in Scripture.

He allowed them to include the herbs in their tithes. He not only allowed them to include the herbs in their tithe, but he also told them to continue tithing the herbs: these ought ye to have done (justice, mercy, and faith), and not to leave the other undone (tithing the mint, anise, and cumin).

Brethren, why would our Lord allow, and even command, these men to do something that wasn’t specifically written or required in Scripture? Think about it for a moment. The Law never mandated or required the tithing of herbs. Yet, our Lord allowed these men to do it—and even commanded them to continue doing it. In effect, He commanded them to do something that the Law didn’t specifically mention or require. Why?

Because Jesus knew that these men were only trying to be obedient to the Law. Their heart was to obey the Lord’s Law of the tithes and, in their heart of hearts, they felt that they needed to tithe their herbs.

This heart-felt conviction and belief grew out of their interpretation and understanding of the Scriptures. The Law very clearly stated that all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord, Leviticus 27:30.

The Scribes understood this to mean that whatever you put in the ground and take out of the ground applies to the Law of tithes. If you plant it, grow it, eat it, use it, or sell it, it needs to be tithed because it’s a seed or product of the land. The Scribes and Pharisees planted and used herbs. These herbs were seeds of the land. Hence, these herbs needed to be tithed! Even though the Law never specifically mentioned these herbs by name!

The point in all this is, the Scribes and Pharisees did something that the Law never specifically commanded or required. The Lord allowed them to do this. He even commanded them to continue doing it. Because He honored these men’s desire to be obedient to the Law.

Brethren, IF YOUR CONSCIENCE AND CONVICTION COMPEL YOU TO DO THINGS THAT ARE NOT SPECIFICALLY WRITTEN IN SCRIPTURE, THE LORD WILL LET YOU HONOR YOUR CONVICTION--EVEN THOUGH YOUR CONVICTION ISN'T CLEARLY SPELLED OUT IN THE WORD!

*The Scriptures don’t say anything specific about television or movies. But if you believe you shouldn’t watch television or movies because the Scriptures say, I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them (Psalm 101:3 NLT), then don’t watch television or movies. I’m not going to set any rules or laws here. All I’m saying is, obey and honor your conviction.

*The Scriptures don’t say anything specific about competitive sports. But if you believe it’s wrong to play competitive sports because it fosters pride and competition, then don’t play competitive sports. I don’t agree with your conviction, but I will honor and respect it—as well as give you the liberty of having that conviction—because the Lord Himself honors and respects your desire to obey Him.

*The Scriptures don’t say anything specific about rock-n-roll, metal, country, rap, and classical music. But if you believe it’s wrong to listen to these, and other kinds of worldly music, because a Christian should be separate from the world, then by all means, dear brethren, don’t listen to worldly music.

We can go on and on about the many things that the Scriptures don’t specifically mention or mandate. The thing that we find here in our Lord’s words to the Scribes and Pharisees is, EVEN THOUGH A PARTICULAR CONVICTION ISN'T SPECIFICALLY MENTIONED OR FOUND IN SCRIPTURE, IT'S STILL POSSIBLE TO HOLD TO THAT CONVICTION--WITH THE LORD'S BLESSING OR ALLOWANCE--IF THAT CONVICTION IS A MATTER OF YOUR OBEDIENCE TO THE SCRIPTURE.

GOD, BRETHREN, WANTS YOU TO MAKE PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF THE SCRIPTURES TO YOUR OWN LIFE.

SOMETIMES THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF THE SCRIPTURES TO YOUR OWN LIFE WILL LEAD YOU TO DO THINGS THAT AREN'T SPELLED OUT SPECIFICALLY IN SCRIPTURE.

So does the Lord want you to refrain from believing and doing certain things because they aren’t specifically mentioned or found in Scripture? Brethren, the Lord’s answer is a resounding No! His and not to leave the other undone is His stamp of allowance that permits us to do things that aren’t specifically required in Scripture. Like tithing herbs. Like not wearing pants because you’re a woman and a woman shouldn’t wear man’s clothing. Not taking medication because you’re trusting the Lord for healing. Not celebrating pagan holidays. Not listening to rock-n-roll because of the worldly, demonic, and occult influence that permeates that kind of music. Not borrowing money because you don’t want to owe no man anything. And the like.

There are all kinds of convictions and practices that aren’t specifically mentioned or mandated in Scripture. But the Lord allows you to have these convictions if you believe these convictions are a matter of your obedience to Him.

THE LORD ENCOURAGES YOU TO BE OBEDIENT TO HIM. HE ISN'T GOING TO DISCOURAGE YOU OR STOP YOU FROM BEING OBEDIENT--EVEN IF YOUR CONVICTION ISN'T SPECIFICALLY MENTIONED OR FOUND IN SCRIPTURE!

The flip side of this truth is, JUST BECAUSE A CONVICTION ISN'T SPECIFICALLY MENTIONED OR FOUND IN SCRIPTURE DOESN'T NECESSARILY MEAN THAT THE CONVICTION IS UNSCRIPTURAL, UNCHRISTIAN, OR WRONG, HENCE YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE THAT CONVICTION.

The tithing of herbs wasn’t specifically mandated in Scripture. Yet, our Lord didn’t stop the Scribes and Pharisees from tithing their herbs. This would have been an opportune time for the Lord to tell these men to stop tithing their herbs: “The Law never required you to do that! I don’t want your herbs! Just stick with the grains, grapes, and olives!” But the Lord never said that. To the contrary, and to our surprise, He commanded them to continue tithing their herbs!

Brethren, as disciples of our Lord, you may not tithe your herbs because you know that the Lord’s tithe doesn’t apply to herbs. But just because you don’t tithe your herbs doesn’t mean you should stop others from tithing their herbs.

JUST BECAUSE YOU DON'T HAVE A PARTICULAR CONVICTION DOESN'T MEAN YOU SHOULD TALK OTHER CHRISTIANS WHO HAVE THIS CONVICTION OUT OF THAT CONVICTION.

You may not have a conviction against television or movies, a conviction against women wearing pants, against Christians celebrating holidays, listening to worldly music, resorting to medical science, birth control, and the like; because these convictions aren’t specifically mentioned or mandated in Scripture.

The fact that they’re not specifically mentioned or mandated in Scripture doesn’t mean these convictions are unscriptural, unchristian, or wrong. Like the tithing of herbs, the Lord allows His people to have convictions even if these convictions aren’t specifically mentioned or mandated in Scripture—if they believe that these convictions are a matter of their obedience to the Lord.

WHAT THE LORD ALLOWS, YOU MUST ALLOW. YOU MUSTN'T FORBID WHAT JESUS ALLOWS.

DON'T DISCOURAGE OR TALK PEOPLE OUT OF A PARTICULAR CONVICTION JUST BECAUSE THAT CONVICTION ISN'T SPECIFICALLY FOUND IN SCRIPTURE.

DON'T TAMPER WITH A PERSON'S CONVICTION OR OBEDIENCE TO THE LORD! If you think they’re wrong, pray for them. Ask the Lord to show them the truth. But don’t hinder anyone from obeying the Lord!

The principal truth here is, the Lord wants all of His people to obey the Scriptures. He wants all of us to apply the Scriptures to our own daily life. And applying the Scriptures to our daily life means we’re going to end up doing some things that aren’t specifically mentioned or mandated in Scripture.

You may not have the same conviction that your brother or sister in the Lord has about television, pants, music, and doctors. I’m not encouraging you to have other people’s convictions. I don’t want you to adopt a conviction that you really don’t believe is necessary, scriptural, or right.

The thing you must ask yourself is, Are you applying the Scriptures to your life? Your brothers and sisters in the Lord have these convictions about television, pants, music, and doctors, because they’ve read the Scriptures and, based on Scriptures, they believe that they shouldn’t be involved in these things. They’re applying the Scriptures to their life. Are you?

DON'T LET THE FACT THAT A PARTICULAR CONVICTION ISN'T SPECIFICALLY FOUND IN SCRIPTURE STOP YOU FROM ADOPTING THAT CONVICTION. GET INTO THE WORD. SEEK THE LORD'S WISDOM AND WILL. THEN MAKE THE NECESSARY APPLICATION TO YOUR LIFE.

 

THE LAW OF CLEANNESS

2. SOME THINGS IN THE WORD ARE WEIGHTIER THAN OTHERS.

The problem with the Rabbis is, they were so meticulous and punctilious in the smallest details of their life—the little herbs with their tiny seeds; that they neglected the things that were more important to God. They omitted the weightier matters of the law, which are justice, mercy, and faith.

The same Law that required these men to tithe also required them to be just, merciful, and believing. But these men weren’t doing that because they were so caught up, preoccupied, and engrossed in making sure that every single herb they grew and ate was tithed to the Lord.

It’s important for you to understand that Jesus didn’t rebuke and denounce these Scribes and Pharisees for doing something that the Law never required them to do. Some of us would have done that. In fact, we do it today with one another. We chide one another for doing things that aren’t found or mentioned in Scripture.

But what Jesus denounced these men for was their lost sense of proportion and importance. They attached so much importance to the little stuff that they overlooked and neglected the really important stuff.

They did this not only in the matter of tithes, but also in the matter of cleanness. They would strain out a gnat, but end up swallowing a camel. The Lord has reference here to wine. You know how small gnats are. Also, how plenteous they are. Well, the Jews would store wine in big vats and as was often the case, gnats would find their way into the vats and end up perishing in the wine.

Now gnats were unclean.FN So before the Jews would drink their wine, they poured the wine through a muslin cloth or gauze in order to strain out the gnats—that way, they wouldn’t be drinking anything that was unclean.

So, like the mint, anise, and cumin, the Scribes and Pharisees took great care to strain out the little gnats that would defile them. And while they were straining out the little critters, they ended up swallowing a camel. Talk about size and proportion! A camel was thousands of times bigger than a gnat. And, like a gnat, it was unclean too!FN

So here’s a comical picture from our Lord’s humorous side. The Rabbis were too busy looking for the little critters that would defile them that they were oblivious to the fact that they were drinking a humungous critter that made them unclean. The camel of uncleanness called pride, self-seeking glory and gratification, hypocrisy, self righteousness, and the like.

The truth that we see so clearly here is, THERE ARE SOME THINGS IN THE WORD THAT ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN OTHER THINGS THAT ARE ALSO IN THE WORD.

I really hate to make that kind of statement or comparison because I don’t want anyone to get the impression that some things in the Word aren’t that big of a deal. Everything God said is important.

But there’s no denying what Jesus said here. There are some things in the Word that are weightier or more important than other things that are also in the Word.

Get this. God Himself makes this comparison! He attaches more importance to some things and less importance to other things. He mandated the law of tithes. But He also mandated justice, mercy, and faith. And in His eyes, the justice, mercy, and faith are weightier than the tithe. And because they’re weightier, then these are the things that the Scribes and Pharisees really needed to spend most of their time doing. Instead of concentrating on their herbs, they needed to concentrate on doing the weightier, more important task of being just, merciful, and believing.FN

So the big question that we’re faced with is, What are the weightier matters to God? If some things in the Word are more important to God than others; if there are some more important things that we’re supposed to be focusing and concentrating on instead of other less important things; then what are they? Jesus told us.

(1) Justice. To do what’s right without partiality, exception, or excuse.

(2) Mercy. To show kindness and compassion to others. To do good.

(3) Faith: To believe God’s Word, as opposed to working to earn God’s salvation.

Notice that the weightier matters consist of two basic responsibilities or obligations.

(A) OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO GOD: to believe Him and do what’s right as He commanded us to do in His Word.

(B) OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO MEN: to minister justice to men, to treat them right, to do them right. But also to balance justice with mercy. To treat them nicely and kindly. To love men and be compassionate towards them. Do them good.

You see, brethren, the things that are truly weightier and more important to God have to do not only with our relationship with Him, but also with our relationship with other men.

God made this clear from the very beginning when He gave the Law. The ten commandments, you will remember, consist of four duties that we have towards God and six duties that we have towards our fellow men.

GOD, BRETEHREN, IS CONCERNED ABOUT HOW WE TREAT OTHERS. So many of us want to make or reduce Christianity to a “God and me” walk or relationship. “It’s just you and me, God. Nobody else matters.” But that’s so wrong, brethren!

Christianity is a “God and us” walk or relationship. It’s each one of us having a personal walk and relationship with God, then we go out into this world and show the people all around us the love of Christ.

Jesus made this very plain in Matthew 22:35-40 when He told us what the great commandments were: Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, {36} Master, which is the great commandment in the law? {37} Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. {38} This is the first and great commandment. {39} And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. {40} On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Jesus commanded us in John 15:12, This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

John echoed the refrain when he wrote in 1 John 4:21, And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about all kinds of gifts that God has given to us and His Church. In verse 31 he tells us to covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way. Then he goes on in chapter 13 to tell us what that more excellent way is. Brethren, it’s love. And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love, 1 Corinthians 13:13.

Love is a weightier matter with God. There are other weightier matters with God. If you ask me I would tell you that obedience, faith, holiness, peace, and love are the weightier matters. But the Lord is stressing love right now because this is a weightier matter that we’ve neglected and omitted. We’ve not loved one another as God loved us. We’ve been adversarial, critical, judgmental, condemning, unmerciful, unkind, unforgiving, unloving, intolerant, impatient, and inconsiderate of one another. We’ve concentrated too long over the little gnats, mint, anise, and cummin. Brethren, it’s time to concentrate on the big stuff that God’s really interested in! We’ve got to start loving one another!

 

3. DON’T NEGLECT THE LITTLE STUFF.

Since there are some things in the Word that are really more important to God than other things that are also in the Word, then it becomes a real temptation to neglect the things that are of lesser, or least, importance to God.

Less you mistake me and the Lord, brethren, tithe the herbs! That is, apply the Word to your life. JUST BECAUSE YOU DON'T SEE A PARTICULAR CONVICTION IN THE WORD DOESN'T MEAN YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE OR PRACTICE THAT CONVICTION. Read the Word, then apply it to your life—even if the Word doesn’t specifically mention or mandate that particular application. The principle is, apply God’s Word to your daily life.

4. DON’T NEGLECT THE BIG STUFF.

As much as the Lord wants you to apply the Word to your daily life, don’t get so caught up in the little stuff that you neglect the big stuff. Like the Scribes and Pharisees and their herbal tithes, you can get so busy in the lesser things that you completely neglect or overlook the greater things.

I don’t necessarily savor saying some things, but let me be the one to say it because it needs to be said. THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT WE CONSIDER SO IMPORTANT--THINGS THAT TAKE UP A CONSIDERABLE PART OF OUR TIME AND ENERGY--THAT REALLY AREN'T AS IMPORTANT TO GOD AS THE OTHER THINGS THAT WE'VE NEGLECTED.

*For example, we scrutinize the information on a food label because that information determines whether or not we’ll buy and eat that particular food.

*We spend a lot of time reading what’s in an ointment or wash to make sure we’re not using a medicated product.

*We’re so careful about not wearing a particular style of shoe or dress because of their affiliation with homosexuality.

*We investigate what products a particular manufacturer makes and we boycott those products because we don’t want to support that manufacturer’s endorsement of abortion or same-sex marriage.

*We inquire who owns a particular business establishment because we don’t want to patronize and enrich a business owner who’s involved in false religion. And the like.

We get so caught up in these things that are really important to us that we forget about the bigger things that really count in God’s sight—things like being merciful, compassionate, and forgiving towards our fellow men.

Brethren, go ahead and refrain from buying or wearing a particular style of shoe or dress if it’s a matter of conviction to you. If you believe that that’s what the Lord requires you to do, or if you believe that that’s how the Lord wants you to apply a particular Scripture to your own life; then, like the Scribes and Pharisees, go ahead and tithe the little herbs of life! DON'T NEGLECT TO DO THE LITTLE THINGS JUST BECAUSE THERE ARE OTHER MORE IMPORTANT THINGS THAT YOU SHOULD BE CONCENTRATING ON DOING!

BUT IN BEING SO METICULOUS AND SCRUPULOUS, DON'T FORGET TO DO THE THINGS THAT REALLY MATTER THE MOST TO GOD!

5. DON’T MAKE THE LITTLE STUFF BIGGER THAN THE BIG STUFF.

There are little stuff and there are big stuff. There are least commandments and there are great commandments. There are lighter matters and there are heavier matters. There are less important requirements. And there are more important requirements.

Brethren, YOU MUST MAKE A DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE TWO BECAUSE THE SCRIPTURES MAKE THAT DISTINCTION. THE LORD HIMSELF DISTINGUISHES BETWEEN LESSER AND GREATER COMMANDMENTS.

You must recognize as lesser what the Lord Himself deems to be lesser. And you must recognize as greater what the Lord Himself deems to be greater.

ONCE YOU'VE MADE THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE TWO, YOU'VE GOT TO KEEP THE LITTLE STUFF LITTLE AND KEEP THE BIG STUFF BIG. YOU MUSTN'T MAKE THE LITTLE STUFF BIGGER THAN THE BIG STUFF. AND YOU MUSTN'T MAKE THE BIG STUFF LITTLER, OR LESS IMPORTANT, THAN THE LITTLE STUFF. BRETHREN, KEEP YOUR CONVICTIONS IN PROPER PERSPECTIVE!

*If you don’t want to have a porcelain frog in your house because a lot of heathens consider the frog to be a god, then strain out that gnat.

*If you don’t want to bring a book into your house because it was written by an author who’s involved in the occult, then strain out that gnat.

*If you don’t want to get Christmas cards or birthdays cards because of their pagan, occult connection, then by all means go ahead and strain out that gnat.

*If you don’t want to play any kind of card game because you believe it all comes from the occult gamblers’ cards, then strain out that gnat.

Strain out the little foxes that spoil the vine. Strain out the tiny leaven that leavens, defiles, and oppresses a person. But for all your interest in not being defiled and oppressed by the little critters, make sure that you strain out the humungous critters that also defile and oppress you.

*Unforgiveness and intolerance are as much from the Devil as pagan holidays and cards.

*Jealousy and covetousness can oppress you every bit as much as rock-n-roll and Indian jewelry or Asian art.

*Self-righteousness and criticism defiles a true child of God as much as heathen books and movies.

*Anger and fear corrupts you as much as magic and martial arts.

Do you see what I mean? The little stuffs are little. They still require dealing with. Figuratively speaking, you’ve still got to tithe your herbs! But don’t get so caught up in the minors that you neglect the majors. MAJOR ON THE MAJORS. MINOR ON THE MINORS. AND DON'T MISTAKE OR CONFUSE THE ONE FOR THE OTHER.

6. IF YOU NEGLECT THE BIG STUFF YOU’RE IN LINE FOR A REBUKE.

The final thing that I’d like for you to see from the text of Scripture is this. These Scribes and Pharisees were obedient to the Lord in the smaller matter of the tithes, but they were disobedient in the greater matter of justice, mercy, and faith. Even though they were obedient in the little stuff, our Lord nevertheless rebuked them because they were disobedient in the big stuff.

Brethren, you can be obedient in the little things of Scripture. We commend and admire you for your obedience regarding television, video, birth control, worldly music, worldly books and magazines, competitive sports, pants, make-up, jewelry, home school, home birth, medical science, holidays, birthdays, playing cards, and the like.

But if you’re not obedient in the greater things of Scripture—if you’re not concentrating on the main things that the Lord wants you to concentrate on—then, despite your obedience in the little things, the Lord rebukes you.

You can take a lot of pride in the fact that every herb in your garden has been counted and tithed. You can be smug and self-satisfied in the fact that there aren’t any gnats in your wine.

But what’s the state of your relationship with men? Are you getting along with your brothers and sisters in the Lord? Are you treating them right? Are you just, merciful, and believing? Are you loving one another the same way God loves each and every one of you?

Do you see what I mean? Don’t think that you’re beyond rebuke because you’re really punctilious in your obedience to the Lord. By punctilious I mean you’re being faithful and obedient in the smallest matters and details of life. You’re paying really close attention to the gnats that can defile or oppress you.

To your unawares, the smallest matters and details of life have become matters of the greatest and severest importance to you. They’ve become matters of life and death. Matters of salvation itself. And because these matters are so important to you, then your Christianity, your Gospel, your ministry, and your fellowship with other Christians all center around your punctilious devotion, obedience, and convictions. And because you’re so devout to the Lord in these little-matters-now-become-big, you think you’re in line for a word of commendation and praise from the Lord.

Brethren, you’d better read the text of Scripture twice and pay close attention to who the Lord rebukes. He rebukes the Pharisees and Scribes who were just as punctilious and devout as you! Are you going around rebuking your brothers and sisters for not being as punctilious as you? Brethren, hold on to your socks—it’s you who the Lord rebukes!

Friends, no matter how devout you are in the little things, you’re in line for a rebuke from the Lord if you’re not paying your greater time and attention to the things that are truly greater in the sight of God. If you want to hear the Lord commend you instead of rebuke you, then start spending your time and energy on the big stuff that matter the most to God. Do what pleases God the most and, at the end of the day, you’ll hear Him say to you, Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.

 

SIXTH WOE

NOT CLEANING UP THE WRONG INSIDE YOU

 

Matthew 23:25-26, Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortionFN and excess.FN {26} Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Matthew 23:25-26 (NIV),  "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  (26)  Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

 

Jesus denounces the Scribes and Pharisees, in the sixth place, for doing something spiritually that they would not think of doing in the natural realm of things.

Because they were so scrupulous in the matter of cleanness, they made every attempt to make sure that the food they ate was kosher or ceremonially clean.

Not only that, but because kosher food could become unclean if it was placed in an impure vessel, the Scribes and Pharisees took great pains to keep their pots and pans, their cups and platters, free from defilement.

*When an unclean insect so much as touched a vessel, the vessel automatically became unclean.

*If an insect fell into water and that water was poured into a cup, the cup became unclean.

*If an unclean pan touched another pan, the pan it touched would become unclean.

*If an unclean person touched a vessel, that vessel automatically became unclean.

You see, there were so many ways that a vessel could become unclean that you were constantly on watch to make sure that the dishes you would be eating out of would be clean.

Now cleansing them was not a matter of washing them out with soap and water. Ceremonial cleansing involved two courses of action.

*For earthenware vessels—those made of clay, pottery, or porcelain—the only way the vessels could be made ceremonially clean again was if you broke them to pieces!

*For brazen vessels—those made with copper or brass—the vessels had to be dipped in water that was especially sanctified for purification purposes. Naturally, when you dipped a vessel in water, you dipped all of it—not just a part of it. In that way, the entire vessel became ceremonially clean once again.



A. YOU’VE GOT TO CLEAN THE INSIDE!

In the physical realm the Rabbis took great pains to keep their cups and platters clean. But they spent no such time or effort keeping themselves clean spiritually. They washed themselves good on the outside so that from all outward appearances, they were ceremonially clean, pious, and upright. But do you know what? These men didn’t clean the inside of the vessels. That is, they didn’t clean their hearts or minds. They were full of extortion and robbery. They had no self-control or self-restraint. They were not disciplined enough to stop themselves from doing ungodly things.

Now in the natural realm of things, when a gnat fell into a copper vessel the gnat was first removed and then the vessel was wholly dipped in water to make it ceremonially clean once again.

In the spiritual realm, that’s what the Scribes and Pharisees should have done. They should have dealt with their hearts and minds, gotten rid of the extortion, incontinence, and everything else that was wicked about them; and once they discarded the gnats of uncleanness, then they could proceed to clean themselves up outwardly.

But as it was, they cleaned the outside of the cups but they didn’t discard the unclean gnats that the cups held!

Now no matter how clean the outside of a brazen vessel was, if there were still all sorts of gnats and bugs in the vessel, the entire vessel was still unclean. If it was unclean on the inside, then no matter how many times the outside of the vessel was washed, the vessel itself remained unclean.

Brethren, YOU CAN OUTWARDLY APPEAR PIOUS AND UPRIGHT BEFORE MEN. YOU MAY NOT INDULGE IN THE NOTABLE SINS OF DRUNKENNESS, MURDER, ADULTERY, OR VIOLENCE. BUT IF YOU'RE NOT DEALING WITH THE SINS WITHIN YOUR HEART--THE ANGER, THE LUSTFUL EYE, THE SPIRIT OF CRITICISM, JUDGMENTALISM, AND THE LIKE--THEN YOU'RE UNCLEAN, UNRIGHTEOUS, AND WICKED IN THE SIGHT OF THE LORD.

Brethren it matters little how good you look on the outside—how pious and upright you appear to everyone else. If you’re full of greed and self-indulgence in your heart, then you’re not pious or upright!

The only way to become wholly pious and upright is to purify your heart and mind first. Then once that’s done, start working on cleaning up the outside, that is, cleaning up your behavior, conduct, lifestyle, speech, and the like. Read on.

B. YOU’VE GOT TO CLEAN THE OUTSIDE TOO!

Jesus said, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also (verse 26). The priority must be given to cleaning up the inside first.

Brethren, if we want to clean up our act we’ve got to start in our hearts and minds. THE WORK OF RENEWAL, PURIFICATION, OR GODLINESS, MUST BEGIN IN THE INSIDE FIRST.

PURIFICATION, HOWEVER, DOESN'T STOP IN THE INSIDE! You start by cleaning up the inside first, then once that’s done, you start cleaning up the outside of the cup and platter. Jesus is talking about the outward, visible aspects of our life—that is, our conduct, behavior, actions, speech, lifestyle, interpersonal relationships, and the like.

YOU MUSTN'T SHIRK OR IGNORE YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO CLEAN YOURSELF UP ON THE OUTSIDE JUST BECAUSE YOUR HEART IS PURE OR SINCERE TOWARDS THE LORD.

Friends, GOD IS INTERESTED IN WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE IN THE INSIDE, BUT HE'S ALSO INTERESTED IN WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE ON THE OUTSIDE. The way you dress, the way you talk, the way you conduct yourself, the way you live, the people you hang around with, the goals you pursue, the way you treat people, and more—all these matter to God as well. Make sure the outside of your life is just as holy and clean as the inside.

 

C. WHY CLEANING UP OUR ACT SOMETIMES DOESN’T WORK OR LAST.

Brethren, do you know how to get the visible, external aspects of your life clean, upright, and holy in God’s sight? You’ve got to deal with your heart first. You can make all sorts of rules and regulations for yourself—reminding yourself what things you can, and cannot, do. But UNLESS HOLINESS AND OBEDIENCE ARE THE DESIRES OF YOUR HEART, THE RULES AND REGULATIONS WON’T WORK OR LAST.

The same thing can be said to those of us who would legislate our morals and convictions over others. We can impose our rules and beliefs on others and they will, for a time, or at least while they’re in our presence, conform to our standards and dictates. But the outward change or conformity doesn’t last because their heart isn’t possessed by the same moral desires and convictions that we have.

Brethren, the work of outward change must proceed from the inside: it must proceed from a changed and cleaned heart. And unless the heart is purified from all greed and self-indulgence and filled with a wholehearted desire to be holy, separate, and pure, then no amount of outward conformity, forced cleansings, or legalistic rules and regulations, will succeed in cleaning God’s people up.

Do you want to know how you can succeed in getting yourself cleaned up? Begin with your heart and mind, your attitudes and desires. Desire holiness. Want to be clean and pure in God’s sight. If you don’t have that desire, ask God to give it to you. Philippians 2:13 NLT tells us that God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him. The desire to be clean and pure comes from God. He’ll give it to you.

After you pray and ask God to give you a desire to be clean, start changing your desires. Instead of falling back into the carnal, selfish, self-indulgent way of life that you’ve always known, start gearing up your mind to reject and refuse that lifestyle and mentality. Start desiring what’s good, clean, moral, pure, and acceptable in God’s sight. Work at it. It doesn’t come easy, but cleanliness is doable. Philippians 2:13 promises that God will give you the power, ability, or strength to do what’s good and right in His sight. Depend on God for His power to do what’s right. He’ll help you and make sure you succeed in cleaning yourself up. You’ll succeed because it’s He who’s going to clean you up. God doesn’t fail at whatever He does. When God is in your desire, in your heart and mind, you won’t fail either. You’ll succeed. God Himself will see to that!

 

SEVENTH WOE

THE REAL YOU IN THE INSIDE IS WICKED

 

Matthew 23:27-28, Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres,FN which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. {28} Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Matthew 23:27-28 (NIV),  "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  (28)  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

 

Our Lord’s seventh denunciation against the Scribes and Pharisees is essentially the same as the previous one. The sixth denunciation addresses the hypocritical conduct, actions, and behavior of the religious leaders. This seventh one addresses their hypocritical condition or state.

You see, BY CONTINUALLY DOING SOMETHING YOU EVENTUALLY BECOME WHAT YOU DO. For example, a person who fornicates becomes, and is, a fornicator. A person who drinks a lot and habitually becomes intoxicated becomes, and is, a drunkard.

Friends, YOU CAN'T CONTINUALLY DO SOMETHING--GOOD OR BAD--WITHOUT BECOMING WHAT YOU DO. YOU ARE WHAT YOU DO. NOT WHO YOU THINK YOU ARE. NOT WHO YOU SAY YOU ARE. YOU ARE WHAT YOU DO.

The Scribes and Pharisees routinely acted and behaved hypocritically. And by their actions they became hypocrites. It is this state or condition of being hypocrites that the Lord now denounces.

The Mosaic Law decreed that whoever touched a dead person became unclean. This applied even to the bones and graves of the dead, Numbers 19:16-19. Those who were thus rendered unclean were unclean for a period of seven days. Naturally, you couldn’t worship at synagogue or the Temple, or attend the yearly Feasts, if you were unclean. So in order to help all worshippers and pilgrims avoid defilement, all graves and tombs—especially those in a field or near a road—would be clearly marked and whitewashed with powdered lime dust once a year around the 15th of Adar, one month before Passover.

The Pharisees and Scribes, Jesus said, were like whitewashed sepulchers. They looked good on the outside: Godly, holy, and righteous. But inside, behind the façade, the Pharisees and Scribes were the exact opposite! They were ungodly, unholy, unrighteous! Do you know what this says, brethren? Two things.

1. YOU CAN LOOK SAINTLY, BUT STILL BE A SINNER!

IT'S POSSIBLE TO LOOK GOOD ON THE OUTSIDE AND YET BE FULL OF WICKEDNESS INSIDE. Just because you look good on the outside doesn’t mean you’re good on the inside.

Brethren, YOU MUSTN'T JUDGE A PERSON SOLELY BY WHO THEY APPEAR TO BE OUTWARDLY. YOU MUSTN'T JUDGE THEM EXCLUSIVELY BY WHAT YOU SEE.

JUDGE THEM BY THEIR HEART BECAUSE THE REAL PERSON--WHO THEY REALLY ARE--IS INDICATED BY THEIR HEART.

How do you know what a person’s heart is really like? How do you get past the façade and get to the real person inside? Brethren, you can get a pretty good idea of what a person’s heart looks like by spending time with them, talking to them, and observing them.FN

IF YOU DON'T SPEND A WHOLE LOT OF TIME WITH A PERSON, TALKING TO HIM OR HER, THEN CHANCES ARE YOU'RE WRONG IN YOUR ASSESSMENT OF THEM. A PERSON ISN'T ALWAYS WHO HE OR SHE APPEARS TO BE, which brings me to my next point.

Jesus calls these religious leaders hypocrites. Now a hypocrite is a play actor. He’s a person who pretends he’s somebody he’s really not. The pretense is deliberate and knowledgeable. A hypocrite knowingly and willfully acts like someone he isn’t.

WHEN YOU KNOWINGLY AND DELIBERATELY MASK WHO YOU REALLY ARE, YOU ARE A HYPOCRITE. WHEN YOU HIDE THE REAL YOU, YOU ARE NOT WHO YOU APPEAR TO BE.

Sadly, Scribes and Pharisees aren’t the only hypocrites in this world. There are hypocrites in the Church, as we know so well from human experience.

The existence of hypocrites among the saints aptly tells us that IT'S POSSIBLE TO LIVE THE WAY GODLY PEOPLE LIVE AND YET BE UNGODLY IN YOUR HEART AND MIND. In the analogy of whitewashed tombs, it’s possible to be absolutely filthy or wicked in the inside, but still look clean or righteous on the outside.

That’s the reason why you mustn’t judge a righteous-appearing saint solely by external appearances. A PERSON ISN'T ALWAYS WHO HE OR SHE APPEARS TO BE!

Friends, you can give people a wrong and a false impression of yourself. You can hide your true nature or being. You can fool some people, even a lot of people, into thinking you’re someone you’re really not. But you can’t fool God! God sees and God knows who you really are. He knows what you’re like in the inside. He sees what people don’t see.

Do you know what God does with people like you? HE REBUKES AND EXPOSES YOU FOR WHO YOU REALLY ARE.

Take note once again of who Jesus is speaking to and where He is when He’s giving this discourse in Matthew 23. Jesus is in the Temple, He’s surrounded by a whole lot of Passover worshippers who were listening to Him, and nestled in among the crowd were these Pharisees and Scribes. What is Jesus doing here? He’s exposing these men for who they really are. It’s not a private rebuke or announcement. He’s telling everybody in the Temple all about the true nature of these men who they admired and who led them. He’s warning the people to be wary or careful of their spiritual leaders. Do not emulate their spiritual example! Verse 3.

Do you know what Jesus’ public rebuke and exposure tells me? IF YOU ARE A HYPOCRITE IT IS THE GOOD AND RIGHT THING FOR YOU TO BE PUBLICLY EXPOSED AND REBUKED. IF YOU ARE KNOWINGLY AND WILLINGLY GIVING PEOPLE THE WRONG IMPRESSION OF YOURSELF, IF YOU'RE HIDING YOUR TRUE SELF, YOUR EVIL, UNGODLY, HEART; THEN THE BEST THING FOR YOU--NOT TO MENTION THE PEOPLE WHO "KNOW" YOU--IS FOR YOU TO BE PUBLICLY EXPOSED. Why?

A. GOD REBUKES YOU FOR YOUR OWN GOOD. Public exposure is for your own good. It lets people know what you’re battling or going through so that they can pray for you and help you.

To be sure, some people will shun you in an unloving, unchristlike way; they’ll feel badly toward you and hold some resentment against you for the way you’ve fooled and betrayed them.

But the stronger and more spiritual ones among the brethren will take up your cause, they’ll continue to love you, they’ll pray for you, and—if you’re willing—they’ll help you work through the problems you’re up against (James 5:16-20, Jude 22-23).

Friends, UNLESS YOU'RE CONFRONTED WITH YOUR PROBLEMS YOU LIKELY WILL NOT DEAL WITH THEM ON YOUR OWN. LEFT ALONE, YOU WILL CONTINUE TO ENGAGE IN SINFUL CONDUCT, HIDE YOUR SINS, AND SIN ALL THE WAY TO HELL. Friends, it’s for your own good and benefit that God publicly exposes you.

B. GOD REBUKES YOU FOR OTHER PEOPLE’S GOOD. As concerned as God is for you, He’s also concerned about the people you hang around and fellowship with. He’s concerned about His children who might be adversely affected by your hypocrisy. He’s out to protect them too. So God publicly exposes you for their benefit. It’s a warning or lesson for them to take heed and not do as you do, lest they also suffer the same exposure, humiliation, and possibly, discipline (1 Timothy 5:20).

The public knowledge of your sins and true self is good and necessary for the brethren’s sake so that if you remain unconcerned, unchanged, and unrepentant they can take the proper course of action and that is, shun you and not fellowship with you (1 Corinthians 5, 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 with Ephesians 5:7, 11, 1 Timothy 6:3-5).


2. YOU CAN BE LAW ABIDING AND YET BE LAWLESS.

Jesus denounces the Scribes and Pharisees not only for their hypocrisy, but also for their iniquity, verse 28. This word iniquity is a rather strong one in the Greek text. It denotes not just the mere ideas of sin or transgression, but rather, lawlessness. Living without law. Living in flagrant disregard of the law. As if there were no laws.

Now get this because it is so staggering. The Pharisees and Scribes toed the line on the Law. They applied the Law of God so minutely and exhaustively that they came up with all kinds of laws that were meant to help the Jews obey the Law in the smallest, exactest detail. Yet, for all their observance of laws—both Mosaic and Rabbinical—these Pharisees and Scribes were, in Jesus’ view, lawless! Like hardened criminals and depraved savages or barbarians, these pious-appearing religious leaders lived in defiance and disregard of God’s Law!

What made these Law-conscious, fanatics of obedience lawless in God’s sight?

*They made so many laws out of God’s law and burdened the people with these man-made laws by legislating them over everybody. Instead of helping the people by lightening their burdens, they made their burdens heavier, verse 4.

*The nature or condition of the heart: they were proud, self-righteous, and self aggrandizing. They were out to be noticed and acclaimed as being the best and godliest around, verses 5-7.

*They used religion, or their office, to benefit themselves by oppressing the widows, verse 14.

*They made their converts or proselytes worse off and twice more the children of Hell than themselves. They didn’t have a saving effect on their converts. Theirs was a damning effect, verses 13 & 15!

*They had a wrong and false sense of the Divine, verses 16-22.

*They neglected to do the things that were truly more important to God, the things that really mattered. Their preoccupation with the little stuff distracted them from recognizing the importance of the big stuff, the stuff that God is really concerned about, verse 23.

*They concentrated on externals, but left their internals unattended and unremedied, verses 25-26. They didn’t take care of the things that really needed to get taken care of—the heart, mind, and spirit.

*They were hypocrites. They concealed their ungodliness with a mask of godliness, verses 27-28.

*They were children of murderers, they would soon be murderers themselves, and continue to be murderers of the faithful servants sent to them from God (verses 29-36).

What we find here in Matthew 23 is something very tragic indeed! We find the most religious and Godly men in Israel—at least as they appeared and were perceived by their countrymen—being rejected and denounced by God as being hypocritical, evil, lawless, and damned!

Can anything be more surprising to us than to find that a person is the exact opposite of what he appeared to be, the exact opposite of what we thought of him? Friends, if this kind of rank hypocrisy is possible among the best of Jews, who’s to say that it isn’t possible among the Godliest of Christians today? Brethren, WE FOOL OURSELVES IF WE THINK LAW-ABIDING, OBSERVANT, RELIGIOUS "CHRISTIANS" CANNOT POSSIBLY BE LAWLESS AND DAMNED IN GOD'S SIGHT! Don't be in this number!

How can pious Christians be lawless and damned in God’s sight? Brethren, you’ve got to look at, or consider, the heart. What does a person’s heart look like? We can get a pretty fair, accurate view of a person’s heart by spending a lot of time with that person, talking to him or her and observing them on a regular basis.

But INSTEAD OF SPENDING ALL OUR TIME LOOKING AT OTHER PEOPLE, LET'S LOOK AT OURSELF. Regardless of who we think we are or how good a Christian we think we are; regardless of who people think we are and how good of a Christian they think we are; WHAT DOES OUR HEART LOOK LIKE? Are we willing to be totally, ruthlessly honest with ourselves? Are we capable of seeing ourselves for who we really, truly are?

Friends, if we refuse to be honest with ourselves and see ourselves for who we really are, we leave ourselves with little hope of salvation. You see, if we refuse to recognize that we’ve got a heart problem—that is, a problem with our attitudes, a problem with a well-hidden lust, a problem with the way we treat people and get along with them—then we won’t ever get the problem remedied or solved. We’ll live our lives as pious, Law-abiding, observant Scribes and Pharisees. Then, to our shocked surprise, we’ll end up damned on judgment day because of unresolved, unrepented sin in our hearts and lives. Friends, this kind of fearful, eternal, and irrevocable punishment is not worth living with concealed sin.

For our sakes and the sakes of our brethren, are we willing to be exposed, rebuked, and humiliated before the brethren? Friends, DON'T RESENT EXPOSURE OR REBUKE! GOD'S TRYING TO SAVE YOU AND HELP YOU BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE.

 

EIGHTH WOE

CHILDREN OF MURDERERS

 

Matthew 23:29-36, Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,FN {30} And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. {31} Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. {32} Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.FN {33} Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers,FN how can ye escape the damnation of hell? {34} Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: {35} That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias,FN whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.FN {36} Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.FN Matthew 23:29-36 (NIV),  "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.  (30)  And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.'  (31)  So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets.  (32)  Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!  (33)  "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?  (34)  Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.  (35)  And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.  (36)  Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.

 

This eighth and final woe addresses the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees in regards to the martyred prophets.

Their fathers didn’t see the righteousness of the prophets. They saw them more as thorns in their sides. The prophetic rebukes were more than what they cared to hear, so they did away with their national conscience and silenced the voice of God in their midst.

After surveying the nation’s course of history, these present-day religious leaders recognized that what the prophets were saying and trying to do was right after all. The prophetic rebukes—though stinging—were right after all. Sin, persisted in, will, in due time, bring judgment. So what the prophets tried to do was avert national calamity by calling God’s people to repentance. Far from being the adversaries of the people, these prophets meant well for the nation. And for that, they were killed. And the nation suffered destruction and captivity. Now, to honor their memory and work, these present-day leaders of the Jews built and beautified the tombs of the prophets.

 

A. RECOGNIZING THE RIGHTEOUS--TOO LATE

You know, IT'S ALWAYS EASIER TO REVERE THE FAITHFUL OF A PAST GENERATION, BUT DIFFICULT TO RECOGNIZE THE FAITHFUL IN THE PRESENT GENERATION. Here was John the Baptist and Jesus. After them would come the Lord’s apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, deacons, and teachers. And the same leaders who recognized the righteousness of past prophets did not recognize the righteousness of the prophets that now stood in their midst. Like their fathers, they would reject the rebukes of their prophets and kill them.

We Christians today are pretty much the same as the Jews of old. We don’t like being rebuked or told we’re wrong. We’re intent on doing what we want to do. And when ministers or people stand in our way to reprove us, we don’t like it! “Who are you to tell me I’m wrong? Who are you to judge?”

You see, THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT BEING REBUKED AND TOLD WE'RE WRONG THAT JUST IRKS AND RUBS US THE WRONG WAY. IT BRINGS THE WORST OUT IN US AND CAUSES US TO BECOME TREACHEROUS AND MURDEROUS OF THE RIGHT. It blinds us from seeing the righteousness of the man or woman God is sending our way to reprove and help us.

AN OFFENSIVE REBUKE OR A DISAGREEABLE MESSAGE HAS A WAY OF DISTORTING OUR VIEW OF GOD'S MINISTERS SO THAT WE END UP SEEING THEM IN A WRONG LIGHT. “They’re not true prophets from God! They’re false prophets!” Consequently, we end up treating them the wrong way. The Jews murdered them. We malign them. “He’s not a true minister of God! He’s deceived! He’s wrong and in error! He’s a liberal! He’s a legalist! He’s got a spirit of _____________!” How we fail to see the Lord in His servants—all because we don’t like their stance on sin or moral issues!

Brethren, do you recognize the righteous servants of God in your midst? Will you acknowledge the hand of God upon their lives and the message of God on their lips? Will you honor them and give heed to their words? Or will you, like these Scribes and Pharisees and their forbears, silence the voice of conscience and God in your midst?

No, you may not kill the prophets and preachers that God sends your way. But are you rejecting, maligning, and discrediting them? You see, WHEN YOU REJECT, MALIGN, AND DISCREDIT A MINISTER YOU’VE RELIEVED YOURSELF OF THE NECESSITY OF HEARING AND HEEDING HIS VOICE. Brethren, you will not listen to anyone you’ve discredited!

In this way, NOT LISTENING TO THE PROPHETS IS SIMILAR TO KILLING OR SILENCING THE PROPHETS. IT PRODUCES THE SAME RESULT, NAMELY, YOU DON'T HEAR OR OBEY THE VOICE OF GOD SPEAKING TO YOU THROUGH HIS SERVANTS.

So the question is, will you honor and heed the prophets God is sending your way today? Or will you leave it to your children to build and beautify their tombs?

 

B. MURDERERS STILL

These Scribes and Pharisees were claiming that, had they lived in the times of the prophets, they would not have persecuted and killed the prophets as their fathers did. They were, in a sense, disavowing the crimes of their fathers and claiming to be better than them.

But these men were liars and Jesus saw right through their hypocritical reverence and claim to innocence. Even now they were plotting His arrest and death! Far from being unlike their fathers, they were just like their fathers! They will persecute and kill many of the servants sent to them by the Lord. Like father, like son. They were murderers!

Note a couple of things with me in the text of Scripture that have to do with murder.

 

1. A PARTICIPANT OR ACCESSORY TO MURDER MAKES YOU A MURDERER!

Notice that Jesus charges these Scribes and Pharisees with future acts of murder. They will not stop with killing our Lord. They will go on to kill and crucify some of Jesus’ followers and ministers, verse 34.

The only problem is, by Roman law, no one—including the recognized leader of the Jews, that being the High Priest, or the Great Sanhedrin itself—could carry out the death penalty. The Romans reserved for themselves the sole right of execution. So the only way these Scribes and Pharisees could murder Christ’s ministers is: (1) by illegally killing them, as they did to Stephen in Acts 7:58; or (2) they could do it by delivering these ministers into Roman hands and demanding their execution, as they did with Jesus. In such cases, the Jews would fabricate death-worthy charges against Christ’s followers and the Romans themselves would do the crucifying.

Friends, to actively participate in murder makes you a murderer who’s guilty of murder. And the same holds true for you if you demand and give consent for the murder of God’s people. You don’t have to do the killing. You can be part of a mob that demands death for God’s people; you can be on the jury that passes the death sentence. TO HAVE ANY PART--ACTIVE OR PASSIVE--IN THE MURDER OF GOD'S PEOPLE MAKES YOU A MURDERER.FN

 

2. BY COMMITTING THE SINS OF YOUR FORBEARS YOU PARTICIPATE IN THEIR SINS AND SHARE IN THEIR GUILT AND THEIR JUDGMENT.

Note Jesus’ Words in verse 36, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

These Pharisees and Scribes weren’t around when Zechariah was murdered in the Temple. They had nothing to do with that senseless crime.

But BY DOING THE SAME KIND OF THINGS THAT THEIR FATHERS DID--BY KILLING THOSE WHOM THE LORD WOULD SEND THEIR WAY--THE LORD SEES THEM AS HAVING PARTICIPATED IN THE PAST CRIMES OF THEIR FATHERS! FROM HIS DIVINE VIEW AND PERSPECTIVE, THESE PHARISEES AND SCRIBES PARTICIPATED IN ZECHARIAH'S MURDER AND WERE JUST AS GUILTY FOR THAT MURDER AS THEIR FATHERS WERE WHO ACTUALLY CARRIED OUT THE CRIME.

Friends, is it possible that we partake in the sins of our ancestors and remain culpable as our ancestors if we commit the same sins as our ancestors? If so, as it seems apparent in this Biblical text, then our judgment will be a lot more worse and severe because the Lord will judge us not only for our own sins, but also for the sins of our ancestors. Besides suffering our own judgment, we will also partake of the judgment meted against our ancestors for the sins they committed!

Look at verse 35, That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias.

Even though this present generation of Scribes and Pharisees had nothing to do with the murder of every martyr from the time of Abel to Zechariah, nevertheless, they would suffer and bear the judgment of these murders as if they themselves were the actual murderers of the martyrs.

Brethren, WHEN YOU COMMIT THE SINS OF YOUR ANCESTORS YOU WILL BE PUNISHED NOT ONLY FOR YOUR SINS, BUT YOU WILL ALSO BEAR THE PUNISHMENT OF YOUR ANCESTORS. BE WARY, THEN, AND REPEAT NOT THE SINS OF YOUR FATHERS!

 

C. BEING CONVINCED OF THE RIGHT, YET BEING FAR FROM IT

I see something very sobering and profound in these religious leaders’ persecution and murder of Jesus’ followers and servants. These defenders of the Jewish faith and nation were fully persuaded and convinced that they were doing the right thing in persecuting and killing Jesus’ followers! Like Jesus said in John 16:2, yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.

Brethren, it’s possible for “God’s people” to kill God’s people and, in killing them, think they’re doing God’s will. It’s a tragic example of how A PERSON CAN BE ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED HE'S DOING THE RIGHT THING AND YET, UNBEKNOWNST TO HIM, BE ENTIRELY WRONG IN WHAT HE'S DOING! Friends, a person can be so deceived, confused, or mistaken that he thinks he’s doing God’s will, he’s doing God a big service or favor; and yet be wrong as wrong can be!

Brother or sister, you can be fully persuaded that you’re doing the right thing; you’re doing God’s will. You ought to be fully persuaded of the right! But you’ve got to know one hundred percent that what you’re doing, or what you’re about to do, is right, it’s God’s will.

You can’t go by feeling, voice, or revelation itself. Our radio, television, and online news are replete with people who supposedly heard God’s voice telling them to do things that are abominable in God’s sight.

YOU'VE GOT TO TEST THE VOICES AND REVELATIONS YOU GET. And the best way to do that is to stay with the Word. Do the Scriptures sanction what you’re doing or planning to do? According to the Scriptures, is killing a prophet or priest God’s will? Is arresting, imprisoning, and torturing people who reprove you of sin God’s will? Is persecuting people who don’t believe what you believe God’s will? Is purging the land of people who aren’t like you, who don’t agree with you, who oppose you, God’s will?

Like Caiaphas and Annas the High Priests, like the Priests, Scribes, and Pharisees, who plotted and called for Jesus’ death; you can absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, be convinced that what you’re doing is God’s will. But you’re wrong! It’s not God’s will!

SOMETHING THAT YOU CLAIM AND BELIEVE AND ARE ABSOLUTELY SURE IS GOD'S WILL CAN BE THE VERY OPPOSITE OF HIS WILL! YOU CAN BE ABSOLUTELY SURE AND CONVINCED YOU’RE RIGHT AND STILL BE WRONG!

Brethren, you should be sure you’re right. But look at your heart, your motives, your attitudes. Look at your behavior. Look at the things you’re doing or wanting to do to the people you dislike or disagree with. IF THE HEART AND ACTION ARE WRONG, THEN YOU'RE WRONG--IN SPITE OF THE FACT THAT YOU BELIEVE YOU'RE A HUNDRED PERCENT RIGHT AND IN THE CENTER OF GOD'S WILL.

 

D. BEWARE YOUR TREATMENT OF GOD'S PEOPLE

It’s interesting to note that Jesus spent more time on this woe than any of the seven others that preceded it. It was a matter that weighed heavy on His heart. In fact, He closed His last public discourse on this note. It was the last thing He said to the public before He was crucified.

What was it all about? It was all about how these leaders of the people maligned, persecuted, tortured, and killed God’s servants. It was not just a past sin, but one that would continue long after Jesus’ death. These religious leaders would continue to malign, persecute, torture, and kill the prophets, ministers, and servants that the Lord would send their way.

So what’s the point? The point is, brethren, GOD IS CONCERNED ABOUT THE WAY YOU TREAT HIS SERVANTS. His servants are Divinely-called, they’ve got a Divine message, they’re on a mission from God. WHEN YOU REJECT AND MISTREAT THE MINISTERS GOD SENDS YOUR WAY, GOD WILL REQUIRE IT OF YOU: YOU WILL NOT BE BLAMELESS.

It’s always been difficult to honor and respect a minister that you don’t like or agree with. To sit under, listen, submit, and obey a minister whose message you don’t care for has always been a difficult thing for God’s people to do.

Brethren, IF YOU DON'T LIKE, AGREE WITH, OR RESPECT, A MINISTER; LEAVE IT AT THAT. DON'T MISTREAT, BAD MOUTH, OR MALIGN HIM. LET THE LORD DEAL WITH HIS MINISTERS IF THEY'RE IN THE WRONG. Let the other ministers—both in the church and outside it—deal with those who sin or err in their midst.

But just because you believe they’re wrong, they’re not anointed, they’re not called; doesn’t give you license to speak evil against them and destroy them. They may well be wrong. But chances are, you could be the one who’s wrong.

Don’t misunderstand me. Like you, I don’t believe every minister in the land is called, anointed, and right. Sadly, ministers are men just like you and me. They’ve got their faults and idiosyncrasies. They’ve got things they’re ignorant and mistaken about, just like you and me. But no matter how much you disagree with certain ministers of the Lord, you mustn’t malign or mistreat them. Expose their errors, or what you believe is their errors. Warn the people about their errors. But leave the man out of it. Leave the personals and privates out of it. Let the Lord deal with His ministers.

Your task is to honor, submit to, and obey your ministers (1 Timothy 5:17, Hebrews 13:17). And if you can’t do that, then go somewhere else and find some other minister that you can honor, submit to, and obey. YOUR DISLIKE, DISAGREEMENT, AND LACK OF RESPECT FOR A MINISTER DOESN'T GIVE YOU LICENSE TO MALIGN AND MISTREAT HIM.

Learn from this passage of Scripture: God cares about how His ministers are treated. Those who mistreat them will have God’s wrath and punishment to face.

Here’s a sobering fact that proved the truth of Jesus’ prophetic judgment against these persecutors of His God-sent prophets and Christians: Jerusalem was completely destroyed and razed to the ground, along with her Holy Temple, and over one million Jews were slain, as God’s judgment for the Jews’ rejection and murder of God’s servants.

A similar scene will be replayed, only this time it won’t be confined to Jerusalem. God's wrath will be directed towards the whole world during a time of great tribulation that's coming at the close of human history. God will take vengeance on the Earth’s inhabitants for their persecution and murder of Christians. Read the Book of Revelation for yourself and understand that, like Jesus’ prophecy, what God says will happen will surely happen no matter how much you dislike, disbelieve, and reject it.

Do you think God doesn’t care how you treat His people and His ministers in particular? Think again. Then treat God’s people respectfully and see to it that you honor, receive, and heed God’s servants.

 

JESUS LAMENTS THE CITY AND THE PEOPLE'S REJECTION OF HIM

 

Matthew 23:37-39, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee,FN how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! {38} Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.FN {39} For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Matthew 23:37-39 (NIV),  "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.  (38)  Look, your house is left to you desolate.  (39)  For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

 

*THE LORD’S TEARS.

Jesus leaves the Temple with this public lamentation over the city’s sin and fate. In rejecting our Lord the city with all its inhabitants has invited judgment and destruction upon themselves.

He who rejects the Lord will be rejected and damned by our Lord.

Note that BOTH MEN'S REJECTION OF HIM AND THEIR DAMNATION BRING OUR LORD TO TEARS. He weeps over the hardened hearts and lost souls of men.

Brethren, what attitudes do you harbor towards the lost? Are you uncaring of their present condition and future punishment? Do you feel like abandoning them and calling fire down from Heaven because they’ve not accepted your witness? Jesus wept.

Friends, let the love of Christ for men’s soul move us to Godly love and concern for the lost. Let the tortured fate of the lost move us to tears. Then with love in our hearts and tears in our eyes, let us go to the lost and do what we can to save them from eternal damnation.

 

*THE LORD’S RESPECT.

We see in this passage the free will of men to choose for themselves what they will do with Christ. And we see the omnipotent Lord honoring that free choice.

God, friends, doesn’t force Himself upon men. He doesn’t gather you under the shelter of His wings if you don’t want to be with Him or follow Him. He doesn’t force you to do anything against your own free will or choice.

That’s why the judgment of sinners is always a serious thing. They cannot blame anyone else but themselves for their own damnation. They made their own choice to reject the Lord, no one forced them to reject the Lord, hence they are responsible and accountable for their rejection.

 

*THE LORD’S PERSISTENT EFFORTS.

Note the Lord’s words how often. Though He repeatedly stretched out His arms to the Jews and invited them to believe in Him, the vast majority of them rejected and disbelieved Him. Yet, the Lord didn’t give up after the first or second try. He kept on trying to reach out to the nation, He continued to offer them the gift of eternal salvation.

Which is to say, dear friends, that THE LORD'S LOVE AND OFFER OF SALVATION DOES NOT CEASE WITH THE FIRST REJECTION. IT ISN'T WITHHELD AFTER THE FIRST OR SECOND OFFER HAS BEEN MADE AND SPURNED. THOUGH THE OFFER IS, IN THE END, REJECTED, OUR LORD CONTINUES TO OFFER STILL. Why? It’s called love. It’s called our Lord’s desire to save and not damn.

Brethren, do not begrudge those who continually reject the Lord and His truth. Do not wish immediate judgment upon those who reject your witness.

Our Lord is longsuffering, forbearing, and patient. He doesn’t just sit back and wait for sinners to come to Him: He goes to them and offers them the hope of salvation. And He does it continually until one of two things happen: (1) until sinners repent of their sins and accept the Lord’s offer of salvation; or (2) until sinners fill up their cup of iniquity and seal their eternal damnation. When that happens, the Lord offers no more, but leaves sinners to suffer the tortured fate that they have chosen for themselves.

 

*THE LORD’S ULTIMATE TRIUMPH.

Lastly, though the Lord closes His last public discourse with this note of lamentation and judgment, His last recorded words to the nation are prophetical of His return.

Two things are worth noting here. First, note that many a righteous man has died and has not returned to Earth or the land of the living. They are at the place of departed spirits known to the Jews as Hades. Even though Jesus will shortly be killed, He will nevertheless return to the land of the living. He will live again! Thus, we find here the promise and prophecy of His resurrection. But not just His resurrection, but His return to Earth. For what purpose? To make good on His Messianic mission regarding the establishment of the Kingdom of God on the Earth. Which brings me to this second point of note.

Note that the phrase Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord is Messianic in nature. It was used of the people’s welcome of Messiah and was so used when Jesus rode into Jerusalem in His triumphal entry just a couple of days earlier (Matthew 21:9).

Note also Jesus’ words Ye shall not see ME henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. By placing Himself in relation to the Messianic welcome Jesus is openly, though in subtle fashion, proclaiming Himself the Messiah of Israel. To a discerning and astute Jew, the reference would have been unmistakable: Jesus was declaring Himself to be Israel’s promised Messiah!

 

THE WIDOW'S TEMPLE OFFERING

 

Mark 12:41-44, And Jesus sat over against the treasury,FN and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. {42} And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.FN {43} And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: {44} For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living. Mark 12:41-44 (NIV),  Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.  (42)  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.  (43)  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  (44)  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."
Luke 21:1-4, And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. {2} And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. {3} And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: {4} For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penuryFN hath cast in all the living that she had. Luke 21:1-4 (NLT), While Jesus was in the Temple, He watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. (2) Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. (3) "I tell you the truth," Jesus said, "this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. (4) For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has."

THE WIDOW

The text before us is so rich in detail and truth that it behooves us to examine it slowly and carefully in order that we may be the richer spiritually for it. Let us take note of three things here: the widow, the Lord, and the gift. Let’s look first at the widow.

She was not only a widow, but the Bible tells us that she was also poor. Now that was a pitiful and unenviable position to be in. Brethren, it’s never been easy to be a widow, no matter the age or time in which they live.

In our day, widows can work and earn a regular, steady income. Besides that, they have access to monthly social security checks, retirement benefits, food stamps, unemployment compensation, and a whole host of non-governmental agencies that can help a lone woman and her children make it by without suffering destitution.

Not so in the Israel of Biblical days. Widows didn’t have jobs in those days. You lived off of the good will of your relatives. If you didn’t have any relatives, at least close by, you were in a poor shape indeed. There was no steady income or money coming in. All this widow had was two mites. And she gave it all to the Lord. This is the first thing we note concerning this widow: she gave.

 

WHY SHOULD YOU GIVE?

The Lord, brethren, commands us to give a portion of our income or wealth back to Him. 1 Corinthians 16:2 exhorts us, Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

The offerings we give are used for the maintenance of the house of God and for the support of the ministers of the church. The needy—both within and outside—the church are also helped with the offerings we give.FN Giving to the Lord, then, is a matter of our obedience to the Lord. We give because we are commanded to give. In this light,

*GIVING TO THE LORD IS NOT AN OPTION. It’s not a matter of giving only if I feel like giving or only if I want to.

*GIVING TO THE LORD, FURTHERMORE, IS NOT A MATTER OF GIVING ONLY IF I HAVE IT TO GIVE. Brethren, if you work or have money coming in, then you are to set aside a portion of that money for the Lord. If you don’t do this first, you’ll end up spending the money or tucking it away so that you don’t have any left to give to the Lord. AS LONG AS YOU HAVE MONEY COMING IN, YOU HAVE MONEY TO GIVE TO THE LORD! THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS NOT HAVING MONEY TO GIVE TO THE LORD WHEN YOU HAVE MONEY COMING IN! If a poor widow can give, so can you!

*YOU ARE NOT ABSOLVED FROM GIVING TO THE LORD IF YOU DON'T HAPPEN TO LIKE, OR AGREE WITH, THE MINISTERS AND MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH. It’s always been a difficult thing to give to the church when you just aren’t happy or satisfied with the church. The way we see it, we’re not going to financially support anyone or anything that we don’t like or agree with.

But giving to the Lord, like paying taxes, isn’t conditioned on the identity of the church or government that you’re a part of; nor is it conditioned on how your money is going to be used by the preacher or the politician.

The priestly and scribal system of Jesus’ day was corrupt. The High Priest was notoriously corrupt above the rest. He used the Temple coffers and services to enrich himself. Yet, we find a poor widow giving everything she had! To support a corrupt High Priest and system? No! She gave because it was her duty to give. She was giving her gift to the Lord.

How the High Priest used the Lord’s gift is another matter, for which he and all ministers of God must one day give an account. But that’s between them and Lord. How they spend “your money” which is, in reality, God’s money, is none of your business.

From your standpoint, you give to the local church and minister—even when you’re at odds or disagreement with the church and minister—because you’re commanded by God to give and when you give, you’re giving to the Lord.

 

HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU GIVE TO THE LORD?

The second thing we note concerning this widow is, she gave generously. Generously—not in relation to what other people were giving, but generously in relation to what she had.

She had two mites. Two mites were the equivalent of 1/40th of a denarius. Now the average pay for a day’s worth of work was a denarius. Let’s say that an average worker today makes $100 a day. Two mites today, then, would be about $2.50. That’s all she had to live on. That’s all the money she had. Can you imagine having $2.50 to your name? $2.50 to live on? Yet, this poor widow gave it all to the Lord! She didn’t keep anything back for herself. That, brethren, is generosity!

How much should you give to the Lord? The Old Testament saints were commanded by Law to give a tithe of their income, produce, and flocks.FN That’s one-tenth of everything they earned, grew, and raised.

Without delving into the law of tithes, there were three tithes that the Jews were required to give to the Lord. So, in reality, the Jews ended up giving 30% of everything they had.

As a Christian we are not under the Law of tithes. Nowhere in the New Testament does the Lord specify an amount that we are to give to the Lord.

He does, however, give two prescriptions: (1) we are to give, 1 Corinthians 16:2; and (2) when we give we are to give cheerfully or from a willing heart, 2 Corinthians 9:7.

In addition to these two prescriptions, two principles should be kept in mind as they relate to our offerings.

 

A. WITHHOLDING YOUR OFFERING IS AN ACT OF ROBBERY. The Lord is displeased when you don’t give Him His offerings. In fact, GOD CONSIDERS IT AN ACT OF ROBBERY ON YOUR PART IF YOU SPEND YOUR MONEY ON YOURSELF AND DON'T LEAVE ANYTHING FOR HIM. Malachi 3:8-9 reads, Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. {9} Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Brethren, before you do anything with your money—whether you spend it or else save it—set aside a portion for the Lord first and give it to Him come Sunday.

B. YOU ARE BLEST IN DIRECT RELATION OR PROPORTION TO YOUR GIVING. If you give little, you’re blest little. If you give generously, you’re blest generously. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (NIV) tell us, Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. (7) Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (8) And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

 

Brethren, if you’re not prospering as you should, you might want to reevaluate your giving to the Lord. DON'T EXPECT THE LORD TO BE GENEROUS TOWARDS YOU IF YOU'RE MISERLY TOWARDS HIM.

So many want to prosper first so that they’ll have money to give generously to the Lord. Brethren, it doesn’t work this way. Sowing comes before reaping. You can’t reap bountifully if you’re sowing sparingly. To reap bountifully you’ve first got to sow bountifully. GIVING GENEROUSLY TO THE LORD COMES BEFORE RECEIVING GENEROUSLY FROM THE LORD.

When you give generously so that the house of God is abundantly supplied God’s promise to you is, He’ll open Heaven’s windows for you. Malachi 3:10-12 reads, Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.FN Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. (11) I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe," says the LORD Almighty. (12) "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.

Give generously to the Lord, dear friends, and watch Him shower you with His blessings.FN

 

Let me speak briefly to those of you who are going through financial trials right now and who just don’t have much to give to the Lord or share with others.

(1) DON'T LET THE FACT THAT YOU DON'T HAVE A WHOLE LOT TO GIVE STOP YOU FROM GIVING. Some don’t give at all because they’re ashamed to give what little they’ve got. At this point you’ve got to swallow your pride, humble yourself, and give. Give obediently. Give in faith. Give lovingly. And give cheerfully.

(2) When you give willingly and cheerfully—whether to the Lord or to the saints—and you do it in faith and in love; DON'T DESPISE THE FACT THAT YOU DON'T HAVE A WHOLE LOT TO GIVE OR THAT YOU DIDN'T GIVE VERY MUCH. Two mites, as I’ve said, isn’t a whole lot of money. It can’t buy much. It can’t do much. But when it’s all that you can afford to give, you shouldn’t feel guilty or feel bad about it. Give it cheerfully with lots of love and faith, then forget all about it. Remember, IN GOD’S SIGHT, A LITTLE GIVEN IS A WHOLE LOT GIVEN WHEN IT’S ALL YOU HAVE. The Lord lauds and commends the gift and you shouldn’t give yourself or the Devil the tormented pleasure of thinking you really haven’t given anything to the Lord. Your gift, though small, is highly valuable in God’s sight! GIVING A LITTLE IS BETTER THAN GIVING NOTHING.

 

HOW SHOULD YOU GIVE?

We’ve looked at the widow in relation to our responsibility to give to the Lord. We’ve considered the question of how much we should give to the Lord. Let’s now consider how we should give to the Lord.

First, give cheerfully or from a willing heart. Regardless of the size of your offerings, God, dear brethren, wants you to give from a willing heart. 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV) states, Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

HOW MUCH YOU GIVE IS SOMETHING THAT YOU DETERMINE FOR YOURSELF. No one has the right to tell you the exact amount you should give. Don't let anyone pressure or shame you into giving. God doesn't do that sort of thing to you. He lets you decide how much you should give.

The important thing is, WHATEVER YOU GIVE, GIVE CHEERFULLY. That is, because you want to.

Don’t give grudgingly or regretfully. IF YOU'RE SAD OR SORRY WHEN YOU GIVE, THEN YOU HAVEN'T GIVEN THE WAY GOD WANTS YOU TO GIVE.

Does this mean we shouldn’t give, we don’t have to give, if we don’t want to give? So many people feel right and justified in not giving because they don’t want to give. They take solace in the fact that God loves a cheerful giver and, since they’re not cheerful about giving, then they don’t have to give.

SOMETIMES WE’RE WRONG IN WHAT WE WANT OR DON’T WANT. JUST BECAUSE WE WANT, OR DON’T WANT, TO DO SOMETHING DOESN’T MEAN WE’RE RIGHT ABOUT IT. We’re wrong not to give because God commands us to give. If we don’t want to give, then there’s something wrong with us. WE’RE NOT RIGHT TO WITHHOLD OUR GOD-GIVEN MONEY AND NOT GIVE HIM WHAT IS RIGHTFULLY HIS.

God loves a cheerful giver. But He also loves an obedient and faithful giver. If you don’t want to give an offering to the Lord, then you’re wrong and you need to correct that and get it right. You need to start giving. Obey the Lord, trust Him to provide, and give. The cheerfulness will come in due time.

And second, give to the Lord in faith. This applies primarily to those of you who have little to give or who can ill afford to give.

The widow gave all the money she had. How did she expect to buy her next meal or pay her next bill? Most of us would have kept back something for ourselves because, the truth of the matter is, we do need to provide for ourselves.

If there’s one thing that I see in this widow’s offering and in our Lord’s commendation of her, it’s this: THERE ARE TIMES WHEN YOU HAVE TO GIVE TO THE LORD IN FAITH.FN

Brethren, the Lord promised to provide for you. He who takes care of the birds will much more take care of you:

Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to Him than they are? Matthew 6:26 NLT

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 NASB

Give obediently. Give cheerfully. Give believingly. God will provide for you!

 

THE LORD

A. JESUS IS LOOKING AT YOU.

There are three things about our Lord that I’d like for you to note. First, Jesus takes note of your giving or lack of it.

He has just concluded His lengthy denunciation of Israel’s religious leaders and teachers. His heart is pained with the grief of these men who mislead His people. The burden of Jerusalem’s rejection of our Lord and her pending destruction weighs heavy on His heart. His arrest, beating, and crucifixion are imminent. He’s got a lot more things to say to His disciples. His time is short.

And yet, with all these matters laden upon Him, the Lord takes the time to observe people giving their money into the Temple’s Treasury. It isn’t a quick, passing glance. But it’s a sustained look. It’s as if Jesus has put His life on pause or slow motion and He’s focusing in on this one incident in the Temple. Surely, in our view, there are other more important things that the Lord should be doing! His time is short! “Make full use of your time, Lord! Make every moment count! Let’s move on. Let’s get out of here.” But our Lord stops. And notices.

Brethren, THE LORD STILL STOPS AND NOTICES OUR GIVING. HE NOTES WHO GIVES AND HOW MUCH THEY GIVE. HE KNOWS WHO ISN'T GIVING. Apparently, giving to the Lord matters enough to Him that He would take note of it.

Brethren, do you minimize, or even neglect, giving to the Lord? Do you think it isn’t a big deal with God? That it really isn’t that important whether you give or not? Or that He doesn’t care how much or how little you give? Has giving to the Lord become unimportant to you? Brethren, the Lord does care! He takes note! He sees!

B. JESUS COMMENDS YOU FOR YOUR OBEDIENT, SACRIFICIAL GIVING.

Second, with respect to our Lord, note that Jesus commends the widow for giving her all.

We would not have blamed the woman if she kept a mite to herself—at least she could buy a sparrow with it and feed herself. That was the only kind of meat a poor person could afford for a single mite.

But most of us would have criticized her for being so thoughtless and self-sacrificial. “God expects you to take care of yourself! You’ve got to feed yourself! God doesn’t hold it against you if you don’t give because you don’t really have anything to give! What little you’ve got you’ve got to live on!” We would criticize her.

But Jesus lauds and commends her! For giving everything she had! For not holding back on the Lord and keeping a portion for herself!

Friends, we generally always feel justified and right in our criticisms of others. But let’s take heed. For what we see here is, THERE ARE TIMES WHEN THE VERY PEOPLE WE CRITICIZE ARE THE VERY ONES JESUS COMMENDS!

Friends, there are just some things that Jesus sees that we don’t see. There are things He knows that we don’t know. We judge harshly and thoughtlessly, not knowing the true facts of the case or the true heart and condition of those whom we criticize. But the Lord isn’t like us. He sees. He knows. And He commends.

C. YOU WILL BE REWARDED!

Lastly, note that the Lord does not laud or commend the widow to her face. He sees this poor woman give everything she had, then He calls His disciples to Himself and lauds her in their hearing—without the widow hearing anything about it.

What’s the point? You practice Christian piety and devotion—not so that you can get a reward from the Lord or be noticed and glorified by men. You practice Christian piety and devotion because that’s your duty, it’s what Christ requires you to do, and you do it for love of the Lord.

You can live your life in selfless disregard, in extreme personal sacrifice, and yet not ever hear a word of commendation from anyone, not even the Lord. Don’t be disheartened or discouraged. Don’t think for a moment that God doesn’t care, that He isn’t appreciative of the sacrifices you’ve made. He notes your every move, He knows every sacrifice you make. He sees everything you do. And, whether you know it or not, whether you hear it or not, He’s commended you and honored you!

To this woman’s unawares, her act of self-sacrifice and devotion on this one day was recorded for all succeeding generations of men to see. The Lord thought so much of her love and faith that He included her in His Inspired Bible that will never perish!

Friends, THE LORD KNOWS EVERY SACRIFICE YOU MAKE. ONE DAY YOU WILL GET YOUR REWARD.FN

 

THE GIFT

Lastly, we take note of the gift.

As men, we laud and appreciate a gift in relation to its size. The bigger the gift, the greater the acclaim and appreciation.

But not so in God’s sight. The thing we see so glaringly here is, AS FAR AS THE LORD IS CONCERNED, THE SIZE OR AMOUNT OF THE GIFT ISN'T AS IMPORTANT AS ITS COST TO THE GIVER AND THE HEART FROM WHICH IT IS GIVEN.

You see, there were all sorts of rich people giving large sums of money in the Treasury. But the one gift that struck our Lord was a gift of two mites from a poor widow! Two mites! That's next to nothing when compared to the large sums of money that others were pouring into the Temple’s coffers. In God’s sight, this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury, Mark 12:43. Two mites more than a denarius or two? That’s like saying $2 is more than $200! Yet, that’s what the Lord said! How could He say such a thing?

Learn a lesson here, dear friends, because God is giving us His Divine perspective of giving. THE VALUE OF A GIFT IS NOT DETERMINED BY ITS SIZE IN TERMS OF DOLLARS. RATHER, IT'S DETERMINED BY WHAT IT COST THE GIVER TO GIVE IT.

All these rich people were giving large sums of money. But in comparison to what they had, in relation to the amount of money they held back for themselves, what they put into the coffers was miniscule. It’s like giving $200 when you have $2,000 in your pockets and $200,000 in the bank. You’ve kept the lion’s share for yourself and given little, by comparison, to the Lord. What these men gave they could afford to give without suffering any real loss, it was money they really wouldn’t miss, because they had so much left over for themselves.

Brethren, IT'S NOT HOW MUCH YOU GIVE THAT DETERMINES THE TRUE SIZE AND WORTH OF YOUR GIFT TO THE LORD: IT'S HOW MUCH YOU GIVE IN RELATION TO HOW MUCH YOU HAVE THAT DETERMINES THE TRUE SIZE AND VALUE OF YOUR GIFT.

A PERSON'S GENEROSITY OR LIBERALITY IN GIVING IS NOT DETERMINED BY HOW MUCH HE GIVES, BUT RATHER, HOW MUCH HE HAS LEFT OVER AFTER HE'S GIVEN.

The poor widow, in contrast to the rich givers, gave everything she had. There was nothing left for her to give. There wasn’t any mite in her pouch, no denarius waiting for her under the mattress of her bed. She gave everything she had and that’s what made her gift so great and valuable in God’s sight. It was highly valuable and Divinely-valued because of the great cost that it cost this poor widow to give it.

THE TRUE SIZE OF A GIFT, IN GOD'S SIGHT, IS NOT MEASURED BY THE SIZE OF THE GIFT ITSELF, BUT THE SIZE OF THE HEART THAT GIVES IT AND THE SIZE OF THE SACRIFICE.

 

TWO MISTAKES WE SHOULD AVOID.

(1) We should not make a mistake, on the one hand, and think that the Lord isn’t appreciative of large-sized gifts. Unfortunately, large-sized offerings are needed to support the work of the Lord. Two mites won’t buy a single brick or 2X4 with which to build a house for the Lord. It won’t buy enough food to fill the hungry, nor will it buy enough clothes to clothe the destitute. Ministries require huge sums of money. So don’t think that the Lord frowns upon His people giving large offerings. He doesn’t reject the sizeable contributions of wealthy saints.

(2) And on the other hand, we should not mistake the Lord and think that He requires us to give Him every dollar and cent we’ve got whenever we come to church. THE LORD DOESN'T COMMAND OR MANDATE THAT WE EMPTY OUR POCKETS AND BANK ACCOUNTS EVERY TIME WE COME TO CHURCH.

AS WE'VE ALREADY SAID, THE LORD LAUDS AND COMMENDS SELFLESS, SACRIFICIAL GIVING. HE DOESN'T COMMAND IT. BUT WHEN WE DO IT, HE TAKES NOTE OF IT AND COMMENDS IT.

 

GIFT vs SACRIFICE.

The Lord is making a point here and that point is, He looks at the gift –not in terms of its size, but in terms of its sacrifice or cost to the giver. In terms of the heart from which it is given. Most offerings are gifts. The money we give to the Lord, the church, and the pastor are money we can afford to part with because we’ve got so much left for ourselves. MOST OFFERINGS ARE GIFTS.

BUT FEW ARE SACRIFICES. Precious few will give everything they have to the Lord or the church. The Lord isn’t discouraging gifts. He’s lauding and commending sacrifices. The offering may only be two mites. But when it’s all you’ve got, the insignificant gift becomes an extravagant sacrifice. The Lord appreciates that. He commends that kind of giving. And He lauds the people who give Him such sacrifice.

As our Lord lauds and commends the gift of this poor widow, let us follow His example and not despise or belittle the diminutive size of a gift that’s given by the poor or the less fortunate among us. Their love gifts or offerings may not seem like a whole lot to us. But when little is given by those who have little to give, or when little is given by those who can ill afford to give at all; then it’s time to take note of these who give so generously and self sacrificially of themselves.

Unfortunately, IT'S OFTEN THE POOR WHO OUT-GIVE THE RICH AND WHO THUS PROVIDE THE TRUE SPIRITUAL EXAMPLE THAT WE SHOULD IMITATE WHEN IT COMES TO GIVING to the Lord, the church, and the brethren. May God bless you abundantly for your gifts and sacrifices!

 

CERTAIN GREEKS ASK TO SEE, OR MEET, JESUSFN

 

John 12:20-22, And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: {21} The same came therefore to Philip,FN which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. {22} Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. John 12:20-22 (NLT), Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration (21) paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee. They said, "Sir, we want to meet Jesus." (22) Philip told Andrew about it, and they went together to ask Jesus.

 

The Jews had their proselytes from among the Gentiles. Cornelius and the Ethiopian eunuch are two such examples.FN

These proselytes were allowed admittance to the Temple precincts in the outermost Court that was especially reserved for them, the Court of the Gentiles. But beyond this Court they could proceed no further.

Jesus, you will remember, was constantly surrounded by people. That made access to Him difficult. Besides that, if Jesus was still in the Women’s Court (where the Treasury was), these proselytes could not enter that Court. Jesus would have to come out to them if they were to have an audience with Him.

So recognizing Philip as one of His disciples, these Gentiles appealed to him to secure an audience with Jesus.FN

 

JESUS PREDICTS HIS DEATH - THE VOICE FROM HEAVEN

 

John 12:23-26, And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. {24} Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a cornFN of wheat fall into the ground and die,FN it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. {25} He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. {26} If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. John 12:23-26 (NIV),  Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  (24)  Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  (25)  Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  (26)  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

 

The desire of the Greeks to see Jesus occasions another prediction of His imminent death. His death, you see, would open the door of the Kingdom to all men—not just Jews, but Gentiles also. Jesus makes this explicitly clear in verse 32 where He says, If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto Me. His death, in a very real sense, gives life to all men who seek Him and receive Him.

Just as a grain of wheat gives life-nourishing food when it is planted and buried in the earth; so death gives birth to life.

This principle applies not only to our Lord, but also to all those who would follow Him. Those who choose a life of Self will eventually be damned for all eternity. But those who crucify Self will live eternally. Friends, WHAT YOU DO WITH SELF HAS A VERY REAL IMPACT ON WHERE YOU SPEND ETERNITY!

If you want to minister life and blessings to others you’ve got to die out to Self and give yourself to others in a life committed to helping and blessing them and, most importantly, leading them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

 

John 12:27-28, Now is my soul troubled;FN and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. {28} Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven,FN saying,I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. John 12:27-28 (NASB), "Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. (28) "Father, glorify Your name." Then a voice came out of heaven: "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again."

 

Jesus lived with an omnipresent awareness of His earthly mission and the suffering that that mission entailed. Like any man, in His own humanity, Jesus’ soul was troubled as the hour of His suffering approached ever closer. But though humanity might be tempted to be spared and delivered from the agonies of crucifixion and death, Jesus was resigned to obeying His Father’s will—even if it meant dying a painful death.

Brethren, are you willing to obey God no matter the costs or consequences? It isn’t a light matter or an easy choice to make. But, BY GOD'S GRACE, YOU CAN FACE THE TOUGHEST AND DARKEST HOUR OF LIFE WHEN YOU PLACE YOURSELF IN THE FATHER'S HAND AND ARE FULLY COMMITTED AND DETERMINED TO DO HIS WILL.

Note that even in the context of His present trouble our Lord seeks the Father’s glory. His thoughts and desires are not on escape: they’re on His Father being glorified!

Brethren, THOUGH THE LORD ALLOWS US TO GO THROUGH SOME INEXPLICABLY DIFFICULT AND PAINFUL TIMES, GOD CAN NEVERTHELESS BE GLORIFIED IN THE THINGS THAT CAUSE US MUCH ANGUISH AND PAIN.

If we concentrate on the things we’re going through we’re bound to become discouraged, if not angry, with the way our Lord deals with us. But when we take our eyes off of ourselves and see the glory that can accrue to our Lord—when we want God to be glorified by what we’re going through; then it’s at that hour that our Lord speaks to us and comforts us immeasurably with life-sustaining, courage-inspiring words!

Friends, take heart in the midst of darkness! Submit to God’s will, seek His glory, and listen! The grace and courage to face what lies ahead will come as you wait upon the Lord and listen to Him speak. He will speak, beloved. He will not leave you forlorn and anguished!

 

John 12:29-33, The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered:FN others said, An angel spake to him. {30} Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.FN {31} Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. {32} And I, if I be lifted up from the earth,FN will draw all men unto me. {33} This he said, signifying what death he should die. John 12:29-33 (NIV)  The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.  (30)  Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine.  (31)  Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.  (32)  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."  (33)  He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

 

Jesus’ coming death is His triumph over the prince of this world, Satan himself: it is the end of his rule on Earth.

This is not to say that the Devil would shortly be cast out of the Earth, for it is plainly obvious to all that the Devil is very much alive and on Earth. Until Christ returns a second time to put down all rebellion and opposition to His rule, Satan will continue to traverse throughout the Earth and wreak havoc in the lives of men and saints.

What our Lord has reference to here, I believe, is the beginning of Satan’s defeat. Brethren, Satan was defeated at the cross! He’s not going to be defeated in the future when Christ returns: he’s already defeated! We fight a defeated, conquered, beaten foe! Look at what Colossians 2:15 (NLT) says, In this way, He disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by His victory over them on the cross.

In other words, Jesus’ public death on Calvary’s hill and His ensuing resurrection was an open show or demonstration of Satan’s defeat and Christ’s triumph! Instead of the prince of this world being the head and ruler of this world, Christ is the Head and Ruler over the prince of this world!

Colossians 2:10 (NLT) makes this explicitly clear: So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

Ephesians 1:19b-22 (CEV) echoes this truth of Christ’s absolute power and rule over all principalities and powers: It is the same wonderful power he used (20) when he raised Christ from death and let him sit at his right side in heaven. (21) There Christ rules over all forces, authorities, powers, and rulers. He rules over all beings in this world and will rule in the future world as well. (22) God has put all things under the power of Christ, and for the good of the church he has made him the head of everything.

Though Satan may be the prince of this Earth, he has been cast out in the sense that he will not rule in the lives of God’s people: his rule will not extend to the kingdom of God that Jesus has established on the Earth.

To the contrary, God’s people themselves will rule over him in the sense that they have the power and authority over him! See Luke 10:18-19 and Mark 16:17-18.

Brethren, we have a whole lot to be thankful for! Just think. The Devil has no power over you! You’ve got the power over him! Friends, don’t give the Devil power over you. Don’t submit yourself to his rule! You were meant to rule over him in Jesus’ Name and power. So rule! And give Jesus all the glory!

 

JESUS' FINAL PLEA TO THE NATION

 

John 12:34, The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever:FN and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man? John 12:34 (NLT), The crowd responded, "We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can You say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?"

 

The Jewish understanding of Messiah is that He would live and rule forever. If Jesus is Messiah, then how can He talk about being lifted up, crucified, and killed? If He’s going to be killed and hence not rule, then, in the Jewish mind, there’s no way He can be Messiah. Messiah is going to live and rule forever!

The Jewish concept of Messiah was in line with Scripture and, in this way, it was right. But, paradoxically, only partially right and, in this way, somewhat inaccurate.

You see, the Scriptures also prophesied of a suffering servant whom God would send for the redemption of His people and the Gentiles, indeed, the redemption of the whole world. See Isaiah 42, 52:13-14, 53:1-12, among other passages.

Naturally, when you’re living under foreign occupation and rule, your thoughts would be geared towards a Messiah who would deliver you from your conquerors and establish an independent Jewish nation that would eventually rule the world. All thoughts of a suffering Servant would understandably fall by the wayside and out of national sight, consciousness, and thought.

Now if you were living in Jesus’ day and you listened to what He was saying, you would have understood that Jesus was combining Scriptures’ prophesied, ruling Messiah and suffering Servant in Himself. In other words, Divine Messianic Ruler and Divine Servant Redeemer are, in truth, one Person and Jesus claimed to be that Person! He was both Messiah and Redeemer. And if Messiah and Redeemer is one Person, then Messiah would have to die in order to be Redeemer AND He would have to be resurrected and return to Earth to rule as Messianic Ruler.

All in all, the mistake that many of the Jews made was in their failure to put the two strains of prophecy together. They kept the two strains apart, hence, in their understanding, Messiah and Redeemer were two different Persons.

Seen in this light, the Jews’ rejection of Jesus as Messiah lay in their failure to interpret the Scriptures properly!

Friends, do you minimize the importance of interpreting the Scriptures properly? Do you think every person is entitled to believe whatever he wants to believe about the Scriptures? Do you think the Scriptures can mean different things to different people? Think again.

THE JEWS ENDED UP REJECTING JESUS BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T PUT THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF SCRIPTURE TOGETHER!

Friends, be careful of what Scriptures you set aside or ignore. THE SCRIPTURES THAT YOU DISBELIEVE AND REJECT ARE THE VERY SCRIPTURES THAT PROVE YOU WRONG!

 

John 12:44-50,FN Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.FN {45} And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. {46} I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. {47} And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.FN {48} He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. {49} For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. {50} And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak. John 12:44-50 (CEV), In a loud voice Jesus said: Everyone who has faith in me also has faith in the one who sent me. (45) And everyone who has seen me has seen the one who sent me. (46) I am the light that has come into the world. No one who has faith in me will stay in the dark. (47) I am not the one who will judge those who refuse to obey my teachings. I came to save the people of this world, not to be their judge. (48) But everyone who rejects me and my teachings will be judged on the last day by what I have said. (49) I don't speak on my own. I say only what the Father who sent me has told me to say. (50) I know that his commands will bring eternal life. That is why I tell you exactly what the Father has told me.

 

The people sought to understand just who Jesus was. Instead of coming right out and declaring that He was the Messiah, Jesus reiterated the things He had already spoken on previous occasions in the Temple.

First, as to His identity, He is the Spokesman of the Father. By laying claim to be God’s Spokesman, Jesus, in the Jewish mind, is declaring Himself to be the prophesied Prophet of Deuteronomy 18.

Now since the days of Moses, the Jews looked for a second Moses, that is, a Prophet like unto Moses, whom God Himself would send. This Prophet would speak the very words of God.

We read the prophecy in Deuteronomy 18:15-19 (NLT), "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. (16) For this is what you yourselves requested of the LORD your God when you were assembled at Mount Sinai. You said, 'Don't let us hear the voice of the LORD our God anymore or see this blazing fire, for we will die.' (17) "Then the LORD said to me, 'What they have said is right. (18) I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will put My words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him. (19) I will personally deal with anyone who will not listen to the messages the prophet proclaims on My behalf.

Jesus, in essence, is declaring Himself to be the fulfillment of this Deuteronomic prophecy.

Now because Jesus is the Spokesman of God, sent by God Himself, this is what makes any rejection of Him so damnable.

You see, Moses was held in high regard throughout the Jewish Nation. The Law that he gave to Israel established him as a great prophet because he “saw” God, he communed with God, and it was to him that God entrusted His words to give to the nation. Since that time, the Jews held Moses in high reverence and regarded his Law—the Mosaic Law—to be inviolable.

Now if the first Moses was so highly regarded and reverenced, if his Law be made inviolable and a matter of obedience for every Jew; then it should automatically follow that the second great Prophet sent of God would be received and treated with the same high regard and reverence. Alas, it was not so!

You may reject Jesus and disbelieve what He said. But you should know that, in spite of what you think and believe, Jesus’ words are the very words of God. Hence, to reject His words is to reject God Himself. God, my friends, will hold you accountable for rejecting Jesus and Himself. Jesus’ words that you reject are the very words that will end up killing, that is damning, you. YOU CANNOT DISBELIEVE AND REJECT JESUS AND LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER WHEN YOU DIE. DISBELIEVING JESUS IS DAMNABLE.

 

John 12:35-36, Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you.FN Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. {36} While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. John 12:35-36 (NIV),  Then Jesus told them, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going.  (36)  Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light." When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.

 

Jesus leaves the people and the Temple with this final plea to believe in Him.FN His last words were, Believe!FN

Friends, if you don’t believe in Jesus, you’re spiritually blind and walk in darkness. It’s the reason why you don’t understand spiritual, Biblical truths and see unseen spiritual realities. 1 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV) reads, The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

TO SEE AND COMPREHEND SPIRITUAL REALITIES YOU NEED TO HAVE GOD’S SPIRIT. How do you get God’s Spirit? By believing in Jesus.

I know you think you’re smart when you disbelieve and reject Jesus. The truth is, you’re blind as a bat. You’re walking in darkness and you can’t see where you’re going or where you’ll end up. REJECTING JESUS DOESN’T MAKE YOU SMART. You get the smarts when you get God’s Spirit. No Spirit, no smarts. Putting it bluntly, rejecting Jesus makes you dumb.

 

THE JEWS REJECT JESUS AND JOHN'S ASSESSMENT OF THAT REJECTION

 

John 12:37, But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him. John 12:37 (NIV),  Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.

 

John closes his account of Jesus’ public ministry and teaching by giving his own assessment of the Jewish nation as a whole.

He began his Gospel story by emphatically stating that He came unto his own, and his own received him not, John 1:11. According to John, the rejection of Jesus by the Jews was attributed to their unbelief: Though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him.

To be sure, many people ended up believing in Him when they saw Him do His miracles. The raising of Lazarus is only one of many instances where a lot of people believed in Jesus because they recognized the mighty hand of God working in His life, John 11:45.FN

But not everyone who believed in Jesus because of His miracles persevered as His disciples. Many of these initial believers in Christ subsequently disowned and disavowed Him, as we read in John 6:66. The multitudes that hailed His arrival in Jerusalem soon pressed Pilate for His crucifixion, Mark 15:11-15.

So what do these facts of Scripture and history tell us? They tells us that MIRACLES BY THEMSELVES ARE NOT A BASIS--MUCH LESS, A SUSTAINABLE OR LASTING BASIS--FOR BELIEVING.

Romans 10:17 tells us that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. In other words, it is the Word of God that gives rise to faith—not miracles.

Miracles do not have the capacity to produce faith. If it did, Pharaoh himself would have had to believe when he saw the hand of God working mightily through Moses and his rod. The religious leaders of Israel all saw Jesus’ miracles for themselves. Instead of believing on Him, they attributed His power and works to the Devil (see Matthew 12:24)! So miracles by themselves are insufficient to bring a person to saving faith in our Lord.

But WHILE MIRACLES ARE NOT A BASIS FOR FAITH, THEY NEVERTHELESS SHOULD SPUR OR ENCOURAGE US TO BELIEVE. This is the point of John’s statement here in verse 37.

The miracles testify of Jesus. That is, they speak of, or confirm, His claims, His teachings, His power, His Divine identity. Jesus said in John 10:25, the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. Even though the people didn’t believe in Him, they should have believed the works that they saw Him do and come to the conclusion that God was with Jesus and was the Power that was working mightily in His life.

Jesus’ plea was, Believe in Me. But if you don’t believe Me, then believe the miracles that I do. And if you believe the miracles, then you’ll come to believe in Me too. He said in John 10:37-38, If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. {38} But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.

The point is, THE MIRACLES OF JESUS SHOULD MAKE IT EASIER FOR US TO BELIEVE IN HIM.

Only a few of Israel’s greatest prophets did what Jesus did. He even did things that no prophet ever did, John 9:32. The miracles should have been convincing testimonies of God’s hand and power upon Jesus’ life. They should have made it easier for them to believe in Jesus. Yet, for all these, the people still disbelieved and rejected Him! Why?

 

John 12:38, That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? John 12:38 (CEV), This happened so that what the prophet Isaiah had said would come true, "Lord, who has believed our message? And who has seen your mighty strength?"

 

The people’s unbelief and rejection of Jesus lay in their refusal to believe Jesus’ doctrine or words: Lord, who hath believed our message? The claims that He made about Himself were just too fantastic or incredulous for these people to believe.

*He claimed He was Lord of the Sabbath and had the power or right to work on the Sabbath, Mark 2:28, John 5:17-18.

*He claimed He had power to forgive people’s sins, Luke 5:20-21.

*He claimed He was the Messiah, John 4:25-26.

*He claimed He was the Son of God, and therefore equal with God, one and the same as God, John 5:18, 10:30-31.

*He claimed He was the Yahweh of Israel, the preexistent I AM, John 8:58.

*He claimed He lived in Heaven before He came to Earth, John 6:38, 62.

*He claimed He was the Divine Son of God and was soon to be enthroned beside the right hand of God, Mark 14:61-62.

Perhaps it was these fantastic claims about Himself that made it difficult for many to receive and believe His doctrine or teaching.

In any case, the unbelief of the Jews centered around Jesus’ teaching and His identity. And not even His great and many miracles could convince the nation as a whole that He was who He claimed to be.

 

John 12:39-40, Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, {40} He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. John 12:39-40 (CEV), The people could not have faith in Jesus, because Isaiah had also said, (40) "The Lord has blinded the eyes of the people, and he has made the people stubborn. He did this so that they could not see or understand, and so that they would not turn to the Lord and be healed."

 

John explains the people’s obduracy in terms of the same impenitent condition that afflicted their ancestors during the time of Isaiah the prophet. The people had so hardened themselves against the Lord—choosing a life of sin and impenitence—that the Lord moved in judgment against them and hardened them even more so that repentance was not possible.

God would not save them because they would not repent. And they would not repent because they repeatedly rejected God’s offer of salvation and forgiveness; they willfully and continuously refused to repent. And for such impenitence, God hardened them even more so that repentance was entirely impossible.

Keep our passage in John in plain view. In verse 37 John tells us that the Jews would not believe. Now here in verse 39 he tells us that they could not believe. In other words, THE JEWS COULD NOT BELIEVE BECAUSE THEY WOULD NOT BELIEVE. They didn’t believe because they repeatedly chose not to believe in spite of Jesus’ many and great miracles. Keep this simple truth in mind. They could not believe because they would not believe.

Now comes God’s judgment for people’s willful and continuous rejection of His many offers of mercy, forgiveness, and salvation. Whereas in many times past the Jews could not repent because they would not repent; now, in Divine judgment and retribution, they could not repent because God would not grant them repentance: He would not give them eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to believe, repent, and be saved.

That might seem like such a hard and unfair thing for God to do. But then, if you were a victim or recipient of punishment—or even an observer or bystander watching while someone was being punished; God’s judicial punishment and hardening of the people’s heart seems so unjust and uncharacteristic of a loving and just God.

You must remember that we are speaking here about judgment. The time of Divine mercy, forbearance, and opportunity has passed. The people have had lots of second and third chances. They’ve had a lot of time to hear God’s Word and warnings. But they just wouldn’t listen! For such impenitent, inveterate sinners, their judgment would not begin once they died: it would begin even now while they were alive! They’ve removed from themselves all hope of being saved and God, in Divine, perfect justice sealed that fate while they were still alive.

This, brethren, is truly a frightful thing to have happen to anyone—to become so hardened in sin that God doesn’t wait until you die to judge you: He judges you while you’re alive and removes all hope of repentance and salvation from you. To be unchangeably and irrevocably doomed while you are still alive—that, my friends, is truly a frightful thing! I pray in God’s mercy that none of you would fall in this sad and tragic, miserable state.

We're not done looking at John's assessment of the Jews' rejection of Jesus, but now is a good time to look a little closer at the doctrine of judicial hardening. If you'd like to skip this interlude and continue with John's assessment CLICK HERE.

 

THE DOCTRINE OF JUDICIAL HARDENING

 

John 12:39-40, Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, {40} He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. John 12:39-40 (NLT), But the people couldn't believe, for as Isaiah also said, (40) "The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts—so that their eyes cannot see, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to Me and have Me heal them."

 

This passage from Isaiah is quoted five times in the New Testament:

Matthew 13:14-15
Mark 4:12
Luke 8:10
John 12:39-40
Acts 28:25-27

Isaiah's passage, along with many other Scriptures, form the basis for a doctrine that’s known in theological circles as judicial hardening.

 

DEFINITION

What is judicial hardening? It is that act of God whereby, in response to, and judgment of, a person’s persistent refusal to repent of his sins and amend his ways—in the face of repeated calls, warnings, and opportunities to do so—the Lord hardens that person’s heart, blinds his eyes, and shuts his ears so that the impenitent sinner cannot come to repentance and thus be saved.

 

ISAIAH'S TAKE ON JUDICIAL HARDENING

The doctrine of judicial hardening is one that’s easily misunderstood. So, in order to avoid any misunderstandings, let’s look at Isaiah’s prophecy and see how that prophecy was understood and quoted by our Lord, as well as by the other writers of Scripture.

 

1. HARDENING AS A RESPONSE TO GOD’S WORD. In the sixth chapter of his prophecy Isaiah saw the Lord in all His Heavenly glory, at which time he received his Divine commission from the Lord: And He said, "Yes, go, and say to this people, 'Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely, but learn nothing.' (10) Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to Me for healing" Isaiah 6:9-10 NLT.

Here the prophet is told to harden the people’s heart and shut their eyes and ears so that they cannot come to the Lord for healing, that is, come to Him to be saved from their sins. IMPENITENCE ALWAYS BEGINS WHEN PEOPLE WILLFULLY CHOOSE TO REJECT GOD'S CALL TO REPENTANCE and offer of salvation and forgiveness of sins.

This rejection naturally presupposes that people hear or know God’s call. After all, they cannot reject what hasn’t been offered to them.

Now every human being has a rudimentary knowledge of right and wrong engraved upon his or her heart, as Romans 2:15 tells us. When a person refuses to do what is right, his conscience convicts and condemns him for it. This is where impenitence begins in the life of a heathen who has never heard the truth about God or the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In spite of this ingrained knowledge of right and wrong, a heathen will reject what’s right and do what’s wrong. This, brethren, is what impenitence is all about.

While many heathens have never heard the Gospel, there are many others who have. The impenitence that our Scripture texts address is the impenitence of people who have heard the Lord’s offer of salvation and have rejected it, choosing rather to continue in a lifestyle of sin and rebellion against God.

In this light, judicial hardening requires, and begins with, the preaching of a sermon or message from God. Note the relationship between preaching (verse 9) and hardening (verse 10). The hardening is the people’s response to the preaching. It’s the result of the preaching.

Impenitent sinners will reject the message from God. But because the message that they’re rejecting is coming to them from the prophet’s mouth, then the prophet himself is said to be the one who’s hardening the people’s heart, verse 10.

It’s important for us to understand that the prophet is not hardening people’s hearts per se by making them obstinate, blind and deaf; he’s not preventing them from hearing the Word of God and coming to repentance. The people themselves are doing that.

But the prophet is said to harden, blind, and deafen the people by preaching a message that they’ll surely and continually reject.

 

2. A PERSON HARDENS HIMSELF OR HERSELF. When an impenitent person hears God’s Word and refuses to repent of his sins, his refusal has a hardening effect on his heart.

It’s like starting a habit. When you smoke your first cigarette that cigarette affects you in some way—it makes you feel good or feel cool—that you decide right then and there that you like it. So you smoke another. Then another. And thus begins a nicotine habit and addiction.

It works the same way with impenitence and a hardened heart. When you smoke the first cigarette of impenitence that cigarette makes you feel good or feel cool; it gives you that feeling of true liberty where you can do whatever you want to do and not obey God or anybody; you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.

Before long, you find yourself continually rejecting God’s warnings and calls to repentance. And so, in the process of time, you’ve hardened yourself and made your heart so hard that you will not consider the slightest probability of giving sin up and getting saved.

Hardening, I’m saying, is something that an impenitent sinner does to himself: it’s not something that God or a preacher does to him.

We see this truth most clearly stated in Matthew’s and Luke’s quotation of Isaiah’s prophecy.

Matthew 13:14-15 (NLT), This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, 'When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. (15) For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to Me and let Me heal them.'

Acts 28:25-27 (NLT), And after they had argued back and forth among themselves, they left with this final word from Paul: "The Holy Spirit was right when he said to your ancestors through Isaiah the prophet, (26) 'Go and say to this people: When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. (27) For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to Me and let Me heal them.'

Notice the Gospel writers’ variation of the original prophecy in Isaiah 6. Instead of the prophet hardening the people’s heart, the people here in Matthew and Acts are said to be doing their own hardening. They’re the ones who have hardened their hearts so that they’ve become callous and impervious to repentance; they’re the ones who have shut their eyes and ears to repentance. They hear God’s message, they hear the preacher pleading with them and warning them. But they’ve just developed so much of an addiction to the cigarette of impenitence that they just don’t understand or fear the hellish peril they’re in.

So who’s doing the hardening? Impenitent sinners themselves. They have no one to blame but themselves. No one is hardening their hearts. They’re doing it to themselves.

Here are some Scriptures to prove the point.

1 Samuel 6:6 (NASB), "Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When He had severely dealt with them, did they not allow the people to go, and they departed? See also these verses that speak about Pharaoh hardening his own heart: Exodus 7:4,22-23, 8:15,19,32, 9:7, 34-35.

Nehemiah 9:28-30 (CEV), But when they were at peace, they would turn against you, and you would hand them over to their enemies. Then they would beg for help, and because you are merciful, you rescued them over and over again. (29) You warned them to turn back and discover true life by obeying your laws. But they stubbornly refused and continued to sin. (30) For years, you were patient, and your Spirit warned them with messages spoken by your prophets. Still they refused to listen, and you handed them over to their enemies.

Proverbs 29:1 (NIV),   Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.

Jeremiah 11:7-8 (NLT), For I solemnly warned your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt, "Obey Me!" I have repeated this warning over and over to this day, (8) but your ancestors did not listen or even pay attention. Instead, they stubbornly followed their own evil desires. And because they refused to obey, I brought upon them all the curses described in this covenant.'" See also 5:21-23, 25:3-9, 35:14-17, chapter 44, Ezekiel 3:4-7.

Acts 7:51 (NIV),  "You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! See also verses 52-53.

Romans 2:4-5 (NIV),  Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?  (5)  But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

Hebrews 3:13-15 (NASB), But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (14) For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, (15) while it is said, "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME." See also 4:7.

 

3. HARDENING AS THE LORD’S JUDGMENT UPON AN UNREPENTANT PERSON . The Lord is a loving, longsuffering, forbearing, and merciful God. He’s a lot more loving and patient with sinners than any man or woman could hope to be. You and me included.

But God has His limits. It’s not because His love, patience, and kindness are limited. No, that’s not the case at all. God has His limits because He is also a just and righteous God. Impenitent, inveterate sinners must be dealt with and punished. God’s justice demands it.

You see, GOD'S RULES OR LAWS BECOME MEANINGLESS IF ANY DISOBEDIENCE TO THEM WERE TO GO UNPUNISHED. You may as well not have any laws if you aren’t going to have any punishments because people aren’t going to obey the laws if they aren’t going to be punished for breaking the laws. The threat of punishment gives people an incentive to obey the laws. And the laws, by God’s good and gracious intent, are meant to keep us in the path of life. They’re meant for our good!

Now the final and ultimate punishment, of course, is that which awaits all sinners beyond the grave.

But Scriptures make plain that there is also a present aspect to judgment while sinners are yet alive.

(a) Sometimes, the judgment is in the form of an early, untimely death.

(b) Sometimes it takes on the form of a national defeat in war and subjection to a foreign nation.

(c) Sometimes it’s a natural calamity like famine, plague, or disease.

(d) But most fearful of all, God judges living, obdurate sinners by hardening their hearts even more--to such an extent that they are, for all practical purposes, doomed to damnation. They’ve used up their last chance at God’s mercy and that opportunity is never again presented to them. They live the rest of their lives without the hope of repentance or salvation.

Friends, WHEN YOU COME TO A POINT WHERE YOU JUST WON'T CHANGE YOUR MIND ABOUT SIN, WHEN YOU'RE SET IN YOUR REJECTION OF GOD; THEN GOD TAKES OVER AND SEALS YOUR FATE SO THAT, FOR AS LONG AS YOU LIVE, YOU LIVE WITH ETERNAL DAMNATION AS YOUR SURE AND CERTAIN, IRREVOCABLE PUNISHMENT, FUTURE, AND FATE.

When you’re so hell-bent on sin and nothing, and no one, can turn you from your sinful lifestyle, God Himself gets involved in the hardening process. He hardens your heart even more so that, for all practical purposes, you become a soul without mercy or hope. You haven’t got a prayer. GOD WILL NOT SAVE YOU! Because you do not, and will not, want to be saved. In this way, your sure and certain damnation is not God’s fault. It’s your fault because it’s what you’ve chosen for yourself.

Lest you think it strange that God would harden impenitent souls, here are some Scriptures to show God’s wrath, justice, and punishment poured out upon sinners while they are yet alive.

Exodus 4:21 (NIV),  The LORD said to Moses, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is also seen in 7:13, 9:12, 10:1,20,27, 14:4,8,17.

Deuteronomy 29:2-4 (NLT), Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them, "You have seen with your own eyes everything the LORD did in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to his whole country— (3) all the great tests of strength, the miraculous signs, and the amazing wonders. (4) But to this day the LORD has not given you minds that understand, nor eyes that see, nor ears that hear!

Joshua 11:19-20 (NIV),   Except for the Hivites living in Gibeon, not one city made a treaty of peace with the Israelites, who took them all in battle.  (20)  For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Isaiah 29:9-10 (NIV),   Be stunned and amazed, blind yourselves and be sightless; be drunk, but not from wine, stagger, but not from beer.  (10)  The LORD has brought over you a deep sleep: He has sealed your eyes (the prophets); he has covered your heads (the seers).

Isaiah 44:18 (ESV), They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand.

Ezekiel 14:6-11 (NLT), "Therefore, tell the people of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent and turn away from your idols, and stop all your detestable sins. (7) I, the LORD, will answer all those, both Israelites and foreigners, who reject Me and set up idols in their hearts and so fall into sin, and who then come to a prophet asking for My advice. (8) I will turn against such people and make a terrible example of them, eliminating them from among My people. Then you will know that I am the LORD. (9) "'And if a prophet is deceived into giving a message, it is because I, the LORD, have deceived that prophet. I will lift My fist against such prophets and cut them off from the community of Israel. (10) False prophets and those who seek their guidance will all be punished for their sins. (11) In this way, the people of Israel will learn not to stray from Me, polluting themselves with sin. They will be My people, and I will be their God. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken!'"

John 9:39 (ESV), Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind."

Romans 9:18 (NLT), So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and He chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen.

Romans 11:8-10 (NLT), As the Scriptures say, "God has put them into a deep sleep. To this day He has shut their eyes so they do not see, and closed their ears so they do not hear." (9) Likewise, David said, "Let their bountiful table become a snare, a trap that makes them think all is well. Let their blessings cause them to stumble, and let them get what they deserve. (10) Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see, and let their backs be bent forever."

2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 (NIV),  For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie  (12)  and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

Friends, God hardens those who harden themselves against Him. And WHEN HE HARDENS AN INDIVIDUAL'S HEART THERE IS NO CURE OR REMEDY FOR IT. It’s permanent and irrevocable. It can’t be undone.

 

THE THINGS THAT LEAD TO GOD'S JUDICIAL HARDENING

What factors lead to judicial hardening? The main thing is impenitence. When a person steadfastly and persistently refuses to repent of his sins, he’s not only hardening his heart, but he’s also setting himself up for God to harden him even more.

Now there are many facets of impenitence. But the four that are so glaring in Scripture are:

{1} The refusal to listen to, and heed, God’s warning. Proverbs 29:1 (NIV), Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.

{2} The refusal to believe. 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 (NIV), For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie (12) and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

{3} Rebellion against the Lord. Ezekiel 12:2 (NIV), "Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people.

{4} An interminable, inveterate love of pleasure and sin. 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 (NIV), For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie (12) and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. Hebrews 3:13 (NASB), But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

 

A WORD OF CLARIFICATION

Let me hasten to say, by way of clarification, that JUST BECAUSE A PERSON IS OBSTINATE AND REBELLIOUS IN HIS OR HER SIN DOESN'T NECESSARILY OR AUTOMATICALLY MEAN THAT HE OR SHE IS A GOD-HARDENED, INCURABLE SINNER.

Some of us resisted the Lord for years before we finally got saved. There have been backsliders who went back into sin for a number of years and, by God’s grace and mercy, they repented and got their lives right with the Lord. So we should not err and think that just because a person resists the call to repent and get saved—and continues to spurn God’s invitation for a great length of time—this rejection of God doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is hopelessly damned.

The truth is, WE DON'T KNOW WHEN A HARDENED SINNER CROSSES THE THRESHOLD AND REACHES THE POINT OF NO RETURN WHERE ALL HOPE OF GOD'S MERCY AND SALVATION IS PERMANENTLY REMOVED AND WITHHELD FROM HIM OR HER.

I believe if God wants us to know when a person has crossed the line and has become judicially hardened without hope of God’s mercy and salvation, He’ll let us know. Like Jeremiah, He’ll tell us when to stop praying for a hardened sinner. But until or unless He tells us, as Christians, it is our responsibility to pray for sinners and keep ministering the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them.

 

A PLEA TO FORSAKE SIN AND FOLLOW CHRIST

Speaking now to sin-loving, Christ-hating unbelievers, since you don’t know exactly when God gets involved in the hardening process, then now is the chance that you have to get saved. 2 Corinthians 6:2 tells us, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

You’ve got no guarantee of tomorrow. And even if you live to see tomorrow, you still have no guarantee that God’s offer of salvation and forgiveness will be extended to you tomorrow.

Friends, you just can’t presume upon God’s mercies and think you can continue to sin because you have 144 more chances and 44 more years before God gives up on you. The emphasis of Scripture is today. To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, Hebrews 3:15. The offer is for today. He’s speaking to you today. Take God up on His offer of salvation today!

Do you see what I’m saying? Today, while God is speaking to you and pleading with you, is the chance you have to get saved. It may well be your last chance. Tomorrow may be the threshold of no return. It may be the day of Divine judicial hardening. Friends, don’t let that frightful fate be yours. Repent right now and flee from the wrath and damnation that threatens your soul!

 

CAN GOD-HARDENED PEOPLE EVENTUALLY WANT GOD TO SAVE THEM?

As a general rule, GOD-HARDENED SINNERS DO NOT SEEK GOD OR HIS SALVATION. THEY ARE SO HARDENED IN SIN THAT THEY ARE NOT INTERESTED IN GOD, THEY DON'T WANT TO BE SAVED—NOT NOW, NOT EVER.

Having said this, Scriptures also show that THERE ARE ALSO SOME GOD-HARDENED SINNERS WHO WILL ASK GOD TO SAVE THEM, BUT, FOR THEM, IT'S TOO LATE: GOD WILL NOT SAVED THEM. We see this truth quite clearly in passages like these.

Proverbs 1:24-33 (NIV),  But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand,  (25)  since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke,  (26)  I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you—  (27)  when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you.  (28)  "Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me,  (29)  since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD.  (30)  Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke,  (31)  they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.  (32)  For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them;  (33)  but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm."

Jeremiah 14:10-12 (NIV),  This is what the LORD says about this people: "They greatly love to wander; they do not restrain their feet. So the LORD does not accept them; he will now remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins."  (11)  Then the LORD said to me, "Do not pray for the well-being of this people.  (12)  Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague."

Friends, do you think God is obliged to save everyone who asks Him to save them? Think again. Read the Scriptures again and you will see that THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE THAT GOD WILL NOT SAVE IN SPITE OF THE FACT THAT THEY'VE ASKED HIM TO SAVE THEM.

Why is that? Why won’t God save these salvation-seeking, God-hardened sinners? Because they only seek salvation from punishment, but they remain unrepentant in their sins and have no intention of turning away from their sins.

Jeremiah 11:9-17 (NLT) makes this especially clear: Again the LORD spoke to me and said, "I have discovered a conspiracy against Me among the people of Judah and Jerusalem. (10) They have returned to the sins of their forefathers. They have refused to listen to Me and are worshiping other gods. Israel and Judah have both broken the covenant I made with their ancestors. (11) Therefore, this is what the LORD says: I am going to bring calamity upon them, and they will not escape. Though they beg for mercy, I will not listen to their cries. (12) Then the people of Judah and Jerusalem will pray to their idols and burn incense before them. But the idols will not save them when disaster strikes! (13) Look now, people of Judah; you have as many gods as you have towns. You have as many altars of shame—altars for burning incense to your god Baal—as there are streets in Jerusalem. (14) "Pray no more for these people, Jeremiah. Do not weep or pray for them, for I will not listen to them when they cry out to Me in distress. (15) "What right do My beloved people have to come to My Temple, when they have done so many immoral things? Can their vows and sacrifices prevent their destruction? They actually rejoice in doing evil! (16) I, the LORD, once called them a thriving olive tree, beautiful to see and full of good fruit. But now I have sent the fury of their enemies to burn them with fire, leaving them charred and broken. (17) "I, the LORD of Heaven's Armies, who planted this olive tree, have ordered it destroyed. For the people of Israel and Judah have done evil, arousing My anger by burning incense to Baal." See also Jeremiah 6:19-30, 7:1-34, Amos 5:21-24, Isaiah 1.

 

JOHN'S ASSESSMENT OF THE JEWISH NATION, continued

 

John 12:41, These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. John 12:41 (NIV),  Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him.

 

In the space of this short sentence John speaks with firm conviction that the Man Jesus is the Preexistent Divine Adonai.

This passage of Scripture that he quotes is taken from the same text that speaks of the prophet’s commission to harden the people’s heart. That commission began with a vision: It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of His robe filled the Temple. (2) Attending Him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. (3) They were calling out to each other, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Heaven's Armies! The whole earth is filled with His glory!" (4) Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke. (5) Then I said, "It's all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD of Heaven's Armies" (Isaiah 6:1-5, NLT).

Now it’s important for us to understand that the Jews had no concept of the triunity of God. As far as they were concerned, God is One. The Schema of Israel, taken from Deuteronomy 6, begins with these words: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.

The fullness of God in terms of His triune nature as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, was not revealed until New Testament times. There were glimpses of it in the Old Testament, but the Jews—wishing to avoid the idolatry and polytheism of the heathens—adhered firmly to the Oneness of God and anyone who believed and proclaimed otherwise was judged and stoned as a false prophet.

The point I’m making is, Jews throughout history and down to the time of Jesus and John, understood this vision of Isaiah as being a vision of God Himself. By quoting this vision of Isaiah in relation to Jesus, John, in no unmistakable terms, declares Jesus to be God!

Friends, the Jews rejected Jesus because they just didn’t accept His claim to Divinity.

It’s only when you believe and accept His claim to Divinity that you can understand some of the things that Jesus said about Himself. Namely, that he came down from Heaven (John 3:13, 6:38, 51). Which is to say, before He was born as a Man He was living in Heaven. And not only that, He was God Himself who reigned on the throne: Before Abraham was, I am (John 8:58).

You see, when you reject Jesus’ claim to be God you will reject Jesus’ words, warnings, and offers of salvation. Like the Jews, you won’t take Him seriously. But when you believe and understand in your heart of hearts that Jesus is God, you’ll take Him seriously and get your life right with the Lord.

 

John 12:42-43, Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: {43} For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. John 12:42-43 (NIV),  Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; (43)  for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

 

Jesus had some followers among the religious leaders. But they didn’t openly confess their faith in Him, nor did they publicly identify themselves with Him. Why? (1) Because of the fear of men. They didn’t want to be excommunicated and disowned by their fellow Jews. And (2) they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. In other words, they got more notoriety, respect, and admiration as a Jewish religious scholar and leader than they would have gotten as a follower of Jesus. While they believed in Jesus, their faith and allegiance to Him was plagued with the love of men’s praise.

Brethren, WHEN YOU FEAR MEN AND SEEK THEIR APPROVAL, ACCEPTANCE, AND ADMIRATION; YOU'LL COMPROMISE AND HIDE YOUR CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY. You won’t be vocal about it. You won’t take a firm, public stance for the Lord. Why? Because you’ll incur the disapproval of unbelieving men and lose their admiration. Brethren, the fear of men and the love of praise are a bushel that’s hiding the light of many a believer.

The thing that I find so tragic here is the fact that these chief rulers could have done so much good for the Lord. They could have taken a public stance and turned the hearts of the people toward the Lord. They could have persuaded some of their fellow rabbis, priests, and elders to believe in the Lord. They could have had a huge, reforming impact on Judaism. Weaned the Jews away from dead works and legalism. From self-righteous hypocrisy. From alienation and condemnation of commoners and sinners. They could have brought to light the multitudinous errors of their rabbis and brought the glorious light and liberty of God’s truth to them. These men could have done so much for the Lord, for the people, and for the Kingdom. But they didn’t. They couldn’t. Because of the fear of men and the love of men’s praise.

Brethren, YOU'RE NO GOOD TO ANYONE AS LONG AS YOU HIDE YOUR LIGHT AND DON'T SPEAK UP FOR JESUS. When you speak up for Jesus, then the only thing you can lose is men’s favor and approval. But when you keep silent and deny the Lord, you’ll lose something of far greater and inestimable value: you’ll lose your soul, Matthew 10:33. Sure, you might get rejected and persecuted by men, you might get excommunicated from the synagogue, if you publicly align and identify yourself with Jesus. But it sure beats being rejected and damned by our Lord!

Friends, YOU'VE GOT A WHOLE LOT MORE TO LOSE WHEN YOU HIDE YOUR LIGHT and you’ve got a whole lot more to gain when you let your light shine. Live with eternity stamped upon your vision and mind. Have a heart for men. Then go out in the harvest field and let Christ be known!

 

JESUS' OLIVET DISCOURSE

Luke 21:37 informs us that Jesus often resorted to Mount Olives, located on the eastern side of Jerusalem just outside the city walls. It was on one of these occasions that Jesus delivered what is known as His Olivet discourse. The discourse deals primarily with end time events. It bears the distinction of Jesus’ most detailed prophecy about the end times, at least as far as the written record is concerned. For this reason, Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are known as Jesus’ eschatological narratives. Whereas Jesus’ preceding discourse in Matthew 23 was spoken publicly in the Temple before a mixed audience consisting of His own disciples, the religious leaders, and a great multitude of visiting, Passover pilgrims; the Olivet discourse was spoken privately in the company of His disciples.

We would have liked to see Jesus give us a detailed outline and specific chronology of end time events. But when we examine these eschatological narratives in light of the whole revelation of Scripture concerning the end times, we see that Jesus—like the prophets before Him—gave us only a brief sketch and overview of what will befall mankind at the end of days. Apparently, it wasn’t His intention to be specific.

This lack of specificity was intentional so that His disciples might live their lives in watchfulness and eager anticipation of His coming, Matthew 24:36-51. That this is plainly so is unarguably shown in the fact that—in Matthew’s account of this discourse, which is the most detailed account of the synoptics—Jesus spent 31 verses talking about end time signs and events, then He spent the rest of His discourse consisting of 66 verses talking about the need for His followers to be watchful and ready. In other words, one third of Jesus’ discourse was occupied with times and events, while twice that amount was devoted to admonishing His disciples to be watchful and faithful.

Had Jesus given His disciples a detailed timetable of His arrival—an arrival that wouldn’t take place for another two thousand years and more—human nature would have taken her course in the lives of Jesus’ disciples and found them carousing, drunk, and consumed by the worries of life, Luke 21:34.

Brethren, JESUS WAS DELIBERATELY GENERAL IN HIS PROPHECY AND KEPT THE EXACT HOUR OF HIS RETURN A SECRET BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT IT WOULD TAKE FOR HIS FOLLOWERS TO BE SOBER, FAITHFUL, AND EAGERLY LOOKING FOR HIS RETURN.

In view of Jesus’ deliberate generality with regards to the end of time, I think it the better part of wisdom to maintain this same air of generality in my commentary of the eschatological narratives. There is indeed a place for harmonizing the other Scripture passages that pertain to the end times, especially those found in Daniel and Revelation. But to stand dogmatically upon a detailed, specific outline of end time events is beyond both my present desire and ability to do.

 

A PROPHECY OF JERUSALEM'S PENDING DESTRUCTION

 

Matthew 24:1-2, And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple. {2} And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. Matthew 24:1-2 (NLT), As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings.  (2)  But he responded, “Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”
Mark 13:1-2, And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! {2} And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. Mark 13:1-2 (NIV),  As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!"  (2)  "Do you see all these great buildings?" replied Jesus. "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."
Luke 21:5-6, And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said, {6} As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. Luke 21:5-6 (CEV),  Some people were talking about the beautiful stones used to build the temple and about the gifts that had been placed in it. Jesus said,  (6)  "Do you see these stones? The time is coming when not one of them will be left in place. They will all be knocked down."

 

Jesus has finished His last Temple discourse and, if you will remember, He ended it on what appears at first glance to be a melancholic note. Because of the obstinacy of the Jewish nation and the murderers of the righteous who sat on Moses’ seat, the nation was doomed to destruction, Matthew 23:37-38.

Four things are worthy of our note as we make the transition from this public discourse in the Temple to the private discourse between Jesus and His disciples on the Mount of Olives.

1. First, Jesus prophesied that the Temple would one day be destroyed: Behold, your house is left unto you desolate, Matthew 23:38.

2. Second, this destruction of the Temple was, in part, God’s judgment against the murderers of the righteous: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar, Matthew 23:35.

3. Third, this time of Divine judgment and reckoning would occur within the lifetime of these murderers. Their judgment would not wait till the end of days: Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation, Matthew 23:36.

4. And fourth, these murderers of our Lord will one day see Him coming back as Messiah and they will acknowledge then what they refused to acknowledge now, namely, that Jesus is in very truth the Messiah of Israel: For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, Matthew 23:39.

So human history doesn’t end in judgment after all. For the ungodly and unbelieving, it will end in judgment. But for Jesus’ followers, we live with the hope of Jesus’ return and—as we have always believed since the prophecies of Moses—the reign of Messiah on Earth will be a time of munificent temporal blessings, national peace, and the supremacy of Israel over the nations of the world.

Evidently, these thoughts of judgment, as well as hope, filled the disciples’ mind for, as they were walking out of the Temple and returning to Mount Olives for the evening, the disciples pointed out the magnificent edifice that was the Temple.

Indeed, the Temple was a magnificent structure. In a time of national subjugation and humiliation, the Temple—along with Torah—was all that remained of the Jews’ national pride and ambitions. It was built of pure white marble plated with gold. On a sunny day one could hardly stand to look at it for its brilliant radiance was as if one was actually looking at the glory of God. With such a sight, it seemed both incomprehensible and inconceivable to the disciples that the Temple would, within their lifetime, lie in utter ruins.

Jesus doesn’t want us laboring with mistaken notions, so He iterated once again the prophecy of the Temple’s coming destruction: not one stone of that magnificent edifice would be left standing upon another!

How the Temple was ever constructed without the use of modern day equipment is surely a marvel of the ancient world. And its utter destruction is equally a marvel. The porticoes of the Temple were girded by huge pillars cut out of one solid block of Corinthian marble. These pillars stood 37½ feet high and were thick enough so that three men with outstretched arms linked together could barely compass its circumference. The Royal Portico alone had 162 of these pillars!

While the Temple’s foundation was built of many different sized stones, some stones have been found which measure between 20 and 40 feet in length and weighing in excess of 100 tons! These are the kinds of stones that Jesus was referring to when He said there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down, verse 2.

True to His Word, the Romans came forty years later and, after a prolonged siege, overcame the city. The Temple’s furnishings were ransacked and the structure set ablaze. Titus, the conquering Roman General, ordered the Temple razed. So complete was its destruction that one could hardly tell that a Temple ever stood in its place. The Temple’s outer walls were likewise razed, but at Titus’ order, a portion of the western wall was spared in order to give all future visitors to the city an idea of what the Romans destroyed and the great effort it took for them to destroy it.

Brethren, BEWARE AND TAKE HEED. WHEN THE LORD SPEAKS JUDGMENT, IT WILL SURELY COME TO PASS!

 

THE DISCIPLES' QUESTION ABOUT JERUSALEM'S DESTRUCTION AND JESUS' RETURN

 

Matthew 24:3, And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? Matthew 24:3 (NIV),  As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"
Mark 13:3-4, And as he sat upon the mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, {4} Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled? Mark 13:3-4 (NLT),  Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives across the valley from the Temple. Peter, James, John, and Andrew came to him privately and asked him,  (4)  “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will show us that these things are about to be fulfilled?”
Luke 21:7, And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? And what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? Luke 21:7  (ESV), And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”

 

Arriving at the Mount of Olives, Peter, James, John, and Andrew came to Jesus in private and asked Him when exactly these prophecies of our Lord would take place. When we put the synoptic accounts together we find that the disciples asked Jesus three questions:

(1) When will Jerusalem be destroyed?

(2) What sign will occur prior to her destruction? That is, how can God’s people know that the city’s destruction is nigh at hand? And

(3) What will be the sign of Jesus’ coming and the end of the age?

The Olivet discourse is Jesus’ response to these questions. To properly interpret and understand this discourse you have to understand that Jesus is answering the questions that His disciples asked Him.

By way of introduction, let me skip ahead of you and say that Jesus doesn’t give the answer to the first question. He doesn’t tell His disciples the exact time or date of Jerusalem’s pending destruction. It’s not because He Himself doesn’t know. He does know. But, in keeping with prophetic tradition, God simply doesn’t give specific dates of any prophecy’s fulfillment. He didn’t do it during the time of the prophets and He wasn’t about ready to deviate from that tradition now. Looking on this side of the prophecy, we know that Jerusalem’s destruction took place in 70 A.D. But keep in mind that the disciples themselves, or anyone else for that matter, did not know when exactly Jerusalem would be destroyed.

Since Jesus doesn’t give the answer to the disciples’ first question, the Olivet discourse is Jesus’ response to the second and third questions. Jesus is telling His disciples, and us as well, about the signs that will precede Jerusalem’s destruction and His return.

One last word by way of introduction. The disciples were informed Jews. They were taught Jewish theology and eschatology in their schools and synagogues. Naturally, they asked Jesus about eschatology from a Jewish point of view. Jesus, in response, gives them an education in Christian theology and eschatology. Before I get to that, I find it helpful to understand what the Jews believed about the last days.

 

WHAT JEWS BELIEVE ABOUT THE LAST DAYS

THE PRESENT AGE. Jews divide time and history into two parts: the present age and the age to come. The age in which we find ourselves now, this present age, is wholly sinful and bad. It is deserving of the Lord’s judgment and will indeed, in time, be judged. This time of Divine judgment is known as the Day of the Lord. The prophets—both major and minor—had a lot to say about this day of Divine reckoning.

 

*IT IS A DAY OF DIVINE WRATH AND HUMAN TERROR, SUCH AS THE WORLD HAS NEVER SEEN OR KNOWN.

Isaiah 13:6-9 (CEV),  Cry and weep! The day is coming when the mighty LORD will bring destruction. *  (7)  All people will be terrified. Hands will grow limp; courage will melt away.  (8)  Everyone will tremble with pain like a woman giving birth; they will stare at each other with horror on their faces.  (9)  I, the LORD, will show no mercy or pity when that time comes. In my anger I will destroy the earth and every sinner who lives on it.

Zephaniah 1:15-18 (CEV),  It will be a time of anger— of trouble and torment, of disaster and destruction, of darkness and despair, of storm clouds and shadows,  (16)  of trumpet calls and battle cries against fortified cities and mighty fortresses.  (17)  The LORD warns everyone who has sinned against him, "I'll strike you blind! Then your blood and your insides will gush out like vomit.  (18)  Not even your silver or gold can save you on that day when I, the LORD, am angry. My anger will flare up like a furious fire scorching the earth and everyone on it."

 

*IT WILL BE A TIME OF SUPERNATURAL UPHEAVAL IN THE HEAVENLIES.

Isaiah 13:10 (NLT),  The heavens will be black above them; the stars will give no light. The sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will provide no light.

Joel 2:30-31 (NLT),  And I will cause wonders in the heavens and on the earth—blood and fire and columns of smoke.  (31)  The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and terrible day of the LORD arrives.

 

THE AGE TO COME. The Day of the Lord will bring an end of this present world or age. Messiah will appear and He will usher in the world or age to come. In Jewish theology this age is known as "the days of the Messiah."

 

*WITH THE DESTRUCTION OF THE WORLD GOD WILL CREATE A NEW EARTH. THE BEASTS OF THE FIELD WILL LIVE IN PEACE. NATIONS WILL WAR NO MORE. PEACE WILL REIGN ON EARTH.

Isaiah 11:6-9 (NIV),  The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.  (7)  The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.  (8)  The infant will play near the cobra's den, the young child will put its hand into the viper's nest.  (9)  They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 35:1-10 (NIV),  The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus,  (2)  it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.  (3)  Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way;  (4)  say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you."  (5)  Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.  (6)  Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.  (7)  The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.  (8)  And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it.  (9)  No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there,  (10)  and those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Hosea 2:18 (NIV),  In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety.

Micah 4:3 (NIV),  He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

 

*MESSIAH WILL DWELL IN JERUSALEM AND, FROM HIS THRONE IN JERUSALEM, HE WILL RULE THE WORLD.

Zechariah 8:3 (ESV),  Thus says the LORD: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts, the holy mountain.

Zechariah 14:9 (ESV),  And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one.

 

*IT WILL BE A TIME OF ISRAEL'S NATIONAL RESTORATION UNTO THE LORD. ISRAEL WILL DWELL IN HER LAND. SHE WILL TAKE POSSESSION OF ALL THE LAND PROMISED HER SINCE THE TIME OF ABRAHAM. AND THE LAND WILL PRODUCE ABUNDANTLY FOR HER.

Jeremiah 23:7-8 (NASB),  "Therefore behold, the days are coming," declares the LORD, "when they will no longer say, 'As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt,'  (8)  but, 'As the LORD lives, who brought up and led back the descendants of the household of Israel from the north land and from all the countries where I had driven them.' Then they will live on their own soil." See also Obadiah 1:17.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NASB),  "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,  (32)  not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD.  (33)  "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  (34)  "They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." See also 33:14-18.

Zechariah 8:7-15 (NASB),  "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Behold, I am going to save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west;  (8)  and I will bring them back and they will live in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God in truth and righteousness.'  (9)  "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Let your hands be strong, you who are listening in these days to these words from the mouth of the prophets, those who spoke in the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, to the end that the temple might be built.  (10)  'For before those days there was no wage for man or any wage for animal; and for him who went out or came in there was no peace because of his enemies, and I set all men one against another.  (11)  'But now I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days,' declares the LORD of hosts.  (12)  'For there will be peace for the seed: the vine will yield its fruit, the land will yield its produce and the heavens will give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things.  (13)  'It will come about that just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you that you may become a blessing. Do not fear; let your hands be strong.'  (14)  "For thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Just as I purposed to do harm to you when your fathers provoked Me to wrath,' says the LORD of hosts, 'and I have not relented,  (15)  so I have again purposed in these days to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Do not fear!

 

*IT WILL BE A TIME OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND PEACE UPON THE EARTH. ISRAEL WILL BE FAITHFUL TO HER GOD. THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD WILL SEEK THE LORD.

Micah 4:1-2 (NLT),  In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s house will be the highest of all—the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship.  (2)  People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem.

Zechariah 8:20-23 (NLT),  “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: People from nations and cities around the world will travel to Jerusalem.  (21)  The people of one city will say to the people of another, ‘Come with us to Jerusalem to ask the LORD to bless us. Let’s worship the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. I’m determined to go.’  (22)  Many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD of Heaven’s Armies and to ask for his blessing.  (23)  “This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: In those days ten men from different nations and languages of the world will clutch at the sleeve of one Jew. And they will say, ‘Please let us walk with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”

 

SIGNS THAT TELL YOU THE END TIMES HAVE BEGUN

 

Matthew 24:4-8, And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. {5} For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. {6} And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. {7} For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. {8} All these are the beginning of sorrows. Matthew 24:4-8 (NLT),  Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you,  (5)  for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many.  (6)  And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately.  (7)  Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world.  (8)  But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.
Mark 13:5-8, And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: {6} For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. {7} And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. {8} For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows. Mark 13:5-8 (CEV),  Jesus answered: Watch out and don't let anyone fool you!  (6)  Many will come and claim to be me. They will use my name and fool many people.  (7)  When you hear about wars and threats of wars, don't be afraid. These things will have to happen first, but that isn't the end.  (8)  Nations and kingdoms will go to war against each other. There will be earthquakes in many places, and people will starve to death. But this is just the beginning of troubles.
Luke 21:8-11, And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.FN {9} But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions,FN be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by. {10} Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: {11} And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. Luke 21:8-11 (CEV),  Jesus replied: Don't be fooled by those who will come and claim to be me. They will say, "I am Christ!" and "Now is the time!" But don't follow them.  (9)  When you hear about wars and riots, don't be afraid. These things will have to happen first, but that isn't the end.  (10)  Nations will go to war against one another, and kingdoms will attack each other.  (11)  There will be great earthquakes, and in many places people will starve to death and suffer terrible diseases. All sorts of frightening things will be seen in the sky.

 

THE LAST DAYS OF EARTH AND MANKIND WILL BE A TIME OF WARS AND CALAMITIES

(1) The end times will be a time of great deception. (2) They will be a time of national distress and worldwide wars. And (3) they will be a time of natural calamities. Many lives will be lost. The economies of the nations, like the land, will be in ruins. Fear will grip everybody's heart.

But these, Jesus said, are only the beginning of sorrows. Is Jesus talking about the events that will precede Jerusalem’s destruction? Or is He talking about the signs that will precede His coming and the end of the age? Clearly, Jesus is talking about the signs that will precede the end of the age: but the end is not yet. The end of what? The end of the world (Matthew 24:3).

When you read the Book of Revelation in conjunction with Jesus’ eschatological narrative you see that the beginning of sorrows corresponds to the first four seals of Revelation 6:1-8 (NIV), I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, "Come!"  (2)  I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest. [A Time Of National Distress & Worldwide Wars]

(3)  When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, "Come!"  (4)  Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword. [A Time of National Distress & Worldwide Wars]

(5)  When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand.  (6)  Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, "Two pounds of wheat for a day's wages, and six pounds of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!"  [A Time of Natural Calamities]

(7)  When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!"  (8)  I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth. [A Time of National Distress & Worldwide Wars and A Time of Natural Calamities]

 

THE WORLDWIDE PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS

 

Matthew 24:9-13, Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. {10} And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. {11} And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. {12} And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. {13} But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.FN Matthew 24:9-13 (NLT),  “Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers.  (10)  And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other.  (11)  And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people.  (12)  Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.  (13)  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Mark 13:9-13, But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. {10} And the gospel must first be published among all nations. {11} But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. {12} Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death. {13} And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Mark 13:9-13 (CEV),  Be on your guard! You will be taken to courts and beaten with whips in their meeting places. And because of me, you will have to stand before rulers and kings to tell about your faith.  (10)  But before the end comes, the good news must be preached to all nations.  (11)  When you are arrested, don't worry about what you will say. You will be given the right words when the time comes. But you will not really be the ones speaking. Your words will come from the Holy Spirit.  (12)  Brothers and sisters will betray each other and have each other put to death. Parents will betray their own children, and children will turn against their parents and have them killed.  (13)  Everyone will hate you because of me. But if you keep on being faithful right to the end, you will be saved.
Luke 21:12-19, But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. {13} And it shall turn to you for a testimony. {14} Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: {15} For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. {16} And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. {17} And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. {18} But there shall not an hair of your head perish. {19} In your patience possess ye your souls. Luke 21:12-19 (NIV),  "But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.  (13)  And so you will bear testimony to me.  (14)  But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.  (15)  For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.  (16)  You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  (17)  Everyone will hate you because of me.  (18)  But not a hair of your head will perish.  (19)  Stand firm, and you will win life.

 

THE END TIMES WILL BE A TIME OF INTENSE PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS

 

The end days will not only be a time of great deception, national distress, and natural calamity; but they will also be a time of distress and tribulation for God’s people. The troubles that will befall mankind will hit home and take on a personal tone as Christians become the objects of men’s persecution. The world will become a very antichristian, unsafe place to live in. The world’s anti-Christ, anti-Christian hatred will be so strong that the familial love that we presently enjoy will no longer be found. Instead, family will turn on family in a desperate attempt to rid society of every Christian. Many Christians themselves will turn their backs on the Lord and will betray one another. Many will be hunted down. When found, they will be arrested, tortured, and killed.FN

This world wide persecution of Christians corresponds to the fifth seal of Revelation 6:9-11 (NLT),  When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.  (10)  They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?"  (11)  Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

Let’s look at some of the miseries that will befall the Earth during this time of sorrows. The Book of Revelation outlines seven seals and seven trumpets of judgment.

 

THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF THIS PRESENT AGE

REVELATIONS' SEVEN SEALS AND TRUMPETS

1st SEAL Rev. 6:1-2
HORSEMAN ON A WHITE HORSE
CONQUERS THROUGH PEACE PACTS AND ALLIANCES
2nd SEAL Rev. 6:3-4
HORSEMAN ON A RED HORSE
CREATES CIVIL WARS AND WARS BETWEEN NATIONS
3rd SEAL Rev. 6:5-6
HORSEMAN ON A BLACK HORSE
A TIME OF GREAT FAMINE, STARVATION, AND DEATH
4th SEAL Rev. 6:7-8
HORSEMAN ON A PALE HORSE
KILLS ONE-FOURTH OF ALL THE PEOPLE ON EARTH
5th SEAL Rev. 6:9-11

A VISION OF THE MARTYRS IN HEAVEN

6th SEAL Rev. 6:12-17
CELESTIAL PHENOMENA
STARS FALL FROM HEAVEN; SEVERE EARTHQUAKES

INTERLUDE

SEALING THE 144,000 MESSIANIC JEWS, REVELATION 7

7th SEAL Rev. 8:1

SILENCE IN HEAVEN

1st TRUMPET Rev. 8:7
HAIL, FIRE, AND BLOOD
ONE-THIRD OF EARTH'S TREES & VEGETATION WILL BE SCORCHED
2nd TRUMPET Rev. 8:8-9
SOMETHING LIKE A BIG MOUNTAIN OF FIRE IS CAST INTO THE SEA
ONE-THIRD OF EARTH'S SEAS TURN INTO BLOOD; ONE-THIRD OF SEA CREATURES DIE; ONE-THIRD OF SHIPS AT SEA DESTROYED
3rd TRUMPET Rev. 8:10-11
A STAR FALLS ON EARTH'S RIVERS AND LAKES/PONDS
LOTS OF PEOPLE DIE BECAUSE THEIR DRINKING WATER SUPPLY IS POISONED OR TOO BITTER TO DRINK
4th TRUMPET Rev. 8:12-13
ONE-THIRD OF THE SUN, MOON, AND STARS ARE DARKENED
DAYLIGHT IS SHORTENED BY ONE-THIRD

5th TRUMPET 1st WOE

Rev. 9:1-2
DARKNESS AND SMOKE COVER THE EARTH; HOARDES OF DEMONIC LOCUSTS
THOSE BITTEN BY THE LOCUSTS AGONIZE IN GREAT PAIN FOR FIVE MONTHS. THEY'LL WANT TO DIE, BUT WON'T DIE
6th TRUMPET Rev. 9:13-21
200 MILLION DEMONIC HORSEMEN LOOSED FROM RIVER EUPHRATES
ONE-THIRD OF MANKIND WILL BE KILLED BY THE HORSEMEN
INTERLUDE 2nd WOE Rev. 10 - 11
MINISTRY OF TWO WITNESSES
7,000 PEOPLE KILLED IN AN EARTHQUAKE THAT DESTROYS A TENTH OF JERUSALEM
7th TRUMPET Rev. 11:15-19

A VISION OF HEAVENLY WORSHIP

 

THE SIGN OF JERUSALEM'S PENDING DESTRUCTION

 

Luke 21:20, And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Luke 21:20 (NLT),  “And when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you will know that the time of its destruction has arrived.

 

As we read through these end times narratives it is perfectly clear that Matthew, Mark, and Luke were all recording the same discourse that our Lord gave here on Mount Olives. But they did so from different vantage points. Matthew and Mark speak in terms of the end of the age, but Luke speaks in terms of the coming destruction and desolation of Jerusalem.

Remember that the disciples of our Lord asked Him three questions concerning the end times: (1) When will Jerusalem be destroyed? (2) What sign will precede or herald her destruction? And (3) What sign will herald our Lord’s coming and the ensuing end of the age?

As we’ve already pointed out, Jesus doesn’t give us the answer to the first question. This leaves the Olivet discourse to answer the second and third questions.

Now if you read Luke’s account beginning with the seventh verse, you will see that Luke records only the first two of the disciples’ questions. The question of Jesus’ second coming and the end of the age is not even recorded! And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? In other words, Luke’s focus is primarily with the time and events that will surround Jerusalem pending destruction.

In answer to the disciples’ question, What sign will there be when these things (that is, the destruction of the city and her Temple) shall come to pass?, Jesus’ answer was, When you see Jerusalem surrounded by a great multitude of troops, then that’s the sign that her destruction is nigh at hand.

True to prophecy, Jerusalem since the time of Christ was never surrounded by the armies of a foreign nation until Titus came with his Roman legions in 70 A.D. and besieged the city. Within a matter of weeks, the city fell and was promptly destroyed and razed to the ground, just as Jesus said would happen.

Friends, no matter how incredulous the prophecies and warnings of Scripture may appear to you, learn a lesson from history. HISTORY IS REPLETE WITH FULFILLED PROPHECIES OF SCRIPTURE. WHAT JESUS SAID IS GOING TO HAPPEN WILL EVENTUALLY HAPPEN: nothing and no one can keep it from happening.

Flee youthful lusts. Live soberly and righteously on this Earth. Judgment is coming. Make every attempt to flee from the wrath that Jesus says is surely coming.

 

Luke 21:21-24, Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. {22} For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. {23} But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. {24} And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. Luke 21:21-24 (NIV),  Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city.  (22)  For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.  (23)  How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people.  (24)  They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

 

The approach of an invading army and the subsequent encirclement of the city would serve as a sign that the city’s fall was imminent. And because it was imminent, then the city’s encirclement would also be a sign that Jerusalemites should flee to the mountains. Clearly, escaping to the hills was the only way they could save their lives.

Unfortunately, many Jews fled into the city for refuge and those who remained in the city stayed in the city. But Christians, knowing well their Lord’s prophecy, fled to the hills and across the Jordan. According to Eusebius the church historian, many Christians fled to Pella in Perea and thus escaped Jerusalem’s destruction.FN

Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, it was the time of Passover, 70 A.D. Jerusalem was teeming with pilgrims from all over the ancient world.

In their advance towards Jerusalem the Romans successfully overran the Zealots’ defenses and so, in desperation, many of the fleeing Zealots took refuge in Jerusalem. Now the Romans could have chosen to attack the holy city. But, partly in deference to the multitudes of innocents in the city and partly because of the strategic height that the city commanded, being built on a hill, the Romans chose instead to besiege the city. Naturally, with over a million residents and pilgrims packed into the city, it was only a matter of time before food ran out.

Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells the story of a woman who killed, roasted, and ate her child. So desperate was the situation that the survivors quit burying the dead because they just didn’t have the energy to do that. Men, women, children, and the aged would walk about the city, then collapse from malnutrition and die right there on the spot. The city’s streets were filled with the bodies of the dead. You can imagine the sight and smell of this very heart-wrenching scene. Truly, it was, in Jesus’ words, great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people, Luke 21:23.

When the Romans finally broke through the city four months after the siege began, they set about to loot the city. But, according to Josephus’ account, when they entered the city and found nothing but corpses littering every house and street, they promptly left off without taking a single thing. Only the Temple, and what remained of her sacred furnishings, was looted and carried back to Rome.

To complicate matters even more, the city was torn and divided into four warring factions, with each faction controlling a certain part of the city and each faction fighting against the other! When the Romans attacked a certain part of the city, the other factions would join in the fray and attack their own countrymen who were defending that part of the city! The scene was repeated many times during the course of the siege. So what you had was war from without and within.

Naturally, the Jews could not prevail as long as they were divided and fighting amongst themselves. On the 15th day of the siege the city’s third wall was broken through. The second wall was captured on the 24th day. The fortress Antonia fell on the 72nd day.

Sensing that the end was near in sight, 105 days into the siege, the Jews themselves set fire to the Temple and the lower part of the city. By the time the city was completely overrun on the 134th and final day of the siege, the whole city was in flames.

According to the best estimates given by Josephus, 1,100,000 Jews lost their lives in the conflict. Another 97,000 were taken captive and enslaved in other corners of the empire. Not surprisingly, what Jesus prophesied came to pass: they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, Luke 21:24.

 

THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES

 

Luke 21:24, And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.FN Luke 21:24 (NLT),  They will be killed by the sword or sent away as captives to all the nations of the world. And Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the period of the Gentiles comes to an end. Luke 21:24 (CEV),  Some of them will be killed by swords. Others will be carried off to foreign countries. Jerusalem will be overrun by foreign nations until their time comes to an end.

 

With the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Jesus prophesied of an indefinite period of time when the city would be trodden down of the Gentiles. That is, when the Gentiles would inhabit and maintain control over Jerusalem.

With the loss of Jewish sovereignty, Israel, for all practical purposes, ceased to exist as a nation. Finally, in 1948, after nearly two millennia of time, Israel was rebirthed as a nation and Jews the world over started flocking to Palestine to repopulate and possess their ancient homeland.

However, Jerusalem at that time remained in control of the Gentiles in the form of the U.N. It wasn’t until the six-day war in 1967 that Israeli forces wrested control of the eastern sector of the city away from the Jordanians and, by that victory, secured Israeli control over the entire city.

By many people’s estimates, the 1967 victory marked the end of Gentile domination over Jerusalem, hence, the times of the Gentiles has been fulfilled. Inasmuch as Jesus prophesied that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32), then the view of many is that 1967 marks in earnest the beginning of the end of this age. The generation of people that saw Israel regain full control of Jerusalem will also see the end of the age.

I personally don’t subscribe to this view. While Israel remains in control of Jerusalem, she nevertheless has no control over the Temple Mount—the most important real estate in all of Palestine, indeed, in the entire world. The Mount still remains under the control of the Arabs and the Palestinians. Even when the Mount finally comes under full Jewish sovereignty and once again becomes the site of the rebuilt Temple, the Jews will only all too soon lose control of both the Temple and the holy city by the craftiness of the coming antichrist.

It is only when Messiah comes again that Jerusalem will revert to full Jewish control. He will rule the world from His throne in Jerusalem. It is only in this future sense that Jerusalem will no longer be dominated or trodden down by the Gentiles, thus the times of the Gentiles will be officially ended.

 

THE FIRST SIGN OF THE END: THE GOSPEL PROCLAIMED WORLDWIDE

 

Matthew 24:14, And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. Matthew 24:14 (CEV),  When the good news about the kingdom has been preached all over the world and told to all nations, the end will come.
Mark 13:10, And the gospel must first be published among all nations. Mark 13:10 (CEV),  And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.

 

With the two questions of Jerusalem’s pending destruction out of the way, Jesus proceeds to address the third and final question of His disciples. He gives two distinct signs that will herald and commence the end of the age. The first is the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the entire Earth. Every corner and every nation of the world will hear the Gospel and have an opportunity to believe and be saved.

This proclamation of the Gospel throughout the Earth is itself testimony to the truth that Christians will still be on Earth during this time of anti-Christian persecution and beginning of sorrows.

The world’s subsequent judgment by the Lord will, in part, be based on the worldwide rejection of the Lord’s offer of salvation. Those who reject the offer of God’s mercies and salvation will suffer God’s wrath and damnation.

The worldwide proclamation of the Gospel, begun by Gentile Christians, will continue through the tribulation period under the auspices of 144,000 Messianic Jews (Revelation 7) and the two witnesses of Revelation 11. While many will reject the messages of these witnesses (Revelation 11:10), many will avail themselves of God’s salvation in what will be Earth’s last great revival. Because the tribulation is in effect and is a time of anti-Christian persecution, many of these newborn saints will be martyred.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (10) And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." (11) All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, (12) saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!" (13) Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?" (14) I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:9-14 NIV).

In this light, this first sign of the beginning of the end—the sign of the worldwide proclamation of the Gospel—will take place after the sixth seal and will continue unabated through the sixth trumpet, Revelation 7:1 – 11:13.

 

THE SECOND SIGN OF THE END: THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION

 

Matthew 24:15, When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Matthew 24:15 (CEV),  Someday you will see that "Horrible Thing" in the holy place, just as the prophet Daniel said. Everyone who reads this must try to understand! Matthew 24:15 (NLT),  “The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about—the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place.” (Reader, pay attention!)
Mark 13:14a, But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand). Mark 13:14a (ESV),  “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand). Mark 13:14a (NIV),  "When you see 'the abomination that causes desolation' standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand.

 

Like the worldwide proclamation of the Gospel, the abomination of desolation will herald the beginning of the end of this age.

 

WHAT IS THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION?

Daniel speaks of this desolation in the eleventh chapter of his prophecy: “Then at the appointed time he will once again invade the south, but this time the result will be different. (30) For warships from western coastlands will scare him off, and he will withdraw and return home. But he will vent his anger against the people of the holy covenant and reward those who forsake the covenant. (31) “His army will take over the Temple fortress, pollute the sanctuary, put a stop to the daily sacrifices, and set up the sacrilegious object that causes desecration. (32) He will flatter and win over those who have violated the covenant. But the people who know their God will be strong and will resist him. (33) “Wise leaders will give instruction to many, but these teachers will die by fire and sword, or they will be jailed and robbed (Daniel 11:29-33 NLT).

What is the abomination of desolation? Abomination in the Hebrews refers to that which is filthy and abhorrent. It is used frequently in relation to idols and idolatry. When Daniel speaks of placing the abomination that maketh desolate, he is speaking of a time when an idol would be erected in the Temple and thus defile the Holy Sanctuary.

When this happens, the abomination will make desolate. The word in the Hebrew means to make waste, to destroy or leave destitute. When the Temple is defiled by idolatrous worship the city and Temple would, in time, be destroyed and laid waste. In other words, the desecration of the Temple would bring about its own devastation; the abomination in the Temple signals or heralds the Temple’s imminent destruction.

Daniel 12:11 (CEV) goes on to predict that the cessation of the daily sacrifice and the setting up of the abomination in the Temple would last 3½ years: There will be one thousand two hundred ninety days from the time that the daily sacrifices are stopped, until someone sets up the "Horrible Thing" that causes destruction.

 

HAS THE ABOMINTION OF DESOLATION BEEN FULFILLED?

Many people, both Jews and Christians, believe that this prophecy of desolation was fulfilled by the Seleucid King Antiochus IV, also known infamously as Antiochus Epiphanes.FN Now Epiphanes was anti-Semitic to the highest degree. He not only slaughtered Jews by the tens of thousands, but he set about to stamp out the Jewish religion entirely. He destroyed every scroll of Torah that he could find. He outlawed circumcision and the observance of Sabbath. The Jewish daily sacrifice was outlawed and, in its place, all Jews were commanded to offer sacrifice to the god Jupiter. All those who refused to comply with his orders were slain. On the 15th day of Kislev, 145 B.C., Antiochus desecrated the Temple by setting up an altar to Jupiter on the Great Altar. On the 25th day of the same month, the pagan altar was used for the very first time. Swine—an unclean animal to the Jews—was offered on that altar. The Temple was dedicated to the Greek god Zeus (a.k.a. the Roman god Jupiter) and an idol of that false god was e
rected in the Temple. Clearly, with the placing of the abomination of idols in the Temple, the Temple of God had been desecrated.

While Antiochus fulfilled the prophecy of abomination in part, the prophecy as a whole was not fulfilled.

(A) The prophesied destruction or desolation of the city and Temple never occurred.

(B) Moreover, Daniel prophesied a 3½ year period of desecration. When the Jewish Maccabees proved victorious over Antiochus’ forces and retook the city of Jerusalem, they immediately set about to cleanse and purify the Temple. This was done exactly 3 years after the Temple’s desecration—not the prophesied 3½ years.FN

And (C) most convincing of all, it is clear from our Lord’s reference to Daniel’s prophecy that the abomination of desolation hasn’t taken place yet—at least not in its entirety: But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains, Mark 13:14. The Lord would not cite the prophecy if the prophecy had already been fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes. Clearly, then, the prophecy remains to be fulfilled.

Was Daniel’s prophecy of abomination fulfilled in the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.? Once again, elements of the prophecy were fulfilled in part. The victorious, conquering Roman soldiers set up their battle ensigns over the Temple’s Eastern Gate and offered sacrifices to the gods emblazoned on those ensigns.FN Shortly thereafter, the city and Temple were completely destroyed and laid waste. In this case, the abomination of idols did indeed bring about the prophesied desolation.

But here again, the Roman fulfillment of the prophecy falls short.

(A) The cessation of the daily sacrifice had nothing to do with the placing of the abomination in the Temple. The Jews, by reason of famine and the Roman siege of Jerusalem, were forced to quit offering the daily sacrifice on the 84th day of the 134-day siege—well in advance of the Roman desecration of the Temple.

(B) The cessation of the daily sacrifice and the ensuing abomination did not last 3½ years as Daniel prophesied it would.

And (C) according to Jesus in these eschatological narratives, the abomination of desolation would lead to supernatural phenomena in the heavenlies and shortly thereafter to His second coming, Matthew 24:29-31.

Obviously, these haven’t happened yet and it’s the reason why we cannot subscribe to the notion that Daniel’s prophecy of abomination has already been fulfilled. Brethren, the prophecy remains to be fulfilled. The only way the Temple can be desolated is if it is first rebuilt. Consequently, despite Arab objections and the threat of worldwide war, Israel will rebuild her Temple and sacrifices will once again be offered on her altars.

 

DANIEL'S SEVENTY WEEKS

 

It’s at this point where Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks provides us with a basic understanding of the course of end time events. The prophecy is found in Daniel 9:20-27.

 

KJV, And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God; {21} Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. {22} And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. {23} At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to show thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision. {24} Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. {25} Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. {26} And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. {27} And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. NLT,  I went on praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people, pleading with the LORD my God for Jerusalem, his holy mountain.  (21)  As I was praying, Gabriel, whom I had seen in the earlier vision, came swiftly to me at the time of the evening sacrifice.  (22)  He explained to me, “Daniel, I have come here to give you insight and understanding.  (23)  The moment you began praying, a command was given. And now I am here to tell you what it was, for you are very precious to God. Listen carefully so that you can understand the meaning of your vision.  (24)  “A period of seventy sets of seven has been decreed for your people and your holy city to finish their rebellion, to put an end to their sin, to atone for their guilt, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to confirm the prophetic vision, and to anoint the Most Holy Place.  (25)  Now listen and understand! Seven sets of seven plus sixty-two sets of seven will pass from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until a ruler—the Anointed One—comes. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with streets and strong defenses, despite the perilous times.  (26)  “After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple. The end will come with a flood, and war and its miseries are decreed from that time to the very end.  (27)  The ruler will make a treaty with the people for a period of one set of seven, but after half this time, he will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. And as a climax to all his terrible deeds, he will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration, until the fate decreed for this defiler is finally poured out on him.”

 

THE SEVENTY WEEKS

The 70 weeks are divided into three time periods.FN

(1) The first consists of seven weeks or 49 years. This time period began when the edict to rebuild Jerusalem was decreed and it culminated in the rebuilding of the city walls and her streets, verse 25.

(2) The second set of weeks consists of 62 weeks or 434 years. It began with the completion of Jerusalem’s city walls and it ended with the death of Messiah, verse 26.

(3) The last time period consists of a single week or 7 years, verse 27.

The first 69 weeks have already been completed. From the time that King Artaxerxes decreed that Jerusalem’s walls should be rebuilt to the time that Jesus died was a period of 69 weeks or 483 years—just as Daniel prophesied.

The seventieth week remains to be fulfilled.FN

This 70th week has primary relevance to our Lord’s discourse here on Mount Olives.

*According to the prophecy given to Daniel by the archangel, a coming prince will enter into covenant with Israel.FN Most likely, this covenant will be in the form of a peace pact or treaty.

*In the middle of this 7-year period he will break his covenant and desecrate the Temple.

*Besides putting a halt to the daily sacrifices and erecting idols in the Temple, he will proclaim himself to be God and set his throne in the Temple (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).

*Thus will begin the final 3½ years (Daniel 12:11) of great tribulation (Matthew 24:21) that will culminate in our Lord’s second return (Matthew 24:15-30). FN

Clearly, the abomination of desolation that Daniel spoke about in 11:29-33 and that Jesus referred to in His eschatological discourse on Olivet will be fulfilled in this final seventieth week.

 

A ROUGH SKETCH OF THE LAST SEVEN YEARS OF EARTH AND HUMAN HISTORY

When you read Daniel in conjunction with the Gospels, Epistles, and Apocalypse, several things transpire in conjunction with the abomination of desolation and the middle of Daniel’s seventieth week. I’m not certain about the exact sequence of these events, so don’t quote me because I’m not being dogmatic at this point. Of this, however, I can be sure: these events will take place in the middle of this seven-year period of sorrows and tribulations.

 

(1) 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 talks about a person who restrains an end-time man of lawlessness or wickedness. This restrainer is taken out of the way or removed in such a way that the man of lawlessness could be revealed for who he really is. Who this restrainer is, like a lot of other things related to end times, is a matter of wide speculation and debate. Let me talk first about the other events that take place in conjunction with the abomination of desolation and then I’ll come back and talk to you about who I think this restrainer is.

 

(2) Antichrist (the man of lawlessness or wickedness) will be revealed, 2 Thessalonians 2:8. For the knowledgeable and discerning among God’s people, the Roman world leader who makes peace with Israel is antichrist. However, his true intents with respect to Israel are masked by a 3½ year charade of peace overtures that makes him admired the world over as a man of peace who brings peace to a troubled world. However, when the restrainer is taken out of the way, antichrist’s true nature and intents are revealed.

 

(3) Antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel. He desecrates the Temple—most likely, with an idol of himself—and proclaims himself to be God, 2 Thessalonians 2:4. This is the abomination of desolation. Antichrist orders that the Temple sacrifices be halted, in effect, banning the Jews from worshipping their God.FN

 

(4) The 3½ year ministry of the two witnesses comes to an end. They are killed by antichrist, their dead bodies lie in the streets of Jerusalem for 3 days, the whole world rejoices in their death, but after 3½ days the two witnesses are resurrected to life and raptured, or caught up bodily, to Heaven, Revelation 11:3-13.

 

(5) The mystery of God is finished, Revelation 10:7. What is this mystery? It is the mystery of the church, but more specifically, the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation.

 

Romans 11:25 (NLT), I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. See also 16:25-26 and Colossians 1:25-27.

Ephesians 1:9-14 (NLT), God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. (10) And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. (11) Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan. (12) God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. (13) And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. (14) The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.

Ephesians 3:1-6 (NLT), When I think of all this, I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the benefit of you Gentiles . . . (2) assuming, by the way, that you know God gave me the special responsibility of extending his grace to you Gentiles. (3) As I briefly wrote earlier, God himself revealed his mysterious plan to me. (4) As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ. (5) God did not reveal it to previous generations, but now by his Spirit he has revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets. (6) And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.

 

The mystery of God is the Gospel of salvation being preached to, and offered to, the Gentiles. This offer will continue to be made until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, Romans 11:25. That is, when every last Gentile who has been predestinated and elected unto salvation gets saved. When the last Gentile gets saved the mystery of God is finished. The fullness of the Gentiles has come in. No more Gentiles get saved.

According to Revelation 10:7, the mystery of God is finished or accomplished in the days that follow the blowing of the seventh and final trumpet which, in turn, heralds the end of 3½ years of sorrows and the beginning of 3½ years of great tribulation.

 

(6) The man child is raptured to Heaven and the woman who gave birth to him flees into a desert wilderness where she is supernaturally protected or preserved by God for 3½ years, Revelation 12:1-6. Who this woman and man child are have been a matter of debate ever since John penned the Apocalypse.

 

(1) Many people believe that the man child is Jesus. The woman who gave birth to Him, naturally, would be Mary. But the birth of Jesus is a past event and what John is describing here in Revelation 12 is a future event that takes place during Daniel’s seventieth week.

(2) Inasmuch as overcomers are promised to be preserved from tribulation and given a rod of iron to rule over the nations (Revelation 2:24-28, 3:10), then another school of interpretation is the belief that the man child is the company of end time overcomers and the woman who gave birth to him is the institutional, lukewarm church.

(3) Some Christians believe that the woman of Revelation 12 is mystery Babylon of Revelation 17-18. She is the Roman Catholic Church and her man child is the company of all true believers. This, however, is quite untenable since the woman of Revelation 12 is supernaturally cared for and protected from antichrist. If anything, the antichrist will be aligned with the Roman, Babylonian Church—not aligned against her. If you read through the rest of the Book of Revelation you will see that antichrist’s war is directed against the saints of God, Israel, and the holy city Jerusalem. In no place of Revelation does antichrist rise up against mystery Babylon. God does. But not antichrist.

(4) This leads me to what I believe is the most tenable understanding. The woman is the nation of Israel. If you read through the Scriptures you will see that Israel is the only entity that bears any resemblance to the woman with the sun, moon, and stars as described in Revelation 12. She is thus depicted in Genesis 37:9-10. In the framework of this understanding, the man child that the woman gives birth to is the Church. In other words, all Christians who are alive at the end of the 3½ years of sorrows will be raptured up to Heaven, thus constituting a mid-tribulation rapture. Israel, however, remains on Earth and for 3½ years of great tribulation she faces the opposition of antichrist who seeks to exterminate her, Revelation 12:6, 17.



In view of all these considerations, then, who is the restrainer of 2 Thessalonians 2:7? According to Paul, antichrist will not be revealed to the world until this restrainer is taken out of the way. Many people believe that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit. Midway through the seven-year period of sorrows and tribulation the Holy Spirit will be removed from the Earth and that’s when antichrist commits the abomination of desolation and, consequently, that’s when he’s revealed to the world as being the antichrist. If, however, you subscribe to the faith that the Holy Spirit is a vital agent in conversion, then the Holy Spirit must remain on Earth during the 3½ years of great tribulation because more people will get saved during that time period, specifically, Jews (Revelation 20:4-6).

I prefer to understand the restrainer as referring to the man child of Revelation 12, that is, true believers and overcoming Christians. Remember that Jesus prophesied here in Matthew 24:12 that the love of many shall wax cold. In other words, there’ll be many Christians throughout the Church who are Christians only in name, but who are otherwise very carnal and lukewarm. These so-called Christians have no promise of being preserved from wrath or tribulation. To the contrary, they are promised to be spewed out of God’s mouth if they don’t repent and get right with the Lord (Revelation 3:14-22). The promise of preservation is given to those who overcome and it is they who will rule the world with a rod of iron (Revelation 2:24-28 and 3:10). This preservation of true believers and overcomers, quite likely, might very well be in the form of the rapture: the man child who is to rule the nations with a rod of iron is caught up, or raptured, to Heaven after 3½ years of sorrows, he is taken out of the way, and thus begins the revelation of antichrist that will mark the start of 3½ years of great tribulation.

 

Let's chart what we know thus far.

 

DANIEL'S SEVENTIETH WEEK CONSISTING OF SEVEN YEARS

ANTICHRIST MAKES A PACT WITH ISRAEL, MOST LIKELY A PEACE TREATY.

THIS WILL BE THE START OF THE SEVEN-YEAR TRIBULATION

A SHORT INTERVAL

AT THE END OF THE FIRST 3-1/2 YEARS AND PRIOR TO THE START OF THE LAST 3-1/2 YEARS

 

THE FIRST 3-1/2 YEARS OF TRIBULATION

THE BEGINNING OF SORROWS

 

THE SIX SEALS OF REVELATION

THE MINISTRY OF TWO WITNESSES

THE SEVENTH SEAL OF REVELATION

THE SECOND 3-1/2 YEARS OF TRIBULATION

GREAT TRIBULATION

 

THE SEVEN TRUMPET JUDGMENTS OF REVELATION

THE WORLDWIDE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL

THE TWO WITNESSES ARE KILLED, RAISED BACK TO LIFE, AND RAPTURED TO HEAVEN

THE MYSTERY OF GOD IS FINISHED

THE MAN CHILD IS RAPTURED TO HEAVEN

THE ANTICHRIST IS REVEALED THROUGH THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION

ANTICHRIST PROCLAIMS HIMSELF TO BE GOD, DESCRATES THE TEMPLE, AND ORDERS THE END OF JEWISH SACRIFICES

THE DAY OF THE LORD

THE SEVEN VIALS OF GOD'S WRATH

 

THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION AS A TIME OF GREAT TRIBULATION

 

Matthew 24:16-22,  Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:  (17)  Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:  (18)  Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.  (19)  And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!  (20)  But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:  (21)  For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.FN  (22)  And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.FN Matthew 24:16-22 (NLT),  “Then those in Judea must flee to the hills.  (17)  A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack.  (18)  A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat.  (19)  How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days.  (20)  And pray that your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath.  (21)  For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again.  (22)  In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen ones.
Mark 13:14b-20,  Then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains:  (15)  And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house:  (16)  And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment.  (17)  But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!  (18)  And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.  (19)  For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.  (20)  And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days. Mark 13:14b-20 (CEV),  If you are living in Judea at that time, run to the mountains.  (15)  If you are on the roof of your house, don't go inside to get anything.  (16)  If you are out in the field, don't go back for your coat.  (17)  It will be an awful time for women who are expecting babies or nursing young children.  (18)  Pray that it won't happen in winter.  (19)  This will be the worst time of suffering since God created the world, and nothing this terrible will ever happen again.  (20)  If the Lord doesn't make the time shorter, no one will be left alive. But because of his chosen and special ones, he will make the time shorter.

 

Just as Jesus warns the inhabitants of Jerusalem to flee to the mountains when they see Jerusalem being encircled by an attacking army; so Jesus warns all residents of Judea to do the same when antichrist desecrates the Temple. Apparently, things are going to get really bad in Judea. Once the abomination of desolation is committed in the Temple, things will go downhill really fast and life in Judea will become a living nightmare. The sorrows that have already been in effect for the last 3½ years will unimaginably intensify even more. God’s wrath and tribulation will be especially most severe in Judea that the best way to survive it is to head to the hills at once and without delay.

The abomination of desolation will herald and usher in a 3½ year period of great tribulation. According to Jesus, this brief period of time will witness the greatest tribulations to ever befall the Earth.

The Book of Revelation chronicles the events of this period in the form of the seven vials of God’s wrath poured out upon the Earth, Revelation 16.

 

GREAT TRIBULATION

THE LAST THREE-AND-A-HALF YEARS OF DANIEL'S SEVENTIETH WEEK

THE DAY OF THE LORD

FIRST VIAL Rev. 16:1-2
NOISOME, GRIEVOUS SORES
ALL WHO FOLLOW AND WORSHIP ANTICHRIST, AND WHO BEAR HIS 666 MARK, ARE PLAGUED WITH SORES.
SECOND VIAL Rev. 16:3
SEAS AND OCEANS TURN INTO BLOOD
EVERY CREATURE IN THE SEAS AND OCEANS DIES.
THIRD VIAL Rev. 16:4-7
RIVERS AND FRESH WATER SUPPLIES ARE TURNED INTO BLOOD
SO DESPERATE IS THE LACK OF DRINKABLE WATER THAT PEOPLE WILL DRINK BLOODY WATER.
FOURTH VIAL Rev. 16:8-9
THE SUN SCORCHES THE EARTH
EXTREMELY HOT AND DRY; PEOPLE REMAIN UNREPENTANT.
FIFTH VIAL Rev. 16:10-11
THE THRONE AND KINGDOM OF ANTICHRIST IS SMSITTEN WITH DARKNESS
PEOPLE IN PAIN, SMITTEN WITH SORES, HOT AND DEHYDRATED, REMAIN UNREPENTANT.
SIXTH VIAL Rev. 16:12-16
RIVER EUPHRATES IS DRIED UP
ANTICHRIST GATHERS HIS WORLDWIDE FORCES FOR A FINAL, GREAT BATTLE - THE BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON.
SEVENTH VIAL Rev. 16:17 - 18:24
GREATEST EARTHQUAKE AND HAILSTORM EVER
MOUNTAINS ARE FLATTENED, ISLANDS ARE OBLITERATED OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH, MYSTERY BABYLON IS JUDGED.

 

Think of the major catastrophes that have occurred during the long course of human history. The worldwide flood during Noah’s day killed every human being alive with the exception of the eight members of Noah’s family who were safely in the ark. And yet, Jesus said in Mark 13:19 that the great tribulation will be the worst thing to befall the human race since the beginning of creation!

*The Neronian persecutions killed countless Christians.

*The 1976 Tangshan earthquake in China killed an estimated 240,000 people.

*The 1871 Chicago fire destroyed 4 square miles of central Chicago and killed 250 people.

*The Holocaust decimated nearly six millions Jews in Europe and Russia.

*A 1970 cyclone killed about 500,000 people in Bangladesh.

*The bubonic plague of 1347-1350 killed about one-third of Europe’s population.

*The influenza outbreak in 1918 killed more than twenty million people worldwide.

*The atomic and hydrogen bombs, in a single instant of time, turned Hiroshima and Nagasaki into a wasteland.

*The Irish famine of 1845-47 killed nearly a million people.

*A famine in India killed ten million Indians in 1769-70.

*The Johnstown flood in 1889 killed 2,200 people.

*A super outbreak of tornadoes in 1974 spawned 148 tornadoes in two days and killed 315 people from Alabama to Ohio.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. Roll all of life’s greatest tragedies into one short seven-year period, then add the heretofore unseen phenomena in the heavenlies that will result in a great loss of human life in conjunction with the seals, trumpets, and vial judgments in the Book of Revelation, and you will have a fair idea of the absolute worst that is still to come!

Scholars believe that over one half of Earth’s population will be killed by the time God is done pouring out His seven vials of wrath. Friends, that’s over 4 billion people at the time of this writing in 2018!

When Jesus says troubles are going to come, then you can be sure they’re going to come. And when He says that these troubles are going to be the worst thing ever to befall the Earth, then you can believe that life during the sorrows and great tribulation period will be a living nightmare. It will be Hell on Earth. Friends, you don’t want to be a part of God’s wrath and judgment!

 

THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION AS A TIME OF GREAT DECEPTION

 

Matthew 24:23-28, Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. {24} For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. {25} Behold, I have told you before. {26} Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. {27} For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. {28} For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Matthew 24:23-28 (NLT),  “Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it.  (24)  For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones.  (25)  See, I have warned you about this ahead of time.  (26)  “So if someone tells you, ‘Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,’ don’t bother to go and look. Or, ‘Look, he is hiding here,’ don’t believe it!  (27)  For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes.  (28)  Just as the gathering of vultures shows there is a carcass nearby, so these signs indicate that the end is near.
Mark 13:21-23, And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: {22} For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. {23} But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things. Mark 13:21-23 (CEV),  If someone should say, "Here is the Messiah!" or "There he is!" don't believe it.  (22)  False messiahs and false prophets will come and work miracles and signs. They will even try to fool God's chosen ones.  (23)  But be on your guard! That's why I am telling you these things now.

 

There have always been those who believed and proclaimed themselves to be Christ. This perversity will continue throughout time and history until Jesus comes again. But when antichrist desecrates the Temple and proclaims himself to be God, many like him will arise to seduce the Earth.

For the first time in His public ministry, prophecy, and teachings, Jesus reveals the power that these false christs and prophets have to work all sorts of signs and wonders. In other words, Jesus and His followers aren’t going to be the only ones who can work miracles. These disciples of the Devil will have like power and will be so convincing in their supernatural works that, if it weren’t for the hand of God upon His elect, even God’s people themselves would be deceived.

Brethren, just because someone can work miracles and perform all sorts of incredible wonders doesn’t automatically mean that he’s a servant of God. Servants of the Devil can work signs and wonders! That’s why YOU MUSTN'T LISTEN TO, OR FOLLOW, A PERSON BASED ON HIS OR HER ABILITY, POWER, OR ANOINTING, TO WORK MIRACLES.

You’ve got to discern their message. IF THEIR SERMONS DON'T LINE UP WITH THE WORD OF GOD, THEY'RE NOT SERVANTS OF THE LORD! Read Isaiah 8:20. If all you see in them is pride and self, then they haven’t got the Spirit of Christ and they are none of His.

Friends, Jesus is telling us about the power that these false prophets and christs will have because He’s warning us not to believe and follow them.

So how do you know who’s the real Christ and who isn’t? YOU'LL KNOW WHO THE REAL CHRIST IS BECAUSE EVERYBODY IS GOING TO SEE HIM COMING BACK TO EARTH AGAIN, verse 30. His coming won’t be in secret. The people in Israel aren’t going to be the only ones who will see Christ come again. People in all parts of the world will see Him coming down from the clouds with ten thousands of His saints arrayed in spotless white, riding on white horses, Revelation 19:14. Friends, when you have a lot of people telling you that Jesus is back, don’t believe them and don’t go out to see the imposter. If you didn’t see Jesus come in the clouds He hasn’t come yet and He isn’t here right now.FN

 

THE COSMIC SIGNS THAT HERALD CHRIST'S RETURN TO EARTH

 

Matthew 24:29, Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. Matthew 24:29 (ESV),  “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Mark 13:24-25, But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, {25} And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. Mark 13:24-25 (NIV),  "But in those days, following that distress, "'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light;  (25)  the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.'
Luke 21:25-26, And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; {26} Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. Luke 21:25-26 (CEV),  Strange things will happen to the sun, moon, and stars. The nations on earth will be afraid of the roaring sea and tides, and they won't know what to do.  (26)  People will be so frightened that they will faint because of what is happening to the world. Every power in the sky will be shaken.

 

You have to remember that during this 3½ year period of great tribulation you have God’s wrath and judgments being poured out upon the Earth in the form of seven vials in the Book of Revelation.

Now the Lord is quite specific at this point. He says that right after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, the moon consequently will cease “to shine,” and stars will fall from the sky. If you read through the Book of Revelation you will see that none of these celestial phenomena occur during the judgments of the vials.

During the 3½ year period of sorrows that precede great tribulation, a star falls from heaven and the sun and moon are partially darkened. But what the Lord is referring to here in our text is something altogether different from these cosmic phenomena of sorrows. The sun is now entirely darkened as in an eclipse and numerous stars fall from the sky.

So what we have here is, right after these vials are poured out—immediately after the tribulation of those days—we have the last set of signs that will immediately precede and herald our Lord’s return. These signs are cosmic or celestial in nature. They darken the skies, as in a big stage or auditorium, thereby setting the stage for the brightness of our Lord’s coming.

 

OUR LORD'S SECOND COMING

 

Matthew 24:30-31, And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. {31} And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Matthew 24:30-31 (NIV),  "Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.  (31)  And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
Mark 13:26-27, And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. {27} And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. Mark 13:26-27 (NLT),  Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory.  (27)  And he will send out his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.
Luke 21:27-28, And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. {28} And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. Luke 21:27-28 (NLT),  Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory.  (28)  So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”

 

The seven-year period of sorrows and great tribulation will end with our Lord’s glorious appearing and return to Earth. Right after the seventh and final vial is poured out the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. What this sign is we cannot say with all certainty.

(A) Many people believe that the sign will be a cross emblazoned across the sky.

(B) Others believe that it will be a unique and solitary star, much like the first star that appeared when Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:9).

(C) And still others believe that the sign is simply Jesus appearing in the sky.

When you see Jesus descending from Heaven in the clouds, then that’s the sign that He’s the real Christ and that He’s coming back to Earth. He’s not going to appear in the sky and then go back to Heaven. When you see Him coming down from the sky, then you can be sure that He’ll keep coming down until His feet touch Earth again.

Notice that the Lord’s coming will not be in secret. All the people of the Earth who are alive and who survived great tribulation will see Jesus return. No matter where you live in the world and no matter what time of day or night it is, everyone will see Jesus return.FN

 

THE GATHERING OF GOD'S ELECT

 

Matthew 24:31 and Mark 13:27 speak of the gathering of God’s elect by the angels. The gathering, like the sign of the Son of Man, presents us with a hermeneutical challenge. (A) Is this gathering the rapture of the church that’s spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17? (B) Or is it a gathering of the Jews only? Is this when Israel will be restored to the Lord and to her full land inheritance?

 

THE GATHERING AND THE RAPTURE

 

When we compare our Lord’s words here in Matthew 24 with Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4, we see a marked resemblance between the gathering of the elect and the rapture of the church.

 

Matthew 24:30-31 (NIV),  "Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.  (31)  And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 (NIV),  According to the Lord's word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  (16)  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  (17)  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

 

Notice the similarities between the two passages of Scripture. Both involve the sounding of a trumpet, the gathering of the elect or Christians, and the coming of the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, considered by many to be the main proof text for the doctrine of the rapture, speaks of believers being caught up at the Lord’s coming. This coming of the Lord is the Greek word parousia. When used with reference to the coming of our Lord as opposed to the coming of some other individual, parousia is uniformly used throughout the New Testament to speak of the Lord’s second coming.FN

Hence, in this light, the gathering together of the elect and the rapture of the Church are one and the same event and it occurs at the time of Jesus’ second coming.

2 Thessalonians 2:2 speaks emphatically on this point: Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him. The words our gathering is the Greek word episunago and it’s the same word used in Matthew 24:31 to tell of the gathering together of God’s elect. According to Paul, this gathering of the believers or the elect takes place when Jesus comes again, just as Jesus said in Matthew 24:30-31. In other words, as respecting the time of the rapture, the rapture takes place after the seven-year period of sorrows and tribulation.FN

This timing of the rapture after great tribulation is strengthened by the fact of the resurrection. According to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, at the trumpet sound, the dead in Christ are raised first. Then those believers who are alive when Jesus comes are raptured up to the clouds to meet the Lord.

This sequence of events harmonizes exactly with the resurrection that Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (CEV), I will explain a mystery to you. Not every one of us will die, but we will all be changed. (52) It will happen suddenly, quicker than the blink of an eye. At the sound of the last trumpet the dead will be raised. We will all be changed, so that we will never die again.

This resurrection of the dead harmonizes exactly with the resurrection of the righteous that takes place in conjunction with Jesus’ coming in Revelation 19-20. According to John, when Jesus returns to Earth,

*antichrist and all of his followers are destroyed in the supper of the great God, Revelation 19:11-21.

*Satan is immediately bound in the pit for a thousand years, Revelation 20:1-3.

*The millennial reign of Messiah on the Earth commences.

Helping Christ reign on the Earth will be the tribulation martyrs, Revelation 20:4. And in order for them to reign, they must first be resurrected which, indeed, they are, Revelation 20:5.

The resurrection of the righteous martyrs takes place in connection with Jesus’ coming and, in this way, agrees with the resurrection of the righteous in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 2 Thessalonians 2:2 that Paul spoke as taking place when Jesus comes again.

In sum, the first resurrection, or the resurrection of the righteous, and the rapture both take place when Jesus returns: they occur at the end of great tribulation.

 

THE GATHERING AND THE NATIONAL RESTORATION OF ISRAEL

 

Some people believe that the gathering of the elect refers to the rapture of believers. Others believe that it refers to the promised, prophesied gathering of the Jews and their brethren, the Israelites from the so-called ‘lost tribes’ of Israel.

Personally speaking, I believe that both events transpire at the time of our Lord’s coming: the dead in Christ are resurrected, the living saints are raptured, and all Israelites and Jews are summoned and brought to Palestine.

The gathering of the elect and the national restoration of Israel go hand in hand according to Biblical prophecy. The Israelites who are scattered throughout the Earth will one day be gathered and brought back to the land of their inheritance.

Incidentally, many of these Israelites emerge from seven years of sorrows and tribulations as Christians or Messianic Jews, Revelation 7:1-8 with 12:17.

Deuteronomy 30:1-6 (NIV), When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, (2) and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, (3) then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. (4) Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. (5) He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. (6) The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.Isaiah 27:12-13, And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel. {13} And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.

Isaiah 27:12-13 (ESV), In that day from the river Euphrates to the Brook of Egypt the LORD will thresh out the grain, and you will be gleaned one by one, O people of Israel. (13) And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain at Jerusalem. See also 40:1-5.

Isaiah 43:3-6 (NLT), For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom; I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place. (4) Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you. (5) “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will gather you and your children from east and west. (6) I will say to the north and south, ‘Bring my sons and daughters back to Israel from the distant corners of the earth. See also Jeremiah 23:1-8, 30:1-24.

Ezekiel 37:12-23 (NLT), Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. (13) When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the LORD. (14) I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the LORD has spoken!’” (15) Again a message came to me from the LORD: (16) “Son of man, take a piece of wood and carve on it these words: ‘This represents Judah and its allied tribes.’ Then take another piece and carve these words on it: ‘This represents Ephraim and the northern tribes of Israel.’ (17) Now hold them together in your hand as if they were one piece of wood. (18) When your people ask you what your actions mean, (19) say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will take Ephraim and the northern tribes and join them to Judah. I will make them one piece of wood in my hand.’ (20) “Then hold out the pieces of wood you have inscribed, so the people can see them. (21) And give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: I will gather the people of Israel from among the nations. I will bring them home to their own land from the places where they have been scattered. (22) I will unify them into one nation on the mountains of Israel. One king will rule them all; no longer will they be divided into two nations or into two kingdoms. (23) They will never again pollute themselves with their idols and vile images and rebellion, for I will save them from their sinful apostasy. I will cleanse them. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God. See also 11:16-20, Romans 11:25-27.

The gathering of the elect at Jesus’ coming will not only be a gathering of saved Israelites and Messianic Jews, but it will also be a gathering of Israelites and Jews who stubbornly refused to believe in Jesus and walk in the laws of God. These sinners amidst God’s chosen people will be purged out of Israel and will not be allowed to step foot in Israel.

Ezekiel 11:17-21 (NASB), "Therefore say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel."' (18) "When they come there, they will remove all its detestable things and all its abominations from it. (19) "And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, (20) that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God. (21) "But as for those whose hearts go after their detestable things and abominations, I will bring their conduct down on their heads," declares the Lord GOD. See also Malachi 3:1-5.

Ezekiel 20:34-38 (NASB), "I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out; (35) and I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face. (36) "As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you," declares the Lord GOD. (37) "I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; (38) and I will purge from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they will not enter the land of Israel. Thus you will know that I am the LORD.

With our Lord’s return to Earth, He will vanquish antichrist and his armies. He will set up His millennial kingdom and reign on His throne in Jerusalem. Israel will be restored as a nation. She will be restored to her full inheritance of land. Jesus will reign over her as her Messiah. All Israel will be saved and will walk in obedience to the Lord.

In this light, the gathering of the elect people—followed by her judgment, salvation, and restoration to her own land—are all preparatory for the setting up of the Messianic age and millennial kingdom of our Lord.

 

A SUMMARY OF THE END OF THIS PRESENT AGE

 

Remember that our Lord’s discourse here on Mount Olives was occasioned by, and is an answer to, a question raised by four of His disciples concerning Christ’s coming and the subsequent end of the age.

We’ve gone through the prophetic part of Jesus’ discourse and what follows next is our Lord’s admonition for His people to watch and pray.

Before we look at these practical admonitions, however, let’s summarize what we know about the end times.

As we’ve already said at the start, our Lord was not as specific about the end times as we would have liked for Him to be. Though a harmonization of the prophecies of Daniel, Paul, and John greatly adds to our understanding of end time events, there is still a lot that we do not know, hence, a lot that we cannot be fully certain or dogmatic about. Here, within reason, is what we can be certain about.

 

1. Our Lord will appear at the end of great tribulation, Matthew 24:29.

*In the context of Daniel’s prophecy, He will appear at the end of the seventieth week which is the seven-year period of sorrows and great tribulation that will bring this present age to a close.

*In the context of John’s Apocalypse, Jesus will appear when the seventh and final vial of God’s wrath is poured out upon the Earth.

2. His appearing will be preceded or accompanied by the sign of the Son of Man in the sky, Matthew 24:30.

3. He will come in the clouds with power and great glory, Matthew 24:30.

4. Remembering that the sun and moon are darkened at this time, Jesus’ appearing will be accompanied by a great light. It will be as if a gigantic spotlight shines on the very spot in the sky where Jesus appears, 2 Thessalonians 2:8.

5. He will be accompanied by a host of Heavenly angels, Matthew 24:31, 2 Thessalonians 1:7.

6. He will be accompanied by the hosts of the Redeemed, 1 Thessalonians 3:13, Jude 14-15, Revelation 17:14, 19:11-16.

7. At the trumpet’s sound, the angels will go throughout the whole Earth to gather the elect together unto the Lord, Matthew 24:31, Deuteronomy 30:3-4, Isaiah 27:12-13.

8. The first resurrection takes place which is the resurrection of the just, Revelation 20:4-6, see also 1 Corinthians 15:23. In all likelihood, this first resurrection takes place at the time of the rapture: the dead in Christ are raised first, that is resurrected, 1 Thessalonians 4:15.

9. Jesus’ feet will most likely touch down on Mount Olives, Zechariah 14:4, Acts 1:9-12.

10. At this same time, all Israelis and Jews throughout the world are brought back to Palestine, somewhere on the outskirts of Israel’s national boundaries, and are judged by the Lord, Ezekiel 20:34-38, Malachi 3:2-5. The redeemed of Israel will enter Israel and be a part of Messiah’s millennial reign. The lost of Israel will be barred from stepping foot on Israeli soil. {The rest of the world’s survivors, that is, Gentiles, will also be judged at this time. See our commentary on JESUS AND THE JUDGMENT.}

11. The angels of the Lord will gather all the ungodly unto judgment, Matthew 13:40-42.

12. Prior to this time and continuing up to it, Antichrist gathers his worldwide armies to Armageddon to fight against our Lord and His saints, Revelation 16:12-16.

13. Antichrist is defeated, his armies completely destroyed, and all those who follow him and who have his mark on their body are cast into the Lake of Fire, Revelation 19:19-21, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9.

14. Satan is bound for a thousand years in the bottomless pit, Revelation 20:1-3.

15. This present age comes to a close.

16. The Jews’ age of the Messiah which we know to be the millennial reign of Christ on the Earth, begins and lasts for a thousand years. The saints of God (Daniel 7:22, 1 Corinthians 6:2), overcomers (Revelation 2:26-27), tribulation martyrs (Revelation 20:4), and the twelve apostles (Matthew 19:28), will reign and rule with Christ on the Earth.

17. When the thousand year reign of Christ is over, Satan will be loosed from the bottomless pit and will go throughout the whole Earth to enlist people into his army. To what must surely be our surprise, a great, innumerable multitude of people join him and march with him against Jerusalem, only to be destroyed, Revelation 20:7-10.

18. Satan is cast into the Lake of Fire and Brimstone where he will remain for the rest of eternity, Revelation 20:10.

19. The second resurrection takes place, which is the resurrection of the ungodly. They are judged in the Great White Throne judgment and sentenced to everlasting perdition in the Lake of Fire, Revelation 20:11-15.

20. The Earth as we know it is passed away and in her place is a New Earth, Revelation 21:1.

21. The Holy City, or New Jerusalem, descends from Heaven to Earth, the Tabernacle of God now dwells among the redeemed on New Earth, and thus begins the eternal state, Revelation 21:2-22:5.

 

HIGHLIGHTS AND CHRONOLOGY OF END TIME EVENTS

 

THE END OF THIS PRESENT AGE

DANIEL'S SEVENTIETH WEEK

THE AGE TO COME - THE AGE OF MISSIAH

THE MILLENNIUM

THE ETERNAL STATE

TRIBULATION
ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION
CHRIST'S SECOND RETURN
ETERNAL JUDGMENT & REWARDS
3-1/2 YEARS OF SORROW
3-1/2 YEARS OF GREAT TRIBULATION
1000 YEAR REIGN OF CHRIST ON EARTH
TIME WITHOUT END

*ANTICHRIST MAKES A PEACE TREATY WITH ISRAEL.

*A TIME OF TRIBULATION IN THE FORM OF 7 SEALS & 7 TRUMPETS JUDGMENTS.

*THE TEMPLE IN ISRAEL IS REBUILT.

*2 WITNESSES ARE KILLED, THEN RAISED AND RAPTURED TO HEAVEN.

*THE MYSTERY OF GOD IS COMPLETED.

*THE MANCHILD IS RAPTURED.

*ANTICHRIST IS REVEALED.

*THE DAY OF THE LORD

*TRIBULATION SUCH AS HAS NEVER BEEN SEEN ON EARTH BEFORE.

*RESURRECTION/RAPTURE OF TRIBULATION SAINTS.

*FIRST RESURRECTION.

*BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON.

*SATAN BOUND FOR 1,000 YEARS.

*RESTORATION OF ISRAEL.

*1,000 YEAR REIGN OF CHRIST ON THE EARTH.

 

*SATAN LOOSED FOR ONE LAST BATTLE.

*SECOND RESURRECTION.

*GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT.

*JUDGMENT OF THE WICKED.

*SATAN AND THE WICKED ARE CAST IN THE LAKE OF FIRE.

*HEAVEN AND EARTH PASS AWAY.

*NEW JERUSALEM DESCENDS FROM HEAVEN.

*THE RIGHTEOUS LIVE FOREVER WITH THE LORD IN THE HOLY CITY.

 

THE PARABLE OF THE FIG TREE

 

Matthew 24:32-35,  Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:  (33)  So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.  (34)  Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.  (35)  Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. Matthew 24:32-35 (NLT),  “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near.  (33)  In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door.  (34)  I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place.  (35)  Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.
Mark 13:28-31,  Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near:  (29)  So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.  (30)  Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.  (31)  Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. Mark 13:28-31 (CEV),  Learn a lesson from a fig tree. When its branches sprout and start putting out leaves, you know summer is near.  (29)  So when you see all these things happening, you will know that the time has almost come.  (30)  You can be sure that some of the people of this generation will still be alive when all this happens.  (31)  The sky and the earth will not last forever, but my words will.
Luke 21:29-33,  Then Jesus told them a story: When you see a fig tree or any other tree  (30)  putting out leaves, you know that summer will soon come.  (31)  So, when you see these things happening, you know that God's kingdom will soon be here.  (32)  You can be sure that some of the people of this generation will still be alive when all of this takes place.  (33)  The sky and the earth won't last forever, but my words will. Luke 21:29-33 (NIV),  He told them this parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees.  (30)  When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near.  (31)  Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.  (32)  "Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  (33)  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

 

When you see a fig tree beginning to bud and leaf, then you know that winter is past and summer is on its way.

In like manner, when all these prophesied end time events begin to take place, then know for a certainty that Jesus’ coming is close at hand: this present age is about to end and the visible kingdom of God will be established on the Earth.

Jesus tells you how history is going to end. He’s no liar. I hope you’ll believe Him, take His words to heart, and escape the horrors that are going to spell the demise of sinners and earth.

 

WATCH AND PRAY

 

Matthew 24:36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. Matthew 24:36 (NLT),  “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.
Mark 13:32-33 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. {33} Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. Mark 13:32-33 (NIV),  "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  (33)  Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.

 

What day and hour is Jesus referring to? Remember that the disciples asked our Lord about the sign of His coming, Matthew 24:3. Verse 36 is a part of Jesus’ answer to that question. He continues in verses 37-42 to speak about His coming. Clearly, then, the day and hour that Jesus is referring to here in these verses is the day and hour of His return.

Friends, NO ONE BUT GOD THE FATHER KNOWS THE EXACT DAY AND TIME OF JESUS' RETURN! Jesus Himself doesn’t know exactly when He’ll be coming back to Earth. If this were not enough, Jesus Himself plainly stated that ye know not when the time is. In other words, no man knows, no man is going to know, exactly when Jesus is coming back.

Brethren, if God is the only One who knows when Jesus is coming back, if Jesus Himself doesn’t know when He’s coming back; then you can be sure that no one—not even a prophet, be he a true one or a false one—knows the exact day and hour of Jesus’ return. NO ONE KNOWS WHAT JESUS HIMSELF DOESN'T KNOW! So when you have somebody, or a whole bunch of people, telling you that Jesus is coming back on a certain day, don’t believe them! No matter how convincing they may sound, they don’t know what they’re talking about.

 

Matthew 24:37-39, But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. {38} For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, {39} And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Matthew 24:37-39 (NIV),  As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  (38)  For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;  (39)  and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
Luke 21:34-36, And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting,FN and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.FN (35) For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. (36) Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. Luke 21:34-36 (NIV),  "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.  (35)  For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth.  (36)  Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."

 

Jesus likens His coming to the day of Noah. Despite Noah’s preaching and his diligent labors on the ark, the people of his day remained deaf to his warnings. They didn’t believe him. They thought he was off his rocker. “What that crazy fool says is going to happen isn’t going to happen,” they said. In their refusal to believe, they went about their daily routine acting and living as if the prophesied disaster would never come.

But when the rain started to fall, then they understood that Noah was right all along. But it was too late to get saved.

In much the same way, the end time generation of people who will live to see the Lord return will remain deaf and oblivious to His pending, imminent return. With all the tribulations that God will be pouring out on the Earth, people will be so busy trying to cope that they just won’t be interested in God. Like the rains that started to fall all of a sudden, Jesus will return suddenly, men will be taken off guard, and by that time it will be too late for any of them to get saved.

Luke closes his account of our Lord’s eschatological teaching by telling us the Lord’s exhortation to Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man, verse 36.

Instead of being caught up in this life--being preoccupied with life's duties and engrossed with life's pleasures--Jesus wants us to remain vigilant and watch, or look, for His return. The Lord is telling us to remember all the tribulations and troubles that will attend end-time living just prior to His return. He wants us to pray that we'd be counted worthy to escape all these horrors and troubles that will engulf this entire world. ESCAPE IS POSSIBLE!FN So Jesus advises us to pray that God would count us worthy of escaping these tribulations and usher us safely into His presence.

The question I’d like to ask you is, What makes you worthy of escaping these end time tribulations? It’s such a soul-searching question that I’ll let you think on it for a while.

Friends, do everything you can to escape the disasters and horrors that are on the horizon. Jesus is not a liar and He makes no idle threats. He’s warning you for your own good. Believe Him and save yourselves from the wrath that is to come. If you ignore and reject Him you do so to your sure and certain demise.

 

Matthew 24:40-41, Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. {41} Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.FN Matthew 24:40-41 (NLT),  “Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left.  (41)  Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.

 

Remember that the context here is Jesus’ coming. When Jesus comes, one will be taken and other left. This, I believe, is an implicit reference to the rapture of believers that will take place at Jesus’ second coming.FN It is the separation of believers from non-believers. It is the gathering of believers unto the Lord, verse 31.

 

THE PARABLE OF THE WATCHFUL HOMEOWNER

 

Matthew 24:42-44, Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. {43} But know this, that if the goodmanFN of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.FN {44} Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Matthew 24:42-44 (NIV),  "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  (43)  But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  (44)  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

 

The Lord stresses the importance of being watchful and vigilant in view of the fact that He will come back to earth when people are not expecting Him.

Jesus makes an interesting analogy of a homeowner. If the guy had known in advance what time the thief would come he would have stayed awake to wait for him and fend him off.

This is how we normally act in life. WE TAKE ACTION BASED ON THE KNOWLEDGE WE HAVE. In this case, as in many situations of life, we see the direct relationship between knowledge and corresponding action. If we know in advance that something is going to happen, we take measures to either prevent it from happening or we respond in a way that’s commensurate with that future event.

*For example, if we know what time a terrorist is going to walk into a pizza parlor and blow himself up, we take all the actions necessary to prevent that tragedy from happening.

*As another example, if we had known that our car was going to break down on our trip out of town, we would have made arrangements not to go out of town; we would have serviced the car instead.

Do you see what I mean? Advance knowledge leads to right and responsible action. And because of it, many of us wait for advance knowledge before we do the right thing. In the case of our Lord’s second coming, if we know exactly when Jesus will return, we will spend the day making sure we are right with Him and are ready to meet Him.

If you base your life on doing the right thing once you know when something is going to happen, you’re going to miss the Lord and mess up because you’re not going to have advance knowledge of the Lord’s return. No one is going to know in advance when the Lord is going to come. And because you’re not going to know in advance, then you’re not going to watch and pray. Like the goodman of the house, you’re not going to stay up, watch, and prepare for Jesus’ return.

So what Jesus is teaching us here is, our very ignorance of the time of His exact return ought to spur us to right and responsible action. WHEREAS WE OFTEN WAIT FOR ADVANCE KNOWLEDGE BEFORE WE DO WHAT WE KNOW WE NEED TO DO, JESUS IS TELLING US TO DO THE EXACT OPPOSITE: DO WHAT YOU KNOW YOU NEED TO DO BECAUSE YOU DON'T KNOW WHEN JESUS IS COMING AGAIN.

 

THE PARABLE OF THE UNFAITHFUL SERVANT

 

Matthew 24:45-51, Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? {46} Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. {47} Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. {48} But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; {49} And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; {50} The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, {51} And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 24:45-51 (NLT),  “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them.  (46)  If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward.  (47)  I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns.  (48)  But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’  (49)  and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk?  (50)  The master will return unannounced and unexpected,  (51)  and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Mark 13:33-37, Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. {34} For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey,FN who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porterFN to watch. {35} Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: {36} Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. {37} And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch. Mark 13:33-37 (NIV),  Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.  (34)  It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.  (35)  "Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.  (36)  If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.  (37)  What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'"

 

The major flaw and drawback of waiting for advance knowledge before you do the right thing is illustrated in our Lord’s parable of the unfaithful servant. The servant knew that his master wouldn’t be home for a very long time, so he used that time to mess up and do what he wanted to do: he accommodated and satisfied the cravings of his flesh. The way he figured it, like so many of us, he would get his act together and shape up the day before his master returns.

You see, WHEN WE KNOW THAT SOMETHING ISN'T GOING TO HAPPEN FOR A VERY LONG TIME, THE FLESH KICKS IN AND WE MESS UP because we know we’ve got a lot of time to enjoy ourselves and we know exactly how much time we have left to get our act together and shape up.

But the thing that we see so clearly in these words of our Lord is the fact that JESUS' TIME OF ABSENCE FROM THE EARTH WILL BE A TIME WHEN FLESHLY PASSIONS WILL HAVE THEIR RULE IN THE LIVES OF CHRISTIANS WHO ARE REALLY EVIL AND FOOLISH IN HEART. Luke especially makes this clear in Luke 21:34 where he warns us about our hearts being weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life.

Peter goes on to tell us that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, {4} And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were since the beginning of creation (2 Peter 3:3-4).

The point is, as long as Jesus isn’t around, and as long as it looks as if Jesus isn’t going to be coming back any time soon, some of God’s people themselves will scoff and mock the doctrine of our Lord’s imminent return. They’ll use the present time to indulge in the lusts of their flesh. They will be, as Jesus told us in the parable, servants who are evil and unfaithful. Servants who'll be cast into eternal perdition.

Brethren, the Lord knows the relationship that exists between His absence and people’s indulgence in the flesh. That’s one reason why He didn’t tell us the exact day and hour of His return.

If His disciples knew that He wasn’t going to be coming back for over two-thousand years, human nature would have had her course in many of these disciples—for they were all mortals just as we are today—and many of them would have gone back to fleshly lusts and apostatized from the faith.

But the disciples lived firmly believing that Jesus could come back at any time. And BECAUSE THEY WERE EXPECTING HIM TO COME BACK AT ANY TIME, THEY REMAINED VIGILANT, WATCHFUL, AND FAITHFUL.

Brethren, don’t wait for Jesus to come back before you start being faithful. Be faithful now. Be faithful every moment of every day because it’s the right thing for you to do. It’s the right way for you to live.

Don’t be stupid. IF YOU LIVE LIKE THE DEVIL YOU’LL LIVE WITH THE DEVIL.

If Hell isn’t appealing to you, then live for Christ, live like Christ, and you’ll spend a glorious, endless eternity with Christ. That, dear friends, is the only real way to live!

Who, then, is a faithful and wise servant of our Lord? He or she who does the right thing and lives the right way—even in our Lord’s absence and even in the face of uncertainty about the exact day and hour of Christ’s return. They live faithfully and obediently to the Lord, as if the Lord was around, observing and recording every move; because they know that one day soon they’re going to have to stand before the Lord and give an accounting of the things they did and the way they lived their life.

 

THE PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINSFN

 

Matthew 25:1-13, Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. {2} And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. {3} They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: {4} But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. {5} While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. {6} And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. {7} Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. {8} And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. {9} But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. {10} And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. {11} Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. {12} But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. {13} Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. Matthew 25:1-13 (NIV),  "At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  (2)  Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  (3)  The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.  (4)  The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.  (5)  The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.  (6)  "At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!'  (7)  "Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.  (8)  The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.'  (9)  "'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.'  (10)  "But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.  (11)  "Later the others also came. 'Lord, Lord,' they said, 'open the door for us!'  (12)  "But he replied, 'Truly I tell you, I don't know you.'  (13)  "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

 

Jesus continues to exhort His disciples to be vigilant and ready in view of the fact that they do not know the day or hour of His return.

He speaks here of a bridal custom among the Jews. On the day of his wedding, the bridegroom, accompanied by his friends, would go to the house of his bride and escort her to their new home. The friends of the bride would keep watch outside the bride’s home to await the bridegroom’s coming. Then all together they would accompany the bridegroom and his bride to their house where the wedding ceremony would be performed and the marriage supper eaten.

Now the timing of these events was never written in stone. It took a lot of time for the bridal procession to make its way to the bride’s house and back again because the procession generally always took the longest route possible so as to give all the townsfolk a chance to enter into the joy of the wedding and wish the bridegroom and his bride a hearty Mazel Tov!

Under these circumstances, it was not uncommon for the bridegroom to come late into the night. The virgins all knew this for they were all a part of this Jewish custom. But only five of them made provision for this delay by bringing along an extra flask of oil for their lamps, while the other five made no such provision.

Notice in these passages of Scripture that we have three lines of thought.

(1) First, no one knows the exact day or hour of Jesus’ return, hence, we all have got to be vigilant, watchful, and ready to greet Him when He returns, Matthew 24:36-42.

(2) Second, while certain signs will herald and precede His coming, Matthew 24:4-31; when Jesus finally comes He will come suddenly and unexpectedly when most people aren’t looking for Him and when most people aren’t prepared to meet Him, Matthew 24:42-51, 25: 5-10, Mark 13:36.

(3) And third, somewhat paradoxically at first glance, Jesus balances the imminence of His coming with an intimation of His delay. That is, He lets us know in parabolic ways that His coming will be delayed for some time.

We see this plainly in Mark 13:34-37 where the Son of Man is likened unto a man going away on a far journey. We see it here in Matthew 25:1-13 where the bridegroom delayed his coming. And we see it in Matthew 25:14-30 where the Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a man traveling to a far country.

In other words, Jesus is going to go on a long, far journey, it’s going to take some time. Because we don’t know the exact day and hour of His return, we’ve got to make sure we have enough oil to last the long night through so that when the bridegroom does finally come we’ll ready to go out and meet Him.

This, in the final analysis, is what set the wise virgins apart from the foolish ones. The wise virgins were prepared in case the bridegroom delayed. When the bridegroom finally came, they were ready to meet Him and go in with Him to the marriage supper.

The thing that strikes me about this parable is the fact that all ten women were virgins. All of them were chosen and called to meet the bridegroom. All of them had lamps. All of them had oil in their lamps. All ten slumbered and slept. All ten heard the call about the bridegroom’s coming. All ten trimmed their lamps. But only five of them made it into the marriage supper while the other five were, figuratively speaking, cast out or barred from the Kingdom of Heaven.

Why? Because they weren’t ready when the bridegroom came. They didn’t have enough oil in their lamps. They didn’t have the foresight to bring along extra oil for their lamps.

I can understand being barred from the Kingdom if these women were wicked, seductive, prostitutes. I can see them being barred if they were unbelieving disciples or backsliders. But being barred from the Kingdom because they weren’t ready to meet the bridegroom? Because they didn’t bring along extra oil for their lamps?

The parable of the ten virgins teaches us a couple of lessons that would greatly assist us in entering into the marriage supper of the Lamb if we would but have the wisdom and foresight to learn them and apply them in our day to day life.

1. JESUS IS COMING FOR THOSE WHO ARE READY. Jesus is coming back for all those who are ready and waiting for Him. In terms of the parable, He’s coming back for all those who are present to greet Him at His coming. In the words of Hebrews 9:28, He’s coming back for all those who are looking for Him: unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

This word look means someone who’s deliberately looking or searching for something. Brethren, if you’re not looking for Christ to return—if you’re too caught up in this world that you’re asleep spiritually—then Jesus’ coming will not be good news for you. He’s coming for those who are looking, waiting, and ready for Him.

You may be a virgin. You may have a lamp with a little bit of oil left in it. But if you aren’t around when Jesus comes—if you’re out somewhere trying to get caught up spiritually so that you’re right with the Lord and ready to meet Him—you’ll miss Him. A minor point of the parable is, if you’re not ready to meet Him when He comes, you’re not going into the marriage supper with Him.

 

2. WE’VE GOT TO BE READY AT ALL TIMES. A second point of the parable is, we’ve got to be ready at all times to meet the Lord. We simply don’t know exactly when Jesus is coming back again.

If He doesn’t come back in our lifetime, then we simply don’t know exactly when we’ll die. Death has come all too suddenly and unexpectedly for all too many people, including God’s people. Doubtless, most of these were not ready to die. Seeing, then, that we don’t know exactly when we’ll be leaving this world; it behooves us to live each day ready and prepared to meet Him.

 

THE PARABLE OF THE TEN TALENTSFN

 

Jesus continues His theme of watchfulness in view of His pending absence and return. He’s teaching His disciples, and us as well, that we need to be prepared and ready so that when He does finally come back we’ll be received by Him and not be cast out of the marriage feast or the kingdom.

In the parable of the virgins, the stress is on making sure we have enough oil in our lamps to last the long night through.

Having done that, watchfulness becomes a matter of waiting patiently for Jesus’ coming.

From a slightly different vantage point, in the parable of the talents, the stress is not on waiting, but rather, on working. The Master has given us a job to do and while He’s away we’re supposed to work hard so that when He comes back we’ll greet Him with profit.

How do you prepare for Jesus’ return? You watch and wait. And while you’re waiting, with one eye pealed towards Heaven, you work diligently and do what Jesus told you to do with your life.

 

Matthew 25:14a, For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country. Matthew 25:14a (NLT),  “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip.

 

Jesus plainly hints at the fact that His departure will be a long one. In the parable of the virgins, the bridegroom tarried longer than expected. In the parable of the talents, the master goes on a journey to a distant country and he’s gone for a long time, verse 19a.

 

Matthew 25:14b, {He} called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. Matthew 25:14b (NLT),  He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone.

 

Before the master left he told his servants what they were supposed to do in his absence. He gave them a job to do and he gave them the money to do the job.

In much the same way, prior to His departure, Jesus left us with a last instruction: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: {20} Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world, Matthew 28:19-20.

He not only gave us a job to do, but He also gave us the wherewithal to do it. He gave us the message to preach, the gifts of the Spirit, the power and authority to work miracles, and ministers to teach us what we should teach others.

Jesus gave us a job to do. Are we doing it?

In terms of the parable, WE MUST DEFINE A FAITHFUL CHRISTIAN AS AN EVANGELISTIC ONE. If you're not obeying the Lord and evangelizing the lost, then how in the world can you consider yourself faithful? Disobedient is more like it. Slothful. Brethren, YOU AREN’T FAITHFUL IF YOU’RE NOT EVANGELISTIC.

It’s so easy to look at life in terms of what everybody does: go to school, learn a career, get a job, get a house, get married, raise a family, buy stuff, go on vacations, and work for a secure retirement.

But the question that we’re faced with is, in Jesus’ absence, what are we supposed to be doing with our life? Brethren, we’re supposed to be doing what Jesus told us to do. Evangelizing others. Our life is to be centered around evangelism. We’ve been given a ministry of reconciliation. Of reconciling men to God, 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.

Friends, IF WE'RE NOT BUSY WITH THE WORK OF EVANGELISM AREN'T WE BEING JUST LIKE THE WICKED, LAZY SERVANT WHO BURIED HIS MASTER'S TALENT IN THE GROUND AND DID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WITH IT? HOW CAN WE PROFESS TO BE FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS AND EXPECT TO GET A HEAVENLY REWARD IF WE CARE NOTHING FOR THE LOST AND DO NOTHING TO GET THEM SAVED?

Let’s not kid ourselves. If we're not evangelizing as we've been commanded we’re not going to be hearing our Lord say to us, Well done, thou good and faithful servant. These words are reserved only for those who are obedient, in this case, evangelistic. Brethren, if you want to hear Jesus say these words to you, get a heart for the lost, then go out into your world and introduce people to Jesus.

 

Matthew 25:15, And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Matthew 25:15 (CEV),  The man knew what each servant could do. So he handed five thousand coins to the first servant, two thousand to the second, and one thousand to the third. Then he left the country.
Matthew 25:15 (NLT),  He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

 

1. EVERYONE HAS A TALENT.

The parable speaks primarily of talents in terms of money. But I’d like to speak of talents in terms of the gifts, talents, and abilities that God has given each and every one of us.

Brethren, WE ALL, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, HAVE A GOD-GIVEN GIFT, TALENT, OR ABILITY. Ephesians 4:7-8 (NIV) reads, But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. (8) This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people."

1 Corinthians 12:7 (NIV) goes on to say, Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. What is the manifestation of the Spirit? I like the way the Contemporary English Version translates the essential meaning of this verse: The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others.

*Some talents are spiritually-related, such as those that are used in the church for the spiritual, physical, and material edification of God’s people.

*Other talents are in-born or natural abilities. For example, a person who’s gifted intellectually, a good athlete, a successful businessman, an excellent florist or interior home decorator, are all examples of people who have a God-given, natural ability to excel in a particular endeavor.

The point is, we all have a God-given talent, ability, or gift. NO ONE, INCLUDING YOU, IS WITHOUT A TALENT. You may not know you have a talent. You may not know what your talent is. But the fact of the matter is, you have a God-given talent.

Our talent is not ours, strictly speaking. It's been given to us by God. It belongs to God, it comes from Him, and we're supposed to use our talent to do our God-given job of evangelizing the lost. We're supposed to use God's gift to help people. Not enrich ourselves. We're supposed to use God's gift to glorify Him. Not ourselves.

 

2. WE ALL HAVE DIFFERNT TALENTS.

We read in Romans 12:6-8 (NLT), In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. (7) If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. (8) If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

We read similarly in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (NLT), There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. (5) There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. (6) God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. (7) A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. (8) To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. (9) The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. (10) He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. (11) It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have (see also verses 28-30).

The point is, we all don’t have the same gifts. Each one of us has a different talent or ability.

 

3. EACH ONE HAS A DIFFERENT NUMBER OF TALENTS.

One servant is entrusted with five talents. Another, two. And a third, one.

The differing number of talents might seem, at first glance, to be unfair and prejudicial on the Master’s part. “We all should have the same number of talents!”

But the fact of the matter is, we’re simply not all the same. Each one of us is different in what we can do and how much we can do. God knows this. And He gives to each one the appropriate number of talents that’s perfectly suited to that particular individual. This is what the Scriptures mean when it says He gave every man according to his several ability.

JESUS, FRIENDS, GAVE EACH ONE OF US HOWEVER MANY TALENTS WE CAN HANDLE AND WORK WITH. HE DOESN'T GIVE US MORE THAN WE CAN BEAR OR USE. HE DOES NOT DOES HE GIVE US LESS THAN WHAT WE'RE CAPABLE OF USING. He gives us the exact, right amount suitable for our nature, temperament, or ability. In this way, God’s apportionment of talents is extremely fair and considerate of each person’s ability.

 

4. OUR TALENTS ARE FOR THE MASTER'S GAIN.

 

The Master’s talents are entrusted to us for us to use for gain. We’re not only supposed to do good things with the talents that we have: we’re supposed to use them in such a way that we make a profit or gain for our Lord. That is, we glorify Him. We lead lost souls to Him. We help others make it into the kingdom.

Friends, THE GIFTS AND TALENTS OF GOD ARE NOT MEANT FOR OUR OWN SELFISH USE OR GAIN. THEY'RE MEANT FOR GOD'S INCREASE. DON'T USE YOUR NATURAL, GOD-GIVEN ABILITIES TO GLORIFY AND ENRICH YOURSELF!

Worse yet, don’t use your talents in a Devilish or sinful way (e.g. using your photography skills for pornography, using your marketing expertise to promote sinful lifestyles or behaviors, using your smarts to devise biological weapons of mass destruction, etc). God gave you His talents for His gain—not yours. And certainly, not the Devil’s.

 

Matthew 25:16-17, Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. {17} And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.FN Matthew 25:16-17 (ESV),  He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more.  (17)  So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.

 

The first two servants went right to work. They didn’t waste time. They took what they were entrusted with and ended up doubling it.

PROFIT OR GAIN, MY FRIENDS, DOESN'T COME WITHOUT EFFORT OR WORK. You've got to work to gain.

Evangelizing the lost is work. It takes work. If we're not working, then isn't our inactivity or slothfulness an indicator of our laziness? Doesn't it show our disinterest in obeying the Lord? Doesn't it reveal our lack of care or compassion for the lost? Brethren, how can we consider ourselves faithful in the very face of our disobedience, apathy, and lack of love?

 

Matthew 25:18, But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. Matthew 25:18 (NASB),  "But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.

 

The industriousness of the first two slaves is contrasted with the indolence of the third. Instead of putting his talent to good use, he buried it and did nothing with it.

This so reminds me of those who aren't doing anything with the talents God gave them. They've buried them. They aren't using them.

Inactive, unproductive people aren't any good to the Lord or the lost: neither the Lord nor the lost gain anything when God's people don't use their God-given abilities.

I'm soooo saddened whenever I see this happening because I think of all the good things that can happen when people use their God-given abilities. With God's blessings, favor, and anointing, GOOD THINGS ARE BOUND TO HAPPEN WHEN CHRISTIANS USE THEIR GIFTS FOR THE LORD!

But nothing happens when the gifts are buried! This is soooo sad. And I imagine it makes the Lord awfully sad too.

 

Matthew 25:19-23, After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. {20} And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. {21} His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. {22} He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. {23} His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Matthew 25:19-23 (CEV),  Some time later the master of those servants returned. He called them in and asked what they had done with his money.  (20)  The servant who had been given five thousand coins brought them in with the five thousand that he had earned. He said, "Sir, you gave me five thousand coins, and I have earned five thousand more."  (21)  "Wonderful!" his master replied. "You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness!"  (22)  Next, the servant who had been given two thousand coins came in and said, "Sir, you gave me two thousand coins, and I have earned two thousand more."  (23)  "Wonderful!" his master replied. "You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness!"

 

There’s a time of reckoning coming when every one of us will have to give an account of what we have done with our talents.

You see, a part of what motivated the two industrious slaves to work hard for their master was the fact that they knew the master was going to be coming back and when he does, they’re going to be summoned before him to give an account of what they did with the master’s talents. They knew that the master expected a profitable return on his investments. So they worked hard to meet their master’s expectations.

Their work paid off! They met their master’s expectations. They doubled what they had been given. And they were richly rewarded. They were, in a sense, promoted to greater position, responsibility, and work. Instead of being slaves entrusted with a handful of talents, they were now made rulers over many things.

In light of the parable, what is a good and faithful Christian? A GOOD AND FAITHFUL CHRISTIAN IS ONE WHO USES HIS GOD-GIVEN TALENTS AND ABILITIES, WORKS HARD, AND SUCCEEDS IN MAKING A GAIN FOR THE LORD.

As a side note, notice that hard work and gain make our Lord happy or joyful. So A GOOD AND FAITHFUL CHRISTIAN CAN ALSO BE DEFINED AS A CHRISTIAN WHO MAKES GOD REJOICE AT THE FRUIT OF HIS OR HER LABORS.

Friends, do you make God happy with what you’re doing and accomplishing? Or do you make Him ashamed? Which would you rather have?

If you want to make God happy, then use the talents He's given you to help people and introduce them to Him.

 

Matthew 25:24-25, Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strowed: {25} And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. Matthew 25:24-25 (NLT),  “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate.  (25)  I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

 

The servant who buried his master’s one talent in the ground did so out of fear. The servant knew that his master expected him to use the talent for the master’s gain. But the servant was afraid of using it, lest he lose it in a failed, or unprofitable, business venture. In that case, the master would really be mad. So instead of risking loss and incurring the master’s anger, the slave took the safer route and hid the master’s talent.

The servant’s fear was based on his image of the master. As far as he was concerned, his master was a hard man. That is, he was a harsh and a tough man to deal with. He reaped where he didn’t sow; he gathered where he didn’t spread.

In a way, the slave was accusing his master of being unfair. Of enriching himself on the toils and hard work of his slaves. Of punishing those who didn’t make him any money.

How short-sighted this fearful servant was! He wasn’t thinking things through. Why not put the money in the bank? It’ll be safe in the bank AND he’d be getting interest on the money. Sure, the interest isn’t a lot; it’s not a 100% percent profit on the deposited money. But isn’t a little interest better than no interest at all?

Fear not only makes us inactive and unproductive; it not only keeps us from working and get things done: FEAR HAS A WAY OF MAKING US THOUGHTLESS AND SHORT-SIGHTED. WE DON’T THINK CLEARLY WHEN WE’RE AFRAID. FEAR HAS A WAY OF MAKING US IRRATIONAL.

If you want to think and see clearly, get rid of fear! Lay that burden at the Lord’s throne in prayer and ask Him to help you not be afraid. God, my friends, knows just what to say and do to calm your fear.

Instead of spending all your time look at, and thinking about, the things that make you afraid, spend your time praying and thinking about what God can do. FEAR CAN’T LINGER WHEN YOU’RE FOCUSED ON GOD AND TRUSTING HIM TO TAKE COMPLETE CARE OF YOU.

 

Matthew 25:26-30, His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strowed: {27} Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. {28} Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. {29} For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. {30} And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 25:26-30 (NLT),  “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate,  (27)  why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’  (28)  “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver.  (29)  To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.  (30)  Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

 

We come up with all sorts of reasons or excuses for our own conduct or behavior. The thing I’ve found out is, EVERY LAST ONE OF OUR REASONS OR EXCUSES IS A GOOD ONE! WE FEEL JUSTIFIED IN OUR CONDUCT OR BEHAVIOR BECAUSE OUR EXCUSE IS A GOOD ONE.

But the Master’s response to the indolent slave tells us in no uncertain terms that the Lord doesn’t buy our excuses. He isn’t taken in, or fooled, by our explanations of our own indolence, neglect, or disobedience. The Lord looks at our failure to put His talent to good use or gain and that’s what He sees: our failure or neglect. We excuse it with any number of reasons: “I was afraid. You’re a hard and unreasonable Master! You’re not fair!” But the Lord sees right through us and the truth lies open and naked before His eyes.

The slave may have been fearful. That’s the truth. But FEAR IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR INACTIVITY. If anything, we can use our fear to deal with it and get rid of it so that we can be productive for the Master.

The servant knew that his master expected his talent back with some gain. The servant should have acted on this knowledge and, instead of burying it and preventing it from accumulating gain for the master, he should have, at the very least, given it to the money exchangers who would have made money on the talent and passed some of that profit back to the slave and his master. This was the least he could have done. It was the safest route to take that involved profit or gain.

To be sure, the money changer’s usury would not have been as profitable as the 100% profit gained in business by the first two slaves. But it would have been profit just the same and that would have made the master happy.

Brethren, God’s looking for profit or increase. He not only wants His talents back: He wants it back with increase. It doesn’t matter to Him if the increase is a hundred-fold, sixty-fold, or thirty-fold. THE LORD WANTS GAIN. AND WHEN THERE ISN'T ANY, HE ISN'T VERY HAPPY.

Friends, it’s a serious and lamentable thing not to use the talents that God has given you. Each and every one of you has a God-given talent, gift, or ability. When you don’t use it you’re robbing the Lord of the glory and gain that that talent, gift, or ability was meant to bring to Him. Not only that, but you’re robbing people of the blessing and help that they could have gained if you had only used your talents. Brethren, IT'S A GREAT TRAGEDY NOT TO USE THE TALENTS GOD HAS GIVEN YOU!

How serious is this tragedy? The indolent slave was cast out into outer darkness. That’s a figurative way of saying he was cast into Hell.

Now listen very carefully, friends. The sin of neglect or inactivity is not as serious or as criminal as the sin of adultery, murder, lying, or stealing. But the thing that we see in the master’s judgment of his indolent slave is, THE SIN OF NEGLECT IS NONETHELESS AS DAMNABLE AS THE MOST CRIMINAL OF SINS! Brethren, this lazy slave ended up where adulterers and murderers are confined for all eternity!

Do you still think that your talent or gift isn’t all that important? Do you still think God won’t mind it if you bury your talent? Brethren, God help you come to your senses! Use your talents or else you’ll lose them. And lose yourself in the process!

 

JESUS ON THE JUDGMENT

 

Matthew 25:31-32, When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: {32} And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats. Matthew 25:31-32 (NLT),  “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.  (32)  All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

 

Jesus teaches two parables on the end times, ending both parables on a note of judgment and reward. The foolish virgins and indolent slave are barred from the kingdom, while the wise virgins and faithful slaves enter the kingdom with their Lord.

Jesus now moves out of the realm of parabolic teaching and ends His Olivet discourse with a prophecy of the coming judgment. Remembering that this present passage is part and parcel of Jesus’ discourse on the end times, we must conclude that the judgment talked about here is one that will transpire in the context of Jesus’ second coming.

Now there a number of judgments spoken of in Scripture. But the ones that we’re primarily interested in are the ones that take place within the context of the end times. These judgments are as follows.

 

THE JUDGMENTS OF THE LAST DAYS

THE JUDGMENT
SCRIPTURE REFERENCES
PERSONS JUDGED
PLACE OF JUDGMENT
TIME OF JUDGMENT
NATURE OF THE JUDGMENT
JUDGMENT OF THE RIGHTEOUS
Only those who are truly saved, including Old Testament saints and faithful Christians or overcomers
Before the Judgment Seat of Christ in Heaven
After the Rapture and First Resurrection, a.k.a. the Resurrection of the Just

*This is not a judgment to determine who will be saved or not since all who are judged here are already saved.

*This is a judgment of the believer's works. You gain rewards for good works done. You lose rewards for bad or worthless works done.

JUDGMENT OF THE JEWS
All Jews the world over who are alive at this time
In Palestine outside Jerusalem
When Christ returns to Earth and prior to start of Millennium

All Jews will be judged in relation to Jesus Christ.

Messianic Jews enter the land of Israel and live through part of the Millennium.

Unsaved Jews are cut off.

JUDGMENT OF THE GENTILES
Everyone who is not a Jew, both saved and unsaved alike
In Palestine in the Valley of Jehoshaphat
Prior to the start of Millennium
All Gentiles, both saved and unsaved, are judged not only in relation to their acceptance or rejection of Christ, but also according to their works.
JUDGMENT OF THE FALLEN ANGELS
Disobedient angels
Not specified
After the Millennium
These disobedient angels will be judged for their rebellion and will be confined eternally in the Lake of Fire.
THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT
All the wicked dead since time began through Armageddon; and the righteous dead from Great Tribulation through Millennium's end
The Great White Throne of God in Heaven
After the Millennium and the Second Resurrection, prior to the start of the Eternal State

*This final judgment before the start of the Eternal State will be a judgment according to works.

*The resurrected wicked will be confined to the Lake of Fire.

*The resurrected righteous will be ushered into eternal bliss.

 

Some commentators believe that the judgment spoken of here in Matthew 25 is the Great White Throne judgment of Revelation 20. However, certain basic facts militate against this claim.

(1) The judgment of the nations in Matthew 25 takes place in connection with Jesus’ second coming to Earth, while the Great White Throne judgment takes place after Millennium, over a thousand years after Jesus has returned to Earth.

(2) The judgment of the nations in Matthew 25 is specifically a judgment of those who are alive when Jesus comes again, verse 32; while the Great White Throne judgment is specifically a judgment of the resurrected dead.

(3) There is no resurrection mentioned in Matthew 25, while the Great White Throne judgment takes place after the second resurrection.

(4) The judgment of Matthew 25 takes place on Earth, but in the judgment of Revelation 20, Heaven and Earth are passed away, hence, Earth won’t be the place of that last judgment.

(5) The books and Book of Life are not used in the judgment of Matthew 25, but they are used in the judgment of Revelation 20.

(6) The people in Matthew 25 are judged mainly by how they treated or mistreated Jesus’ brethren, the Christians, during the seven preceding years of tribulation;FN while the people in Revelation 20 are judged mainly by their life’s works.

(7) Jesus presides over the judgment in Matthew 25, but God the Father Himself presides over the judgment in Revelation 20.

In view of these considerations, we simply cannot subscribe to the view that the judgment of the nations in Matthew 25 is the same as the Great White Throne judgment in Revelation 20.

Because this is the case, then what we have here in Matthew 25 is Jesus telling us something that Revelation doesn’t specifically state, namely, when Jesus comes after the end of seven years of sorrows and tribulation, prior to the start of His 1,000 year reign on Earth, Jesus will summon all men unto Himself—first Jews, then Gentiles—then He’ll pass judgment for, or against, them. In this way, the Millennium starts with judgment and it will end in judgment.FN

 

Matthew 25:33-46, And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. {34} Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: {35} For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: {36} Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. {37} Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? {38} When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? {39} Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? {40} 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. {41} Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: {42} For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: {43} I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. {44} Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? {45} Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. {46} And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. Matthew 25:33-46 (NLT),  He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.  (34)  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  (35)  For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  (36)  I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’  (37)  “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  (38)  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?  (39)  When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  (40)  “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’  (41)  “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.  (42)  For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink.  (43)  I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’  (44)  “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’  (45)  “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’  (46)  “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

 

1. A JUDGMENT OF WORKS.

We must not make the mistake of thinking that anyone will be saved or damned on the basis of their treatment of God’s people. Scriptures clearly teach that a person is saved or damned on the basis of his or her acceptance or rejection of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. A person can be good towards a true saint of God, but if he or she doesn’t believe in Jesus and receive Him as Lord and Savior, then he or she will be damned. Jesus said so in John 3:36, He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Ephesians 2:8-9 could not be any clearer on the inability of good works to save: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: {9} Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Jesus, brethren, isn’t going to contradict the plain truth of Scripture! WHILE NO ONE IS SAVED ON THE BASIS OF WORKS, JESUS MAKES ALL TOO ABUNDANTLY CLEAR HERE THAT ALL MEN--SAVED AND UNSAVED UNLIKE--WILL BE JUDGED ON THE BASIS OF THEIR WORKS.

*The righteous will be judged on the basis of their works:  But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.  (14)  If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward.  (15)  But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames (1 Corinthians 3:13-15 NLT).

*And the unrighteous will be judged on the same basis of works: And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works, Revelation 20:12.

 

2. THE IMPORTANCE OF WORKS.

If anything, Jesus is stressing the importance of good works. We’re not saved by doing them. But we are saved so that we can live our life doing them: For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).

Titus 2:14 goes on to affirm, (Jesus) gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Our works as believers will determine what kind of rewards we’ll enjoy or lose throughout eternity.

On the other hand, unbelievers will damned not only for their rejection of Christ, but also for their evil works. Those who do bad things or live an evil lifestyle will be damned.

Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV) is quite clear on this point, The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; (20) idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions (21) and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

You see, EVEN IF A PERSON NEVER KNEW OR HEARD THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST, HE OR SHE WOULD STILL BE DAMNED BECAUSE OF THEIR EVIL WORKS OR LIFESTYLE.

 

Matthew 25:33-40, And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. {34} Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: {35} For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: {36} Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. {37} Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? {38} When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? {39} Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? {40} 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 25:33-40 (NLT),  He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.  (34)  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  (35)  For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  (36)  I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’  (37)  “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  (38)  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?  (39)  When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  (40)  “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

 

1. DO GOOD WHEN THE NEED IS LEGITIMATE.

Notice that the needs suffered and alleviated were all legitimate needs. Hunger and homelessness, thirst and destitution, sickness and imprisonment, are something that befalls all men whether saved or not. Jesus, brethren, expects us to minister to the genuine needs of men.

But not all needs are legitimate. A drunkard who needs a dollar for his next drink, a gambler who asks a dollar for his next bet, a druggie who needs money for his next fix; are not legitimate needs.

In fact, to help them financially is to help them in the commission of sin. Your kindness to them is only helping them remain enslaved to sin.

Brethren, you must be kind and helpful to the needy. But be discerning as to the need. You can help a drunkard, druggie, and gambler. But not in the way that they might want to be helped. Not financially. DON'T PROVIDE ANYONE WITH THE MEANS TO GO OUT AND SIN SOME MORE!

2. EVERYONE CAN DO GOOD.

Note that the good works committed, as well as the good works omitted, are works that everyone can do. Whether you’re rich or poor, high class or low caste, educated or not; every human being has the ability and capacity to give food or drink to another, to share a piece of clothing or bedding with another, to visit the infirmed or imprisoned.

The things that Jesus commends all men to do are things that all men can do. He doesn’t ask us to do things we can’t do. He doesn’t ask us to do things that only a few people can do. Friends, all of us can do what Jesus commends here. No one can plead innocence in the omission of a good work because everyone to one degree or another can do a good work.

3. DO GOOD TO ALL, ESPECIALLY CHRISTIANS.

Jesus wants all men to do good works to the poor and needy, the homeless and hungry, the infirmed and imprisoned—regardless of whether they’re saved or not. JUST BECAUSE A PERSON ISN'T A CHRISTIAN IS NO EXCUSE NOT TO HELP HIM OR HER.

The principle is, IF A PERSON IS NEEDY, THEN HE OR SHE IS A CANDIDATE FOR YOUR COMPASSION AND BENEVOLENCE.

But the thing that we see here is, Jesus is especially concerned about the poor and needy, the homeless and hungry, the infirmed and imprisoned, among His people. Help all who are needy! But of all who are needy, God’s people must be cared for and helped! They mustn’t be neglected or overlooked. Jesus, dear friends, is concerned about the welfare of His people!

 

4. WE MUST DO OUR PART TO HELP.

While Christians have a God who has promised to care for them, provide for them, protect, heal, and deliver them; God has also left it for men to do their part in caring, providing, protecting, healing, and delivering His people. God provides and helps supernaturally. But He also does it through human vessels.

Friends, just because you see your brother or sister believing the Lord for help doesn’t mean that you should keep aloof and let God answer their prayer and provide for their need all on His own.

He could do it if He so chose. But as it is the case so many times, God keeps His promises and answers prayer through the kindness and compassion of human vessels. As we see in this judgment, those who don’t help will not be held guiltless or innocent in God’s sight.

 

Matthew 25:41-46, Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: {42} For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: {43} I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. {44} Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? {45} Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. {46} And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Matthew 25:41-46 (NLT),  “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.  (42)  For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink.  (43)  I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’  (44)  “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’  (45)  “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’  (46)  “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

 

1. GOOD MUST BE DONE WITHOUT RESPECT OF THE IDENTITY OF THE NEEDY.

The righteous saw a need in an individual and they ministered to that need on the basis of selfless love and kindness. They helped without thought of reward solely because they saw a need.

The cursed, on the other hand, didn’t respond to human need because they were heartless and careless: they didn’t care about all the people who were hurting and needy. Had they known it was Christ who was in need they would have gladly helped. As if Christ is the only one we’re supposed to help!

Friends, don’t let the identity of the needy stop you from ministering to the need.

2. JESUS AND HIS PEOPLE ARE ONE.

Jesus takes it personally how His people are treated or mistreated, how they are helped or hurt.

Friends and brethren, watch how you deal with God’s people because you’re dealing with God Himself. When you help Christians you’re helping God. And when you hurt them you’re hurting God.

You know, Christians are persecuted the world over and this is truly a frightful thing for all those who persecute them because they are persecuting God. They will be judged for their treatment or mistreatment of God’s people!

3. THE OMISSION OF GOOD IS AS DAMNABLE AS THE COMMISSION OF EVIL.

The thing that we see here in Matthew 25 is, THE FAILURE TO DO GOOD WORKS TOWARDS THE SAINTS OF GOD IS EVERY BIT AS DAMNABLE AS THE COMMISSION OF EVIL WORKS.

An unregenerate person who doesn’t help a Christian in need receives the same judgment as an unregenerate person who hurts a Christian: both are excluded from the kingdom!

Friends, it’s a serious, damnable thing to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the needs of God’s people!

What about all the unregenerate people who help God’s people? They’ll still be damned for their rejection of the Lord and for their sins. But I believe their good works towards the saints of God will spare them from the worst sufferings that they would otherwise face in the Lake of Fire. Just as there are degrees of reward based on the kind and/or quantity of good works done, so there are degrees of punishment based on the kind and/or quantity of both evil and good works done.

 

ANOTHER PREDICTION OF JESUS' DEATH

 

Matthew 26:1-2, And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, {2} Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified. Matthew 26:1-2 (NLT),  When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples,  (2)  “As you know, Passover begins in two days, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

 

It is Tuesday. Jesus has finished His Olivet discourse and His enunciation of end time events. He turns His mind back to the more pressing things of the moment and prophesies again of His pending death.

The new element found in this prophecy is the time element: He would be betrayed and crucified after two days, that being Passover.

Unthinkable to His disciples, but in the wisdom of God, the Passover lamb and the Passover Lamb would both be sacrificed within hours of each other.

 

THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS PLOT AGAIN TO KILL JESUS

 

Matthew 26:3-5, Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,FN {4} And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety, and kill him. {5} But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people. Matthew 26:3-5 (NIV),  Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas,  (4)  and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him.  (5)  "But not during the festival," they said, "or there may be a riot among the people."
Mark 14:1-2, After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death. {2} But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people. Mark 14:1-2 (ESV),  It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him,  (2)  for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.”
Luke 22:1-2, Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. {2} And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people. Luke 22:1-2 (NLT),  The Festival of Unleavened Bread, which is also called Passover, was approaching.  (2)  The leading priests and teachers of religious law were plotting how to kill Jesus, but they were afraid of the people’s reaction.

 

The Great Sanhedrin, or Supreme Court of the Jews, was composed of three groups of people: (1) former high priests and notable priests as well; (2) Scribes, or experts in the Law; and (3) elders or local, civil rulers of the Jews.

The High Priest, in this case Joseph Caiaphas, presided over the Court.

So what we have here in Caiaphas’ palace is a meeting of the Great Sanhedrin.

Why did these religious leaders convene in Caiaphas’ palace? They gathered together to consider, first of all, a way by which Jesus could be captured, arrested, and killed; and second, to determine when the best time would be to do that.

We must remember that the Sanhedrin had already judged Jesus a gross violator of the Law and had already determined to put Him to death, Matthew 12:14, John 5:18, 7:1,19,25, 8:37,40.

The raising of Lazarus spurred many to believe in Jesus and it was then that the Sanhedrin sought in earnest for a way to kill Him, John 11:53, 12:9-11.

So what we see very clearly here is the murderous intent of the priests. They really wanted Jesus dead!

We not only see the murderous intent of the priests here: we also see their craftiness. While the plan to kill Jesus was nothing new, what was new in this meeting was the plan to capture Jesus by subtlety and craft. The two words are one and the same in the Greek, dólos, meaning trick, deceit, or guile. The idea behind the term is to catch, trap, or snare by using a bait.

In other words, the Sanhedrin is not going to capture and arrest Jesus through legal means. They’re throwing away the books and resorting to trickery to eliminate Him. They were intent on capturing and killing Jesus—even if it meant breaking their own laws! So, as to the manner of Jesus’ murder, the Court concluded that Jesus would be captured and killed by craft.

As to the timing of Jesus’ murder, the Court concluded that Jesus could not be killed until after the holidays had passed. Passover was a one-day feast observed on the 14th of Nisan. The feast of unleavened bread began on the next day and it continued for seven days, from Nisan 15 – 21.

Jerusalem’s population would remain swollen with pilgrim for these 8 days—to between 2 and 3 million people by the best estimates—so the holidays just weren’t a very good time to arrest and kill Jesus. The people were on Jesus’ side. Had He let them, they would have enthroned Him as Israel’s Messiah and King. The crowd would never allow Jesus to be arrested or killed—or so the Sanhedrin thought—not without a fight.

For the Sanhedrin, a fight was the last thing they needed. The Romans, sensing the emotions and dangers inherent in any large gathering of Jews, kept plenty of soldiers close at hand to quell any disturbance or uprising that might occur during this festive time. In fact, the Roman guards were barracked and garrisoned in a fortress tower called Antonia. The tower was located at the northwest corner of the Temple complex and overlooked it. The Romans, you see, were ever watchful of the goings-on in the complex below. Pilate would slaughter the Jews—even in the Temple complex—at the slightest provocation. Armed conflict and revolt against the Romans would only result in the loss of Jewish autonomy.

Worse yet, the Romans would divest the Great Sanhedrin and its President, the High Priest, of its power to rule over the affairs of the Jews. In that case, Judea would have been placed under the total, absolute rule of the Roman Governor.

So what the Sanhedrin feared was not only their countrymen, but also the Roman Governor and his army. They feared war because war would mean the loss and end of their power.

So to keep things peaceable the Court decided on a two-part stratagem. First, they wouldn’t make their move against Jesus until after the Passover and Unleavened Bread had passed. And second, they would do away with Jesus quietly with as little public notice or fanfare as possible.

But even in this, man’s plans cannot frustrate the wisdom and counsels of God! Even though the chief priests don’t want to move against Jesus until after the holidays, they’re going to end up doing it before the holidays because it was God’s design to have the Passover Lamb crucified at the time of Passover.

Lastly by way of commentary, we must note that this meeting of the Court in Caiaphas’ residence was a forbidden and illegal one on four counts. See Chart below.

 

THE SANHEDRIN'S VIOLATIONS OF HEBREW JURISPRUDENCE

 

1. ALL MEETINGS OF THE COURT WERE TO TAKE PLACE IN THE HALL OF HEWN STONE. THIS HALL WAS LOCATED ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE TEMPLE COMPLEX. IT WAS FORBIDDEN TO HOLD COURT ANYWHERE OUTSIDE THIS HALL.

2. THE MEETINGS OF THE COURT WERE TO BE HELD IN THE HALL IN ORDER THAT THE MEETINGS MAY BE PUBLIC AND OPEN TO THE PEOPLE. BUT WHAT WE HAVE HERE IN CAIAPHAS' HOME IS A VERY PRIVATE AND SECRET MEETING OF THE COURT.

3. THE LAW FORBADE THE COURT FROM PASSING AND IMPOSING THE DEATH SENTENCE BEFORE IT EVEN ARRESTS, INDICTS, AND TRIES THE ACCUSED. DEATH COULD NOT BE METED OR IMPOSED BEFORE THE ACCUSED HAS HAD A CHANCE TO DEFEND HIMSELF BEFORE THE COURT.

4. THE DEATH SENTENCE WAS PASSED ONLY AS A LAST RESORT. A CARDINAL RULE OF LAW WAS THAT THE COURT WAS TO BE CONSUMED WITH LIFE AND NOT WITH DEATH. A SINGLE REASONABLE DOUBT--EVEN IN THE FACE OF OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY--WAS SUFFICIENT TO SPARE THE ACCUSED FROM DEATH. THE COURT WAS TO MAKE EVERY ATTEMPT, EXHAUST EVERY MEANS , TO PRESERVE THE LIFE OF THE ACCUSED. THE SANHEDRIN IN THIS CASE MADE ABSOLUTELY NOT ATTEMPT TO PRESERVE JESUS' LIFE.

 

 

JUDAS' DEAL TO HELP THE PRIESTS CAPTURE JESUSFN

 

Matthew 26:14-16, Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, {15} And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.FN {16} And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him. Matthew 26:14-16 (ESV),  Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests  (15)  and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.  (16)  And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Mark 14:10-11, And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them. {11} And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him. Mark 14:10-11 (CEV),  Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve disciples. He went to the chief priests and offered to help them arrest Jesus.  (11)  They were glad to hear this, and they promised to pay him. So Judas started looking for a good chance to betray Jesus.
Luke 22:3-6, Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot,FN being of the number of the twelve. {4} And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains,FN how he might betray him unto them. {5} And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. {6} And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray him unto them in the absence of the multitude.FN Luke 22:3-6 (NLT),  Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples,  (4)  and he went to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them.  (5)  They were delighted, and they promised to give him money.  (6)  So he agreed and began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus so they could arrest him when the crowds weren’t around.

 

While the Sanhedrin was busy plotting Jesus’ capture and murder, an unexpected surprise greeted them in the form of Judas Iscariot. The disciple of the Lord stepped forward and struck a deal with them to betray Jesus into their hands for thirty pieces of silver.

The Sanhedrinists could not have been happier! They were wrestling with the problem of how Jesus could be captured without attracting public attention and ire. Naturally, they would have to have knowledge of Jesus’ whereabouts, His itinerary, the people He was with, and the number of people He was with. Spies would be needed. But spies were risky because they would give these Sanhedrinists away as a conniving, murderous bunch; they would be witnesses against the Sanhedrin’s breach of law.

But with Judas in their employ, all their problems and concerns were laid to rest. As an intimate disciple and constant companion of our Lord, Judas would know when the best time would be to arrest Jesus. He would know where Jesus could be found. For the miniscule sum of 30 shekels the Sanhedrin got more than what they bargained for and more than they could have ever hoped to imagine and accomplish.FN

 

WHY DID JUDAS BETRAY THE LORD?

Why did Judas betray the Lord? This is a question that has intrigued Christians throughout the ages and many answers have been proposed in response. This is one of the many questions that I’d like to hear the Lord answer when we enter into His rest and glory in Heaven.

For now I must enter the realm of speculation and say that if we stay strictly with the Biblical record it appears that money was the primary motive behind Judas’ betrayal of our Lord. In the recent anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany, it was Judas who served as spokesman of the disciples when he publicly objected to Mary’s lavish and extravagant use of a pound of spikenard perfume.

As far as John the apostle was concerned, Judas’ objection was based purely on greed: Judas did not really care about the poor. He asked this because he carried the moneybag and sometimes would steal from it, John 12:6 CEV.

Note in Matthew 26:15 Judas’ choice of words when he covenanted with the Sanhedrin for Jesus’ betrayal: WHAT WILL YE GIVE ME, and I will deliver him unto you? His words evince the fact that Judas wanted to betray the Lord and deliver Him into the hands of the Sanhedrin; and that he would do it only if he was adequately paid or reimbursed for his service. The fact that they discussed and bargained for the terms of Jesus’ betrayal and finally settled upon 30 shekels indicates that Judas betrayed the Lord for monetary reasons.

Judas was greedy, covetous, and consumed with the love of money. O cursed love of money that has brought many a man of God to ruin and loss!

 

SOME REALLY IMPORTANT LESSONS WE MUST LEARN FROM JUDAS.

How many of us want to be like Judas? Who among us wants to end up like Judas? None, I dare say. Yet we will be exactly like Judas and end up like him if we don't take Judas' sins to heart and work very hard to be rid of them. Friends, if you don't want to be like Judas, don't repeat Judas' mistakes. Do what he didn't do. Fix the problem before it kills and damns you.

Here are some lessons that we really must learn from Judas.

 

1. IT’S POSSIBLE TO FOLLOW THE LORD FOR A LONG TIME AND STILL NOT DEAL WITH SIN.

First, let us learn that it’s possible to follow the Lord closely and for a relatively long period of time, it’s possible to engage in evangelistic work and do miracles; and still be afflicted with the sins that plague the heathen—in this case with Judas, the sin of covetousness.

You see, Judas had a problem with greed and covetousness and he never took care of it. To the contrary, he concealed it rather well so that no one ever suspected him of being a thief until after his demise.

Friends, WE CAN FOLLOW THE LORD AND NEVER TAKE CARE OF OUR PROBLEMS. WE'LL HAVE PROBLEMS AS LONG AS WE REFUSE TO DEAL WITH THEM AND GET RID OF THEM.

After all this time, what sins still plague you as a Christian?

 

2. ONE SIN LEADS TO MORE SINS.

Second, as Judas’ life so clearly shows, one sin left undealt with leads to more sin.

Judas began with covetousness. Covetousness turned to betrayal. That betrayal which ultimately ended in Jesus’ death made him an accessory or accomplice to murder. Finally, his covetousness ended up in his suicide.

Whoever thought that covetousness would lead Judas down a path to suicide? Unlikely, you may say. Far-fetched, others say. Yet, this is precisely what covetousness wrought in a man who failed to rid himself of it.

Brethren, one sin leads to more sins—that’s just the nature of sin. And if you’d be honest with your own self, your very life proves it true.

 

3. SINS UNREMEDIED WILL DAMN US.

Third, let us realize that if we don’t get rid of the problems that plague us, the problems will eventually get rid of us. Like Judas, our problems will turn us against the Lord and we’ll eventually abandon or forsake the Lord. If we hold on to our sins and continue in them, they will eventually damn us.

4. GIVE THE SIN UP!

Brethren, let us resolve to deal with our problems now and get rid of them before it gets too late for us. If it’s a problem with covetousness, learn contentment. Give up the bag and the treasurer’s office. Relinquish the privileges and liberties that feed your lusts and that enable your sinful conduct. Seek the Lord’s help and forgiveness.

Do whatever you need to do to make it to Heaven! Believe me, it'll be worth it. NOTHING, BUT NOTHING, IS WORTH SPENDING ETERNITY WITHOUT THE LORD!

 

5. BE CHRIST-SERVING, NOT SELF-SERVING.

Finally, let us understand that if our present walk with the Lord is based and centered on “What will you give me?,” or “What can I get out of this?,” or “What can you do for me?,” then, like Judas, we’re heading for a hanging because Christ and Christianity isn’t all about material gain or comfort, but rather, it’s all about our serving the Lord.

Let us never forget that our discipleship to the Lord began with the word Forsake. Not Accumulate. It began with the word Crucify. Not Covet (Luke 14:26-33)

Brethren, let us not think about enriching our self, but enriching the Lord and others with a life of faithful Christian service. May God help all of us not be a Judas. This world needs only one Judas and that Judas has come and gone. We don’t need anymore Judas’ among us!

 

THE DISCIPLES PREPARE THE PASSOVER MEAL

 

Matthew 26:17-19, Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?FN {18} And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples. {19} And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the Passover. Matthew 26:17-19 (NIV),  On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"  (18)  He replied, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'"  (19)  So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.
Mark 14:12-16, And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover? {13} And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him. {14} And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house,FN The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? {15} And he will show you a large upper room furnished and prepared:FN there make ready for us. {16} And his disciples went forth, and came into the city and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the Passover. Mark 14:12-16 (ESV),  And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”  (13)  And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him,  (14)  and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’  (15)  And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.”  (16)  And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
Luke 22:7-13, Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. {8} And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat. {9} And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare? {10} And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. {11} And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? {12} And he shall show you a large upper room furnished: there make ready. {13} And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the Passover. Luke 22:7-13 (NLT),  Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread arrived, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed.  (8)  Jesus sent Peter and John ahead and said, “Go and prepare the Passover meal, so we can eat it together.”  (9)  “Where do you want us to prepare it?” they asked him.  (10)  He replied, “As soon as you enter Jerusalem, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. At the house he enters,  (11)  say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’  (12)  He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal.”  (13)  They went off to the city and found everything just as Jesus had said, and they prepared the Passover meal there.

 

It’s Wednesday morning. Today is known as the Day of Preparation, because it is the day before Passover. Passover will officially begin at 6:00 P.M. on this same day, so there were a lot of things that needed to get done so that Jesus and the apostles could observe the Seder or Passover meal.FN

The first arrangement that needed to be made was a place to observe the meal. As you can imagine, when a little city like Jerusalem gets crammed with nearly three million worshippers, housing is at a premium. The overflow crowd would find themselves sleeping outside the city walls under the open sky or in makeshift tents. Some would find accommodation in the nearby towns of Bethany and Bethphage. The fortunate ones would find a place to sleep inside the city and there, gathered together in groups of at least ten, they would eat the Passover.

Some of the permanent residents of Jerusalem, especially the well-to-do ones, would have a two-story house, with the second story reserved especially for visitors. This is the upper room, or guest chamber, that Jesus spoke about.

Once accommodations have been found, there would follow the ritual purging of all leaven from the house. A diligent search would be made in every nook and cranny of the house to make sure that there was no leaven in the house.

Unleavened bread, or matzo, would need to be made or bought in the market.

The table would be provided with four familiar elements:

(1) a bowl of salt water to remind the Jews of the many tears their ancestors shed while serving as slaves in Egypt; the water was also a reminder of the Red Sea that the Lord parted for the freed and fleeing Israelites.

(2) Also to remind them of the bitterness of slavery would be a platter of bitter herbs consisting of horseradish, chicory, endive, lettuce, horehound, and the like.

(3) Charosheth would have to be prepared. This was a mixture of apples, dates, pomegranates, and nuts, all diced and made into a paste with sticks of cinnamon running through it. The paste was to remind the Jews of the clay that their forbears used to make bricks for Pharaoh’s pyramids and cities. And the sticks of cinnamon were a reminder of the straw that the Israelites had to find or grow in order to make the bricks.

(4) Last, there were four cups of wine on the table to serve as reminders of the four promises the Lord gave the Israelites in Exodus 6:6-7, I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rid you out of their bondage, I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments, I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God. All these ingredients and elements of the meal would have to be bought and/or prepared.

Most important of all, and the central feature of the Passover meal, was the paschal lamb.

*The lamb would have to be bought from a vendor who was certified and authorized by the High Priest to sell lambs worthy of sacrifice.

*If you brought your own lamb with you, you would need to have a priest inspect it for any blemishes. If the lamb didn’t pass inspection you would have to buy one from a vendor.

*The lamb would then be taken to the Temple where it would be sacrificed. While the Seder could be eaten outside the city, the lamb itself had to be slain and sacrificed in the Temple. The worshipper would present his lamb to the priests, lay his hand on it, then cut its throat. A priest was standing by him with bowl in hand to catch and collect the blood. The lamb would be cut up and the entrails and fat removed. These would be taken to the altar where they would be sacrificed unto the Lord.

*After this was done, the worshipper would take his lamb home and roast it whole with head and legs intact over an open fire on a spit or spindle.

*Once cooked, the entire lamb would be set on the table for the Seder. The law ordained that there had to be at least ten people, but no more than twenty, to partake of a Seder.FN If there weren’t that many in a house or household, they would go among friends and eat the Seder with them.

These, then, were the kinds of preparation that the disciples needed to make in order for Jesus and the apostolic company to observe the Passover that evening.

Jesus’ instructions were rather cryptic. And deliberate, I might add. Peter and John were to go into the city. There they would see a man carrying a pitcher of water. This was a telltale sign for men didn’t carry pitchers of water. This was women’s work or the task of slaves. When the disciples saw him they were to follow him home and ask the homeowner if his guest chamber was ready for Jesus to use. Apparently, Jesus had already made prior arrangements with the man for the use of his upper room at this time. The two disciples went into the city and found everything just as Jesus said.

As treasurer with the moneybag needed to make the necessary purchases, why wasn’t Judas sent into the city? Why were Jesus’ instructions cryptic? Why didn’t He give the exact name and address of the homeowner where they would eat the Passover? Because Judas would then know exactly where Jesus would be that night. He would pass the word on to the authorities and, by Jesus’ timetable, they would arrest Him prematurely before He gets to Gethsemane.

Jesus, friends, is in control. He’s not going to let Judas out of His sight now—not after he’s struck his bargain with the priests. Judas is not going to get a chance to go the priests just yet. Better yet, he’s not going to know exactly where in the city Jesus is going to eat the Seder. In God’s providence, Jesus must eat the Seder; the Passover Lamb must partake of the Passover lamb. Until that happens, Jesus is not going to allow Himself to be captured or arrested before then. He’s put His restraints on Judas and Judas isn’t going to betray the Lord just yet.

 

JESUS AND HIS DISCIPLES EAT THE PASSOVER MEAL

 

Matthew 26:20, Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve. Matthew 26:20 (NIV),  When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.
Mark 14:17, And in the evening he cometh with the twelve. Mark 14:17 (ESV),  And when it was evening, he came with the twelve.
Luke 22:14, And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. Luke 22:14 (NIV),  When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.

 

It is after 6 P.M. on Wednesday, reckoned as Thursday by the Jews. It is the 14th day of Nisan. It is Passover. And it’s time to observe the ceremonial Passover meal.

For those of us who are unaccustomed to Jewish tradition, the Passover meal was a gay, and yet a liturgical, one. It was literally a worship service with a meal. For this reason, the head of the household, or an honored guest, would preside over the Passover as a sort of emcee or worship leader.

*He would start off with a prayer of thanksgiving. The first cup of wine would be drunk. Then hands would be washed and dried.

*Next, a portion of the bitter herbs would be dipped in the charosheth and eaten.

*The son of the household would then ask, “Why is this night distinguished from all other nights?” And for the next several minutes the worship leader would recite the history of the Jews from the time of Terah, Abraham’s father, to Israel’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt, and finally ending with the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai.

*The significance of each element of the meal—the salt water, herbs, charosheth, lamb, and unleavened bread would be explained.

*The first part of the Hallel would be sung (Psalms 113-114), the second cup of wine drunk, followed by the ceremonial washing and drying of hands once again.

*Unleavened bread mixed with bitter herbs and dipped in charosheth would be eaten.

*Once done, the main meal would commence, consisting of the paschal lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. The third cup of wine would be drunk, followed once again by the ceremonial washing and drying of hands.

*The service would close with a singing of the second part of Hallel (Psalms 115-118) and the drinking of the fourth and final cup of wine.

As an endnote, if the entire Seder company could not eat all of the lamb, the leftover would be burned: none of it would be allowed to remain until morning, Exodus 12:10.

This, then, is the order of the service and meal. But, before the meal could get underway, Jesus has to settle a fight.

 

THE DISCIPLES ARGUE AGAIN ABOUT WHICH ONE OF THEM IS THE GREATESTFN

 

Luke 22:24, And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. Luke 22:24 (CEV),  The apostles got into an argument about which one of them was the greatest.

 

The apostles had no sooner walked into the room when a heated argument broke out among them as to who of the twelve was the greatest.

Alfred Edersheim’s theory of the reclining positions around the table explains some of the puzzling details that transpired in the upper room—this fight being one of them. Based on the Scriptural record, here is how they probably reclined.

*Long cushions, in some instances, couches, were placed on the floor around three sides of a square table that sat low to the floor. The fourth side of the table was left open for servants to replenish food and drinks. The resulting arrangement would thus be in the form of an inverted U.

*Three persons usually reclined at each of the three sides of the inverted U. Thus, a table would accommodate nine guests. In cases where a large party was involved, there would be multiple tables set up.

*The dinner host reclined on the left side of the inverted U. During the last supper, Jesus likely reclined in the middle position.

*From the Scriptures in John 13:21-26 we know that John and Judas reclined on either side of Jesus in the coveted and honored positions. Judas was at the top left of the inverted U, John was at the bottom left, with Jesus in between them.

*Important guests reclined across from the host, on the right side of the inverted U, allowing them to face the host when talking to him.

*Peter reclined opposite John across the table, on the right side of the inverted U. That’s why he had to beckon John to ask Jesus who the betrayer was.

Anyways, it seems that as the apostles entered the upper room John and Judas rushed forward to occupy the coveted cushions and, in this blatant way, established themselves as being the greatest among the apostles. Naturally, the rest of the apostles were not pleased and thus began a heated debate as to who among them was really the greatest.

Now this was not the first time the apostles had this kind of fight. They argued the point on at least two, if not three, other occasions.FN The question of greatness, or the search for greatness, consumed them and it is the one thing that the apostles fought over, time after time after time.

With each fight, Jesus stresses the way to greatness as being the way of humility and service. Obviously, it was a lesson that didn’t sink into the apostles’ hearts and it’s the reason why they fought over the issue time and again.

Brethren, WE'LL KEEP ON FIGHTING WITH ONE ANOTHER UNTIL WE TAKE JESUS' WORDS TO HEART AND LIVE IT. ONLY JESUS CAN SETTLE OUR ARGUMENTS. BUT EVEN THEN, IF WE'RE NOT WILLING TO LISTEN TO HIM AND ABIDE BY HIS JUDGMENTS, WE'LL CONTINUE FIGHTING TO THE VERY END. Yea, even to the upper room.

 

Luke 22:25-27, And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.FN {26} But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. {27} For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. Luke 22:25-27 (CEV),  So Jesus told them: Foreign kings order their people around, and powerful rulers call themselves everyone's friends.  (26)  But don't be like them. The most important one of you should be like the least important, and your leader should be like a servant.  (27)  Who do people think is the greatest, a person who is served or one who serves? Isn't it the one who is served? But I have been with you as a servant.

 

IF YOU WANT TO BE GREAT, SERVE!

Greatness in the Kingdom of God is not as men would reckon it. In fact, men would not recognize true greatness because it’s found where men least expect it—in the young and serving.

Friends, if you want to be great don’t look or strive for it. Serve others without thought of gain, notoriety, or reward and in eternity you will be amply rewarded.

 

Luke 22:28, Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. Luke 22:28 (CEV),  You have stayed with me in all my troubles.

 

IF YOU WANT TO BE GREAT, BE LOYAL OR FAITHFUL!

The Lord didn’t dwell on the negative or cut the argument off on a chiding, condemning note. He dealt with the problem, reproved them, and reminded them of the things He had already taught them concerning greatness. Then He moved right on, changed the subject, redirected their thoughts and sights, and looked at the bright, positive things about them.

In this case, Jesus highlighted their steadfast loyalty to Him. They did something that’s difficult to do, namely, THEY REMAINED LOYAL EVEN WHEN THE GOING GOT TOUGH.

They looked for greatness that they didn’t have—greatness as men esteem it. And in their consuming search for it they failed to recognize the greatness that they already had!

These disciples were loyal. Brethren, this is what Jesus is looking for in all of His disciples—loyalty, endurance, unfailing commitment. Truth be told, LOYALTY IS GREATNESS! When you’re loyal to Christ all the time He’s being hounded, persecuted, slandered, and maligned by the authorities; when you publicly identify yourself with Him even though He’s marked for death and you could be too—at the very least, you’d be excommunicated from the synagogue; when you stay by His side when a lot of His followers abandon and forsake Him; when you cling tenaciously to your faith in Him despite the doubts of critics and demons; that, dear friends, is continued service to Christ and that is greatness in His sight!

So here were the disciples looking for a kind of greatness that they could never have in this lifetime—a greatness that they were forbidden from seeking after—not realizing that, in the Lord’s sight, they were already great!

It’s called perspective. It’s a way of looking at life through a different set of eyes. A Divine, Heavenly mindset.

Brethren, are you striving to be great or are you striving to be loyal? LOOK AT WHAT PLEASES GOD THE MOST--IN THIS CASE, SERVICE AND LOYALTY--THEN SEEK AFTER THAT.

 

WHEN DEALING WITH THE WRONG, DON’T JUST CORRECT: COMMEND AND ENCOURAGE.

Notice that instead of commending just one or two of the disciples, Jesus commended them all so that no one would think himself to be any greater than the others. He ended the fight on a note of commendation and, as we’ll soon see in the next couple of verses, He ended it with a promise of reward.

Brethren, THERE ARE VALID CRITICISMS OR THINGS TO BE TRULY CONCERNED ABOUT WHEN IT COMES TO OTHER PEOPLE. BUT, LIKE JESUS, DEAL WITH THEM, THEN QUICKLY MOVE ON TO WHAT'S GOOD AND POSITIVE ABOUT PEOPLE. Emphasize their good or strong points. LEAVE THEM WITH A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT AND HOPE.

You know, when you leave people on a critical or condemning note—just the way the Devil does—one of two things usually happens. People will either be disheartened and self-condemned by their failures and thus become paralyzed so that they can’t make the necessary changes and move on with their life; or else they’ll become critical too and condemn you and thus neglect to deal with their own problem. They’ll be too busy fighting you instead of fixing their own problem. In either case, the problem isn’t dealt with.

Brethren, INSTRUCT AND REPROVE WHERE NEEDED. BUT DON'T FORGET TO EDIFY AND ENCOURAGE! A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT GIVES MOTIVATION, STRENGTH AND HOPE TO REMEDY THE WRONG.

 

Luke 22:29-30, And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; {30} That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom,FN and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.FN Luke 22:29-30 (NIV),  And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me,  (30)  so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

 

The disciples’ reward of greatness will not come in this lifetime, but in the next. Just as the Father has given Jesus a Kingdom, so Jesus will give these men a kingdom. Not a kingdom that’s separate from His own, but a kingdom in the sense that they will be reigning and ruling with Him in His Kingdom. In the coming Millennial Kingdom they will be sitting on twelve thrones in Israel ruling over the Israeli nation (see also Matthew 19:28).

 

JESUS WASHES HIS DISCIPLES' FEET

 

John 13:1-5, Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.FN {2} And supper being ended,FN the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; {3} Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; {4} He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments;FN and took a towel, and girded himself. {5} After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. John 13:1-5 (ESV),  Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.  (2)  During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him,  (3)  Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God,  (4)  rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  (5)  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

 

Perhaps to demonstrate the true meaning of greatness and servanthood, Jesus got off the cushion He was reclining on, took off His outer garment, grabbed a towel, and began to wash the disciples’ feet. Apparently, in the mad rush for the coveted places of honor around the table, no one bothered to wash their feet.

You see, it was a custom among Jews to wash the dirt and dust of travel off of their feet upon entering a house. The homeowner would provide a pitcher of water, a basin, and a towel by the door and leave it for his guests to wash their own feet. In some cases, the woman of the house or a slave would do it for them, 1 Timothy 5:10.

Apparently in this instance in the upper room, no one took the time to wash their own feet. They headed straight for the table and the cushions.

Brethren, WHEN YOU'RE SELFISH AND SELF-SERVING YOU FORGET ALL ABOUT MANNERS AND SERVING OTHERS!

 

John 13:6-11, Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? {7} Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. {8} Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. {9} Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. {10} Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. {11} For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. John 13:6-11 (NIV),  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"  (7)  Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."  (8)  "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."  (9)  "Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"  (10)  Jesus answered, "Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you."  (11)  For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

 

When it was Peter’s turn for his feet to be washed he was rather indignant and incredulous that his Lord, like a slave, should wash his feet. As far as he was concerned, a Master shouldn’t have to wash anyone’s feet.

But, as Jesus was wont to do, He talked on both a literal and a spiritual plane. Spiritually, the Lord’s washing of feet would be symbolic of the Lord washing our sins away and saving us. If we don’t let Him wash our sins away we’ll have no part with Him.

At this, Peter makes a complete turnabout and insists that the Lord wash every part of him. Jesus counters that only Peter’s feet needed to be washed since he had already bathed prior to the Passover and was therefore already clean.

Jesus then goes back to speaking in figurative terms. When a man bathes and then goes out on the road, his entire body is clean except his feet. His feet would be soiled with the dust of travel. Spiritually speaking, all of the disciples were cleaned except one. All of them were saved except the betrayer.

Doubtless, if we were living in Jesus’ day and we heard Him speak to us in the way He did here, we would not have immediately understood everything He said. We would have been perplexed. We’re not accustomed to switching back and forth between literal and figurative language in the same conversation.

It wasn’t until after the betrayal, death, and resurrection of our Lord that the disciples finally understood the full extent of what Jesus said and meant. Many scholars believe that John’s Gospel account was written around 90 A.D., almost sixty years after Jesus’ death. So the disciples, or at least John, didn’t understand the significance of Jesus’ words here in the upper room until several years after Jesus spoke them.

Which is to say, WE DON'T ALWAYS UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING JESUS SAYS. WE CAN READ HIS WORDS AND BE PERPLEXED BY WHAT HE MEANT. SOMETIMES IT TAKES YEARS OF TIME BEFORE THE FULL IMPACT OF JESUS' WORDS HIT HOME, THE LIGHT COMES ON, AND WE UNDERSTAND THE FULL MEANING OR EXTENT OF WHAT JESUS SAID.

Brethren, if you don’t understand what Jesus said, if the Bible mystifies or perplexes you, you’re not alone. We don’t understand everything either. Pray for wisdom, look for answers, talk with wise, spiritual, Biblically-literate believers, and one of these days you’ll see things a lot clearer and understand what Jesus meant.

When it comes to others, be patient with those who don’t see what you see. Spiritual understanding takes times—sometimes, years of time—for all of us to acquire. So be patient. Don’t criticize, ridicule, or berate them. You were once ignorant too. Lovingly and patiently explain the truth to people. Explain it to them as simply as you possibly can. Above all, pray for your loved ones to see and understand the truth of God’s Word. God will help them see and understand His Word. He’s got a right time for everything!

 

John 13:12-17, So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? {13} Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. {14} If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. {15} For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. {16} Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. {17} If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. John 13:12-17 (ESV),  When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?  (13)  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  (14)  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.  (15)  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.  (16)  Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  (17)  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

 

After He was done washing everyone’s feet, including Judas’, Jesus put His clothes back on, reclined at His place around the table, then told them what He just did and why He did it.

Remember that the disciples had been arguing about greatness. The desire for preeminence in the Kingdom had so possessed and occupied their entire being that none of them remembered Jesus’ previous teachings on servanthood. And because they didn’t remember Jesus’ teachings, they therefore didn’t observe or practice servanthood. No one volunteered, or took the initiative, to wash anyone’s feet, including the Lord’s and their own!

Spiritual truths are best understood in story form, such as a parable or in a live reenactment. So to help His disciples understand greatness in terms of servanthood, Jesus dramatized this truth by playing the role of a slave and washing everyone’s feet. If the Greatest among them was a servant to them all, then it behooved all of them who were the least to follow their Lord’s example and serve one another.

Friends, IF YOU CAN’T, OR DON’T, SERVE YOUR BRETHREN, THEN YOU ARE DEMONSTRATING BY YOUR ACTION THAT YOU ARE GREATER THAN OUR LORD.

This is how preposterous this notion of pride and greatness is! If the Greatest among us served, then we are all indebted to serve one another.

NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LORD'S COMMAND TO SERVE HIS OR HER BRETHREN.

In fact, Jesus says we are blessed when we serve others. Too many people look at service as a humbling, humiliating thing to do. LOOK AT SERVING OTHERS IN TERMS OF GOD BLESSING YOU--SEE IT AS A BLESSING--AND YOU'LL FIND THAT SERVING OTHERS ISN'T A DIFFICULT THING TO DO AT ALL!

 

ARE WE SUPPOSED TO WASH ONE ANOTHER’S FEET?

A question is raised at this point as to whether Jesus instituted feet washing as a rite, ordinance, or sacrament of the Christian Church. Did Jesus mean for all succeeding generations of Christians to wash one another’s feet? Or did He simply mean that we should serve one another just as our Lord Himself served us?

In answer, if the Lord meant for us to simply serve one another and nothing more, then this would have been a perfect opportunity for Him to say that: As I have served you, so serve ye one another. But what Jesus said was, As I have washed your feet, see to it that you wash one another’s feet. Follow my example. Not just of serving, but of washing feet.

I’m not one to get bogged down in terms as to whether feet washing is a rite, ordinance, or sacrament. Jesus said to do it and I believe we should do it as a matter of obedience to our Lord and as a matter of our emulating or following the example that He set for us.

Feet washing is not only an emulation of our Lord’s example, but it is also a living reminder and dramatization of our need to humble ourselves and serve one another.

Brethren, IF YOU EVER GET TO A POINT WHERE YOU THINK YOU ARE SO MUCH BETTER AND GREATER THAN YOUR BRETHREN, THEN THE BEST REMEDY I KNOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR PRIDE IS TO WASH YOUR BRETHREN'S FEET. It’ll put you in your place—on your knees serving the brethren. That’s where you belong. That’s where all of us belong.

 

THE BETRAYER IS EXPOSED

 

John 13:18-20, I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen:FN but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with meFN hath lifted up his heel against me.FN {19} Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.FN {20} Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. John 13:18-20 (ESV),  I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’  (19)  I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.  (20)  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

 

Jesus used an incident in David’s life, as well as a verse of Scripture, to tell His disciples that this sad history of betrayal and revolt by a close acquaintance would be replayed in our Lord’s life. He quotes Psalm 41:9 (NIV) here, Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me. What David’s friend Ahithophel did to him, one of the Lord’s disciples would now do to Him: a friend would rise up against the Lord and betray Him.

 

Matthew 26:21-22, And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. {22} And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I? Matthew 26:21-22 (ESV),  And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”  (22)  And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?”
Mark 14:18-19, And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me. {19} And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I? Mark 14:18-19 (NIV),  While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me."  (19)  They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, "Surely you don't mean me?"
Luke 22:21, 23, But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. {23} And they began to inquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing. Luke 22:21, 23 (NLT),  “But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me. {23}  The disciples began to ask each other which of them would ever do such a thing.
John 13:21-22, When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit,FN and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. {22} Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. John 13:21-22 (CEV),  After Jesus had said these things, he was deeply troubled and told his disciples, "I tell you for certain that one of you will betray me."  (22)  They were confused about what he meant. And they just stared at each other.

 

Thoughts of greatness now pale and fade from the apostles’ mind as they hear the fateful news that one of them would betray the Lord. Jesus prophesied all along that He would be delivered in the hands of the chief priests, be killed, and rise again on the third day. In his most recent prediction, He prophesied that He would be killed during Passover, Matthew 26:1-2. But here in the upper room, for the very first time, Jesus tells His disciples that one of them would be the betrayer.

The disciples were stunned! They couldn’t believe it! In fact, every last one of them took turns and asked our Lord, Is it I?

The Greek is even more revelatory. Each apostle rejected the notion that he would betray the Lord. Each one asked, Lord, it is not I, is it?

You see, the thought of betrayal was so far out of the apostles’ mind that no one, except Judas, entertained the thought. How truly loyal and faithful these men were to their Lord! They would not think of rising up against their Lord and delivering Him into the hands of His enemies. Up to this moment in time—and even after Judas himself was revealed as the betrayer—the apostles still didn’t grasp the fact that one of them would betray the Lord. It just can’t be, Lord! Not one of us!

 

Matthew 26:23-24, And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. {24} The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.FN Matthew 26:23-24 (CEV),  He answered, "One of you men who has eaten with me from this dish will betray me.  (24)  The Son of Man will die, as the Scriptures say. But it's going to be terrible for the one who betrays me! That man would be better off if he had never been born."
Mark 14:20-21, And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish. {21} The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born. Mark 14:20-21 (NLT),  He replied, “It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me.  (21)  For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”
Luke 22:22, And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed! Luke 22:22 (NIV),  The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!"

 

Everyone wanted to know who the betrayer was. If the disciples were like many of us today, they probably would have taken the traitor out and killed him. There’s no way these men are going to allow the traitor to do his evil deed and get their Lord killed! Remember that we’re dealing with an impetuous group of men here. Jesus is being deliberately vague here so as not to get Judas killed prematurely before his time.

The traitor is someone who’s dipping into the same bowl as Jesus. Because of the size of the company and the way the table was set, there were several bowls of the same food placed on the table so that everyone could have easy access to each course. The traitor was someone who was reclining close to Jesus so that they would both be dipping their bread into the same bowl of sop.

 

John 13:23-25, Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.FN {24} Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. {25} He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? John 13:23-25 (NIV),  One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.  (24)  Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means."  (25)  Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?"

 

John reclined right next to our Lord. Apparently, Peter was some ways away, reclining on another cushion. Naturally, like everyone else, Peter wanted to know who the betrayer was. So he motioned to John to ask Jesus for him.

 

John 13:26, Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. John 13:26 (CEV),  Jesus answered, "I will dip this piece of bread in the sauce and give it to the one I was talking about." Then Jesus dipped the bread and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.

 

Jesus told John that the betrayer was whoever He gave the sop to. It was common among Jews to dip a piece of bread or meat into a dish of broth or gravy. When Jesus did this He gave the sop to Judas. Judas was the betrayer!

Now there were three people who knew who the betrayer was: Judas, Jesus, and John. Since Peter initially raised the question with John, it’s quite probable that John motioned or signaled Jesus’ response to him. In which case, these four would know who the betrayer was.

Remember that the room is abuzz with the disciples talking to each other, asking who of them could possibly betray their Lord. So, with all the noise and commotion going on, none of the other disciples heard Jesus’ response or knew who the betrayer was (John 13:27-30).

 

Matthew 26:25, Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.FN Matthew 26:25 (NIV),  Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely you don't mean me, Rabbi?" Jesus answered, "You have said so."

 

Judas has been found out! Judas now knows that Jesus knows he is the betrayer. Was Judas so naïve? Did he think he could hide his evil intent from the Lord? That the Lord wouldn’t know what he was up to?

Friends, Jesus knows your heart. He knows what you’re thinking and planning. YOU HIDE NOTHING FROM HIM!

 

John 13:27-30, And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. {28} Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. {29} For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. {30} He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night. John 13:27-30 (NIV),  As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, "What you are about to do, do quickly."  (28)  But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him.  (29)  Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor.  (30)  As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

 

Even after Judas had been revealed, none of the apostles—with the exception of John and possibly Peter—knew that Judas was the betrayer. When our Lord dismissed him, the apostles thought that Judas was going out to buy more food for the feast or that he was going to get some things to give to the poor. They simply had no idea that Judas was a traitor! How well Judas hid his true nature and intentions!

Jesus’ words to Judas—What thou doest, do quickly¬—are quite instructive because they show that Jesus is in complete control of everything that’s happening. The Sanhedrin had already resolved not to do anything with Jesus until after the holidays when the crowds subside and when the chance of a public outcry would be the least (Matthew 26:3-5, Mark 14:1-2).

All Judas determined to do was betray Jesus at the right time. Specifically, in the absence of the multitude, Luke 22:6.

Luke’s statement could very well imply that Judas intended to betray Jesus sometime during the holidays, but only when there weren’t very many people around Jesus. But I deem this to be highly unlikely. Since Judas is in the Sanhedrin’s employ, he would have been obliged to abide by the Sanhedrin’s decision and wait until after the holidays to do his dastardly deed.

But all this is now changed. Judas has been discovered! Jesus knows his plan! Worse yet, John, and possibly Peter, now know what he’s up to. Betraying Jesus simply cannot wait until after the holidays.

With the element of surprise gone and the risk of the apostles stopping Judas from carrying out his plan, it was now incumbent that Jesus be betrayed and killed NOW!

So Judas leaves the upper room and heads to Caiaphas with his modified plans.

Apparently, the Sanhedrin concurs with Judas and the next time we see him a few short hours later, he appears with the arresting party in Gethsemane, come to take our Lord.

 

LOVE ONE ANOTHER

 

John 13:31-35, Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. {32} If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him. {33} Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. {34} A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. {35} By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:31-35 (NLT),  As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him.  (32)  And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will give his own glory to the Son, and he will do so at once.  (33)  Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going.  (34)  So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  (35)  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

 

Judas has left the upper room. He is not privy to the Lord’s supper or to the following last discourse of our Lord to His disciples.

In the face of Judas’ cold-blooded betrayal the Lord speaks to His disciples about the need for them to love one another. Here was the Lord, hours away from death, His heart heavy with human emotion. And of all the things He finds to say after Judas leaves the room, He talks to His disciples about love.

Brethren, when you’re betrayed by those closest to you, in the face of the evil and hatred of others, there’s one thing that Jesus wants you to do—one thing that He wants you to occupy your heart, mind, and life with. It’s not retaliation against those who’ve hurt you. It’s not criticism for those who’ve backstabbed you. It’s not hatred for the hypocrites you thought were your friends.

The one thing that Jesus wants you to be occupied with thinking and doing is…Love one another! Let love keep you all together. Don’t let one man’s evil cause you to fall apart. Stay together as a tight-knit group. As a church. As a fellowship of believers. Above all, love one another. It’s as if our Lord intended to say, Don’t imitate the evil deeds of Judas! Work on loving one another!

Brethren, let thoughts of love fill your mind and it will ease the pain and suffering that come when a close friend has lifted his or her heel against you. YOU COMBAT AND OVERCOME HATRED—NOT BY GIVING YOUR HEART, MIND, AND EMOTIONS TO HATRED, BUT BY PREOCCUPYING YOURSELF WITH LOVING OTHERS EVEN MORE.

Jesus goes on to say that the world will know we are Christ-followers by our love for our fellow Christians.

So many of us want others to know we are Christians

*by a particular belief, or set of beliefs, that we feel very strongly about, i.e. anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality, faith, speaking in tongues, divine healing, deliverance, etc.

*by the way we dress or look, i.e. no fancy, stylish clothes or prints, no jewelry, bearded men, head cap or covering, etc.

*by the way we live, i.e. in communes or closed communities, no electricity, electronics, or modern conveniences, no cars, etc.

*by the way we talk, i.e. we use “Christian” words like “blessed,” “trials,” or “Lord.” We talk a lot about Scriptures or doctrine. We always bring God, Jesus, or the Bible into our conversations. And the like.

Jesus says if we want the world to know we’re Christians, we need to love one another. That is, we need to love other Christians. He isn’t limiting love to just other Christians; He isn’t forbidding us from loving everybody. Jesus is simply saying that the world will have a hard time believing we’re Christians we if we don’t love one another, if we’re fighting one another, if we’re alienating ourselves from other Christians. No matter what we do to prove or show that we’re a Christians, non-Christians won’t buy it without love.

Jesus set an example of love. If you want to be a Christ follower, if you want to be known as a Christ follower, then love like He did. YOU CAN’T BE LIKE CHRIST WITHOUT LOVE.

What is a big, if not the biggest, hindrance to loving other believers? Pride, selfishness, being egotistical or egocentric.

Remember that Jesus is talking in the context of His disciples striving for preeminence over others. They were rushing into the upper room trying to get the best seat in the house. Then they started arguing about who was the greatest among them, Luke 22:24. Each one of them wanted to be number One. If these disciples were like us today, they probably started putting each other down and pointing out their faults or weaknesses. Obviously, you can't be the greatest without pointing out why other people can't possibly be the greatest.

In this context of strife and fighting to be the greatest or best, Jesus' command for us to love one another is an apt admonition for us to get our eyes off ourselves, quit trying to be number One, and strive instead to love and serve one another. Yes, hate is antithetical to love. The world isn't going to believe you're a Christ follower if you hate other Christians. But pride and the desire for preeminence is just as antithetical to love. Brethren, IF YOU WANT TO SHOW THE WORLD YOU'RE A CHRISTIAN, QUIT BEING PROUD AND EGOTISTICAL. QUIT BEING CRITICAL AND CONDEMNING OF OTHERS. GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE AND LOVE AND SERVE OTHERS.

 

JESUS PREDICTS THAT PETER WILL DENY HIM THREE TIMESFN

 

John 13:36-37, Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. {37} Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. John 13:36-37 (NLT),  Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.”  (37)  “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.”

 

Peter was determined to follow the Lord wherever He was going even if it cost him his life. He wasn’t willing to wait till later to follow the Lord. He wanted to follow the Lord NOW! To be sure, he fell apart when it came time to make good on his word. But you’ve got to give him this much credit: Peter had come to a point where he was willing to die for Jesus’ sake. He wasn’t just mouthing off these words. He meant every word he said. Unlike Peter, some don’t ever get to this point of self-sacrifice. As past history and future prophecy tell us, many end up denying the Lord because they’re not willing to suffer and die for Jesus’ sake.

Brethren, be honest as you possibly can. Are you willing to die for Jesus’ sake? If not, labor to get there. If so, your willingness is admirable. But, as Peter shows us, your willingness to die for Jesus’ sake requires the strength and courage, or fearlessness, to do that. Willingness is fine. But without the strength and courage, like Peter, you’ll fall through when it comes time for you to make good on your word. Having the willingness now, dear brethren, labor to get the strength and courage. Even that must come from the Lord.

 

John 13:38, Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice. John 13:38 (NIV),  Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

 

Jesus knows everything about us. We can be so confident and sure about ourselves, but the Lord has a way of humbling us and putting us in our place.

“Peter, before the cock crows you will deny Me three times.”

There were four night watches: 6 – 9 PM constituted the evening watch; 9 – 12 PM was the midnight watch; 12 – 3 AM was known as the cockcrowing watch because that’s when the cocks crew; and 3 – 6 AM was the early morning watch.

This division of the night watch is seen in Mark 13:35, Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning.

Jesus not only knows that Peter is going to deny Him, but He also knows when Peter is going to do it.FN

 

JESUS INSTITUTES THE LORD'S SUPPERFN

 

Matthew 26:26-28, And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it,FN and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. {27} And he took the cup, and gave thanks,FN and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; {28} For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Matthew 26:26-28 (CEV),  During the meal Jesus took some bread in his hands. He blessed the bread and broke it. Then he gave it to his disciples and said, "Take this and eat it. This is my body."  (27)  Jesus picked up a cup of wine and gave thanks to God. He then gave it to his disciples and said, "Take this and drink it.  (28)  This is my blood, and with it God makes his agreement with you. It will be poured out, so that many people will have their sins forgiven.
Mark 14:22-24, And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. {23} And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. {24} And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Mark 14:22-24 (NLT),  As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.”  (23)  And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.  (24)  And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many.
Luke 22:19-20, And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. {20} Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. Luke 22:19-20 (NIV),  And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."  (20)  In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

 

The Passover, you will remember, was a perpetual feast of the Jews meant to celebrate and commemorate the passing over of the angel of death.

The Lord had decreed a tenth and final plague against Pharaoh in which all the firstborn of men and beasts would be smitten and killed by the angel of death.

However, so as to spare the firstborn of the Israelites from death, God’s people were commanded to kill a lamb and sprinkle its blood over the doorposts of their homes. When the angel of death saw the blood the angel would pass by that house and not smite the firstborn of that household.

So, in a very real way, the Passover was a celebration of life. The blood of the lamb was a deliverance from death. You can read the Passover story for yourself in Exodus 11 – 12.

As the Passover meal draws to a close Jesus institutes what has come to be known as the Lord’s Supper. What the Passover meal is to Jews, the Lord’s Supper is to Christians: it is a commemoration of our Lord’s death and a celebration of the life that we enjoy by reason of His death.

His death is depicted in terms of the bread and wine. Jesus takes a loaf of unleavened bread, thanks the Father for it, then breaks a piece off for Himself. He passes the loaf on to His disciples and they also break off a piece for themselves.FN The breaking of bread would symbolize or depict the breaking of Jesus’ body in death.

Next, Jesus takes a chalice of wine and again thanks the Father for the fruit of the vine. He takes a sip, passes the chalice to His disciples who do the same, then He explains the meaning or significance of what they have just done.

The wine symbolizes or depicts the Lord’s shedding of His blood. Just as the shedding of the blood of the Paschal lamb resulted in death to the lamb but life to the Israelites; so the shedding of Jesus’ blood would result in His death, but impart life to those who believe and receive Him as Savior.FN

 

Matthew 26:29, But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. Matthew 26:29 (ESV),  I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.”
Mark 14:25, Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God. Mark 14:25 (NIV),  "Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."
Luke 22:15-18, And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:FN {16} For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. {17} And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: {18} For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. Luke 22:15-18 (NLT),  Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins.  (16)  For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.”  (17)  Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves.  (18)  For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.”

 

This will be Jesus’ last chance to drink wine before He dies. The next time He drinks it with them will be when the Kingdom of God shall come. When is this?

*Jesus ate and drank with His disciples after He rose from the dead, Luke 24:30-31, John 21:9,15. But this cannot be the time that He’s referring to here because His use of the word new in reference to the fruit of the vine indicates that Jesus isn’t talking about ordinary wine. Rather, He’s talking about a new kind of wine such as the one that’s served in Heaven; or a new kind of wine made when the Earth is renewed during Christ’s Millennial reign on the Earth.

*Luke’s inclusion of Jesus’ words, Until the kingdom of God shall come {to the Earth}, hints strongly at the fact that Jesus is referring to the Millennium when God’s Kingdom is established on the Earth. Luke 22:30 provides ample testimony of this truth, That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.FN When will the apostles rule over the twelve tribes of Israel? During the Millennium.

 

JESUS' UPPER ROOM DISCOURSEFN

 

John 14:1a, Let not your heart be troubled.FN John 14:1a (NLT), Don't let your hearts be troubled.

 

For twelve men who fought among themselves for greatness in the soon-to-be-established Messianic Kingdom of God on the Earth, this Passover meal has gone very much awry.

*They’ve been humbled by the Lord’s washing of their feet, John 13:3ff.

*The betrayer has been revealed and, stunningly beyond their comprehension or imagination, the betrayer was someone within their apostolic ranks, John 13:21-26.

*Jesus goes on to speak of the imminence of His departure, John 13:33.

*Then He predicts something that was so far out of the range of Peter’s thinking—that Peter would end up denying Him that very night, John 13:38.

*Next, Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper, Mark 14:22-25. For the discerning and astute among them, the symbolism of this Supper hinted strongly at Jesus’ death: His body would be broken, His blood would be shed.

*Not only does the Supper speak of Jesus’ death, but it hints that this would be His last meal with them until He eats once again with them in the coming Kingdom of God, Luke 22:15-20.

Without a doubt, the air is heavy here in the upper room and sadness has overtaken the hearts of our Lord’s apostles, John 16:6. Their hearts are troubled by everything that Jesus has said.

Their sadness, no doubt, was mixed with fear as to what would befall both our Lord and themselves in the very near future, John 14:27.

So what Jesus does here in this upper room discourse is He comforts the hearts of His disciples. Brethren, Jesus reserved His last discourse with His disciples to comfort their troubled hearts!

Do you think God doesn’t care about the sorrows and fears, the doubts and apprehensions, that fill your mind? Think again, my dear friends. Jesus sees the trouble in your heart and He moves quickly to bring peace and calm to your troubled mind and spirit.

And how does He do that? By speaking to you directly and personally. Brethren, DON'T NEGLECT TO READ GOD'S WORD DURING TROUBLED, SORROWFULFUL, FEARFUL TIMES BECAUSE THE COMFORT, PEACE, WISDOM, AND STRENGTH THAT YOU SEEK OR NEED ARE FOUND IN THE WORD!

GO DIRECTLY IN JESUS' PRESENCE IN PRAYER AND HE WILL SPEAK PEACE TO YOUR TROUBLED SOUL. The Lord, dear friends, doesn’t want you to be troubled!

Above all, don't turn your back on the Lord and walk away from Him. True peace and help aren't found anywhere else but in Jesus.

 

John 14:1b, Ye believe in God, believe also in me. John 14:1b (NIV), You believe in God; believe also in me.

 

In your hour of sadness and fear, what does the Lord say to you? He encourages and exhorts you to believe! In fact, it’s a command. THE CURE FOR TROUBLED HEARTS, DEAR FRIENDS, IS FAITH! When your spirit is ravaged with doubts and fears, when your mind is tormented with confusions and perplexities; the cure is to get your eyes and mind off of your troubles, get focused on Jesus, and believe!

Believe what? Believe all the things He’s told you, especially the many promises of Scripture. Brethren, focus on the promises of God’s Word. Meditate on them. Confess them. Believe them. And as you do, you’ll find God’s Word expelling the doubts, fears, and sadness from your mind. His peace will start filling your heart and give you a sense that everything will be all right!

In the context of our Lord’s discourse to His apostles, the call to faith is centered on the promise of prophecy. Let’s read it in verses 2-4.

 

John 14:2, In my Father’s house are many mansions:FN if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.FN John 14:2 (CEV),  There are many rooms in my Father's house. I wouldn't tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you.

 

1. THE PROMISE OF A HEAVENLY HOME.

The words of peace that Jesus speaks to the troubled hearts of His disciples center around several promises that He gives them—promises of a rather prophetic nature.

The first such promise is the promise of Heavenly mansions. Remember that Jesus is speaking to mortals who haven’t been to Heaven. They’ve never seen Heaven. They haven’t got much of a clue as to what Heaven is like. So to help them understand the future and the reward that awaits them, Jesus likens Heaven to His Father’s House. Heaven is where God lives. And in His House are many mansions. Jesus Himself is going there to get their mansions ready for them.

Now the Jews believed in God and in Heaven. But, for the most part, their idea of the after-life was confined to two places:

(1) Hades, the place where the disembodied spirits of all dead men go when they die; and

(2) Earth where they will be resurrected in body, reunited with their spirits delivered out from Hades, and dwell eternally in the Messianic Kingdom. In that age, Messiah will rule the world and the Jews themselves will occupy a place of preeminence among the nations. They will help Messiah rule the world.

So the idea of spending eternity with God in Heaven wasn’t much thought about. It was one of those things that the Jews just didn’t spend a whole lot of time talking about.

What we find Jesus doing here is, He introduces the promise of a life in Heaven with the Father and Himself! For a Jew, it was a radical way of thinking. A radical vision of the future. In many ways, it was a claim too fantastic as to be incredulous.

So to help assure His disciples of the veracity of His promise He lays His credibility on the line and says, If it were not so, I would have told you.

Friends, don’t ever doubt Jesus’ Word! IF WHAT HE SAID WASN'T TRUE HE WOULDN'T HAVE SAID IT. JESUS SPEAKS ONLY THE TRUTH. ALWAYS THE TRUTH. AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH. Jesus saying it makes it real, makes it true, makes it a matter of literal fulfillment.

Take comfort here, dear brethren. Jesus doesn’t make empty, groundless promises. He doesn’t give false hopes and expectations. He doesn't say anything that's false, wrong, or not true!

Let the fact of Jesus’ veracity and the reward of a mansion in Heaven fill your heart and bring peace in the midst of trouble. Brethren, don’t be disheartened by everything you’re going through here and now. There’s a mansion waiting for you in Heaven! Jesus Himself is getting it ready for you! Cheer up! You’ve got something Heavenly to look forward to!

 

John 14:3-4, And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. {4} And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. John 14:3-4 (NIV),  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  (4)  You know the way to the place where I am going."

 

2. THE PROMISE OF HIS COMING BACK FOR THEM.

Another cure for troubled hearts is the promise that Jesus is coming back again to receive us unto Himself.

Scholars throughout the years have equated this promise with Jesus’ second coming. But when Jesus comes again He will come with ten thousands of His saints, Jude 14. He will come to Earth and remain on Earth where He will establish His Millennial Kingdom, Revelation 19-20. He doesn’t take us back to His Father’s House and to our Heavenly mansions. So what Jesus has reference to here in John 14 is not His second coming.

Because Jesus promised to come back for His disciples and take them to their Heavenly mansions, then the promise of John 14 can refer to one of two things.

*It can refer to death. When we die Jesus comes to our side and takes us to our Heavenly home.

*If not death, then the promise can refer to the rapture.FN

In any case, there’s a lot of comfort in knowing that, in view of Jesus’ absence and our separation from Him, we’re going to be reunited with the Lord once again. Separation won’t last forever! There’s a time coming when we will be with the Lord once again and we’ll never more again be separated from Him! Hallelujah! Lord, hasten that day!FN

 

John 14:5-11, Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest;FN and how can we know the way? {6} Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. {7} If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. {8} Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. {9} Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? {10} Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. {11} Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. John 14:5-11 (NLT),  “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  (6)  Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.  (7)  If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”  (8)  Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”  (9)  Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?  (10)  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me.  (11)  Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.

 

The disciples of our Lord, like the Jewish religious leaders and the rest of their Jewish brethren, were slow to comprehend and accept Jesus’ oneness with the Father. In the Jewish mind, if God is One and if He dwells in Heaven, then how could Jesus be God if He’s on Earth while God Himself is in Heaven? You end up with two Gods!

For monotheistic Jews who clung stubbornly to the Deuteronomic truth that the Lord our God is one Lord, Jesus’ claims about His oneness with the Father made it very difficult to believe Him.

And yet this is precisely what Jesus would have us do! Believe Him. Believe His claims. Believe that He is one with the Father.

Brethren, THERE ARE TRUTHS THAT THE HUMAN MIND CANNOT FATHOM OR REASON. They’re beyond comprehension because we are mortals and God is so much bigger, greater, and infinite in wisdom and might than we are.

While humans are not prone to believe something that their minds cannot understand, this is precisely what Jesus commands us to do with regards to Himself, His identity, His Word. Which is to say, dearly beloved, that WE'RE SUPPOSED TO BELIEVE THE TRUTH AS IT COMES FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD EVEN WHEN THAT TRUTH IS BEYOND HUMAN REASON OR UNDERSTANDING.

What is the truth? Jesus is God in human flesh. It is God who speaks and works through Him. To see Him is to see God. To know Him is to know God.

 

John 14:12, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do;FN because I go unto my Father.FN John 14:12 (NLT),  “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.

 

3. THE PROMISE OF GREATER WORKS.

The sadness that we feel and the uncertainty or fear that we have by virtue of Jesus’ leaving us are offset by Jesus’ promise that we would do His works. And not His works only, but even greater works than He did!

Jesus is telling us here that He’s leaving us and in His absence we’ve got a job to do. We’ve got to carry on His work.

Do you think you’re not up to the task? Do you think you can’t duplicate what Christ did? Think again, brethren. Jesus Himself said that we can do—with an air of certainty, we shall do—what He did. And do even greater things than He ever did! There’s no pride or boast in that, dear brethren. Jesus Himself promised our ability and our success to do that. And His promise is a reflection of His will! Jesus, my friends, wants us to duplicate His works and do even greater works than He ever did! Despite the greatness and multiplicity of the task that remains for us to do, we must take comfort in the fact that we can do it!

 

John 14:13-14, And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. {14} If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. John 14:13-14 (NLT),  You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.  (14)  Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!

 

4. THE PROMISE OF ANSWERED PRAYER.

The comfort that Jesus gives to troubled hearts is the promised of answered prayer.

We’ve got a lot to do for Jesus. Besides that, we ourselves are going to suffer need as we go through the trials and persecutions that God’s people go through. So to help us get the work done and persevere in our trials, Jesus invites us to call upon Him for help.

He will do whatever we need Him to do for us. His use of the words whatsoever and any thing, coupled with the certainty of His answer—I will do it, which He says two times—provides us with the immense comfort of knowing that WHATEVER WE HAVE NEED OF WILL BE PROVIDED OR DONE FOR US BY OUR LORD. What a Servant Lord we have!

I understand the concern that many Christians have whenever the doors to answered prayer are thrown wide open. Christians do run the risk of turning God into a celestial Santa Claus and Christians can get carnal when they’re given a lot of God’s blessings and prosperities.

But don’t fear. Jesus understands that concern, He knows human nature and tendencies, and that’s why He follows the promise of answered prayer with the command of obedience. If you’re obedient, dear friend, you won’t be carnal. You won’t misuse God’s blessings. You won’t use the promise of answered prayer for carnal or sinful ends.

 

John 14:15-26, If ye love me, keep my commandments. {16} And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; {17} Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. {18} I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. {19} Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. {20} At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. {21} 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. {22} Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? {23} Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. {24} He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. {25} These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. {26} But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. John 14:15-26 (NLT),  “If you love me, obey my commandments.  (16)  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.  (17)  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.  (18)  No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.  (19)  Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live.  (20)  When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.  (21)  Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”  (22)  Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”  (23)  Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.  (24)  Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.  (25)  I am telling you these things now while I am still with you.  (26)  But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

 

5. THE PROMISE OF THE COMFORTER.

The sorrow and fear that we face in view of Jesus’ departure and absence are offset by the promise of the Holy Spirit’s coming. When Jesus goes back to the Father in Heaven the Spirit will come to us and dwell, or live, inside of us. What will He do for us?

(A) The Spirit is a Comforter, verse 16.FN In the Greek, a paraklete is someone who is called upon to help or intercede for another; he acts as an advocate on a person’s behalf, taking up his cause, defending him, and working for his general good or well-being.

Brethren, the Spirit is like having a bodyguard and lawyer with us twenty-four hours a day. We are never without help! And BECAUSE WE'RE NEVER WITHOUT HELP, WE'RE NEVER WITHOUT HOPE! Hallelujah!

Jesus’ use of the word another is especially comforting. While Jesus was with us He worked for our good. He was our Help. Our Provider. Our Financier. Our Healer. Our Savior. Our Deliverer. Our Teacher. Our Counselor. Our Defender. And more. And now that He’s going away, what will become of us?

Brethren, Jesus is going to send the Spirit to be another Comforter. He’s going to be everything that Jesus was to us. He’s going to do everything that Jesus did for us. It’s like having Jesus with us. Not with us in body, but with us in Spirit. Brethren, the Lord sure knows how to comfort us! We are not without His presence and help!

(B) The Spirit is not only a constant Source of help to us, but He’s also a Teacher, verse 26. He’s going to remind us of everything that Jesus taught us in His Word. He’s going to teach us.

Our time of learning with Jesus, or from Jesus, isn’t over by any means or by any stretch of the imagination! Even in Jesus’ bodily absence we’re going to be learning new things. All things.

Brethren, JESUS DOESN'T WANT US TO STOP LEARNING! HE HASN'T TAUGHT US EVERYTHING! There are still more things for us to learn! And if we’re going to learn, then we’re going to need to be still long enough to listen to the Spirit and wait on Him to illumine the Scriptures and the truth.



6. THE PROMISE OF JESUS’ COMING AND COMMUNION.

While Jesus is not with us bodily, He’s nevertheless with us in Spirit.

If we were one of the apostles present in the upper room without having the advantage of rewinding a taped message or rereading a printed sermon, we would have to really listen intently to what Jesus said. He said He was going away, John 13:33. He was going to Heaven to prepare a mansion for us, John 14:2. When He leaves He’s going to have the Father send us the Holy Spirit Comforter, John 14:16. And when the Spirit comes to us to live inside us Jesus said He would come to us, John 14:18. Unlike His second, visible, bodily return to Earth, Jesus’ coming to us would be in the form of the Holy Spirit. He would be with us in Spirit. Look at verse 18 once again, I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. In other words, His coming to us again is in the form of the Comforter.

Make no mistake, dear friends. Jesus is coming back bodily for us one day soon. But until that time comes, He’s already with us in Spirit through the Holy Spirit who indwells us. So the comfort of Jesus’ departure is the promise of His return in the form of the abiding, indwelling Holy Spirit.

Not only that, but the promise of Jesus’ coming is also the promise of His and the Father’s communion with us.FN Jesus said that both He and the Father will come unto him, and make our abode with him, verse 23.FN

For a Jew this was indeed a staggering statement! The Jews treated God with a deep, but distant, reverence. They were so awed by His holiness and greatness, His power and His wrath, that they kept their distance from Him. God was not a personal God to them. So the idea of having a communion with God Himself was an Earth-shattering revelation to them.

Jesus comforts His disciples by telling them that, although He’s going away, He’s nevertheless coming back to them in Spirit, He’s with them, and both He and the Father are abiding with them. Brethren, that’s good news! JESUS IS NEVER FAR AWAY! He’s not with us in bodily form—that day is coming soon. But He’s with us in Spirit. Both the Father and the Son are with us.FN To act as our Advocate, Helper, and Defender. We have nothing to fear! Come what may, despite what the future holds, we have God by our side! That, dear friends, is real comfort and strength!

 

John 14:27-28, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. {28} Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. John 14:27-28 (CEV),  I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give. It isn't like the peace that this world can give. So don't be worried or afraid.  (28)  You have already heard me say that I am going and that I will also come back to you. If you really love me, you should be glad that I am going back to the Father, because he is greater than I am.

 

7. THE PROMISE OF JESUS’ PEACE.

Jesus’ provision and cure for troubled hearts is His peace.

Like these disciples of our Lord, all of us have troubles and trials from time to time. We all get troubled in heart, mind, and spirit. While Jesus wants us to believe, and while believing is a cure for heavy hearts (John 14:1); it’s not totally up to us alone to free ourselves from the web of fear, despair, and depression that sometimes ensnare us. Jesus is here to help us. To deliver us from the heavy, disheartening emotions that sap us of our joy, our strength, and our hope. Jesus, dear friends, gives us His peace. It’s His answer and cure for whatever troubles you.

But peace is a gift. And like any other gift, it’s something that you have to accept or receive for yourself. You see, the gift doesn’t do you any good if you don’t take it. Jesus’ peace, like medicine, works! But it won’t work for you if you don’t take it.

Beloved, get your mind off of yourself and your troubling circumstances. Focus on Jesus. Accept His peace. And your spirit will be revived.

Your troubles may not go away right away. But with Jesus’ peace in your heart, you’ll have the courage, strength, and clarity of mind to face your troubles and prevail.

 

John 14:29, And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. John 14:29 (NLT),  I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.

 

Jesus wants us to believe.

Sometimes our doubts and unbelief are deliberate on our part: we simply refuse to believe what God said. This is the kind of rank and putrid unbelief that Jesus rebukes.

But then there are times when we’re plagued with doubts that prevent us believing just now. We want to believe, but we can’t because we’ve got these doubts and questions that challenge our faith.

Sometimes it’s our lack of knowledge or understanding that keeps us from believing.

Jesus understands our present lack of faith. The cure for it, in this case with the disciples, is fulfilled prophecy or Scripture. Jesus has prophesied His departure and His return to them in Spirit. When Pentecost comes and the Spirit descends upon them and indwells them, the words of Jesus here in the upper room will come to pass and then the disciples will believe. Their believing, you see, is directly dependent or tied to the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy.

 

John 14:30, Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. John 14:30 (CEV),  I cannot speak with you much longer, because the ruler of this world is coming. But he has no power over me.

 

From our human perspective, there’s something ominous in our Lord’s words here. We get the distinct impression that our time with Jesus is very short. We haven’t got much time left to be together with Jesus. After this evening He’s not going to be talking much with us. It has something to do with the prince of this world coming. Is he coming to get Jesus? Something sinister is on the horizon. It’s disheartening to the disciples all right.

There are times when we don’t understand what God is saying. There are parts of Scripture that baffle and perplex us. We strive so much for understanding: we want to understand! But Jesus wants us to believe ever more. To believe even when we don’t understand.

The ominous future is part of the prophecy that will be fulfilled: (a) when it happens these disciples shouldn’t be shocked or surprised. Jesus said all along that it was going to happen; and (b) when it does happen, the thing to do—even in this seeming setback to our faith or anticipations—is believe, not grow disillusioned with our Lord and forsake Him. When these things come to pass, that’s the time to believe!

 

John 14:31, But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence. John 14:31 (NASB),  but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here.

 

Did Jesus leave the upper room at this time with His disciples? We read in John 18:1 that When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.

There’s two chapters left in Jesus’ discourse and, after that, His High Priestly prayer before the apostolic company cross the Kidron Brook.

It’s possible that this portion of the discourse and the prayer were spoken en route to Kidron. But I rather doubt that because the beauty and solemnity of the discourse and prayer are something that just doesn’t belong on the streets. They’re something that would be difficult to say, and hear, as you’re walking along—especially if the narrow city streets are filled with pilgrims heading home for the night.

One proposal that has been put forward is, Jesus and the apostolic company left the upper room at this time and, prior to leaving the city, made a last stop at the Temple. The porticoes of the Sacred House, now emptied of its worshippers at this late hour of the night, would admittedly have been an ideal setting for the remainder of Jesus’ discourse and His prayer.

 

John 15:1-17, I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. {2} Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. {3} Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. {4} Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. {5} I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. {6} If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. {7} If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. {8} Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. {9} As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. {10} If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. {11} These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. {12} This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. {13} Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. {14} Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. {15} Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. {16} Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. {17} These things I command you, that ye love one another. John 15:1-17 (NIV),  "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  (2)  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  (3)  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  (4)  Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  (5)  "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  (6)  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  (7)  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  (8)  This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.  (9)  "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.  (10)  If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love.  (11)  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  (12)  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  (13)  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.  (14)  You are my friends if you do what I command.  (15)  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  (16)  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.  (17)  This is my command: Love each other.

 

Remember that this is Jesus’ last discourse to His disciples before His arrest and crucifixion. It’s His farewell address, if you would. His last words to them. He spends some time comforting His disciples with the promise of His return and His continuing presence with them in the form of the Holy Spirit. But He also has some last-minute instructions that He wants to leave with them.

If you were Jesus and you had a wide range of things to say to your disciples, but don’t have the time to reiterate everything you’ve told them the past three-and-a-half years, what would you choose to emphasize and say? Jesus chose four things with respect to Himself and one thing with respect to men.

1. OUR DUTY TO GOD. Abide in Me. Bear fruit. Love Me. And keep My commandments.

*What does Christianity as a religion mean to you? What does it mean to be a Christian and live the Christian life? We all have our ideas. Christianity, according to Jesus, is communing, walking, or abiding, with God. It’s a personal relationship with God. If you don’t have this personal relationship with God you have to seriously wonder if you’re a true Christian or just a Christian in name. The Christian life is walking with God by your side and asking His input as you walk through life. A Christian gets as close to God as he or she can and stays there. If God isn't in your life, if He isn't a big part of your life, you seriously need to get closer to Him.

*For a lot of Christians, being a Christian is primarily about going to church on Sunday. Then we forget all about God the rest of the week. True Christianity is bearing fruit. Godly, Christian fruit. If you know your fruit trees, you can tell what kind of fruit tree a particular tree is even when it doesn’t have any fruit on it. But, for the most part, we know what kind of tree a fruit tree is by the fruits that hang on its branches. The fruits tell you what the tree is. Can other people tell you’re a Christian by the life you live? Each one of us have all kinds of fruit hanging on our branches. Some fruits good. Some fruits not. Does our fruit tell others we’re a Christian or not one at all?

*God wants us to love Him. When you love someone you think a lot about him or her. You spend a lot of time with the people you love. You talk to the ones you love. If God is far from your mind, if you rarely spend any time with God, if you don’t talk a whole lot to God; can you really say you love God at all? We’re pretty good at saying things and making ourselves look and feel good about ourselves. If God isn’t a real or vital part of our life, we really don’t love Him as much as we think and say we do.

*God wants us to obey Him. He told us a lot of things in the Bible that He wants us to do. We look at these things and see them as rules or laws. And because we live in such a free and independently-minded culture and time, we just don’t take God’s words (His laws) seriously. We don’t do them because we don’t want to be legalistic Christians. I look at God’s laws in a whole different light. I see them as God watching out for me and telling me what’s good for me. Parents tell their children what to do and not do because they love their children and want to protect them. Rules are for their children’s good. Ditto for God’s rules. When you look at God’s rules with God’s love for you written all over them, you’ll see His rules in a whole different light and you’ll obey Him simply because you love Him and appreciate what He’s doing to keep you safe and out of Hell.

 

2. OUR DUTY TO MEN. We must love one another: These things I command you, that ye love one another.

There were a lot of things that Jesus could have chosen to tell us in the last hours before He was taken from us. But Jesus chose to emphasize the fact that we need to be faithful to Him and fruitful as His followers. Our relationship with God must be based on our love for Him. And our love for Him must be expressed in a life of obedience to Him.

But there’s more to Christianity than just a personal walk with God. There are other Christians beside yourself. Christianity is a church, a fellowship, a family, of believers. See to it that you love them too!

 

John 15:18-16:4, If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. {19} If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. {20} Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you;FN if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. {21} But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. {22} If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. {23} He that hateth me hateth my Father also. {24} If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. {25} But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.

{26} But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: {27} And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.

{16:1} These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. {2} They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.FN {3} And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. {4} But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.

John 15:18-16:4 (NIV),  "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  (19)  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.  (20)  Remember what I told you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.  (21)  They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.  (22)  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.  (23)  Whoever hates me hates my Father as well.  (24)  If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father.  (25)  But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.'

 (26)  "When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.  (27)  And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

(16:1)  "All this I have told you so that you will not fall away.  (2)  They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.  (3)  They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.  (4)  I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you.

 

Jesus spends these last few moments with His disciples, not only comforting and instructing them, but also predicting for them the immediate course of their life here on Earth. They would be persecuted by their countrymen, excommunicated from the synagogue, and some of them would even be killed. Why? Because they are followers of Christ. And as Christ Himself was persecuted and rejected by those who didn’t know Him or believe Him, so also all those who believe and follow Him will likewise suffer what He suffered at the hands of unbelieving men.

Admittedly, any thought of suffering, persecution, or rejection is a disheartening one at first. No one savors the thought of suffering! Jesus doesn’t intend to dishearten us, but to warn us of what lies ahead for us so that when the persecution comes we wouldn’t be surprised and offended. We’ll be ready for it, we’ll be expecting it, because Jesus said it would come. And because He said it would come, then it would surely come.

Implicit in the warning is a comfort that can be ours if we would receive it. It is the comfort that, as Jesus Himself was persecuted, so will we.

Brethren, it is a privilege and honor to suffer for Christ’s sake. Philippians 1:29 tells us, For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake. THOSE WHO BELIEVE MUST ALSO SUFFER! Friends, don’t be disheartened in your trials. Rejoice in the fact that you’ve been counted worthy to suffer for Jesus’ sake, Acts 5:41.

 

John 16:5-16, But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? {6} But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. {7} Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. {8} And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: {9} Of sin, because they believe not on me; {10} Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; {11} Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. {12} I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. {13} Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. {14} He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. {15} All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you. {16} A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. John 16:5-16 (NLT),  “But now I am going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going.  (6)  Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you.  (7)  But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.  (8)  And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.  (9)  The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.  (10)  Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more.  (11)  Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.  (12)  “There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now.  (13)  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.  (14)  He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me.  (15)  All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’  (16)  “In a little while you won’t see me anymore. But a little while after that, you will see me again.”

 

Though we are saddened and disheartened by the fact that Jesus is leaving, the truth is, Jesus’ leaving is really for our good. It’s for the better.

In Jesus’ words, It is expedient for you that I go away. Now that word expedient means something that’s good, better, or profitable. In other words, Jesus’ leaving is for the better. It’s going to work for our good.

That seems so incomprehensible to us right now because all we see is the present and we have no grasp of the good that lies ahead. It reminds me of what we often encounter here on Earth. Our hearts are saddened by the loss and death of those whom we love. We suffer trials and injuries that cause no good, but only pain. Our prayers are not always answered. At least, not in the way we thought they would be answered. Things go completely contrary to the way we thought and hoped and prayed that they would go. And we see no possible good that can come out of the heartache and pain we bear.

But Jesus’ words ring true, as subsequent history proves. His leaving was indeed for our good. The Holy Spirit has come and through Him we’ve been empowered to live the Christian life and do the works of Christ and greater. He’s taught us and showed us things to come. He’s spoken words of comfort and wisdom in life’s dark, confusing hours. Though we may be hesitant at times to admit it, Jesus was right all along—His leaving us was really for the best.

Friends, for life’s dark hours and sad moments, cling to this promise of our Lord—that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose, Romans 8:28.

1 Corinthians 2:9 goes on to read, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

Our minds may not comprehend what in the world God is doing. Where’s the good in everything He’s allowed? Beloved, take God at His Word and believe. He’s doing something good. And it will be a matter of time before we enter into the goodness that He’s laid up and prepared for us.

Brethren, IF YOU WILL HOLD FAST TO GOD AND REMAIN FAITHFUL TO HIM DESPITE ALL THE THINGS THAT HE ALLOWS, GOD WILL ONE DAY MAKE GOOD ON HIS WORD--GOOD WILL COME OUT OF SORROW AND TRAGEDY. LOOK BEYOND THE PRESENT GRIEF. BELIEVE STILL IN GOD'S GOODNESS. THE GOOD WILL COME!

 

John 16:17-28, Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? {18} They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith. {19} Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye inquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? {20} Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. {21} A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a manFN is born into the world. {22} And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. {23} And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. {24} Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. {25} These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father. {26} At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: {27} For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. {28} I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. John 16:17-28 (NLT),  Some of the disciples asked each other, “What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me,’ and ‘I am going to the Father’?  (18)  And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.”  (19)  Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again.  (20)  I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy.  (21)  It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world.  (22)  So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.  (23)  At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name.  (24)  You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.  (25)  “I have spoken of these matters in figures of speech, but soon I will stop speaking figuratively and will tell you plainly all about the Father.  (26)  Then you will ask in my name. I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf,  (27)  for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God.  (28)  Yes, I came from the Father into the world, and now I will leave the world and return to the Father.”

 

The comfort of Jesus’ leaving and coming again was confusing the disciples. Is He going on a trip out of Judea and then coming back again? Or is He going to Heaven and then coming right back? What does Jesus mean?

Jesus senses the perplexity of His disciples and He takes the time to answer their question. He alludes to His death and resurrection in terms of a woman being in travail for the delivery of her baby. There’s some pain involved, but as soon as the baby’s born she forgets all about the pain and is overcome with joy at the baby that she now holds in her hands.

In much the same way, Jesus’ death will be a time of sorrow for the disciples. But the sorrow won’t last long. They will yet rejoice again when Jesus rises from the dead. Jesus will come back to them after He’s resurrected. Then He will leave them once again to go back to Heaven to be with the Father. But when He leaves, the Comforter will come to take Jesus’ place as the Help of His people.

8. THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER’S LOVE.

The comfort that Jesus leaves with His disciples is the fact that they’re loved by the Father. For the Father himself loveth you, verse 27.

Friends, I find great comfort and solace in the fact that God loves me. I don’t have to worry about not being loved by God. I don’t have to strive to earn or merit His love. I can live free from the torment of rejection and condemnation. The truth is, God loves me right now! He loves you too! He loves us all who love and believe in our Lord.

The Jews treated God with a distant sort of reverence and awe. But Jesus wants us to cultivate an intimacy with the Father. When you have any kind of need, Jesus says, I want you to go directly to the Father Himself and ask Him. He loves you. And He’ll answer your prayer! Wow! Direct access to the Father and receiving blessings and answers to prayer from the Father! Brethren, it’s all because of Jesus who has given us direct access to the Father! Thank you, Jesus, for all you’ve done!

 

John 16:29-33, His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. {30} Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God. {31} Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? {32} Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. {33} These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:29-33 (NLT),  Then his disciples said, “At last you are speaking plainly and not figuratively.  (30)  Now we understand that you know everything, and there’s no need to question you. From this we believe that you came from God.”  (31)  Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe?  (32)  But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.  (33)  I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

 

9. THE COMFORT OF JESUS’ TRIUMPH.

The final comfort that Jesus leaves with His disciples is the comfort of His triumph and victory over all: Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world!

Despite everything that will happen to Jesus, and despite everything that the disciples are going to be going through for Jesus’ sake, they can be comforted in knowing that victory belongs the Lord. He’s not going to be victorious: He’s already, present tense, right now, victorious. He’s victorious even over those who would rise up against Him and persecute or kill Him.

From our human vantage point, Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion appear to be defeat: men have taken Him and killed Him! But there’s something here that we don’t see, brethren. It’s Jesus’ obedience to the Father and His voluntary death as an atonement and salvation for all those who would believe on Him. He came to die. To save. His murderers—while appearing victorious for the moment—only aided in His victory of accomplishing what He came to Earth to accomplish. Despite His death, He won!

Do you know what we can learn here, dear friends? We can learn to look at life’s setbacks or apparent defeats in the positive, victorious light of God’s higher plan and purpose. We don’t always know His plan or purpose. Sometimes we’re clueless and don’t have the foggiest notion of what God’s up to. But we can always, at all times, in every trial and circumstance of life, rest assured that our God is an all-conquering, all-victorious Warrior, He doesn’t ever lose in whatever He set out to do, and, despite whatever things may look like to us right now, He’s working all things for our good. Brethren, don’t be disheartened in your trials and troubles! Jesus has overcome! And He will help you overcome too!

These words of our Lord to His disciples were meant to bring comfort and peace to their troubled souls. Jesus began His discourse by calling His disciples to believe in Him. In the context of His coming arrest and crucifixion, He was calling them to maintain their faith in Him and not be shaken by His arrest and death. Now here at the end of His discourse, the disciples acknowledge their continuing, steadfast faith in Him. The words of our Lord not only brought comfort to their souls: it also inspired a steadfast faith in their hearts!

Brethren, WHEN YOU'RE TROUBLED OR DOUBTFUL, GET INTO THE WORD! THE COMFORT AND FAITH THAT YOU NEED, THE WISDOM AND PEACE THAT YOU SEEK, ARE IN THE WORD!

 

JESUS' HIGH PRIESTLY PRAYERFN

 

John 17:1-5, These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: {2} As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. {3} And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. {4} I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. {5} And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. John 17:1-5 (NLT),  After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you.  (2)  For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him.  (3)  And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.  (4)  I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.  (5)  Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.

 

JESUS PRAYS FOR HIMSELF

Being the High Priest, Advocate, and Intercessor that He is for His people, Jesus ends His last discourse with His disciples with an intercessory prayer. He prays first of all for Himself.

The hour of His suffering and baptism into death is about ready to come and the one thought that consumes His mind with respect to Himself is glory. It is not a selfish ambition to be glorified, but rather, a desire to be glorified so that He, in turn, could glorify the Father.

How would the Father glorify Him? By raising Him from the dead, thereby fulfilling His own prophecies concerning His resurrection on the third day and thus demonstrating, once again, His Divinity and power and triumph over all.

How would Jesus glorify the Father? By dying and being raised back to life, Jesus would provide eternal salvation for all those whom the Father has chosen and ordained unto eternal life.

Three themes are very evident here.

(1) The first is the perfect Humanity and Divinity of our Lord. That He was a Man no one could doubt. It was His claim to Divinity that many questioned and rejected. Jesus treats His Divinity here as a matter of fact. He was preexistent with the Father, coequal with Him, and one with Him. Simply put, Jesus is God. He is God incarnate. God in human flesh.

(2) The second theme that we see here in our Lord’s prayer for Himself is the Father’s sovereign choice of all those who will be saved. He has chosen His saved or elect ones out of the world and has given them all to Jesus, verses 2, 6, 9, 11, 12, 24.

And (3) the third theme that we see here is the truth that salvation is in Christ. It is Christ who gives eternal life and He gives it to all those whom the Father has given Him. Jesus, my friends, is the way to life. No man comes unto the Father except through Jesus, John 14:6, 17:3. There is one Mediator between God and man—only one—and that one Mediator is Christ Jesus our Lord, 1 Timothy 2:5. Jesus will glorify the Father by giving eternal life to all those whom the Father has chosen unto eternal life. And in order for Him to do that, Jesus will have to be the Savior and Redeemer of men. And for Him to be Savior and Redeemer, He must not only die, but also be raised back to life. Our justification requires His resurrection (Romans 4:25, 1 Corinthians 15:17). And His resurrection requires the Father raising Him back to life and thereby glorifying Him as Divine Savior and Conqueror over death.

 

John 17:6-19, I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. {7} Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. {8} For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. {9} I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. {10} And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. {11} And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me,FN that they may be one, as we are. {12} While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. {13} And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. {14} I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. {15} I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. {16} They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. {17} Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. {18} As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. {19} And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. John 17:6-19 (NLT),  “I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word.  (7)  Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you,  (8)  for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.  (9)  “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you.  (10)  All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory.  (11)  Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.  (12)  During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.  (13)  “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy.  (14)  I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.  (15)  I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.  (16)  They do not belong to this world any more than I do.  (17)  Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.  (18)  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.  (19)  And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

 

JESUS PRAYS FOR HIS DISCIPLES

Jesus prays for Himself, then He spends the greater part of His intercessory prayer doing what an intercessor does: He prays for His disciples. In particular, He prays for His eleven apostles.

They have believed Him. They have remained faithful to Him. After His leaving, they will be sent out into the world to preach the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. They will be hated and persecuted. They will suffer and be martyred for the faith.

Brethren, God’s people—especially those who labor in the Lord and for the Lord—need prayer! They need our prayers. If our Lord prayed for His disciples, we ought to follow in His example and pray for all those who carry on the work of Christ in proclaiming the Gospel of salvation to the lost.

What does Jesus pray for?


A. A PRAYER FOR PRESERVATION. First, He prays for their preservation, verse 11. Preservation in Jesus’ absence, verse 12. Preservation in their persecutions, verses 14-15. Preservation from the evil one, verse 15. Just as Jesus kept and preserved them while He was with them, He prays that the Father would continue this work of preservation.

WHERE YOU END UP IN ETERNITY, OR HOW YOU END UP, DEAR FRIENDS, IS GOD'S GRAVE CONCERN. HE LOVES YOU AND HE'S GOING TO DO HIS PART IN MAKING SURE YOU SPEND ETERNITY WITH HIM!

But you’ve got a part to play in His preservation. Namely, you’ve got to persevere and abide in the vine, John 15: 4-6.

The comfort in all this is, as you persevere and remain faithful to Him, He’ll watch out for you. He’ll keep guard over you. He’ll have His eyes on you at all times. Why? Because He loves you and because it’s His job to preserve you unto the day of salvation, 1 Peter 1:5.

Brethren, don’t worry about how you’re going to fare or turn out. CONCENTRATE ON BEING FAITHFUL TO JESUS ONE DAY AT A TIME. AND LEAVE YOUR END OR DESTINY TO THE LORD. GOD WON'T FAIL IN HIS JOB. MAKE SURE YOU DON'T IN YOURS.

 

B. A PRAYER FOR UNITY. A second thing that Jesus prays for is the oneness of the disciples, verse 11c. He wants them to be united as if they all were one person: one in mind, one in spirit, one in doctrine, one in purpose, and one in pursuit.

Brethren, WE ERR IF WE THINK THAT GOD WANTS US--ALL TRUE BELIEVERS AND FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST--TO BE DIVIDED INTO SECTARIAN GROUPS AND DENOMINATIONS. THE FACT IS, THERE SHOULDN'T BE ANY SECTS AMONG US. NO DENOMINATIONS TO DIVIDE US.

Naturally, everyone can’t go to the same local church. By necessity, there must be a multitude of churches in any given city or nation.

But we mustn’t fight with one another! We mustn’t divide and separate from one another. Jesus prayed for oneness. That we all would be united and one.

Which is to say, IF WE FIGHT WITH ONE ANOTHER WE'RE FIGHTING AGAINST GOD'S WILL, PURPOSE, AND PLAN FOR OUR UNITY AND ONENESS. WHILE GOD'S TRYING TO UNITE US, WE'RE DIVIDING AND DISUNITING OURSELVES. BRETHREN, HOW CAN WE DO GOD'S WORK IF WE'RE BUSY OPPOSING AND HINDERING HIS WORK OF UNITING US?

Our quarrels among ourselves not only sets us at odds with the Lord, but 1 Corinthians 3:3 tells us that our bickering among ourselves only proves we’re still carnal and immature: For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

No matter what we think of ourselves, or how highly we think of ourselves, the fact of the matter is, IF WE'RE CONTENTIOUS WE'RE STILL CARNAL. IF WE FIGHT AGAINST ONE ANOTHER WE FIGHT AGAINST GOD.

C. A PRAYER FOR SANCTIFICATION. And third, Jesus prays that the Father would sanctify His disciples in the truth, verse 17. What He’s asking the Father to do is make them a consecrated, dedicated, devoted group of men. That is, set them apart from the world and consecrate them to the work of the kingdom. Make them kingdom workers or laborers in the vineyard.

Brethren, how we need the Lord to make us a committed and consecrated people! It’s so easy to get caught up in the affairs of this life. We need God to wean us away from this world and get us focused on what we really need to be doing for Him. Father, sanctify us in your truth!

 

D. A PRAYER FOR ETERNAL TOGETHERNESS. Jesus goes on in verse 24 to pray a fourth thing for His disciples, namely, that they would be with Him in glory: Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.

OUR PRESERVATION BY THE FATHER IS ULTIMATELY MEANT TO REUNITE US WITH OUR LORD IN HEAVEN. DEAR BRETHREN, JESUS LONGS FOR THE TIME WHEN ALL HIS FOLLOWERS ARE WITH HIM! HE PRAYS FOR THAT TIME TO COME! HE LOVES US SO MUCH THAT HE'S LOOKING FORWARD TO A TIME WHEN WE ALL CAN BE TOGETHER WITH HIM! LORD, HASTEN THAT DAY! MARANATHA!

 

John 17:20-26, Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; {21} That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. {22} And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: {23} I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. {24} Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. {25} O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. {26} And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. John 17:20-26 (NLT),  “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.  (21)  I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.  (22)  “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one.  (23)  I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.  (24)  Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!  (25)  “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me.  (26)  I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”

 

JESUS PRAYS FOR HIS FUTURE CONVERTS

Jesus closes out His intercessory prayer by praying for every future convert, believer, and follower. There’ll be many more Christians come along. The number of disciples will grow exponentially. And, once again, THE BURDEN THAT CONSUMES OUR LORD'S MIND AND HEART IS THE BURDEN OF UNITY. God, brethren, wants us to be one. To be united.

Why is that? Why is it so important to the Lord for all of us to be one? Jesus, dear brethren, wants us to be united so that the world may know Jesus’ special relation to the Father, verse 23 and believe in Him, verse 21.

We see our fights and arguments strictly in terms of what we believe, what we want, and what we stand for. But when we step back and see what God sees—when we see the bigger picture—then WHAT WE SEE IS A WORLD THAT IS HAMPERED FROM BELIEVING IN CHRIST BECAUSE OF THE DIVISIONS THAT PLAGUE US.

Let me tell you what I mean. Our divisions generally run along two lines. The first is doctrinal. If we give the world two, three, or ten different versions of the doctrine or truth, then how is the world going to know which is the true doctrine? Our doctrinal differences, you see, promote confusion and it prevents men from knowing and believing the truth.

Doctrine, however, isn’t always the thing that divides us. Sometimes we’re divided amongst ourselves because we’re carnal. I’m talking about the jealousies, animosities, resentments, lack of compassion and mercy, unforgiveness, and intolerance, ad nauseatum, that we sometimes have towards one another.

Our fights aren’t a very good representation of the family that we belong to. It gives God’s family a black name. Brethren, NO ONE WANTS TO BE A PART OF A DYFUNCTIONAL FAMILY OR HOME. When the church is filled with strife among the members we’re making it harder for people to want to be a part of God’s family.

PEOPLE GO WHERE THERE'S LOVE. THEY WANT TO BE LOVED AND ACCEPTED. AND WHENEVER LOVE ISN'T IN THE ATMOSPHERE OF THE CHURCH, PEOPLE WILL BYPASS THE CHURCH AND GO ELSEWHERE IN SEARCH OF LOVE.

Our ministry and witness in the world, my friends, have everything to do with our oneness and unity. That’s why Jesus prayed for us to be one and it’s the reason why we’ve got to work hard at being united.

 

JESUS AND HIS DISCIPLES GO TO MOUNT OLIVES

 

Matthew 26:30, And when they had sung an hymn,FN they went outFN into the mount of Olives.FN Matthew 26:30 (ESV),  And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Mark 14:26, And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. Mark 14:26 (CEV),  Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.
Luke 22:39, And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. Luke 22:39 (NIV),  Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.
John 18:1-2, When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron,FN where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples. {2} And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples. John 18:1-2 (NLT),  After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees.  (2)  Judas, the betrayer, knew this place, because Jesus had often gone there with his disciples.

 

Whenever Jesus was in Jerusalem He would resort to Mount Olives with His disciples. This was where He spent His nights during Passover week.