Cloudy With A Certainty Of Jesus (Matthew 24v26-51)

Here is a Family Feud question for you: Name something in the sky that makes people look up.

Survey says – Airplane.

In the near future, the answer to that question, all over the planet, will be, the Son of Man coming on the clouds of Heaven with power and great glory.

Jesus Christ rose from the dead in a glorified physical body.  Forty days later, He ascended into Heaven.

As His followers looked to the heavens, two men appeared, and said to them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into Heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into Heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Jesus doesn’t get into it here in the Gospel of Matthew, but we know for a fact from other Bible passages that when Jesus returns, He won’t be alone.  You and I, and all the saints of the church age, will be coming back with Him.

I want to look at Jesus’ Second Coming, and our coming back with Him, from the perspective of both the heavens surrounding the earth, and the earth itself.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 When You Return With Jesus At His Second Coming There Will Be Significant Signs In The Heavens, and #2 When You Return With Jesus At His Second Coming There Will Be Sighs And Shouts On The Earth.

#1    When You Return With Jesus At His Second Coming
    There Will Be Significant Signs In The Heavens

The church will have been resurrected and raptured to Heaven before any portion of the seven-year Tribulation.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ describes those who return at the end of those seven years, with Jesus.  In Revelation 19:14 we read,

Rev 19:14    And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

The word “armies” is plural, meaning at least two.  We know from other passages who populates these two armies:

One army is an angelic army.  In Matthew 16:27 we read, “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels.”

The other army that will return with Jesus is the army of the church saints who had been raptured previously.  In Jude we read, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints” (v14).

The church is a huge part of the Second Coming, but we need to realize from the outset that the church is not spoken of by Jesus in Matthew twenty-four.  The resurrection and rapture of the church is not a subject covered at all in these verses.

Jesus had not yet so much as hinted about the resurrection and rapture of the church.  He would, the night before He was crucified, indicate to the believers that He was going to prepare a place for us, to return and take us there, and thereby keep us out of the terrible time of trouble coming upon the earth.

But the resurrection and rapture of the church would remain unknown until the apostle Paul revealed the mystery in his letters to the Thessalonians and the Corinthians.

When we last saw the Jews here in chapter twenty-four, the antichrist had set himself up in their Temple in Jerusalem and demanded to be worshipped.
They were instructed to flee into the wilderness where they would be supernaturally protected by God through the last years of the Great Tribulation.

Mat 24:26    “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it.

The Jews should not fall for these false reports of a ‘secret’ return of Jesus.  His Second Coming will be nothing short of spectacular.

Mat 24:27    For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Lightning is something everyone can see, as it illuminates the dark, stormy sky.  When Jesus returns, it says in the Revelation, “every eye shall see Him” (1:7).

There may be actual lightning, but it doesn’t say there will – only that at the Second Coming the atmosphere will be ablaze with the glory of the Lord.

More than one good commentator has suggested that this blaze of light is none other than the Shechinah glory of God.

Have you heard that term before?  It doesn’t appear in the Bible.  The Jewish rabbi’s coined it in order to distinguish those Bible passages where they believed a physical light was present when the Hebrew word for “glory” was used.

It was the visible manifestation of the presence of God among His people, like the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that led the Jews in the Exodus; or like Jesus when He was on the Mount of Transfiguration with Moses and Elijah and His disciples saw His glory.

Mat 24:28    For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

Weird statement number one.  “Eagles” is probably better translated “vultures.”  When an animal dies, the vultures gather to pick its bones.  The Great Tribulation will end in carnage with the Battle of Armageddon.  Here it is in the Revelation:

Rev 19:17    Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God,

Rev 19:18    that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.”

The slaughter will be so great that blood will flow up to a horses bridle there in the Valley of Megiddo.

Mat 24:29    “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Obviously, if the sun is “darkened,” the moon will not reflect its light.

The falling “stars” are probably a massive amount of shooting stars; or a meteorite shower; or both.

The “powers of the heavens” refers to planets and stars.  The glory of Jesus in His return is physically announced by all the stellar heavens – it’s just that powerful.

Mat 24:30    Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

The “sign” will be the glory of the Lord filling the heavens against the backdrop of the darkened sun, no moon, falling stars, and the stellar heavens shaking.

How will “all the tribes of the earth” see this?  The simplest answer is that it will occur over a period of time, like a day, and, as the earth rotates, everyone left alive on the earth will experience it.

Mat 24:31    And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

In the parallel passage in the Gospel of Mark, you learn that “the four winds” of the “heavens” is referring to those “elect” on the earth (13:27).  This trumpet gathers the saints who survive the Great Tribulation.

Some people confuse the “trumpet” in this verse with the trumpet that sounds at the resurrection and rapture of the church.

There are lots of trumpets blown in the Bible, and they are all for different purposes.  Context must decide, and the context here is the gathering of Tribulation survivors – not the church.

I’ve read, over the years, in multiple resources, that there are something like eight times as many references to the Second Coming of Jesus than there are to His first coming.

He will be fully revealed in all His heavenly glory – filling the atmosphere with blinding light.

Guess what?  We’re going to be glorious, too, at His appearing.

If you haven’t highlighted it yet, go to Second Thessalonians 1:10 and do so immediately.  Talking about our return with Jesus at His Second Coming, the apostle Paul said,

2Th 1:10    when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.

When we return with Jesus, He will be glorified when people and angels look upon us.  Every one of us will be in the image of The Lord, having a body of glory like His, and every one will have His moral likeness.  Jesus will be admired in all who have believed in Him through the Tribulation, when His features are borne by every one in that great company of His saints.

We read something similar in Romans 8:18, but with an assessment of our time on earth now, awaiting the rapture.

Rom 8:18    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

The “glory which shall be revealed in us” looks forward to our return with Jesus in our completed, glorified state.

Mean time, none of the “sufferings of this present time” can tarnish what is to come.  William MacDonald, in The Believers Bible Commentary, writes,

The greatest shame we may endure for Christ here on earth will be a mere trifle… Even the excruciating pain of the martyrs will seem like pinpricks when the Savior graces their brows with the crown of life.  Elsewhere Paul speaks of our present sufferings as light afflictions which are only for a moment, but he describes the glory as an exceeding and eternal weight (Second Corinthians 4:17).  If we could only appreciate the glory that is to be ours, we could count the sufferings along the way as trivial.

Your afflictions may not seem light; your sufferings are certainly not trivial.  The Lord saves your tears in His bottle, in Heaven, as He takes note of every one.

Still, it puts pain into perspective, does it not, when you understand that you will be returning with Jesus and people will see His glory revealed in you.

He Who has begun a work in you will be faithful to complete it.

Reveal some of it now, as you go about your life being filled with the Holy Spirit, to serve God – pain or no pain.  You’ve already been changed; go around bringing change to others.

#2    When You Return With Jesus At His Second Coming
    There Will Be Shouts And Sighs Upon The Earth

In verse thirty it said many will “mourn” at the Second Coming.  All Israel will be saved, and there will be Gentiles who turn to the Lord and survive the trouble and terror of those preceding years.  But the vast majority of people left alive on planet earth will be nonbelievers at His return, and they will “mourn” when they realize they will be lost forever.

Mat 24:32    “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near.

Mat 24:33    So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near – at the doors!

Is Israel the fig tree?  Let’s read the parallel verse, in the Gospel of Luke.

Luk 21:29    Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees.”

Israel is sometimes associated with the fig tree; but here, it would seem that Jesus was simply using the budding of all trees as an illustration.

Their budding is a sign of what inevitably comes next, and, in the same way, the events Jesus has been describing in Matthew twenty-four are a sign of what inevitably must come next.

If you are on the earth when the events of this chapter start going down, then you can be sure you are in the seven year Tribulation, and it is going to run its course exactly as Jesus and the prophets predicted, uninterrupted.

Mat 24:34    Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.

Because some prophecy teachers insisted that Israel is the fig tree, they erroneously predicted that the Lord must come back a generation after Israel “budded,” or became a modern nation, in 1948.

Since a biblical generation, they said, is forty years… Well, you do the math.  Jesus ‘should’ have come back before 1988.

Didn’t happen – but that’s not a surprise, because that’s not what Jesus was teaching.

He simply meant that the generation that experiences the Tribulation will be the one to witness His Second Coming.

Mat 24:35    Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

People tend to think Bible prophecy is a “maybe,” not a certainty.  They think if we can just get it together, and “give peace a chance,” the Tribulation need not occur.

International Peace Day is September 21.  The John Lennon song, Imagine, has been offered to the United Nations as its theme.  Commenting on it, Yoko Ono said the song explains what should be done to bring world peace.

You know the lyrics; “Imagine there’s no Heaven…”

If we could only get it together… We could save ourselves.  Not!

The things Jesus said were going to happen will happen just as He said they would.  Once the Tribulation starts, it will follow its seven-year course without interruption.

Mat 24:36    “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

Jesus is the God-man, fully God, and fully human, in a way we cannot comprehend.  As to His humanity, He was completely submitted to His Father in Heaven, and could honestly say He did not know the exact hour of the exact day of His Second Coming.

Ah, but can’t it be calculated?  Isn’t it exactly three and one-half years after the antichrist reveals himself?

Yes, it is; but consider two things:

I remember a great line in an Arnold movie.  He was called upon to fight the devil and stop the end of days.  The devil was supposed to be returning to rule the world.  Arnold’s character says, “So the prince of darkness wants to conquer the earth.  He has one hour to do it before midnight.  Is this Eastern time?”  Even if folks who survive the Great Tribulation wanted to, it would be hard to know with certainty the exact moment of the Second Coming.
Secondly, if you read the Revelation, you see there are unprecedented events in the stellar heavens throughout the Tribulation that might make it impossible to calculate time with any accuracy by its end.  If ever there was a time when you might lose track of time, it’s then.

The Lord compared His return to the flood during the days of Noah:

Mat 24:37    But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Mat 24:38    For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,

Mat 24:39    and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Noah had announced judgment upon the earth, and impending doom.  When the ark was finished and Noah and his family and the animals were in it, the people on the earth could anticipate that the flood would occur any day after the door was closed.

But they could not know the exact day or hour.

Mat 24:40    Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.

Mat 24:41    Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.

This is not the rapture.  Think flood thoughts.  When the flood came, it “took away” nonbelievers to their eternal judgment.  It “left” behind the believers – righteous Noah and his family – to repopulate the earth.

At the Second Coming, nonbelievers will be taken away to await eternal damnation, and the believers who’ve survived the Great Tribulation will be left behind on earth to repopulate the Kingdom of Heaven Jesus will establish.

This is a situation in which people will want to be left behind!

Mat 24:42    Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

Mat 24:43    But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.

Mat 24:44    Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

In Bambi there is a scene in which three quail are hidden in the thick underbrush from the evil hunters.  One of them is overcome by fear and tries to fly away.

Blam! goes the shotgun and it falls dead to the ground.

(I think it was filmed here in the Valley!).

Remember, this section opened with Jesus warning the Jews to not be lured out of the place of His divine protection.  Wait it out; watch for the glory of His return.  Otherwise, Blam! the devil is gunning for them.

One thing Jesus hasn’t referred to yet is His judgment when He returns with regard to giving out rewards for faithful service to Him during the Great Tribulation.  He compares the Jews primarily, but all people, living during the Tribulation, to stewards who can be either faithful or evil.

Mat 24:45    “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?

Mat 24:46    Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.

Mat 24:47    Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.

Mat 24:48    But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’

Mat 24:49    and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards,

Mat 24:50    the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,

Mat 24:51    and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Don’t get lost in the details.  The single, simple point Jesus made was that you should remain faithful to Him despite the awful tribulation of those years, and the very real likelihood of martyrdom.

He will reward faithfulness with positions of authority in the Kingdom of Heaven on the earth.

Those found “evil, i.e., unfaithful – nonbelievers – will, as we’ve seen previously, be taken away to await eternal damnation.

There will be both shouts of joy, and sighs of horror, from the inhabitants of the earth at the Second Coming of Jesus.

If you’re not a believer, what is it, really, that is keeping you from receiving the forgiveness of your sins, and eternal life?
What or who could be so important to you that you risk being left behind if the rapture happened right now, and odds are end up being taken in judgment at the end of the Tribulation?

Jot it down as we, in a moment, give you time to think about it.  Look at what you’ve written down.  Is it worth it to risk an eternity separated from God?

Believer, you will reveal the glory of Jesus Christ at His coming.  People and angels will marvel at the work Jesus Christ has completed in you.  It will be the greatest ‘before-and-after’ comparison of all time.

Take this time we have reserved to revel in His love.

Lookin’ For The Lord In All The Wrong Places (Matthew 24v15-25)

See if you recognize this movie dialog:

“Abominable!  Can you believe that?  Do I look abominable to you?  Why can’t they call me the Adorable Snowman or… or the Agreeable Snowman, for crying out loud?  I’m a nice guy.”

It’s the Abominable Snowman, banished to the Himalayas in Monsters Inc., complaining to Mike and Sully.

I don’t know about you, but “abominable” isn’t a word I much use; and, when I hear it, I always associate it with the legendary Yeti.

Our text speaks, not of “abominable,” but of an abomination:

Mat 24:15    “Therefore when you see the ‘ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand),

Not a phrase we use everyday, either.  Neither did the followers of Jesus use it every day – but they all knew immediately what He meant from their history and their reading of the Book of Daniel.

We’re going to see exactly what is “the abomination of desolation,” and show how it is the pivotal statement in this chapter for understanding everything else The Lord says.

Additionally, as interested as we may be in end times prophecy for its own sake, we also want to find insight for living our own lives, right now.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 Look Closely At What The Lord Is Showing You, and #2 Listen Carefully To What The Lord Is Saying To You.

#1    Look Closely At What The Lord Is Showing You

Let’s get right into “the abomination of desolation.”

This term is found three times in the book of Daniel (9:27; 11:31; 12:11).

Its definition is found in Daniel 11:31 in the prophecy written by Daniel concerning a Syrian ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes, who reigned over Syria from 175-164BC, about four hundred years after Daniel wrote.

In his prophecy, Daniel predicted, “And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.” (11:31).

This was fulfilled in history, so there’s no doubt as to what Daniel meant.  Antiochus Epiphanes was a great persecutor of the people of Israel, as recorded in the apocryphal books of First and Second Maccabees.  In attempting to stamp out the Jewish religion, he murdered thousands of Jews, including women and children, and desecrated the Temple of Israel, which precipitated the Maccabean revolt.

Antiochus, in attempting to stop the Temple sacrifices, offered a sow, an unclean animal, on the altar, to render the Jewish Temple abominable to the Jews.  According to First Maccabees 1:54, “Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering.”  A statue of a Greek god was installed in the Temple.  For a time, the sacrifices of the Jews were stopped, and the Temple was left desolate.

Jesus predicted that the action of Antiochus in stopping the sacrifices, desecrating the Temple, and setting up an idol in the Temple, is going to be repeated in the future.

This future abomination is described in Daniel 9:27: “Then he shall confirm a covenant with many [Israel] for one week [literally, one “seven,’ meaning for seven years]; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.  And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.”

The prediction is that a future leader will do just what Antiochus did in the second century BC.  This future leader is the antichrist.

Further light is cast on this in Daniel 12:11, where it states, “And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days,” or approximately three-and-a-half- years preceding the second coming of Christ.

The New Testament, in Second Thessalonians 2:4, describes the same period, with the leader setting himself up as God in the Temple.
Revelation 13:14-15 also records that an image of the leader will be set up in the Temple.

It may seem clear to you that these events Jesus was referring to are all in the future.  However, in the past decade or so there has been a resurgence among Christians in the popularity of what is called preterism.

The term preterism comes from the Latin praeter, which is a prefix denoting that something is “past” or “beyond.”

The preterist view of the end times is based on a symbolic view of the Book of Revelation that holds most of its prophecies have already been fulfilled, with the exception of the Second Coming of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead to either everlasting life or everlasting damnation.

Of particular importance to preterists is the argument that the end time prophecies of Revelation were fulfilled in 70AD when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans.  That, they say, was “the abomination of desolation.”

Preterists you may recognize and read include R.C. Sproul and Hank Hannegraaf.

You will see throughout Jesus’ discussion of end times events that He was looking past the destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem in 70AD to a literal Great Tribulation.

Look closely at these events.  None of the things He spoke of in Matthew twenty-four happened in 70AD, starting with the fact that no image was set up by a leader desecrating the Temple.

Speaking to the generation that would be alive at the time, Jesus said they would be able to “see” this event and recognize it because it was described in detail in the Bible.

If we don’t “see” it in history, then it hasn’t happened, and is future.

Before we move on, to talk about what the folks in the Great Tribulation will see and recognize, let’s talk about us.

What do we see?

Well, on a prophetic level, we see quite a bit.  We see Israel, a nation again in her promised land, and that is a direct, literal fulfillment of many centuries old Bible prophecies.

We see a lot of other things, which we bring to your attention weekly in our It Might Be Today prophecy updates.

Here is something to bear in mind.  In light of what we see, the apostle Peter asks us, “What manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God…? (Second Peter 3:11-12).

We should be pursuing God above all else so our lives can be used by God to make a difference with the Gospel.

Every now and again there’s a story about something tragic happening to someone while bystanders, well, stand by and do nothing.

We know too much about what is happening in the world, and what is going to happen, to be spiritual bystanders.

Peter said we were to be “looking for the day of God.”  The Lord wants us to see His coming for us, by faith, and live our lives accordingly.

What are you enduring today?  What light affliction is assailing you; or what trial or trouble?  The Lord is coming to take you home.  Your departure is booked; your destination is being prepared.  You’re almost there, so don’t grow weary in well-doing.

Finish well.

#2    Listen Carefully To What The Lord Is Saying To You

The “abomination” Jesus predicted has not yet occurred.  It’s coming, in the future, in the middle of a week of years (according to Daniel).

A week of years is seven years.  Three and one-half years is the mid-point.

Jesus was talking about the seven year Tribulation.  In verses four through fourteen He described general characteristics of the time after His ascension into Heaven that go right into the first half of the Tribulation.  At the mid-point, three and one-half years into it, the man we know as the antichrist will do what Antiochus did centuries ago, and more.

When that happens, if you are a Jew living in Israel, what follows is your survival strategy.

Mat 24:16    “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

Mat 24:17    Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.

Mat 24:18    And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

Mat 24:19    But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!

Mat 24:20    And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.

First, please notice that Jesus was warning Jews in Jerusalem.  This is a specific command to a specific group of people about a specific future event.
The mention of being on the housetop or field suggests urgency.  Just run for it with whatever clothes you have.

Women who are pregnant, or with infants, are going to want to grab provisions.  Don’t.  Just run.

Winter and the Sabbath highlight potential difficulties to those refugees fleeing.  Regarding the Sabbath, Jews are forbidden, by their traditions, to travel very far.  Even today, in Israel, some ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods are barricaded on the Sabbath to prevent driving.  In Jerusalem and some other Israeli cities with large Orthodox populations, public buses do not operate on the Sabbath.

It creates a dilemma, but they should do what the Lord says.

Why must Jews flee immediately?  For one thing, the moment the Temple is desecrated, the antichrist will go from protecting Jews to persecuting them.

But another reason they must flee immediately is because God has promised to supernaturally protect them during their flight, and to provide for them in the wilderness for the next three and one-half years.  It’s not going too far to suggest that God’s protection will only extend to those who go immediately.  Those who tarry will find themselves caught.

In Micah 2:12 God said, “I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together like sheep of the fold, Like a flock in the midst of their pasture; They shall make a loud noise because of so many people.”

Here is a more complete description of the Lord’s protection – the same event as presented in Revelation 12:12-14, but from the perspective of Heaven, showing us that the devil is behind the antichrist.

Rev 12:12    Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”

Rev 12:13    Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child [Israel, through whom was born Jesus]

Rev 12:14    But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time [three and one-half years], from the presence of the serpent.

The Bible further indicates that it is to Bozrah that the Jews will flee to be protected (Jeremiah 49; Isaiah 63).  Bozrah is a region in southwest Jordan where the ancient fortress of Petra is located.

If you read about Petra, you’ll see it is easy to defend, because it is only accessible through what is called the Siq, a very narrow opening in the natural rock.

Of course, Satan is not thwarted by a narrow doorway.  God will supernaturally protect His people in the wilderness.

By the way, regarding preterism, in 70AD there was no flight by the Jews into the wilderness where they would be nurtured by The Lord for three and one-half years.  This is all future prophecy.

Mat 24:21    For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

If the Jews in Jerusalem do not immediately escape, they will be caught instead in a time of horrible, unprecedented tribulation upon the earth.

J. Dwight Pentecost provides the following description of the use of the word “tribulation” in the Bible:

The term tribulation is used in several different ways… It is used in a non-technical… sense in reference to any time of suffering or testing into which one goes.  It is [also] used in its technical… sense in reference to the whole period of the seven years of tribulation, as in Revelation 22:2 or Matthew 24:29.  It is also used in reference to the last half of the seven year period, as in Matthew 24:21.

The Old Testament predicted a time of tribulation that Israel is destined to endure that will result in national repentance and receiving the Lord as their Messiah at His Second Coming.  Jeremiah 30:7 refers to it as the time of Jacob’s trouble.

It’s probably best to refer to the seven years as the Tribulation, and the last three and one-half years as the Great Tribulation, because that is when it really amps up.

It is the period that is described in chapters six through eighteen of the Revelation.

Listen carefully to what Jesus said.  No time in Jewish history – including the Holocaust – fits the description of the Great Tribulation predicted by Jesus and described by John.  It is future.

The preterist position – it’s just wrong.

Mat 24:22    And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.

Wait – isn’t the Great Tribulation three and one-half years long???

It is.  The word for “shortened” means cut off.  It’s use here means that the Great Tribulation will go exactly as long as God has indicated, not one day more, then be cut off.  If it could go beyond the borders God has set for it, all humanity would be destroyed.

Maybe a better word would be “limited.”  Those days will be limited to the three and one-half years that God has prescribed for them.

In the Revelation, Jesus sequentially opens seven seals on a scroll.  The seventh seal starts a series of seven trumpets being blown.  The seventh trumpet starts the pouring out upon the earth of seven bowls.

The fourth seal (6:7-8), predicts a fourth part of the earth perishing.  In Revelation 9:13-21, the sixth trumpet refers to a third part of the world’s population being killed.  These are only part of the great catastrophes which fall one after another upon the world and which will climax in a great world war (16:12-16).

The final judgment just before the second coming, described as the seventh bowl of the wrath of God, consists in a great earthquake, which destroys cities of the world, and a hailstorm, with hailstones weighing a talent, or as much as eighty pounds.

Putting all these Scriptures together, it indicates that the Great Tribulation will mark the death of hundreds of millions of people in a comparatively short period of time.

None of that has happened; but it will.

Who are the elect?  Israel is the elect in this passage.  They are God’s elect nation.  Israel, as a nation, is corporately elect.

Notice they are not saved, not born-again, at the time of their flight into the wilderness.  Corporate election does not guarantee their salvation.  Individual Jews still need to be saved by grace through faith in Jesus.

But when the Lord returns, all Israel will be saved.

Zec 12:8    In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them.

Zec 12:9    It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.

Zec 12:10    “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.

The apostle Paul said as much, too; “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).

Mat 24:23    “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it.

Mat 24:24    For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

Mat 24:25    See, I have told you beforehand.

In the Revelation, we’re told that the image of the antichrist set up in the Temple comes to life.  “The image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (13:15).

There will be other deceiving miracles, signs and wonders; but the Lord has told the Jews beforehand to not be drawn out of their fortress.

The antichrist and the devil will try unsuccessfully to lure the elect Jews out from their fortress in order to destroy them.

Sadly, many people all over the world will be deceived, and be lost for eternity:

2Th 2:9    The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,

2Th 2:10    and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

2Th 2:11    And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie,

2Th 2:12    that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Need I mention, there is no record of false christs or false prophets or signs or wonders in 70AD?  You just cannot in any way say that these things have already been fulfilled.

There is scholarly debate on whether or not Satan can do a genuine miracle, even with God’s permission.  There are good men on both sides.

Whether they are genuine but-meant-for-evil miracles, or they are Houdini tricks, people will be led astray.

It will be important for the Jews who see the abomination of desolation to listen carefully to what Jesus said, and to follow His instruction to the letter.

It’s no less important for us, today, to listen and obey.  The Lord tells us much, in His Word, about how to live.  All of it comes from the heart of a Father wanting what is best for His children.

Is there something that God is telling you, but that you are resisting?

Maybe He has asked you to do something; to go somewhere.  It’s time to obey.

Maybe He has been telling you something, but you won’t receive it.  It could be a reproof; but it might be something rewarding that you are having a hard time believing by faith on account of your current circumstances.

In our reflection this morning, look at what The Lord is showing you, and listen to what He is saying.

Informative Jesus And The Temple That’s Doomed (Matthew 24v1-14)

Do you see the glass as half empty, or as half full?

The optimist says the glass is half full, while the pessimist says it’s half empty.

Some other unique approaches:

A person with phobias says “Yuck, someone drank out of it and left germs on the glass.”

A worrier frets that the remaining half will evaporate by next morning.

A philosophy student declares, “What glass?”

Bill Cosby said, ” It depends on whether you’re pouring, or drinking.”

George Carlin had the best answer when he said, “I see a glass twice as big as it needs to be.”

The disciples saw the Temple.  It was a magnificent structure.  Begun by Herod about 20BC, it would not be completed until 64AD.

Jesus’ disciples couldn’t help but think that the Temple was being built and nearing completion just in time for Jesus to set Himself up as King and establish the Kingdom of Heaven on the earth.

To use our glass analogy, they saw the Temple as being more than half full.

Imagine their shock when Jesus said, “Do you not see all these things?  Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

Was Jesus a Temple half-empty pessimist?

He was not a pessimist.  Turns out, He was a realist, because just six years after the Temple was completed, it would be utterly destroyed.

Jesus was more than a realist; He was a prophet who would reveal to His followers – including us – the course of the age from His comments until His Second Coming.

After listening to Jesus, Peter would put things about the Temple into perspective.  In his first letter he  wrote,

1Pe 2:4     [Jesus is] a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious,

1Pe 2:5    you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Jesus wasn’t interested in finishing and occupying the Temple that King Herod had built.  He was going to build and occupy a very different kind of temple on the earth, comprised of living stones – believers in Him, including you (if you are saved).

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 The Living Stone Exposes The Course Of This Age, and #2 The Living Stones Endure The Course Of This Age.

#1    The Living Stone
    Exposes The Course Of This Age

Because Jesus was on the Mount of Olives when He spoke these words, His talk is called the Olivet Discourse.

We see His words as being a literal prediction of the course of future history, from the time He spoke right through to the end of the age at His Second Coming to the earth.  Most of what Jesus said remains to be fulfilled in the future.

Mat 24:1    Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple.

It’s not going too far to speculate that these guys were excited, thinking that Jesus would rule the Kingdom on earth from this magnificent structure.

They were constantly thinking about the Kingdom, and wondering who among them would have the best positions.  Even after Jesus rose from the dead, on His way to ascend into Heaven, they were still thinking the Kingdom was about to be established.

Mat 24:2    And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

For Jews, the Temple was everything.  One commentator wrote,

The Temple was the sacred heart of Jewish life and faith.  It was… the only place were one could truly experience God.  It’s stones, walls, courts and furniture where themselves sacred.  The Temple guided their way of life; it was at the center of the cycle of feasts, fasts and sacrifices.  To pronounce it’s destruction meant to pronounce the end of a way of life.

This statement by Jesus would put them in a state of shock.  I was trying to think of something that would be the symbolic equivalent for us, not as Christians, but as Americans.  It would have to be the destruction of the White House.

Remember the film, Independence Day?  It got blown to smithereens.  According to reports, test audiences were so unsettled by early footage of the White House being turned to dust by an alien laser that director Roland Emmerich added the scene in which a helicopter carrying the first lady and a handful of other dignitaries narrowly escapes.

Adding to the shock of the disciples was their history.  When their previous temple, Solomon’s Temple, was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the Jews were sent into exile, in Babylon.

This wasn’t just going to be damage to the building that insurance would cover.  No, this meant suffering on a grand, national, scale.

Jesus’ prediction was remarkable in its specificity.  He said the stones would be “thrown down.”  No natural disaster would destroy the Temple; it would be done by men, throwing down one massive stone at a time.

On the 10th of August, in 70AD – the 9th of Av in Jewish reckoning, the very same calendar day when the King of Babylon burned the Temple in 586BC – General Titus took the city and put it to the torch, burning the Temple.

When the Temple was set on fire the Roman soldiers tore apart the stones to get the melted gold.  Stone after stone was thrown down until none were left standing.

The Kingdom promised to the Jews, announced by John the Baptist, and offered by Jesus, would have been Heaven on earth.  The descriptions of it that can be found throughout the Jewish Scriptures are wonderful:

It will be a time of health and prosperity.

It will be a time of peace and security.

Nature will be restored, and the curse removed, so that streams break out in the desert, and the lion shall lie down with the lamb.

It will be a time of holiness in which righteousness will reign.

All of that was forfeited when the leaders of the Jews rejected Jesus.  He was the Living Stone, Who alone could offer Jews and Gentiles sanctuary.

They preferred to live in their small, legalistic, self-righteous world, oppressed from within and without, rather than receive the forgiveness of their sins offered by Jesus.

Why stay in that state?  Because they refused to repent.

Jesus still offers forgiveness of sins that would bring salvation, eternal life, peace with God, and the empowering of God the Holy Spirit.

And men and women still refuse to repent, preferring their selfishness and sin.  It’s mind-boggling, really.

It’s still coming, the promised earthly Kingdom.  It has to, or God is a liar.  But there is a delay.  Jesus describes the delay as He begins to give us the course of future history in the remaining verses.

#2    The Living Stones
    Endure The Course Of This Age

Back to our glass half-full or half-empty analogy, after we read this section, and these two chapters, we’re gonna say that the glass is filling-up with the wrath of God.

Things on earth will get worse and worse, leading up to the Great Tribulation where, especially in the last three and one-half years, it will be positively awful on the earth

Recovering from their initial shock, but still stunned, the disciples ask Jesus to clarify a few things for them.

Mat 24:3    Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

If the Kingdom was going to be delayed, and the Temple was going to be destroyed, what would follow?  That is what Jesus addresses.

There are at least three possible ways to understand verses four through fourteen:

The first is to see verses four through eight as general characteristics of our age, and verses nine through fourteen as particular signs of the end of the age.  H.A. Ironside thought that way.

The second way to understand these verses is to see them describing the first three and one-half years of the Great Tribulation.  William MacDonald, author of the Believer’s Bible Commentary, sees them that way.

The third way to understand these verses is to see all of them as general characteristics of the age in which we live, intensifying as the world moves in to the Great Tribulation. John Walvoord saw them that way.

It makes sense to see the things Jesus describes as characteristics of the age in which we live, right into, and intensifying, in the opening years of the Great Tribulation.

Then, in verse fifteen, He describes the pivotal event of the Tribulation, which takes place exactly half-way into it.

One thing we won’t find in these verses, or in this chapter, is the rapture of the church.  Jesus doesn’t reveal that mystery until the night before His crucifixion when, in the upper room, He tells us, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).

The resurrection and rapture of the church will occur before the specific end times events mentioned in these verses.  The church will have been taken to the place Jesus has been preparing for us, to be kept out of the Great Tribulation.

Regardless how you time these things, here is what Jesus wanted to get across to His disciples, and to us.  Bible prophecy will be fulfilled to the letter as history unfolds.

You might not think that is saying much, but it is.  For one thing, the general public has the idea that Bible prophecy is like the Mayan calendar.  They think that it predicts apocalyptic events, but that they may or may not occur, depending on what we do about them.

In other words, people think that Bible prophecies are warnings to get it together or we might destroy ourselves, or be destroyed.

That’s the plot of the movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still – not the teaching of the Bible.

For another thing, a lot of Christians don’t think these things are going to occur – not literally, at least.

The most popular belief among the majority of Christians is that the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan.  They see no prophetic significance in the rebirth of Israel as a nation.  As to the Kingdom, they think we are in it now, spiritually speaking, or that we must work to establish it, so that The Lord can return to a world-wide utopia.

So, yes, this short section is crucial, and it’s imperative we understand that The Lord was saying, “Things are going to literally unfold just as prophesied, no matter what you see happening that might seem contrary and tend to confuse you.”

Mat 24:4    And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.

Deceives us about what?  Well, as I just indicated, about the end times timeline.  In other words, things will get worse-and-worse; there is going to be a seven-year Great Tribulation; Jesus will return in His Second Coming; He will establish a one-thousand year Kingdom of Heaven on the earth; and He will create a new earth and new heavens for us to enjoy for eternity.

None of the following nine things Jesus mentions ought to fool you into thinking the end will be different from the one you read about in God’s Word.

Mat 24:5    For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.

There have been counterfeit Christ’s, false Messiah’s, and cults galore, seeking to deceive believers.

A few of you sent me an article titled, Could Scientology be the thing that turns Flint, Michigan, around?  Flint’s city council is seriously considering embracing L. Ron Hubbard’s, “The Way to Happiness” program.

Jim Jones… David Koresh… Charles Manson, for that matter.  No one should be deceived into thinking they were some sort of messiah.

Jesus – the same Jesus Who rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven – is coming back, in that same body.  Nothing can change that fact.

Mat 24:6    And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

Mat 24:7    For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…

No matter how many wars threaten us, nuclear or biological or World War Z, humanity will continue through the Great Tribulation and to a war at the end of those seven years, the Battle of Armageddon.  Jesus will return, and He will destroy His enemies.

Mat 24:7    … And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.

When the missionaries from Samaritan’s Purse contracted ebola, it sent a panic through people around the world.  Could this be the end?
How many recent movies have there been about pandemics that threaten to, or actually, wipe-out the human race?

Not gonna happen; not on a universal scale, anyway.  The human race will continue, and thrive, on into the Great Tribulation.

Mat 24:8    All these are the beginning of sorrows.

The Amplified Version says these are “the early pains” of “the intolerable anguish.”  This whole section wants to remind us that no matter how bad things seem, or actually get, things will end exactly the way God said they would – after the time of “intolerable anguish,” the Great Tribulation.

Mat 24:9    “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.

Mat 24:10    And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.

Ten of Jesus’ faithful followers on that mountain would be cruelly martyred.  John may have been martyred, or he may have died of natural causes; we’re not sure.

There have been Christian martyrs throughout the centuries.  The twentieth century, by some estimates, may have been the greatest era for killing Christians in all of history.   In one ten year period, it was estimated that 500,000 Christians were killed in North Africa.

But it isn’t the end; the Tribulation is coming, and it will make all the previous centuries of martyrdom seem peaceful by comparison.

Mat 24:11    Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.

Mormonism is the fastest growing faith group in American history according to U.S. News & World Report, which reports that if present trends continue there could be 265 million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints worldwide by 2080.

But, wait: Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world.  We read everyday about some city in Europe that is now predominately Muslim.

Still, the end will come, just as Jesus predicted it will, and just as we read in the Revelation.

Mat 24:12    And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

What kind of “lawlessness” was Jesus talking about?  Maybe it is the general decay of society.  For sure, we see more-and-more senseless violence and the almost wanton disregard for life.

I think Jesus had a different kind of lawlessness in mind, the kind that leads to “the love of many” believers growing cold.

He was talking about Christians leaving their first love on account of lawlessness – meaning, they no longer look to the Bible in order to rule their lives.  They sin openly, declaring God nevertheless loves them just as they are.

While many will fall away from the faith… God’s plan for the church cannot fail, and the church – the bride of Christ – will return with Him in His Second Coming, just as anticipated by Jesus and as predicted by John in the Revelation.

Bible prophecy isn’t what might happen, or what could happen.  It is what will happen.

It’s why those who took the Bible literally were predicting, for example, that Israel would be a nation again in her ancient homeland way before it happened.  They were ridiculed and criticized.  Then, guess what?  On May 14, 1948, God fulfilled His prophecies to regather the Jews.

Sadly, those who had allegorized or spiritualized those prophecies still will not admit that end times prophecies should be taken literally.  It makes no sense – except that they’d have to rethink their entire theology, since it was wrong.

Mat 24:13    But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

“Endure” means to remain under, or to continue, no matter the distress.  It is stressing that believers persevere, despite these nine factors, and anything else that would seek to undermine our faith in Jesus.

I like what J. Vernon McGee said:

When someone says to me, “So-and-so… has gone into sin.  Is he saved?” I can only reply that I do not know.  We will have to wait to see what happens.  I tell people that the pigs will eventually end up in the pigpen, and the prodigal sons will all find their way back to the Father’s house.  
Peter says, “… the sow that was washed [has returned] to her wallowing in the mire” (2Pe 2:22).

It’s not a time to be messing around with sin; to be wallowing in the mud and mire of this world.

If you’re a prodigal, get back to where you once belonged.  Persevere to the end and finish well.  Think about facing Jesus.

Mat 24:14    And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Here the Gospel is specifically called the “Gospel of the Kingdom.”  I take that to mean that the Second Coming of Jesus to establish the Kingdom  will be preached to the entire world during the Great Tribulation, so that no one on the planet is ignorant of the Lord’s intentions.

There is a present spiritual kingdom.  The King is absent but He does reign in the hearts of those who trust Him.  We are His living stones, His building on the earth.

But the Scriptures also speak of the future Kingdom which will be a kingdom on earth, a political kingdom, a kingdom where Christ will reign.

While we should push forward with the Gospel throughout the world, reaching everyone we can, the Gospel of the Kingdom will be delivered to everyone on the planet during the Great Tribulation, and millions – perhaps billions – will be saved.

There is no requirement in God’s Word that we preach the Gospel to every person on the earth before Jesus can return.  It’s not a cop-out so we can slack-off.  Who would want to slack-off?

It is yet another reminder that God’s program is right on-track and will be right on time.

The glass is filling-up with the wrath of God against sin that will be poured-out upon the earth and its inhabitants during the seven years of the Great Tribulation.

Jesus will return at the end of those years, in His Second Coming, and He will establish the thousand-year Kingdom of Heaven on the earth.

The church will be resurrected and raptured prior to that great and terrible Day.

Let no one deceive you.

If you are not a believer… You are being deceived; you are allowing yourself to ignore the warnings.

God’s grace is working to free your will, so that you can repent, and receive the forgiveness of your sins.

Jesus, the Savior of all men, desires to save you; believe on The Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.

God Only Woes What I’d Be Without Him (Matthew 23v1-39)

Arman Molla was diagnosed with bone cancer when he was just 15.

When Make-A-Wish contacted Arman, he asked for something no one had ever wished before.  Arman decided that what he really wanted more than anything wasn’t to parachute out of a plane.  He didn’t want a Disney cruise or to meet his favorite movie star.

He wanted a mentor.  Somebody to take him under his wing and show him how the business world works.

The people at Make-A-Wish were accustomed to making big things happen.  They offered to get Arman a meeting with Warren Buffett or Bill Gates.

Then Arman threw them for another loop.  He said no thanks.  He wanted someone whom he could really get to know.

Touched by the request, one of the board members who works in finance decided to take Arman on personally, and they have developed a close mentoring relationship.

The thing that attracted me to this story was the familiar phrase, “take him under his wing.”  We use it mostly to describe taking an interest in someone to instruct and train them.

It’s borrowed, obviously, from the world of birds, who quite literally take their young under their wings for protection from things like the sun, and the weather, and predators.

It is a favorite illustration, in the Bible, of God’s overall care for His people.  Here are just a few of the many wing references:

Psa 17:8    … Hide me under the shadow of Your wings,

Psa 36:7    How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.

Psa 57:1    Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, Until these calamities have passed by.

Psa 61:4    … I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.

Psa 63:7    Because You have been my help, Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.

Psa 91:4    He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge…

Jesus says to the Jews of Jerusalem, “how often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (v37).

One reason the people were “not willing” is given in the verses that precede Jesus’ lament over the people and city He loved.  Their religious leaders, the scribes and Pharisees, discouraged the Jews from following Jesus.

Jesus describes their leadership as blind, burdensome, and hypocritical.  As mentors, they took Jews “under their wings,” so to speak, but once under there, their followers were stifled and smothered rather than nurtured and protected.

Jesus’ disciples were going to go into the world making disciples.  They would be taking people “under their wings.”

What would it be like under their wings?  What should it be like?  That is what we can discover in chapter twenty-three.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two questions: #1 What Is It Like For People Who Are Taken Under Your Wings?, and #2 What Is It Like For People Who Refuse To Be Taken Under Jesus’ Wings?

#1    What Is It Like For People
    Taken Under Your Wings?

What the world calls “mentoring,” we call discipling.  Whether we are talking about a formal, structured program, like Operation Timothy; or a casual relationship between a mature believer and a younger one, it’s discipling.

Since the Great Commission, to “go and make disciples,” applies to every Christian, at some point or another someone, or some group of believers, is going to be under your wings.

Make sure your wings are spiritually preened.  And by that, I mean, let’s learn what not to be like from the negative example of the Pharisees.

Mat 23:1    Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples,

Mat 23:2    saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.

Mat 23:3    Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.

Scribes had knowledge of the law and could draft legal documents.  Every village had at least one scribe.  Most scribes were Pharisees, but not all Pharisees were scribes.

It’s good to be reminded that the Pharisees started well.  They were the spiritual guys who wanted to keep separated from the world.  They were religious conservatives, Jewish patriots, and (as we will see) evangelical.  Sounds like us!
Furthermore, they “[sat] in Moses’ seat,” meaning they were the ones who believed in the authority and inerrancy of the Bible.

Sounds more like us!  But there are things about them we do not want to resemble.

Jesus went so far as to tell His disciples “whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do.”  Insofar as they rightly divided the Word of God, you should be ready to submit and obey.

The problem: “they say, and do not do.”  The remaining verses about the Pharisees tell you what Jesus meant.

Mat 23:4    For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

I see this as referring to what we would call legalism.  They held to a strict interpretation of the letter of God’s law, while ignoring the spirit of the law.  Thus they could drag a woman caught in adultery to Jesus, throw her down before Him, and demand she be stoned – all as a test for The Lord, not caring a whit for the woman’s eternal soul.  And all the while themselves filled with secret sins of the heart far more heinous than hers.

There must be compassion under our wings, and an understanding of the spirit of the law as we seek to lift folks up, not keep them down.

Mat 23:5    But all their works they do to be seen by men…

Jesus knew their motives, and it was to be seen by men, to receive the praise of men, to be thought great by men.
We should not judge motives, but we can look at behavior to see if a person is calling attention to himself or herself rather than to Jesus.

Mat 23:5  … They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.

In Deuteronomy 6:8, describing the words of God, the Jews were told “you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”

What do you think that means?  It is figurative language.  It means that God’s Word should direct your actions, and it should filter everything you take in.

The Pharisees took it literally and wore leather prayer boxes, with Scripture verses in them, tied on their foreheads and forearms.  These were called phylacteries.

The Pharisees had phylacteries made that got bigger and bigger over time, as an outward show of their righteousness.

As far as the “borders of their garments,” they were to be sewn on simply to set them apart from nonbelievers.  The Pharisees tried to outdo one another as to the length of their borders – again, attracting attention to themselves.

Mat 23:6    They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues,

Mat 23:7    greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’

Mat 23:8    But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.

Mat 23:9    Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.

Mat 23:10    And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.

Later in the New Testament, we see certain gifts and gifted men in the church who have titles like pastor, or elder, or teacher.  There’s nothing wrong with that as a designation.

The problem is when men seek titles, and authority, that God has not given them, and then demand to be followed.

Under our wings, folks should know that the singular authority in their lives is Jesus.  To the extent He delegates authority to gifted men, and they are godly and follow the Scriptures, they are to be respected.  But we are never to lord over others.  We are to point them away from us and to Jesus Christ.

Here is how we do just that:

Mat 23:11    But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.

Mat 23:12    And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

A servant must, at some point, serve.  I’ve known a lot of guys and gals over the years who, because they think they are gifted leaders and teachers, will only ‘serve’ if they can lead and teach.

Hand them a broom, or a toilet plunger, and they set it down, or go looking for someone less gifted who can accomplish such a menial task.

You find true spiritual greatness when you find a servant who is content to point you to Jesus.

Jesus next launched into a series of eight “Woes!”  The Lord was expressing sorrow for them, and for what they were doing to drive men away from God.

Mat 23:13    “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

John the Baptist had called for repentance, announcing that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.  He pointed to Jesus as the rightful King.

Jesus went about, for three and one-half years, offering to establish the Kingdom on the earth.

The Pharisees refused to repent; they rejected Jesus; and they did everything in their power to actively discourage the Jews from following The Lord.

Do we ever “shut up the kingdom of Heaven against men?”  I think we can if we start to add things to the salvation formula of ‘by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ.’  When we demand folks keep the Sabbath, or be baptized, or speak in tongues, in order to be saved, we shut up the Kingdom to them.

Some of you have been under wings like those and you can testify how stifling it was.

Mat 23:14    Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.

The Pharisees depended on their disciples to support their ministries.  This verse describes them as seeming to be pious while, in fact, they were taking advantage of widows by coercing them into giving them money.

Let us be extra cautious, therefore, to never coerce those under our wings into supporting the work of God.

Mat 23:15    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

A proselyte was either a Gentile who totally converted to Judaism, or a resident alien who agreed to follow the seven laws of Noah.

Apparently the Pharisees were zealous in promoting their brand of self-righteousness.  Today we’d compare the Mormon’s or the JW’s who go door-to-door to win converts, making them “twice as much [sons] of Hell,” in that they are promoting a false salvation whose final destination is Hell.

Mat 23:16    “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’

Mat 23:17    Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold?

Mat 23:18    And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’

Mat 23:19    Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?

Mat 23:20    Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it.

Mat 23:21    He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it.

Mat 23:22    And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.

The Pharisees would swear oaths in order to make them seem spiritual.  They made fine lines of distinction that could invalidate their oaths.

In other words, they kept their fingers crossed, and hidden behind their backs.

We ought to be honest and open with those under our wings, with no need for oaths, and certainly without being deceptive in any way.

Mat 23:23    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

Tithing was a huge deal to these guys.  They made you weigh out herbs from your herb garden, and give God 10% of “mint and anise and cummin.”

While God required the tithe, it was no substitute for the spirit of the law – things like “justice and mercy and faith.”

Do you give to the work of God?  You should.  How much, that’s up to you, but 10% is a good place to start.

If you give, or if you ‘give’ of your time serving, it’s no substitute for “the weightier matters of the law.”  You need to be listening to God, and be ready to show His character all the time.

In other words, under your wings you must demonstrate that you, and everything you have, are God’s, 100% of the time, to use as He directs you.

Mat 23:24    Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

They literally strained their drinks, so as to not swallow an insect that would be considered unclean by the law.  But by neglecting the spirit of the law, they were, figuratively, swallowing the largest unclean beast in the land.

Under our wings, people should see the big picture.  For example, as long as there is a world to reach for Jesus, we should have no time, or energy, for petty issues.  Yet so much of our time is dedicated to whether or not someone from church waved to us.

Mat 23:25    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.

Mat 23:26    Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

This isn’t talking about washing your dishes; it’s referring to specific rituals you were required to perform before you could eat or drink – rituals not prescribed at all in God’s law, but added by the Pharisees, so that they would appear more spiritual.

The rituals that God did prescribe were intended only to remind us of the need for inner cleansing, or what we might call the pursuit of holiness.

I can appear to be spiritual, while hiding gross sin.  My serving The Lord doesn’t cleanse me.  For that I need to repent and thank Jesus for shedding His blood that makes me white as snow.

Under our wings, a lot of repenting ought to be going on.

Mat 23:27    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

Mat 23:28    Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Under the law you were considered ceremonially unclean if you inadvertently touched a tomb.  Tombs were regularly whitewashed to mark them so you might avoid them.

If a Pharisee was a whitewashed tomb, then you should avoid contact with them, and avoid being influenced by them.

“Lawlessness” is better translated uncleanness, referring to moral and/or physical impurity.  I’d apply it to believers who have taken their liberties in Christ too far in that they want to flaunt them.

Under wings like that lurks danger for believers who can be led into sin, stumbled into partaking of things that are not right for them.

Mat 23:29    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,

Mat 23:30    and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’

Mat 23:31    “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.

Mat 23:32    Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.

Mat 23:33    Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?

No way would they have killed the prophets – or so they thought.  While they were thinking that, they were planning to kill the Prophet promised by Moses – their Messiah, Jesus the Christ.

Under your wings – is Jesus your all-in-all?  Is He everything to you?  Is He the answer you seek, and the answer you give when asked the most important questions in life?

Under your wings should not be a place for worldly wisdom, for the philosophies of men.  It should be the place where the Gospel is the power of God to salvation, and where God the Holy Spirit is depended upon to transform lives.

Maybe this will help.  Whatever you find under God’s wings – others ought to be able to find who come under your wings.

#2    What Is It Like For People
    Who Refuse To Be Taken Under Jesus’ Wings?

The Pharisees did everything they could to keep Jews from following Jesus.  The result of the official rejection of Jesus as King by Israel would result in their destruction and dispersion throughout the world, for a time of national discipline.

Here is how Jesus depicted it:

Mat 23:34    Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city,

Mat 23:35    that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

Jesus not only foresaw His own death; He plainly told the Pharisees that they would murder some of the messengers whom He would send immediately after Him.  Some who escaped martyrdom would be scourged in the synagogues and persecuted from city to city.  This is exactly what you see in the Book of Acts.

By seeing to it Jesus was killed, and by killing those who came after Him, they would show that they were exactly like their forefathers, if not worse.

Mat 23:36    Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

We have the benefit of history, and know that around 70AD, Titus and the Roman legions sieged, then destroyed, Jerusalem and the Temple.

Mat 23:37    “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

Mat 23:38    See! Your house is left to you desolate;

In spite of all the rebellion of Israel, all the blood they shed by killing God’s servants, The Lord desired to shelter, to protect, to instruct, to save them, by taking them under the strong shelter of His wings.

Instead, the Roman eagle would swoop down upon them, unprotected and vulnerable, to leave their “house,” the Temple, “desolate.”

Note, in passing, Jesus has twice mentioned “Hell.”  Both times He meant the place of eternal, conscious torment.  Refuse to be taken under His wings, and Hell is your destiny.

Allow me to spend a moment on The Lord’s analysis that He was willing to save them, but they were unwilling to be saved.

Jesus thought grace was resistible.  God is not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance and faith.  His grace in salvation works upon your heart, to free your will to be able to receive or reject eternal life.

If you are not a believer, God’s grace is freeing your will, right now, to decide whether to receive Him, or to go on rejecting Him.

His desire is to take you under the shelter of His wings; and, believe me, that’s the place you want to be in these last days.

Mat 23:39    for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘BLESSED is HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’ ”

As a point of fact, after Jesus rose from the dead, He was seen only by believers.  No nonbelieving Jew or Gentile laid eyes on Him.

Big, BIG, promise here: Jesus will return to the nation of Israel, and the Jews who are alive when He does will receive Him, and He will establish the Kingdom of Heaven on the earth.

I’d like to again address any nonbeliever.  Think hard about this illustration.  You spend your lifetime desiring a relationship in which you are loved, cherished, and protected.  One in which you can grow and realize your potential.  Where you can be you, and become the ‘you’ that you want to be.

You won’t find wings like that except in a relationship with Jesus.  Come to Him as He is calling out to you.

For us believers… Like it or not, people will come under your wings, as you go, making disciples.

What’s it like under there – really?

Frequently Masked Questions (Matthew 22v15-46)

We’ve learned to GOOGLE-it when we have questions.

What are we asking?  The top five questions asked on GOOGLE in 2013 were:

#5 What is Gluten?  Gluten is a protein found in all wheat.  Some people are allergic to it, but it became trendy to remove it from your diet even if you are not allergic to it.

#4 What is Molly?  It’s a designer drug, a form of ecstasy.

#3 What is DOMA?  It’s the Defense of Marriage Act.

#2 What is Ricin?  Back in April 2013, a Mississippi man was arrested for allegedly sending letters laced with ricin – a toxic substance extracted from castor beans – to President Obama and Senator Roger Wicker.

#1 What is Twerking?  Thanks to Miley Cyrus’ performance on the Video Music Awards, everyone found out it is a type of suggestive dancing.

Here’s another way of breaking down the data.  A research firm ran hundreds of search questions through Google Trends to determine which words, terms, and questions each state in the United States was searching for more than any other.  The results ranged from mildly amusing to completely disturbing.

For example:

ALABAMA:  searched for FOX News, God, Impeach Obama, Jesus, Jessica Simpson, Obama Is The Antichrist, Polka, and Satan.  Their analysis: It’s a fire and brimstone kind of state, but with a soft spot for pretty blondes.

IDAHO:  searched for Bigfoot, Caramel Corn, Potato, and Unicorns.  Their analysis:  It’s a great state for imaginary creatures hungering for carbs.

MONTANA:  searched for Bill O’Reilly, Gun Rights, National Rifle Association, and Meth.  Their analysis:  So that’s how they use the internet in Montana.

CALIFORNIA: searched for Alcoholics Anonymous, Dandruff Cure, Food Poisoning, Google Glass, Kim Kardashian, Meat is Murder, Paris Hilton, Pokemon, Rogaine, and What does Siri look like?  Their analysis: Somebody needs to go and check on California.

In our text, three different groups opposed to Jesus come and each ask Him their #1 question.  He answers them, then asks a question of His own.

The questions asked of Jesus reveal something about the priorities of those asking.

The question asked by Jesus reveals something about His superiority.

I’ll therefore organize my thoughts around two points: #1 What Do Your Questions For Jesus Say About Your Priorities?, and #2 What Does Jesus’ Question For You Say About His Superiority?

#1    What Do Your Questions For Jesus
    Say About Your Priorities?

On Tuesday of Passover week our Lord’s enemies tried to trap Him by using a series of “loaded” questions.  They were bent on destroying Jesus, and they hoped to trap Him into saying something that would permit them to arrest Him.

Something else we should note – something important and prophetic.  It was customary for the sacrificial lamb to be examined before Passover (Exodus 12:3-6).  If any blemish whatsoever was found on the lamb, it could not be sacrificed.

Jesus was God’s final Passover Lamb – the One Who would take away the sins of the world.  Jesus was being examined publicly by His enemies, and they could find no fault in Him.

Mat 22:15    Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk.
Mat 22:16    And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men.
Mat 22:17    Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

The Pharisees were the traditionalists; they were the conservatives.  They despised Roman rule.

Herodians were Jews who supported Rome and the rule of the Herods.

Normally opposed, they joined together to put Jesus on the spot:

If Jesus answered, “No,” He would not only antagonize the Herodians, but would be accused of rebellion against the Roman government.
If He said, “Yes,” He would seem like a traitor to the common people who were His primary supporters.

Mat 22:18    But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?

Mat 22:19    Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius.

Mat 22:20    And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

Mat 22:21    They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Mat 22:22    When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

The Jews were a sovereign nation, but for the time being, they were subjected to Roman rule.  As subjected people, they were to be good, even model, citizens.  They were to pay their taxes, pray for those in authority, and obey the laws of Rome that did not violate their conscience toward God.

What is sometimes overlooked in Jesus’ response is His emphasis on rendering to God “the things that are God’s.”  Here is what I mean: It was precisely because they had failed to render honor and obedience to God that He raised-up Rome to discipline His people.

They created this dual citizenship because of their rebellion against God.  The solution was not to rebel against Rome, but, rather, to repent and return to God.

Here is how this applies to us as Christians.  We are always in a position of dual citizenship.  We are citizens of Heaven and of some earthly country.

Whether our earthly country is godly or ungodly, we are to render its authorities our obedience in that God has raised-up the government.  We are to pay our taxes, pray for those in authority, and obey the laws that do not violate our biblical conscience.

We, too, would do well to remember to render to God the things that are God’s.  If we are being oppressed, our first response ought to be repentance and return to God, rather than rebellion.

Mat 22:23    The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him,

The Sadducees were the religious liberals.  They were mostly wealthy, and since they were doing well, in favor of Roman rule.  Theologically, they denied any afterlife.  In fact, they denied the supernatural in general, saying there were no such things as miracles, angels and demons.

Mat 22:24    saying: “Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.

Mat 22:25    Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother.

Mat 22:26    Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh.

Mat 22:27    Last of all the woman died also.

Mat 22:28    Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.”

A little background is in order.  According to the Law of Moses, if a husband died childless, it was up to his brother to have children with his widow, so that his line would not cease.

A little deeper background.  There is an apocryphal book, the Book of Tobit, that describes a woman named Sarah who (supposedly) lived through this very situation.

As the story goes, she had lost seven husbands to the demon of lust, Asmodeus, ‘the worst of demons’, who abducted and killed every man she married, on their wedding night before the marriage could be consummated.  God sent the angel Raphael, disguised as a human, to free Sarah from the demon.

The Sadducees were making fun of this book – it’s emphasis on miracles and angels and demons.  Since a woman like Sarah could have multiple husbands in life, didn’t this prove the silliness of thinking there would be an afterlife?  Because, after all, who of the seven would be her husband in Heaven?

Mat 22:29    Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.

Mat 22:30    For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.

First, they didn’t know “the Scriptures.”  What Scriptures?  Well, it would have to be the Hebrew Scriptures regarding marriage and angels.

When God brought the first woman, Eve, to the first man, Adam, it was because he was incomplete, needing a companion to help him; and so they could procreate and fill the earth with their offspring.

In Heaven, we will all be complete and perfect; we will have everyone for companionship; we will have no need of help; and there will be no procreation.  In other words, there will be no “marriage” as it was first established by God.

We could add to that something the Sadducees should have known from reading their Scriptures, and that is that God considered Himself a Husband to Israel.  So there will be “marriage” in that spiritual sense.

As for angels, The Lord spoke of them matter-of-factly as existing.  He did not say humans will become angels; we won’t.  We will be like them.

A quick survey of angels in the Hebrew Scriptures reveals them as corporeal beings with an eternal existence whose number is fixed in that they do not reproduce.

There is that strange episode in Genesis chapter six where the sons of God somehow impregnate human women to produce an offspring of giants.  If those are angels, it’s still clear that they do not, among themselves, reproduce in Heaven.

The Sadducees were the ones being silly, thinking that Heaven is a mere extension of life on the earth.  No, it is life on a plane we cannot begin to fully fathom.

The resurrection isn’t a restoration of things as they were, only better.  It is as different as an oak is from its acorn.

Am I saying we won’t be married in Heaven?  I’m not – Jesus is.  Again, like God and Israel, Jesus and the church are described as Bridegroom and bride.  So, in that sense, we will be “married.”

Relationships and intimacy in Heaven are going to be something spiritual we cannot fully fathom; “What God has planned for people who love Him is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard.  It has never even entered our minds!” (First Corinthians 2:9).

Jesus also said the Sadducees did not know “the power of God.”  He elaborates on that:

Mat 22:31    But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying,

Mat 22:32    ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’ ? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

Mat 22:33    And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were long dead by the time God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush.  But He spoke of them as being alive.  He said, “I am their God,” not, “I was their God.”

C.S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another.”  God has put eternity in our hearts.  We know, innately, there is something more, something after life.  It’s Heaven; or it’s Hell.

Mat 22:34    But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.

Mat 22:35    Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying,

Mat 22:36    “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

The Pharisees had identified six hundred thirteen commands in God’s Word.  They saw two hundred forty-eight positive laws, and three hundred sixty-five negative laws.  Their careful scrutiny led them into debates about which laws were most important, and which could be overlooked.  This lawyer was interested in Jesus’ position on the greatest commandment.

It’s initially hard to see how this was a loaded question.  Perhaps it was intended to side-track Jesus, or pigeon-hole Him.  Depending on His answer, He’d be agreeing with some rabbi’s, and disagreeing with others.  He’d be just another rabbi in the pack, sharing a personal opinion.


Mat 22:38    This is the first and great commandment.

Mat 22:39    And the second is like it: ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’

Mat 22:40    On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 4:4-5 and linked it up with Leviticus 19:18.  In doing so He was also giving this Scribe a whole new way of looking at God’s Laws.  Jesus told him to live by relationships, not by rules.

If you love God, you will find yourself keeping His laws.

If you love God, you will find yourself loving others the way God loves them.

I said earlier that these questions revealed the priorities of the questioners:

The Pharisees who first approached Jesus had as their priority rebellion against Rome, while the Herodians who appeared with them had as their priority submission to Rome.  Instead, both ought to have had as their priority submission to God.

The Sadducees had as their priority the material world.  They were wealthy, successful, and powerful, and wanted to shore-up their position on earth and not think about a future judgment before God in Heaven.

The lawyer’s priority was the self-righteousness that he thought could be gained by obeying the most important Law.

One or more of those might be true of you.  If so, change your mind and adopt new, godly, priorities.

What would you say is your priority in life?  Better yet, take a close, analytical look at your life – how and where you spend your time, your talent, your treasure.

What does the evidence say your priorities are?  What do you ‘search’ for the most through your life and its actions and resources?

If it isn’t Jesus, you can clear your search history and start fresh.

#2    What Does Jesus’ Question For You
    Say About His Superiority?

I mentioned a few studies ago that Jesus loved to ask questions.  He asked hundreds of them.  He asks one here, and it’s a doozie – not just for His oppressors, but for us.

Mat 22:41    While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,

Mat 22:42    saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “The Son of David.”

They must have gotten a little excited when Jesus asked this question.  It was Messiah 101; a softball lobbed up to them.  There was no chance of getting this wrong.

Mat 22:43    He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘LORD,’ saying:


Mat 22:45    If David then calls Him ‘LORD,’ how is He his Son?”

David himself said that the Messiah would be his Lord – his adonai, a word which refers to the Messiah, and a Hebrew name for God.

How could David’s God also be David’s son?  He would have to both precede David, and proceed from him.

We understand this to be fulfilled in Jesus because He was God and became a man, born through the lineage of David.

Mat 22:46    And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.

No more questions asked; no more questions answered.

Does that mean we cannot question God?

Depends on who you ask.  If you were to ask Job, “Can I question God?”, I think he’d say “No, better not; not a good idea.”  In his suffering, Job had lots of questions and complaints for God.  God answered him by saying,

Job 40:2    “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it.”

Then God asked Job a series of amazing questions that show the greatness of His power and majesty.

Job responds, saying,

Job 42:2    “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.

Job 42:5    “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You.

Job 42:6    Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.”

In the New Testament, Ananias might encourage you to ask God questions.  Confused as to why God was sending him to pray for the healing of Saul of Tarsus, who was coming to kill Ananias and his kind, The Lord answered him gently, assuring him that He had big plans for Saul.

I want to elevate our thinking beyond questions we have for God.  I want us to see the superiority of God so that we don’t need to be distracted by asking Him questions, but can more fully enjoy His presence.

A lot of our questions are really our asking Him to explain Himself.  The real, rubber-meets-the-road questions are about suffering and affliction and loss and the evil that befalls us.

If you’ve seen the recent film, “God’s Not Dead,” you know that a major plot point is this question of why God allows suffering.

We want to know “Why?”  We want an explanation.

Short of an explanation, we want to see the good that will come out of the situation.  It’s almost as if we are letting God know we are willing to endure our pain IF we know some good is going to be done – some new earthly foundation is established to help others, or someone gets saved, or the like.

Well, all things do work together for the good.  God redeems everything.  It’s just that He might not do it in our lifetime, or in a way that we can see for many years – if ever.  God owes us no explanation.

That’s not to say He’s cold or distant.  Quite the opposite.  He is always with us, never leaving us or forsaking us.  When I’m suffering, I have a Savior Who has suffered as well, and more than I ever will or could.

And He did it for me, so I could draw from His strength, rest and revel in His love, look forward to His presence forever and ever in a place free of sin, death, pain and tears.

Jesus reminds us in His question that He is the unique God-man Who came into a war-torn world to defeat the devil, conquer death by His own death, and redeem lost mankind along with the ruined, forfeited creation.

He has answers to our questions, but, more importantly, He is the answer when we are questioning.  It is our relationship with Him, our intimacy with Him, our suffering together with Him, that sustains us.

Since He is the God-man… Since He proved His love for me by dying on the Cross while I was still a sinner, and His enemy… Since my sins are all forgiven and cannot be held against me… Since my name is written in His Book of Life… Since He is building my mansion in Heaven, and has promised to return to bring me safely there… Since He has promised to complete the work He has started in me, and present me faultless to God the Father… Since He has given me the Holy Spirit as a token of our engagement… Since He is my heavenly Bridegroom…

What question do I really have?  Can I not simply rest in His love?

I can; I should; but I don’t – and that’s on me, not on Him.

Just something I’ll throw out there for your consideration.  Some things are beyond our comprehension.  For God to explain them, it would be like a four year old attending a lecture on quantum physics.

Only the four year old would probably better comprehend quantum physics than we can the things that happen to us and around us.

Would you rather have the answers to your questions, or have the Answer, Jesus, as your constant companion?

I think you know the ‘Answer’ to that.

My Big Foretold Jewish Wedding (Matthew 22v1-14)

You’re familiar with wedding crashers, but did you know there are wedding bashers?

Bridal websites and publications are using the term more frequently.  They use it to describe someone who spends the day finding fault with the wedding.

Then there are the weddings that get more seriously bashed.

I read an article describing a wedding reception that turned into a brawl after the best man pushed into the buffet line to help himself to a piece of chicken.

The bride’s sister was left with a broken nose and two black eyes after she was allegedly punched unconscious by her uncle.

Bashers and crashers figure prominently in the Parable of the Wedding Feast Jesus told.  It goes without saying that you don’t want to be identified with either of them.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 You Should Have No Resemblance To A Wedding Basher, and #2 You Should Have No Reason To Be A Wedding Crasher.

#1    You Should Have No Resemblance
    To A Wedding Basher

We are living at a time when anti-Jewish sentiment is high and growing.  An August 6 web article stated the following:

A heavily Jewish section of Paris was looted and attacked as crowds shouted “Gas the Jews.”  Multiple synagogues and Jewish centers in Paris and elsewhere in France were firebombed.

In Berlin protesters shouted “Jew, cowardly pig, come out and fight.”

While in Frankfurt they carried signs such as “The Jews are Beasts” and the Star of David is “The Star of the Devil.”

In the Hague, Netherlands, crowds chanted “death to all Jews.”

In England, particularly London, there have been over 100 anti-Semitic incidents.

In Miami, protesters chanted “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammed is returning,” commemorating an Islamic war victory.

In Boston, pro-Israel supporters had to be rescued from an angry crowd that shouted “Jews back to Birkenau” and “Drop dead.”  A pro-Israel student was attacked by a woman insisting that Jerusalem would be cleansed of Jews, while another crowd shouted that “Jews better learn how to swim.”

There are dozens of other examples.

Worse than all those, however, is the fact that the professing church has, in large part, abandoned Israel.  One researcher claims,

Today there are approximately 100 million American church members who have very little to no understanding of Bible prophecy.  These church members are from replacement theology churches that don’t teach Bible prophecy and who look at prophetic scriptures as allegorical and not literal.  Consequently, they do not understand the importance of Israel to the God of Israel or God’s redemptive plan for Israel and the nations.

What is “replacement theology?”

Replacement theology essentially teaches that the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan.  Adherents of replacement theology believe the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, and God does not have specific future plans for the nation of Israel.

I found a list of the major denominations that adhere to replacement theology.  It seems well researched.  On the list are the Roman Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., the Episcopal Church, and the United Church of Christ.

Reformed theology, in general, is replacement oriented.  While many in the Reformed camp argue their position isn’t ‘replacement,’ they do not believe Israel has a unique place anymore in the plan of God.

Replacement theology is a form of wedding bashing.  God is not through with His chosen nation – and that should be obvious to even a casual observer.

The church did not replace Israel in God’s plan, but is something beautiful in addition to His plan for Israel.

If God can renege on even one of His promises to His covenant people, than what hope do we have He will keep them to us?

We have every hope, because our God is faithful, and cannot lie.

The Parable of the Wedding Feast is a simple, strait-forward explanation of God’s dealings with Israel.

The King in the parable is God.

The son is His Son, The Lord, Jesus Christ.

The wedding banquet is the literal kingdom on the earth promised to the Jews throughout their Scriptures.

The initially invited guests are the Jews, the nation of Israel.

The messengers sent to them are the prophets, and the first preachers of the Gospel.

Mat 22:1    And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said:

Mat 22:2    “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son,

God made certain unconditional covenants with the Jews:

The Abrahamic Covenant promised Israel a land, a posterity and a ruler, and a spiritual blessing (Genesis 12:1–3).

The Palestinian Covenant promised Israel a restoration to the land and occupation of the land (Deuteronomy 30:1–10).

The Davidic Covenant promised Israel a king from David’s line who would rule forever – giving the nation rest from all their enemies (2 Samuel 7:10–13).

(BTW: The Bible never uses the term “Palestinian Covenant,” and Moses certainly never would have called the land “Palestine.”  It’s better to refer to it as the Land Covenant).

Many Old Testament passages describe a literal kingdom on the earth.  It’s when the lion will lie down with the lamb, to quote one of the most famous representations of it.

We learn in the Revelation of Jesus that it will last one thousand years, and because that is mille annum in Latin, we call it the Millennium or the Millennial Kingdom.

The wedding motif represents God’s attitude about the kingdom He promised to establish for Israel.  He envisioned it as a festive time that every one of His chosen people would rush to attend and enjoy.  The thousand years would be like one, long wedding feast.

A meager earthly equivalent would be something like the recent royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton.  It was watched by millions of people in over 180 countries around the world.  It was a spectacle, a phenomenon, and if you were invited, you planned months in advance to be there.

But it’s like an afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese compared to what God has in store.

Mat 22:3    and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.

Notice that the servants were sent out “to call those who were invited to the wedding.”  They were already invited by virtue of being God’s specially chosen nation.  The time they should have been preparing for had arrived.

There had been a previous announcement – what today we’d call a ‘save the date’ announcement.

We can even get specific about the date.  Daniel was praying back in about the sixth century BC.  The Lord dispatched the angel Gabriel to give Daniel a remarkable prophecy that describes the history of Israel.  It’s the Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks.

We don’t have time to go into it right now, but it contains a mathematical component by which the Jews could have calculated the exact date on their calendar that Jesus Christ would enter Jerusalem as their King.

They did not ‘save the date.’  But God would not be deterred.

Mat 22:4    Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” ‘

This second wave of “other servants” might refer to the first ten or so years after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus into Heaven.  The apostles and those converted by their preaching continued to invite mostly Jews to the kingdom.

Mat 22:5    But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.

Mat 22:6    And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.

Stephen is a good example of this.  The first martyr of the church, he was stoned to death for preaching the Gospel to the Jews.

As far as we know, all the original apostles, with the possible exception of John, died martyr’s deaths; and John was severely persecuted, even if he did die a natural death.

The Jews continued stiff-necked in their refusal, and at the end of the Book of Acts the apostle Paul said,

Act 28:28    “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!”

The promised kingdom was on hold; postponed.  Jesus would establish it upon His return to the earth, at His Second Coming.

Mat 22:7    But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

Would to God this were just a figure of speech or an allegory.  It was not.

We typically say that Titus and the Roman legions destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple in 70AD.  That was the year they breached the walls, true; but the entire campaign started in 66AD and last until 73AD.

It was, to put is simply, awful.  Accounts of it are for Mature Audiences, rated V for extreme violence.

Contrary to popular sentiment, that was not the end of God’s care and concern for Israel.  He promised to restore them to their land – which He has.

Through the coming Great Tribulation, He will turn the hearts of His people back to Him.  They will receive Jesus at His Second Coming and He will establish their kingdom just as He promised.

What can we glean from this parable?  Quite a lot.

In verse five we read, “But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.”

The Jews knew (or could have known) the exact date that their King would roll into town.  Instead, “they made light of it”; they thought little about it.  They were apathetic.

Dare we say that making light of prophecy can lead to spiritual apathy?  Of course it does.

The apostle Peter thought that prophecy was the thing that kept you razor-sharp as a believer.  The whole last chapter of his second letter encourages you to look for and thereby hasten the coming of The Lord.

We have very little excuse for ever growing spiritually apathetic.  For one thing, we don’t know the date The Lord is coming for us, because His coming is imminent.  It could happen at any moment.    There’s no time for apathy if you’re looking for The Lord to return at any moment.

Imminency ought to keep us sober and vigilant.  If I’m taking the Christian life lightly, putting off my walk with The Lord, I’m betting He won’t return while I’m being spiritually lazy, or while I’m in sin.

It’s a bad bet, not just because I might get caught off-guard at His coming for the church, but because it begins to affect my walk in general, and I think less-and-less about personal holiness.

We also read, in verse five, they “went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.”

Those aren’t bad things; there’s nothing wrong with farms and businesses.  But we might do well to consider how we might insert The Lord in them; how we might acknowledge His ways through them.

Is it just Chic-fil-A and In-n-Out and Hobby Lobby that are called to let the world know there is something more – Someone greater?  We should be asking The Lord how we can insert Him in our daily business.

It’s also one of those “what does it profit you” comparisons.  If your farm, or your business, is keeping you from serving The Lord, there’s a problem.

What is His way for your farm?  For your business?  For your family?  For your future?

Develop a spiritual strategy to be more of a witness everywhere you find yourself.

#2    You Should Have No Reason
    To Be A Wedding Crasher

A third wave of invitations is sent out:

Mat 22:8    Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.

Mat 22:9    Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’

Mat 22:10    So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Historically, this would describe all the period after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple until the kingdom is established.

It’s the time in which we live, which Jesus earlier described as the church.  It includes the Great Tribulation – the seven years after the church is resurrected and raptured.

During this time, the invitation is going out all over the earth, to everyone, everywhere.

“Both bad and good” are invited.  What does that mean?

It’s a summary of things Jesus has said before.  Commentator Adam Clarke points out that Matthew had already recorded several such opposites.  Clark said,

The church is the threshing floor, where the wheat and the chaff are often mingled (Matthew 3:12).  It is the field, where the tares and the true grain grow together (Matthew 13:26-27).  It is the net, which collects of all kinds of fish, both good and bad (Matthew 13:48).

Later, in Matthew twenty-five, Jesus would use yet another contrast to describe the folks who survive the Great Tribulation – the sheep and the goats.

“Bad” and “good” are shorthand for those we would call “lost” and “saved.”

At the end of the age, when Jesus returns to establish the kingdom, only those who are saved will enter it.  The parable describes this in terms of whether or not the person is wearing the wedding garment provided him by the King.

Mat 22:11    “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.

Apparently, you had to wear a special wedding robe, given to each guest by the host.  Whether this was the custom at every Jewish wedding, or just for royal weddings, I cannot tell.

It’s really not so strange a custom.  There are still restaurants where, if you’re a guy, you cannot eat without wearing a jacket.  Many of them have jackets on hand you can borrow; but in others, you’re simply turned away.

Mat 22:12    So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.

First, let’s talk about the garment.  It is among my favorite illustrations of the salvation that you receive by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

The prophet Isaiah said of us,

Isa 64:6    But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags…

He was describing what we would look like, spiritually speaking, if we were to stand before God.  If all of our good deeds – our “righteousnesses” – could be spun into a beautiful robe, our very, very best would be like filthy rags in comparison.

Who do you consider to be the most holy, saintly person to ever live?  Most of the time, the average person will say, “Mother Theresa.”

Her entire lifetime of very best good deeds are filthy rags when seen in the holiness of Heaven.

How filthy?  I need to tell you what the text is really describing; and it’s pretty gross.  If you don’t want to be exposed to it, or if you’ve got little ones – time to cover ears.

Ready?  The phrase “filthy rags” describes a woman’s used menstrual cloths.

Let me give you a more complete picture of the garments.  It’s found in Zechariah chapter three.

Zec 3:1    Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him.

Zec 3:2    And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”

Zec 3:3    Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel.

Zec 3:4    Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”

Zec 3:5    And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the LORD stood by.

Understand that Joshua was the high priest.  He was dressed, on earth as he served in the Temple, in the most glorious, expensive, garments ever sown.  He was decked-out with gold and gems galore.

Standing before The Lord, on earth, he looked magnificent.  He was the best-dressed person on earth, and through the rituals and ceremonies required of him, he was the most prepared person on earth to stand before God.  He was the only one allowed to enter the Holy of Holies.

In Heaven his righteousnesses were still filthy garments.

God exchanged Joshua’s garments for those of His own provision.  The “Angel of The Lord” Who stood nearby was none other than Jesus Who would provide those garments for Joshua and for everyone who believes by His death upon the Cross.

Second Corinthians 5:21 summarizes it, saying,

2Co 5:21    For He made Him [that is, Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Our sin – like a filthy garment – was put on Jesus, while His righteousness – like a pure robe – is put on us.

This exchange takes place when God’s grace frees your will to enable you to receive His Son as your Savior.  He exchanges righteousness for sin, and declares you righteous on the basis of what Jesus did on the Cross.

The garment is given, not earned.  There is therefore no reason for remaining in your sin.

Mat 22:13    Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

This is when you start singing, Mamma Told Me Not to Come.

We might joke now; it’s black humor to defer the horror.  Eternal torment is real.  Hell is real.  I wish it weren’t; but it is.  One author wrote,

Jesus chose strong and terrifying language when He spoke of Hell.  I believe He chose to speak this way because He loves us and wanted to warn us.  So let’s not miss the point: He spoke of Hell as a horrifying place, characterized by suffering, fire, darkness, and lamentation.

I believe His intention was to stir a fear in us that would cause us to take Hell seriously and avoid it at all costs.

Mat 22:14    “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

This saying of the Lord’s has been used to try to limit the scope of His call to salvation, when, in fact, it does not.

The terms “many” and “few” divide the whole of humanity into two unequal parts.  The “many” and the “few” add up to everyone.

If you’re not buying that, the parable itself teaches us that “many” and “few” add up to everyone, because everyone who could be found anywhere – both good and bad – was included in the invitation.

It was an all-inclusive invitation.

Jesus said of Himself that, if He be lifted up on the Cross, He would draw all men to Himself (John 12:32).

He didn’t mean all men would be saved, but that the Cross would exert an influence of grace upon every hard human heart to free the will in order to be enabled to receive or reject Him.

Jesus is the Savior of all men – especially those who believe.  His sacrifice as our Substitute on the Cross is sufficient to save everyone, but only becomes effective in those who receive Him.

In that sense, you are “chosen” by God, having received His Son by grace, through faith.

If you are not yet saved, what is your reason?

The guest in our parable offered no reason.  He realized there was no reason, and, he realized too late, that it was too late.

It’s not too late, not today, not for you.

For those of us who are walking with The Lord, let’s ask Him to show us how His ways and our ways either coincide or are out of synch – so that we can be those who live preparing for the trumpet that will call us home in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.

Because You’re Mine, I Tend The Vine (Matthew 21v23-46)

It’s the question every parent dreads.  Sooner or later, you’re going to have to deal with it.

“Are we there yet?”

I remember a promo for the Simpsons in which Bart and Maggie keep asking, over-and-over, all across the country, “Are we there yet?”, “Are we there yet?”, “Are we there yet?”

Just as Homer can’t take it anymore, and he jumps into the back seat to throttle them, Marge grabs the wheel and says, “I think we’re there!”

Hard to believe it is only the second most annoying question children repeatedly ask; the first one being, “Why?”

I was thinking about questions because, in our text, Jesus answered a question He was asked by asking a question of His own.

Jesus loved to ask questions.  It’s been calculated that He asked between two and three hundred questions in the Gospels.  Some of those are the same questions being reported by four different writers, but even allowing for that repetition, the sheer number of questions Jesus asked was impressive.

He did not answer questions by asking questions in order to be evasive.  Quite the opposite is true, in that the answer to His question would also answer the one He had been asked.

With respect to the ask-a-question format of Jesus, I’ll organize my thoughts around two questions: #1 What Has Jesus Told You To Do?, and #2 Are You Going To Do What Jesus Told You To Do?

#1    What Has Jesus Told You To Do?

It was the last few days for Jesus before His crucifixion.  It had been a busy week of ministry thus far.

He’d made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey, to the shouts of “Hosanna!”

He had overturned the tables of the money changers, stringing together a couple of prophecies from the Old Testament, saying, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER,’ but you have made it a ‘DEN OF THIEVES.'”

He had spent time healing in the Temple, and now He was back there, teaching.

Apparently, Jesus was doing all that without a permit.

Mat 21:23    Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”

Do you need a permit if you’re the Messiah?  Or permission?

Jesus had not gone through the proper channels – or so the religious leaders thought – and so they felt they were on good ground challenging His authority to do the things He was doing.

There is such a thing as spiritual authority.  Jesus will tell His disciples, after His resurrection, that “all authority has been given to” Him (Matthew 28:18).  In Hebrews we are told, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you” (13:17).

God has likewise established authority in the home and family, and in the governments He allows to exist on the earth.

We are not able, spiritually speaking, to ignore authority.  We are to submit to it as God has determined it, with the Word as our guide.

The question the religious leaders asked wasn’t a bad one, in general, but it was insincere, since they could see that Jesus’ authority came from God.

G. Campbell Morgan is a really good Bible expositor.  Remember his name, and grab his books at thrift stores.  He pointed out that these religious leaders said Jesus was “doing these things.”

It was an admission on their part.  Jesus was doing things – good things, great things, things that only the Messiah could do.  He’d been doing them for the past three and one-half years.  Healing all manner of illness and affliction… giving sight to the blind… causing the deaf to hear and the lame to walk… casting out all manner of demons… raising the dead.

Simultaneously He had been teaching in a way no one had ever heard before – with a divine authority, with Heaven’s anointing upon each word.

Many lives had been changed, for the better, by this itinerant rabbi.

All of that is admitted, really, when they say, “doing these things.”

Jesus has been “doing… things,” good things, great things, from that time right up to the present.  Changed lives are a powerful testimony of His authority, of the heavenly anointing upon Him.

Jesus wants to “do things” in your life; and through your life.  You are both His great work, and one of His workers.  You are to be being changed more into the image of Jesus while you simultaneously discover the good works The Lord has for you to accomplish in the power of His Holy Spirit.

Mat 21:24    But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things:

It was not unusual, in Jewish culture, to answer a question with a question.  It was, in fact, a preferred method that rabbi’s used with their students.

Far from being evasive, or even disrespectful, The Lord was being gracious to these guys – even though they had rudely interrupted Him in the middle of a teaching.

He was treating them as if this was a genuine dialog, even though their hearts were wicked and accusatory.

Mat 21:25    The baptism of John – where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’

Mat 21:26    But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.”

This was a lose-lose for them.  What is sad is that, here they were – the religious and (supposedly) spiritual leaders – but they were in a place where they could not honestly answer a simple question.

If in your ministry you find you cannot give a straightforward, honest answer, something has gone very wrong.  If you are taking evasive action, it’s a problem.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be tactful, or thoughtful.  It doesn’t mean we should blurt out things people have no business hearing.  It doesn’t mean we should lack sensitivity.

It just means we shouldn’t have a hidden agenda that requires stealth and deception.

Mat 21:27    So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

Their answer was a lie told to protect themselves.

It’s like the guy who said, “I always lie.”  Was he telling the truth?  How can he be telling the truth about lying if he always lies?

Jesus’ question was not just to avoid giving them an answer.  If they would have answered Jesus’ question, they would have answered their own question.

If they admitted that John the Baptist was sent with the authority of Heaven, then they would have admitted Jesus also had heavenly authority.  John had introduced Jesus as the one who was “mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.”

He had initially refused to baptize Jesus, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

John made it clear that Jesus would increase, and that he – John – must decrease.

He had declared, plainly and boldly, that Jesus was God’s Lamb Who would take away the sins of the world.

Receive John’s ministry and you must receive Jesus, since John was the herald, and Jesus was the King he heralded.

Say “No, John the Baptist was not Heaven-sent,” and you reject Jesus.  But then you are in denial – because it was evident to everyone that John was indeed a prophet sent by God.

People seem to have a lot of questions for God.  Some of them are accusatory – like, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

In most cases, He answers them with a question of His own, like this one: “Who do you say that I am?”

Answer that, and you’ll discover answers to everything else.

Jesus is the sinless Son of God, the unique God-man Who died on the cross as your Substitute to take upon Himself your sins and provide for you His righteousness.

There is an important application for us in Jesus’ question and question session with the religious leaders.  God wants you to act upon what you already know, and what He has already asked of you, before He gives you further direction.

Take these religious leaders as an example for us.  If they had received the ministry of John the Baptist, they would not be asking Jesus ridiculous questions.  Instead, they’d have had their lives changed, and they’d be in the crowd, soaking up the greatest teaching ever heard by men – from the lips of the God-man.

It was useless to answer their questions, since they had refused the revelation God had already given.

Sometimes – not always, but occasionally – when you feel like you’re spinning your spiritual wheels, it is because God has already asked you to do something, told you what He wants, but you aren’t doing it.

Maybe you disagree with what He’s asking… Or, more positively but just as disobediently, you don’t feel adequate to accomplish it.

On the adequacy issue, I encountered a quote from J. Hudson Taylor, the great missionary, who said, “All of God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on God being with them.”

If you think you are adequate for a spiritual task, because of your spiritual discipline or effort, think again.  God is in the business of doing what is beyond your abilities.

You might be spinning your wheels because you disagree with God – at least with regard to the approach He wants you to take.  He wants us, by His Spirit, to humble ourselves, put ourselves last and others first, return blessing for cursing; things like that.

I don’t know what it is, for you, that might have you stuck in a rut.  God does, and He wants to show you, and then yoke-up with you to pull you out of the rut and get you to your next spiritual destination.

Jot this down: “God, what do you want me to do for You?”  In a little while we will give you time to reflect on today’s worship service and, if you need something to think about, that’s as good a question as any.

In case the religious leaders didn’t fully grasp what Jesus was telling them, He told two parables to illustrate it.

#2    Are You Going To Do
    What Jesus Told You To Do?

Facebook seems overrun with questionnaires.  The ones I’m thinking of ask you a series of questions to see what state in the United States most suits you.  Or what Disney prince or princess you are.  Or which character you are most like in Star Wars.

Yesterday there was this one: Which classic novel are you?

In the Parable of the Two Sons, you need to figure out which son you are.

Let me give you a hint: You don’t want to be the second son.

Mat 21:28    “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’

Mat 21:29    He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.

Mat 21:30    Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go.

This parable, and the next, are set in the vineyard.  Every Jew listening to it would recognize Israel as God’s vineyard from the famous Song of the Vineyard in Isaiah chapter five.

It’s a remarkable passage.  In it, The Lord illustrates His love for His people as a if He were the owner of a vineyard, and they were His vineyard.  One commentator summarized it:

Nothing was left undone to guarantee a bountiful crop.  The LORD had great expectations of His vineyard.  He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines.  He built a watchtower, not a temporary hut, in it and cut out a wine vat as well.

Nevertheless the vineyard did not produce, leading the Owner to exclaim, “What more could have been done for My vineyard than what I have done for it” (v4).

The Song of the Vineyard ends on this ominous note:

Isa 5:6    I will lay it waste; It shall not be pruned or dug, But there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds That they rain no rain on it.”

The time of this judgment upon Israel was at hand, and these two parables fill-in some additional details as to why that was so.

Mat 21:31    Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.

Mat 21:32    For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

Ouch!  That had to sting – especially in front of the crowd that included former tax collectors and harlots.

“Tax collectors and harlots” were the most despised, on the one end, and the most degenerate, on the other end, of sinners; but, really, they represent all those who were not part of the spiritual elite – the scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees.

If the first son in the parable represents tax collectors and harlots, in what sense did they initially refuse to enter the kingdom?

Probably in the sense that they continued in their sin, despite knowing the Law of Moses.

We shouldn’t give them a pass, but we can lay some blame at the feet of the religious elite.  The Pharisees, especially, made it so hard to ‘keep’ God’s Law that the average sinner was overwhelmed.  Jesus once described them as heaping huge burdens on people, then refusing to lift a finger to help them carry the load.

He was referring to all the crazy external rules they added to God’s Word that a person was expecting to ‘keep’ in order to be righteous.
Like tithing from your herb garden by, literally, counting out one leaf of oregano for God for every nine you kept for yourself.

When John the Baptist came, the sinners “regretted” their sin, and the word is repented.  They believed John, were baptized, and were awaiting entrance into the kingdom.

Had the nation received Jesus Christ as their King, these repentant tax collectors and harlots would have been its chief citizens.

The religious elite only acted as though they were obedient to the Law of Moses.  They were all about externals, ignoring any internal transformation.

They went out to see John baptizing, but they refused to repent at his preaching, and were rejecting the One John pointed to as their Savior and Lord.

While they were still reeling, Jesus told another parable.

Mat 21:33    “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country.

Mat 21:34    Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.

Mat 21:35    And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.

Mat 21:36    Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.

Mat 21:37    Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

Mat 21:38    But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’

Mat 21:39    So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.

The leaders of Israel are represented by the vinedressers, who were responsible for cultivating, pruning, and tending God’s vineyard to produce a bountiful harvest.

The servants who were sent represent the prophets whom God sent over-and-over again throughout Israel’s history to call them to repentance and obedience in order to produce fruit.

The leaders of the nation routinely killed God’s prophets.

In an amazing display of patience, God continued to send prophets to try to woo His wayward people.  It was to no avail.

Graciously, God provided one final opportunity by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to Israel.  He, too, would be rejected and killed by Israel’s leaders.

Mat 21:40    “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”

Mat 21:41    They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”

They must not have realized that they were passing judgment upon themselves.

People do this, in a different way today.  I’ve had a lot of people tell me, somewhat jokingly but sometimes seriously, that they know they are going to Hell when they die; or, at the very least, they are not going to Heaven.

If you believe that – you’d better do something about it while there is still time.  Because you are passing judgment on yourself – even though you may not realize it.


Mat 21:43    “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

Mat 21:44    And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

Jesus changed illustrations and began talking about a building.  The figure of a stone is found often in Scripture, Jesus being referred to both as the foundation stone and the head of the corner.  Jesus is God’s “chief cornerstone,” upon Whom the Kingdom of God would, and yet will, be built.

The “builders” were the religious leaders, rejecting Him.  That they would be “[ground] into powder” anticipates the very real destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD by Titus and the Roman legions he commanded.

“Whoever falls on this stone” was Jesus’ way of describing a person who would receive Him and be saved by humbling himself or herself.

God is not willing that any should perish.  The Lord wept over Jerusalem, knowing they would reject Him and bring destruction and dispersion upon themselves.

Who, or what, is the “nation” that the kingdom will be given to?  John Walvoord says, “The word nation is without the article in the Greek and probably does not refer to the Gentiles specifically.”

In other words it may not refer to a specific “nation” as we know it, but perhaps to a people group.

It might mean anyone, Jew or Gentile from any nation, who brings forth fruit during Jesus’ absence, in-between His first and Second Coming.  In that sense, we would say the church, throughout the age in which we live, is that nation.

It undoubtedly refers, in the future, to the “nation” of Jews who will survive the Great Tribulation.  The kingdom will be offered again, and at the end of the seven years, The Lord will return, and the remnant of Israel will be saved.  Then Jesus will establish the Kingdom of God on earth for a thousand years.

Mat 21:45    Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.

Mat 21:46    But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

Have you ever had someone realize that you are calling them, personally, a sinner?  It can be kinda scary, but at least you know that the Word of God is convicting them, and for that you ought to be glad.

It’s a little harder to put yourself in this parable, because it’s so specific to Israel’s leaders at the time Jesus was on the earth.  It’s clearly and unmistakably a parable of the vineyard – which is Israel.

There are some principles we can glean.

If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ; if you’re not saved; in a very real sense, you are rejecting God’s prophets and, ultimately, you are rejecting His Son.

He is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe.  If you do not believe, His death was sufficient for you, but you are left dead in your trespasses and sins.

The good news: You can “Repent!”

In a moment, you’ll have the opportunity to do just that, and I’d encourage you to confess your sin and call upon your Savior.

It’s harder to put believers into this parable.  Here is what we can say.  Jesus’ initial effort, in the opening fray, was to show these guys they had not done what God had told them to do.  They had not repented at the preaching of John the Baptist and, so, they were stuck in a particularly deep spiritual rut.

If you have not done something Jesus has told you to do, what are you going to do about it?

Jesus Is A Fig-Wither Friend (Matthew 21v18-22)

Before his 19th birthday, Frank Abagnale successfully performed cons worth millions of dollars by posing as a Pan American World Airways pilot, a Georgia doctor, and a Louisiana parish prosecutor.

His life was made famous in the 2002 Steven Spielberg film, Catch Me if You Can, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Abagnale, and Tom Hanks as Carl Hanratty, a bumbling but persistent FBI agent.

We have a tendency to revere those who can pull off a con; we even call them artists.  Think Paul Newman and Robert Redford in The Sting.  They were the handsome heroes, making right the wrongs of their mark.

If there’s one place where you never want to fake it, never want to try to con others, it’s in the church.  Too much is at stake – not the least of which is the eternal destinies of the folks you come into contact with.

We are warned that there will be frauds among God’s people.  In his book, Jude describes some of them as “late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots” (v12).

Those guys are apostates; they’re not saved.  When Jude says they are “twice dead,” he means they never had eternal life in the first place, and that they are headed for eternal damnation in the end.

Jesus is going to encounter a fig tree that is without fruit.  He will curse the tree so that it withers.  It was symbolic of the true condition of the leaders of Israel.  They were trees without fruit.

He uses the occasion to teach His disciples – which includes us – a lesson about fruit and faith.

We are not the fig tree; we are not going to be cursed; we are not twice dead apostates.

But there is something to be said about fruit and faith as we walk with The Lord.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 Jesus Is Going To Walk With You Inspecting For Fruit, and #2 Jesus Is Going To Work With You Expecting Faith.

#1    Jesus Is Going To Walk With You
    Inspecting For Fruit

The fig is the first fruit mentioned by name in the Bible.  It has the sad distinction of being the tree from which Adam and Eve took leaves to sew together coverings for their nakedness immediately after they had sinned – plunging God’s creation into its current state of ruin.

God came to fellowship with Adam and Eve that afternoon, as He always did each day.  They were hiding, wearing fig leaves.

It was the first case of camouflage as they tried to blend in with the fig tree.

Fig trees produce early and late fruit, and one thing that is true of their cycle is that, if they have leaves, they should have fruit underneath.

Mat 21:18    Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry.

Mat 21:19    And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.

If you compare Matthew’s account with the one in Mark’s Gospel, you learn that Jesus came across the fig tree on Monday morning and, finding it fruitless, He cursed it.  Then, on Tuesday morning, the disciples noticed it had withered from the roots.

Skeptics like to find apparent discrepancies in the Bible.  They want to prove it has errors – so that they don’t have to feel its conviction that they are sinners in need of the Savior presented on its pages.

There is no discrepancy or contradiction in these two accounts.  The writers are simply telling the same story from two different perspectives:

Mark is telling the story chronologically.

Matthew is telling the same story topically.

Just the other day, one of the sisters asked me to tell someone a story I’ve told many times before.  I did – then she said, “You left out the best part!”  I told it properly, but not completely; and that is what happens in the Gospels.

There are no insurmountable contradictions in God’s Word.  It is trustworthy through-and-through.

Matthew notes that Jesus “was hungry.”  It’s been suggested that He was hungry because He had missed breakfast spending time instead in prayer talking to His Father.

Makes sense that Jesus, who often retreated for prayer, sacrificing both sleep and food, would be hungry on His way into town.  He always spent time alone with the Father; how much more might He this last week on earth leading to the Cross.

You might go so far as to say that Jesus’ physical hunger was evidence of His spiritual hunger to spend time alone with God.  He would be hungry, and tired, precisely because He felt the need to first satisfy His spiritual hunger to be with the Father to the exclusion of material things and physical comforts.

When I was first a Christian, I came across this saying in a devotional: “No Bible, No breakfast.”  It was a solid reminder that, if I didn’t have time to feed the inner man, what good would feeding my body do for me.

Jesus was a “No Bible, No breakfast” kind of guy.  Finding Himself hungry, He was probably, as we used to say to sound like surfers, ‘stoked’ to come across a fig tree in leaf.

The Gospel of Mark says it wasn’t the season for figs, so why would Jesus expect to find any?

Figs may not have been in season, but a leafy fig tree meant you should nevertheless find fruit underneath its outward growth.

Besides, this fig tree wasn’t in an orchard.  It didn’t seem to belong to anyone.  It was growing all by itself, along the path they were walking.  It was an altogether unusual fig tree.

Jesus “said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.”

This was the only so-called ‘destructive’ miracle Jesus ever performed.  For three and one-half years He had gone around doing only good: healing the sick, delivering the oppressed, raising the dead.

It certainly marked a change in His ministry, but not a change in Him.  Here’s what I mean.

When Jesus first came on the scene, when He first began His ministry to the nation of Israel, He went into the synagogue at Nazareth and this is what happened:

Luk 4:17    And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:



Luk 4:20    Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.

Luk 4:21    And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus had been doing exactly what Isaiah said the Messiah would.

What is fascinating is that, when Jesus read from Isaiah, He stopped reading in mid-verse.  Here is how Isaiah 61:1-2 reads:

Isa 61:1    “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

Isa 61:2    To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,

Jesus had been “proclaim[ing] the acceptable year of The Lord.”  He had been offering to establish the kingdom on earth, inviting the Jews to accept Him.

They would not, and this was the final few days on earth before they would see to it He was killed.

Thus “the day of vengeance of our God” was something the nation of Israel must experience.

In just a few short years after His crucifixion, around 70AD, Titus and the Roman legions would surround, then destroy, Jerusalem and its Temple.  For the next almost two thousand years, the Jews would be dispelled from their promised land; they would not be a nation geographically – although God would preserve them miraculously to return to their land in our lifetime.

The fig tree illustrates Israel – the nation of Israel as it was officially represented by its leaders.  Israel’s Messiah had come.  He had proven Himself over-and-over again, fulfilling all the signs of the Messiah, showing all the credentials that were predicted.

He had taught them for three and one-half years, showing them the way out of their self-righteousness back to the righteousness that comes by faith in God when you simply believe and are justified by God – declared righteous by faith in Jesus.
But for a handful of followers – one hundred twenty on the Day of Pentecost, huddled in an upper room – Jesus was totally rejected.

The Jews, represented by their leaders, preferred to attempt to meticulously keep the outward Law of Moses while ignoring the more important issues of the heart.

Thus they were like a leafy fig tree.  They gave he impression, by their much religious activity, that they were bearing fruit.  But underneath, they were fruitless.

Another time, Jesus had made this same point using a different illustration.  Passing by a grave, He said that the self-righteous religious leaders of the nation were like that grave: outwardly, well-kept, but inwardly, full of dead man’s bones.

Jesus said, “let no fruit grow on you ever again.”  We know, from reading the rest of the New Testament, and especially Romans chapters eight, nine, and ten, that God has an ongoing plan for the nation of Israel.  So we need to be careful when we say, “the fig tree is Israel.”

If that were the case, Jesus would have just condemned Israel – as a nation, as a people – out of God’s plan.

He didn’t, so we understand that, at least here, the fig tree represented the Jewish leadership that would shortly condemn Him to death.

In the next verse, in verse twenty, the disciples ask about the withering of the fig tree, and Jesus applies it to them.

Thus, while we’ve seen the context of the incident is to discuss and describe Israel’s fruitlessness even after her Messiah had been cultivating her, there is an application beyond Israel and her leaders that we can appreciate.

Jesus expects to find fruit in our lives as believers.

By “fruit,” we mean, of course, the fruit of the Spirit, listed in Galatians chapter five: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (5:22-23).

But beyond those specific traits, fruitfulness is a catch-all for a solid, grounded, growing Christian life that is offered as a living sacrifice to The Lord, looking forward to His coming and to hearing Him say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Salvation means we have spiritual life.  Our spirit is alive, and God the Holy Spirit indwells us.  You could say we are, as Christians, rooted and grounded in Jesus.  If His life courses through us, of course He’d expect to find fruit.

Not only do we have life that can produce fruit, Jesus is constantly at work cultivating fruit in our lives.

In a few days, Jesus would have a final supper with His disciples, and He would tell them the following:

Joh 15:1    “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

Joh 15:2    Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Joh 15:3    You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.

Joh 15:4    Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

Joh 15:5    “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

The vinedresser repositions under-producing vines.  He prunes others to get a greater yield.  He removes dead growth.

The Lord is telling us, in these figures, that He is constantly at work, through the Word of God and the issues and circumstances of our lives, to produce spiritual fruit in abundance.

We know all this.  Knowing it, we can sit before The Lord and ask Him to inspect us for fruitfulness.

It’s all to possible to be leafy on the outside, but lack real fruit – spiritual fruit – underneath.  We can leave our first love; we can go through the motions, lacking the emotion.

I can’t tell if you are a fruitless fig tree; and you can’t tell if I am.  Time might reveal some things.  But only God can discern whether or not I am abiding in Him, yielding to Him.

When we get to our reflection on the message today, give The Lord freedom to look beneath the leaves and tell you what He finds.

It might surprise you in a good way!

#2    Jesus Is Going To Work With You
    Expecting Faith

As we get back to the text, it’s good to remember that part of what Jesus was doing was preparing His boys for their mission after He was crucified, raised, and had ascended into Heaven.

Jesus’ answer to their amazement at the withering of the fig tree is about their future, and the need to walk by faith if they had any thought of accomplishing their task.

Mat 21:20    And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?”

After everything Jesus had done, they marveled at a withered tree?

I see that as a good thing.  Or, at least, we can apply it in a good way.

In our walk with The Lord, the things He does (or doesn’t do) – for us and others – ought to cause us to marvel.

If you are an older Christian – and by that I mean your spiritual age, not your physical age – you should marvel with younger believers when they are all excited about something that you experienced, or realized, years ago.  It’s a marvel to them – and it still ought to be for us, as well.

Mat 21:21    So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.

Mat 21:22    And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

I think the scenery is important.  They were walking along the road, had encountered a fig tree, and were in the vicinity of the Mount of Olives and the Dead Sea.

I’m going to suggest that The Lord meant to illustrate for them, and for us, that as we walk with Him during His absence, there is work to be done, but that obstacles will present themselves.  We must therefore walk and work by faith – believing that our mission cannot fail and that obstacles can and be removed.

I think Jesus’ teaching here is like what we read in Zechariah 4:6-7:

Zec 4:6    So he answered and said to me: “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD of hosts.

Zec 4:7    ‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” ‘ ”

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, Zerubbabel led the first band of Jews who returned from the Babylonian captivity at the close of the seventy years.  In the second year after the return, he erected an altar and laid the foundation of the Temple on the ruins of that which had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.

He was overwhelmed with obstacles in the path of completing the task.  The obstacles are compared to a great mountain in the path of his progress, needing to be leveled before he could go forward.

It seemed as though the Himalaya’s were standing in his way, needing not just to be climbed and crossed, but removed.  Impossible.

But not impossible with God – not by the power of God the Holy Spirit to complete the task through him as he walked and worked by faith.

We usually backpeddle on these verses, trying to defend them, since they seem too good to be true.  Certainly “whatever things [we] ask in prayer” don’t always come to pass.  So we say Jesus meant, “whatever things we ask that are in God’s will.”

That’s, of course, true.  We really wouldn’t want anything that wasn’t in God’s will, would we?  You’d have to be really out there to want something that was outside of the will of God.

Come to think about it, a lot of Christians do seem to be “out there.”  I hate to pick at spiritual scabs, but marriage and divorce are examples we can all relate to.  Too many believers are living in sin, or pursuing unbiblical divorces.  They are definitely, obviously out of God’s will – but they pray for Him to bless them.

What Jesus might have been going for here is a potent promise regarding the disciples’ future mission.

They were on the road to Jerusalem.  The nation of Israel – officially – was a fruitless fig tree.  It called for a change of plan in terms of reaching the world with the message of salvation.

The mission of spreading the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth, would fall first to the apostles, then to all their future converts, until the church age ends with the resurrection and rapture of the church.

Think of it.  Eleven guys were tasked with spreading the greatest message of all time, but in the shadow of the national rejection of, and the violent killing of, their Leader; and the suicide of one of them, who had been a traitor.

It was like putting the Sierra mountain range on top of the Himalaya’s, and putting them right in the path of the apostles, and having them climb it in sandals with no mountain climbing gear.

Or asking them to level it with only their bare hands as tools.

And, if they could somehow struggle over the mountains, or remove them, they’d be faced with crossing an ocean on the other side, but without the use of a boat, or even a raft.

It was an impossible task.  At least, humanly speaking.

Supernaturally speaking, Jesus let them know that they could not fail, if they simply believed in Him, and worked by faith.

Any mountain, or ocean, or obstacle of any kind, could and would be removed as they simply pressed forward sharing Christ, one person or one home or one village at a time.

You see it in the Book of Acts.  Guess what?  It’s still happening!

But it only happens by faith – walking by faith, working by faith.  It’s not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of God.

Are we trusting in might and power?  It happens as God blesses us with resources and tools.

Let’s be sure that we are working yielded to Him – doing those things He has called us to, the way He has gifted us to do them.

Let us continue – always – in the Spirit.

Donkey King (Matthew 21v1-17)

I appreciate  If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a website that investigates urban legends, internet rumors, e-mail forwards, and other stories of unknown or questionable origin.

Before you hit “Post” on Facebook, you might want to check-out whether or not, for example, Pope Francis commissioned J.K. Rowlings, author of the Harry Potter series, to rewrite the New Testament and make it more appealing to a younger generation.

He didn’t; but that didn’t stop it from being spread on the internet.

I ended up at this week because I was researching the so-called prophecies of Nostradamus.  It’s said, for example, that he accurately predicted the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

Here is what the folks at snopes say:

Nostradamus did not write the quatrain that was widely attributed to him in the wake of the 9-11 attacks.  (One wonders how a guy who died in 1566 could have written an item identified as being penned in 1654 anyway.)  It originated with a student at Brock University in Canada in 1997, appearing in a web-published essay on Nostradamus.  That particular quatrain was offered by the page’s author, Neil Marshall, as a fabricated example to illustrate how easily an important-sounding prophecy could be crafted through the use of abstract imagery.  

People mistook what this guy wrote as an example to be an actual, and accurate, prophecy.  It wasn’t.

Not so with bible prophecy.  Bible prophecies are specific and detailed.  Fulfillment of bible prophecies are usually obvious and are always 100% accurate.

In an article comparing Nostradamus’ so-called prophecies to Bible prophecy, apologist and theologian Dr. Norman Geisler concluded,

There is no real comparison between Nostradamus’ predictions and those of the Bible.  His are vague, fallible, and occult.  Those of the Bible are clear, infallible, and divine. The Bible made numerous clear and distinct predictions hundreds of years in advance.  Nostradamus did not.

There is no evidence that Nostradamus was a prophet at all; certainly he was like none in the Bible.  Biblical prophecy stands unique in its claim to be supernatural.

Our text in Matthew presents a remarkable, 100% accurate, fulfillment of prophecy.  Half a century before Jesus Christ was born, Daniel predicted the exact day He would make His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  It’s part of the famous Prophecy of the 70 Weeks.

Around the same time Daniel was written, the prophet Zechariah predicted exactly how the Messiah would enter Jerusalem.

Both the day, and the way, Jesus would make His triumphal entry into Jerusalem were perfectly predicted centuries before they occurred.

Jesus fulfilled not just these two prophecies, but as many as three hundred fifty-two.

The odds of one man doing that are incredible.  I’ll offer some numerical perspective a little later.  It’s mathematical, and therefore scientific, proof of what we believe.

The Bible is the Word of God, and Jesus is the Son of God, the God-Man, sent from Heaven to earth to save the human race.

As we enter Jerusalem with Jesus via these incredible verses in the Gospel of Matthew, we can ask two questions suggested by the text: #1 Do You Fear The Lord Who Fulfills Prophecy?, and #2 Do You Hear The Lord Who Solicits Your Participation?

#1    Do You Fear The Lord Who Fulfills Prophecy?

One thing that immediately strikes you about chapter twenty-one is a major change in Jesus regarding public recognition of Who He was.  After avoiding every effort by followers to promote Him as King, and often withdrawing from crowds, Jesus takes the lead in orchestrating His entry into Jerusalem on what we now know was His final visit to the city before His crucifixion.

Mat 21:1    Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,

Mat 21:2    saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me.

Mat 21:3    And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”

Mat 21:4    All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:


We’re going to return to these verses, and talk about the response of the disciples, when we ask our second question.  For now, we are concentrating on the fulfillment of prophecy.

The specific prophecy – and please note that it is very specific – is found in the Book of Zechariah, in chapter nine and verse nine.  It was spoken, and written down, somewhere between 520-518BC.

If that’s not remarkable enough, Daniel predicted the specific day Jesus would enter Jerusalem.

Daniel, originally deported to Babylon as a teenager, was reading in the Book of Jeremiah.  He understood that the seventy years of captivity God had ordered for Israel were almost over and he began to pray for his people.

The angel Gabriel interrupted Daniel’s prayer and gave him a four-verse prophecy that is unquestionably the most remarkable passage in the entire Bible: Daniel 9:24-27.

It would take a while to go over the entire prophecy.  Let me just say this.  Daniel was told, by Gabriel,

Dan 9:25    “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times.

This is a mathematical prophecy.  Daniel was made aware of a specific period of time, consisting of what the angel called “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks,” totaling sixty-nine weeks.  These are weeks of years – seven-year periods of time.

The Jewish (and Babylonian) calendars used a 360-day year.  Sixty-nine “weeks” of 360-day years totals 173,880 days.

In effect, Gabriel told Daniel that the interval between the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem until the presentation of the Messiah as King would be 173,880 days.

The commandment to restore and build Jerusalem was given by Artaxerxes on a date known to historians: March 14, 445BC.
Exactly 173,880 days after the decree, Jesus – Who had previously avoided recognition – actively arranged to enter Jerusalem as its King, riding on the proper animal.

Mat 21:6    So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.

Mat 21:7    They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.

Mat 21:8    And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

Mat 21:9    Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!”

“Hosanna” means something like save now.  “Son of David” is the title of the Jewish Messiah, who must be legally descended from David, in David’s line, in order to be the King.

I think it was Charles Spurgeon who noticed that clothing and leaves tie in to the Garden of Eden – where, because of their choice to disobey God, Adam and Eve needed to cloth themselves with leaves.  That was being trampled on by Jesus – the victor over Satan, sin and death.

Mat 21:10    And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”

Mat 21:11    So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

It was Sunday, the first day of the week, and Jerusalem was swelled with pilgrims who had come to celebrate Passover.
Estimates of the crowds during Passover are all over the place:

One source claims a quarter of a million lambs were slain during Passover.  Since one lamb was required for every ten Jews, the estimate is that 2.5mil Jews were in the city.  Seems too high to me.

Another source puts the Jewish population of Jerusalem at 30,000 and says there were 125,000 pilgrims.  It seems more realistic.

We can’t really tell too much from the crowd’s description of Jesus as “the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”  Were they missing the mark by calling Him a prophet?

Or did they mean to indicate He was “the prophet,” spoken of in Deuteronomy by Moses – their Messiah? (Deuteronomy 18:15).

The mention of “Nazareth” and “Galilee” was probably made by folks from that region, who were traveling to Jerusalem and were expressing a kind of local pride in Jesus.

He may have had no respect In Nazareth from His own neighbors before, but now that He looked to be the Messiah, all that changed.

Of course, as is always pointed out, that same multitude would, in just a few days, shout out, “Crucify Him!”

Mat 21:12    Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.

Mat 21:13    And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER,’ but you have made it a ‘DEN OF THIEVES.'”

The pilgrims coming to sacrifice at Passover had to exchange their money for Temple currency.  The money changers were allowed charge exorbitant rates, and kick back a portion to the high priest; it was what we’d call a racket.

Not only that: if you brought your own animal to sacrifice, the priests would find something wrong with it, forcing you to purchase one of their ‘pre-approved’ animals – but, again, at an outrageous price.

Not only that: this was taking place in the Court of the Gentiles, which was intended to give non-Jews and outcasts the opportunity to approach the God of Israel for mercy and salvation.  Instead they saw corruption.

“My house” is a claim of deity.  “House of prayer” is from Isaiah 56:7; “den of thieves” is from Jeremiah 7:11.

The Gospel of John records Jesus doing this at the beginning of His three and one half year ministry.  He does it again here at the end.

I hate to draw encouragement from negative results, but the overturning of their tables didn’t have any lasting effect.

Sometimes you can do all the right things ministering for The Lord but not get godly results.  God has determined to allow men and women to exercise real free will.

Mat 21:14    Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.

That’s a better use for the Temple, is it not?  Jesus cleared out the secular and got down to the spiritual.

Whatever The Lord has given us, we want to dedicate it to providing spiritual help for folks who have need.  We can’t get so wrapped-up in things that we overlook people.

Mat 21:15    But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant

Mat 21:16    and 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 BABES AND NURSING INFANTS YOU HAVE PERFECTED PRAISE’?”

“Have you never read” would sting, because these guys had read Psalm eight, had it memorized, but they didn’t understand it.

I all the time hear about people who “really know the Bible,” but aren’t believers.  People tend to be afraid of them – of their supposed intellect.

“Have they never read” that all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God?  That there is no one righteous – not even one?

Did they forget to underline, in the Bible they supposedly know so well, that the wages of in is death?

I’m happy to be a “babe” or a “nursing infant” in their estimation – so long as I’m saved and, therefore, I am praising God.

Mat 21:17    Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there.

The Lord was probably staying with Mary, Martha and Lazarus – who He had recently risen from the dead.

Let’s talk prophecy as proof of the Bible.  Professor Emeritus of Science at Westmont College, Peter Stoner, calculated the probability of one man fulfilling the major prophecies made concerning the Messiah.  The estimates were worked out by twelve different classes, involving more than six hundred college students.

After examining only eight different prophecies, they conservatively estimated that the chance of one man fulfilling all eight prophecies was one in 10 to the 17th power.  That’s 10 with seventeen zeros.

To illustrate how large the number is, Stoner gave this illustration.  Imagine covering the entire state of Texas with silver dollars to a level of two feet deep.  The total number of silver dollars needed to cover the whole state would be 10 to the 17th power.  Now, choose just one of those silver dollars, mark it and drop it from an airplane.  Then thoroughly stir all the silver dollars all over the state.

When that has been done, blindfold one man, and tell him he can travel wherever he wishes in the state of Texas.  But some time he must stop, reach down into the two feet of silver dollars and try to pull up that one specific silver dollar that has been marked.

Now, the chance of his finding that one silver dollar in the state of Texas would be the chance the prophets had for eight of their prophecies coming true in any one man in the future.

But, of course, there are many more than eight prophecies.  In another calculation Stoner used forty-eight prophecies (even though he could have used a higher number) and arrived at the extremely conservative estimate that the probability of forty-eight prophecies being fulfilled in one person is one in 10 to the 157th power.

As we tell you weekly in our series of prophecy updates, upwards of 75% of the Bible’s 2500 prophecies have already been literally fulfilled.

The remaining 25% – the prophecies of the last days – will most certainly be literally fulfilled.

The numbers boggle the mind.  But do they touch your heart?

The fulfillment of prophecy – both in the past, but especially in the future, ought to cause you to fear The Lord.

If you’re a believer, you fear Him, anxious to obey, knowing that history is moving towards its inevitable consummation, but, more particularly, that, in your life, all things are working together for the good.

If you’re not a believer… The future is bleak.  Imminently, The Lord will return to resurrect and rapture believers, but you’ll be left behind to navigate the Great Tribulation – when the vast majority of people on the earth will die violent deaths.

#2    Do You Hear The Lord Who Solicits Your Participation?

In the midst of the fulfillment of Bible prophecy are the choices of Jesus’ disciples.

If you want to highlight, or underline, or memorize, a verse from this passage, I’d suggest verse six:

Mat 21:6    So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.

If you were going to end each day with a Twitter-summary of your activities, that would be a great 53-character tweet.

Had Jesus made prearrangements for this particular donkey?  Unlikely.  You couldn’t go on-line, or via telephone, and reserve a donkey for the day.  There was no Budget Donkey Rental, at $19.95 a day and 10¢ a mile.

This was no easy task.  It involved faith and also risk.  Now we don’t encourage steps of faith that are totally void of the Lord’s leading.  For example there was a lady in town many years ago who would be ‘led,’ so she said, to write you a check to help you if you were struggling.

Trouble was, the checks she wrote were faith-checks – meaning she rarely had any money to cover them.  Her defense was that, if God led her to write you a check, it was up to Him to deposit money in her account to cover it.

At the same time, it’s not faith unless there is some trust required, some element of the unknown.

Mat 21:2    … “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me.

Mat 21:3    And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”

Were there no donkeys right where they were that had never been ridden?  I wonder what they did to donkey thieves in those days.

In the Gospel of Mark, you read about the reaction of the crowd at the time of their loosing of the donkeys:

Mar 11:4    So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it.

Mar 11:5    But some of those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, loosing the colt?”

Mar 11:6    And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded. So they let them go.

I just saw a viral video the other day about a crowd of good Samaritans who stopped a car-jacking by beating-up the would be thief.   This was a serious assignment.

What was so special about this particular donkey?

What was so special about it was that The Lord gave His disciples an opportunity to participate in His ministry.

There could have been a donkey in closer proximity.

Jesus could have told them to ask around, to get permission first, to borrow a donkey.

He could have had the donkey and her colt miraculously wander from the opposite village right up to where they were assembling for their trip into Jerusalem.

None of those solutions would have partnered the disciples with Him as He forwarded the kingdom.

Jesus encourages you to partner with Him by giving you opportunities to participate in the ministry.  You must walk by faith – taking the risks, trusting in Him to cover you.

Let’s talk about the owner of these donkeys for a minute.  He, too, was assuming risk.  As far as the text is concerned, there was no plan for returning these donkeys.  Was he expected to make the trip with them?  Or just count it as a loss?

These beasts were sources of income, or at the very least they were help with everyday tasks.  Even today we buy beasts of burden for poor believers in India through Gospel for Asia.

It’s all fun and games until it’s your donkeys The Lord has need of; or until it’s you who is assigned to go and untie the donkeys.

Another phrase in this passage that should cause us to wonder: “The Lord has need of them.”

The sovereign creator of the universe “has need” of two donkeys.  I’m not going to go deep into the mystery of it all, but this puts us on notice that the sovereign God of the universe has created a world in which men and women have genuine free-will choices.

I’ll let theologian Jerry White express it:

God has chosen to create people who are free and to accomplish His purposes through their undetermined choices.  [Our] perfectly good and wise God [exercises] just the amount of control appropriate for the sort of world He chose to create.

God’s providence sees to it that His plan for history marches forward, right on schedule.  Along the way, He invites you to choose whether or not you will participate with Him; whether or not you’ll take the ride with Him, so to speak.

Your choices are not meticulously determined; you are free to choose.

The disciples sent to get the donkeys could have refused.

They could have chickened-out on the way.

They could have stopped loosing the donkeys when questioned by the crowd.

If they had, The Lord would have provided donkeys some other way.  But He wanted them to be a part of His big day.

The Lord has a big day planned for each of us.  It’s the day we are with Him, face-to-face and He looks upon us to reward us for our faithful service.

Hence the question we are here to answer: What is The Lord asking me to do?  What risk of faith has He set before me, or will He set before me as I seek Him?

Each of us has donkeys to loose – today – as we are blessed to participate in the work of the Gospel.

Blind Man’s Blurt

Finding a genie in a bottle never quite works out the way you think it will.

There’s an X-Files episode where Mulder comes across a genie.  Because he releases her, the genie tells him he must make three wishes.

Earlier in the episode, one guy wished for the ability to turn invisible at will.  The wish was granted, but the guy didn’t realize that, while invisible, he remains solid, and he is stuck by a car and killed.

Later the guy’s brother wished that he was brought back to life.  The wish was granted – but he still had all the injuries from being struck by the car, and was in a state of decay from having been dead.

Mulder wishes for peace on earth.  The genie grants his wish by wiping-out the entire population of Earth.

Mulder wishes for his first wish to be undone.  He begins writing down his third wish in great detail to be safe, but stops before finishing it.

The episode ends with a scene that indicates he used his last wish to free the genie, similar to the way Disney’s Aladdin ends.

Jesus is no genie and is not obligated to grant all of our wishes.  Prayer is not at all similar to asking The Lord to grant three wishes; and, if The Lord does answer our prayer, it isn’t with a sinister twist.

Keeping all that in perspective, our text in Matthew presents a situation in which two blind men who encounter Jesus are asked by Him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

If Jesus asked you, “What do you want Me to do for you?”, what would it be?  World peace?  The cure for cancer?  An end to all ethnic prejudice?  An end to poverty?

Or would it be something more personal – a healing for yourself, or a loved one?

It’s a pretty intense question, packed with a lot of responsibility and ramifications.  How you answer it says a lot about who you are and what you value.

You answer the question every time you pray.  Every time you ask for something in prayer, you are revealing what it is you want the Lord to do for you.

It might be a good idea to first ask yourself a question: What should I ask the Lord to do for me?

Is there something – a principle – that should guide my asking?

There is; and you see it illustrated in the story of the blind men.  Sure, they asked for their own healing.  But, in his case, it was just the right request, because it resulted in them following Jesus and bringing glory to God.

That’s the principle: Ask for those things that will result in you following Jesus, glorifying God.

We’ll organize our thoughts around two questions: #1 What Do You Want Jesus To Do For You?, and #2 What Do You Want Jesus To Do Through You?

#1​    What Do You Want Jesus To Do For You?
​    (v29-32)

This story is also told by Mark and Luke in their Gospels.  Luke focuses on only one of the blind men, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus.

Mat 20:29    Now as they went out of Jericho, a great multitude followed Him.

Luke and Mark indicate that Jesus was coming near Jericho, but Matthew says that it occurred while Jesus was departing Jericho.

It should never surprise us that the accounts in the Gospels give slightly different details.  We do the same thing as we tell events to people.  The Gospel writers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, picked those details most important not just to the story, but to the unique spiritual truth they were seeking to teach from the story.

There are a number of possible explanations to clarify whether the two blind men were healed as Jesus entered or as He departed Jericho.  One is that the two blind men were at the gates of Jericho when Jesus entered the city, and then followed Him through the city until, as He was about to depart, He stopped and called for them to come to Him.

Mat 20:30    And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!”

The two blind men ‘saw’ something the rest of the people missed.  They saw that Jesus was the “Son of David.”

The Jews believed that their Messiah would be a descendant of King David; and that he would sit on King David’s throne, ruling over Israel.

The blind men were declaring that Jesus was the promised Son of David.  He was their Messiah, Who was to rule the kingdom of Heaven on the earth.

It’s always good to be reminded that you cannot remain neutral about Jesus.  I like Josh McDowell’s contemporary approach to folks debating who Jesus is.  He’s either the Lord; or He’s a lying lunatic.  There is no middle ground upon which to say He was a great teacher… or a philosopher… or a religious leader.

Mat 20:31    Then the multitude warned them that they should be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!”

What’s up with the multitude?  I know this happened before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, but it seems extreme to be telling blind men to shut-up.

We sometimes tell ourselves to shut-up; or to remain seated.  For example, you might hear a message from God’s Word and, at the end, be prompted to go forward for prayer.  Instead you remain seated, talking yourself out of the Holy Spirit’s leading.

In a sense, Jesus is “passing by,” but you maintain the spiritual status quo.  We all need to shake-up the status quo and take advantage of the Lord’s presence more often.

These guys were blind, but like all first century Jews, they knew their Book of Isaiah.  In the thirty-fifth chapter, Isaiah said, when the Messiah came, “then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped” (v5).

In chapter forty-two Isaiah said the Messiah would, “open the eyes that are blind… bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness” (v7).

The equation these guys were trying to solve was, Two blind men plus One Messiah equals Sight.

What is the equation you are working on today?

Is it something in your marriage?

Does it have to do with variables regarding your children?

Maybe it is job or career related?

It could be about sin in your life – how to overcome it.

If you’re not a believer in Jesus Christ, you must first solve this: One sinner plus Judgement Day equals X, where ‘X’ is your eternal destination – whether it be Heaven or Hell.

These two blind men took advantage of the spiritual opportunity that God had placed right before them – right within reach.

We have so many spiritual opportunities, do we not?  We have the Word of God, the indwelling Spirit of God, the fellowship of the saints.  We have prayer.

There’s no excuse to just sit there while Jesus is walking by.  We need to get engaged on every level.

One reason we do not get more engaged, get more involved, is that we don’t realize we are blind.  Take any of the big issues in our lives – like marriage, family, and career – and you should approach them as if you have absolutely no clue as to what to do, and no strength to do it once you do know.

You and I are to be wholly dependent upon The Lord, upon His Holy Spirit, to live spiritually in all of those things, and in all things at all times.  We are like blind men and women, groping along, until He illuminates.

Look at it this way.  I can read hundreds of books on marriage, but they all come down to this:

If I’m a husband, I am to love my wife as Christ loved (and loves) the church.

If I’m a wife, I am to submit to my husband as unto The Lord.

No one can do that by developing a list of ten things… Or by maintaining a date night.

Those things have their place.  But I’m gonna need to be filled and constantly refilled with God the Holy Spirit to love Pam the way Jesus loves her.

Jesus doesn’t simply want to date her once a week at In-n-Out.

He wants her to know He will never, not ever, leave her or forsake her.

He wants her to understand that her light afflictions are but for a moment and are working for her an eternal weight of glory.

He wants her to live in the truth that her sins have been forgiven at the Cross, thrown into the deepest part of the ocean, as far from her as the east is from the west.

Jesus wants her to be comforted by His presence 24/7.

I’m a miserable failure at all those – if left to myself.  I absolutely cannot do any of those things apart from the Spirit of God working in me and through me.  No one can.

Mat 20:32    So Jesus stood still and called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

Do you really need to ask a blind man what he wants?

Let’s give the question some perspective.  There is a healing in the Gospels in which the friends of a paralytic tear through a roof to lower the man down to Jesus.  The Lord responds by forgiving the man his sins.  Only after the religious leaders get stressed thinking that He has no authority to forgive sins does Jesus tell the paralytic to rise up – demonstrating by the healing that He has the power and the authority to forgive men their sins.

With The Lord, you need to be aware of what you really need; and what He really wants.

What you really need is always spiritual.  And what He really wants is for your life to bring Him glory by pointing others to Him, either so they can be saved, or further sanctified in their walk with Him if they are saved.

#2​    What Do You Want Jesus To Do Through You?

At first, on the surface, it seems that the two blind men settle for something merely physical.  Maybe; but I think not, and anyway it speaks to us of that which is more spiritual.

Mat 20:33    They said to Him, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.”

Clearly, they were asking to receive physical healing – to have the ability to see.
I like the way their response is worded, though, because it can be applied spiritually.

In Ephesians 1:18, we read,

Eph 1:18    the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

In Acts 26:18, God tells the apostle Paul He was sending him out to the Gentiles, “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”

We sing, “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord,” and it resonates with us because we understand that there is often, in our lives, spiritual blindness, or short-sightedness, or tunnel-vision, that needs to be addressed.

Truth is, it is too common for us to think on the material level.  It’s our default way of thinking.

On the job, for instance, if things aren’t going well, we too quickly start asking God for a new boss, or new employees.  Or for a whole new job.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with those requests.  Except that most of the time God wants us to ask for things that are a little more in the spiritual realm.

That’s why we read things like:

Col 3:22    Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.

Col 3:23    And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,

Col 3:24    knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

Col 3:25    But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

Col 4:1    Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.


1Pe 2:18    Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.

What was true of bondservants and masters is much more true regarding employees and employers.

The point is, we should be thinking of the spiritual impact of our asking, not just the physical.

Jesus is no genie, but we can think He is when we ask Him for something, then try to accomplish it ourselves.

Example: You don’t like your job situation, so you ask The Lord to get you a new job.  He wants to change your heart about your job; but you don’t wait, and, instead, on your ow, you go out and get a new job.

The new job turns out to be ten-times worse than your old job.  Guess who gets the blame?
God gets the blame for it – even though He had nothing to do with it, other than politely not violating your free will.

Jesus then seems to you as if He were a genie who tricked you into something terrible.

We need the eyes of our hearts to be opened, rather than having tunnel-vision or short-sightedness or blindness.

Mat 20:34    So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him.

Yes, Jesus healed them physically.  But, remember, these guys addressed Him as the Son of David.  They addressed Him as their Messiah, Who was to establish the kingdom of Heaven on the earth.

We saw that, in that kingdom, The Lord would be glorified by conquering blindness, as well as deafness and all other physical disabilities.

I say, therefore, that the request of these blind men was consistent with what Jesus wanted to do to bring glory to Himself.  To all onlookers, by healing them He was giving evidence that their Messiah had come.

Although Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, He reveals Himself to mankind in different ways at different times.   Theologically, it’s called dispensationalism.

When the Lord was on the earth, in His first coming, He was revealing Himself to the Jews as the Son of David.  He was their promised and prophesied Messiah.
He thus went around performing the works, signs, and miracles that the Scriptures said would accompany the Messiah.

Was Jesus received by the Jews as their Messiah?  He most certainly was not.  He was rejected.  He was crucified, then rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  He promised to return to earth a second time.  When He returns, in His Second Coming, He will establish His rule over all the earth; He will fulfill all the Old Testament promises and prophecies regarding the kingdom of Heaven on the earth.

We live in the mean time – in a “between time.”  We call it the church age.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever; but He is being revealed to mankind somewhat differently as we await His return.

By far, the prevailing characteristic of the church age is the patient suffering of believers empowered by the grace of God.

Jesus promised His followers that, in the world, they would have tribulation.  Then He told them to be of good cheer – because He had overcome the world.

That’s your life in a nutshell.  Suffer with grace, and reveal Jesus to others by following Him no matter what, glorifying God.

It’s why the apostle Peter could say,

1 Peter 1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,

1 Peter 1:7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

It’s why the apostle James could say,

James 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,

James 1:3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

James 1:4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

It’s why the apostle Paul could say,

Romans 5:3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;

Romans 5:4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Romans 5:5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

It’s why the apostle John could describe himself as your companion in tribulation (Revelation 1:9).

Perhaps Paul put it best:

2 Corinthians 12:9 …Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

What strengthened Paul?  It was these words of Jesus, in answer to Paul’s request for healing:

2 Corinthians 12:9  And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness…”

Jesus can still heal blindness – or anything else, for that matter; and we should ask Him to.  But healing blindness at His first coming meant something a whole lot different than it does now, in the church age.  And that’s why I’m saying it is much more likely that Jesus will give you the supernatural strength to endure your trials rather than end them.

Jesus asks you, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  When you answer, just remember that we live in an age in which it often gives God the most glory for us to boast in [our] infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon [us].