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Bible Study: The words of Christ – part one

View Part 2 here


In looking at the words of Christ in the Gospels, we need to remember that three of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) present a fairly unified view of the events recorded, and are therefore referred to as the SYNOPTIC (meaning “one view) Gospels.  John’s Gospel stands separately, and is mainly composed of material that is different from the others.

The Words Of Christ In Matthew (Part 1)

Matthew 3:13-15
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”  15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.

All four Gospels relate this event  with unquestioned historical verification. While this section of Matthew’s gospel centers upon Galilee, Jesus now goes south to the Jordan River to be baptized (vs. 13). The word baptize (Gr baptizo) means to dip or immerse in water, indicating the true form of baptism by immersion. John forbade him (vs. 14) for the obvious reason that Jesus needed no repentance of sin and John felt unworthy of this opportunity. The tense of the Greek verb emphasizes that John tried to hinder him. Thus, this was no casual hesitation on the part of the Baptist.  Permit it to be so means allow it to be or let it happen. Jesus sought this outward identification with John’s ministry to fulfil all righteousness. By identifying Himself with those whom He came to redeem, Jesus inaugurated His public ministry as the Messiah. In regard to the Jewish religious observances, Jesus always met the duties of a faithful Jew: synagogue worship, attendance at  feasts, payment of the Temple tax, etc.
During the Temptation in the Wilderness, Jesus makes comments in response to Satan that are very significant for us as Christians in our struggle against temptation.

Matthew 4:4
4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 4:7
7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ”

Matthew 4:10
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”

The victory in each aspect of the temptation is related to Jesus’ use of Scripture. His source of strength was obedience to the Father’s will and He would not even work a miracle to avoid personal suffering when such suffering was a part of God’s purpose for Him.  This is important for us, because the weapon that He used against Satan is the one weapon that we also have available: God’s Word.  Our knowledge of, and obedience to, the Bible is our real source of strength in this world.

Matthew 4:17
17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

The message of John the Baptist is now clearly proclaimed by Jesus Christ. However, Jesus, as the Messiah, is not calling on His listeners to prepare for the coming of the kingdom but rather announces that the kingdom is here. In a very real sense the first coming of the King is an honest, straightforward presentation of the kingdom promised by the Old Testament prophets to the people of Israel. Thus, we find unusual miracles attending Jesus’ presentation of this kingdom: incurable diseases and incomprehensible afflictions are cured by the power of His touch and His word. The kingdom blessings promised in Isaiah 35:5–6 to be fulfilled in a future kingdom, here become the credentials of the King in His first coming.

Matthew 4:18-19
18 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

The invitation, Follow me, called these believers into a permanent ministry to be shared with Christ. I will make you fishers of men clearly indicates the nature of this ministry. They would receive special training in bringing men into the kingdom. These former fishermen would literally become fishers of men! There can be no doubt that aggressive personal evangelism was and still is a major priority in the believer’s life. Our obedience to the lordship of Christ is evidenced by our carrying forth the mission to which He has committed us.

Matthew 5:1 – 7:29  (The Sermon On The Mount)
Although this portion all contains one sermon, we will look at it in sections for ease of study.

1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The opening verses of the Sermon on the Mount indicate that this message deals with the inner state of mind and heart which is the indispensable absolute of true Christian discipleship. It shows the outward character and conduct of the true believer and genuine disciple.  Embodied in the Sermon on the Mount is a summation of Jesus’ basic ethical teaching of the life of a born-again man. While the Sermon on the Mount is not a way of salvation, neither is it only a message to those under the law, for it obviously goes beyond the law. It is a presentation of Christian discipleship which can be wrought in the soul of an individual only by the power of God. This message does not tell one how to be saved; it tells one what it is like to be saved. It explains the quality of the life changed by the saving grace of God. Its basic truths are reiterated everywhere throughout the New Testament epistles.  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus states the spiritual character and quality of the kingdom which He wished to establish. The basic qualities of this kingdom are fulfilled in the church which He would establish. Virtually every section of this message is repeated in the substance elsewhere throughout the New Testament. There is nothing here to indicate that this message is to be limited in its application only to the people of Israel.

Blessed means “happy.” This is a basic description of the believers’ inner condition as a result of the work of God.  These Beatitudes, like Psalm 1, do not show a man how to be saved, but rather describe the characteristics of one who has been saved. The poor in spirit are the opposite of the proud or haughty in spirit. These are those who have been humbled by the grace of God and have acknowledged their sin and therefore their dependence upon God to save them. They are the ones who will inherit the kingdom of heaven. It is obvious in this usage that the kingdom of heaven is a general designation of the dwelling place of the saved.

Those that mourn … shall be comforted. The depth of the promise of these statements is almost inexhaustible. Those who mourn for sin shall be comforted in confession. Those who mourn for the human anguish of the lost shall be comforted by the compassion of God.

The meek … shall inherit the earth refers again to those who have been humbled before God and will inherit, not only the blessedness of heaven, but shall ultimately share in the kingdom of God upon the earth. Here, in the opening statements of the Sermon on the Mount, is the balance between the physical and spiritual promise of the kingdom. The kingdom of which Jesus preached is both “in you” and is yet “to come.” The Christian is the spiritual citizen of the kingdom of heaven now.  These future possessors of the earth are its presently-installed rightful heirs and even now they hunger and thirst after righteousness. They experience a deep desire for personal righteousness which is, in itself, a proof of their spiritual re-birth. Those who are poor and empty in their own spiritual poverty recognize the depth of their need and hunger and thirst for that which only God can give them. To hunger means to be needy. It is joined with to thirst; the born-again man has a God-given hunger and thirst (inner passion) for righteousness. This hungering and thirsting continues throughout the life of the believer. He continues to hunger and to be filled and to hunger and to be filled. God supplies his every spiritual need daily. This act of hungering and thirsting after righteousness is the by-product of a regenerated life.

This is the description of a man who has already been saved. Nowhere does the Bible command unbelievers to hunger after righteousness in order to be saved. Rather, Paul clearly states “there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Rom 3:11). The biblical writers make it clear that while man must come to Christ for salvation, it is not within man’s normal ability and desire to want to come to God. Therefore, God is depicted throughout the New Testament as the seeking Savior going after the lost. They shall be filled (Gr chortazō) refers to a complete filling and satisfaction. The psalmist proclaimed: “He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness” (107:9). This filling comes from God, who is the total source of satisfaction of His people. It comes now and it will continue to come throughout eternity to those who hunger and thirst for it.

Those who are merciful … shall obtain mercy has reference to those who have been born again by the mercy of God. Because divine love has been extended to them, they have the work of the Holy Spirit in them producing a mercy which defies explanation by unregenerate men. Jesus Himself became the ultimate example of this when He cried from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).  The believer does not show mercy in order to obtain mercy, he shows mercy because he has obtained mercy. In so continuing to show the evidence of the grace of God in his life he continues to receive that grace. In other words, he is not saved simply because he shows mercy and is kind to people. He shows mercy and is kind because he is saved.

Those who are truly saved shall see God. These are the pure in heart. Their lives have been transformed by the grace of God. They are not yet sinless but their position before God has been changed. They have the new birth, saving faith and holiness. The process of sanctification is ever conforming them to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29), which image consists in “righteousness and true holiness” (Eph 4:24). Purity of heart is both the end of our election and the goal of our redemption. We read in Ephesians 1:4, “He has chosen us that we should be holy” and Titus 2:14, “who gave himself for us that he might redeem us unto himself a peculiar people.” To which we add Hebrews 12:14, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”

The next description deals with the peacemakers. They are the ones who are themselves at peace with God and live in peace with all men (cf. Rom 5:1). They are called “the” peacemakers for these are not social reformers, but rather the ones reformed by the regenerating power of the gospel. They are peacemakers because they themselves are at peace with God. They have entered into the peace of Christ and thus are ambassadors of God’s message of peace to a troubled world.  They shall be called the children of God. These only shall be called the sons of God! Throughout the Beatitudes Jesus clearly underscores that only those who have the life-changing qualities herein described are citizens of His kingdom.

 As Jesus develops His message He makes it clear that such a life causes His people to be in direct contrast to the world in which they live. Therefore He reminds, Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. The plural use of “you” in verse 11 indicates that He foresaw this persecution as touching all His followers. Notice II Timothy 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” The nature of this persecution (Gr diōkō) implies a driving or chasing away, a withstanding or keeping one from his goal. This does not mean that every Christian will necessarily suffer physical abuse as evidence of true salvation. While many Christians have sealed their faith with their blood, many more have had to withstand the social temptations and pressures of the world in order to live effectively for Christ.

Again, Jesus warns that men shall revile you, and persecute you. This became true during His own ministry, in the lives of the apostles and throughout the history of the church. But in Tertullian’s words, “The blood of the martyrs became the seed of the church.” The persecution spoken of here is twofold. First, it involves a physical pursuing of the persecuted and secondly a personal attack of slander against them.

Rejoice is the command that grows out of the blessedness of the believer. The phrase “rejoice and be exceeding glad” means rejoice, but even more exalt! The believer who is the blessed one may not only rejoice in tribulation but he may rejoice exceedingly to the point of exaltation. Therefore, he glories in tribulation even as the Apostle Paul (cf. II Cor 1:3–7; 12:7–10). Great is your reward in heaven focuses attention upon the eternal, spiritual destiny of all things. If God is as real as He claims, if the Bible is true, if heaven is to be gained, then there is no temporary earthly trouble or persecution that can thwart the child of God from the eternal glory that lies ahead. In Romans 8:18, Paul proclaimed, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”


Matthew 5:13-48  (The Sermon On The Mount, Part 2)
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.26 Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.
27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
31 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Believers Are Salt and Light (5:13–16)
Jesus likened His disciples to salt. They were to the world what salt is in everyday life: salt seasons food; it hinders the spread of corruption; it creates thirst; it brings out the flavor. So His followers add to human society, serve as a preservative, and make others long for the righteousness described in the preceding verses.  If salt loses its flavor, how can its saltiness be restored? There is no way to restore the true, natural taste. Once it has lost its flavor, salt is good for nothing. It is discarded on a footpath. Albert Barnes’ comment on this passage is illuminating:  The salt used in this country is a chemical compound—and if the saltiness were lost, or it were to lose its savor, there would be nothing remaining. In eastern countries, however, the salt used was impure, mingled with vegetable and earthly substances; so that it might lose the whole of its saltiness, and a considerable quantity [of salt without flavor] remain. This was good for nothing except that it was used, as it is said, to place in paths, or walks, as we use gravel.

The disciple has one great function—to be the salt of the earth by living out the terms of discipleship listed in the Beatitudes and throughout the rest of the Sermon. If he fails to exhibit this spiritual reality, men will tread his testimony under their feet. The world has only contempt for an undedicated believer.
Jesus also calls Christians the light of the world. He spoke of Himself as “the light of the world” (John 8:12; 12:35, 36, 46). The relationship between these two statements is that Jesus is the source of light; Christians are the reflection of His light. Their function is to shine for Him just as the moon reflects the glory of the sun.  People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on a lamp-stand so that it will give light to all who are in the house. He did not intend that we hoard the light of His teaching for ourselves, but that we share it with others. We should let our light so shine that as people see our good works, they will glorify our Father in heaven. The emphasis is on the ministry of Christian character. The lives in which Christ is seen speaks louder than words.

Christ Fulfills the Law (5:17–20)
Most revolutionary leaders sever all ties with the past and repudiate the traditional, existing order. Not so the Lord Jesus. He upheld the Law of Moses and insisted that it must be fulfilled. Jesus had not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them. He clearly insisted that not one jot or one tittle would pass from the law until it was completely fulfilled. The jot, or yod, is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet; the tittle is a small mark or projection that serves to distinguish one letter from another, much as the bottom stroke of a capital E distinguishes it from a capital F. Jesus believed in the literal inspiration of the Bible, even in what might seem small unimportant details. Nothing in Scripture, even the smallest stroke, is without significance.
Jesus Warns Against Anger (5:21–26)
The Jews of Jesus’ time knew that murder was forbidden by God and that the murderer was liable to punishment. This was true before the giving of the law (Gen. 9:6) and it was later incorporated into the law (Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17). With the words, “But I say to you,” Jesus institutes an amendment to the teaching on murder. No longer could a person take pride in having never committed murder. Jesus now says, ”In My kingdom, you must not even have murderous thoughts.” He traces the act of murder to its source and warns against three forms of unrighteous anger.

The first is the case of a person who is angry with his brother without a cause. One accused of this crime would be in danger of the judgment—that is, he could be taken to court. Most people can find what they think is a valid cause for their anger, but anger is justified only when God’s honor is at stake or when someone else is being wronged. It is never right when ex pressed in retaliation for personal wrongs.

Even more serious is the sin of insulting a brother. In Jesus’ day, people used the word Raca (an Aramaic term meaning ”empty one”) as a word of contempt and abuse. Those who used this epithet were in danger of the council —that is, they were subject to trial before the Sanhedrin, the highest court in the land.

Finally, to call someone a fool is the third form of unrighteous anger that Jesus condemns. Here the word fool means more than just a dunce. It signifies a moral fool who ought to be dead and it expresses the wish that he were. Today it is common to hear a person cursing another with the words, ”God damn you!” He is calling on God to consign the victim to hell. Jesus says that the one who utters such a curse is in danger of hell fire. The bodies of executed criminals were often thrown into a burning dump outside Jerusalem known as the Valley of Hinnom or Gehenna. This was a figure of the fires of hell which shall never be quenched.

There is no mistaking the severity of the Savior’s words. He teaches that anger contains the seeds of murder, that abusive language contains the spirit of murder, and that cursing language implies the very desire to murder. The progressive heightening of the crimes demand three degrees of punishment: the judgment, the council, and hell fire. In the kingdom, Jesus will deal with sins according to severity.

If a person offends another, whether by anger or any other cause, there is no use in his bringing a gift to God. The Lord will not be pleased with it. The offender should first go and make the wrong right. Only then will the gift be acceptable.  God receives no worship from a believer who is not on speaking terms with another.  If you are wrong, be quick to admit it and make things right. If you remain unrepentant, your sin will eventually catch up with you and you will not only have to make full restitution but suffer additional penalties as well.

Jesus Condemns Adultery (5:27–30)
The Mosaic Law clearly prohibited adultery (Ex. 20:14; Deut. 5:18). A person might be proud that he had never broken this commandment, and yet have his ”eyes full of adultery” (2 Pet. 2:14). While outwardly respectable, his mind might be constantly wandering down labyrinths of impurity. So Jesus reminded His disciples that mere abstinence from the physical act was not enough—there must be inward purity. The law forbade the act of adultery; Jesus forbids the desire.  Maintaining an undefiled thought life demands strict self-discipline. Thus, Jesus taught that if any part of our body causes us to sin, it would be better to lose that member during life rather than to lose one’s soul for eternity. Are we to take Jesus’ words literally? Was He actually advocating self-mutilation? The words are literal to this extent: if it were necessary to lose a member rather than one’s soul, then we should gladly part with the member. Fortunately it is never necessary, since the Holy Spirit empowers the believer to live a holy life. However, there must be cooperation and rigid discipline on the believer’s part.

Jesus Censures Divorce (5:31, 32)
Under OT law, divorce was permitted according to Deuteronomy 24:1–4. This passage was not concerned with the case of an adulterous wife (the penalty for adultery was death, see Deut. 22:22). Rather, it deals with divorce because of dislike or “incompatibility.”   However, in the kingdom of Christ, whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery. This does not mean that she automatically becomes an adulteress; it presupposes that, having no means of support, she is forced to live with another man. In so doing she becomes an adulteress. Not only is the former wife living in adultery, whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

The subject of divorce and remarriage is one of the most complicated topics in the Bible. It is virtually impossible to answer all the questions that arise, but it may be helpful to survey and summarize what we believe the Scriptures teach.

Divorce was never God’s intention for man. His ideal is that one man and one woman remain married until their union is broken by death (Rom. 7:2, 3). Jesus made this clear to the Pharisees by appealing to the divine order at creation (Matt. 19:4–6).   God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16), that is, unscriptural divorce. He does not hate all divorce because He speaks of Himself as having divorced Israel (Jer. 3:8). This was because the nation forsook Him to worship idols. Israel was unfaithful.   In Matthew 5:31, 32 and 19:9, Jesus taught that divorce was forbidden except when one of the partners had been guilty of sexual immorality.  Therefore, even though divorce is not the ideal, it is permitted in the case where one’s partner has been unfaithful. Jesus allows divorce, but He does not command it.  Some scholars (and myself) see 1 Corinthians 7:12–16 as teaching that divorce is acceptable when a believer is deserted by an unbeliever. Paul says that the remaining person is ”not under bondage in such cases,” i.e., he or she is free to obtain a divorce (for desertion).

In any discussion of this topic, the question inevitably arises, “What about people who were divorced before they were saved?” There should be no question that unlawful divorces and remarriages contracted before conversion are sins which have been fully forgiven (see, for example, 1 Cor. 6:11 where Paul includes adultery in the list of sins in which the Corinthian believers had formerly participated). Pre-conversion sins do not bar believers from full participation in the local church.

In my opinion, Christians who have been divorced unscripturally and then remarried can truly repent of their sin and be restored to the Lord and to the fellowship of the church. In the matter of divorce, it seems that almost every case is different. Therefore, the elders of a local church must investigate each case individually and judge it according to the Word of God. If at times, disciplinary action has to be taken, all concerned should submit to the decision of the elders.

Jesus Condemns Oaths (5:33–37)
The Mosaic Law contained several prohibitions against swearing falsely by the name of God (Lev. 19:12; Num. 30:2; Deut. 23:21). To swear by God’s Name meant that He was your witness that you were telling the truth. The Jews sought to avoid the impropriety of swearing falsely by God’s Name by substituting heaven, earth, Jerusalem, or their head as that by which they swore.
Jesus condemns such circumvention of the law as sheer hypocrisy and forbids any form of swearing or oaths in ordinary conversation. Not only was it hypocritical, it was useless to try to avoid swearing by God’s Name by merely substituting another noun for His Name. To swear by heaven is to swear by God’s throne. To swear by the earth is to swear by His footstool. To swear by Jerusalem is to swear by the royal capital. Even to swear by one’s own head involves God because He is the Creator of all.  For the Christian, an oath is unnecessary. His Yes should mean Yes, and his No should mean No.

Going the Second Mile (5:38–42)
The law said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Ex. 21:24; Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21). This was both a command to punish and a limitation on punishment—the penalty must not exceed the crime. However, according to the OT, authority for punishment was vested in the government, not in the individual.   Jesus went beyond the law to a higher righteousness by abolishing retaliation altogether. He showed His disciples that, whereas revenge was once legally permissible, now grace on our part was possible.

Humanly speaking, such behavior as the Lord calls for here is impossible. Only as a person is controlled by the Holy Spirit can he live a self-sacrificing life. Only as the Savior is allowed to live His life in the believer can insult (v. 39), injustice (v. 40), and inconvenience (v. 41) be repaid with love. This is “the gospel of the second mile.”

Love Your Enemies (5:43–48)
Our Lord’s final example of the higher righteousness demanded in His kingdom concerns the treatment of one’s enemies, a topic which grows naturally out of the previous paragraph. The law had taught the Israelites to love their neighbor (Lev. 19:18). Although they were never explicitly commanded to hate their enemy, this spirit underlay much of their indoctrination. This attitude was a summary of the OT’s outlook toward those who persecuted God’s people (see Ps. 139:21, 22). It was a righteous hostility directed against the enemies of God.
But now Jesus announces that we are to love our enemies and to pray for those who … persecute us. The fact that love is commanded shows that it is a matter of the will and not primarily of the emotions. It is not the same as natural affection because it is not natural to love those who hate and harm you. It is a supernatural grace and can be manifested only by those who have divine life.

There is no reward if we love those who love us; Jesus says that even unconverted tax collectors do that! That type of love requires no divine power. Neither is there any virtue in greeting our brethren only, i.e., our relatives and friends. The unsaved can do that; there is nothing distinctively Christian about it. If our standards are no higher than the world’s, it is certain that we will never make an impact on the world.

Jesus said that His followers should return good for evil so that they might be sons of their Father in heaven. He was not saying that this was the way to become sons of God; rather, it is how we show that we are God’s children. Since God shows no partiality to either the evil or the good (in that both benefit from sun and rain), so we should deal graciously and fairly with all.

Jesus closes this section with the admonition: Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. The word perfect must be understood in the light of the context. It does not mean sinless or flawless. The previous verses explain that to be perfect means to love those who hate us, to pray for those who persecute us, and to show kindness to both friend and foe.

Perfection here is that spiritual maturity which enables a Christian to imitate God in dispensing blessing to everybody without partiality.


Matthew 6 (The Sermon On The Mount, Part 3)

1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.
5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. 9 In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.  10 Your kingdom come.  Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.  11 Give us this day our daily bread.  12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.  13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.  For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.  25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Give with Sincerity (6:1–4)
In the first half of this chapter, Jesus deals with three specific areas of practical righteousness in an individual’s life: charitable deeds (vv. 1–4), prayer (vv. 5–15), and fasting (vv. 16–18). The name Father is found ten times in these eighteen verses and is the key to understanding them. Practical deeds of righteousness should be done for His approval, not for people’s.

He begins this portion of His sermon with a warning against the temptation to parade our piety by performing charitable deeds for the purpose of being seen by others. It is not the deed that He condemns, but the motive. If public notice is the motivating factor then it is the only reward, for God will not reward hypocrisy.
It seems incredible that hypocrites would noisily attract attention to themselves as they gave offerings in the synagogues or handouts to beggars in the streets. The Lord dismissed their conduct with the terse comment: “They have their reward” (their only reward is the reputation they gain while on earth).   When a follower of Christ does a charitable deed, it is to be done in secret. It should be so secret that Jesus told His disciples: “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Jesus uses this graphic figure of speech to show that our charitable deeds should be for the Father, and not to gain notoriety for the giver.
This passage should not be pressed to prohibit any gift that might be seen by others, since it is virtually impossible to make all one’s contributions strictly anonymous. It simply condemns the blatant display of giving.

Pray with Sincerity (6:5–8)
Next Jesus warns His disciples against hypocrisy when they pray. They should not purposely position themselves in public areas so that others will see them praying and be impressed by their piety. If the love for prominence is the only motive in prayer, then, Jesus declares, the prominence gained is the only reward.  In verses 5 and 7, the Greek pronoun translated you is plural. But in verse 6, in order to emphasize private communion with God, “you” switches to singular. The key to answered prayer is to do it in secret (i.e., go into your room and shut your door). If our real motive is to get through to God, He will hear and answer.   It is reading too much into the passage to use it to prohibit public prayer. The early church met together for collective prayer (Acts 2:42; 12:12; 13:3; 14:23; 20:36). The point is not where we pray. At issue here is, why we pray—to be seen by people or to be heard by God.   Prayer should not consist of vain repetitions, i.e., stock sentences or empty phrases. Unsaved people pray like that, but God is not impressed by the mere multiplication of many words. He wants to hear the sincere expressions of the heart.

Since our Father knows the things we have need of, even before we ask Him, then it is reasonable to ask, “Why pray at all?” The reason is that, in prayer, we acknowledge our need and dependence on Him. It is the basis of our communicating with God. Also God does things in answer to prayer that He would not have done otherwise (Jas. 4:2d).

Jesus Teaches the Model Prayer (6:9–15)
In verses 9–13 we have what is generally called ”The Lord’s Prayer.” In using this title, however, we should remember that Jesus never prayed it Himself. It was given to His disciples as a model after which they could pattern their prayers. It was not given as the exact words they were to use (v. 7 seems to rule this out), because many words repeated by rote memory can become empty phrases.

Our Father in heaven. Prayer should be addressed to God the Father in acknowledgment of His sovereignty over the universe.
Hallowed be Your name. We should begin our prayers with worship, ascribing praise and honor to Him who is so worthy of it.
Your kingdom come. After worship, we should pray for the advancement of God’s cause, putting His interests first. Specifically, we should pray for the day when our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, will set up His kingdom on earth and reign in righteousness.
Your will be done. In this petition we acknowledge that God knows what is best and that we surrender our will to His. It also expresses a longing to see His will acknowledged throughout the world.
On earth as it is in heaven. This phrase modifies all three preceding petitions. The worship of God, the sovereign rule by God, and the performance of His will are all a reality of heaven. The prayer is that these conditions might exist on earth as they do in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. After putting God’s interests first, we are permitted to present our own needs. This petition acknowledges our dependence on God for daily food, both spiritual and physical.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. This does not refer to judicial forgiveness from the penalty of sin (that forgiveness is obtained by faith in the Son of God). Rather this refers to the parental forgiveness that is necessary if fellowship with our Father is to be maintained. If believers are unwilling to forgive those who wrong them, how can they expect to be in fellowship with their Father who has freely forgiven them for their wrongdoings?
And do not lead us into temptation. This request may appear to contradict James 1:13, which states that God would never tempt anyone. However, God does allow His people to be tested and tried. This petition expresses a healthy distrust of one’s own ability to resist temptations or to stand up under trial. It acknowledges complete dependence on the Lord for preservation.
But deliver us from the evil one. This is the prayer of all who desperately desire to be kept from sin by the power of God. It is the heart’s cry for daily salvation from the power of sin and Satan in one’s life.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Such a doxology is the perfect ending to the prayer.  It seems to be a paraphrase of 1st Chronicles 29:10-11, which says, “10 Therefore David blessed the Lord before all the assembly; and David said: “Blessed are You, Lord God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever.  11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, And You are exalted as head over all.”

Verses 14-15 serve as an explanatory footnote to verse 12. It is not part of the prayer, but added to emphasize that the parental forgiveness mentioned in verse 12 is conditional.

Jesus Teaches How to Fast (6:16–18)
The third form of religious hypocrisy that Jesus denounced was the deliberate attempt to create an appearance of fasting. The hypocrites disfigured their faces when they fasted in order to look gaunt, haggard, and doleful. But Jesus says it is ridiculous to attempt to appear holy.  True believers should fast in secret, giving no outward appearance of it. To anoint your head and wash your face was a means of appearing in one’s normal manner. It is enough that the Father knows; His reward will be better than people’s approval.

Fasting has no merit as far as salvation is concerned; neither does it give a Christian special standing before God. A Pharisee once boasted that he fasted twice a week; however, it failed to bring him the justification he sought (Luke 18:12, 14). But when a Christian fasts secretly as a spiritual exercise, God sees and rewards. While not commanded in the NT, it is encouraged by promise of reward. It can aid in one’s prayer life by taking away dullness and drowsiness. It is valuable in times of crisis when one wishes to discern the will of God. And it is of value in promoting self-discipline. Fasting is a matter between an individual and God and should be done only with a desire to please Him. It loses its value when it is imposed from outside or displayed from a wrong motive.

Lay Up Treasures in Heaven (6:19–21)
This passage contains some of the most revolutionary teachings of our Lord—and some of the most neglected. The theme of the rest of the chapter is how to find security for the future.  In verses 19–21 Jesus contravenes all human advice to provide for a financially secure future. When He says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,” He is indicating that there is no security in material things. Any type of material treasure on earth can be either destroyed by elements of nature (moth or rust) or stolen by thieves. Jesus says that the only investments not subject to loss are treasures in heaven.  This radical financial policy is based on the underlying principle that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. If your money is in a safe-deposit box, then your heart and desire are also there. If your treasures are in heaven, your interests will be centered there.  This concept forces us to determine in our own life what the role of money is for us.  Is it a “treasure”, or merely a “tool” that God uses to accomplish His Will in our lives, and through us, in the lives of others?

The Lamp Of The Body
Jesus quotes a common proverb of the time and comments on it. If you have a “good eye.” This is in the Greek text, but the explanation is “if you are generous”, because in Judaism “having a good eye” means “being generous”, and “having a bad eye” means “being stingy.”

You Cannot Serve God and Mammon (6:24)
The impossibility of living for God and for money is stated here in terms of masters and slaves. No one can serve two masters. One will inevitably take precedence in his loyalty and obedience. So it is with God and mammon. They present rival claims and a choice must be made. Either we must put God first and reject the rule of materialism or we must live for temporal things and refuse God’s claim on our lives.   The word “Mammon” itself is a word that speaks of wealth; especially wealth that is used in opposition to God. Mammon is a transliteration of the Aramaic word mamon, which means “wealth, riches,” or “earthly goods.” It is related in ancient lore to a Babylonian deity of prosperity.

Do Not Worry (6:25–34)
In this passage Jesus strikes at the tendency to center our lives around food and clothing, thus missing life’s real meaning.  Such worry is sin because it denies the love, wisdom, and power of God. It denies the love of God by implying that He doesn’t care for us. It denies His wisdom by implying that He doesn’t know what He is doing. And it denies His power by implying that He isn’t able to provide for our needs.

This type of worry causes us to devote our finest energies to making sure we will have enough to live on. Then before we know it, our lives have passed, and we have missed the central purpose for which we were made. God did not create us in His image with no higher destiny than that we should consume food. We are here to love, worship, and serve Him and to represent His interests on earth. Our bodies are intended to be our servants, not our masters.

The birds of the air illustrate God’s care for His creatures. They preach to us how unnecessary it is for us to worry. They neither sow nor reap, yet God feeds them. Since, in God’s hierarchy of creation, we are of more value than the birds, then we can surely expect God to take care of our needs.   But we should not infer from this that we need not work for the supply of our present needs. Paul reminds us: “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). Nor should we conclude that it is wrong for a farmer to sow, reap, and harvest. These activities are a necessary part of his providing for his current needs. What Jesus forbids here is multiplying barns in an attempt to provide future security independent of God (a practice He condemns in His story of the rich farmer in Luke 12:16–21.)

Worry about the future is not only a dishonor to God—it is also futile. The Lord demonstrates this with a question: “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” A short person cannot worry himself eighteen inches taller. Yet, relatively speaking, it would be far easier to perform this feat than to worry into existence all the provisions for one’s future needs.

Next the Lord deals with the unreasonableness of worrying that we will not have enough clothing in the future. The lilies of the field neither toil nor spin, yet their beauty surpasses that of Solomon’s royal garments. If God can provide such elegant apparel for wildflowers, which have a brief existence and are then used as fuel in the baking oven, He will certainly care for His people who worship and serve Him.

The conclusion is that we should not spend our lives in anxious pursuit of food, drink, and clothing for the future. The unconverted Gentiles live for the mad accumulation of material things, as if food and clothing were the whole of life. But it should not be so with Christians, who have a heavenly Father who knows their basic needs.

If Christians were to set before them the goal of providing in advance for all their future needs, then their time and energy would have to be devoted to the accumulation of financial reserves. They could never be sure that they had saved enough, because there is always the danger of market collapse, inflation, catastrophe, prolonged illness, paralyzing accident. This means that God would be robbed of the service of His people. The real purpose for which they were created and converted would be missed. Men and women bearing the divine image would be living for an uncertain future on this earth when they should be living with eternity’s values in view.

The Lord, therefore, makes a covenant with His followers. He says, in effect, ”If you will put God’s interests first in your life, I will guarantee your future needs. If you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then I will see that you never lack the necessities of life.”   This is God’s “social security” program. The believer’s responsibility is to live for the Lord, trusting God for the future with unshakable confidence that He will provide. One’s job is simply a means of providing for current needs; everything above this is invested in the work of the Lord. We are called to live one day at a time: tomorrow can worry about its own things.


Matthew 7 (The Sermon On The Mount, Part 4)

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
12 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ 24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Do Not Judge (7:1–6)
This section on judging is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied portions of the New Testament.  Let’s see if we can clear some things up on this subject.  This command not to judge others includes the following areas:
we should not judge motives, only God can read them;
we should not judge by appearance (John 7:24; Jas. 2:1–4);
we should not judge those who have conscientious scruples about matters that          
     are not in themselves right or wrong (Rom. 14:1–5);
we should not judge the service of another Christian (1 Cor. 4:1–5);
we should not judge a fellow believer by speaking evil about him (Jas.4:11, 12).

Sometimes these words of our Lord are misconstrued by people to prohibit all forms of judgment. No matter what happens, they piously say, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” But Jesus is not teaching that we are to be undiscerning Christians. He never intended that we abandon our critical faculty or discernment. The NT has many illustrations of legitimate judgment of the condition, conduct, or teaching of others. In addition, there are several areas in which the Christian is commanded to make a decision, to discriminate between good and bad or between good and best. Some of these include:

1. When disputes arise between believers, they should be settled in the church before members who can decide the matter (1 Cor. 6:1–8).
2. The local church is to judge serious sins of its members and take appropriate action (Matt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:9–13).
3. Believers are to judge the doctrinal teaching of teachers and preachers by the Word of God (Matt. 7:15–20; 1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Jn. 4:1).
4. Christians have to discern if others are believers in order to obey Paul’s command in 2 Corinthians 6:14.
5. Those in the church must judge which men have the qualifications necessary for elders and deacons (1 Tim. 3:1-13).
6. We have to discern which people are unruly, fainthearted, weak, etc., and treat them according to the instructions in the Bible (e.g., 1 Thess. 5:14).

Jesus warned that unrighteous judgment would be repaid in kind: “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged.” This principle of reaping what we sow is built into all human life and affairs. Mark applies the principle to our appropriation of the Word (4:24) and Luke applies it to our liberality in giving (6:38).

Jesus exposed our tendency to see a small fault in someone else while ignoring the same fault in ourselves. He purposely exaggerated the situation (using a figure of speech known as hyperbole) to drive home the point. Someone with a plank in his eye often finds fault with the speck in the eye of another, not even noticing his own condition. It is hypocritical to suppose that we could help someone with a fault when we ourselves have a greater fault. We must remedy our own faults before criticizing them in others.  Verse 6 proves that Jesus did not intend to forbid every kind of judgment. He warned His disciples not to give holy things to dogs or to cast pearls before swine. Under the Mosaic Law dogs and swine were unclean animals and here the terms are used to depict wicked people. When we meet vicious people who treat divine truths with utter contempt and respond to our preaching of the claims of Christ with abuse and violence, we are not obligated to continue to share the gospel with them. To press the matter only brings increased condemnation to the offenders.   Needless to say, it requires spiritual perception to discern these people. Perhaps that is why the next verses take up the subject of prayer, by which we can ask for wisdom.

Keep Asking, Seeking, Knocking (7:7–12)
If we think that we can live out the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount by our own strength, we have failed to realize the supernatural character of the life to which the Savior calls us. The wisdom or power for such a life must be given to us from above. So here we have an invitation to ask and keep on asking; to seek and keep on seeking; to knock and keep on knocking. Wisdom and power for the Christian life will be given to all who earnestly and persistently pray for it.
Taken out of context, verses 7 and 8 might seem like a blank check for believers, i.e., we can get anything we ask for. But this is simply not true. The verses must be understood in their immediate context and in light of the whole Bible’s teaching on prayer. Therefore, what seems like unqualified promises here are actually restricted by other passages. For example, from Psalm 66:18 we learn that the person praying must have no unconfessed sin in his life. The Christian must pray in faith (Jas. 1:6–8) and in conformity with the will of God (1 Jn. 5:14). Prayer must be offered persistently (Luke 18:1–8) and sincerely (Heb. 10:22a).

When the conditions for prayer are met, the Christian can have utter confidence that God will hear and answer. This assurance is based on the character of God, our Father. On the human level, we know that if a son asks for bread, his father will not give him a stone. Neither would he give him a serpent if he had asked for a fish. An earthly father would neither deceive his hungry son nor give him anything that might inflict pain.  The Lord argues from the lesser to the greater. If human parents reward their children’s requests with what is best for them, how much more will our Father who is in heaven do so.

The immediate connection of verse 12 with the preceding seems to be this: since our Father is a giver of good things to us, we should imitate Him in showing kindness to others. The way to test whether an action is beneficial to others is whether we would want to receive it ourselves. The “Golden Rule” had been expressed in negative terms at least one hundred years before this time by Rabbi Hillel. However, by stating the rule in positive terminology, Jesus goes beyond passive restraint to active benevolence. Christianity is not simply a matter of abstinence from sin; it is positive goodness.

This saying by Jesus is the Law and the Prophets, that is, it summarizes the moral teachings of the Law of Moses and the writings of the Prophets of Israel. The righteousness demanded by the OT is fulfilled in converted believers who thus walk according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:4). If this verse were universally obeyed, it would transform all areas of international relationships, national politics, family life, and church life.

The Narrow Way (7:13, 14)
The Lord now warns that the gate of Christian discipleship is narrow and the way is difficult. But those who faithfully follow His teachings find the abundant life. On the other hand, there is the wide gate—the life of self-indulgence and pleasure. The end of such a life is destruction.   Jesus is saying that to follow Him would require faith, discipline, and endurance. But this difficult life is the only life worth living. If you choose the easy way, you will have plenty of company, but you will miss God’s best for you.

By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them (7:15–20)
Wherever the stern demands of true discipleship are taught, there are false prophets who advocate the wide gate and easy way. They water down the truth until, as C. H. Spurgeon said, “There is not enough left to make soup for a sick grasshopper.” These men who profess to be speaking for God come in sheep’s clothing, giving the appearance of being true believers. But inwardly they are ravenous wolves, i.e., they are vicious unbelievers who prey on the immature, the unstable, and the gullible.

Verses 16–18 deal with the detection of the false prophets: you will know them by their fruits. Their licentious lives and destructive teachings betray them. A tree or plant produces fruit according to its character. Thorn bushes cannot bear grapes; thistles do not bear figs. A good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit. This principle is true in the natural world and in the spiritual world. The life and teaching of those who claim to speak for God should be tested by the Word of God: “If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20).

The destiny of the false prophets is to be thrown into the fire. The doom of false teachers and prophets is “swift destruction” (2 Pet. 2:1). They can be known by their fruits.
I Never Knew You (7:21–23)

The Lord Jesus next warns against people who falsely profess to acknowledge Him as Savior, but have never been converted. Not everyone who calls Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven. Only those who do the will of God enter the kingdom. The first step in doing the will of God is to believe on the Lord Jesus (John 6:29).   On judgment day when unbelievers stand before Christ (Rev. 20:11–15), many will remind Him that they prophesied, or cast out demons, or performed many wonders—all in His name. But their protestation will be in vain. Jesus will declare to them that He never knew them or acknowledged them as His own.

From these verses we learn that not all miracles are of divine origin and that not all miracle workers are divinely accredited. A miracle simply means that a supernatural power is at work. That power may be divine or satanic. Satan may empower his workers to cast out demons temporarily, in order to create the illusion that the miracle is divine. He is not dividing his kingdom against itself in such a case, but is plotting an even worse invasion of demons in the future.

Build on the Rock (7:24–29)
Jesus closes His sermon with a parable that drives home the importance of obedience. It is not enough to hear these sayings; we must put them into practice. The disciple who hears and does Jesus’ commands is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. His house (life) has a solid foundation and, when it is battered by rain and winds, it will not fall.

The person who hears Jesus’ sayings and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. This man will not be able to stand against the storms of adversity: when the rain descended and the winds blew, the house fell because it had no solid base.

If a person lives according to the principles of the Sermon on the Mount, the world calls him a fool; Jesus calls him a wise man. The world considers a wise man to be someone who lives by sight, who lives for the present, and who lives for self; Jesus calls such a person a fool. It is legitimate to use the wise and foolish builders to illustrate the gospel. The wise man puts his full confidence in the Rock, Christ Jesus, as Lord and Savior. The foolish man refuses to repent and rejects Jesus as his only hope of salvation. But the interpretation of the parable actually carries us beyond salvation to its practical outworking in the Christian life.
As our Lord ended His message, the people were astonished. If we read the Sermon on the Mount and are not astonished at its revolutionary character, then we have failed to grasp its meaning.


Matthew 8 – Miracles Proving Jesus’ Power (Authority)

1 When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. 2 And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”  3 Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.  4 And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

5 Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, 6 saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.”
7 And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”  8 The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”  10 When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! 11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.

18 And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. 19 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”  20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  21 Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

23 Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. 24 And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. 25 Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”  26 But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

28 When He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way. 29 And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?”  30 Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding. 31 So the demons begged Him, saying, “If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.”  32 And He said to them, “Go.” So when they had come out, they went into the herd of swine. And suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and perished in the water.  33 Then those who kept them fled; and they went away into the city and told everything, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region.

Power Over Leprosy (8:1–4)
A leper knelt before Jesus with a desperate appeal for healing. This leper had faith that the Lord could cure him, and true faith is never disappointed. Leprosy is an appropriate picture of sin because it is loathsome, destructive, infectious, and, in some forms, humanly incurable.   Lepers were untouchables. Physical contact with them might expose a person to infection. In the case of the Jews, this contact made the person ceremonially unclean, that is, unfit to worship with the congregation of Israel. But when Jesus touched the leper and spoke the healing words, the leprosy vanished immediately. Our Savior has power to cleanse from sin and to qualify the cleansed person to be a worshiper.

This is the first instance in Matthew’s Gospel where it is recorded that Jesus commanded someone to tell no one of the miracle done for them or of what they had seen (see also 9:30; 12:16; 17:9; Mark 5:43; 7:36; 8:26). This was probably because He was aware that many people, interested only in deliverance from the Roman yoke, wanted to make Him King. But He knew that Israel was still unrepentant, that the nation would reject His spiritual leadership, and that He must first go to the cross.

Under the Law of Moses, the priest also served as physician. When a leper was cleansed, he was obligated to bring an offering and to appear before the priest in order to be pronounced clean (Lev. 14:4–6). It was no doubt a rare event for a leper to be healed, so extraordinary, in fact, that it should have alerted this priest to investigate whether the Messiah had appeared at last. But we read of no such reaction. Jesus told the leper to obey the law in this matter.
The spiritual implications of the miracle are clear: The Messiah had come to Israel with power to heal the nation of its illness. He presented this miracle as one of His credentials. But the nation was not yet ready for her Deliverer.

Power Over Paralysis (8:5–13)
The faith of a Gentile centurion is introduced in striking contrast to the unreceptiveness of the Jews. If Israel will not acknowledge her King, the despised pagans will. The centurion was a Roman military officer in charge of about one hundred men, and was stationed in or near Capernaum. He came to Jesus to seek healing for his servant who had suffered a violent and painful paralysis. This was an unusual display of compassion—most officials would not have shown such concern for a servant.

Jesus marveled at the faith of this Gentile. This is one of two times when Jesus is said to have marveled; the other time was at the unbelief of the Jews (Mark 6:6). He had not found such great faith among God’s chosen people, Israel. This led Him to point out that in His coming kingdom, Gentiles would flock from all over the world to enjoy fellowship with the Jewish patriarchs while the sons of the kingdom would be thrown into outer darkness where they would weep and gnash their teeth. Sons of the kingdom are those who were Jews by birth, who professed to acknowledge God as King, but who were never truly converted. But the principle applies today. Many children privileged to be born and raised in Christian families will perish in hell because they reject Christ, while jungle savages will enjoy the eternal glories of heaven because they believed the gospel message.

Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” Faith is rewarded in proportion to its confidence in the character of God. The servant was healed instantly, even though Jesus was some distance away.

The Miracle of Human Refusal (8:18–22)
We have seen Christ exercising authority over disease and demons. It is only when He comes in contact with men and women that He meets with resistance—the miracle of human refusal.   As Jesus prepared to cross the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum to the east side, a self-confident scribe stepped forward pledging to follow Him “all the way.” The Lord’s answer challenged him to count the cost—a life of self-denial. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” In His public ministry, He had no home of His own; however, there were homes where He was a welcome guest and He ordinarily had a place to sleep. The true force of His words seems to be spiritual: this world could not provide Him with true, lasting rest. He had a work to do and could not rest till it was accomplished. The same is true of His followers; this world is not their resting place—or at least, it shouldn’t be!   Another well-meaning follower expressed a willingness to follow Him, but had a higher priority: “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Most commentators indicate that the man’s father had not died yet, but that his words were rally a plea to avoid family strife by waiting until his father did die before openly following Jesus.  The basic trouble was expressed in the contradictory words: “Lord … me first.” He put self ahead of Christ.
Jesus answered him, in effect: “Your first duty is to follow Me. Let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead. An unsaved person can do that kind of work. But there is a work which you alone can do. Give the best of your life to what really lasts. Don’t waste it on trivia.” We are not told how these two disciples responded. But the strong implication is that they left Christ to make a comfortable place for themselves in the world.  However, before we condemn them, we should test ourselves on the two terms of discipleship enunciated by Jesus in this passage.

Power Over the Elements (8:23–27)
The Sea of Galilee is noted for sudden, violent storms that whip it into a churning froth. Winds sweep down the valley of the Jordan from the north, picking up speed in the narrow gorge. When they hit the Sea, it becomes extremely unsafe for navigation.   On this occasion, Jesus was crossing from the west side to the east. When the storm broke, He was asleep in the boat. The terrified disciples awoke Him with frantic pleas for help.  After rebuking them for their puny faith, He rebuked the winds and the waves. When a great calm descended, the men marveled that even the elements obeyed Jesus. How little they comprehended that the Creator and Sustainer of the universe was in the ship that day!

Jesus Heals Two Demon-Possessed Men (8:28–34)
On the east side of the Sea of Galilee was the country of the Gergesenes. When Jesus arrived, He met two unusually violent cases of demon possession. These demoniacs lived in cave-like tombs and were so fierce they made travel in that area unsafe.   As Jesus approached, the demons cried out, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” They knew who Jesus was, and that He would finally destroy them. In these respects their theology was more accurate than that of many modern liberals. Sensing that Jesus was going to cast them out of the men, they asked that they might be transferred to a herd of many swine feeding nearby.

Strangely enough Jesus grant ed their request. But why should the Sovereign Lord accede to the request of demons? To understand His action, we must remember two facts. First, demons shun the disembodied state; they want to indwell human beings, or, if that is not possible, animals or other creatures. Secondly, the purpose of demons is without exception to destroy. If Jesus had simply cast them out of the maniacs, the demons would have been a menace to the other people of the area. By allowing them to go into the swine, He prevented their entering men and women and confined their destructive power to animals. It was not yet time for their final destruction by the Lord. As soon as the transfer took place, the swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea and drowned.  This incident demonstrates that the ultimate aim of demons is to destroy, and underlines the terrifying possibility that two men can be indwelt by the number of demons it takes to destroy two thousand swine (Mark 5:13).

The herdsmen ran back with news of what had happened. The result was that an aroused citizenry came out to Jesus and begged Him to leave the area.  If these Gergesenes were Jews, it was unlawful for them to raise pigs. But whether or not they were Jews, their condemnation is that they valued a herd of pigs more than the healing of two demoniacs.
Calvary Bible Church Bible Study
The Words Of Christ


Matthew  9

1 So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. 2 Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”
3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!”
4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 7 And he arose and departed to his house.

9 As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.
10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

14 Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?”
15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. 17 Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

18 While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.” 19 So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples.
20 And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. 21 For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” 22 But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour.
23 When Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, 24 He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. 25 But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went out into all that land.

27 When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, “Son of David, have mercy on us!”
28 And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”
They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”
29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, “See that no one knows it.” 31 But when they had departed, they spread the news about Him in all that country.

36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
Power to Forgive Sins (9:1–8)
Rejected by the Gergesenes, the Savior recrossed the Sea of Galilee and came to Capernaum, which had become His own city after the people of Nazareth attempted to destroy Him (Luke 4:29–31). It was here that He performed some of His mightiest miracles.

Four men came to Him, carrying a paralytic on a crude bed or mat. Mark’s account tells us that because of the crowd, they had to tear up the roof and lower the man into Jesus’ presence (2:1–12). When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” Notice that He saw their faith. Faith prompted the men to bring the invalid to Jesus, and the invalid’s faith went out to Jesus for healing. Our Lord first rewarded this faith by pronouncing his sins forgiven. The Great Physician removed the cause before treating the symptoms; He gave the greater blessing first.

When some of the scribes heard Jesus declare the man’s sins forgiven, they accused Him of blasphemy within themselves. After all, only God can forgive sins—and they were certainly not about to receive Him as God! The omniscient Lord Jesus read their thoughts, rebuked them for the evil in their hearts of unbelief, then asked them whether it was easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Arise and walk.” Actually it’s as easy to say one as the other, but which is easier to do? Both are humanly impossible, but the results of the first command are not visible whereas the effects of the second are immediately discernible.   In order to show the scribes that He had authority on earth to forgive sins (and should therefore be honored as God), Jesus gave them a miracle they could see. Turning to the paralytic, He said, “Arise, take up your bed and go to your house.”  The visible healing of the paralytic was designed to confirm that the man’s sins had been forgiven, an invisible miracle. From this they should have realized that what they had witnessed was not a demonstration of God giving authority to men but of God’s presence among them in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. But they didn’t understand.

Jesus Calls Matthew the Tax Collector (9:9–13)
The tense atmosphere building up around the Savior is temporarily relieved by Matthew’s simple and humble account of his own call. A tax-collector or custom house officer, he and his fellow officials were hated intensely by the Jews because of their crookedness, because of the oppressive taxes they exacted, and most of all, because they served the interests of the Roman Empire, Israel’s invaders. As Jesus passed the tax office, He said to Matthew, “Follow Me.” The response was instantaneous; he arose and followed; leaving a traditionally dishonest job to become an instant disciple of Jesus.

The meal described here was arranged by Matthew in honor of Jesus (Luke 5:29). It was his way of confessing Christ publicly and of introducing his associates to the Savior. Necessarily, therefore, the guests were tax-collectors and others generally known to be sinners!  It was the practice in those days to eat reclining on couches and facing the table. When the Pharisees saw Jesus associating in this way with the social riff-raff, they went to His disciples and charged Him with “guilt by association”; surely no true prophet would eat with sinners!   Jesus overheard and answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” The Pharisees considered themselves healthy and were unwilling to confess their need for Jesus. (Actually they were extremely ill spiritually and desperately needed healing.) The tax collectors and sinners, by contrast, were more willing to acknowledge their true condition and to seek Christ’s saving grace. So the charge was true! Jesus did eat with sinners. If He had eaten with the Pharisees, the charge would still have been true—perhaps even more so! If Jesus hadn’t eaten with sinners in a world like ours, He would always have eaten alone. But it is important to remember that when He ate with sinners, He never indulged in their evil ways or compromised His testimony. He used the occasion to call men to truth and holiness.

The Pharisees’ trouble was that although they followed the rituals of Judaism with great precision, their hearts were hard, cold, and merciless. So Jesus dismissed them with a challenge to learn the meaning of Jehovah’s words, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (quoted from Hosea 6:6). Although God had instituted the sacrificial system, He did not want the rituals to become a substitute for inward righteousness. God is not a Ritualist, and He is not pleased with rituals divorced from personal godliness—precisely what the Pharisees had done. They observed the letter of the law but had no compassion for those who needed spiritual help. They associated only with self-righteous people like themselves.   In contrast, the Lord Jesus pointedly told them, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” He perfectly fulfilled God’s desire for mercy as well as sacrifice. In one sense, there are no righteous people in the world, so He came to call all men to repentance. But here the thought is that His call is only effective for those who acknowledge themselves to be sinners. He can dispense no healing to those who are proud, self-righteous, and unrepentant—like the Pharisees.

Jesus Is Questioned About Fasting (9:14–17)
By this time John the Baptist was in prison. His disciples came to Jesus with a problem. They themselves fasted often, but Jesus’ disciples did not. Why not?
The Lord answered with an illustration. He was the bridegroom and His disciples the wedding guests. As long as He was with them, there was no reason to fast as a sign of mourning. But He would be taken from them; then His disciples would fast. He was taken from them—in death and burial, and since His ascension He has been bodily absent from His disciples. While Jesus’ words do not command fasting, they certainly approve it as an appropriate exercise for those who await the Bridegroom’s return.

The question raised by John’s disciples further prompted Jesus to point out that John marked the end of one dispensation, announcing the new Age of Grace, and He shows that their respective principles cannot be mixed. To try to mix law and grace would be like using a piece of new, unshrunk cloth to patch an old garment. When washed, the patch would shrink, ripping itself away from the old cloth.  Or the mixture would be like putting new wine into old wineskins. The pressure caused by the fermentation of the new wine would burst the old skins because they had lost their elasticity. The life and liberty of the Gospel ruins the wineskins of ritualism.

Power to Heal the Incurable and Raise the Dead (9:18–26)
Jesus’ discourse on the change of dispensations was interrupted by a distraught ruler of the synagogue whose daughter had just died. He knelt before the Lord, requesting Him to come and restore her to life. It was exceptional that this ruler should seek help from Jesus; most of the Jewish leaders would have feared the scorn and contempt of their associates for doing so. Jesus honored his faith by starting out with His disciples toward the ruler’s home.
Another interruption! This time it was a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years. Jesus was never annoyed by such interruptions; He was always poised, accessible, and approachable.  Medical science had been unable to help this woman; in fact, her condition was deteriorating (Mark 5:26). In her extremity she met Jesus—or at least she saw Him surrounded by a crowd. Believing that He was able and willing to heal her, she edged through the crowd and touched the fringe (tzit-tzit) of His prayer shawl. True faith never goes unnoticed by Him. He turned and pronounced her healed; instantly the woman was made well for the first time in twelve years.

The narrative now returns to the ruler whose daughter had died. When Jesus reached the house, the professional mourners were wailing with what someone has called “synthetic grief.” He ordered the room cleared of visitors, at the same time announcing that the girl was not dead but sleeping.  The Lord took the girl by the hand and the miracle occurred—she got up. It didn’t take long for the news of the miracle to spread throughout the district.

Power to Give Sight (9:27–31)
As Jesus departed from the ruler’s neighborhood, two blind men followed Him, pleading for sight. Though dispossessed of natural vision, these men had acute spiritual discernment. In addressing Jesus as Son of David, they recognized Him as the long-awaited Messiah and rightful King of Israel. And they knew that when the Messiah came, one of His credentials would be that He would give sight to the blind (Isa. 42:6-7). When Jesus tested their faith by asking if they believed He was able to do this (give them sight), they unhesitatingly responded, “Yes, Lord.”  Then the Great Physician touched their eyes and assured them that because they believed, they would see. Immediately their eyes became completely normal.  Man says, “Seeing is believing.” God says, “Believing is seeing.”  He wants us to believe Him simply because He is God.

Why did Jesus sternly warn the healed men to tell no one? He did not want to start a premature movement to enthrone Him as King. The people were as yet unrepentant; He could not reign over them until they were born again.  In their  gratitude for eyesight, the two men spread the news of their miraculous cure. While we might be tempted to sympathize, and even to admire their exuberant testimony, the hard fact is that they were crassly disobedient and inevitably did more harm than good, probably by stirring up shallow curiosity rather than Spirit-inspired interest. Not even gratitude is a valid excuse for disobedience.

The Need for Harvest Workers (9:36–38)
Jesus traveled throughout the cities and villages, preaching the good news of the kingdom, namely, that He was the King of Israel, and that if the nation repented and acknowledged Him, He would reign over them. A bona fide offer of the kingdom was made to Israel at this time. What would have happened if Israel had responded? The Bible does not answer the question. We do know that Christ would still have had to die to provide a righteous basis by which God could justify sinners of all ages.

As He gazed on Israel’s multitudes, harassed and helpless, He saw them as sheep without a shepherd. His great heart of compassion went out to them. A great work of spiritual harvest needed to be done, but the laborers were few. The problem has persisted to this day, it seems; the need is always greater than the work-force.  The Lord Jesus told the disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Notice here that the need does not constitute a call. Workers should not go until they are sent.


Matthew 10:5-42

5 These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 9 Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, 10 nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.
11 “Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. 12 And when you go into a household, greet it. 13 If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!
16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. 18 You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
21 “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! 26 Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.
27 “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
40 “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”
The Mission to Israel (10:5–33)
The bulk of this chapter contains Jesus’ instructions concerning a special preaching tour to the house of Israel. This is not to be confused with the later sending of the seventy (Luke 10:1) or with the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19, 20). This was a temporary mission with the specific purpose of announcing that the kingdom of heaven was near. While some of the principles are of lasting value for God’s people in all ages, the fact that some were later revoked by the Lord Jesus proves they were not intended to be permanent (Luke 22:35, 36).

First the route is given. They were not to go to the Gentiles or to the Samaritans. Their ministry was limited at this time to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  The message was the proclamation that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. If Israel refused, there would be no excuse because an official announcement was to be made exclusively to them. The kingdom had drawn near in the Person of the King. Israel must decide whether to accept or reject Him.  The disciples were given credentials to confirm their message. They were to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, and cast out demons. The Jews demanded signs (1 Cor. 1:22) so God graciously condescended to give them signs.   As to remuneration, the Lord’s representatives were to make no charge for their services. They had received their blessings without cost and were to dispense them on the same basis.  What arrangements were they to make for housing? When they entered a city, they were to look for a worthy host—one who would receive them as disciples of the Lord and who would be open to their message. Once they found such a host, they were to stay with him as long as they were in the city, rather than moving if they found more favorable living conditions.
Starting in verse 16, Jesus counsels the twelve concerning their behavior in the face of persecution. They would be like sheep in the midst of wolves, surrounded by vicious men bent on destroying them. They should be wise as serpents, avoiding giving needless offense or being tricked into compromising situations. And they should be harmless as doves, protected by the armor of a righteous character and faith unfeigned.  They should be on guard against unbelieving Jews who would take them into criminal courts and flog them in their synagogues. The attack against them would be both civil and religious.   They would be dragged before governors and kings for Christ’s sake. But God’s cause would triumph over man’s evil.  In their hour of seeming defeat the disciples would have the incomparable privilege of testifying before rulers and Gentiles. God would be working all things together for good.

They need not rehearse what they would say when on trial. When the time came, the Spirit of God would give them divine wisdom to answer in such a way as to glorify Christ and utterly confuse and frustrate their accusers. Two extremes should be avoided in interpreting verse 19. The first is the naive assumption that a Christian never needs to prepare a message in advance. The second is the view that the verse has no relevance for us today. It is proper and desirable for a preacher to prayerfully wait before God for the appropriate word for a specific occasion. But it is also true that in crises, all believers can claim God’s promise to give them wisdom to speak with divine intuition. They become mouthpieces for the Spirit of their Father.

Jesus forewarned His disciples that they would have to face treachery and betrayal. Brother would accuse brother. Father would betray his child. Children would become informers against their parents, resulting in the execution of the parents.  The disciples would be hated by all—not by all without exception, but by all cultures, nationalities, classes, etc., of men. “But he who endures to the end will be saved.” Taken by itself, this could seem to imply that salvation can be earned by steadfast endurance. We know it cannot mean this because throughout the Scriptures salvation is presented as a free gift of God’s grace through faith (Eph. 2:8, 9). Neither can the verse mean that those who remain faithful to Christ will be saved from physical death; the previous verse predicts the death of some faithful disciples. The simplest explanation is that endurance is the hallmark of the genuinely saved. Those who endure to the end in times of persecution show by their perseverance that they are true believers.

In Bible passages dealing with the future, the Spirit of God often shifts from the immediate future to the distant future. A prophecy may have a partial and immediate significance and also a complete and more distant fulfillment.  In verses 22 and 23 the Lord Jesus makes this kind of prophetic transition. He warns the twelve disciples of the sufferings they will undergo for His sake, then He seems to see them as a type of His devoted followers during the Great Tribulation. He leaps forward from the trials of the first Christians to those of believers prior to His Second Advent.

The disciples of the Lord would often have occasion to wonder why they should have to endure ill treatment. If Jesus was the Messiah, why were His followers suffering instead of reigning? In verses 24 and 25, He anticipates their perplexity and answers it by reminding them of their relationship to Him. They were the disciples; He was their Teacher. They were servants; He was their Master. They were members of the household; He was the Master of the house. Discipleship means following the Teacher, not being superior to Him. The servant should not expect to be treated better than his Master. If men call the worthy Master of the house “Beelzebub” (“lord of flies,” an Ekronite god whose name was used by Jews for Satan), they will hurl even greater insults at the members of His household. Discipleship involves sharing the Master’s rejection.

Three times the Lord told His followers not to fear (vv. 26, 28, 31). First, they should not fear the seeming victory of their foes; His cause would be gloriously vindicated in a coming day.

Second, the disciples should not fear the murderous rage of men. The worst that men can do is kill the body. Physical death is not the supreme tragedy for the Christian. To die is to be with Christ and thus far better. It is deliverance from sin, sorrow, sickness, suffering, and death; and it is translation into eternal glory. So the worst men can do is, in a real sense, the best thing that can happen to the child of God.
In the midst of fiery trials, the disciples could be confident of God’s care. The Lord Jesus teaches this from the sparrow. Two of these insignificant birds were sold for a copper coin. Yet not one of them dies outside the Father’s will, without His knowledge or His presence.   The same God who takes a personal interest in the tiny sparrow keeps an accurate count of the hairs of the head of each of His children. A strand of hair is of considerably less value than a sparrow. This shows that His people are of more value to Him than many sparrows, so why should they fear?

In view of the foregoing considerations, what is more reasonable than that the disciples of Christ should fearlessly confess Him before men? Any shame or reproach they might bear will be abundantly rewarded in heaven when the Lord Jesus confesses them before His Father. Confession of Christ here involves commitment to Him as Lord and Savior and the resulting acknowledgment of Him by life and by lips. In the case of most of the twelve, this led to the ultimate confession of the Lord in martyrdom.

Denial of Christ on earth will be repaid with denial before God in heaven. To deny Christ in this sense means to refuse to recognize His claims over one’s life. Those whose lives say, in effect, “I never knew You” will hear Him say at last, “I never knew you.” The Lord is not referring to a temporary denial of Him under pressure, as in Peter’s case, but to that kind of denial that is habitual and final.

Not Peace But a Sword (10:34–39)
Our Lord’s words must be understood as a figure of speech in which the visible results of His coming are stated as the apparent purpose of His coming. He says He did not come to bring peace but a sword. Actually He did come to make peace (Eph. 2:14–17); He came that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:17).   But the point here is that whenever individuals became His followers, their families would turn against them. A converted father would be opposed by his unbelieving son, a Christian mother by her unsaved daughter. A born again mother-in-law would be hated by her unregenerate daughter-in-law. So a choice must often be made between Christ and family. No ties of nature can be allowed to deflect a disciple from utter allegiance to the Lord. The Savior must take precedence over father, mother, son or daughter. One of the costs of discipleship is to experience tension, strife, and alienation from one’s own family. This hostility is often more bitter than is encountered in other areas of life.

But there is something even more apt to rob Christ of His rightful place than family—that is, the love of one’s own life. So Jesus added, “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” The cross, of course, was a means of execution. To take the cross and follow Christ means to live in such devoted abandonment to Him that even death itself is not too high a price to pay. Not all disciples are required to lay down their lives for the Lord, but all are called on to value Him so highly that they do not count their lives precious to themselves.   Love of Christ must overmaster the instinct of self-preservation. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for Christ’s sake will find it. The temptation is to hug one’s life by trying to avoid the pain and loss of a life of total commitment. But this is the greatest waste of a life—to spend it in the gratification of self. The greatest use of a life is to spend it in the service of Christ. The person who loses his life in devotedness to Him will find it in its true fullness.

A Cup of Cold Water (10:40–42)
Not everyone would refuse the disciples’ message. Some would recognize them as representatives of the Messiah and receive them graciously. The disciples would have limited ability to reward such kindness, but they need not fret; anything done for them would be reckoned as being done for the Lord Himself and would be rewarded accordingly.  To receive Christ’s disciple would be tantamount to receiving Christ Himself, and to receive Him was the same as receiving the Father who sent Him, since the one sent represents the sender. To receive an ambassador, who stands in the place of the government that commissions him, is to enjoy diplomatic relations with his country.

Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward.  One who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. Those who judge others by physical attractiveness or material affluence fail to realize that true moral worth is often cloaked in very humble guise. The way a man treats the most homespun disciple is the way he treats the Lord Himself.

No kindness shown to a follower of Jesus will go unnoticed. Even a cup of cold water will be grandly rewarded if it is given to a disciple because he is a follower of the Lord.   Thus the Lord closes His special charge to the twelve by investing them with regal dignity. It is true that they would be opposed, rejected, arrested, tried, imprisoned, and perhaps even killed. But let them never forget that they were representatives of the King and that their glorious privilege was to speak and act for Him.

Lesson 8

Matthew 11:2-19, 20-30
2 And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
7 As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. 9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’
11 “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
16 “But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, 17 and saying: ‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not lament.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”

20 Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”  25 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. 26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. 27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

John the Baptist Imprisoned (11:1–19)
Having sent the twelve on the special temporary mission to the house of Israel, Jesus departed from there to teach and to preach in the cities of Galilee where the disciples had previously lived.  By now John had been imprisoned by Herod. Discouraged and lonely, he began to wonder. If Jesus were truly the Messiah, why did He allow His forerunner to languish in prison? Like many great men of God, John suffered a temporary lapse of faith. So he sent two of his disciples to ask if Jesus really was the One the prophets had promised, or if they should still be looking for the Anointed One.

Jesus answered by reminding John that He was performing the miracles predicted of the Messiah: The blind see (Isa. 35:5); the lame walk (Isa. 35:6); lepers are cleansed (Isa. 53:4, cf. Matt. 8:16, 17); the deaf hear (Isa. 35:5); the dead are raised up (although not specifically prophesied of the Messiah; it was a miracle that proclaimed Jesus as God).  Jesus also reminded John that the gospel was being preached to the poor in fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 61:1. Ordinary religious leaders often concentrate their attention on the wealthy and aristocratic. The Messiah brought good news to the poor.

Then the Savior added, “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” His gentleness, lowliness, and humiliation were out of character with the prevailing image of the militant Messiah. Men who were guided by fleshly desires might doubt His claim to kingship. But God’s blessing would rest on those who, by spiritual insight, recognized Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah.  Verse 6 should not be interpreted as a rebuke to John the Baptist. Everyone’s faith needs to be confirmed and strengthened at times. It is one thing to have a temporary lapse of faith and quite another to be permanently stumbled as to the true identity of the Lord Jesus. No single chapter is the story of a man’s life. Taking John’s life in its totality, we find a record of faithfulness and perseverance.

As soon as John’s disciples departed with Jesus’ words of reassurance, the Lord turned to the multitudes with words of glowing praise for the Baptist.  John was a fearless preacher, an embodied conscience, who would rather suffer than be silent, and rather die than lie. John was a simple man of God whose austere life was a rebuke to the enormous worldliness of the people.

John was a prophet—in fact, the greatest of the prophets. The Lord did not imply here that he was greater as to his personal character, eloquence, or persuasiveness; he was greater because of his position as forerunner of the Messiah-King.  This is made clear in verse 10; John was the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy (3:1)—the messenger who would precede the Lord and prepare the people for His coming. Other men had prophesied the Coming of Christ, but John was the one chosen to announce His actual arrival.  The statement that “he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” proves that Jesus was speaking of John’s privilege, not his character. A person who is least in the kingdom of heaven does not necessarily have a better character than John, but he does have greater privilege.

From the opening of John’s ministry to his present imprisonment the kingdom of heaven had suffered violence. The Pharisees and scribes had vigorously opposed it. Herod the king had done his part to buffet the kingdom by seizing its herald.   “… And the violent take it by force.” This statement is capable of two interpretations. First, the foes of the kingdom did their best to take the kingdom in order to destroy it. Their rejection of John foreshadowed the rejection of the King Himself and thus of the kingdom. But it may also mean that those who were ready for the King’s advent responded vigorously to the announcement and strained every muscle to enter. This is the meaning in Luke 16:16: “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and every one is pressing into it.” Here the kingdom is pictured as a besieged city, with all classes of men hammering at it from the outside, trying to get in.  Whichever meaning one adopts, the thought is that John’s preaching touched off a violent reaction, with widespread and deep effects.

But the generation to whom Jesus was speaking was not interested in accepting either. The Jews who were privileged to see the Advent of their Messiah had no desire for Him or His forerunner.  Jesus compared them to peevish children sitting in the marketplaces who refused to be satisfied with any overtures. If their friends wanted to pipe so they could dance, they refused. If their friends wanted to play-act a funeral, they refused to cry.  John came as an ascetic, and the Jews accused him of being demon-possessed. The Son of Man, on the other hand, ate and drank in a normal manner. If John’s asceticism made them uncomfortable, then surely they would be pleased with Jesus’ more ordinary eating habits. But no! They called Him a glutton, a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners. Of course, Jesus never ate or drank to excess; their charge was a total fabrication. It is true that He was a friend of tax-collectors and sinners, but not in the way they meant. He befriended sinners in order to save them from their sins, but He never shared or approved their sins.

Woes on the Unrepentant Cities of Galilee (11:20–24)
Great privilege brings great responsibility. No cities were ever more privileged than Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. The incarnate Son of God had walked their streets, taught their people, and performed most of His mighty miracles within their walls. In the face of this overwhelming evidence, they had stubbornly refused to repent. Little wonder, then, that the Lord should pronounce doom upon them.  He began with Chorazin and Bethsaida. These cities had heard the gracious call of their Savior, yet willfully turned Him away. His mind reverted to the cities of Tyre and Sidon which had fallen under the judgment of God because of their idolatry and wickedness. If they had been privileged to see the miracles of Jesus, they would have humbled themselves in deepest repentance. In the day of judgment, therefore, Tyre and Sidon would fare better than Chorazin and Bethsaida. 

Few cities had been as favored as Capernaum. It became Jesus’ home town after His rejection at Nazareth (9:1, cf. Mark 2:1–12), and some of His most extraordinary miracles—irrefutable evidences of His Messiah-ship—were performed there. Had vile Sodom, the capital of homosexuality, been so privileged, it would have repented and been spared. But Capernaum’s privilege was greater. Its people should have repented and gladly acknowledged the Lord. But Capernaum missed its day of opportunity. Sodom’s sin of perversion was great. But no sin is greater than Capernaum’s rejection of the holy Son of God. Therefore, Sodom will not be punished as severely as Capernaum in the day of judgment. Lifted up to heaven in privilege, Capernaum will be brought down to Hades in judgment. If this is true of Capernaum, how much truer of places where Bibles abound, where the gospel is broadcast, and where few, if any, are without excuse.

In the days of our Lord, there were four prominent cities in Galilee: Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, and Tiberias. He pronounced woes against the first three but not Tiberias. What has been the result? The destruction of Chorazin and Bethsaida is so complete that their exact sites are unknown. The location of Capernaum is not positive. Tiberias still stands. This remarkable fulfillment of prophecy is one more evidence of the Savior’s omniscience and the Bible’s inspiration.

The Savior’s Reaction to Rejection (11:25–30)
The three cities of Galilee had neither eyes to see nor heart to love the Christ of God. He knew their attitude was but a foretaste of rejection on a wider scale. How did He react to their impenitance? Not with bitterness, cynicism, or vindictiveness. Rather He lifted His voice in thanks to God that nothing could frustrate His sovereign purposes. “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.”

We should avoid two possible misunderstandings. First, Jesus was not expressing pleasure in the inevitable judgment of the Galilean cities. Secondly, He did not imply that God had high-handedly withheld the light from the wise and prudent.  The cities had every chance to welcome the Lord Jesus. They deliberately refused to submit to Him. When they refused the light, God withheld the light from them. But God’s plans will not fail.

Those who consider themselves too wise and understanding to need Christ become afflicted with judicial blindness. But those who admit their lack of wisdom receive a revelation of Him “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). Jesus thanked the Father for ordaining that if some would not have Him, others would. In the face of heart-breaking unbelief He found consolation in the overruling plan and purpose of God.

“Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and he to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” Ultimately, only God is great enough to understand God. Man cannot know Him by his own strength or intellect. But the Lord Jesus can and does reveal the Father to those whom He chooses. Whoever comes to know the Son comes to know the Father also (John 14:7).   To come means to believe (Acts 16:31); to receive (John 1:12); to eat (John 6:35); to drink (John 7:37); to look (Isa. 45:22); to confess (1 Jn. 4:2); to hear (John 5:24, 25); to enter a door (John 10:9); to open a door (Rev. 3:20); to touch the hem of His garment (Matt. 9:20, 21); and to accept the gift of eternal life through Christ our Lord (Rom. 6:23).   The object of faith is not a church, a creed, or a clergyman, but the living Christ. Salvation is in a Person; Jesus.
In order to truly come to Jesus, a person must admit that he is burdened with the weight of sin. Only those who acknowledge they are lost can be saved. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is preceded by repentance toward God.

In verses 29 and 30, the invitation changes from salvation to service.
Take My yoke upon you. This means to enter into submission to His will, to turn over control of one’s life to Him (Rom. 12:1, 2).  As we acknowledge His lordship in every area of our lives, He trains us in His ways.
“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Again there is a striking contrast with the Pharisees. Jesus said of them, “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” (Matt. 23:4). This does not mean that there are no problems, trials, labor, or heartaches in the Christian life. But it does mean that we do not have to bear them alone. We are yoked with One who gives sufficient grace for every time of need. To serve Him is not bondage but perfect freedom.

J. H. Jowett says:
“The fatal mistake for the believer is to seek to bear life’s load in a single collar. God never intended a man to carry his burden alone. Christ therefore deals only in yokes! A yoke is a neck harness for two, and the Lord himself is One of the two. He shares the labor of any galling task. The secret of peace and victory in the Christian life is found in putting off the taxing collar of “self” and accepting the Master’s relaxing “yoke.”


Matthew 12

1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”
3 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? 6 Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. 7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

9 Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. 10 And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—that they might accuse Him.
11 Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other.

24 Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”
25 But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. 30 He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.  31 “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”
39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.
43 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. 44 Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”

46 While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. 47 Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”  48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath (12:1–8)
This chapter records the mounting crisis of rejection. The rising anger and hatred of the Pharisees are now ready to spill over. The issue that opens the floodgates is the Sabbath question.  On this particular Sabbath, Jesus and His disciples were passing through the grainfields. His disciples began to pluck heads of grain and to eat them. The law permitted them to help themselves to grain from their neighbor’s field as long as they did not use a sickle (Deut. 23:25).   But the Pharisees, legal nitpickers, charged that the Sabbath had been broken. Though their specific charges are not stated it is likely that they accused the disciples of: (1) harvesting (picking the grain); (2) threshing (rubbing it in their hands); (3) winnowing (separating the grain from the chaff).

Jesus answered their ridiculous complaint by reminding them of an incident in the life of David. Once, when in exile, he and his men went into the wilderness and ate the showbread, twelve memorial loaves forbidden as food to any but the priests. Neither David nor his men were priests, yet God never found fault with them for doing this. Why not?  The reason is that God’s law was never intended to inflict hardship on His faithful people. It was not David’s fault that he was in exile. A sinful nation had rejected him. If he had been given his rightful place, he and his followers would not have had to eat the showbread. Because there was sin in Israel, God permitted an otherwise forbidden act.   The analogy is clear. The Lord Jesus was the rightful King of Israel, but the nation would not acknowledge Him as Sovereign. If He had been given His proper place, His followers would not have been reduced to eating in this way on the Sabbath or on any other day of the week. History was repeating itself. The Lord did not reprove His disciples, because they had done no wrong.

Jesus reminded the Pharisees that the priests profane the Sabbath by killing and sacrificing animals and by performing many other servile duties (Num. 28:9, 10), yet are blameless because they are engaged in the service of God.
12:6 The Pharisees knew that the priests worked every Sabbath in the temple without desecrating it. Why then should they criticize the disciples for acting as they did in the presence of One who is greater than the temple?

The Pharisees had never understood the heart of God. In Hosea 6:6 He had said, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” God puts compassion before ritual. He would rather see His people picking grain on the Sabbath to satisfy their hunger than observing the day so strictly as to inflict physical distress. If the Pharisees had only realized this, they would not have condemned the disciples. But they valued outward “religion” above human welfare.

Then the Savior added, “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” It was He who had instituted the law in the first place, and therefore He was the One most qualified to interpret its true meaning.
Jesus Heals on the Sabbath (12:9–13)
From the grainfields Jesus went into the synagogue.  Inside the synagogue was a man who had a withered hand—mute testimony to the powerlessness of the Pharisees to help him.  But suddenly he became valuable to them as a means to trap Jesus.  So they began by raising a legal quibble: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
Jesus answered by asking if they would pull one of their sheep out of a pit on the Sabbath. Of course they would! But why? Perhaps their pretext was that it was a work of mercy—but another consideration might be that the sheep was worth money and they would not want to incur financial loss, even on the Sabbath.  Our Lord reminded them that a man is of greater value than a sheep. If it is right to show mercy to an animal, how much more justified is it to do good to a man on the Sabbath!  Having caught the Jewish leaders in the pit of their own greed, Jesus healed the withered hand.

The Unpardonable Sin (12:24–32)
 When Jesus healed a blind and mute demoniac, the common people began to think seriously that He might be the Son of David, the Messiah of Israel. This enraged the Pharisees. Unable to tolerate any suggestion of sympathy with Jesus, they exploded with the charge that the miracle had been performed by the power of Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.  When He read their thoughts, Jesus proceeded to expose their foolishness. He pointed out that no kingdom, city, or house divided against itself can continue successfully. If He was casting out Satan’s demons by the power of Satan, then Satan was working against himself. This would be absurd.  He had a second devastating answer for the Pharisees. Some of their Jewish associates, known as exorcists, claimed to have the power to cast out demons. Jesus neither admitted nor denied their claim, but used it to point out that if He cast out demons by Beelzebub, then the Pharisees’ sons (i.e. these exorcists) did also. The Pharisees would never admit this, but could not escape the logic of the argument. Their own associates would condemn them for implying that they exorcised by the power of Satan.

The truth, of course, was that Jesus cast out demons by the Spirit of God. His entire life as a Man on earth was lived by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was the Spirit-filled Messiah whom Isaiah had foretold (Isa. 11:2; 42:1; 61:1–3). Therefore He said to the Pharisees, “ … if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” This announcement must have been a crushing blow. They prided themselves on their theological knowledge, yet the kingdom of God had come upon them because the King was among them and they hadn’t even realized that He was there!

Jesus was Satan’s conqueror.  He illustrates this by the story of the strong man. The strong man is Satan. His house is the sphere in which he holds sway. His goods are his demons. Jesus is the One who binds the strong man, enters his house, and plunders his goods. Actually the binding of Satan takes place in stages. It began during Jesus’ public ministry. It was decisively guaranteed by the death and resurrection of Christ. It will be true to a more marked degree during the King’s thousand-year reign (Rev. 20:2). Finally, it will be eternally true when he is cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10). At the present time the devil does not seem to be bound; he still exercises considerable power. But his doom is determined and his time is short.

Then Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” Their blasphemous attitude showed that the Pharisees were not with the Lord; therefore, they were against Him. By refusing to harvest with Him, they were scattering the grain. They had accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan while actually they themselves were the servants of Satan, seeking to frustrate the work of God.

Starting in verse 31, we see a crisis in Christ’s dealings with the leaders of Israel. He accuses them of committing the unpardonable sin by blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, that is, by charging that Jesus performed His miracles by the power of Satan rather than by the power of the Holy Spirit. In effect, this was calling the Holy Spirit Beelzebub, the ruler of demons.   By actively denying the Holy Spirit, the agent that draws men and women to the Savior, a person is “cutting the lifeline” so to speak.  Many people worry that they have committed the unpardonable sin.  The fact that a person is concerned is evidence that he is not guilty of it. Those who committed it were hard and unrelenting in their opposition to Christ. They had no qualms about insulting the Spirit and no hesitancy in plotting the death of the Son. They showed neither remorse nor repentance.

A Tree Is Known by Its Fruit (12:33–37)
Even the Pharisees should have admitted that the Lord had done good by casting out demons. Yet they accused Him of being evil. Here He exposes their inconsistency and says, in effect, “Make up your minds. If a tree is good, its fruit is good and vice versa.” Fruit reflects the quality of the tree that produced it. The fruit of His ministry had been good. He had healed the sick, the blind, the deaf, and the dumb, had cast out demons and raised the dead. Could a corrupt tree have produced such good fruit? Utterly impossible! Why then did they so stubbornly refuse to acknowledge Him?  The reason was that they were a brood of vipers. Their malice against the Son of Man, evidenced by their venomous words, was the outflow of their evil hearts. A heart filled with goodness will be evidenced by words of grace and righteousness. A wicked heart expresses itself in blasphemy, bitterness, and abuse.  Jesus solemnly warned them (and us) that people will give account for every idle word they utter. Because the words people have spoken are an accurate gauge of their lives, they will form a suitable basis for condemnation or acquittal. How great will be the condemnation of the Pharisees for the vile and contemptuous words which they spoke against God’s Holy Son!   “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” In the case of believers, the penalty for careless speech has been paid through the death of Christ; however, our careless speech, unconfessed and unforgiven, will result in loss of reward at Christ’s Judgment Seat.

The Sign of the Prophet Jonah (12:38–45)
Despite all the miracles Jesus had performed, the scribes and Pharisees had the temerity to ask Him for a sign, implying that they would believe if He would prove Himself to be the Messiah! But their hypocrisy was transparent. If they had not believed as a result of so many wonders, why would they be convinced by one more? The attitude that demands miraculous signs as a condition for belief does not please God. As Jesus said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

The Lord addressed them as an evil and adulterous generation; evil because they were willfully blind to their own Messiah, adulterous because they were spiritually unfaithful to their God.  He told them summarily that no sign would be given to them except the sign of the prophet Jonah, referring to His own death, burial, and resurrection. Jonah’s experience of being swallowed by the fish and then disgorged (Jon. 1:17; 2:10) prefigured the Lord’s passion and resurrection. His rising from among the dead would be the final, climactic sign of His ministry to the nation of Israel.  Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so our Lord predicted that He would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. This raises a problem. If, as generally believed, Jesus was buried on Friday afternoon and rose again on Sunday morning, how can it be said that He was three days and nights in the tomb? The answer is that, in Jewish reckoning, any part of a day and night counts as a complete period. “A day and a night make an onah, and a part of an onah is as the whole” (Jewish saying).

Jesus depicted the guilt of the Jewish leaders by two contrasts. First, the Gentiles of Nineveh were far less privileged, yet when they heard the preaching of the errant prophet Jonah, they repented with deep grief.  Second, the queen of Sheba, a Gentile outside of Jewish privilege, traveled from the South, at great effort and expense, for an interview with Solomon. The Jews of Jesus’ day did not have to travel at all to see Him; He had traveled from heaven to their little neighborhood to be their Messiah-King. Yet they had no room in their lives for Him—One infinitely greater than Solomon.
Now Jesus gives, in parabolic form, a summary of the past, present, and future of unbelieving Israel. The man represents the Jewish nation, the unclean spirit the idolatry which characterized the nation from the time of its servitude in Egypt to the Babylonian captivity (which temporarily cured Israel of its idolatry). It was as if the unclean spirit had gone out of the man. From the end of the captivity to the present day, the Jewish people have not been idol-worshipers. They are like a house that is empty, swept, and put in order.  Over nineteen hundred years ago, the Savior sought admittance to that empty house. He was the rightful Occupant, the Master of the house, but the people steadfastly refused to let Him in. Though they no longer worshiped idols, they would not worship the true God either.  The empty house speaks of spiritual vacuum—a dangerous condition, as the sequel shows. Reformation is not enough. There must be the positive acceptance of the Savior.  In a coming day, the spirit of idolatry will decide to return to the house, accompanied by seven spirits more wicked than himself. Since seven is the number of perfection or completeness, this probably refers to idolatry in its fully developed form. This looks forward to the time when the apostate nation will worship the Antichrist. To bow down to the man of sin and to worship him as God is a more terrible form of idolatry than the nation has ever been guilty of in the past. And so the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.

The Mother and Brothers of Jesus (12:46–50)
These verses describe a seemingly commonplace incident in which Jesus’ family comes to speak to Him. Why had they come? Mark may give us a clue. Some of Jesus’ friends decided He was out of His mind (Mark 3:21, 31–35), and perhaps His family came to take Him away quietly (see also John 7:5). When told that His mother and brothers were waiting outside to speak with Him, the Lord responded by asking, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” Then, pointing to His disciples, He said “Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”   Blood relationships are superseded by spiritual considerations. Obedience to God will bring men and women, whether Jews or Gentiles, into vital relationship with Him.

Before leaving this incident, we should mention two points concerning the mother of Jesus. First, it is evident that Mary did not occupy any place of special privilege as far as access into His presence was concerned.

Second, the mention of Jesus’ brothers strikes a blow at the teaching that Mary was a perpetual virgin. The implication is strong that these were actual sons of Mary and therefore half-brothers of our Lord. This view is strengthened by such other Scriptures as Psalm 69:8; Matt. 13:55; Mark 3:31, 32; 6:3; John 7:3, 5; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:5; Gal. 1:19.
Calvary Bible Church Bible Study
The Words Of Christ


Matthew 13

3 Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8 But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”
11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:
‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; 15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’  16 But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; 17 for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

18 “Therefore hear the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. 20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 23 But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”

31 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, 32 which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

33 Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”

34 All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, 35 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.”

36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”

37 He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

44 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, 48 which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

51 Jesus said to them, “Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” 52 Then He said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” 53 Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables, that He departed from there.

Parables of the Kingdom

The Parable of the Sower (13:1–9)
Jesus went out of the house where He had healed the demoniac and sat by the sea of Galilee.  As great multitudes gathered on the beach, He got into a boat and began to teach the people by parables. A parable is a story with an underlying spiritual or moral teaching which is not always apparent immediately. The parables that follow tell us what the kingdom will be like during the time between His First and Second Advents.

The first four were spoken to the multitude; the last three were given only to the disciples. The Lord explained the first two and the seventh to the disciples, leaving them (and us) to interpret the others with the keys He had already given.
The first parable concerns a sower who planted his seed in four different types of soil. As might be expected, the results were different in each case.

  • Hard-packed pathway:  Seeds eaten by the birds.    
  • Thin layer of soil over rock deposit:  Seed sprouted quickly, but no root; scorched by the sun and withered away.    
  • Ground infested with thorns:  The seed sprouted, but growth was impossible because of the thorns.    
  • Good Ground:  The seed sprouted, grew, and yielded a crop: some stalks bore a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  

Jesus closed the parable with the cryptic admonition, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” In the parable He was conveying an important message to the multitude, and a different message to the disciples. None should miss the significance of His words.  The Lord Himself interprets the parable in verses 18–23.

The Purpose of the Parables (13:10–17)
The disciples were puzzled that the Lord should speak to the people in the veiled language of parables. So they asked Him to explain.  In His reply, Jesus distinguished between the unbelieving crowd and the believing disciples. The crowd, a cross-section of the nation, was obviously rejecting Him, though their rejection would not be complete until the cross. They would not be permitted to know the mysteries (secrets) of the kingdom of heaven, whereas His true followers would be helped to understand.  A mystery in the NT is a fact never previously known by man, which man could never learn apart from divine revelation, but which has now been revealed. The mysteries of the kingdom are  unknown truths concerning the kingdom.  The parables describe some of the features of the kingdom during the time when the King would be absent.

It may seem arbitrary that these secrets should be withheld from the multitude and revealed to the disciples. But the Lord gives the reason: “For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” The disciples had faith in the Lord Jesus; therefore, they would be given the capacity for more. They had accepted the light; therefore, they would receive more light. The Jewish nation, on the other hand, had rejected the Light of the world; therefore they were not only prevented from receiving more light, they would lose what little light they had. Light rejected is light denied.  Matthew Henry compares the parables to the pillar of cloud and fire which enlightened Israel while confusing the Egyptians. The parables would be revealed to those who were sincerely interested but would prove “only an irritation to those who were hostile to Jesus.”   So it was not a matter of whim on the Lord’s part, but simply the outworking of a principle which is built into all of life—willful blindness is followed by judicial blindness. They were a living fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 6:9, 10. Israel’s heart had grown dull and their ears were insensitive to the voice of God. They deliberately refused to see with their eyes. They knew that if they saw, heard, understood, and repented, God would heal them. But in their sickness and need, they refused His help. Therefore, their punishment was that they would hear but not understand, and see but not perceive.  On The other hand, the disciples were tremendously privileged, because they were seeing what no one had seen before. The prophets and righteous men of the OT had longed to be living when the Messiah arrived, but their desire had not been fulfilled. The disciples were favored to live at that crisis moment in history, to see the Messiah, to witness His miracles, and to hear the teaching which came from His lips.

Explanation of the Parable of the Sower (13:18–23)
Having explained why He used parables, the Lord now proceeds to expound the parable of the four soils. He does not identify the sower but we can be sure that it refers either to Himself (v. 37) or to those who preach the message of the kingdom. He defines the seed as the word of the kingdom (v. 19). The soils represent those who hear the message.

The hard-packed pathway speaks of people who refuse to receive the message. They hear the gospel but do not understand it—not because they can’t but because they won’t. The birds are a picture of Satan; he snatches away the seed from the hearts of these hearers. He cooperates with them in their self-chosen barrenness.

When Jesus spoke of rocky ground, He had in mind a thin layer of earth covering a ledge of rock. This represents people who hear the word and respond with joy. At first the sower might be elated that his preaching is so successful. But soon he learns the deeper lesson, that it is not good when the message is received with smiles and cheers. First there must be conviction of sin, contrition, and repentance. It is far more promising to see an inquirer weeping his way to Calvary than to see him walking down the aisle light-heartedly and exuberantly. The shallow earth yields a shallow profession; there is no depth to the root. But when his profession is tested by the scorching sun of tribulation or persecution, he decides it isn’t worth it and abandons any profession of subjection to Christ.

The thorn-infested ground represents another class who hear the word in a superficial way. They appear outwardly to be genuine subjects of the kingdom but in time their interest is choked out by the cares of this world and by their delight in riches. There is no fruit for God in their lives.

The good ground represents a true believer. He … hears the word receptively and understands it through obeying what he hears. Although these believers do not all produce the same amount of fruit, they all show by their fruit that they have divine life. Fruit here is probably the manifestation of Christian character rather than souls won to Christ. When the word fruit is used in the NT, it generally refers to the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23).

The Parable of the Wheat and Tares (13:24–30)
The preceding parable was a vivid illustration of the fact that the kingdom of heaven includes those who give only lip service to the King as well as those who are His genuine disciples. The first three soils typify the kingdom in its widest circle—outward profession. The fourth soil represents the kingdom as a smaller circle—those who have been truly converted.

The second parable—the wheat and the tares—also sets forth the kingdom in these two aspects. The wheat depicts true believers, the tares are mere professors. Jesus compares the kingdom to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat. Unger says that the most common tare found in grainfields in the Holy Land is bearded darnel, “a poisonous grass, almost indistinguishable from wheat while the two are growing into blade. But when they come into ear, they can be separated without difficulty.”
The Parable of the Mustard Seed (13:31, 32)
Next the Savior likens the kingdom to a mustard seed which He called the smallest of seeds, that is, smallest in the experience of His listeners. When a man planted one of these seeds, it grew into a tree, a growth that is phenomenal. The normal mustard plant is more like a bush than a tree. The tree was large enough for birds to nest in its branches
The seed represents the humble beginning of the kingdom. At first the kingdom was kept relatively small and pure as a result of persecution. But with the patronage and protection of the state, it suffered abnormal growth. Then the birds came and roosted in it. The same word for birds is used here as in verse 4; Jesus explained the birds as meaning the evil one (v. 19). The kingdom became a nesting place for Satan and his agents. Today the umbrella of Christendom covers such Christ-denying systems as Unitarianism, Christian Science, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Unification Church.

So here the Lord forewarned the disciples that during His absence the kingdom would experience a phenomenal growth. They should not be deceived nor equate growth with success. It would be unhealthy growth. Though the tiny seed would become an abnormal tree, its largeness would become “a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird” (Rev. 18:2).

The Parable of the Leaven (13:33)
Next the Lord Jesus compared the kingdom to leaven which a woman hid in three measures of meal. Eventually all the meal became leavened. A common interpretation is that the meal is the world and the leaven is the gospel which will be preached throughout the world until everyone becomes saved. This view, however, is contradicted by Scripture, by history, and by current events.

Leaven is always a type of evil in the Bible. When God commanded His people to rid their houses of leaven (Ex. 12:15), they understood this. If anyone ate what was leavened from the first till the seventh day of this Feast of Unleavened Bread, he would be cut off from Israel. Jesus warned against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt. 16:6, 12) and the leaven of Herod (Mark 8:15). In 1 Corinthians 5:6–8 leaven is defined as malice and evil, and the context of Galatians 5:9 shows that there it means false teaching. In general, leaven means either evil doctrine or evil behavior.  So in this parable the Lord warns against the permeating power of evil working in the kingdom of heaven. The parable of the mustard seed shows evil in the external character of the kingdom; this parable shows the inward corruption that would take place.  I believe that in this parable the meal represents the food of God’s people as it is found in the Bible. The leaven is evil doctrine. The woman is a false prophetess who teaches and beguiles (Rev. 2:20). 

The Use of Parables Fulfills Prophecy (13:34, 35)
Jesus spoke the first four parables to the multitude. The use of this teaching method by the Lord fulfilled Asaph’s prophecy in Psalm 78:2 that the Messiah would speak in parables, uttering things kept secret from the foundation of the world.

Explanation of the Parable of the Tares (13:36–43)
The remainder of the Lord’s discourse was spoken to the disciples, inside the house.  In His interpretation of the wheat and tares parable, Jesus identified Himself as the sower. He sowed directly during His earthly ministry, and has been sowing through His servants in succeeding ages.  The field is the world. It is important to emphasize that the field is the world, not the church. The good seeds mean the sons of the kingdom. It might seem bizarre and incongruous to think of living human beings being planted into the ground. But the point is that these sons of the kingdom were sown in the world. During His years of public ministry, Jesus sowed the world with disciples who were loyal subjects of the kingdom. The tares are the sons of the wicked one. Satan has a counterfeit for every divine reality. He sows the world with those who look like, talk like, and, to some extent, walk like disciples. But they are not genuine followers of the King.

The enemy is Satan, the enemy of God and all the people of God. The harvest is the end of the age, which will be when Jesus Christ returns in power and glory to reign as King.  The reapers are the angels (see Rev. 14:14–20). During the present phase of the kingdom, no forcible separation is made of the wheat and the darnel. They are allowed to grow together. But at the Second Advent of Christ, the angels will round up all causes of sin and all evildoers and throw them into the furnace of fire, where they will weep and gnash their teeth.   The righteous subjects of the kingdom who are on earth during the Tribulation will enter the kingdom of their Father to enjoy the Millennial Reign of Christ. There they will shine forth as the sun; that is, they will be resplendent in glory.  Again Jesus adds the cryptic admonition, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

This parable does not justify, as some mistakenly suppose, the toleration of ungodly people in a local Christian church. Remember that the field is the world, not the church. Local churches are explicitly commanded to put out of their fellowship all who are guilty of certain forms of wickedness (1 Cor. 5:9–13). The parable simply teaches that in its present form, the kingdom of heaven will include the real and the imitation, the genuine and the counterfeit, and that this condition will continue until the end of the age. Then God’s messengers will separate the false, who will be taken away in judgment, from the true, who will enjoy the glorious reign of Christ on earth.

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure (13:44)
In the parable of the treasure, Jesus compares the kingdom to treasure hidden in a field. A man finds it, covers it up, then gladly sells all he has and buys that field.
The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price (13:45, 46)
The kingdom is also likened to a merchant seeking beautiful pearls. When he finds a pearl of unusually great value, he sacrifices all he has to buy it.
The Parable of the Dragnet (13:47–50)
The final parable in the series likens the kingdom to a sieve or dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. The fishermen sorted out the fish, keeping the good in containers and discarding the bad. 
The Treasury of Truth (13:51, 52)
When He had finished the parables, the Master Teacher asked His disciples if they understood. They replied, “Yes.”  Because they understood, they were obligated to share with others. Disciples are to be channels, not terminals of blessings. The twelve were now scribes trained for the kingdom of heaven; that is, teachers and interpreters of the truth. They were like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old. In the OT they had a rich deposit of what we might call old truth. In the parabolic teaching of Christ, they had just received what was completely new. From this vast storehouse of knowledge they should now impart the glorious truth to others.

View Part 2 Here