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Bible Study: The words of Christ – part two

 Note:  View Part One Here

LESSON 11 – Matthew 

Matthew 15:1-20

1 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 2 “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”  3 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. 7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.  9 And in vain they worship Me,

Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”

10 When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”  12 Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?”  13 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”  15 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain this parable to us.”  16 So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? 18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20 These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”

 

Matthew 16:1-19

1 Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; 3 and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. 4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.

5 Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. 6 Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”  7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have taken no bread.”  8 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? 9 Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? 10 Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? 11 How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?—but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” 14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

 

Matthew 15:1-20

The scribes and Pharisees were unrelenting in their efforts to trap Jesus. A delegation of them came from Jerusalem, charging His disciples with uncleanness for eating with their hands unwashed, therefore violating the tradition of the elders.  In order to appreciate this incident, we must understand the references to clean and unclean, and must know what the Pharisees meant by washing. The whole conception of clean and unclean goes back to the OT. The uncleanness with which the disciples were charged was entirely a ceremonial matter. If a person touched a dead body, for instance, or if he ate certain things, he contracted ceremonial defilement—he was not ritually fit to worship God. Before he could approach God, the law of God required him to go through a cleansing ritual.  But the elders had added tradition to the cleansing rituals. They insisted, for instance, that before a Jew ate, he should put his hands through an elaborate cleansing process, washing not just the hands, but also the arms up to the elbows. If he had been in the marketplace, he was supposed to take a ceremonial bath. Thus, the Pharisees criticized the disciples for failing to observe the intricacies of the washings prescribed by Jewish tradition.

Jesus reminded His critics that they transgressed the commandment of God, not simply the tradition of the elders. The law commanded men to honor their parents, including supporting them financially if necessary. But the scribes and Pharisees (and many others) did not want to spend money for the support of their aged parents. So they devised a tradition by which to avoid their responsibility. When asked for help by father or mother, all they had to do was recite such words as these: “Any money which I have and which could be used to support you has been dedicated to God, and therefore I cannot give it to you,”  (quorban); and having recited this formula, they were free from financial responsibility to their parents. Following this devious tradition they had thus nullified the Word of God which commanded them to care for their parents.

By their crafty twisting of words they fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 29:13. They professed to honor God with their lips, but their heart was far from Him. Their worship was worthless because they were giving higher priority to the traditions of men than to the Word of God.  Turning to the multitude, Jesus made a pronouncement of tremendous significance. He declared that not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but rather what comes out. We can scarcely appreciate the revolutionary character of this statement. Under the Levitical code, what went into the mouth did defile a man. The Jews were forbidden to eat the meat of any animal which did not chew the cud and have cloven hooves. They were not allowed to eat a fish unless it had scales and fins.  Very definite instructions were given by God as to foods that were clean or unclean.

Now the Law-giver announced the real purpose for the Laws regarding foods; not to focus on the food, but to focus on the concept of INNER purity and wholesomeness.  He said that the food which His disciples ate with unwashed hands did not defile them. But the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees—that was truly defiling.   When His disciples brought word that the Pharisees were offended by this denunciation, Jesus answered by comparing them to plants which had not been divinely planted. They were tares rather than wheat. They and their teachings would eventually be rooted up; that is, destroyed.  Though professing to be authorities in spiritual matters, they were as blind to spiritual realities as were the people they were leading. It was inevitable that both leaders and followers would fall into a ditch.

The disciples were undoubtedly shaken by this complete reversal of all they had been taught about clean and unclean foods.  Peter verbalized their unsettlement when he asked for an explanation.  The Lord first expressed wonder that they were so slow to understand, then explained that true defilement is moral, not physical. Edible foods are not intrinsically clean or unclean. In fact, no material thing is evil in itself; it is the abuse of a thing that is wrong. The food man eats enters the mouth, goes into the stomach for digestion, then the unassimilated residue is eliminated. His moral being is not affected—only his body. Today we know that “every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4, 5). The passage is not speaking of poisonous plants, of course, but of foods designed by God for human consumption. All are good and should be eaten thankfully. If a person is allergic to some, or cannot tolerate others, he shouldn’t eat them, but in general we can eat with the assurance that God uses food to nourish us physically.   If food doesn’t defile, then what does? Jesus answered, “… those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.” Here the heart is not the organ that pumps blood, but the corrupt source of human motives and desires. This part of man’s moral nature manifests itself by impure thoughts, then by depraved words, then by evil acts.   Some of the things that defile a man are evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies, (this Greek word includes slander of others).

The Pharisees and scribes were extremely careful concerning the ostentatious, punctilious observance of hand-washing ceremonies. But their inner lives were polluted. They majored in minors and overlooked the matters of real importance. They could criticize the disciples’ failure to keep uninspired traditions, yet plot to kill the Son of God and be guilty of the whole catalog of sin listed in verse 19.

Matthew 16:1-19

The Pharisees and Sadducees represented two doctrinal extremes. But their hostility gave way to cooperation as they united in a common aim to trip up the Lord.  To test Him they asked Him to demonstrate a sign from heaven.  They were trying to put Him into a compromising position by getting Him to do some form of “miracle” that they could then call a demonic “sign”.  He answered by continuing the theme of the sky. When they saw a red sky in the evening, they forecast fair weather for the next day. They also knew that a red, threatening sky in the morning meant storms for that day. They had expertise in interpreting the appearance of the sky, but they could not interpret the signs of the times.

What were these signs? The prophet who heralded the advent of the Messiah had appeared in the person of John the Baptist. The miracles prophesied of the Messiah—things no other man had ever done—had been performed in their presence. Another sign of the times was the obvious rejection of the Messiah by the Jews and the movement of the gospel to the Gentiles, all in fulfillment of prophecy. Yet in spite of this incontrovertible evidence, they had no sense of history being made or of prophecy being fulfilled.

In seeking for a sign when He Himself stood in their midst, the Pharisees and Sadducees exposed themselves as an evil, spiritually adulterous generation. No sign would now be given to them except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  This would be the resurrection of Christ on the third day. A wicked and adulterous generation would crucify its Messiah, but God would raise Him from the dead.

The paragraph closes with the ominous words, “And He left them and departed.” The spiritual implications of the words should be obvious to all.

When His disciples rejoined the Lord on the east side of the lake, they had forgotten to take food with them. Therefore when Jesus greeted them with a warning to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, they thought He was saying, “Don’t go to those Jewish leaders for food supplies!” Their preoccupation with food caused them to look for a literal, natural explanation where a spiritual lesson was intended.  They were still worrying about a food shortage in spite of the fact that He who fed the 5,000 and the 4,000 was with them. So He reviewed the two miraculous feedings with them. The lesson that emerged concerned divine arithmetic and divine resourcefulness, for the less Jesus had to work with, the more He fed, and the more food there was left over. When there were only five loaves and two fish, He fed 5,000 plus and had twelve baskets of food left. With more loaves and fish, He fed only 4,000 plus and had left over only seven basketfuls. If we put our limited resources at His disposal, He can multiply them in inverse proportion to their amount. “Little is much if God is in it.”

In speaking of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Lord had not referred to bread but to evil doctrine and conduct.  The leaven of the Pharisees is hypocrisy. They professed to study and follow the Word of God in smallest details, yet their obedience was external and shallow. Inwardly they were evil and corrupt.  The leaven of the Sadducees was rationalism. The freethinkers of their day, they, like the liberals of today, had built a system of doubts and denials. They denied the existence of angels and spirits, the resurrection of the body, the immortality of the soul, and eternal punishment. This leaven of skepticism, if tolerated, will spread and permeate like yeast in meal.

Peter’s Great Confession (16:13–19)

Up to this time, Jesus He had been leading His disciples to a true understanding of His Person as the Messiah.  Having succeeded in this, He now begins His journey to the cross.   He began by asking His disciples what men were saying as to His identity. The replies ran the gamut from John the Baptist, to Elijah, to Jeremiah, to one of the other prophets. To the average person He was one among many. Good, but not the Best. Great, but not the Greatest. A prophet, but not the Prophet. This view would never do.  If He were only another man He was a fraud because He claimed to be equal with God the Father.

So He asked the disciples who they believed He was. This brought from Simon Peter the historic confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In other words, He was Israel’s Messiah and God the Son.   Jesus pronounced a blessing on Simon, son of Jonah. The fisherman had not arrived at this concept of the Lord through intellect or native wisdom; it had been supernaturally revealed to him by God the Father. But the Son had something important to say to Peter also. So Jesus added, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” We all know that more controversy has swirled around this verse than almost any other verse in the Gospel. The question is, “Who or what is the rock?” Part of the problem arises from the fact that the Greek words for Peter and for rock are similar, but the meanings are different. The first, petros, means a stone or loose rock; the second, petra, means rock, such as a rocky ledge. So what Jesus really said was “ … you are Peter (stone), and on this rock I will build My church.” He did not say He would build His church on a stone but on a rock.

If Peter is not the rock, then what is? If we stick to the context, the obvious answer is that the rock is Peter’s confession that Christ is the Son of the living God, the truth on which the church is founded. Ephesians 2:20 teaches that the church is built on Jesus Christ, the chief cornerstone. Its statement that we are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets refers not to them, but to the foundation laid in their teachings concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.   Christ is spoken of as a Rock in 1 Corinthians 10:4.  In this connection, a commentator named Morgan gives a helpful reminder:   “Remember, He was talking to Jews. If we trace the figurative use of the word rock through Hebrew Scriptures, we find that it is never used symbolically of man, but always of God. So here at Caesarea Philippi, it is not upon Peter that the Church is built. Jesus did not trifle with figures of speech. He took up their old Hebrew illustration—rock, always the symbol of Deity—and said, “Upon God Himself —Christ, the Son of the living God—I will build my church.”

“I will build My church.” Here we have the first mention of the church in the Bible. It did not exist in the OT. The church, still future when Jesus spoke these words, was formed on the Day of Pentecost and is composed of all true believers in Christ, both Jew and Gentile, Spirit-indwelt.  “The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it”.   The powers of death will be defeated by the translation of living believers and by the resurrection of the dead in Christ.

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” does not mean that Peter was given authority to admit men to heaven.  Keys speak of access or entrance. The keys which open the door of profession of faith are given in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19)—discipling, baptizing, and teaching.  Peter first used the keys on the Day of Pentecost. They were not given to him exclusively, but as a representative of all the disciples. (See Matt. 18:18 where the same promise is given to them all.)

“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” This and a companion passage in John 20:23 are sometimes used to teach that Peter and his supposed successors were given the authority to forgive sins. We know that this cannot be so; only God can forgive sins.  What this refers to is a Hebrew concept called “halachah”; the allowing (or not allowing) of certain behaviors or actions based upon God’s Word, and is an authority that even Pastors in the modern age are supposed to use carefully and properly.

A Study On “Binding And Loosing (Halachah)

Since the modern Pastor is often called upon to guide and instruct his flock on matters that are not specifically mentioned in Scripture (due to changes in culture and practice), he needs to have a grounding in the authority that he has been given by Jesus in the area of interpretation and application of God’s Word.  This is an awesome responsibility, and is never to be entered into lightly.  It is to be done reverentially, and with a consistent and proper handling of God’s Word as the ultimate authority. 

BINDING AND LOOSING — a phrase describing the authority and power that Jesus assigned to His disciples, allowing them to forbid or allow certain kinds of conduct.   This phrase occurs only twice in the New Testament. In the first instance (Matt. 16:19), Jesus gave Peter “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” and told him “whatever you bind on earth will be bound [literally, “shall have been bound”] in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed [“shall have been loosed”] in heaven.” This means that Peter was granted the authority to pronounce the freedom or condemnation of a person in areas of behavior. The tense of the verbs “shall have been” indicates that this fact was already established in the will of the Father.      In Matthew 18:18 the same words were spoken by Jesus to all the disciples, granting them authority in matters of church discipline.

Matthew 23:1-4

1Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: 3All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 4For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

The King James Version.

In the Old Testament, Hezekiah, king of Judah, chose a body of men who transcribed the ancient records for preservation, including the proverbs of Solomon (Prov. 25:1). The nature of the scribe’s work had changed by the time of Christ. He was no longer an officer of the king’s court; he had become a person who interpreted the Scriptures. The scribes soon became known for their study and knowledge of the Mosaic Law.

After the Jews returned from the Captivity in Babylon, the era of the scribes began. The reading of the Law before the nation of Israel by Ezra (Nehemiah 8–10) signaled the nation’s return to exact observance of all the laws and rites that had been given. Following the Law and the traditions that had grown up around it became the measure of devotion and spirituality.

At first the priests were responsible for the study and professional communication of this legal code. But this function eventually passed to the scribes. Their official interpretation of the meaning of the Law eventually became more important than the Law itself.  This position of strength allowed these early scribes to enforce their rules and practices with a binding authority. To speak of the scribes as interpreters of Scripture means that they provided rules for human conduct out of their study.

By the time of Jesus, the scribes were a new upper class among the Jewish people. Large numbers of priests in Jerusalem before A.D.. 70 served as scribes. One of these was Josephus, the Jewish historian. Some scribes came from among the Sadducees. Others came from the ordinary priestly ranks. But the largest group of scribes came from among every other class of people, including merchants, carpenters, flax combers, tentmakers, and even day laborers, like Hillel, who became a famous Jewish teacher.

The young Israelite who devoted his life to become a scribe went through a set course of study for several years. Josephus began his preparation when he was 14. Students were in continual contact with the teacher, listening to his instruction. The disciple-scribe first had to master all the traditional material and the unique method of interpretation of the Jewish Halachah. The aim was to give the apprentice competence in making decisions on questions of religious legislation and penal justice.

The city of Jerusalem was the center of this scribal knowledge and interpretation of the Law. Only ordained teachers could transmit and create the tradition; this was the matter studied to perfection by students often beginning at age 14. When they completed their study at the age of 40, they could be ordained. As members with full rights, they could act as judges, be called rabbis, and occupy positions in administration of justice, government, and education. Sometimes the gospels refer to the scribes as lawyers (Matt. 22:35; Luke 7:30)—a title that identifies them as experts in the Mosaic Law. This Law was regarded as the sole civil and religious authority governing Jewish life.

“Christ allows their office as expositors of the law; The scribes and Pharisees they sit in Moses’ seat (v. 2), as public teachers and interpreters of the law; and, the law of Moses being the municipal law of their state, they were as judges, or a bench of justices; teaching and judging seem to be equivalent, comparing 2 Chr. 17:7, 9, with 2 Chr. 19:5, 6, 8.  They expounded the law, and taught the people how to apply it to particular cases. “Whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do As far as they sit in Moses’s seat, that is, read and preach the law that was given by Moses’’ (which, as yet, continued in full force, power, and virtue), “and judge according to that law, so far you must hearken to them, as remembrances to you of the written word.’’ The scribes and Pharisees made it their business to study the scripture, and were well acquainted with the language, history, and customs of it, and its style and phraseology. Now Christ would have the people to make use of the helps they gave them for the understanding of the scripture, and do accordingly. As long as their comments did illustrate the text and not pervert it; did make plain, and not make void, the commandment of God; so far they must be observed and obeyed, but with caution and a judgment of discretion.”           

The development of a specific application of the Law is called in Hebrew a “halacha”.  In order for the modern Pastor to develop “halacha” that apply to the situations that he is confronted with today; the following concepts must be kept in view at all times:

A) No “halacha” must ever contradict a plainly stated precept of God’s Word.    For example, numerous modern “liberal” theologians have stated that homosexual behavior is allowable, as long as it is done in a “loving, committed relationship”.  However, this flies in the face of the revealed Word of God which plainly states that homosexuality is an abomination to God, and that those who engage in such activity will never inherit the kingdom of heaven.  This is a case where “political correctness” and personal agenda has resulted in a truly faulty “halacha”.

B) All “halacha” must be administered by the Pastor in the love of Christ, and to glorify HIM, not ourselves.

The complaint that Jesus had against the Scribes was not that they administered the Law of Moses; it was the arrogance, pride, and hypocrisy with which they did so.  Pastors should never allow the people in their congregation to begin to treat them as “guru’s”, the source of all wisdom.  Our handling of God’s Word is a privilege that we have been given by grace, not a right that we have earned by our intelligence or skill.  All of our decisions should promote the glory of God, and should always be consistent with a humble, pure, and holy Christian life. 

C) Participants in a “halacha” should understand that a proper “halacha” IS BINDING, and that they are responsible for carrying it out.

If the “halacha” has been properly arrived at, the Pastor has the authority to make it binding upon those involved.  Although the Pastor has no earthly authority to enforce it, his authority is seen in heaven, and the people involved will be held to it.  For example, if a couple seeks permission to marry, having been previously divorced, and the Pastor determines that they are NOT in a position to marry, and forbids them to marry; they might go to another Pastor, or to a Justice of the Peace, and marry anyway.  The Pastor cannot legally stop them, but their knowledge of his “halacha” will be held against them in terms of heavenly judgment, especially as it concerns the blessings of God being on their marriage.  This can have long-reaching consequences, especially if children result from the marriage.  Although the grace of God is always available to the repentant, willful disobedience of a properly given “halacha” is rebellion, and would be considered a sin as such, needing true repentance in order to be overcome.

LESSON 12 – Matthew 

Matthew 16:21-28

21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.  22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”  23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”  24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. 28 Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

Matthew 17:14-21

14 And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”  17 Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.  19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”  20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

 

Matthew 17:24-27

24 When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?”  25 He said, “Yes.”

And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?”  26 Peter said to Him, “From strangers.”  Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.”

Matthew 18:1-20

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.

6 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!

8 “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.

10 “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.

12 “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? 13 And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

18 “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

19 “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

 

Preparing the Disciples for His Death and Resurrection (16:21–28)

Now that the disciples had realized that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, they were ready to hear His first direct prediction of His death and resurrection.  He must go to Jerusalem, must suffer many things from the religious leaders, must be killed, and be raised the third day. The news was enough to spell the doom of any movement—all except that last imperative—must … be raised the third day. That made the difference!

Peter was indignant at the thought of his Master’s enduring such treatment. Catching hold of Him as if to block His path, he protested, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”   This drew a rebuke from the Lord Jesus. He had come into the world to die for sinners. Anything or anyone who hindered Him from this purpose was out of tune with God’s will. So He said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” In calling Peter Satan, Jesus did not imply that the apostle was demon-possessed or Satan-controlled. He simply meant that Peter’s actions and words were what could be expected of Satan (whose name means adversary). By protesting against Calvary, Peter became a hindrance to the Savior.  Every Christian is called to take up his cross and follow the Lord Jesus, but when the cross looms in the pathway ahead, a voice within says, “Far be it from you! Save yourself.” Or perhaps the voices of loved ones seek to deflect us from the path of obedience. At such times, we too must say, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me.”

Now the Lord Jesus plainly states what is involved in being His disciple: denial of self, cross-bearing, and following Him. To deny self is not the same as self-denial; it means to yield to His control so completely that self has no rights whatever. To take up the cross means the willingness to endure shame, suffering, and perhaps martyrdom for His sake; to die to sin, self, and the world.

The Lord anticipates two hindrances to discipleship. The first is the natural temptation to save oneself from discomfort, pain, loneliness, or loss. The other is to become wealthy. As to the first, Jesus warned that those who hug their lives for selfish purposes would never find fulfillment; those who recklessly abandon their lives to Him, not counting the cost, would find the reason for their existence.   The second temptation—that of getting rich—is irrational. “Suppose,” said Jesus, “that a man became so successful in business that he owned the whole world. This mad quest would absorb so much of his time and energy that he would miss the central purpose of his life. What good would it do to make all that money, then die, leave it all behind, and spend eternity empty-handed?”

He next made the startling statement that there were some standing there with Him who would not taste death before they saw Him coming in His kingdom. The problem, of course, is that those disciples have all died, yet Christ has not come in power and glory to set up His kingdom. The problem is solved if we disregard the chapter break and consider the first eight verses of the next chapter as an explanation of His statement. These verses describe the incident on the Mount of Transfiguration. There Peter, James, and John saw Christ transfigured. They were actually privileged to have a preview of Christ in the glory of His kingdom.

Preparation for Service through Prayer and Fasting (17:14–21)

Life is not all a mountain-top experience. After moments of spiritual exhilaration come hours and days of toil and expenditure. The time comes when we must leave the mountain to minister in the valley of human need.   At the base of the mountain where the Transfiguration had taken place, a distraught father was waiting for the Savior. Kneeling down before Him, he poured out his impassioned plea that his demon-possessed son might be healed. The son suffered from violent epileptic seizures which sometimes caused him to fall into the fire and often into the water, so his misery was compounded by burns and near-drownings.   The father had gone to the disciples for help, only to learn that they had been powerless to cure.

“O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?” is addressed to the disciples.  As soon as the epileptic was brought to Him, Jesus rebuked the demon, and the sufferer was instantly cured.  Puzzled by their powerlessness, the disciples privately asked the Lord for an explanation. His answer was straightforward: unbelief. If they had faith the size of a mustard seed (the smallest of seeds), they could command a mountain to be cast into the sea and it would happen. Of course, it should be understood that true faith must be based upon some command or promise of God. Expecting to perform some spectacular stunt in order to gratify a personal whim is not faith but presumption. But if God guides a believer in a certain direction or issues a command, the Christian can have utmost confidence that mountainous difficulties will be miraculously removed. Nothing is impossible to those who believe.

The directive for prayer and fasting is a command to employ spiritual weapons when involved in spiritual warfare.  Although not every “warfare” problem requires dedicated times of prayer and fasting, there are occasions where these disciplines need to be employed to overcome a particularly intense or deep-rooted enemy.

Peter and His Master Pay Their Taxes (17:24–27)

In Capernaum the collectors of the temple tax asked Peter if his Teacher paid the half-shekel used for carrying on the costly temple service. Peter answered, “Yes.” Perhaps the misguided disciple wanted to save Christ from embarrassment.  The omniscience of the Lord is seen in what followed. When Peter came home, Jesus spoke to him first—before Peter had a chance to tell what had happened. “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs and taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” The question must be understood in the light of those days. A ruler taxed his subjects for the support of his kingdom and his family, but he didn’t tax his own family. Under our form of government, everyone is taxed, including the ruler and his household.  Peter correctly answered that rulers collected tribute from strangers. Jesus then pointed out that the sons are free. The point was that the temple was God’s house. For Jesus, the Son of God, to pay tribute for the support of this temple would be equivalent to paying tribute to Himself.  However, rather than cause needless offense, the Lord agreed to pay the tax. But what would He do for money? It is never recorded that Jesus personally carried money. He sent Peter to the Sea of Galilee and told him to bring up the first fish he caught. In the mouth of that fish was a piece of money, one shekel, which Peter used to pay the tribute—one-half for the Lord Jesus and one-half for himself.  This astounding miracle, narrated with utmost restraint, clearly demonstrates Christ’s omniscience. He knew which one of all the fish in the Sea of Galilee had a shekel in its mouth. He knew the location of that one fish. And he knew it would be the first fish Peter would catch.  If any divine principle had been involved, Jesus would not have made the payment. It was a matter of moral indifference to Him, and He was willing to pay rather than offend. We as believers are free from the law. Yet, in non-moral matters, we should respect the consciences of others, and not do anything that would cause offense.

Concerning Humility (18:1–6)

Chapter 18 has been called the discourse on greatness and forgiveness. It outlines principles of conduct that are suitable for those who claim to be subjects of Christ the King.

The disciples had always thought of the kingdom of heaven as the golden age of peace and prosperity. Now they began to covet positions of preferment in it. Their self-seeking spirit found expression in the question, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  Jesus answered with a living object lesson. Placing a little child in their midst, He said that men must be converted and become as little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. He was speaking of the kingdom in its inward reality; in order to be a genuine believer a man must abandon thoughts of personal greatness and take the lowly position of a little child. This begins when he acknowledges his sinfulness and unworthiness and receives Jesus Christ as his only hope. This attitude should continue throughout his Christian life. Jesus was not implying that His disciples were not saved. All except Judas had true faith in Him, and were therefore justified. But they had not yet received the Holy Spirit as an indwelling Person, and therefore lacked the power for true humility that we have available to us today (but most of the time do not use as we should).   The greatest person in the kingdom of heaven is the one who humbles himself as a little child. Obviously the standards and values in the kingdom are exactly opposite those in the world. Our whole mode of thinking must be reversed; we must think Christ’s thoughts (see Phil. 2:5–8).

Here the Lord Jesus glides almost imperceptibly from the subject of a natural child to a spiritual child. Whoever receives one of His humble followers in His name will be rewarded as if he had received the Lord Himself. What is done for the disciple is reckoned as done for the Master.  On the other hand, anyone who seduces a believer to sin incurs enormous condemnation; it would be better for him to have a great millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the ocean’s depths. (The great millstone referred to here required an animal to turn it; a smaller one could be turned by hand.) It is bad enough to sin against oneself, but to cause a believer to sin is to destroy his innocence, corrupt his mind, and stain his reputation. Better to die a violent death than to trifle with another’s purity! 

Concerning Offenses (18:7–14)

Jesus went on to explain that it is inevitable that offenses should arise. The world, the flesh, and the devil are leagued to seduce and pervert. But if a person becomes an agent for the forces of evil, his guilt will be great. So the Savior warned men to take drastic action in disciplining themselves rather than to tempt a child of God.  Whether the sinning member is the hand or foot or the eye, better to sacrifice it to the surgeon’s knife than to let it destroy the work of God in another person’s life. Better to enter into life without limbs or sight than to be consigned to hell with every member intact. Our Lord does not imply that some bodies will lack limbs in heaven, but merely describes the physical condition at the time a believer leaves this life for the next. There can be no question that the resurrection body will be complete and perfect.

Next the Son of God warned against despising one of His little ones, whether children or any who belong to the kingdom. To emphasize their importance, He added that their angels are constantly in the presence of God, beholding His face. Angels here probably means guardian angels (see also Heb. 1:14).

These little ones are also the object of the tender Shepherd’s saving ministry. Even if one out of a hundred sheep goes astray, He leaves the ninety-nine and searches for the lost one till He finds it. The Shepherd’s joy over finding a straying sheep should teach us to value and respect His little ones.   They are important not only to the angels and to the Shepherd, but also to God the Father. It is not His will that one of them should perish. If they are important enought to engage angels, the Lord Jesus, and God the Father, then clearly we should never despise them, no matter how unlovely or lowly they might appear

Concerning Discipline of Offenders (18:15–20)

Explicit instructions are given concerning the Christian’s responsibility when wronged by another believer. First, the matter should be handled privately between the two parties. If the offender acknowledges his guilt, reconciliation is achieved. The trouble is that we don’t do this. We gossip to everyone else about it. Then the matter spreads like wildfire and strife is multiplied. Let us remember that step number one is to “go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.”   If the guilty brother does not listen, then the wronged one should take one or two others with him, seeking his restoration. This emphasizes the mounting seriousness of his continued unbrokenness. But more, it provides competent testimony, as required by the Scripture: “that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established’.” (Deut. 19:15). No one can measure the trouble that has plagued the church through failure to obey the simple rule that a charge against another person must be supported by the testimony of two or three others. In this respect, worldly courts often act more righteously than Christian churches or assemblies.

If the accused still refuses to confess and apologize, the matter should be taken before the local church. It is important to notice that the local assembly is the body responsible to hear the case, not a civil court. The Christian is forbidden to go to law against another believer (1 Cor. 6:1–8).   If the defendant refuses to admit his wrong before the church, then he is to be considered a heathen and a tax collector. The most obvious meaning of this expression is that he should be looked upon as being outside the sphere of the church. Though he may be a true believer, he is not living as one, and should therefore be treated accordingly. Though still in the universal church, he should be barred from the privileges of the local church. Such discipline is a serious action; it temporarily delivers a believer to the power of Satan “for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 5:5). The purpose of this is to bring him to his senses and cause him to confess his sin. Until that point is reached, believers should treat him courteously but should also show by their attitude that they do not condone his sin and cannot have fellowship with him as a fellow believer. The assembly should be prompt to receive him back as soon as there is evidence of godly repentance.

Verse 18 is linked with what precedes. When an assembly, prayerfully and in obedience to the Word, binds disciplinary action upon a person, that action is honored in heaven. When the disciplined person has repented and confessed his sin, and the assembly restores him to fellowship, that loosing action, too, is ratified by God (see John 20:23).   The question arises, “How large must an assembly be before it can bind and loose, as described above?” The answer is that two believers may bring such matters to God in prayer with the assurance of being heard. While verse 19 may be used as a general promise of answers to prayer, in the context it refers to prayer concerning church discipline. When used in connection with collective prayer in general, it must be taken in light of all other teaching on prayer. For instance, our prayers must be:

1. In conformity to the revealed will of God (1 Jn. 5:14, 15).

2. In faith (Jas. 1:6–8).

3. In sincerity (Heb. 10:22a), etc.

Verse 20 should be interpreted in light of its context. It does not refer primarily to the composition of a NT church in its simplest form, nor to a general prayer meeting, but to a meeting where the church seeks the reconciliation of two Christians separated by some sin. It may legitimately be applied to all meetings of believers where Christ is the Center, but a specific type of meeting is in view here.   To meet “in His name” means by His authority, in acknowledgment of all that He is, and in obedience to His Word. No group can claim to be the only ones who meet in His name; if that were so, His presence would be limited to a small segment of His body on earth. Wherever two or three are gathered in recognition of Him as Lord and Savior, he is there in the midst.

LESSON 13 – Matthew 

Matthew 18:21-35

21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”  22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.  28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.  35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

 

Matthew 19:3-12

3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”  4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ ? 6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”  8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”  10 His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”  11 But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: 12 For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”

 

Matthew 19:16-20:16

16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”  17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”  18 He said to Him, “Which ones?”  Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”  21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.  23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”  26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”  28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.       1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’  8 “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ 9 And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. 11 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13 But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”

 

Matthew 18:21-35   Concerning Unlimited Forgiveness

At this point Peter raised the question of how often he should forgive a brother who sinned against him. He probably thought he was showing unusual grace by suggesting seven as an outside limit. Jesus answered “not … seven times but up to seventy times seven.” He did not intend us to understand a literal 490 times; this was a figurative way of saying “Indefinitely.”  Someone might then ask, “Why bother to go through the steps outlined above? Why go to an offender alone, then with one or two others, then take him to church? Why not just forgive, and let that be the end of it?”   The answer is that there are stages in the administration of forgiveness, as follows:

1. When a brother wrongs me or sins against me, I should forgive him immediately in my heart (Eph. 4:32). That frees me from a bitter, unforgiving spirit, and leaves the matter on his shoulders.

2. While I have forgiven him in my heart, I do not yet tell him that he is forgiven. It would not be righteous to administer forgiveness publicly until he has repented. So I am obligated to go to him and rebuke him in love, hoping to lead him to confession (Luke 17:3).

3. As soon as he apologizes and confesses his sin, I tell him that he is forgiven (Luke 17:4).

Jesus then gives a parable of the kingdom of heaven to warn against the consequences of an unforgiving spirit by subjects who have been freely forgiven.   The story concerns a certain king who wanted to clear his bad debts off his books. One servant, who owed him ten thousand talents, was insolvent, so his lord ordered that he and his family be sold into slavery in payment of the debt. The distraught servant begged for time, promising to pay him all if given the chance.   Like many debtors, he was incredibly optimistic about what he could do if only he had time (v. 26). Galilee’s total revenue only amounted to 300 talents and this man owed 10,000! The detail about the vast amount is intentional. It is to shock the listeners and so capture their attention, and also to emphasize an immense debt to God. Martin Luther used to say that we are all beggars before Him; We cannot hope to pay.

When the master saw the contrite attitude of his servant, he forgave him the entire 10,000 talents. It was an epic display of grace, not justice.

Now that servant had a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii (a few hundred dollars). Rather than forgive him, he grabbed him by the throat and demanded payment in full. The hapless debtor pled for an extension, but it was no use. He was thrown into prison till he paid the debt—a difficult business at best, since his chance of earning money was gone as long as he was imprisoned.  The other servants, outraged by this inconsistent behavior, told their master. He was furious with the merciless lender. Having been forgiven a big debt, he was unwilling to forgive a pittance. So he was returned to the jailers’ custody till his debt was paid.

The application is clear. God is the King. All His servants had contracted a great debt of sin which they were unable to pay. In wonderful grace and compassion, the Lord paid the debt and granted full and free forgiveness. Now suppose some Christian wrongs another. When rebuked, he apologizes and asks forgiveness. But the offended believer refuses. He himself has been forgiven millions of dollars, but won’t forgive a few hundred. Will the King allow such behavior to go unpunished? Certainly not! The culprit will be chastened in this life and will suffer loss at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Matthew 19:3-12   Concerning Marriage, Divorce and Celibacy

Probably it was the multitudes that followed Him for healing that alerted the Pharisees to the Lord’s whereabouts. Like a pack of wild dogs, they began to close in, hoping to trap Him by His words. They asked if divorce was legal on any and every ground. No matter how He answered, He would infuriate some segment of the Jews. One school of thought took a very liberal attitude toward divorce; another was extremely strict.

Our Lord explained that God’s original intention was that a man have only one living wife. The God who created male and female decreed that the marriage relationship should supersede the parental relationship. He also said that marriage is a union of persons. God’s ideal is that this divinely ordained union should not be broken by human act or decree.   The Pharisees thought they had caught the Lord in a flagrant contradiction of the OT. Hadn’t Moses made provision for divorce? A man could simply give his wife a written statement, then put her out of the house (Deut. 24:1–4).   Jesus agreed that Moses had permitted divorce, not as God’s best for mankind, but because of Israel’s backslidden condition: “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” God’s ideal was that there be no divorce. But God often tolerates conditions that are not His directive will.  Then the Lord stated with absolute authority that the past leniency on divorce was henceforth discontinued. Hereafter there would be only one valid ground for divorce—unchastity. If a person was divorced for any other reason and remarried, he was guilty of adultery.   Although not directly stated, it would seem from the words of our Lord that where a divorce has been obtained on the grounds of adultery, the innocent party is free to remarry. Otherwise divorce would serve no purpose not equally achieved by separation.   Sexual immorality, or fornication, is generally taken to mean adultery.  Later in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul adds the issue of abandonment as a valid reason for divorce, particularly if the abandonment is caused by the Christian witness of the innocent party.

When the disciples heard the Lord’s teaching on divorce, they proved themselves creatures of extremes by adopting the absurd position that if divorce is obtainable on only one ground, then to avoid sinning in the married state it would be better not to marry at all. But that would not save them from sinning in the single state.   So the Savior reminded them that the ability to remain celibate was not the general rule; only those to whom special grace was given could forego marriage. The dictum, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given,” does not mean that all cannot understand what follows, but that they cannot live a continent life unless they are called to it.

The Lord Jesus explained that there are three types of eunuchs. Some men are eunuchs because they were born without the power of reproduction. Others are so because they were castrated by men; oriental rulers often subjected the harem attendants to surgery to make them eunuchs. But Jesus especially had in mind those who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. These men could be married, and they have no physical impairment. Yet in dedication to the King and His kingdom, they willingly forego marriage in order to give themselves to the cause of Christ without distraction.

Matthew 19:16-20:16  Concerning Riches: The Rich Young Ruler

A rich man intercepted the Lord with an apparently sincere inquiry. Addressing Jesus as “Good Teacher” he asked what he had to do to have eternal life. The question revealed his ignorance of the true identity of Jesus and of the way of salvation. He called Jesus “Teacher,” putting Him on the same level as other great men. And he spoke of gaining eternal life as a debt rather than as a gift.

Our Lord probed him on these two points. In asking, “Why do you call Me good? There is no one good but One, that is, God,” Jesus was not denying His own deity, but was providing the man with an opportunity to say, “That’s why I call You good—You are God.”   To test him on the way of salvation Jesus said, “But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” The Savior was not implying that man can be saved by keeping the commandments. Rather, He was using the law to produce conviction of sin in the man’s heart. The man was still under the delusion that he could inherit the kingdom on the principle of doing. Therefore, let him obey the law which told him what to do.   Our Lord quoted the five commandments dealing primarily with our fellow man, climaxing them by saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Blind to his own selfishness, the man boasted that he had always kept these commandments.

Our Lord then exposed the man’s failure to love his neighbor as himself by telling him to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. Then he should come to Jesus and follow Him.  The Lord did not mean that this man could have been saved by selling his possessions and giving the proceeds to charity. There is only one way of salvation—faith in the Lord.  But in order to be saved, a man must acknowledge that he has sinned and fallen short of God’s holy requirements. The rich man’s unwillingness to share his possessions showed that he did not love his neighbor as himself. He should have said, “Lord, if that’s what is required, then I’m a sinner. I cannot save myself by my own efforts. Therefore, I ask You to save me by Your grace.” If he had responded to the Savior’s instruction he would have been given the way of salvation.  Instead, he went away sorrowful.

The rich man’s response prompted Jesus to observe that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Riches tend to become an idol. It is hard to have them without trusting in them. Our Lord declared that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” He was using a figure of speech known as hyperbole—a statement made in intensified form to produce a vivid, unforgettable effect.

It is clearly impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle! The “needle’s eye” has often been explained as the small door in a city gate. A camel could get through it by kneeling down, but only with great difficulty. However, the word used for “needle” in the parallel passage in Luke is the same word used to describe the needle used by surgeons. It seems clear from the context that the Lord was not speaking of difficulty, but of impossibility. Humanly speaking, a rich man simply cannot be saved.

The disciples were astonished by these remarks. As Jews living under the Mosaic code, by which God promised prosperity to those who obeyed Him, they correctly viewed riches as indicative of God’s blessing. If those who thus enjoyed God’s blessing couldn’t be saved, who could?   The Lord replied, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Humanly speaking, it is impossible for anyone to be saved; only God can save a soul. But it is more difficult for a wealthy man to surrender his will to Christ than for a poor man, as evidenced by the fact that few rich men are converted. They find it almost impossible to replace trust in visible means of support for faith in an unseen Savior. Only God can effect such a change.

Peter caught the drift of the Savior’s teaching. Realizing that Jesus was saying, “Forsake all and follow Me,” Peter gloated that he and the other disciples had done exactly that; then he added, “What shall we have?” Peter’s self-life was showing, the old nature reasserting itself. It was a spirit each of us must guard against. He was bargaining with the Lord.

The Lord assured Peter that everything done for Him would be rewarded handsomely. As to the twelve specifically, they would have places of authority in the Millennium. The regeneration refers to Christ’s future reign on earth; it is explained by the expression, “when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory.” We have previously referred to this phase of the kingdom as the kingdom in manifestation. At that time the twelve will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Rewards in the NT are closely linked with positions of administration in the Millennium (see Luke 19:17, 19). They are awarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ, but manifested when the Lord returns to earth to reign.

As to believers in general, Jesus added that all who have left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for His sake shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. In this life, they enjoy a world-wide fellowship of believers that more than compensates for severed earthly ties. For the one house they leave, they receive a hundred Christian homes where they are warmly welcomed. For lands or other forms of wealth forsaken, they receive spiritual riches beyond reckoning.  The future reward for all believers is eternal life. This does not mean that we earn eternal life by forsaking all and sacrificing. Eternal life is a gift and cannot be earned or merited. Here the thought is that those who forsake all are rewarded with a greater capacity for enjoying eternal life in heaven. All believers will have that life but not all will enjoy it to the same extent.

The Lord closed His remarks with a warning against a bargaining spirit. He said to Peter, in effect, “Anything you do for My sake will be rewarded, but be careful that you are not guided by selfish considerations; because in that case, many who are first will be last, and the last first. This is illustrated by a parable in the next chapter. This statement may also have been a warning that it isn’t enough to start out well on the path of discipleship. It’s how we finish that counts.

Starting in 20:1, this parable is a continuation of the discourse on rewards at the end of chapter 19, illustrating the truth that while all true disciples will be rewarded, the order of rewards will be determined by the spirit in which the disciple served.

The parable describes a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers to work in his vineyard. These men contracted to work for a denarius a day, a reasonable wage at that time. Let us say they began to work at 6:00 a.m.

At 9:00 a.m. the farmer found some other unemployed laborers in the market place. In this case there was no labor-management agreement. They went to work with only his word that he would give them whatever was right.

At noon and at 3:00 p.m. the farmer hired more men on the basis that he would give them a fair wage. At 5:00 p.m. he found more unemployed men. They were not lazy; they wanted work but hadn’t been able to find it. So he sent them into the vineyard without any discussion of pay.  It is important to notice that the first men were hired as a result of a bargaining agreement; all the others left the matter of pay to the landowner.

At the end of the day, the farmer instructed his paymaster to pay the men, beginning with the last hired and working back to the first. (In this way the earliest men hired saw what the others received.)   It was the same pay for all—one denarius. The 6:00 a.m. men thought they would receive more, but no—they too got one denarius. They were bitterly resentful; after all, they had worked longer and through the heat of the day.  In the farmer’s reply to one of them we find the abiding lessons from the parable. First he said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours, and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.” The first bargained for a denarius a day and got the wage agreed on. The others cast themselves on the farmer’s grace and got grace. Grace is better than justice. It is better to leave our rewards up to the Lord than to strike a bargain with Him.

Then the farmer said, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?” The lesson, of course, is that God is sovereign. He can do as He pleases. And what He pleases will always be right, just, and fair. The farmer added, “Or is your eye evil because I am good?” This question exposes the selfish streak in human nature. The 6:00 a.m. men got exactly what they deserved, yet were jealous because the others got the same pay for working fewer hours. Many of us have to admit that it seems a bit unfair to us, too. This only proves that in the kingdom of heaven we must adopt an entirely new kind of thinking. We must abandon our greedy, competitive spirit, and think like the Lord.

Jesus closed the parable with the words, “So the last will be first, and the first last” (see 19:30). There will be surprises in the matter of rewards. Some who thought they would be first will be last because their service was inspired by pride and selfish ambition. Others who served out of love and gratitude will be highly honored.

Deeds of merit as we thought them, He will show us were but sin;  Little acts we had forgotten, He will show us were for Him. —Anon

LESSON 14 – Matthew 

Matthew 20:17-28

17 Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, 18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.”  20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.

21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”  22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able.”

23 So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”

24 And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

 

Matthew 21:1-3

1 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. 3 And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”  

 

Matthew 21:18-22

18 Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.

20 And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?” 21 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. 22 And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

Concerning His Death and Resurrection (20:17–28)

It is apparent that the Lord was leaving for the trip to Jerusalem via Jericho. Once again He took the twelve disciples aside to explain what would happen after they reached the Holy City. He would be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes. He would be condemned to death by the leaders. Lacking authority to inflict capital punishment, they would turn Him over to the Gentiles (the Romans). He would be mocked, scourged, and crucified. But death would not keep its prey—He would rise again on the third day.

It is a sad commentary on human nature that, immediately after the third prediction of His passion, His followers were thinking more of their own glory than of His sufferings.   The mother of James and John came to the Lord asking that her boys might sit on either side of Him in His kingdom. It is to her credit that she wanted her sons near Jesus, and that she had not despaired of His coming reign. But she did not understand the principles upon which honors would be bestowed in the kingdom.   Jesus answered frankly that they did not understand what they were asking. They wanted a crown without a cross, a throne without the altar of sacrifice, the glory without the suffering that leads to it. So He asked them pointedly, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” We are not left to wonder what He meant by the cup; He had just described it in verses 18 and 19. He must suffer and die.  James and John expressed ability to share in His sufferings, though perhaps their confidence was based more on zeal than knowledge.

Jesus assured them that they would indeed drink of His cup. James would be martyred and John persecuted and exiled to the Isle of Patmos.  Then Jesus explained that He could not arbitrarily grant places of honor in the kingdom; the Father had determined a special basis on which these positions would be assigned. They thought it was a matter of political patronage, that because they were so close to Christ, they had a special claim to places of preferment. But it was not a question of personal favoritism. In the counsels of God, the places on His right hand and left hand would be given on the basis of suffering for Him. This means that the chief honors in the kingdom are not limited to first century Christians; some living today might win them—by suffering.

The other ten disciples were greatly displeased that the sons of Zebedee had made such a request. They were probably indignant because they themselves wanted to be greatest and resented any prior claims being made by James and John!  This gave our Lord the opportunity to make a revolutionary statement concerning greatness in His kingdom. The Gentiles think of greatness in terms of mastery and rule. In Christ’s kingdom, greatness is manifested by service. Whoever aspires to greatness must become a servant, and whoever desires to be first must become a slave.  The Son of Man is the perfect example of lowly service. He came into the world not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. The whole purpose of the Incarnation can be summed up in two words—serve and give. It is amazing to think that the exalted Lord humbled Himself to the manger and to the cross.  He gave His life a ransom for many. His death satisfied all God’s righteous demands against sin. It was sufficient to put away all the sins of all the world. But it is effective only for those who accept Him as Lord and Savior.

 The Beginning Of The Triumphal Entry (21:1–3)

On the way up from Jericho, Jesus came to the east side of the Mount of Olives where Bethany and Bethphage were located. From there the road skirted the south end of Olivet, dipped into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, crossed the Brook Kidron and climbed up to Jerusalem.  He sent two disciples to Bethany with the foreknowledge that they would find a tethered donkey, and a colt with her. They were to untie the animals and bring them to Jesus. If challenged, they were to explain that the Lord needed the beasts. Then the owner would consent.

The key to this passage is the prophecies given in the O.T..  Two different passages are fulfilled here:  Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9. The former includes the lines,  “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘See your salvation comes!

See, His reward is with Him, but His work lies ahead of Him.’ ”

The word for “salvation” here is “yesha,” identical with the name of the Messiah, Yeshua. Moreover, Isaiah describes this “yesha ” as a person, and not just any person, but God—since a person who is salvation must be God.

Zechariah 9:9 has these lines in it: “Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! …

See, your king comes to you.  He is triumphant and victorious, humbly riding on a donkey, yes, on a colt, the offspring of a beast of burden.”

By combining the two verses Matthew gives a hint that God, the Salvation of Israel, the Messianic King and Yeshua of Nazareth are one. Also he hints at the two comings of the Messiah and the difference between them: at his first coming Yeshua is our final atoning sacrifice, bringing salvation by his death; therefore he rides into Jerusalem humbly on a beast of burden, ready to perform the work which lies ahead of him. But he will return, triumphant and victorious, as ruling king, rewarding the faithful—although for those who are faithful now, he has already begun to share the reward which he brings with him.

 The Barren Fig Tree (21:18–22)

Returning to Jerusalem in the morning, the Lord came to a fig tree, hoping to find fruit on it to satisfy His hunger. Finding nothing on it but leaves, He said, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.

Fig trees in Bible lands produced an early, edible fruit before the leaves appeared. This was a harbinger of the regular crop. If no early figs appeared, as in the case of this fig tree, it indicated that there would be no regular figs later on.  This is the only miracle in which Christ cursed rather than blessed—destroyed rather than restored life. This has been raised as a difficulty. Such criticism betrays an ignorance of the Person of Christ. He is God, the Sovereign of the universe. Some of His dealings are mysterious to us, but we must begin with the premise that they are always right. In this case, the Lord knew that the fig tree would never bear figs and He acted as a farmer would in removing a barren tree from his orchard.

When the disciples expressed amazement at the sudden withering of the tree, the Lord told them that they could do greater miracles than this if they had faith. For instance, they could say to a mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” and it would happen. “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”  Again, these seemingly unqualified promises concerning prayer must be understood in light of all that the Bible teaches on the subject. Verse 22 does not mean that any Christian can ask anything he wants and expect to get it. He must pray in accordance with the conditions laid down in the Bible.

LESSON 15 – Matthew 

Matthew 21:23-45 

23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”  24 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”  And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.”   And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.  28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?”

They said to Him, “The first.”  Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

33 “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. 34 Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. 35 And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. 37 Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.  40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”  41 They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”  42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.

This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’ ?  43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. 44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”  45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.

Matthew 22:1-14    

1 And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, 3 and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. 4 Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” ’ 5 But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. 6 And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. 7 But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ 10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. 12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

 

Matthew 22:17-21

17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.”  So they brought Him a denarius.

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

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

  

Jesus’ Authority Questioned

When Jesus came into the court outside the temple proper, the chief priests and the elders interrupted His teaching to ask who gave Him the authority to teach, to perform miracles, and to cleanse the temple. They hoped to trap Him, no matter how He answered. If He claimed to have authority in Himself as the Son of God, they would accuse Him of blasphemy. If He claimed authority from men, they would discredit Him. If He claimed authority from God, they would challenge Him.

The Lord offered to explain His authority if they would answer a question, “Was John’s baptism from heaven or from men?” John’s baptism should be understood as meaning John’s ministry. Therefore the question was, “Who authorized John to carry on his ministry? Was his ordination human or divine? What credentials did he hold from Israel’s leaders?” The answer was obvious: John was a man sent from God. His power came from divine appointment, not from human endorsement.

The priests and elders were in a dilemma. If they admitted that John was sent by God, they were trapped. John had pointed men to Jesus as the Messiah. If John’s authority was divine, why hadn’t they repented and believed on Christ?

On the other hand, if they said that John was not commissioned by God, they adopted a position that would be ridiculed by the people, most of whom agreed that John was a prophet from God. If they had correctly answered that John was divinely sent, they would have had the answer to their own question: Jesus was the Messiah of whom John had been the forerunner.   But they refused to face the facts, so they pleaded ignorance. They could not tell the source of John’s power. Then Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” Why should He tell them what they already knew but were unwilling to admit?

 Parable of the Two Sons (21:28–32)

This parable is a stinging rebuke to the chief priests and elders for their failure to obey John’s call to repentance and faith. It concerns a man whose two sons were asked to work in the vineyard. One refused, then changed his mind and went. The other agreed to go, but never did.   When asked which son did the will of his father, the religious leaders unwittingly condemned themselves by saying, “The first.”

The Lord interpreted the parable. Tax collectors and harlots were like the first son. They made no immediate pretense of obeying John the Baptist, but eventually many of them did repent and believe in Jesus. The religious leaders were like the second son. They professed to approve the preaching of John, but never confessed their sins or trusted the Savior. Therefore the out-and-out sinners entered the kingdom of God while the self-satisfied religious leaders remained outside. It is the same today. Avowed sinners receive the gospel more readily than those with a veneer of false piety.

 Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers (21:33–46)

Further answering the question about authority, Jesus told the parable of a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, installed a wine press in it, … built a tower, rented it to vinedressers, and went away to a distant country. At vintage-time … he sent his servants to the vinedressers to get his share of the crop, but the vinedressers beat one, killed one, and stoned another. When he sent other servants, they received the same treatment. The third time he sent his son, thinking they would respect him. Knowing full well that he was the heir, they killed him with the idea of seizing his inheritance.

At this point the Lord asked the priests and elders what the owner would do to those vinedressers. They answered, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”   The parable is not difficult to interpret. God is the landowner.  Repeatedly God sent His servants, the prophets, to the people of Israel seeking from the vineyard the fruits of fellowship, holiness, and love. But the people persecuted the prophets and killed some of them. Finally, God sent His Son, saying, “They will respect My Son” (v. 37). The chief priests and scribes said, “This is the heir”—a fatal admission. They privately agreed that Jesus was the Son of God (though publicly denying it) and thus answered their own question concerning His authority. His authority came from the fact that He was God the Son.

When the Savior asked what the owner of the vineyard would do, their answer condemned them, as He shows in verses 42 and 43. He quoted the words of Psalm 118:22: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” When Christ, the Stone, presented Himself to the builders—the leaders of Israel, they had no place for Him in their building plans. They threw Him aside as useless. But following His death He was raised from the dead and given the place of preeminence by God. He has been made the topmost stone in God’s building: “God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name … ” (Phil. 2:9).

Jesus then bluntly announced that the kingdom of God would be taken from “religious” Israel and given to a “nation” bearing the fruits of repentance and faith.  The prophecy that the kingdom of God would be given to a nation bearing the fruits of it has been understood as referring to the church, composed of believing Jews and Gentiles—“a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Pet. 2:9).

The chief priests and Pharisees realized these parables were aimed directly at them, in answer to their question concerning Christ’s authority. They would like to have seized Him then and there, but they feared the multitudes, who still took Jesus for a prophet.

Parable of the Wedding Dinner (22:1–14)

Jesus was not through with the chief priests and Pharisees. In a parable of a wedding dinner He likened the kingdom of heaven to a certain king who arranged a marriage feast for his son. The invitation was in two stages. First, an advance invitation, personally conveyed by servants, which met a flat refusal. The second invitation announced that the feast was spread. It was treated contemptuously by some, who were too busy with their farms and businesses, and violently by others, who seized, abused, and killed the servants.

The king was so furious that he destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Scrapping the first guest list, he issued a general invitation to all who would come. This time there wasn’t an empty seat in the wedding hall.  Among the guests, however, was one who did not have a wedding garment. Challenged on his unfitness to attend, he was speechless. The king ordered him to be cast out into the night, where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Our Lord concluded the parable with the words, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

As to the meaning of the parable, the king is God and His Son is the Lord Jesus. The wedding feast is an appropriate description of the festive joy which characterizes the kingdom of heaven.  The first stage of the invitation pictures John the Baptist and the twelve disciples graciously inviting Israel to the wedding feast. But the nation refused to accept. The words, “they were not willing to come” (v. 3), were climactically dramatized in the crucifixion.

The second stage of the invitation suggests the proclamation of the gospel to the world, both Jew and Gentile,  in the book of Acts. Some treated the message with contempt. Some treated the messengers with violence; most of the apostles were martyred.

The man without a wedding garment is one who professes to be ready for the kingdom but who has never been clothed in the righteousness of God through the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). Actually there was (and is) no excuse for the man without the wedding garment. As a famous commentator named Ryrie notes, it was the custom in those days to provide the guests with a garment if they had none. The man obviously did not take advantage of the offered provision. Without Christ, he is speechless when challenged as to his right to enter the kingdom (Rom. 3:19). His doom is outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. The weeping suggests the suffering of hell.

Verse 14 refers to the whole parable and not just to the incident of the man without the wedding garment. Many are called, that is, the gospel invitation goes out to many. But few are chosen. Some refuse the invitation, and even of those who respond favorably, some are exposed as false professors. All who respond to the good news are chosen. The only way a person can tell whether he is chosen is by what he does with the Lord Jesus Christ. As Jennings put it, “All are called to enjoy the feast, but not all are willing to trust the Giver to provide the robe that fits for the feast.”

Another attempt to trap Jesus (22:17-21)

Here we have an attempt by the Pharisees and Herodians to trap Jesus with His words. These two parties were bitter foes temporarily brought together by a common hatred of the Savior. Their goal was to lure Christ into making a political statement with dangerous implications. They took advantage of the Jews’ division over allegiance to Caesar. Some passionately opposed submitting to the Gentile emperor. Others, like the Herodians, adopted a more tolerant view.

They dropped a loaded question, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

If Jesus answered, “No,” He would not only antagonize the Herodians, but would be accused of rebellion against the Roman government. The Pharisees would have hustled Him off and pressed charges against Him. If He said, “Yes,” He would run afoul of the Jews’ intense nationalistic spirit. He would lose much support among the common people—support which so far hindered the leaders in their efforts to dispose of Him.

Jesus bluntly denounced them as hypocrites, trying to trap Him. Then He asked them to show Him a denarius, the coin used to pay taxes to the Roman government. Every time the Jews saw the likeness and title of Caesar on the coin it was an annoying reminder that they were under Gentile authority and taxation.  Jesus asked them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They were forced to answer, “Caesar’s.” Then the Lord told them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

The question had boomeranged. They had hoped to trap Jesus on the question of tribute to Caesar. He exposed their failure to give tribute to God. Galling as it was, they did give Caesar his due, but they had disregarded the claims of God on their lives. And One stood before them who is the express image of God’s Person (Heb. 1:3) and they failed to give Him His rightful place.

Jesus’ reply shows that the believer has dual citizenship. He is responsible to obey and support human government, as long as it does not conflict with God’s will. He is to pray for those in authority. As a citizen of heaven, he is responsible to obey God. If there is ever a conflict between the two, his first loyalty is to God (Acts 5:29).

In quoting verse 21, most of us emphasize the part about Caesar and skip lightly over the part about God—exactly the fault for which Jesus repremanded the Pharisees!

LESSON 16 – Matthew 

Matthew 23

1 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. 6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ 8 But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. 11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.

15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.  16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’ 17 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’ 19 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? 20 Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. 21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.  29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’

31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”

 

Warning Against High Talk, Low Walk (23:1–12)

In the opening verses of this chapter, the Savior warns the crowds and His disciples against the scribes and the Pharisees. These leaders sat in Moses’ seat, or taught the Law of Moses.  “The particular place in the synagogue where the leaders used to sit was known metaphorically as the seat of Moses or as the throne of the Law, symbolizing the succession of teachers down through the ages.” (William G. Braude and Israel J. Kapstein, 1975)   A third-century AD  “Chair of Moses” from Korazin is on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem;  they can also be found in Hamot, Tiberias and Delos (Greece).   See the notes on “BINDING & LOOSING” from a previous lesson in this series.

Generally, their teachings were dependable, but their practice was not. Their creed was better than their conduct. It was a case of high talk and low walk. So Jesus said, “… whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.”  They made heavy demands (probably extreme interpretations of the letter of the law) on the people, but would not assist anyone in lifting these intolerable loads.

They went through religious observances to be seen by men, not from inward sincerity. Their use of phylacteries was an example. In commanding Israel to bind His words as a sign upon their hands and as frontlets between their eyes (Ex. 13:9, 16; Deut. 6:8; 11:18), God meant that the law should continually be before them, guiding their activities. They reduced this spiritual command to a literal, physical sense. Enclosing portions of Scripture in leather capsules, they bound them to their foreheads or arms. They weren’t concerned about obeying the law as long as, by wearing ridiculously large phylacteries, they appeared super-spiritual. The law also commanded the Jews to wear tassels with blue cords on the corners of their garments, (Num. 15:37–41; Deut. 22:12). These distinctive trimmings were intended to remind them that they were a distinct people, and that they should walk in separation from the nations. The Pharisees overlooked the spiritual lesson and satisfied themselves with making longer fringes.   They showed their self-importance by scrambling for the places of honor at feasts and in the synagogues. They nourished their ego on greetings in the marketplaces and especially enjoyed being called rabbi (meaning “my great one,” or “teacher”).   Here the Lord warned His disciples against using distinctive titles which should be reserved for the Godhead. We are not to be called rabbi as a distinctive title because there is one Teacher—the Christ. We should call no man father; God is our Father.

Woes against the Scribes and Pharisees (23:13–36)

The Lord Jesus next pronounces eight woes on the proud religious hypocrites of His day. These are not “curses,” but rather expressions of sorrow at their fate, not unlike the expression, “Alas for you!”

1) obduracy and obstructionism. They refused to enter the kingdom themselves, and aggressively hindered others from entering. Strangely, religious leaders are often the most active opponents of the gospel of grace. They can be sweetly tolerant of everything but the good news of salvation. Natural man doesn’t want to be the object of God’s grace and doesn’t want God to show grace to others.

2) appropriating of widow’s houses and covering it up by making long prayers. Some modern cults use a similar technique by getting elderly widows, sometimes undiscerning believers, to sign over their property to the “church.” Such pretenders to piety will receive greater condemnation.

3) misdirected zeal. They went to unimaginable lengths to make one convert, but after he was won they made him twice as wicked as themselves. A modern analogy is the zeal of false cults. One group is willing to knock on 700 doors to reach one person for their cause; but the final result is evil. As someone has said, “The most converted often become the most perverted.”

4) deliberate dishonest reasoning. They had built up a false system of reasoning to evade the payment of vows. For instance, they taught that if you swore by the temple, you were not obligated to pay, but if you swore by the gold of the temple, then you must perform the vow. They said that swearing by the gift on the altar was binding, whereas swearing by the empty altar was not. Thus they valued gold above God (the temple was the house of God), and the gift on the altar (wealth of some form) above the altar itself. They were more interested in the material than the spiritual. They were more interested in getting (the gift) than in giving (the altar was the place of giving).

          5) ritualism without reality. The scribes and Pharisees were meticulous in             

         giving the Lord a tenth of the most insignificant herbs they raised. Jesus        

         did not condemn them for this care in small details of obedience, but He        

         charged them for being utterly unscrupulous when it came to showing         

         justice, mercy, and faithfulness to others.

          6) externalism. The Pharisees, careful to maintain an outward show of          

         religiousness and morality, had hearts filled with extortion and self–        

         indulgence. They should first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that         

         is, make sure their hearts were cleansed through repentance and faith.           

        Then, and only then, would their outward behavior be acceptable.

          7) The seventh woe also strikes out against externalism. The difference is          

         that the sixth woe is against the concealment of avarice, but the seventh         

         condemns the concealment of hypocrisy and lawlessness.   Tombs were         

         whitewashed so that Jewish people would not inadvertently touch them        

         and thus be ceremonially defiled. Jesus likened the scribes and Pharisees    

         to whitewashed tombs, which looked clean on the outside but were full of          

         corruption inside.

          8) outward homage, inward homicide. The scribes and Pharisees          

         pretended to honor the OT prophets by building and/or repairing their         

         tombs and putting wreaths on their monuments. In memorial speeches,         

         they said they would not have joined their ancestors in killing the prophets.

         Jesus said to them, “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that        

         you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.” But how did they           

         witness this? It almost seems from the preceding verse that they          

         dissociated themselves from their fathers who killed the prophets. First,             

         they admitted that their fathers, of whom they were physical sons, shed          

         the blood of the prophets. But Jesus used the word sons in the sense of       

         meaning people with the same characteristics. He knew that even as they              

         were decorating the prophets’ graves, they were plotting His death.           

         Second, in showing such respect for the dead prophets, they were saying,          

         “The only prophets we like are dead ones.” In this sense also they were            

         sons of their fathers.

At this point the Messiah, the Son of God utters the thunderous words, “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” Can Incarnate Love speak such scathing words? Yes, because true love must also be righteous and holy. The popular conception of Jesus as an innocuous reformer, capable of no emotion but love, is unbiblical. Love can be firm, and must always be just.   It is solemn to remember that these words of condemnation were hurled at religious leaders, not at drunkards and reprobates. In an ecumenical age when some evangelical Christians are joining forces with avowed enemies of the cross of Christ, it is good to ponder the example of Jesus, and to remember the words of Jehu to Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord?” (2 Chron. 19:2).

Jesus Laments Over Jerusalem (23:37–39)

It is highly significant that the chapter which, more than almost any other, contains some of the harshest words of the Lord Jesus, closes with His tears! After His bitter denunciation of the Pharisees, He utters a poignant lament over the city of lost opportunity. The repetition of the name—“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem”—is charged with unutterable emotion. She had killed the prophets and stoned God’s messengers, yet the Lord loved her, and would often have protectingly and lovingly gathered her children to Himself—as a hen gathers her chicks—but she was not willing.

Verse 39 looks forward to the Second Advent when a believing portion of Israel will accept Him as their Messiah-King. This acceptance is implicit in the words, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”   The next time the inhabitants of Jerusalem would see Him after His death would be when they would look on Him whom they pierced and mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son (Zech. 12:10). In Jewish reckoning there is no mourning as bitter as that for an only son.

LESSON 17 – Matthew 

Matthew 24 (NKJV)

1 Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”  3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.

9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

 

15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.  23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand.

26 “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it.  27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28 For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

 

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

 

32 “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! 34 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.  36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.  45 “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. 47 Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. 48 But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, 51 and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus Predicts the Destruction of the Temple (24:1, 2)

The discourse is introduced by the significant statement that Jesus went out and departed from the temple This movement is especially significant in view of the words He had just uttered, “ … your house is left to you desolate” (23:38). It reminds us of Ezekiel’s description of the glory departing from the temple (Ezek. 9:3; 10:4; 11:23).   The disciples wanted the Lord to admire the architectural beauty of the temple with them. They were occupied with the temporary instead of the eternal, concerned with shadows rather than substance. Jesus warned that the building would be so completely destroyed that not one stone would be left on top of another. Titus tried unsuccessfully to save the temple, but his soldiers put it to the torch, thus fulfilling Christ’s prophecy. When the fire melted the gold trim, the molten metal ran down between the stones. To get at it, the soldiers had to remove the stones one by one, just as our Lord predicted. This judgment was executed in a.d. 70 when the Romans under Titus sacked Jerusalem.

The First Half of the Tribulation (24:3–14)

24:3 After Jesus had crossed over to the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately and asked Him three questions:

1. When would these things happen; that is, when would the temple be destroyed?

2. What would be the sign of His coming; that is, what supernatural event would precede His return to the earth to set up His kingdom?

3. What would be the sign of the end of the age; that is, what would announce the end of the age immediately prior to His glorious reign? (The second and third questions are essentially the same.)

We should be clear that they were not talking about the end of the world (as in the KJV), but the end of the age (Gk., aiōn).

Their first question is not answered directly. Rather the Savior seems to merge the siege of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 (see Luke 21:20–24) with a similar siege that will occur in the latter days. In the study of prophecy, we often see the Lord moving almost imperceptibly from an early, partial fulfillment to a later, final fulfillment.   The second and third questions are answered in verses 4–44 of chapter 24. These verses describe the seven year period known as Daniel’s Seventieth Week, which will precede Christ’s Second Advent. The first three and one-half years are described in verses 4–14. The final three and one-half years, known as the Great Tribulation and the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jer. 30:7), will be a time of unprecedented suffering for those on earth.

Many of the conditions characterizing the first half of the Tribulation have existed to an extent throughout human history, but will appear in greatly intensified form during the period under discussion. Those in the church have been promised tribulation (John 16:33).  During the first half of the Tribulation, many false messiahs will appear who will succeed in deceiving multitudes. The current rise of many false cults may be a prelude to this, but it is not a fulfillment.  Many of these false religious leaders will claim to be the Christ.

There will be wars and rumors of wars. Nation (ethnos) will rise against nation (ethnos) (signifying what we now call “ethnic cleansing”), and kingdom (political entity) against kingdom (political entity).  We are currently seeing the establishment of this pattern in the world today as a prelude to what is to come.

Famines, pestilences, and earthquakes will occur in various parts of the earth. Even today world leaders are alarmed by the specter of famine due to the population explosion. But this will be accentuated by the shortages caused by wars.  Earthquakes are attracting increasing attention—not only those now occurring but also those that are expected.  Verse 8 clearly identifies this period as the beginning of sorrows—the onset of birth-pangs which will bring forth a new order under Christ as He establishes His 1,000 year Reign on this earth.

Faithful believers will experience great personal testing during the Tribulation. The nations will conduct a bitter hate campaign against all who are true to Him. Not only will they be tried in religious and civil courts (Mark 13:9), but many will be martyred because they refuse to recant. While such testings have occured during all periods of Christian testimony, they will intensify and be more wide-spread this period.  Many will apostatize rather than suffer and die. Family members will inform against their own relatives and betray them into the hands of bestial persecutors.

Many false prophets will appear and deceive hordes of people. These are not to be confused with the false messiahs of verse 5. False prophets claim to be spokesmen for God. They can be detected in two ways: their prophecies do not always come to pass, and their teachings always lead men away from the true God.

With wickedness rampaging, human affections will be less and less evident. Acts of unlove will be commonplace.  “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” This obviously does not mean that men’s souls will be saved at that time by their enduring; salvation is always presented in the Bible as a gift of God’s grace, received by faith in Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection. Neither can it mean that all who endure will escape physical harm; we have already learned that many believers will be martyred (v. 9). It is a general statement that those who stand fast, enduring persecution without apostatizing, will be delivered at Christ’s Second Advent. No one should imagine that apostasy will be a means of escape or safety. Only those who have true faith shall be saved. Although saving faith may have lapses, it always has the quality of permanence.   During this period, the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed worldwide, as a witness to all nations. 

There is a striking parallel between the events listed in verses 3–14 and those of Revelation 6:1–11. The rider on the white horse—false messiah; the rider of the red horse—war; the rider of the black horse—famine; the rider of the pale horse—pestilence or death. The souls under the altar are martyrs. The events described in Revelation 6:12–17 are linked with those in Matthew 24:19–31.

 The Great Tribulation (24:15–28)

At this point we have come to the middle of the Tribulation. We know this by comparing verse 15 with Daniel 9:27. Daniel predicted that in the middle of the seventieth week, that is, at the end of three and a half years, an idolatrous image would be set up in the holy place, i.e., the temple in Jerusalem. All men will be ordered to worship this abominable idol. Failure to comply will be punishable by death (Rev. 13:15).   “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand). … The erection of the idol will be the signal to those who know the Word of God that the Great Tribulation has begun. Note that the Lord wants the one who reads the prophecy to understand it.

Those who are in Judea should flee to the mountains; in the vicinity of Jerusalem their refusal to bow to the image would be quickly detected.  Utmost haste will be necessary. If a man is sitting on the housetop, he should leave all his possessions behind. Time spent in gathering belongings might mean the difference between life and death. The man working in the field should not return for his clothes, wherever he may have left them. Pregnant women and nursing mothers will be at a distinct disadvantage—it will be hard for them to make a speedy escape.  Believers should pray that the crisis will not come in winter with its added travel hazards.  “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” This description isolates the period from all the inquisitions, pogroms, purges, massacres, and genocides of history. This prophecy could not have been fulfilled by any previous persecutions because it is clearly stated that it will be ended by the Second Advent of Christ.

The tribulation will be so intense that unless those days were shortened, nobody would survive.  If God allowed it to continue past the three and a half year point, no Human being would survive.  God, in His perfect timing knows exactly how long it will take to achieve the desired result, and will  not allow it to last one minute longer than that.

Verses 23 and 24 contain renewed warnings against false messiahs and false prophets. In an atmosphere of crisis, reports will circulate that the Messiah is in some secret location. Such reports could be used to trap those who sincerely and lovingly look for Christ. So the Lord warns all disciples not to believe reports of a secret Advent. Even those who perform miracles are not necessarily from God; miracles can be satanic in origin. The Man of Sin will be given satanic power to perform miracles (2 Thess. 2:9, 10).

Christ’s Advent will be un mistakable—it will be sudden, public, universal, and glorious. Like the lightning, it will be instantly and clearly visible to all.

The Second Advent (24:29–31)

At the close of the Great Tribulation there will be terrifying disturbances in the heavens. The sun will be darkened, and since the moon’s light is only a reflection of the sun’s, the moon will also withhold its light. The stars will plunge from heaven and planets will be moved out of their orbits. Needless to say, such vast cosmic upheavals will affect the weather, tides, and seasons on earth.

A faint idea of what it will be like is given in Velikovsky’s description of what would happen if a heavenly body came close to the earth and caused it to tilt on its axis:

 “At that moment an earthquake would make the earth shudder. Air and water would continue to move through inertia; hurricanes would sweep the earth and the seas would rush over continents, carrying gravel and sand and marine animals, and casting them on the land. Heat would be developed, rocks would melt, volcanoes would erupt, lava would flow from fissures in the ruptured ground and cover vast areas. Mountains would spring up from the plains and would travel and climb on the shoulders of other mountains, causing faults and rifts. Lakes would be tilted and emptied, rivers would change their beds; large land areas with all their inhabitants would slip under the sea. Forests would burn and the hurricane and wild seas would wrest them from the ground on which they grew and pile them, branch and root, in huge heaps. Seas would turn into deserts, their waters flowing away.”

“Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven.” We are not told what this sign will be. His First Advent was accompanied by a sign in heaven—the star. Perhaps a miracle star will also announce His Second Coming. Some believe the Son of Man is Himself the sign. Whatever is meant, it will be clear to all when it appears. All the tribes of the earth will mourn—no doubt because of their rejection of Him.  Then “they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” What a wonderful moment! The One who was spit upon and crucified will be vindicated as the Lord of life and glory. The meek and lowly Jesus will appear as Jehovah Himself. The sacrificial Lamb will descend as the conquering Lion. The despised Carpenter of Nazareth will come as King of kings and Lord of lords. His chariots will be the clouds of heaven. He will come in regal power and splendor—the moment for which creation has groaned for thousands of years.  

Notice that in a literal translation (Young’s) of verse 31, the believers will be gathered from the HEAVENS (plural), rather than from HEAVEN (singular), indicating that there are Christians living on the earth at that time.  

29`And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from the heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken;  

30 and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in the heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth smite the breast, and they shall see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of the heaven, with power and much glory;

31 and he shall send his messengers with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the heavens unto the ends thereof.   

When He descends, He will send His angels throughout the earth to gather together His elect people. From all the earth they will gather to greet their Messiah and to enjoy His glorious reign.

The Parable of the Fig Tree (24:32–35)

“Now learn this parable from the fig tree.” Again our Lord draws a spiritual lesson from nature. When the branches of the fig tree become green and tender, you know that summer is near. We have seen that the fig tree pictures the nation of Israel (21:18–22). For hundreds of years Israel has been dormant, with no government of its own, no land, no temple, no priesthood—no sign of national life. The people have been scattered throughout the world.  Then, in 1948, Israel became a nation with its own land, government, currency, stamps, etc. Spiritually, the nation is still barren and cold; there is no fruit for God. But nationally, we might say that its branches are green and tender.  “So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near, at the very doors!” Israel’s emergence as a nation means not only that the beginning of the Seventieth Week of Daniel is near, but that the Lord Himself is near, at the very doors!

After referring to the fig tree, Jesus added, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” “This generation” could not mean the people living when Christ was on earth; they have all passed away, yet the events of chapter 24 have not taken place. What then did our Lord mean by “this generation”?  I firmly believe the thought is: “the very generation that sees the beginning of these things will see the end.” The same generation (era) of people who see the rise of Israel as a nation will see the Lord Jesus coming in the clouds of heaven to reign.

To emphasize the unfailing character of His predictions, Jesus added that heaven and earth would pass away but His words would by no means pass away. In speaking of heaven passing away, He was referring to the stellar and atmospheric heavens, not to that heaven which is the dwelling place of God (2 Cor. 12:2–4). The dissolution of the heaven and the earth is described in 2 Peter 3:10–13 and mentioned again in Revelation 20:11.

The Day and Hour Unknown (24:36–44)

As to the exact day and hour of His Second Advent, “no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” This should warn against the temptation to set dates or to believe those who do. We are not surprised that angels do not know; they are finite creatures with limited knowledge.

While those living prior to Christ’s return will not know its day or hour, it seems that those familiar with the prophecy may be able to know the year. They will know, for instance, that it will be approximately three and one-half years after the idol image is set up in the temple (Dan. 9:27; see also Dan. 7:25; 12:7, 11; Rev. 11:2, 3; 12:14; 13:5).   In those days, however, most people will be indifferent, just as in the days of Noah. Although the days before the flood were terribly wicked, that is not the feature emphasized here. The people ate, drank, married, gave in marriage; in other words, they went through the routines of life as if they were going to live forever. Though warned that a flood was coming, they lived as if they were flood-proof. When it came, they were unprepared, outside the only place of safety. That is just the way it will be when Christ returns. Only those who are in Christ, the ark of safety, will be delivered.

 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken away in judgment, the other will be left to enter the Millennium. Two women will be grinding at the mill; they will be instantly separated. One will be swept away by the flood of judgment; the other left to enjoy the blessings of Christ’s reign.  In view of the uncertainty as to the day and the hour, men ought to watch. If someone knows his house is going to be broken into, he will be ready, even if he doesn’t know the exact time. The Son of Man will come when least expected by the masses. Therefore, His people should be on the tiptoes of expectancy.

Parable of the Wise and the Evil Servants (24:45–51)

In the closing section of this chapter, the Lord Jesus shows that a servant manifests his true character by how he behaves in view of his Master’s return. All servants are supposed to feed the household at the proper time. But not all who profess to be Christ’s servants are genuine.   The wise servant is the one who is found caring for God’s people. Such a one will be honored with vast responsibility in the kingdom. The master will make him ruler over all his goods.

The evil servant represents a nominal believer whose behavior is not affected by the prospect of his Master’s soon return. He begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards. Such behavior demonstrates that he is not ready for the kingdom. When the King comes, He will punish him and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites, where people weep and gnash their teeth.

LESSON 18 – Matthew 

Matthew 25

1 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. 6 “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ 7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. 11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ 22 He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ 23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ 26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.

29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’  41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Parable of the Ten Virgins (25:1–13)

The first word, “Then”, referring back to chapter 24, clearly places this parable in the time preceding and during the King’s return to earth. Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven at that time to ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were wise and had oil for their lamps; the others had none. While waiting, all fell asleep.  The five wise virgins represent true disciples of Christ in the Tribulation. The lamps speak of profession, and oil is generally acknowledged to be a type of the Holy Spirit. The foolish virgins represent those who profess to hold the Messianic hope but who have never been converted and thus do not have the Holy Spirit. The bridegroom is Christ, the King; His delay symbolizes the period between His two Advents. The fact that all ten virgins slept shows that outwardly there was not much to differentiate them.

At midnight the announcement rang out that the bridegroom was coming. In the previous chapter we learned that His arrival will be heralded by awesome signs.

The virgins arose and trimmed their lamps—all wanted to appear ready. The foolish ones, lacking oil, asked the others for some, but were sent to buy some. The wise ones’ refusal seems selfish, but in the spiritual realm, no one can dispense the Spirit to another. Of course, the Holy Spirit cannot be purchased, but the Bible does use the literary figure of buying salvation without money and without price.   While they were gone the bridegroom came. The faithful saints will go in with Him to the marriage feast. The marriage feast is a fitting designation of the joy and blessing of Christ’s earthly kingdom. The wise virgins went in with him to the wedding; and the door was closed. It was too late for anyone else to get into the kingdom. When the other virgins came seeking admittance, the bridegroom disavowed knowing them—a clear proof that they had never been born again.

The lesson, Jesus said, was to watch, because the day and hour of His coming are unknown. Believers should live as if the Lord might come at any moment. Are our lamps trimmed and filled with oil?

 Parable of the Talents (25:14–30)

This parable also teaches that when the Lord returns, there will be true and false servants. The story revolves around a man who, before going on a long journey, assembled his own servants and gave to each varying amounts of money, according to his own ability. One got five talents, another got two, and the last, one. They were to use this money to bring income to the master. The man with five earned another five talents. The man with two doubled his also. But the man with one went and dug a hole and buried it.

It is not difficult to see that Christ is the master and the long journey is the inter-advent period. The three servants are responsible to represent the interests of the absent Lord. They are given responsibility according to their individual abilities.

After a long time the lord came back and settled accounts with them. This depicts the Second Advent. The first two received exactly the same commendation: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” The test of their service was not how much they earned, but how hard they tried. Each used his ability fully and earned one hundred percent. These represent true believers whose reward is to enjoy blessings and responsibilities in the kingdom.

The third servant had nothing but insults and excuses for his master. He accused him of being hard and unreasonable, reaping where he had not sown, and gathering where he had not scattered seed. He excused himself on the basis that, paralyzed with fear, he buried his talent. This servant was doubtless an unbeliever; no genuine servant would entertain such thoughts of his master.

His lord rebuked him as wicked and lazy. Having such thoughts of his master, why hadn’t he deposited his money with the bankers to earn interest? Incidentally, in verse 26, the master is not agreeing with the charges against him. Rather he is saying, “If that’s the kind of master you thought I am, all the more reason to have put the talent to work. Your words condemn, not excuse you.”

If this man had earned one talent with his talent, he would have received the same commendation as the others. Instead, all he had to show for his life was a hole in the ground! His talent was taken and given to the man with ten talents. This follows a fixed law in the spiritual realm: “To everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” Those who desire to be used for God’s glory are given the means. The more they do, the more they are enabled to do for Him. Conversely, we lose what we don’t use. Atrophy is the reward of indolence.

The unprofitable servant was cast out—excluded from the kingdom. He shared the anguished fate of the wicked. It was not his failure to invest the talent that condemned him; rather his lack of good works showed that he lacked saving faith.

 The King Judges the Nations (25:31–46)

This section describes the Judgment of the Nations, which is to be distinguished from the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Judgment of the Great White Throne.

The Judgment Seat of Christ, a time of review and reward for believers only, takes place after the Rapture of the Church at the “last trumpet”. The Judgment of the Great White Throne takes place in eternity, after the Millennium. The wicked dead will be judged and consigned to the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11–15).

The Judgment of the Nations takes place on earth after Christ comes to reign, as verse 31 clearly states: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him.” If we are right in identifying it with Joel 3, the location is the Valley of Jehoshaphat, outside Jerusalem (3:2). The nations will be judged according to their treatment of Christ’s brethren.

It is important to notice that three classes are mentioned—sheep, goats, and Christ’s brethren. The first two classes, over whom Christ sits in judgment, are nations. The third class is Christ’s faithful brethren who refuse to deny His Name in spite of towering persecution.

The King places the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. He then invites the sheep to enter His glorious kingdom, prepared for them from the foundation of the world. The reason given is that they fed Him when hungry, gave Him drink when thirsty, welcomed Him when a stranger, clothed Him when ill-clad, visited Him in sickness, and went to Him in prison. The righteous sheep profess ignorance of ever showing such kindnesses to the King; He had not even been on earth in their generation. He explains that in befriending one of the least of His brethren, they befriended Him. Whatever is done for one of His disciples is rewarded as being done to Himself.

The unrighteous goats are told to depart from Him into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels because they failed to care for Him. When they excuse themselves by saying they had never seen Him, He reminds them that their neglect of His followers constituted neglect of Himself.

Thus the goats go away into everlasting punishment, but the sheep into eternal life. But this raises two problems. First, the passage seems to teach that nations are saved or lost en masse. Second, the narrative creates the impression that the sheep are saved by good works, and the goats are condemned through failure to do good. As to the first difficulty, it must be remembered that God does deal with nations as such. OT history abounds with instances of nations punished because of their sin (Isa. 10:12–19; 47:5–15; Ezek. 25:6, 7; Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6; Obad. 10; Zech. 14:1–5). It is not unreasonable to believe that nations will continue to experience divine retribution. This does not mean that every single individual in the nation will be involved in the outcome, but that the principles of divine justice will be applied on a national, as well as an individual basis.

As to the second problem, the passage cannot be used to teach salvation by works. The uniform testimony of the Bible is that salvation is by faith and not by works (Eph. 2:8, 9). But the Bible is just as emphatic in teaching that true faith produces good works. If there are no good works, it is an indication that the person was never saved. So we must understand that the Nations (composed of individuals) are not saved by befriending the remnant, but that this kindness reflects their love for the Lord.

Two other points should be mentioned. First, the kingdom is said to have been prepared for the righteous from the foundation of the world (v. 34), whereas hell was prepared for the devil and his angels (v. 41). God’s desire is that men should be blessed; hell was not originally intended for the human race. But if people willfully refuse life, they necessarily choose death.

Finally the Judgment of the Nations reminds us forcefully that Christ and His people are one; what affects them affects Him. We have vast potential for showing kindness to Him by showing kindness to those who belong to Him.

LESSON 19 – Matthew 

Matthew 26

Verses 6-13

6 And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. 8 But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.”

10 But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. 11 For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. 12 For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. 13 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

Verses 17-29

17 Now on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?”

18 And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.” ’

19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.

20 When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve. 21 Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”

22 And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?”

23 He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. 24 The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

25 Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?”

He said to him, “You have said it.”

26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

Verses 30-56

30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

31 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”

33 Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.”

34 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”

35 Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”

And so said all the disciples.

36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”

39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.

44 So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”

47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.

48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.  50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?”

Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. 51 And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.  52 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”  55 In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me. 56 But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”

 

Verses 6-13 – An Eternal Memorial

When Jesus was at the house of Simon the leper in Bethany, a woman came in and poured out a flask of very expensive perfume on His head. The costliness of her sacrifice expressed the depth of her devotion for the Lord Jesus, saying, in effect, that there was nothing too good for Him.  His disciples, and Judas in particular (John 12:4, 5), looked upon the act as an enormous waste. They thought the money might better have been given to the poor.

Jesus corrected their distorted thinking. Her act was not wasteful, but beautiful. Not only so, it was perfectly timed. The poor can be helped at any time. But only once in the world’s history could the Savior be anointed for burial. That moment had struck and one lone woman with spiritual discernment had seized it. Believing the Lord’s predictions concerning His death, she must have realized it was now or never. As it turned out, she was right. Those women who planned to anoint His body after His burial were thwarted by the resurrection (Mark 16:1–6).

The Lord Jesus immortalized her simple act of love: “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Any act of true worship fills the courts of heaven with fragrance and is indelibly recorded in the Lord’s memory.

Verses 17-29 – The Last Supper

Since we will be observing Passover in a few weeks with a full re-creation of the Last Supper, I will not go into much detail on this section now.

Jesus sent the disciples to look for a certain unnamed man who would lead them to the appointed house. Perhaps the vagueness of the instructions was designed to foil the conspirators who were plotting against Him.  At any rate, we note Jesus’ full knowledge of individuals, their whereabouts, and their willingness to cooperate. Note His words, “The Teacher says, ‘My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.’” He faced His approaching death with poise. With perfect grace, He arranged the meal. What a privilege for this anonymous man to lend his house for this final Passover!

As they were eating, Jesus made the shocking announcement that one of the twelve would betray Him. The disciples were filled with sorrow. One by one they asked, “Lord, is it I?” When all but Judas had inquired, Jesus told them that it was the one who dipped with Him in the dish. The Lord then took a piece of bread, dipped it in the “sop” (called charoset), and handed it to Judas (John 13:26)—a token of special affection and friendship. He reminded them that there was a certain irresistibility in what was going to happen to Him. But that did not free the traitor from responsibility; it would be better for him if he had never been born. Judas deliberately chose to sell the Savior and is thus held personally responsible.

When Judas finally asked point-blank if he were the one, Jesus answered, “Yes.”

Matthew now records Christ giving the true meaning to certain elements of the Passover Meal.  The bread (a specific piece of unleavened bread known as the “afikomen”), and the third of the ceremonial cups (known as the cup of redemption), are specifically identified with the death of Our Lord as the true sacrifice of Passover.  As John the Baptist had said at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!”

Verses 30-56

Following the Lord’s Supper, the little band sang a hymn, taken from Psalms 113–118—“the Great Hallel.” Then they left Jerusalem, crossed the Brook Kidron, and climbed the western slope of Olivet to the Garden of Gethsemane.

Throughout His earthly ministry the Lord Jesus had faithfully warned His disciples concerning the pathway ahead. Now He told them that they would all dissociate themselves from Him that night. Fear would overwhelm them when they saw the fury of the storm breaking. To save their own skins, they would forsake their Master. Zechariah’s prophecy would be fulfilled: “Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” (13:7).

But He did not leave them without hope. Though they would be ashamed of their association with Him, He would never forsake them. After rising from the dead, He would meet them in Galilee.  Peter rashly interrupted to assure the Lord that although the others might desert Him, he would never do such a thing. Jesus corrected the “never” to “this night … three times.”   Still protesting his loyalty, Peter insisted that he would die with Christ rather than deny Him. All the disciples chimed in their agreement. They were sincere; they meant what they said. It was just that they didn’t know their own hearts.

After entering Gethsemane (meaning olive vat or olive press), Jesus told eight of the eleven disciples with Him to sit and wait, then took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee deeper into the garden.   He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. He frankly told Peter, James, and John that His soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. This was probably in part due to the unspeakable revulsion of His holy soul as He anticipated becoming a sin-offering for us. We who are sinful cannot conceive what it meant to Him, the Sinless One, to be made sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21).

“O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”  In case we would think this prayer expressed reluctance or a desire to turn back, we should remember His words in John 12:27, 28: “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Therefore, in praying that the cup might pass from Him, He was not asking to be delivered from going to the cross. That was the very purpose of His coming into the world!

However, Jesus was also human.  No human in his right mind would be eager to be beaten, cursed, and crucified.  Jesus was not turning away from His task in the least, but He was human enough to express dismay at what was to come.

Returning to the disciples, He found them sleeping. Their spirits were willing; their flesh was weak. We dare not condemn them when we think of our own prayer lives; we sleep better than we pray, and our minds wander when they should be watching. How often the Lord has to say to us as He said to Peter, “Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, expressing submission to the Father’s will. He would drink the cup of suffering and death to the dregs.

When He came to the disciples the second time, they were asleep again. Likewise the third time: He prayed, they slept. It was then He said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

The betrayal of the sinless Savior by one of His own creations presents one of the most amazing anomalies of history. Apart from human depravity we would be at a loss to explain the base, inexcusable treachery of Judas.  While Jesus was still speaking to the eleven, Judas arrived with a gang armed with swords and clubs.  Judas would use a kiss as the sign to help the mob distinguish Jesus from His disciples. The universal symbol of love was to be prostituted to its lowest use.   As he approached the Lord, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” then kissed Him profusely.

One of the disciples—we know from John 18:10 that it was Peter—drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. It is unlikely that Peter had aimed for the ear; he had doubtless planned a mortal blow.  The moral glory of the Lord Jesus shines radiantly here. First He rebuked Peter.  We learn Luke that Jesus then healed the ear of Malchus—for that was the victim’s name (Luke 22:51; John 18:10). Is this not a wonderful display of grace? He loved those who hated Him and showed kindness to those who were after His life.

If Jesus had desired to resist the mob, He would not have been limited to Peter’s puny sword. In an instant He could have asked for and been sent more than twelve legions of angels (from 36,000 to 72,000, depending on which type of legion is meant). But that would only have frustrated the divine program. The Scriptures predicting His betrayal, suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection had to be fulfilled.

Then Jesus reminded the crowds how incongruous it was for them to come out after Him with weapons. They had never seen Him resort to violence or engage in plunder. Rather, He had been a quiet Teacher, daily sitting in the temple. They could easily have captured Him then, but didn’t. Why come now with swords and clubs? Humanly speaking, their behavior was irrational.

Yet the Savior realized that man’s wickedness was succeeding only in accomplishing the definite plan of God. “All this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Realizing there would be no deliverance for their Master, all the disciples forsook Him and fled in panic. If their cowardice was inexcusable, our cowardice in following the Lord is more so. They had not yet been indwelt by the Holy Spirit; we have.

LESSON 20 – Matthew 

Matthew 28:16-20

16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.  18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

The Great Commission (28:16–20)

In Galilee the risen Lord Jesus appeared to His disciples at an unnamed mountain. This is the same appearance recorded in Mark 16:15–18 and 1 Corinthians 15:6. What a wonderful reunion! His sufferings were passed forever. Because He lived, they too would live. He stood before them in His glorified body.

Then the Lord explained that all authority had been given to Him in heaven and on earth. In one sense, of course, He always had all authority. But here He was speaking of authority as Head of the new creation. Since His death and resurrection, He had authority to give eternal life to all whom God had given to Him (John 17:2). He had always had power as the creator of all things.  But now that He had completed the work of redemption, He had authority as the first-born from the dead—“that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Col. 1:15, 18).

As Head of the new creation, He then issued the Great Commission, containing “standing orders” for all believers during the present phase of the kingdom—the time between the rejection of the King and His Second Advent.

The Commission contains three commands:

1. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” This does not presuppose world conversion. By preaching the gospel, the disciples were to see others become learners or followers of the Savior—from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue.

2. Baptize “them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  In Biblical baptism, Christians publicly identify themselves with the Triune Godhead. They acknowledge that God is their Father, that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior, and that the Holy Spirit is the One who indwells, empowers, and teaches them.  The word ‘Name’ in verse 19 is singular. One name or essence, yet three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

3. Teach “them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” The Commission goes beyond evangelism; it is not enough to simply make converts and let them fend for themselves. They must be taught to obey the commandments of Christ.  The essence of discipleship is becoming like the Master, and this is brought about by systematic teaching of, and submission to, the Word.

Then the Savior added a promise of His presence with His disciples until the consummation of the age. They would not go forth alone or unaided. In all their service and travel, they would know the companionship of the Son of God.

Notice the four “alls” connected with the Great Commission: all authority; all nations; all things; always.

Nearly twenty centuries later His words have the same impact, relevance, and application to believers. 

What are we doing to carry out His last command?

A Note on Matthew

Matthew 5:31 – Note the original text of “divorcement”

31 It hath been said rhetorized, Whosoever shall put away release his wife woman, let him give her a writing scroll of divorcement apostasyDeuteronomy 24:1

View The Four Gospel’s Side By Side

 View Part One Here