Saturday, April 19, 2008

Matthew 16:1-4


1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 But He replied to them, ``When it is evening, you say, `It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' 3 ``And in the morning, `There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? 4 ``An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign ; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.'' And He left them and went away.

They are looking for a sign other than Jesus! It is Jesus' reply that the sign was there, if they could only see it. They were well aware as to how to read the signs of weather.

"A red sky at night is the shepherd's delight; 
A red sky in the morning is the shepherd's warning."

They knew very well that a red sky in the evening was a sign for fine weather; and that a red sky in the morning was the warning of a storm to come. But they were blind to the signs of the times. 

Jesus told them that the only sign they would receive was the sign of Jonah. Jonah was the prophet who was used by God to reach the people of Nineveh and turned them from their evil ways toward God. Now the sign which turned the people of Nineveh to God was not the fact that Jonah was swallowed by the great sea monster. It was the sign of resurrection, coming back from sure death. The sign of Jonah was Jonah himself and his message from God. It was the emergence of the prophet and the message which he brought which changed life for the people of Nineveh.

So what Jesus is saying is that God's sign is the sign of resurrection. He will show them this sign a couple more times and ultimately will illustrate this sign by His own resurrection. So, the ultimate sign is Jesus Himself and His message. It is as if he said to them: "In me you are confronted with God and with the truth of God. What more could you possibly need? But you are so blind that you can't see it." There is truth and there is warning here. Jesus is God's last word. Beyond him the revelation of God can't go. Here is God plain for all to see. Here is God's message plain for all to hear. Here is God's sign to man. It is the warning truth that, if Jesus can't appeal to men, nothing can. If Jesus can't convince men, no one can. If men can't see God in Jesus, they can't see God in anything or anyone. When we are confronted with Jesus, we are confronted with God's final word and God's ultimate appeal to mankind.

It's all about Jesus. Again, it's JESUS PLUS NOTHING. If you miss Jesus, you miss it all!

Are you looking for any sign other than Jesus?

Matthew 15:32-39


32 And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, ``I feel compassion for the people , because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing, to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.'' 33 The disciples said* to Him, ``Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?'' 34 And Jesus said* to them, ``How many loaves do you have?'' And they said, ``Seven, and a few small fish.'' 35 And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; 36 and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full. 38 And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 

39 And sending away the crowds, Jesus got into the boat and came to the region of Magadan.

Again Jesus feels compassion for the people and wants to feed them. Before it was the 5000 and now it is the 4000. Many scholars think that the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand are different versions of the same incident; but that is not so. The date is different; the first took place in the spring, the second in the summer. The people and the place are different. The feeding of the four thousand took place in Decapolis. Decapolis literally means ten cities, and the Decapolis was a loose federation of ten free Greek cities. On this occasion there would be many Gentiles present, probably more Gentiles than Jews. It is that fact that explains the key phrase in Matt 15:31, "They glorified the God of Israel."

To the Gentile crowds this was a demonstration of the power of the God of Israel. There is another curious little hint of difference. In the feeding of the five thousand the baskets which were used to take up the fragments are called kophinoi in the feeding of the four thousand they are called sphurides. The kophinos was a narrow-necked, flask-shaped basket which Jews often carried with them, for a Jew often carried his own food, lest he should be compelled to eat food which had been touched by Gentile hands and was therefore unclean. The sphuris was much more like a hamper; it could be big enough to carry a man, and it was a kind of basket that a Gentile would use.

NOTE that this time Jesus did the distribution personally and this time there were 7 large baskets left over rather than 12.

NOTE that when Jesus intervenes to meet a need that all involved are satisfied.

NOTE that when Jesus miraculously fed the crowd, He produced enough for the disciples to eat, too.
becomes your add-on god.

When you're following Jesus on one of His missions, you can count on it. You will be taken care of, too.

Matthew 15:29-31


29 Departing from there, Jesus went along by the Sea of Galilee, and having gone up on the mountain, He was sitting there. 30 And large crowds came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them. 31 So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

NOTE that in the previous scene Jesus' disciples didn't want Him to receive the pleading Gentile woman. Now, in contrast, Jesus receives everyone who comes to Him and heals them all! NOTE THE CONTRAST:

FIRST-Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees blind leader who were leaders of the blind. Jesus heals the blind.

SECOND-The scribes and Pharisees were defiled by their words. They would have been better off if they had been mute. Jesus heals the mute.

THIRD-The scribes and Pharisees positioned themselves as the whole and beautiful people. The to-be-pitied, full of life's ugliness were received by Jesus and made whole.

FOURTH-The scribes and Pharisees gloried in their spiritual walk from Jerusalem, yet were stumbling and falling in response to Jesus' teaching. Jesus made the lame to walk.

FIFTH-The scribes and Pharisees were so proud of their traditions-the man-made add-ons of religiosity-and sought to show off as the highly regarded ones. Jesus was the one who was praised and highly regarded, not their traditions.

This is why we must hang out with and cling to JESUS PLUS NOTHING!

Matthew 15:21-28


21 Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, ``Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.'' 23 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, ``Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.'' 24 But He answered and said, ``I was sent only, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'' 25 But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, ``Lord, help me!'' 26 And He answered and said, ``It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.'' 27 But she said, ``Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.'' 28 Then Jesus said to her, ``O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.'' And her daughter was healed at once,.

This is the only occasion on which Jesus was ever outside of Jewish territory. The supreme significance of the passage is that it foreshadows the going out of the gospel to the whole world; it shows us the beginning of the end of all the barriers. The Gospel was intended for the Jews first and then the Gentiles. There was no place in Palestine where he could be sure of privacy; wherever he went, the crowds would find him. So he went right north through Galilee until he came to the land of Tyre and Sidon where the Phoenicians dwelt. There, at least for a time, he would be safe from the hostility of the Scribes and Pharisees, and from the dangerous popularity of the people, since no Jew would be likely to follow him into Gentile territory.

But to Jesus there was a problem here. Here was a woman with great concern for her daughter and she was a Gentile. Jesus was primarily aiming His mission to the Jewish people, even though their response was quite negative. He had to begin with the Jews; and here was a Gentile crying for mercy. There was only one thing for him to do; he must awaken true faith in the heart of this woman.

So Jesus at last turned to her: "It is not right to take the children's bread and to throw it to the pet dogs." It is the word for pet dogs rather than the street dogs. They were household pets. The woman was a Greek; she was quick to see, and she had all a Greek's ready wit. "True," she said, "but even the dogs get their share of the crumbs which fall from their master's table." And Jesus' eyes lit up with joy at such a strong faith; and he granted her the blessing and the healing which she so much desired.

This woman's remarkable approach: 1. She had great love for her daughter!

2. She had great faith! She, even as a Gentile, recognized Jesus as the Son of David (Messianic) and ended up calling Jesus Lord.

3. She had great, persistent hope! She would not be discouraged. She didn't view Jesus as a possible helper, but her only hope!

4. She had a great, cheerful spirit! Her sense of quick wit and humor with Jesus is attractive to Jesus. He seemed to enjoy this spunky faith and hope possessed by this woman.

I think there is a lesson here on how we can approach Jesus. 1) Approach Jesus with a great love for others.

2) Approach Jesus with a great faith and trust.

3) Approach Jesus with an indomitable spirit of hope.

4) Approach Jesus with a cheerful hearted attitude.

This is the kind of approach that gets through to Jesus.

Matthew 15:15-20


15 Peter said to Him, ``Explain the parable to us.'' 16 Jesus said, ``Are you still lacking in understanding also? 17 ``Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated ,? 18 ``But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 ``For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications , thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 ``These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.'' What matters to God is not so much how we act, but why we act; not so much what we actually do, but what we wish in our heart of hearts to do. "Man sees the deed, but God sees the intention."

There is always a natural tendency to externalize everything that is spiritual: 1-The creation of the golden calf 2-Icons and idols out of a variety of religious communities 3-The Pharisaic emphasis upon the externals over the internals.

This is where Jesus took direct aim. He took everything back to the heart of man. Remember, a couple of days ago I mentioned that we tend to build or bring flower pots and planters, while Jesus brings a seed. He is continually saying to us. This thing of salvation? It's internal! This thing of walking righteously before God? It's internal! This thing about religion? It must be internal! You see, Jesus is saying that it's all an INSIDE JOB, because it's all about Him. It truly is JESUS PLUS NOTHING. Nothing can be added to make it any better, but only has the potential to diminish Him.

I'm reminded of the interchange with Jesus: MAN: "Jesus, I have a problem. It's me!" JESUS: "Son, I have the answer. It's me!"

Matthew 15:1-14


1 Then some Pharisees and scribes came* to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 ``Why, do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.'' 3 And He answered and said to them,

The Pharisees came to Jesus with all of their add-ons and religiosity, criticizing His disciples for not following the tradition of washing. All of what they bring to Him is a manmade system of do's and don'ts.

``Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 ``For God said, `HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,' and, `HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.' 5 ``But you say, `Whoever, says to his father or mother, ``Whatever, I have that would help you has been given to God,'' 6 he is not to honor his father or his mother .' And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 ``You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: 8 `THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 9 `BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' ''

Jesus' response was to point out that their manmade traditions did to the truth: 1. Violated the commandment of God

2. Invalidated the Word of God

3. Taught as true teachings of God the made-up rules of man.

10 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, ``Hear and understand. 11 ``It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.'' 

Jesus then turns to the crowd around Him and teaches them a valuable lesson. What proceeds out of the inside of a person is what defiles a man and not something he takes in from the outside. In other words, Jesus is tracking on one of His major themes-internal over external. 

12 Then the disciples came* and said* to Him, ``Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?'' 13 But He answered and said, ``Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. 14 ``Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.''

Jesus then turns back to His disciples and handles their concerns about offending the Pharisees. He tells them clearly to leave the results to God.

So, what traditions or comfort levels do you make more sacred than the simple commands and desires of God? What do you add on to JESUS PLUS NOTHING? - church - denomination - job - special relationship - things - possessions

Whatever it is that becomes a non-negotiable with God is not only an add-on, but becomes your add-on god.