Saturday, May 03, 2008

Matthew 18:1-6


Question from the disciples: 1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, ``Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?''

Answer from Jesus: First-Jesus pulls in a child and declares that no one will enter the kingdom of heaven without becoming like a child.

2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, ``Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Second-Jesus gets to the question of the disciples more directly and says that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven has the humility of a child. 4 ``Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Third-Jesus announces the blessing to those who receive one child such as this receives Jesus personally. 5 ``And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;

Fourth-Jesus warns of the curse upon those who cause one of these little ones to stumble. 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

NOTE that there are basically two conditions to enter the kingdom: FIRST--Unless you are converted. Converted means to have a change of mind-a change of mind toward Jesus.

SECOND--Unless you become like children. Humble, innocent, respectful and most of all, a teachable, tender heart.

It's very interesting to note that Jesus doesn't talk about "going to heaven", but entering the Kingdom. That's His focus for you. What's your focus?

Matthew 17:24-27


24 When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two -drachma tax came to Peter and said, ``Does your teacher not pay the two -drachma tax?'' 25 He said* , ``Yes.'' And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, ``What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?'' 26 When Peter said, ``From strangers,'' Jesus said to him, ``Then the sons are exempt . 27 ``However, so, that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.''

The Temple tax was one-half shekel per year for every Jew over 20. It was used to renovate and restore the Temple-to keep the facility functional. Since Jesus was Lord and Owner of the Temple, He and His "children" should have been free of taxation. However, Jesus orders Peter to pay it anyway for both of them to avoid any unnecessary conflict or offense.

It's a curious incident and I think there may be two basic teachings here for us: 1. Some things just don't matter that much. This is an illustration of Jesus' willingness to comply with the conventions of the society of which He belonged. This traditional application of an Old Testament law was not worth arguing over. It wasn't worth a battle!

2. It's OK, even a good thing, to contribute to good things-synagogues and churches, because these religious organizations do good work-relieve pain, poverty, hunger, etc.

Again, I am struck with the fact that Jesus nor any of His apostles took a stand against the synagogues of their time (churches today). Even though Jesus was out to build His church (His gathering or assembly of His followers) and wanted His disciples then and now to BE THE CHURCH, He was still willing to financially support good things.

Jesus was even willing to perform a miracle to illustrate His point. So, this reminds me of the concept we call "orbiting". We practice being the church of Jesus by gathering together around the apostle's teaching, prayer, fellowship and the breaking of bread, but we are to orbit around the synagogues (churches) of our day. Why? Looking for those who are God-fearing, attracted to the person of Jesus and His kingdom and when we discover interested people, we begin walking with them ALL IN THE NAME OF JESUS.

Matthew 17:22-23


22 And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ``The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; 23 and they will kill Him and He will be raised on the third day.'' And they were deeply grieved.

Immediately after discussing how little faith the disciples had, Jesus shares with them the upcoming plan-to be killed and be raised from the dead 3 days later!

What's happening here? Their response to Jesus' announcement was to be deeply grieved. Why? 1. One option is that they were so strongly attached to Him, so they were sorry that He was going to leave them.

2. Another option might be that they were unwilling to believe what Jesus was saying.

3. They simply didn't understand what was going on! They could not see how He could be the Messiah and yet be put to death. They simply didn't get the "resurrection" possibility. Their faith was being manipulated by their emotions and not their trust in the person of Jesus.

4. I think there is a fourth reason for their grief. The disciples just didn't like Jesus' plan. They were geared up for winning in the political movement of Jesus, the ground-swell excitement that was growing around Him. Then, Jesus tells them His plan. He was going to die. Die? Are you serious? They just didn't get it that the real message of Jesus' movement was the message of sacrificial love, not a movement of political power.

The disciples had their own agendas regarding what they wanted to do with Jesus, the role they wanted Him to play for them. This is just another way of "living life your way in the name of Jesus." They never got it, until after the resurrection occurred! It's just like us today. We miss the simple point of Jesus' role in our affairs, until after He comes through on our behalf in the midst of death and dying, then and only then do we begin to get it.

Matthew 16:28-17:21


28 ``Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.''

Here Jesus makes an astounding statement that many have discussed its meaning for years and will continue to do so. Some who were standing right there would not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom. Jesus' first message was to announce: "The Kingdom of God is near, here and among y'all." Apparently, Jesus brought the Kingdom of God to earth and it is here right now. In a progressive mode the Kingdom of God will ultimately fill the earth in its full form.

Most of what Jesus is doing is to demonstrate His Kingdom. Here He does it most dramatically with what is called the transfiguration of His body, where Jesus' body becomes the undeniable, visible presence of God. He takes three men to come and see it for themselves. Let's look at it.

1 Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 2 And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Peter said to Jesus, ``Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.'' 5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, ``This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!'' 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified. 7 And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, ``Get up, and do not be afraid.'' 8 And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.

Notice how Jesus is joined by Moses, the Jewish representative of the Law, and Elijah, the representative of the Prophets. In these three personages the entire story of the Jewish faith rested. But note just as quickly as they appeared, Moses and Elijah disappeared. I think this is the beauty of this dramatic scene. All of the Law and the Prophets dissolve into Jesus standing alone. It is truly Jesus plus nothing and no one else.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, "Don't tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead." 10 The disciples asked him, "Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?" 11 Jesus replied, "To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.

After Jesus put Elijah into perspective, identifying him with John the Baptist, He moves from classroom to another lab experience to demonstrate the Kingdom and His position as the Son of Man.

14 When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 "Lord, have mercy on my son," he said. "He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him." 17 "You unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me." 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" 20-21 He replied, "Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."

In order to move into being disciples with the faith Jesus requires, it seems when He mentions "little faith" He is not referring to a certain amount of faith. In the next sentence Jesus suggests that all that is needed is faith as small as a mustard seed in order to live in the realm of the impossible. We are learning that it's all about developing a consistent, ruthless trust in Jesus, counting on Him to do His work in your life in His way. It ultimately means leaving the results-good and bad-to Him. Are you up for such a lifestyle? Give it a try and watch Jesus at work!