Sunday, May 25, 2008

Matthew 20:29-34


29 As they were leaving Jericho a large crowd followed Him. 30 And two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, ``Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!'' 31 The crowd sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more, ``Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!'' 32 And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, ``What do you want Me to do for you?'' 33 They said to Him, ``Lord, we want our eyes to be opened.'' 34 Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.

What a powerful contrast! Jesus just finished handling personal ambition by James and John, giving them a new definition of true leadership. NOW, 2 blind men have nothing but their blindness, their vulnerability, their cry for mercy to the only One Who could restore their sight-the Messiah. Jesus' question to them is curious. He's speaking with 2 men who are obviously blind and asks them, "What do you want Me to do?" Again, this is in contrast to the two brothers who wanted something from Jesus-position in the kingdom. Their answer has nothing to do with anything unreasonable, but they ask for a healing of their brokenness-their blindness-their need.

Jesus' response to James and John was to re-teach them what leadership is all about. Jesus' response to the 2 blind men was to be moved with compassion, touched right in their area of brokenness and they regained their sight, then they followed Jesus from that time on.

So, what is it you want from Jesus? To be more comfortable or to have a more convenient or prominent position with Him or to have Jesus meet you at your level of brokenness. One will get you another lesson or sermon. The other will give you the healing touch of Jesus.

Matthew 20:20-28


20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. 21 And He said to her, ``What do you wish?'' She said* to Him, ``Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.'' 22 But Jesus answered, ``You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?'' They said* to Him, ``We are able.'' 23 He said* to them, ``My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.''

24 And hearing this, the ten became indignant 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 their great men exercise authority over them. 26 ``It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall 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.''

John Calvin calls ambition, "a concealed flame." It exists in each of us, striving for acclaim, power, position, and attention. The concealed flame of ambition can be easily fueled when losing sight of the cross for visions of personal glory. If those closest to Christ fell prey to ambition, then we too must guard against its grip on our lives.

In my experience it is not just ambition that is the problem. The most extensive problem seems to be an optical one-THE BIG "I". So far in recent days in Matthew we've seen a man whose wealth had become his god and therefore came between him and following Jesus. We now see 2 brothers desiring certain positions in the kingdom-on the right and on the left. When it's all about ME, then it just isn't about JESUS.

Without a doubt the greatest disappointment to me has been watching men and women be more concerned about themselves and their conveniences than about spreading the movement of Jesus and His kingdom. There is more interest in a certain musical bent, the dazzle of a beautiful facility, the promotion of another program, the crowd--all giving a false sense of spirituality to spectating rather than participating! My heart continues to be broken by good people who want to sit in comfortable positions such as James and John, good people with a twisted perspective on what's most important.

Jesus makes it absolutely clear that we are hear, not to be served, but to serve. To be great in the kingdom is to find your position as a servant-that's a participator, not a spectator! So, are you in the stands watching or on the field in the action?

Matthew 20:17-19


17 As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, 18 ``Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.''

This is, at least, the 3rd, maybe the 4th time Jesus has revealed to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, be killed and be raised up again. (Matthew 16:21-23; Mark 8:31-33, Luke 9:22) Although the statement may have puzzled the disciples who were standing close to Jesus' revelation, it was, after all, not inconceivable that the Messiah would ultimately die at some point in time. Therefore, Peter's shock when hearing Jesus' new declaration in Matthew 16 is not based so much on the third day resurrection but upon the opposition to and persecution of the One who he'd just proclaimed to be God's chosen and anointed King-"You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God." (Matt 16:16).

Each time Jesus mentions what's coming the disciples seem to be a little cloudy in their thinking as to what is meant. Maybe they are too frightened to ask Jesus what it all might mean.

Now, here before their final journey into Jerusalem, Jesus repeats what is about to happen. I can't emphasize enough the importance of their expectations of the Messiah. There were 2 roles for the Messiah to play. One was that He would come and reign forever (as the son of David). The other was that He would come to die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world (as the son of Joseph). When you are under the foot of the Romans, you are definitely not looking for the Messiah to come and die. You want the Messiah that is going to deliver His people from this oppression. We can look back on this scene historically without emotion, knowing the facts, that this had to happen this way. But to the disciples, this was emotionally charged with their hopes and dreams of the Messiah's power of deliverance.

It's a little like that when we are awaiting the Lord's deliverance in our own lives today. We are so emotionally involved with our pain that we can't see what is really going on. God is up to something. God is always up to something that will work out better for you-to deliver you from where you are now into where He wants you to be next.

"For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). Easily said, but very difficult to trust in the middle of the conditions we may find ourselves. This is precisely the work that we are to do-to learn to trust that Jesus' loyal love toward us is eternally true. Nothing can separate you from the love of Jesus

Matthew 20:1-16


1 ``For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 ``When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 ``And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; 4 and to those he said, `You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' And so they went. 5 ``Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 ``And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, `Why have you been standing here idle all day long?' 7 ``They said to him, `Because no one hired us.' He said to them, `You go into the vineyard too.'

8 ``When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, `Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.' 9 ``When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius . 10 ``When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11 ``When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, 12 saying, `These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.' 13 ``But he answered and said to one of them, `Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 `Take what is yours and go, but 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 what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous ?' 16 ``So the last shall be first and the first last.''

As an illustration of the previous subject of being compensated by Jesus for our work in the kingdom, Jesus tells an interesting story--"the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard." Most pointedly Jesus is elaborating on the statement that many who are last will be first and the first last.

NOTE what the landowner does. He hires laborers to work for a day for a denarius. He hires laborers to work for him at around noon. He hires laborers to work for him at 3:00 pm. He hires laborers to work for him at 5:00 pm for only an hour.

THEN, the landowner paid them all a denarius. Those who worked an entire day were paid the same as those who worked one hour.

The symbolism appears to be straightforward-the householder or owner should be taken either as God the Father or Jesus (there is no real difference in meaning whichever is understood), the laborers are those who are called to become part of the Kingdom of Heaven (as opposed to being identified as disciples-they become disciples when they agree to work in the vineyard), the wages are eternal life or 'salvation' which has already been shown to be the subject of the one sentence warning of Matthew 19:30 and the vineyard is the world or Kingdom of Heaven (where Matthew 13:38 shows that Jesus taught that the entire world is God's Kingdom).

The overall thrust is that God calls laborers to work according to His own will and purpose and that He will reward them as He sees fit-a direct comment on Peter's question about what sort of reward they should expect for leaving everything and following after Jesus (Matthew 19:27). This parable seems to cut two ways: FIRST-Jesus will bring in outcasts and worse into the kingdom--those who have had little prior experience in good behavior. SECOND-Jesus is also speaking to the issue of those who have been with Him from the beginning, thinking that they are owed a bit more than the rest.

He's God and you are not!

Matthew 19:27-30


27 Then Peter said to Him, ``Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?'' 28 And Jesus said to them, ``Truly I say to you that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 ``And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 ``But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.

Peter's question was "What about us, Jesus?" This is not a self-promoting question, but Peter is looking for some affirmation from Jesus, looking for Jesus to confirm Peter's hope that he has made the right choices in giving up everything to follow Him.

NOTE that Jesus does give Peter (and all of us who follow Him) several benefits for following Him:

1-You will sit in judgment of the twelve tribes of Israel. 2-You will receive many times more what you give up for Him. 3-You will inherit eternal life.

Then, Jesus ends with the powerful truth and most important principle of the kingdom, "The first will be last and the last will be first." That's the way it is in the Kingdom of God versus your kingdom. All is topsy-turvy!

You see, in seeking a pleasant, conventional life, we "nullify the commandment of God by our tradition" (Matthew 15:3-6). We tend to seek wealth and possessions, even though Jesus warned of the "deceitfulness of riches" (Matthew 13:22). We seek safety and security, though Jesus taught us to live by faith. We all are kings of our own kingdoms and when we meet King Jesus, we must sign off as king of our kingdoms and bow to Jesus as the King of our lives. No matter what His orders are, we are assured by Jesus' words that we will reap major benefits for our submission to Him.

You can be assured that it will be worth it all someday when the regeneration of the world takes place and when we see Jesus face to face!