Sunday, June 29, 2008

Matthew 24:1-3


1 Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. 2 And He said to them, ``Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.'' 3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ``Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?''

This is a fascinating interaction between Jesus and His disciples. Jesus, standing outside the magnificent Temple, says that this Temple will be utterly destroyed. The disciples come back at Him with 3 questions: 1. When will the Temple be destroyed? 2. What will be the sign of Your coming again in glory? 3. What will be the sign of the end of the age?

Let's begin by rehearsing Jesus' answer: 20 ``But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. 21 ``Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; 22 because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. 23 ``Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; 24 and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Luke 21:20-24

Jesus' answer is: the Temple will be destroyed WHEN you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies. This happened around 66 A.D. The Roman armies surrounded Jerusalem and when the capture of the city proved to be more difficult than expected, they sent out for more supplies. It was during this time that those who heeded Jesus' warning, actually fled the city to save their lives. There is a well-founded Jewish tradition that the followers of Jesus did flee the city during the time of re-supplying the troops and not one Messianic believer in Jesus died in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Roman General, Titus.

This prophecy was fulfilled in a close enough time period where people could actually see its fulfillment. The other two questions have a long-term nature to them and very difficult to understand for sure.

Matthew 23:37-39


37 ``Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 ``Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39 ``For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, `BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!' ''

I love the Old City of Jerusalem. When we share Israel with people, we always begin in the Galilee area and then move south and up to Jerusalem. Entering that city is one of the most dramatic experiences to me. I have entered Jerusalem well over 100 times and I never have lost the thrill of it.

Yet in the 1st Century, Jerusalem was even more magnificent! Herod's Temple must have been a most amazing site to behold with all of its gold and splendor!

I can imagine Jesus looking over the city with His heart filled with grief and compassion and saying those words above. He had presented Himself as God's Messiah, yet was rejected like so many of God's prophets who were sent before. His heart is broken and He knows the coming destruction of this grand city and its people is drawing near (70 A.D.).

Then Jesus makes a curious statement , "you will not see Me until you say, BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD." Or, you will not see Me again until you welcome Me as God's Messiah for you. There is an interesting progression of passages throughout the prophets that all speak of the Jewish people (following their leadership) committing one primary sin and that sin is the rejection of God's Messiah. Then the Prophet Hosea presents the words of God saying, "I will go away (from earth) and return to My place (heaven). Until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face. In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me." And then Jesus makes this statement in Matthew that they will not see Him again until they are ready to welcome Him to return. Whatever this all means in the days ahead, you can be assured that it is our responsibility as followers of Jesus to be ready and willing to welcome Him back as God's Messiah, His Deliverer, for us.

In other words, the emphasis of our lives must be to pay attention to the present-the nasty now and now-and not hyperventilate or speculate on the future of when Jesus will return. He is coming back, but that's his business. Our business is to be ready by being faithful to him.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Matthew 23:29-36


29 ``Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, `If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31 ``So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 ``Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 ``You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell ? ``Therefore,, behold, I am sending you prophets and 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 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 ``Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation."

Jesus points out how the Scribes and Pharisees take care of the tombs of the martyrs and beautify their memorials and make the claim that, if they had lived in the old days, they would not have killed the prophets and the men of God. But that is exactly what they would have done, and what they are going to do shortly.

Jesus is quite clear that the murder taint is still there. He knows that now he must die, and that in the days to come his messengers will be persecuted and ill-treated, rejected and killed.

He says that this blight of murder among the leadership of the Jewish people has occurred from the beginning! He says from Cain to Zacharias. In the Hebrew bible the first book is Genesis (the first murder involving Cain) and the last book is II Chronicles (the last murder in the biblical story was Zacharias). Jesus is saying that "rejection" even to the point of murdering God's chosen men, has been the nature of the Jewish leadership throughout their history. What a tragedy! God's chosen people, greatly loved, has continually turned against God and there will be a day of reckoning.

We must evaluate our own lives today. We are the only message of the love of God that most people have today. They will either see the love of God in and through us or they won't. So, are you a clear light that attracts others or do you stand as a hindrance?

Matthew 23:27-28


27 ``Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. 28 ``So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Any Jew of that time would have instantly understood Jesus' reference to the tombs. First, making their way to Jerusalem, they would have come across many tombs along their way. Remember, anyone who touched a dead body became unclean (Num 19:16), therefore anyone who came into contact with a tomb automatically became unclean. With so many tombs and such great crowds traveling to Jerusalem for the Feasts, they used to whitewash the tombs in order to alert the traveler of its presence.

Second, when walking outside the Temple, one could easily see the massive tombs on the hillside of the Mount of Olives. Both of these sites were very evident to the Jew of that time.

So, these tombs glistened white on the outside, but within they were full of bones and bodies whose touch would defile a man. This was the picture Jesus presented of the Pharisees. Spiritually glistening on the outside, yet spiritually dead on the inside! This continued the theme that Jesus was driving home, internal over the external.

God looks upon the heart; man is attracted to the outward appearance. So, let your life be a focus on the inside and the outside will take care of itself.

Matthew 23:25-26


25 ``Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 ``You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

The idea of uncleanness is continually arising in the Jewish Law. It must be remembered that this uncleanness was not physical uncleanness. An unclean vessel was not in our sense of the term a dirty vessel. For a person to be ceremonially unclean meant that he could not enter the Temple or the synagogue; he was barred from worshipping God.

Some of the laws concerning uncleanness: 1. A man was unclean if he touched a dead body or came into contact with a Gentile.

2. A woman was unclean if she had a hemorrhage, even if that hemorrhage was perfectly normal and healthy.

3. If a person who was himself unclean touched any vessel, that vessel became unclean; and, thereafter, any other person who touched or handled the vessel became in turn unclean. Therefore is was very important to have vessels cleansed; and the Pharisaical laws for cleansing them is amazingly complex. 

For instance, an earthen vessel which is hollow becomes unclean only on the inside and not on the outside; and it can be cleansed only by being broken. A flat plate without a rim, an open coal-shovel, a grid-iron with holes in it for parching grains of wheat cannot be clean at all. On the other hand, a plate with a rim, or an earthen spice-box, or a writing-case can become unclean. Of vessels made of leather, bone, wood and glass, flat ones do not become unclean; deep ones do. If they are broken, they become clean. Any metal vessel which is at once smooth and hollow can become unclean; but a door, a bolt, a lock, a hinge, a knocker cannot become unclean. If a thing is made of wood and metal, then the wood can become unclean, but the metal cannot. These regulations seem to us fantastic, and yet these are the regulations the Pharisees meticulously kept. 

The food or drink inside a vessel might have been obtained by cheating or extortion or theft; it might be luxurious and gluttonous; that did not matter, so long as the vessel itself was ceremonially clean. This is another example of fussing about trifles and letting the weightier matters go. 
This can still happen today. Some believe it's unclean to have rock-like music in the church service, some want only hymns, some hold to a certain translation of the Bible, others want those who are up front to be dressed a certain way-no flops or sandals, no jeans, some want choirs to wear robes. A local fellowship can find themselves in an uproar when disagreement occurs over the colors in the carpet or walls, or the architecture of a building or the atmosphere within that building.

Can you say, "IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER!"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Matthew 23:23-24


23 ``Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 ``You blind guides who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

The point of Jesus' saying is this. It was universally accepted that tithes of the main crops must be given. But mint and dill and cummin are herbs of the kitchen garden and would not be grown in any quantity; a person would have only a little patch of them. All three were used in cooking, and dill and cummin had medicinal uses.

To tithe them was to tithe an infinitesimally small crop, maybe not much more than the produce of one plant. Only those who were super meticulous would tithe the single plants of the kitchen garden. 

This is exactly what the Pharisees were like. They were so absolutely meticulous about tithes that they would tithe even one clump of mint; and yet these same men could be guilty of injustice; could be hard and arrogant and cruel, forgetting the claims of mercy; could take oaths and pledges and promises with the deliberate intention of evading them, forgetting any sense of right and wrong. In other words, many of them kept the trifles of the Law and forgot the things which really matter. 

Jesus uses a vivid illustration of straining out a gnat. A gnat was an insect and therefore unclean; and so was a camel. In order to avoid the risk of drinking anything unclean, wine was strained out, so that any possible impurity might be strained out of it. This is a humorous picture which must have raised a laugh of a man carefully straining his wine through gauze to avoid swallowing a microscopic insect and yet cheerfully most willingly swallows a camel. It is the picture of a man who has completely lost his sense of proportion.

They majored in the minors and minored in the majors! And its still going on today.

Matthew 23:16-22


16 ``Woe to you, blind guides, who say, `Whoever, swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever, swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.' 17 ``You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 ``And, `Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.' 19 ``You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering ? 20 ``Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21 ``And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22 ``And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.

In verses 13-15 we saw that the legalism of the Pharisees actually served to shut others out of the Kingdom.

"We have already seen that in matters of oaths the Jewish legalists were masters of evasion (Matt 5:33-37). The general principle of evasion was this. To the Jew an oath was absolutely binding, so long as it was a binding oath. A binding oath was an oath which definitely and without equivocation employed the name of God; such an oath must be kept, no matter what the cost. Any other oath might be legitimately broken. The idea was that, if God's name was actually used, then God was introduced as a partner into the transaction, and to break the oath was not only to break faith with men but to insult God."

Jesus is saying, "You have brought evasion to such a fine art that it is possible to regard an oath by the Temple as not binding, while an oath by the gold of the Temple is binding; and an oath by the altar as not binding, while an oath by the gift on the altar is binding." The whole idea of treating oaths in this way, the whole conception of a kind of technique of evasion, is born out of deceitfulness. The truly spiritual man will never make a promise with the deliberate intention of evading it; he will never, as he makes it, provide himself with a series of escape routes, which he may use if he finds his promise hard to keep. For Jesus your oath is bound in two ways. God hears every word we speak and God sees every intention of our hearts.

This was legalism at its best! Legalism lurks around every corner with all of its man-made distortions. It's so tempting for us all and easy to slip into at most every level. Life is not that complicated. What is required for salvation? JESUS. What is required for holy living? JESUS.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Matthew 23:13-15


13 ``But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people ; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 ``Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore, you will receive greater condemnation.

15 ``Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

Here Jesus directs a series of seven woes against the Scribes and Pharisees. Each one begins with "Woe to you!" The word connotes anger and sorrow. The word hypocrite occurs here several times. In the Greek, the word 'hupokrites' had to do with a dialogue on stage, which described an actor. Later, the word had a negative connotation which meant a pretender, one who acts a part, one who wears a mask to cover his true feelings, one who puts on an external show while inwardly his thoughts and feelings are very different. 

To Jesus the Scribes and Pharisees were men who were acting a part. Their whole idea of religion consisted in outward observances, the wearing of elaborate phylacteries and tassels, the meticulous observance of the rules and regulations of the Law. But in their hearts there was bitterness and envy and pride and arrogance. To Jesus these Scribes and Pharisees were men who, under a mask of elaborate godliness, concealed hearts in which the most godless feelings and emotions held sway. 

There is even an earlier understanding of 'hupokrites' and that is to be hyper-critical. This is precisely what these religious leaders were all about. When people tried to find entry into the Kingdom, the Pharisees presented them with these hypercritical rules and regulations, which was as good as shutting the door in their faces. 

Jesus accused these Pharisees of being missionaries of evil. The sin of the Pharisees was that they were not really seeking to lead men to God, they were seeking to lead them to Pharisaism. This is the same as being more concerned about getting people into church rather than being into a personal relationship with God.

The greatest of all heresies is the sinful conviction that any Church or people has a monopoly of God or of his truth, or that any Church is the only gateway to God's Kingdom. We must come to grips with the fact that Christianity doesn't own Jesus! Jesus is God's Messiah to the entire world-to every culture and to every people group.

Matthew 23:1-12


1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: ``The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. 4 ``They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling, to move them with so much as a finger. 5 ``But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 ``They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. 8 ``But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 ``Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 ``Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 ``But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 ``Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

Remember that Jesus grew up in the Pharisaical culture of Judaism. He knew it well and is here beginning to point out the distortions.

The Pharisees did three things that were a constant distortion of following the Christ:

FIRST--They made religion a burden upon everyone! Their whole outlook on religion had one fundamental effect. It made it a thing of thousands upon thousands of rules and regulations; and therefore it made it an intolerable burden.

SECOND--They made religion into a show! The religion of the Pharisees became almost inevitably a religion of ostentation. If religion consists in obeying countless rules and regulations, it becomes easy for a man to see to it that everyone is aware how well he fulfills the regulations and how perfect is his piety. Jesus selects certain actions and customs in which the Pharisees showed their ostentation.

THIRD--They elevated one above another! They lifted up the "holy" ones who performed this externalism best. They graded totally on the curve.

Do you see any of these things going on today?

Jesus' classic statement, "Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted." Is forever true. Humble yourself and be exalted by God Himself or exalt yourself and be humbled by God Himself!

Matthew 22:41-46


41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question: 42 ``What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?'' They said to Him, ``The son of David.'' 43 He said to them, ``Then how does David in the Spirit call Him `Lord,' saying, 44 `THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, ``SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I PUT YOUR ENEMIES BENEATH YOUR FEET'''? 45 ``If David then calls Him `Lord,' how is He his son?'' 46 No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question.

We have seen again and again that Jesus refused to allow his followers to proclaim him as the Messiah until he had taught them what Messiahship meant. Their ideas of Messiahship needed the most radical change.

The most common title of the Messiah was Son of David. Behind it was the expectation that one day a great prince would come of the line of David, who would shatter Israel's enemies and lead the people to the conquest of all nations.

The Messiah was most commonly thought of in nationalistic, political, military terms of power and glory. Here is another attempt by Jesus to alter that conception. 

He asked the Pharisees whose son they understood the Messiah to be: they answered, as he knew they would, "David's son." Jesus then quotes Psalm 10:1: "The Lord says to my Lord; Sit at my right hand."

All accepted that as a Messianic text. In it the first Lord is God; the second Lord is the Messiah. David calls the Messiah Lord. But, if the Messiah is David's son, how could David call his own son Lord? 

The clear result of the argument is that it is not adequate to call the Messiah Son of David. He is not David's son; he is David's Lord. When Jesus healed the blind men, they called him Son of David (Matt 20:30). When he entered Jerusalem the crowds hailed him as Son of David (Matt 21:9). Jesus is here saying, "It is not enough to call the Messiah Son of David. It is not enough to think of him as a Prince of David's line and an earthly conqueror. You must go beyond that, for the Messiah is David's Lord." 

What did Jesus mean? He can have meant only one thing--that the true description of him is Son of God. Son of David is not an adequate title; only Son of God will do. And, if that be so, Messiahship is not to be thought of in terms of Davidic conquest, but in terms of divine and sacrificial love. Here, then, Jesus makes his greatest claim. In him there came, not the earthly conqueror who would repeat the military triumphs of David, but the Son of God who would demonstrate the love of God upon his Cross-His sacrificial love for the entire world.

Matthew 22:23-40


23 On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Jesus and questioned Him, 24 asking, ``Teacher, Moses said, `IF A MAN DIES HAVING NO CHILDREN, HIS BROTHER AS NEXT OF KIN SHALL MARRY HIS WIFE, AND RAISE UP CHILDREN FOR HIS BROTHER.' 25 ``Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother; 26 so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh. 27 ``Last of all, the woman died. 28 ``In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her.'' 

29 But Jesus answered and said to them, ``You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 ``For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 ``But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: 32 `I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.''

33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. 

34 But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together,. 35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 ``Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?'' 37 And He said to him, `` `YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' 38 ``This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 ``The second is like it, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' 40 ``On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.''

NOTE Jesus was very simple and straight-forward as He was attacked by differing factions: 1. You are mistaken. 2. You don't understand the Scriptures. 3. You don't understand the power of God. 4. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living! 5. The bottom-line is to LOVE GOD AND TO LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOU LOVE YOUSELF.

There is nothing complicated about Jesus or His message. He is irresistibly simple, just the opposite of what our nature seems to be-to complicate most everything. This is why Jesus always unites and religion always divides!

Matthew 22:15-22


15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. 16 And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, ``Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. 17 ``Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar or not?'' 18 But Jesus perceived their malice , and said, ``Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? 19 ``Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.'' And they brought Him a denarius . 20 And He said to them, ``Whose likeness and inscription is this?'' 21 They said to Him, ``Caesar's.'' Then He said to them, ``Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's.'' 22 And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away.

There is nothing like a stroll into the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem to be able to picture this encounter! The competition among the rabbis in much the same way as we all experience the constant comparison between theological positions. Jesus refuses to be caught up into the fray. He uses what I call a CS approach to the question-COMMON SENSE. Jesus goes right to the heart of the issue and blows away their pretence and all of their traps and theological positions by pointing out the down-to-earth, obvious. Jesus refuses to step in the crapola they are spreading before Him, but answers the question cleanly and clearly!

NOTE they were amazed! They weren't used to this kind of CS approach. I see it more clearly every day. Jesus is the irresistible One! So, lift Jesus up whenever you can without any religious trappings and you will be amazed at how attractive He really is.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Matthew 22:11-14


11 ``But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, 12 and he said to him, `Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And the man was speechless. 13 ``Then the king said to the servants, `Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' 14 ``For many are called , but few are chosen.''

This is a second parable, but it is also a very close continuation and amplification of the previous one. It is the story of a guest who appeared at a royal wedding feast without a wedding garment. 

One of the great interests of this parable is that in it we see Jesus taking a story which was already familiar to his hearers and using it in his own way.

"The Rabbis had two stories which involved kings and garments. The first told of a king who invited his guests to a feast without telling them the exact date and time; but he did tell them that they must wash, and anoint, and clothe themselves that they might be ready when the summons came. The wise prepared themselves at once, and took their places waiting at the palace door, for they believed that in a palace a feast could be prepared so quickly that there would be no long warning. The foolish believed that it would take a long time to make the necessary preparations and that they would have plenty of time. So they went, the mason to his lime, the potter to his clay, the smith to his furnace, the fuller to his bleaching-ground, and went on with their work. Then, suddenly, the summons to the feast came without any warning. The wise were ready to sit down and the king rejoiced over them and they ate and drank. But those who had not arrayed themselves in their wedding garments had to stand outside, sad and hungry, and look on at the joy that they had lost. That rabbinic parable tells of the duty of preparedness for the summons of God, and the garments stand for the preparation that must be made."

"The second rabbinic parable told how a king entrusted to his servants royal robes. Those who were wise took the robes, and carefully stored them away, and kept them in all their pristine loveliness. Those who were foolish wore the robes to their work, and soiled and stained them. The day came when the king demanded the robes back. The wise handed them back fresh and clean; so the king laid up the robes in his treasury and bade them go in peace. The foolish handed them back stained and soiled. The king commanded that the robes should be given to the fuller to cleanse, and that the foolish servants should be cast into prison. This parable teaches that a man must hand back his soul to God in all its original purity; but that the man who has nothing but a stained soul to render back stands condemned." No doubt Jesus had these two parables in mind when He told his own story. What, then, was he seeking to teach? This parable also contains both a local and a universal lesson.

FIRST--The local lesson is that Jesus has just said that the king, to supply his feast with guests, sent his messengers out into the highways and byways to gather all men in. That was the parable of the open door. It told how the Gentiles and the sinners would be gathered in. This parable strikes the necessary balance. It is true that the door is open to all men, but when they come they must bring a life which seeks to fit the love which has been given to them. Grace is not only a gift; it is a grave responsibility. A man cannot go on living the life he lived before he met Jesus Christ. He must be clothed in a new purity and a new holiness and a new goodness. He is a new creation-old things pass away and new things come!

SECOND--Then there is the permanent lesson. The way in which a man comes to anything demonstrates the spirit in which he comes. If we go to visit in a friend's house, we do not go in the clothes we wear in the shipyard or the garden. We know very well that it is not the clothes which matter to the friend. It is not that we want to put on a show. It is simply a matter of respect that we should present ourselves in our friend's house as neatly as we can. The fact that we prepare ourselves to go there is the way in which we outwardly show our affection and our esteem for our friend. So it is with God's house. This parable has nothing to do with the clothes in which we go to church; it has everything to do with the spirit in which we go to God's house. There are garments of the mind and of the heart and of the soul-the garment of expectation, the garment of humility, the garment of faith, the garment of reverence-and these are the garments without which we ought not to approach God.

So we see a contrast in these last two parables between joy and judgment! In some sense, it is like the balancing act of Law and Grace. We receive Jesus with all of the benefits, yet there are some demands upon our lives from that day forward. He has given me all of these amazing things by grace-unmerited on my part-and now He wants me to act like it.

Matthew 22:1-10


1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, 2 ``The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. 3 ``And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast and they were unwilling to come. 4 ``Again he sent out other slaves saying, `Tell those who have been invited, ``Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.''' 5 ``But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, 6 and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. 7 ``But the king was enraged and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. 8 ``Then he said to his slaves, `The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 `Go therefore to the main highways and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.' 10 ``Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. 

There are two parables back to back here in verses 1-14. The events of the first of the two were completely in accordance with normal Jewish customs. When the invitations to a great feast, like a wedding feast, were sent out, the time was not stated and when everything was ready the servants were sent out with a final summons to tell the guests to come. So, then, the king in this parable had sent out his invitations long ago, but it was not till everything was prepared that the final summons was issued-and insultingly refused. This parable has two meanings.

1. It has a purely local meaning. Its local meaning was a driving home of what had already been said in the Parable of the Wicked Vine-Growers; once again it was an accusation of the Jewish leadership. The invited guests who when the time came refused to come, stand for the Jewish leadership. Ages ago they had been invited by God to be his chosen people; yet when God's son came into the world, and they were invited to follow Him they contemptuously refused. The result was that the invitation of God went out direct to the highways and the byways; and the people in the highways and the byways stand for the sinners and the Gentiles, who never expected an invitation into the Kingdom.

2. This parable also has much to say on a much wider scale.

a. God's invitation is an invitation to joy, not gloom!

b. It reminds us that the things which make men deaf to the invitation of Christ are not necessarily bad in themselves. One man went to his estate; the other to his business. These weren't bad things, but normal things, when the good gets in the way of the best!

c. It reminds us that the appeal of Christ is not so much to consider how we will be punished as it is to see what we will miss, if we do not take his way of things.

d. It reminds us that in the last analysis God's invitation is the invitation of grace. Those who were gathered in from the highways and the byways had no claim on the king at and they could never by any stretch of imagination have expected an invitation to the wedding feast, much less could they ever have deserved it. It came to them from nothing other than the wide-armed, open-hearted, generous hospitality of the king. It was grace which offered the invitation and grace which gathered men in.

The only way anyone will get into the Kingdom is by the grace of God-unmerited favor from God, Himself!

Matthew 21:42-46


42 Jesus said to them, ``Did you never read in the Scriptures, `THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone; THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES'? 43 ``Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people , producing the fruit of it. 44 ``And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever, it falls, it will scatter him like dust.'' 

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. 46 When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.

Leadership is always the problem! As was prophesied in the Scriptures, the builders (leadership) will reject God's Messiah (the stone) and this Stone turned out to be the chief corner stone, which is the foundation for the building itself! Builders, the leadership, tend to like that position of the "vine-growers" we saw in the preceding paragraph. They tend to like that position, that power, that place of influence. It's a "safe" place for them never to share their vulnerabilities (in fact, they must cover them up), never to share their hearts (this would be too 'out of control'), rarely to be in a place of learning, unless what I'm learning also strengthens their position of power (besides, the leaders ought to know most everything worth knowing).

I have found the kingdom kids to be really super, loving and vibrant people as long as they are careful to walk like Jesus, talk like Jesus, think like Jesus and love like Jesus. However, if kingdom kids take on the attitudes of the local "vine-grower" even when they are in opposition to that of Jesus, it is an ugly thing to behold or experience! This is why Jesus warns the leadership that they will be given the worst judgment, if they lead the little ones (young believers) astray, away from the person and teachings of Jesus.

It all comes down to the same thing. It's all about Jesus!

Matthew 21:33-41


33 ``Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT AND DUG A WINE PRESS IN IT, AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine -growers and went on a journey. 34 ``When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. 35 ``The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. 36 ``Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. 37 ``But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son.' 38 ``But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.' 39 ``They took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 ``Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?'' 41 They said to Him, ``He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.''

BINGO! They got it right! Remember that every parable, even every story is about Jesus. No matter the incident, you will find that you can get to know Jesus better as you reference Him in the passage. This one is quite direct!

The vine-growers (the established leadership of the vineyard, synagogue, spiritual directors) had a good thing going!

FIRST--They had a position in the community.

SECOND--They had the power to what goes in the community.

THIRD--They were fearful of losing this position of power.

FOURTH--They rejected those who spoke up of a better way to do life.

FIFTH--They then rejected the son, the heir, because of their jealousy and fear of losing their position of power.

SIXTH--What they didn't realize was that all they had-position, power, work-was given to them by the landowner-the Lord!

In this parable Jesus is referring to the Jewish leadership's rejection of His prophets and then the Son of the Landowner, Jesus. Once the Landowner returns, He will offer this position to other vine-growers (possibly to the gentiles).

All that we have is the Lord's and we are responsible only to Him and His Son, Jesus!

Matthew 21:28-32


28 ``But what do you think? A man had two sons and he came to the first and said, `Son, go work today in the vineyard.' 29 ``And he answered, `I will not'; but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 ``The man came to the second and said the same thing and he answered, `I will, sir'; but he did not go. 31 ``Which of the two did the will of his father?'' They said, ``The first.'' Jesus said to them, ``Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. 32 ``For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.

GREAT STORY and so relevant today! The meaning is crystal clear! The Jewish leadership are those who said they would obey and then did not. The tax-gatherers and the harlots are those who said that they would go their own way and then came back home to God.

NOTE that the parable doesn't praise anyone. It is setting before us a picture of two very imperfect sets of people. One set was no better than the other. Neither son in the story was the kind of son to bring full joy to his father. Both were unsatisfactory, but the one who in the end obeyed was incalculably better than the other. The ideal son would be the son who accepted the father's orders with obedience and with respect and who unquestioningly and fully carried them out. But there are truths in this parable which go far beyond the situation in which it was first spoken. 

It tells us that there are two very common classes of people in this world.

First-there are the people whose profession is much better than their practice. They will promise anything; they make great claims of piety and fidelity, but their practice lags far behind.

Second-there are those whose practice is far better than their profession. They go out seeking anything but God and Godly things, but later come back to Him. 
The real point of the parable is that, while the second class are infinitely to be preferred to the first, neither is anything like perfect. The really good man is the man in whom profession and practice meet and match. OR, the really good man is the one who decides to come home to the heart of his Father-God. This is a prodigal son parable in a different format, without the specifics of the drama. All of us must come home-come back to our Creator God, our Father.

So, which one are you-the one who is home and walks away or the one who was away and came home?