Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Matthew 11:20-30


20 Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21 ``Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 ``Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 ``And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. 24 ``Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.''

This cursing of 3 primary cities contains a remarkable prophecy. Jesus is condemning them to obliteration! It was in these three prominent fishing villages that Jesus performed most of His miracles, yet they rejected Him as the Messiah sent to deliver them. Since they had more light than most anywhere else and chose to reject this light from God, they will never be rebuilt again! Throughout history, although there have been serious attempts to rebuild these cities, they remain desolate today. Capernaum is a fascinating ruins that we visit, right on the Sea of Galilee. Bethsaida and Chorazin are up the hill away from the Sea a bit. Bethsaida is virtually unvisited and Chorazin is becoming more visible with some interesting ruins of people's houses from the 1st century.

25 At that time Jesus said, ``I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26 ``Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 27 ``All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

Jesus offers up a quick prayer, speaking of how the wise and intelligent (those who think they know and have it all) have not connected with the revelation of Jesus, yet the infants (those who have little, but are trusting) receive it freely. The key is how anyone receives the person of Jesus.

28 ``Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 ``Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30 ``For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.''

Jesus now offers the most simple explanation of what it means to believe in Jesus' way versus the ways of the religious. Remember the call of Matthew that illustrated how it works? The whole world is out to try to make themselves right before God by jumping through all sorts of hoops. That's religion-trying to avoid going to hell-conduct life in such a way so as to be accepted by God. Jesus only requires a personal relationship with Him-"Come to Me." It's a relationship-been to hell and don't want to go back. Much of the hell we experience in life is trying to conduct our lives in such a way so as to be accepted before God.

Jesus invites all who are sick and tired and weighed down by all of the do's and don'ts of trying to be acceptable to God, to simply come to Him. Just come to Jesus and He will give you rest. He gives you rest in two ways-salvation rest (you are accepted by God just the way you are) and rest for your soul (stop the treadmill of stress). This is the most amazing thing ever! Jesus is the only one who can make you acceptable, simply by coming to Him. He'll do the rest!

You see, when you are called to be a disciple, you are called to rest. I am just now understanding this. Although I have known the grace of God, I have been frantically "doing" everything I could do to prove that I am acceptable. I have acted more like a human "doing" rather than a human "being." Jesus wants me to simply come to Him, take on His yoke and learn from Him, so that I will find REST for my soul. This blows my mind!

Yokes were made of wood with two hollowed out sections on the bottom portion that rested on the necks of oxen, which used to plow or to draw a cart. Figuratively, a yoke symbolized servitude or submission. Jesus is admonishing us to submit ourselves to Him, for true rest comes from serving Him, not ourselves. A new ox was often trained for plowing or drawing a cart by yoking him with an experienced ox. The yoke kept the young ox from "doing his own thing" and he soon learned obedience to his master. In like manner, we are to commit ourselves to being yoked to Jesus (with another ox or two). Unlike the sometimes harsh treatment oxen are given to bring them into subjection, Jesus is "gentle and humble in heart," and wins us by His love. Jesus pulls more than His "share" of the load; therefore our burden is light. COME UNTO ME, all of you who are weary and burdened down and I will give you REST.

Matthew 11:7-19


7 As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, ``What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 ``But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings' palaces! 9 ``But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. 10 ``This is the one about whom it is written, `BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.' 11 ``Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 ``From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. 13 ``For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 ``And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. 15 ``He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

16 ``But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, 17 and say, `We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' 18 ``For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, `He has a demon!' 19 ``The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, `Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.''

Jesus began to speak to the multitudes about John the Baptist in Matt. 11:7-19. Notice Jesus said in verse 14, "If you care to accept it, he himself is Elijah, who was to come." Later, after the transfiguration of Jesus, the disciples asked Him, saying, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" (Mat.17:10). Jesus answered, "Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say unto you, that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him." Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist (Matt. 17:11-13). If Jesus said, "Elijah is to come" then it means there will be a coming of Elijah in the future, but He did not say that. Remember Jesus is the Son of God and the Prophet. The reason why the Jews were confused is because they thought there will be a literal Elijah who is to come. Read in John 1:19-34 about the Jewish leaders who were questioning John the Baptist if he is the Christ or Elijah (Mal 4:5-6) or the Prophet (Deut 18:15). John answered "no" to all of those questions. You might say, "But John said he is not Elijah." Yes, he is Elijah-like but not a literal Elijah. John the Baptist was sent by God from the Old Testament prophecies in Isaiah 40:3 and also in Malachi 3:1 as Jesus said.

The world conditions were ready for something different to catch their attention and turn their hearts toward God. There was much religiosity and secularism thriving at that time, but "authenticity" was woefully lacking. John's attractiveness was that he was authentic-the real deal. He took on a pose that was almost the opposite of the religious setting of the day and people were hungry for it. He didn't wear the flowing robes of the priestly or religious class, didn't operate in or around the beautiful Temple, didn't have a religious air to him, and was not playing games any longer. This authentic message of turning back to God (repentance) and looking for the Messiah was most refreshing, even if they had to travel out into the country to hear it.

NOTE that John came with a serious tone like singing a dirge at a funeral to catch the attention of those who were playing games with their faith. Jesus, on the other hand, came with more of a tone of a wedding party where music was being played for dancing. Yet, Jesus says that this generation responded negatively to both! To John they claimed he had a demon. To Jesus they were critical of His partying, calling Him a drunkard, gluttonous and a friend of sinners. "Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds" means that the actions of those who respond will speak most clearly and loudly.

One more interesting note here. Jesus says, ``Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. There is no one greater than John the Baptist born of women, yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. In the earthly sense, John is the greatest with the greatest human mission-to introduce the Messiah to the world. However, when it comes to the kingdom, even the least enjoys a greater positioning than John. John was preparing the way for the King. Those in the kingdom enjoy the king and all of its riches.

It seems we live in a very similar context today in our world-filled with religiosity, spiritualism and secularism. We are in need of a breath of authenticity like never before. In a day when the mega-church is easily made into a distant show to watch and enjoy without personal engagement and where the small church can easily be so boring with the predictable program and needs, where personal engagement leads to certain burnout. We desperately need authenticity! I believe that authenticity is to be found among those who are interested in walking with Jesus, walking with others and waiting for Jesus to lead out. In other words, authenticity today must come from many Elijah-like followers of Jesus who are preparing the way for the Messiah to show up, "where two or three gather in My name, there I will be in their midst."

Matthew 11:1-6


1 When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities.

2 Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to Him, ``Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?'' 4 Jesus answered and said to them, ``Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. 6 ``And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.''

What is going on here? John has already pronounced Jesus as Messiah, so why the question through his disciples here? He was well aware that Jesus was the Messiah (John 1:29; Luke 3:22) and had heard from prison the things Jesus was doing among the people-miracle after miracle that could only come from God, even raising the dead back to life!

There are three thoughts for your consideration: John must have been terribly disappointed with Jesus. Jesus didn't fit the mold of what John was expecting entirely. Some were saying that Jesus had a demon (Matthew 12:24; John 8:48). Others reported that Jesus was a drunkard and glutton (Matthew 11:19). Still others said that He was crazy (Mark 3:21, 31-35). We always try to fit Jesus into a mold-our mold. It doesn't matter whether God is fulfilling what He claims to be and to do, we still have our images and caricatures. Every time I think I have God figured out, He surprises me BIG TIME. It's not that He acts out of character, but that He is the God of gods and supersedes most every expectation I can muster!

John was also confused by Jesus' message. It was not quite the same approach as John. John's message was filled with truth and destruction. Jesus' message was filled with truth and love. He was filled with grace and truth. This was a powerful difference!

NOTE that John is not asking whether or not Jesus is the Messiah as much as he is asking is there another Messiah. One of the great opinions of first-century Judaism concerning the Messiah, was the idea of there being two Messiahs. The two Messiah concept was prevalent among the Jews. There was to be Messiah ben Joseph (son of Joseph)-the suffering Messiah who would fulfill the duties of priest and would be killed for the sins of the world. The other was Messiah ben David (son of David)-the victorious Messiah who would bring Israel to glory, fulfilling the role of king and would live forever. So, in keeping with the two Messiah concept, yet a bit confused about the manner in which Jesus appeared, John asks if they are to be seeking another Messiah as well. You see, when you are in a Roman prison, this is a great time to have Messiah ben David to show up-to kick the tuchus of the Romans and bring Israel to its kingdom glory. This is no time for Messiah ben Joseph-the Messiah who will be killed as a sacrifice.

Jesus does something that is fascinating to me. He quotes the prophet Isaiah as He answers the question by quoting the passage that might best be attributed to the victorious Messiah ben David and Jesus adds a curious act to the list of what the Messiah will do-the raising of the dead. There are not two Messiahs! Both of these concepts of Messiah are all wrapped up into one-His name is Jesus. The only possible way for the two messiahs to be brought into one is the resurrection of the dead. "Messiah ben Joseph" must come, be sacrificed and die as the Lamb of God for the sins of the world and "Messiah ben David" must come and reign as king forever on planet earth. The only possible way for that to happen is to have the Messiah come to be sacrificed for the sins of the world (the first coming of Jesus), be resurrected by God and some come again to reign forever (the second coming of Jesus).

So Jesus' answer here is listen to what I am saying and watch what I am doing and then you'll know the Messiah completely! The same is true for us today! Jesus is the Messiah-our Deliverer from the sin that separates us from ourselves, others and God-and He is the only way we will ever make it out of here alive!

Matthew 10:40-42


40 ``He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 ``He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. 42 ``And whoever, in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.''

In this fresh and direct passage regarding being a disciple of Jesus and what it is going to cost, Jesus turns the subject toward the great reward that will come to those who receive or welcome these disciples into their lives and homes. He uses "receives" (welcomes) 8 times and speaks of "reward" 3 times.

"When Jesus said this, he was using a way of speaking which the Jews regularly used. The Jew always felt that to receive a person's envoy or messenger was the same as to receive the person himself. To pay respect to an ambassador was the same as to pay respect to the king who had sent him. To welcome with love the messenger of a friend was the same as to welcome the friend himself. The Jew always felt that to honor a person's representative was the same as to honor the person whose representative he was. This was particularly so in regard to wise men and to those who taught God's truth.

NOTE that all 4 players in salvation are present in this scenario: 1-There is God out of whose love the whole process of salvation began. 2-There is Jesus who brought the message to men. 3-There is the human messenger-the prophet who speaks, the good (righteous) man who is an example & the disciple who is the learner-who passes it on. 4-There is the believer who welcomes God's message and messengers and therefore find life for their souls.

NOTE: FIRST-We cannot all be prophets, but the one who gives God's messenger the simple gift of hospitality will receive the same reward as the prophet he blesses! SECOND-We cannot all be shining examples of goodness and righteousness, but the one who helps a good man to be good receives a good man's reward! THIRD-We cannot all teach the child or learner (young believer), but we can all serve the child.

NOTE it is the simplest of things that will be rewarded with great reward! To simply give a cup of cold water only to a little one is noticed and rewarded by God!

Although it is often downplayed, there are many who give of their time, service or money to keep a ministry going or keep a prophet, a teacher, a righteous man or keep a young one in the faith who is learning toward continuing this process. Jesus is saying that within the kingdom there are many roles to play and they will not go unnoticed, but will be specifically and specially rewarded. You will be rewarded with the same reward by which you received the messengers of Jesus!