Monday, March 24, 2008

Matthew 12:46-50


46 While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. 47 Someone said to Him, ``Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.'' 48 But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, ``Who is My mother and who are My brothers?'' 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ``Behold My mother and My brothers! 50 ``For whoever, does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.''

For whatever reason Mary and the brothers of Jesus showed up and interrupted His speech to the crowds. Jesus took this opportunity to turn the situation into a most amazing teaching moment.

This is one of those moments in Jesus' ministry that sizzles with intensity, drama, and significance. Jesus words would clearly be hurtful to his physical family that was already struggling to know how to understand his ministry. Also, these words would be freeing and empowering to those who had always felt left out of the political order, pushed aside by the religious elite and disenfranchised by the social structure of their day. Jesus was promising that his family would be determined by faith and obedience-not blood, not genealogy, not politics, not power, and not money. That offer still stands today and the promise is just as true for us as it was for those who first heard Jesus' words.

So, we who trust Jesus and follow Him (do the will of My Father) are family to Him. We are the brothers and sisters of Jesus! Now wait just a minute! That means then that we are also related to one another. You see, this was the shock the disciples faced in the Upper Room experience when Jesus said that He had a new commandment for them that they should love one another as He loved them. The disciples had eagerly signed on to love and be loved by Jesus, the Messiah, but to love one another was altogether different! The disciples must have felt in their hearts, "Jesus, do you mean that I must love this former tax-collector, these fishing industry execs and workers, this one who not only puts his foot in his mouth but changes feet while talking, this doubter who can't seem to make up his mind, this radical zealot who is filled with such anger toward the government, these brothers who are so impatient that they are continually bringing up suggestions for God to strike others with lightning, these New Testament 'nobodies'? You want me to love them?"

In the kingdom we are family members with all of the similarities, differences and peculiarities of family. Jesus wants us to act like it! This fits in so well with what we keep teaching about hanging out with one another-eating, praying, studying and fellowshipping together-AS FAMILY!

Matthew 12:38-45


In Matthew 12, Jesus confronts the Pharisees who couldn't believe that Jesus was the Messiah. This entire chapter describes the mounting hatred that the religious leaders had against Jesus. These Pharisees were hard-hearted legalists who thought that Jesus was a Satanic Sabbath-breaker. Jesus is saying some very hard things to these people. Several weeks ago we studied the text where Jesus called the Pharisees an evil "brood of vipers" (verse 34). In today's text, Jesus calls them "an evil and adulterous generation" (verse 39). Some would say that Jesus wasn't being too Christ-like in His response to these people. Jesus was hard with them, because hard hearts need hard truth.

Jesus reserved His hardest words for those who had been exposed to the most evidence and yet had refused to believe in Him. Jesus was gentle, loving, and kind towards those people who knew little of God's truth such as the sinning tax-collector or harlots. These people loved Jesus for His compassion. But Jesus dealt very harshly with the Pharisees who knew much but remained unrepentant. The worst of all these was Judas of whom Jesus spoke very condemningly. Judas had walked with Jesus and ate with Jesus and learned one-on-one from Jesus. But Jesus said, "It would have been good for that man if he had not been born" (Matt. 26:24). Why? Because despite all the light that Judas experienced, he ultimately ended in unbelief and betrayal.

This is all about unbelief! NOTE the various dimensions of unbelief. 38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, ``Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.'' 39 But He answered and said to them, ``An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; 1. UNBELIEF ALWAYS WANTS MORE PROOF. This kind of unbelief is certainly prevalent today!

and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40 for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 2. UNBELIEF TENDS TO NEGLECT REAL PROOF.

41 ``The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 ``The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 3. UNBELIEF ALWAYS HAS ADDITIONAL TESTIMONY THAT WILL VERIFY. Jesus brings up two historical events-Jonah's preaching to the Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba's visit to Solomon. They will give condemning testimony in the last day.

43 ``Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. 44 ``Then it says, `I will return to my house from which I came'; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. 45 ``Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.'' 4. UNBELIEF LEFT UNCHECKED WILL MULTIPLY. Even those who heard John's teaching and accepted it somewhat didn't embrace it for themselves and receive this teaching into their heart of belief. And because they did not genuinely receive the truth by faith, they become vulnerable for a multiple of unclean spirits to fill up the void that is left by UNBELIEF.

NOTE that Jesus isn't concerned about "church" or "synagogue" membership or participation in a religious program or organization, but His primary concern is all about faith. He wants you to be interested and follow that interest with personal faith. Personal faith has 3 dimensions:

1-Knowledge of the facts. 2-Agreement with the truth about those facts. 3-Personal trust in that knowledge and agreement. It's the personal trust that makes all the difference.

Matthew 12:22-37


22 Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. 23 All the crowds were amazed and were saying, ``This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?'' 24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ``This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.''

25 And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, ``Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 ``If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? 27 ``If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason, they will be your judges. 28 ``But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 ``Or how can anyone enter the strong man's house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. 30 ``He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

We come now to the pivotal point of the Gospel of Matthew and of Jesus' ministry! Jesus has presented Himself flawlessly as the promised Messiah of God, the One Who was pictured throughout history as God's Deliverer, the longed for Messiah of the Jewish people, found in every feast they celebrated, the fulfillment of the masses of prophecies, the hope of Israel. YET the leadership of the Jews flatly reject Him to the point of relegating Jesus as being empowered by the Devil (Beelzebul). This rejection is at the end of the miracle section of Matthew (8-12) and with this ultimate rejection Jesus, in turn, pulls Himself back from the leadership. This was the last straw!

31 ``Therefore, I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 ``Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. 33 ``Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 ``You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 ``The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. 36 ``But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. 37 ``For by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.''

Maybe the most important issue of this passage is what is called the blasphemy of the Spirit. This blasphemy cannot be forgiven. There are two frightening statements in Scripture that have stirred up attention. One is the "sin unto death" and the other is the "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit." Both strike great fear in the hearts of people when they begin to wonder if they have ever committed one or the other or both. I believe the Devil uses this fear to his advantage by getting people to think of the worst thing you've ever done and then accusing you of one of these two sins. (His specialty is personal condemnation and tearing you down in any way he can!)

The "sin unto death" is basically refusing to believe in Jesus right up to the point of death. Once you have heard the message of Jesus and continue to reject Him, you have committed the "sin unto death" and this cannot be forgiven. And, since you have chosen to have nothing to do with God's Messiah, Jesus, you won't have to for all of eternity, for you will be separated from Him forever.

The "blasphemy of the Spirit" is not the time you cussed God out or openly rejected Him or committed a most heinous sin. This sin could only be committed during a certain time in history so far. It is when you reject the most full expression of God's Messiah-fully empowered by the Spirit of God and approved by God, the Father. When Jesus walked the planet, filled with the Holy Spirit so that He performed and spoke so powerfully and effectively and was rejected, this was the "blasphemy of the Spirit" that cannot be forgiven. This is why Jesus frequently says that His generation will suffer the greatest condemnation, worse than Sodom and Gomorrah.

NOTE that this miracle of healing the man who couldn't hear or speak is one of the three miracles that the Messiah was to perform, when He comes. This was not prophetic, but was carried about by tradition. The three miracles were (1) healing a leper, (2) healing a man blind from birth and (3) healing a man who could not hear or speak. Generation after generation was told that "When the Messiah comes, He will actually heal a leper, open the eyes of the person born blind and will someday be able to make a deaf mute hear and speak." In the first century there were Jewish exorcists who did perform successful exorcisms among the people. They would get the demon to speak and they would then cast it out of a person. But in the case of the deaf mute, the person couldn't speak so they were stymied as to how to perform their exorcism. So, the tradition was that when the Messiah comes, He'll actually be able to do this.

Although Jesus didn't have to fulfill these traditions, He did so in order to reach these people. He accommodated Himself to their wishes and dreams of what the Messiah might do and these miracles became most convicting to those who saw and heard. Jesus was relentless in reaching out to the last, lost one to bring people back into a relationship with God. He is still relentlessly doing everything He can do to win your heart and get your attention today. He only requires that you be interested and seek Him out. HE WILL SHOW UP!