Showing posts from December, 2023

Hope for a World In Crisis

Hope for a World in Crisis Matthew 24:1-14 “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”               In Matthew 24, the disciples asked what the sign would be when Jesus would return. While they did not fully understand all the events that were about to transpire, culminating in the death and resurrection of Jesus, they did understand that Jesus was going to leave them for a time and that when he returned, he would establish his kingdom.  Thus, the question. Jesus responds with a description of the events of the world that seem to be taken right from today's headlines.  Today the news constantly bombards us with a message of empending doom.  Whenever we turn on the news or read a paper, it points to a rapid descent into destruction.  We hear reports that global warming is causing all types of natural disasters that are bringing the threat of unparalleled famines.  We see the images of devastating e

The Broken Heart of God

The Broken Heart of God Matthew 23:37-29 “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”               The imagery of a hen gathering her chicks under her wings is used in the Old Testament of a troubled individual seeking the shelter of God (see Psalms 57:1, 63:7, 91:4; Ruth 2:12). For the Psalmist, the illustration serves to present God as one who provides security for those who seek his comfort, protection, and care.  It speaks of a God who offers to provide a refuge and place of safety for those who are distressed and in fear. After a stern rebuke of the religious leaders, Jesus makes his last public statement to the Jews.  From this point forward, he will turn his attention to his disciples.  Thus his words are heartbreaking for it reveals his heart. In his final statement, he expresses his profound sorrow and compassion for the people. From the beginning of the formation of the nation of Israel, God

The Importance of Inward Transformation

The Importance of Complete Transformation    Matthew 23:16-29 “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly, you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.               Jesus continues his indictment and condemnation of the religious leaders.  They were rigid in their legalism, for they continually demanded the people to observe external rules and regulations, yet they failed to be genuinely transformed. As Jesus continues to pronounce the judgment upon the Jewish leaders, he denounces their failure to pursue genuine righteousness.  In these, Jesus confronts their lack of integrity and honesty.  Instead of focusing on the importance of being honest in their dealings, they developed an elaborate system in which they could avoid being truthful.  In each of the examples that Christ gives, the religious leaders focused on the minimal requirement needed for righteous living rather than pursuing the holiness of God.  Instead of being honest, they justify when one could be dishon

Christ the King

Christ the King Matthew 2:1-12 “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews.”               When the Magi arrived in Jerusalem, their simple question sent the city abuzz and caused Herod to become paranoid.  So fearful was Herod of the question that he would later have all the children in Bethlehem under the age of two savagely murdered.  For Herod, the question was unnerving and threatening, for it threatened his authority and position. The question was simple, “Where is He who who has been born King of the Jews?”  It is this question that equally threatens us as well. We find the story of a baby born in the manager appealing.  We relish the baby would come to be the sacrifice for our sins.  We even easily accept that he came as God came in the flesh to communicate God’s word.  But when confronted with a king, we shrink back.  For the people of Israel, they longed for a political king who would reestablish the glory of the nation of Israel.  But what they did not want, and what the

Jesus the Priest

Christ the Priest Hebrews 10:1-18 “For by one offering, He has perfected those who are sanctified for all time.”               In the Old Testament, the Priest played a critical role as the mediator between God and the people.  Because God is infinitely holy, he cannot be associated with or tainted by sin.  Because of sin, people could not gain access to the presence of God.  They needed a mediator.  To provide for this, God made provision for the Priests to serve as the mediator.  They would represent God to the people but also represent the people before God.  As representatives of the people it was their responsibility to perform the sacrifices necessary to atone for the sins of the people.  Furthermore, they would intercede on behalf of the people.              The sacrifices they performed were to provide the means for the people to obtain forgiveness from the guilt of their sin so that they might avert the justice of God.  All sin was a violation and rejection of God and his char

Jesus The Prophet

Jesus the Prophet John 1:1-5                 To say that Christmas is all about a baby born in a manger who came to preach love is like saying that Michelangelo slapped some paint on a ceiling in a small church in Rome. It does not do justice to the full depth and beauty of who Christ is and what he came to accomplish. Too often, Jesus is seen only as a babe in a humble manger.  This view of Jesus is safe, unassuming, and makes little demands upon our lives.  He came to save us from our troubles, bring social justice, and preach love and peace.  However, Jesus was much more than that.  Throughout scripture, we discover a far deeper and more meaningful view of Christ.  To understand who Christ is, we must know why he came.  To discover that, we need to go back to the Old Testament.  The Old Testament is more than just a historical account of Israel's national and religious growth.  The Old Testament is a theological primer pointing to the person and character of Christ.  The instruc

The Danger of False Teachers

The Dangers of False Faith Pt 1 Matthew 23:13-15 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.”               Chapter records the strongest indictment against the Jewish leaders in the gospels.  Throughout his ministry, the Jewish religious leaders continually sought to attack Christ and undermine his ministry.  In chapter 23, Christ turns the tables and condemns these leaders for their failures.  The chapter involves a series of strong denouncements.  The word “woe” can be used to express grief or denunciation.  The word suggests the profound emotion and horror when disaster strikes.  In using the term, Jesus is making it clear that those who distort God’s word will face a severe and terrible fate.  Thus, these seven “woes” are a series of judgments condemning the religious leaders for failing to teach the people and adequately convey God’s message.             The first woe condemns the religious leaders for placing a barrier before the people that prevents them from entering t

Social Influencers or Servants

Social Influencers or Servants Matthew 23:1-12 “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”               We live in an age of entitlement, empowerment, and self-promotion.  We want to be noticed and recognized by others. Today's mantra is personal empowerment, in which we gain control of our lives and are given all the rights and power we believe we deserve.  We think that fame and fortune are the ticket to happiness.  Our culture is enamored with social influencers, the famous and the powerful.  We are obsessed with the celebrities. However, this obsession with recognition, notoriety, and power is not new.  When the serpent appeared to Eve and tempted her, the appeal was for Eve to no longer find her identity in the image of God and serving him. Instead, the appeal was to gain independence from God and gain our own identity and purpose.  We wanted to be masters of our destiny and obtain meaning and purpose apart from God.  Having abando

Information with Transformation

Knowledge without Transformation is mere Information. Matthew 22:34-46 “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?               It is easy to gain knowledge.  We can become experts in any field simply by spending the time to gain all the available information on a specific topic.  Today, we have an endless supply of information about anything at our fingertips.  The problem is not in gaining knowledge; the challenge is applying the knowledge we have in the right way to make a difference in our lives.             The religious leaders were the experts of the Old Testament Law.  They studied it continually and relentlessly debated its meaning.  Because the Old Testament provided God's moral law, they spent hours in relentless debate arguing which laws were the most important.  Their debates had reduced the law to 365 negative and 248 positive commands.  Having identified these commands in the Old Testament law, they then sought to prioritize them, for if one is to break a

Starting with the Right Reference Point

Resetting our Point of Reference Matthew 22:23-22 “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God.”               The religious leaders were tenacious in their attempt to discredit Jesus by embroiling him in controversies of their own inventions. The various religious leaders (the Sadducees, Pharisees, Scribes, and Herodians) could not agree on much.  They fought, debated, and condemned one another over theological arguments and opinions.  The only thing they could agree upon was their disdain for this unknown teacher from Nazareth whom the people were claiming to be the Messiah.  The Sadducees came to Jesus to ask about the resurrection.  The fact that they were asking the question revealed their hypocrisy, for they did not even believe in the resurrection.  Because of this, they thought that they could trap Jesus with a theological paradox that, in their minds, revealed the folly of believing in the resurrection:  I a man had multiple marriages, then who woul

Taxes and God

Taxes and God “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:15-22               No one wants to pay taxes.  Come tax season, we all complain about the taxes we must pay.  There are even some who refuse to pay, claiming it is unconstitutional.  However, we are no different from the people of Jesus’s day.  Seeking the trap Jesus in a problem, the Pharisees and the Herodians approached Jesus and asked him if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. The Pharisees and Herodians were normally bitter enemies.  The Pharisees were strict adherents to Jewish law and deeply resented the rule of the Romans.  They saw Herod, who was not a Jew, as a usurper to the throne and an illegitimate king.  The Herodians, on the other hand, were compromisers.  They accepted and collaborated with Herod and the Romans to gain political power and prestige.  The only thing the Herodians and the Pharisees could agree upon was that Jesus had to be removed.  The

The Divine Invitation

Are We Responding to His Invitation Matthew 22:1-14   “For many are called, but few are chosen.”               When Christ came, he not only came to bring salvation, but he also came to call us to become participants in his kingdom.  When we think of the purpose of Christ’s coming, we focus on the death of Christ in which he paid the penalty for our sins so that we might have eternal life. But that is only part of the story.  Christ came proclaiming the kingdom of God (also called the kingdom of heaven).  This kingdom is the sovereign rule of God over the universe.  Participating in his kingdom involves submission to his sovereign reign in our lives so that he takes precedence over all things in our lives.  It is to surrender to him increasingly.              Christ describes four individuals who refused to surrender to his kingdom in this parable. In the story, the king represents the father, and his son represents Christ.  Thus, sent to invite people into his kingdom refers to the pr

Obedience or Opposition

Obedience or Opposition Matthew 22:33-46 “The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone.”               The religious leaders of Jesus’ day considered themselves exemplary in their religious righteousness.  As Jesus confronts them for their refusal to walk in obedience, he tells the story of a landowner who had rented his vineyard to vine-growers as he went on a journey.  However, when he sent his servants to collect the income from the crops, these vine-growers saw an opportunity.  Instead of making a payment as was agreed upon, they mistreated and even killed those who came to collect the rent. In response, the landowner shows remarkable restraint and patience. Instead of bringing immediate judgment, he sends another group of servants to give them a second opportunity to make the payment.  Again, they mistreated and killed the servants.  In an unbelievable display of forbearance, the owner decided to send his son, thinking that they would surely listen to

Confessional Faith vs Obedient Faith

Confession Faith or Obedient Faith Matthew 21:28-32 “Truly, I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.”               Jesus tells a parable that every parent can relate to.  A man has two sons whom he asks to go out and work in the vineyard.  The first one, in a shocking disregard for cultural norms, categorically refuses to do so. Why he refuses is not mentioned, but his refusal is astonishing, for the Jewish culture places a high value on respect for parents and obedience to their commands.  For this individual to refuse would have been immediately condemned.  However, after reflection, he repents and instead goes out and labors in the field.             The second son gives a different answer.  When he hears his father's request, he affirms that he is willing to go into the field and fulfill his family's responsibility.  However, although he verbally confirms his willingness to work in the field, he fails to meet his obl

The Basis of Faith

The Question of Authority Matthew 21:23-27 “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?”               For the observer, the question seemed fair enough.  Jesus had entered the temple and cleared out the moneychangers.  The priests and religious leaders had sanctioned these individuals to ply their trade.  Since the priests and elders were responsible for the temple, they had the authority to allow the moneychangers.  Yet Jesus had driven the moneychangers out of the temple.  If Jesus’ actions were legitimate, then it meant that he had been authorized to do so by someone in higher authority than the chief priests and elders.  So, who had authority higher than chief priests and elders?  It seemed a fair question.             But we discover the question was far more insidious when we go deeper.  It was a question that was designed to trap Jesus.  If he claimed his authority came from the religious leaders, they could quickly condemn Jesus for an improp

Figs and Faith

Figs and Faith Matthew 21:18-22 “Seeing a one fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once, the fig tree withered.”               One event important lesson.  After his return to Bethany, Jesus again set forth to go into the city of Jerusalem.  Traveling in the morning, he became hungry.  Walking by a fig tree, he approached it looking for fruit, for the lushness of the leaves foretold of fruit. Even though it was not yet the season for figs, the fully developed leaves suggested that this tree had matured early and would have fruit.  By all outward appearances, the tree looked healthy and vibrant, one that would have sweet figs on it. However, when Jesus looked closely for figs, he found none.  With its fully developed foliage, the tree promised fruit, but in reality, it was barren.  Because it did not have any fruit, Jesus condemned the fruit, resulting in the tree wit

The Passion of Christ

The Passion of Christ Mathew 21:12-17 “And He said to them, “It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a robber’s den.”               The word “passion” has multiple meanings.  Often, it is used as a designation of the suffering Christ experienced during his trial and crucifixion.  This final period of Christ’s life is called “the passion of Christ.”  This use of “passion” comes from the Latin ‘ patior’,  which means “to suffer, bear, endure.”  But there is another definition for the word.  Passion can also refer to intense desires, zeal, or rage.  To have a passion for something is to have a fierce zeal.  It is the opposite of indifference and complacency.  This zeal was on full display when Christ entered the Temple area.              As Christ entered the temple, he was confronted with the sight of money changers plying their trade in the court of the Gentiles, which was the place in the temple grounds where Gentiles could worship.  According t

The Arrival of the King

The Arrival of the King Matthew 21:1-11 “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”               Every year, the Sunday before Easter, we celebrate Palm Sunday, a time we remember the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem. In this, we join with the Jews of Jesus’ day in waiting for the arrival of the Messianic king.  For generations, the Jews lived with the anticipation of the arrival of the Messianic king.  There were many Old Testament prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah.  It is estimated that there are between 200 and 400 prophecies found in the Old Testament that Christ fulfilled.  One of those passages is Zechariah 9:9, which predicted that the messianic king would not come on a mighty war horse but a lowly donkey.  Instead of coming to portray his power and his victories, the Messiah would come in humility, gentleness, and peace.  As Jesus came down the Mount of Olives, the people recognized the messianic

The Attitude of A Servant Pt 3

The Heart of a Servant Matthew 20:29-34 “Jesus stopped and called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?”               For the casual observer, the question seemed pointless.  Soon after dealing with the disciples’ fixation with power and prestige, Jesus leaves Jericho to ascend up to Jerusalem to celebrate his final Passover with the disciples.  As they were leaving, they encountered two blind men sitting by the road.  To be blind in this time period was to be without any means of income.  There were no social programs, no government assistance.  To be blind meant that they were reduced to begging for their necessary needs.  The text does not tell us how these individuals became blind, whether it was an accident, a disease, or perhaps the tragic result of some sinful behavior, we do not know.  What caused their blindness was not important.  What was important was the fact that these individuals were destitute and reduced to begging for their daily sustenance.