#67 – What the Gospels Teach – Jesus never comes next – Matthew 8:21-22

Another of the disciples said to Him, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But Jesus *said to him, "Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead." (Matthew 8:21-22)

This is one of the more difficult texts in Jesus’ teaching, but it must be considered and taken at face value.  First and foremost realize that the apostle Paul reminds Timothy that if someone does not take care of their family they are worse than an infidel, moreover throughout the Old Testament we see the will of God is clearly that our fathers and mothers must be honored and cared for.  I would even contend that one of the things that angers God tremendously in our day is the disregard for parents.  Our media downplays fathers and mothers, kids are encouraged in school to think outside of the value systems their parents have imparted, and are even taught often that they are growing up in a different world and they are more intelligent and essentially superior to their parents.

What then is this text teaching?  Is Jesus contradicting the perfect Law of God?  Is He speaking differently than His apostle taught Timothy and Us?  Absolutely not!  The term ‘go and bury my father’ does not refer to a dead father, but to a dying father.  The disciple is requesting to be able to go and be with his father until he dies.  This seems to be a reasonable and even Godly request, however Jesus responds by commanding this disciple to follow Him and to “allow the dead to bury their own dead.”  We also see similar commands in the other Gospel accounts as well.  Jesus is teaching that he never comes next.  The disciple was not at all wrong about his desire to bury his father, the disciple’s error was in the words “Permit me first...”  Jesus had to be harsh on this command, though in our eyes it may seem over the top, even a ridiculous demand, we must see it from the other side.

I would contend that “permit me first...” is at the root of every single sin without exception.  Permit me first to serve myself, permit me first to get my house and my car, permit me first to get married, permit me first to watch some TV, permit me first to have my best life now, permit me first to win this argument, permit me first to get myself pleasure, permit me first to... do whatever, and immediately Christ then becomes second at best.  Following Christ entails caring for our dying relatives, it does, but caring for our dying relatives without doing it in service to Christ is mere works and not faithful righteousness.  The late Vance Havner preached a sermon on this text and it really is worth a listen.  It can be downloaded here.

Jesus knew full well that “permit me first” would cause more damage to His disciples than anything else, even violation of the Law.  Christ knew that at the heart of lawbreaking was the ‘permit me first’ attitude, therefore even in the most innocent of situations such as aiding a dying father the notion of ‘permit me first’ being acceptable had to be destroyed.

On a side note:  I hope to be posting more often again, but with summer being over and youth ministry being in full swing I have neglected setting the time aside for this blog.  No promises, but now that everything is up and rollin’ again for the year there should be more frequent postings here.


Message preached 09.06.2009

This is a one post break from the gospel series to share the message I preached on September 9th of this year.  The audio of me preaching this can be found here... http://s3.amazonaws.com/mychurchwebsite/c1420/message-09-09-06.mp3 remember this was preached audibly, there are a lot of typos, and little mistakes in the text below, but the text was a mere guide in the preaching.  (ie one spot should say self-righteous not just righteous, there are a few other spots where words are missing, misspelled, etc...)

By your standard of Measure
Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.  For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.  Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.”  Matthew 7:1-6

Let’s go to the Lord in Prayer:
The most memorized scripture in the bible is typically thought to be John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  What a wonderful blessing that passage is to the believer, however it is doubtful that is the most quoted scripture we hear.  The scripture most quoted by unbelievers to Christians is this “Judge not lest ye be judged.”  Granted very few people realize that they are quoting Matthew 7:1, but they know it is in the bible and they know they can quote it every time they sense that they are being judged.  This is an important text to consider being as the primary beef the world claims to have with the church is that the church is too judgmental.  This morning we are going to dive in to this passage to find out what it really means, and how difficult of a passage it really is.  Moreover we are going to consider whether we must heed to the criticism of the world and consider their rebuke as though it were from God, knowing that God has often used people outside of the faith as an instrument of rebuke for those within the faith, or whether we can dismiss their claims against us knowing that the scriptures also promise we will be accused falsely for His sake.

One of the best places to go to get understanding of this text is the end of time, Judgment Day itself.  Fast forward to Revelation 20:11-12

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. (Revelation 20:11-12 NASB)

John the revelator is receiving the vision of the end of time and he sees the dead lined up before the throne, a huge mass of humanity standing before the King of Kings, and there in that crowd John sees you.  Realize that you are there, you are in the bible, physically pictured in Revelation 20:11-12.  Why are they gathered?  Judgment!  Books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.  You will stand before God, and you will answer according to your deeds.  Realize this is not just some apocalyptic revelation theme throughout the scriptures final judgment is referenced, a good portion of the parable reference judgment, many of the teachings of the apostles reference judgment, and we also find this judgment referenced in the Old Testament as well.  Let’s just nail it down right here, we will stand before God for judgment.  Now in light of that truth let’s read Matthew 7:1-2 -

"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2 NASB)

In light of Revelation 20 think about the words ‘the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.’  Do you see where this is going?  Listen to how practical this teaching becomes if just apply it as it is written.

Let’s start with Politics.
For eight years the President of the United States of America was George W. Bush.  During his time in office and even still today we heard countless people call George W. Bush a moron because of his inability to pronounce words correctly and fashion grammatically accurate sentences before millions of viewers.  In light of this passage the people who made those judgments have agreed to stand before the throne of the Most High God and be judged according to their public speaking ability.  “For in the way you judge, you will be judged.”

Currently many people have a beef with our presiding President.  It is ok to have a beef with Obama, or Bush, but people make claims that President Obama is such and idiot when it comes to Healthcare reform and its economic effects.  In light of Matthew 7:1-2 and Revelation 20 the people who say such things have agreed to stand before the throne of the Most High and be judged based on their own knowledge of healthcare and economics.

Odds are that some of us are already writing these two examples off... but I challenge you to apply the passage to the situation without righteously asserting your views.

Let’s move on, I mean we have already mentioned politics, let’s go into another taboo subject... this may be the last time I get to preach, but let’s speak a moment about human sexuality.

We hear countless derogatory blasts against homosexuals, especially from within the professing Christian community.  Let me ask this:  Judgment made against the individual homosexual is based on what?  Sexual sin.  (Now I am not going to open this can of worms too far, the bible speaks clearly on this issue and I will leave it at that.)  However be very careful before you judge someone based on sexual impurity.  Are you willing to stand before the Most High, in light of Matthew 7:1-2 and be judged on your own sexual purity?  Really?  After all your second glances at girls on the street, all the filth on your Desparate Housewives, Grays Anatomy, CSI, and every other show, after all the smut novels, profession football cheerleaders, internet pornography, second glances at billboards with sexual content, fantasies that only you know about... and you are going to make a judgment based on someone else’s sexual purity?  Or what about all the relationships you had before Be careful.  That standard you have set... you will be held to.

How about at Church?  We have all been part of conversations where we stand in judgment of our church leaders, and how we feel things should be done and how they are failing, and how they need to get a life and see things the way we do.  In light of standing Judgment before the Most High according to your own standard how does that play out?  You are a leader in your home, are you leading perfectly?  You have tremendous resources, are you using them how God wants?  As Christians we are all ministers, how is your ministry going?  The very standards you have set for others... they will be raised against you.

Listen, I have a tendency towards being judgmental, and I know it.  This is something I must constantly seek guidance on, and constantly seek repentance from, and to be honest this text is a touch frightening to me.  I also know that there are many others, if not everyone in this place, that if they are honest with themselves they will find this text to be difficult as well.

So where do we go from here?  Are we to just sit back and have nothing to say about anything?  Of course not, but Jesus gives us pretty clear direction. 

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.  – (Matthew 7:3-5)

We are to not judge, however we are to discern.  The scriptures speak often about discerning good and evil, and we are not to lay back with an anything goes attitude, but discernment and judgment are two entirely different things.  To judge is to usurp the authority of God who alone is judge.  When you make character judgments against people you have assumed a position that only God is allowed to occupy.  To discern is altogether different than to judge.  Discernment is born out of humility, and the first step to biblical discernment is to acknowledge your own sin.  You see that speck in your brother’s eye?  What about the log in your own?  This is an exaggerated contrast, the difference between a speck and an entire log is nearly infinite, and you are called to first pull out that log before dealing with the speck.  What does this mean?... It means that the depth of sin within you is far greater than anything you have ever seen in someone else.  It really is.  The sooner you come to grips with your sinfulness the sooner you will have the ability to not judge.  To begin to remove the log of iniquity from your own eye get alone with God and ask Him to reveal your sinfulness to you.  Seriously, seek Him to show you what your ways are really like... trust me, if you honestly do that, He will show you sides of your own self that you never knew existed, and you will realize the foolishness of judging another.  You will also be humbled, and know that the proverbs say “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

You see, once you are humbled by your own shortcomings, you will see that speck in your brother’s eye, you will not see it with a critical spirit, but you will see it as it is, a speck.  Now specks are not trivial, if you have ever had a speck of something in your eye you know that it causes pain and annoyance.  If you humble yourself before the Lord you will see your brother’s speck and realize that whether they know it or not, it is causing them blurry vision and annoyance, and out of love and a desire for their well being you will gently remove that speck from their eye.  You will give a gentle rebuke, or teaching, or exhortation.  Discernment, and biblical rebuke and correction are born out of humility and love.

With all that has been said so far, be very careful.  We are not to judge people, we are to hate sin, sin in our own lives, sin in the world, sin everywhere.  We are not to stand in support of sin, to justify sin, to promote sin, or to embrace sin.  We ought to hate our own sin, knowing that the sin of ourselves and of this world has cause our savior to die, and that God is holy and has a fierce indignation against sin.  We are to be open to people, and never stand in judgment of others... but be careful to accept every activity and be so open minded that your brains fall out.

This is the exact reason Jesus gives us this next verse.  “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.”  (Matthew 7:6)  It is as though Jesus has said to us... Listen up!  You cannot judge others, you are in no place to judge others, you are a log eyed people and are in no way capable or worthy of casting judgment on anyone... at the same time be careful, do not just go throwing what is holy to dogs, and giving pearls to swine... you must have humble discernment or else you are just going to let anything go, and your lack of discernment will allow the world to tear you to shreds.

We must be so careful.  One of the reasons we Christians seem so judgmental to everyone else is not because we have taken such a hard line on sin, in fact the opposite is true.  We have chosen to allow various sin and we sweep it under the rug and say it isn’t so bad, yet at the same time we choose other sin to be greater and we draw a line.  As though we were Catholic and believed some sin to be mortal, some to be menial.  Listen, the wages of all sin is death.  We are to hate all sin, and should hate to see sin promoted... and be especially repentant when we ourselves are promoting sin.  The mark of true belief is a love for Christ that plays itself out in tangible ways, one of which is repentance from sin and not the promotion or acceptance of it in our lives.  By grace, if you have true belief, your mind has been regenerated with a desire to turn from sin and pursue righteousness.

Judge not... please... in light of the fact that you too will be judged on that day... judge not.  Discern, with humility, honest humility not some mock contrition, discern right from wrong and in light of your own shortcomings come to the aid of your brother in removing that annoying speck from his eye.  Come to me in humility and help me get the specks out of my eyes, as I too will do the same for you.  Let us not stand in judgment over each other any longer, but let us rebuke, exhort, encourage, teach, and help each other with an honest and enduring love.



#66 – What the Gospels Teach – Nowhere to lay His head – Matthew 8:18-20

Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. Then a scribe came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go." Jesus *said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."  (Matthew 8:18-20 NASB)

Jesus saw the crowd and gave orders to go to the other side of the sea.  This is not a case of Jesus neglecting the crowd, this is important to see.  Certainly He already knows what He is going to encounter on the other side, but He is also using this moment to make a clear point about the cost of discipleship.  We will see this in this posting as well as the next.  Jesus sees this crowd and announces that He will be heading across the sea (large lake)... and a Scribe quickly chimes in with, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”  Jesus does not rebuke this man, but instead responds by telling the scribe that He is homeless, and will continue to be homeless.  In other words Jesus tells the scribe that there is nowhere to follow Him to, there is no earthly destination to Christ’s journey, no earthly home in which He plans on settling.

Another important aspect of this section is how the scribe addresses Christ.  He says ‘Teacher’, if you recall from previous posts about the centurion and others, Jesus was addressed not as teacher, but as Lord.  There is a great difference here, and it is still the difference between genuine and false professors today.  Jesus indeed was a great teacher, but His teaching was not mere transmission of information, it was authoritative commandment from the Most High God.  Indeed many great historical figures could teach, but they lacked authority.  To view Jesus as ‘teacher’ is to sell Jesus short, He is teacher, but more than that He is Lord.

If your lord commands you to follow him though he has no home, and no earthly destination, you have no choice but to go because the word ‘lord’ implies this man is your master.  If your ‘teacher’ commands you to follow, it is still up to you because the teacher has no authority.  Yes they can teach you all the benefits of following them, and they can transmit all sorts of information, but they are not your lord, and ultimately do not carry the same authority.  Jesus gives this scribe the opportunity to accept the Lordship of Himself, but not without first explaining some of the cost.

Again, realize Jesus gave orders to go to the other side of the sea knowing that some would step forward and profess that they wanted to follow.  Jesus set the stage for teaching about costly discipleship.

#65 – What the Gospels Teach – He Took our Infirmities – Matthew 8:16-17

When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: "HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES." (Matthew 8:16-17 NASB)

Jesus was simply amazing, and while we know this, it would serve us well to dwell on that for a moment.  The first thing we must recall is that Jesus is indeed God the Son, nonetheless He came and dwelt in human flesh, which comes with all the difficulties of humanity.  Jesus indeed was tempted often, and had to deal with the same nature that we also have to deal with.  Consider that... we often will write off our sinfulness to our human nature (which is the legitimate cause) but Christ also had that same nature and yet did not sin, utterly sin free, and yet dwelling in the same sinful flesh which all men must dwell in.  Now with Christ and our common humanity let’s look into this verse. 

“When evening came...”  Evening is when we cease to work, when we want to stop and rest.  We deal with our issues all day, and we look at the evening as time to slow down.  “They brought to Him many...”  Christ was constantly bombarded with people who had needs, and people who knew He was their only hope.  Now knowing that Christ indeed is God, and while in the flesh was God we can see that He would be all compassionate and never tire of doing what is right.  Nonetheless Christ who also was 100% man would have His entire humanity railing against Him and tempting Him to send the people away.  Of course Christ has indeed overcame the flesh and was victorious over it, but if we place ourselves in His sandals at the point of this verse we can see the struggle it must have been to continue to deal with “MANY who were demon-possessed...” and to deal with them into the evening.  You and I have trouble dealing with our own neighbors, parents, children, spouses, and such into the evenings, we tire we get irritable and are constantly tempted to sin and disregard our duties toward them.  Here you have Christ with everyone’s problems, and many people coming to have them dealt with, and He was tempted in all places just as we are, meaning that He had to overcome the same temptations to neglect the duties His flesh would not have wanted to perform.  Can you see how this is amazing?  Christ dealt with the same tiredness, headaches, hunger, and so on.

“He Cast out the spirits with a word, and healed ALL who were ill.”  He did not leave anyone behind... you do not see instances of Jesus not healing, or not serving.  He stayed the course and served in the entire capacity of His human flesh.  The point is this:  His entire life was a sacrifice, every single minute of it... not just the crucifixion... all of it.  He suffered not only on the cross, but His entire life was suffering.  “He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief...” (Isaiah 53).  The last section of Matthew 8:17 says, "HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES." Which is a quote from Isaiah 53.  Typically in our reading of Isaiah 53 we focus on the crucifixion sequence, and consider the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, but we fail to focus on the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ in His life.  We focus on substitutionary death, which we should, but we neglect His substitutionary life.  Paul reminds us that Christ has imputed His righteousness too us... how?  By giving us credit for, not His death, but His life!  Our life was imputed to Him which resulted in the cross... His life was imputed to us which results in life everlasting.

This account of Jesus healing the MANY demon-possessed into the evening is important.  The life Jesus lived was just as critical to your salvation as the death Jesus died.
I hope I have not taken too much liberty with this passage but what is said is important.


#64 – What the Gospel’s Teach – Peter’s Mother in Law is Healed – Matthew 8:14-15

When Jesus came into Peter's home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him. (Matthew 8:14-15 NASB)

Often times we look at healings in the scriptures and they seem so amazing, because they are, but we miss some of the more simple healings, especially this one.  We cling to stories about lepers, paralytics, the blind, and others... yet when we read of Jesus healing a fever we just gloss over it.  This is tragic on our parts.  The reality is that every one of us will have a fever at some point, even a sever fever that leaves us bed ridden, but very few of us will ever be blind, leprous, or paralyzed.  This is one of the healings in the scriptures that all people could relate to, but because it lacks a high profile disease we gloss over it.

I do not want to get into healings, how they happen, why they happen, what role faith has in them and so on... we will look into that at some point, but not this post.  What should be noticed and dwelled on in this passage is why she was healed, and what her response was.  Jesus came into Peter’s Mother-in-law’s house, when a guest came into the home they would be waited upon and served in some way (this should be the standard practice of any decent person even today... especially in a Christian home).  In the context this passage it was the duty of Peter’s mother-in-law, whether it was Christ or anyone else came in, to wait upon them and serve them.  Peter’s mother-in-law could not serve the Christ because she was bed ridden with a fever, so Christ healed her so that she could.  Do you see what is happening here?  Jesus performs this miracle in order that this woman would be free to serve Him.  In one sense this seems awfully arrogant and even selfish, but when you know who the Christ is and recognize that service to Christ is the privilege above all privileges you will see this healing as a great grace afforded to Peter’s mother-in-law.

What is the application?  The reason for healing of any magnitude is for the glory, honor, and service to Christ.  We are not healed or delivered from various maladies solely, or even primarily for our own benefit, but instead for His benefit and our freedom to serve Him.  To the unbeliever this is absurd, because the unbeliever desires God to be at their disposal to perform their needs.  Unfortunately many within the professing Christian community will present God as though He really is at people’s disposal to meet their needs, and they do this in the name of attracting people.  The unfortunate truth is that these ‘Best life now’ type leaders are not presenting the real Christ, but attempting to create a God who is palatable to the masses.  So why are we healed?  Why are we even saved?  Why are we delivered from various trial and even temptation?  One reason... to serve the Most High God.  Remember God does all things for His glory, which is ultimately to our benefit as well, but the primary reason for God’s action in your life, is that you would honor and glorify Him in this world and in the world to come.

As a final aside on this passage, and don’t get too caught up in this, realize that Peter was married, which obviously is why he had a mother-in-law.  The Roman Catholic Church asserts that Peter was the first of an apostolic succession of Popes.  This should bring into question their requirements of celibacy for Popes, Priests, and such.  If their original Pope was married, what exactly are they doing now?  Do not dwell on this, but realize Peter was not a Pope, the scriptures never allude to any Popish type office in the Church, and it is doubtful that any man who actually believes the Holy Scriptures and honestly loved the Lord with any humility would even dream of assuming the role of a ‘Pope’.


#63 – What the Gospels Teach – The Centurion’s Faith (Part 2) – Matthew 8:5-13

And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented." Jesus *said to him, "I will come and heal him." But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. "For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it." Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, "Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. "I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." And Jesus said to the centurion, "Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed that very moment. (Matthew 8:5-13 NASB)

Jesus takes this opportunity to make clear that He is indeed a light to the gentiles, but He goes even a step further to give warning that the ‘sons of the kingdom will be cast into the outer darkness...’  We can only imagine the tension this must have caused.  For the Jews to hear from the prophets of old that the Messiah would be a light to the gentiles would have not have been difficult.  In fact it would be a joyous thing to consider that God would do a work among all peoples.  However, when the Jews were under the oppression of the Roman Empire and Jesus holds a representative from that empire in high regard it becomes much more personal for the people around Him, and far more difficult to swallow.  While Jesus was doing exactly what the Old Testament scriptures promised He would do, the emotional impact of this to the Jew would have case hardened their heart against Christ.  If Jesus would have said "I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven;”  In any other context, it may have been very palatable for the Jew.  However when Jesus places their enemies on the pedestal and essentially proclaims that some of the Romans themselves will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the tension must have begun to rise.  Recognize that I am reading into this a bit, there is no direct reference to mounting tension here, but as this progresses through the next few chapters we will see it clearly. 

Again the Jews would have known that the Messiah was going to be a light to the gentiles, and that nations which they did not know would flock to Him, and that would have been something they embraced.  It is very easy to love from a distance, and to enjoy the idea of many people groups coming together under the Messiah.  It is no different than loving people in Africa and China and wanting them to hear the Gospel.  However when you meet the people directly, and realize they are just a depraved as you were prior to conversion, and you have to deal with their vice, hatred, covetousness, and idolatry they are not nearly as easy to love as they were when they were a mere evangelism target.  It is easy to see how many Jews would become progressively more against Christ as they saw Him being a light to the people they despised.

In this text you can see the breaking off and grafting in that is explained in Romans 11:17-25.  It is easy to see the hardening effect that Christ’s ministry would have on the Hebrew people, and moreover you can see, as in the case of this centurion how the gentiles would be grateful just to be grafted in and be nourished from the Holy Root.  More on that someday when this blog addresses Romans... like 20 years from now at the rate we are going!


#62 – What the Gospels Teach – The Centurion’s Faith (Part 1) – Matthew 8:5-13

And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented." Jesus *said to him, "I will come and heal him." But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. "For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it." Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, "Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. "I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." And Jesus said to the centurion, "Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed that very moment. (Matthew 8:5-13 NASB)

In the last passage we see a leper cleansed, and we notice that leper immediately acknowledges the authority of Christ, and places himself at the mercy of the will of Christ. Moreover we notice the end of the Sermon on the Mount, just preceding these happenings where the crowds stood astonished... why? because Christ taught with authority and not like their scribes. As it has been stated before in this series, the way Jesus did ministry was to preach hard with authority, and also to serve with compassion, He was balanced, not some liberal serve only mentality, and not some fundamentalist preach only mentality. It should be noticed though that both His teaching and His healing highlighted His authority.

The centurion comes to Christ with compassion for his servant and tells Jesus of the situation. Now, as a centurion this man had authority, moreover he would have been a man despised of the Jews. You can imagine the Hebrew people hoping that Jesus would really lambaste this guy, so it was a major disappointment to them when Jesus says “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.” What caused Jesus to marvel at this man’s faith? First off, this is a man who is used to having authority and used to being able to do whatever he wanted or need to do. He expresses this to Jesus saying “...I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Moreover as a roman centurion he also had authority over the Hebrew people around him. For a centurion with this type of authority to call someone else Lord publically was an enormous step of faith, it is a public admission that he is not the ultimate authority, moreover that he would call a Hebrew Lord only amplifies the humility of this admission. Jesus marvels at this man’s faith. This centurion has the force of the Roman empire with the ‘lord’ Caesar at the top of that empire on his side. Effectively in this moment the Roman Centurion makes a recognition that Christ is a greater authority than the roman empire.

Jesus said He hadn’t seen that type of faith in all of Israel. The people of Israel did not tangibly believe that God had authority over the Roman Empire... the centurion recognized Christ had that authority. Of course the theology of the Hebrew people was such that they intellectually recognized the power and authority of God, but when it was placed before them they could discern it. We see the same thing in ‘Christian’ America today. So much fear among Christians about politics and choosing the lesser of two evils, so much fear about being relevant no matter what it takes, so much financial worry, and so on. Our theology teaches us that God has control and authority and that He is ultimately good, but an honest inspection of American ‘Christianity’ shows that it is no more faithful than the established synagogues of Christ’s day. “I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel!” Ultimately Christ would be condemned by the Roman leadership and the Hebrew leadership together... the Hebrew people would appeal to the authority of the government in order to slay their own messiah who is a higher authority... do not believe for a minute that the largely unconverted professing church in America with its obsession over politics and desire to use the government to accomplish ‘God’s will’ is not doing the very same thing.

I guess I’ll leave it there, this post disintegrated into a rant, which was not the original intent.


#61 – What the Gospels Teach – Coming down from the mountain – Matthew 8:1-4

When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus *said to him, "See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."  (Matthew 8:1-4 NASB)

Before Jesus went up to the mountain to teach ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ He was going throughout the area preaching repentance and also healing the sick and serving the people.  As it is has been said here before the way Jesus did ministry was to serve the community and to preach hard on repentance.  It seems in American Christendom we have lost balance.  In the fundamentalist church we find a intense emphasis on preaching repentance and the fact that ‘faith cometh by hearing’ and service is neglected.  Or service is not neglected, but is merely reduced to a way to get an audience to preach to.  On the other side the ‘emerging church’ is focused on service and justice to the point where they neglect the message of repentance unto faith.  The message of repentance is too hard and abrasive for the emerging church so they focus entirely on service.  Christ existed in the middle of these extremes.  Christ loved people and served them out of love for them, and at the same time He preached incredibly difficult words of repentance and even judgment.

In the case of Matthew 8:1-4 it is important to realize that Christ just got done teaching a very intense message, especially the end of it.  He references the destruction of those who are not truly converted, He references judgment based on mere anger and lust, He speaks of a required righteousness and the overarching theme could be said to be repentance.  Notice the very first thing He does after the teaching... it is to serve the very least of society, the leper.  It eliminates the possibility that Jesus’ was at all mean spirited, but it does not negate the difficulty of His teachings on the mount.  Again, Jesus ought to be the model for all our ministry, it is Christ who is all compassion, and at the same time it is Christ who makes unwavering calls to repentance and purity.

Now it is critical to notice the leper in this passage and how he approaches Christ.  “Lord...” there is an immediate recognition of Authority.  This cannot be overlooked, everyone wants Jesus to give them their ‘Best Life Now’ but nobody wants to come under His authority.  At the same time, a mere saying of ‘Lord’ means very little unless it is an actual recognition of His Lordship.  In the case of this leper it is clear that it is genuine recognition of Lordship.  “...if You are willing, You can make me clean.”  In this statement the leper is fully recognizing that he is not in some position to ‘name and claim’ his healing.  Quite the opposite is true, the leper knows He is at the mercy of the will of Jesus Christ, and that it is only if Christ is willing that he will be healed.  Of course this type of obedience and submission to Christ is honored by Christ and He indeed is willing and He cleanses the leper.

The final part of this passage is seen in various other healings as well... “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”  After the leper is healed Jesus gives Him a task to go present himself to the priests with the proper offering as a testimony to them.  Recall that the people were under Roman control, there have been few prophets in the land, it had been 400 years since Malachi had prophesied, the reality of the presence of God must have seemed missing.  Why else would so many flock to John the Baptist, or even to Christ?  Of course the priests would have recognized this phenomenon as well so Jesus sends the leper to them to verify that God was truly at work, and He sends the leper not as a rebuke but actually has the leper fulfill what the law requires.  This leaves the priests with no legitimate recourse against Christ.

Again, it is so important to realize that the leper came under the Lordship of Christ and was in full submission to the will of Christ and knew that his state of being was dependent upon Christ’s will.


#60 – What the Gospels Teach – Teaching with Authority – Matthew 7:28-29 Part #2

When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
(Matthew 7:28-29 NASB)

In the last post I focused primarily on ‘the crowds’ and attempting to understand whether or not the crowds were there for the entire Sermon on the Mount, as trivial as that may seem it does carry some importance.  For instance, are the beatitudes intended for the disciple only or for the crowd?  Read the previous post for more on that.
For this post let’s see what this text is actually saying.  Realize that the crowds who heard the teachings of Christ were amazed... why were they amazed?  The amazement came from the fact that He was teaching with authority, and not as their scribes.  The conjunction ‘and’ is important here to understand the text.  We must realize that the Hebrews of the time recognized the scribes and Pharisees as the ones carrying the upmost authority, and to hear ‘religious’ authority come from any other source, well would be amazing.  However that is exactly what Christ does here, He teaches amazing teachings authoritatively, AND He was not teaching as their scribes taught.  This text is not so much saying that the scribes did not teach with authority, in fact the opposite is true, the Scribes and Pharisees taught authoritatively.  The issue in this text is that a new person, Christ, is on the scene teaching with authority and not teaching the same things that the existing authority taught.

What is the application?  First of all, because someone teaches authoritatively, with fervor and eloquence does not mean that they teach truth.  This is important, Jesus comes along and teaches something entirely different, but also authoritative than the scribes taught... so who is right?  Of course Christ was right being the Son of God... but how in our time when we have different people, even within professing Christianity, teaching contradictory things authoritatively do we discern what is true?  The answer is from the word of God, the scriptures which are our authority.  Still if we are honest we will recognize that among professing Christians with contradictory theology both sides of every issue use scripture to support their stance.  Again, how do you discern between authorities?  You absolutely must be continually in the scriptures reading them entirely, Genesis to Revelation, and more than just one time in your life.  Recall that Jesus is the word made flesh, therefore He speaks from the perspective of the entire Holy writ, when we write and speak we must do the same... but the only way we can is if we familiarize ourselves with the whole book.  You can proof text to support any heresy, and you can speak with authority and still be wrong, just like the scribes, and those stuck in religious institutions which suppress the truth, will be amazed at your teaching as well, and that you teach with authority but not like their institution.

The other thing not to miss in this passage is that the crowds were indeed amazed... but they were not necessarily converted.  Why were they amazed?  Again because Jesus taught something other than the existing authority and He did it authoritatively.  People are always amazed when someone stands up and speaks against the system, it does not mean that they accept what is being said.  This passage shows the mounting tension between the scribes and Jesus and the crowds thrive on tension just like we do today.
Of course, I do recognize that this text could simply be comparing the authority of Christ to that of the Scribes, but given the teachings like “unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” or all of the “You have heard it said of old... but I tell you” moments in Matthew 5, I tend to believe this text is emphasizing the fact that the scribes and Jesus both spoke with authority, but spoke entirely different things.

As an aside, the demands of life are significant and free time seems to be at a premium some people find it asinine that anyone would suggest that Christians should take in the entire scripture once a year or more.  I get that, I really do.  One suggestion I would make that has been incredibly helpful to me is to find a good clear reading of the scriptures in a version (not paraphrase) of the bible which you like and download it in mp3 format.  Most mp3 players today are large enough to hold the entire bible, or at least a few books at a time, and you can hear the scriptures read while you work out, cut grass, meditate, work, drive, etc... You will find it easy to take in the entire cannon once or more a year.  Moreover you can just listen not studiously, but in order to take in the whole flow of scripture and the nature and character of God.  This does not replace hard study of various texts, but it certainly supplements that.  You cannot just be a student of part of the book, you need to be immersed in the whole thing.