Matthew 28 brings us to the hinge that all of history relies on. Did Jesus rise from the dead? If He did, then He was everything He said He was. If He did not, then He was really nothing special. I find interesting because Matthew points out a very interesting detail about the hypothesis of the empty tomb.
Mat 28:11 Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.
Mat 28:12 And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers,
Mat 28:13 Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.
Mat 28:14 And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.
Mat 28:15 So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
Matthew wrote his gospel sometime between 70-80 A.D. according to most scholars. Therefore, anybody could have called him out on the truth of his statement that the stolen body hypothesis was being rumored at that point.
It might seem a little bit threatening to have a rival hypothesis, but this does seem to reaffirm a very important fact. The tomb was indeed empty, and they needed to be a way for everyone to explain it. After all, if the tomb was not empty or was still sealed just like it had been originally, why would they need to spread a story like this one? It seems that they were trying to develop a way to explain what had happened, and that included an empty tomb.
The resurrection is a serious event. It is not the type of thing that doesn’t matter. It has clearly been a disputed event even from long ago, but if the piece of evidence that the tomb was really empty was even attested to by the opposition, then a variety of other questions arise about how the disciples could have opened something that was sealed while there was an armed guard posted.
The bottom line was the same for these religious leaders as it is today. It is not nearly enough to propose a hypothetical alternative. It should also be shown why that belief is more reasonable than the one that seems to fit the evidence best. The one that says that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead.
Matthew 27 brings us to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. As one of the most monumental events in history, it is interesting that there were rumors about Jesus rising from the dead even among the Pharisees who had Him crucified.
Mat 27:62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,
Mat 27:63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.
Mat 27:64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.
Mat 27:65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.
Mat 27:66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.
I was thinking about this, and I thought that if you do not expect someone to rise from the dead, why would you bother setting guards? Even if I had a friend who told me that he was going to rise from the dead, I honestly don’t think I would put guards at his grave. The religious leaders said they were doing it because Jesus said that He was going to rise from the dead, but that doesn’t mean He was going to do it. Dead men do not rise, but even the Pharisees were nervous about Jesus and what He had said. Why?
It seems to me that even though the religious leaders decided to crucify Him, they understood that there was something different about Jesus. He healed people in ways that nobody else could. He performed miracles that were above and beyond what a normal person could do. It is interesting that even given the assumption that normal people do not rise from the dead, there was still some reason to post a guard. There was evidence that they had seen indicating that Jesus was different.
Of course, moving ahead in the story, after Jesus rose from the dead, if the religious leaders wanted to discount the resurrection story, they could have opened up the tomb. Obviously they knew where it was. They had assigned the soldiers to guard it.
Even the people who wanted Jesus dead recognized that there was something different about Him. It makes you wonder what they actually did think about Jesus. They did not want Him to be the Son of God, but who else can rise from the dead? It is interesting.
I was at a small group last night, and we were talking about how hard it is for some people to want to surrender control of their lives to Jesus Christ. We kind of have some type of innate selfishness that motivates us to want to do things our way.
In Matthew 26, Jesus Christ, the most powerful person in the universe, showed His willingness to follow through with the will of God. Even though He had prayed twice that if it was possible, He would like the cup to pass from Him, it was clear that these events needed to happen.
Mat 26:52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
Mat 26:53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?
Mat 26:54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?
If you recall, this took place immediately after one of the disciples sliced off the ear of one of the people who was arresting Jesus.
He makes a great point. He could have been pulled out of the situation, but this was how it had to be. He simply understood that as difficult as this entire experience was going to be for Him, He was the perfect sacrifice. Way back in the Garden of Eden, it was prophesied that one was coming who would crush the head of the serpent.
I think that if Jesus Christ was willing to follow the will of God all the way to the cross, it should not be that difficult for me to give that control away as well. It should not be that difficult, but it is. I think that we can learn a lot from the example of Jesus here. He was willing to lay down His power because He knew it was more important to follow the will of the Father.
I entirely believe that salvation is something that we cannot earn. I believe it is a free gift from God that, although we do not deserve it, we can freely accept. However, in Matthew 25, it certainly seems like what we do matters.
Mat 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Mat 25:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Mat 25:36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
It seems as if the implication here is that the ones who are doing the good works are the ones who are going to receive salvation. How do I reconcile that with what I said above?
I think about it as the evidence of salvation. If you are truly saved, your life will be changed. Indeed, you become a new creation. Therefore, if you are actually a new creation, it seems to me that there will be an evident change in your life.
Am I adding works to the salvation picture? No, I’m not. I do think that works are the inevitable consequence of salvation though. As a result, someone who has a deathbed experience might not have time for many good works, but it is not as if their salvation is in danger. The works follow the salvation, so if there is very little time, there would consequently not be many works.
I think this is a challenge for us as Christians. It is possible for people to say they are Christians and not be. I hope that is not true of you or me. I hope that we are living lives with the explicit goal of following God. We’re going to mess up, and luckily perfection is also not a prerequisite of salvation. It seems as if there is a change that will come into our lives though when we enter a relationship with Jesus Christ, and there ought to be evidence of that.
Matthew 24 starts off with a very interesting question from the disciples.
Mat 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
Remember all of the things that Jesus had just spoken about in chapter 23, and He had said the following:
Mat 23:36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
It is possible then to understand why the disciples were a little bit nervous. Jesus had been saying how there would be a time in the future where “this generation” would persecute the people of God. They were going to kill and crucify them. You can see why the disciples would be nervous about the potential prospect of a life of persecution, so they wanted to clarify with Jesus what He was talking about. They wanted more specific details.
I’m not out to begin an eschatological war over this post, but I do want to point out that Jesus did not give the disciples a direct answer. All He did was essentially reiterate what He said in chapter 23.
Mat 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
I think it is also safe to assume that I will also not create any wars when I make the assumption that the second coming of Jesus Christ has not occurred yet. I don’t think that we see any evidence for that given that Revelation was written around A.D. 95 when most people who hold to this most extreme full preterist position seem to assume that the second coming of Christ would have happened in A.D. 70. In order to hold to this extreme position, it seems that Revelation would need to be written before A.D. 70, and it does not seem that this position fits.
With those assumptions in place, we can move on to the good news. Jesus Christ is coming again! I know that we might have some differences of opinions on when or how this might take place, but we know the end of the story. As Christians, we look forward to this event. Even though we see things that are wrong with the world, we know that there is going to be the end that has been written by the one who is the Alpha and the Omega.
We might wonder as the disciples did when all of these things are going to come to pass, but the bottom line is that the victory is assured and our hope is secure. We eagerly anticipate the return of the King.
I don’t know how many times I have heard or read about someone who left the church because of hypocrisy. Christians do not always practice what they preach. However, at the beginning of Matthew 23, I think that there is an important distinction that we need to make.
Mat 23:2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:
Mat 23:3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
The rest of the chapter goes on to talk about the hypocritical actions of the Pharisees and scribes. I call out this distinction because Jesus advises that the people should not give up on the Scripture that was being taught. The people were still supposed to follow the things of God, but they were not supposed to follow the works of those people who were being hypocritical.
I think this is a wise approach for us today. Christianity certainly teaches that all people will make mistakes. If we are preaching that becoming a Christian makes you a perfect person immediately, that is not true. We can be forgiven of all of our sins, but Christians do not become perfect here on earth.
Therefore, when there are times when Christians make bad decisions, we do not follow the works. If we see someone who is struggling with pride, we don’t want to follow him or her down that road. However, that does not mean that all Christianity needs to be tossed out. It is a combination of the perfect teaching of God and the imperfect messengers that you and I are as we try to advance the cause of Christ around the world.
It has been said that you don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. In this case, it is certainly not wise to throw out God because of flawed people. The truth of Christianity does not depend on having perfect followers. It depends on the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Many of the most popular sayings of Jesus seem to come out of Matthew 22, but I am going to focus obviously on only
one in the time that we have together today.
Mat 22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
Mat 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
I am personally very interested recently in worldview studies, and it is vitally important for Christians. I think that verse 37 really sums up what a truly Christian worldview ought to be.
Loving God with all your heart makes me think about passion. We surrender our feelings to what God really wants. We can give our heart to a variety of things, but it needs to go to God, and if He calls us to do something, we need to follow.
Loving God with our soul strikes me as a little bit different than the heart. When I think about my soul, I think more about my eternal destiny and my deepest desires. The heart is more of the temporary passion whereas I feel like the soul is the things of eternal significance. Clearly, it is important to surrender those to God.
Finally, we need to love God with our minds. We need to use our minds in such a way that we bring glory to God. We need to use our minds in such a way that we are learning more about God and developing our relationship more closely with Him. The only way that we know things is by using our minds, and you develop a relationship with someone by learning more about him or her. I think the same applies to God in a way.
With these three things in line, we are going to have a Christian worldview. With God as the centerpiece of our short-term feelings, deepest desires and intellectual pursuits, our view of the world is going to be a lot different. We want to take a coherent and consistent perspective, and Christianity can do that.
Matthew 21 begins with Palm Sunday, and Jesus is then preaching in the Temple. The Pharisees had a question about His authority to do everything that He did, and Jesus responded with a question.
Mat 21:24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.
Mat 21:25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?
Mat 21:26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.
This stood out to me because I think it reflects modern society very well. The baptism of John was clearly a forerunner of the baptism in the Spirit that Jesus was going to bring. That was truly what they should have been talking about and the theological implications of each answer.
However, rather than address the topic, the Pharisees were only concerned with how they would look. Rather than pursue truth for the sake of truth itself, they were concerned with image. I feel like that is where we find ourselves today.
Christians and non-Christians can be guilty of this. We live in a universe that can be known. We can learn things about the world around us, and if we actually are trying to find out what is true about this world, we need to be concerned about that pursuit. We don’t want to get wrapped up in what our friends are going to say. Rather than try to find out what is the true nature of reality, we bow to peer pressure.
If something is really true, then we should affirm that it is true. We should build a worldview that can coherently explain the truth that is revealed in the world. As Christians, we do follow Jesus Christ who claimed to be the Truth, so this does not need to be a frightening activity for us. The pursuit of Truth is going to point towards God in the long run.
Yesterday, we talked about how there is no way to achieve salvation outside of the power of Jesus Christ, and today in Matthew 20, we receive an illustration that tells us a little bit more about this process of getting into heaven.
As a quick summary, Jesus tells a parable of a group of men who were hired by a landowner to work the fields. They agreed to a contract, and these men put in a full day of work. The landowner also hired more people for the same wages later in the day. The original workers were upset because they felt it was unfair that they all received the same wages for differing amounts of work.
Mat 20:13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
Mat 20:14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
Mat 20:15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
Mat 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
The wages are representative of entrance into heaven. However, people have done different amounts of work to get there. Nevertheless, they all agreed with the landowner on the price. We have taken God at His word. God said that we can be saved through faith, so we have agreed on the wage.
I think about this one, and the comparison that comes to mind is the work of Billy Graham as compared to the work of someone who converts to Christianity on his or her deathbed. Clearly, the amount of impact they can have on earth for the cause of Christ would be different. Billy Graham had his entire life to work at his phenomenal ministry, and this hypothetical convert had maybe a few hours. However, they are both going to receive the gift of everlasting life with God. It is the same penny if you will.
Receiving that payment relies on making the agreement with God and making that commitment, but when the wages are paid, they are going to be the same. They will be praising God eternally right beside each other.
Matthew 19 seems to present a tall order for all of us who one day hope to live forever with God in heaven.
Mat 19:21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
Mat 19:22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Mat 19:23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 19:24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Mat 19:25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
Mat 19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
I know that I certainly have possessions. I have not gone and sold everything I own. Does that mean that I don’t have a chance of making it into heaven?
I don’t think so. I was reading the following verses, and I think that they help us put this into perspective. This man had previously asked Jesus what he could do to have eternal life in verse 16. He then appealed to the fact that he had kept all the commandments. He was looking for salvation based on his works, and Jesus recognized that, just like all people, this man’s heart was not perfect.
As a result, in the context of works-based salvation, Jesus was explaining that it was impossible for this rich man to make it to heaven on his own. I think that the passage could also be said about poor people, but maybe the particular sin would be different.
The disciples were confused because they wondered then who would be able to make it into heaven. That is why verse 26 is so important. It is impossible for people to make it to heaven on their own, but with God, salvation is available for all to make that decision. Verse 26 seems to be taken out of context quite a bit, but it seems to me that it is a direct reference to salvation by our own works being impossible, but through God, salvation is possible.