The NT365 Experiment: Matthew 25

Chapter 25 is the continuation from chapter 24 of Jesus’ final instruction to his disciples. This instruction is often referred to as the Olivet Discourse because Jesus was sitting on the Mount Olives outside of Jerusalem when he taught it. The discourse, as we discussed previously, has one main theme and that is to give the disciples an understanding of the events that are to take place prior to the return of Christ in the future.

Here, in chapter 25, Jesus tells three parables that illustrate the manner in which they are to prepare for the return of Christ and their their need for such preparation. And, he concludes the discourse with a fourth parable on the judgement that is to come.

Good and Wicked Distinction

All of these four parables emphasize the difference between the good and the wicked servants of God. The good servants will receive the blessed reward from the Lord Jesus at his return, while the wicked will receive only judgement. Jesus defines the good and the bad servants in a very important way.

The Good — The good servants of God are those who respond to Christ’s call on their lives by trusting him with their lives, turning unto him in repentance from sins, and actively following him. They put their faith into action. For Jesus, faith is always active. It always breeds action in the lives of his followers.

The Bad — The bad servants of God are those who do the exact opposite of the good. They  respond to Christ’s call on their lives by rejecting him, continuing to live unrepentant lives, and actively serving themselves, not God. Their actions prove the absence of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Their actions prove their rejection of him as their Savior.

Challenges For Our Lives

From the Parable of the Tenants (25:14-30): Are you using the gifts God has invested in you for the advancement of his kingdom? Are you a being a good steward of those things God has given you? Does your management of time, talents, and resources prove that you are actively following him? How can you be a good steward of God’s grace today?

From the Parable of the Seep and Goats (25:31-46): Are you putting your faith to action by caring for those God cares for? Are you feeding the hungry? Giving water to the thirsty? Clothing the naked? Visiting the sick and imprisoned? How can you put your faith in action by caring for those around you today?

The NT365 Experiment: Matthew 24

Matthew 24 is one of the most discussed and famous chapters in the Gospel because Jesus gives his disciples “the signs of the end of the age” in the first half of his Olivet Discourse. His followers have sought to interpret these “signs” and predict his second coming and the establishment of his earthly kingdom ever since.

His teaching follows a progression from the beginning signs and general characteristics of the age before he returns to the reality of the tribulation his disciples will face to the promised certainty of his return.

Some Signs and a Challenge

Jesus lists numerous signs that will characterize the age prior to his return. To a large degree these signs characterize the entire age from the time of his ascension to the time of his return. However, there is a sense that these signs will intensify and come with increasing frequency the closer we get to his glorious return.

Though many of these signs are difficult to interpret, Jesus does give one definitive sign that will precede his return — “the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations” (24:14). If we wish to hasten the return of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom, we should get busy proclaiming to gospel to all peoples throughout the world. We should be focused on testifying to the greatness of the king who is to return. We should also be about the business of preparing folks for his return.

The Promise of Grace (24:13, 22, 31)

I want to make one final note about chapter 24, and that is the promise of grace that Jesus gives to his disciples and us. Three different times he highlights the grace of God which is given to the elect in Christ. Verse 13 says, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Then, verse 22 reads, “…But for the sake of the elect those days (the days of tribulation) will be cut short.” And, again, in verse 31, we read, “…he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

Talk of the end of the age, of the end of the world can be troubling, confusing, and even scary. But, the promise of Jesus is true — there is hope for the elect, those whose lives are hidden Christ. If you are in Christ, if you have chosen to follow him, then you should be encouraged by his promise. There is no way for you to choose him if he has not chosen you. You have been elected by his grace from eternity; therefor, you are sealed in his everlasting grace. Do not be afraid. You are his, and you will not suffer the judgement of God because he has suffered it for you.

The NT365 Experiment: Matthew 23

Intense is the only word that I can come up with to describe Matthew 23. Jesus holds nothing back in his instruction to the people and in his rebuke of the Pharisees.

Instruction (23:1-12)

Jesus instructs his hearers to be on their guard against the false teachers of the scribes and Pharisees. This is a radical instruction given that these two groups comprised the religious leaders of the day. They were the ones to whom the people went for guidance, instruction, and counsel. The scribes were the interpretive experts on the Torah itself, and the Pharisees were experts on theological issues that the Torah raised.

The people were to reject the teachings of these religious leaders because both the scribes and the Pharisees did not practice what they preached. “They tie up heavy burdens, had to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to them with their finger” (23:4). Belief drives behavior, and behavior has to match belief. Be on your guard against false teachers. Make sure their actions validate their message.

Woes (23:13-36)

Beginning in verse 13, Jesus turns his attention directly to the scribes and Pharisees. He condemns them because they have “drawn the people away from the kingdom of heaven instead of leading them it.”* The seven woes are:

  1. The closed door to the kingdom — “For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in” (23:13-14).
  2.  The penned in converts — “For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (23:15).
  3. The blind guides — “‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold of the temple that has made the gold sacred” (23:16-17)?
  4. The neglect of doing what God requires — “Fo you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (23:22).
  5. The outwardly clean dishes — “For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence” (23:25).
  6. The whitewashed tombs — “For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and uncleanness” (23:27).
  7. The murders of prophets — “Thus you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets” (23:31).

Examine yourself before the Lord. Make sure that you are not a whitewashed tomb. Clean from the inside out. Jesus calls us to develop a hatred of sin and to live a life of righteousness.

*ESV Study Bible

The NT365 Experiment: Matthew 22

I apologize for the delay in posting these comments.

At this point in the Gospel, the conflict between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders was at a fever pitch. They did not like Jesus and were prepared to stop at nothing to get rid of him. They had kicked their plotting into high gear.

Three Parables of Judgement

Chapter 22 begins with the parable of the wedding feast. This parable is actually the third of three that Jesus told in response to the religious leaders’ challenge of his authority. These parables express God’s judgment on the religious leaders for not embracing Jesus as the Christ and for not encouraging the people to do the same. In the first, The Parable of the Two Sons (21:28-32), Jesus exposes the religious leaders’ hypocrisy as they failed to live up the profession of repentance at John’s baptism. In the second, The Parable of the Tenants (21:33-46), Jesus declares that God will take the kingdom away from Israel for their rejection of the “cornerstone,” which is Christ. And, in the third, The parable of the Wedding Feast (22:1-14), Jesus clearly describes the certain consequences of the religious leaders’ actions.

Four Attempts to Trap Jesus

As you can imagine, this public rebuke did not sit well with the religious leaders. They sought desperately to make him pay for embarrassing them. So, they plotted how “to trap him in his own words” (22:15).

Attempt #1 

Question: Should we pay taxes to Caesar?
Jesus’ Answer: Yes
Why?: Because Caesar’s inscription was on the coin. We are to give to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

Attempt #2

Question: If a woman is married to seven brothers and they all die, the who’s wife is she at the resurrection of the dead?
Jesus Answer: Neither of the brothers
Why?: Because the institution of marriage as we know it presently will not continue into heaven. That doesn’t mean there will not be some connection eternally, but certainly our understanding of marriage will not continue. What will be will be much better and glorious than we now know!

Attempt #3

Question: What is the greatest Commandment?
Jesus Answer: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (22:37-39).
Why?: All the Law and Prophets depend on these two commandments

Attempt #4

Jesus’ Question: Whose son is the Christ?
People’s Answer: ___________

The Result of the Interactions

Jesus is the true Son of God. He reveals that to the people. They are afraid to ask him more questions. He emerges the supreme authority through these interactions. He is the king of the world.

I am left with two questions at the end of chapter 22. They are:

  1. Am I encouraging others to embrace Jesus as Savior? Am I doing it through my words, my actions, and my interactions? Am I living missionally?
  2. How do I respond to these four interactions Jesus has with the religious leaders? Do I understand that I am to pay to Caesar what is Caesars? Do I look forward to a better way of life and better relationships in heaven through faith in Christ? Do I seek to build my life on the two great commandments — love God and love people?

The NT365 Experiment: Matthew 21

Chapter 21 signifies the beginning of the end of Jesus’ public ministry and earthly life. The chapter begins with his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and ends with the Pharisees plot to arrest him. As I read it, two main themes stand out — Authority and Fruitfulness.

Authority

Jesus’ authority is a theme for Matthew throughout his gospel. In chapter 7, he records that the crowds were astonished at this teaching “for he was teaching them as one who had authority and not as the scribes.” He also gives multiple examples of Jesus’ authority over nature, illness, and demons. And here, in chapter 21, he shows Jesus’ authority over Jerusalem and the religious establishment in his triumphal entry (21:1-11), his actions in cleansing the Temple (21:12-17), his cursing of the fig tree (21:18-22), and his debates with the religious leaders (21:23-46).

But, it is important to remember that Matthew presents Jesus not as a Gentile king who lords his authority over his people. Rather, Jesus is a servant king who uses his authority to advance his kingdom which, in turn, is good for his people. This is perhaps no more clearly seen, up to this point in the Gospel, than in his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, not a noble steed.

Fruitfulness

Bearing fruit in keeping with repentance and life in Christ is central to Matthew’s message and even to the New Testament as whole. It is not enough to simply be a “hearer of the word.” We must also be “doers.” Jesus cursed the fig tree because it should have had fruit to go along with its leaves. The time was right. It looked healthy and useful, but it wasn’t. It didn’t produce fruit. Jesus used this tree as a symbol to the disciples. We must bear fruit in keeping with repentance or we have no part in Jesus and his kingdom.

Pulling It Together

Jesus is authoritative over our lives. We are called to submit to his authority. We are enabled to do that because he was a sacrificial servant. Through faith in him and the work of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered live submissive and fruit-bearing lives. Are you bearing fruit in keeping with repentance? Does Jesus have authority over your life?

The NT365 Experiment: Matthew 20

Jason and Mike worked for the same engineering firm. Mike spent his free time during college as an intern at the firm. He had gotten to know the firm’s management team. He had been to dinner with the owner. He walked into a tailored made job with a good salary when after graduation. Jason had spent his college years goofing off. He made decent grades, but spent the majority of his time playing instead of studying. The idea of completing an internship during college was far from his mind. But, when he graduated, the engineering firm was hiring two engineers. He managed to get a job. And though, he had no prior job experience he was hired at the same salary as Mike who had completed the internship. 

Mike was not a happy camper when he found out that Jason’s starting salary was the same as his. He had proven himself, and Jason had not. Certainly we can all understand Mike’s point of view. We can identify and and sympathize with him in his frustrations. He had put the effort in and Jason had not. Yet, he was not rewarded for that effort. That just doesn’t seem fair. 

Some Laborers and Their Wages

Jesus told a similar story in chapter 20. A man had a vineyard, and he needed some laborers to work in it. He found some at 6 am and put them to work. He sent some others into the vineyard at 9 am, others at 12 pm, and others still at 3 pm. All the laborers agreed to work for the same wage — a denarius. The man came across some other men about 5 pm. He sent them into the vineyard to work. He agreed to pay them a denarius too. At the end of the day, the man called all his laborers in from the vineyard to pay them. He distributed the payment to them beginning with those hired last. Everyone received the same wage.

The guys that started working at 3 and 5 pm were thrilled, but those who started at 6 and 9 am were furious. They confronted the vineyard owner about this injustice. He responded, “Take what belongs to you and go…Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or, do you begrudge my generosity?” 

Three Points to Apply

  1. Divine Prerogative and Generosity — This parable teaches us about God’s divine prerogative to distribute his gracious rewards to his people through Christ in any way he chooses. He is the one who owns all things, and he is bound by nothing but his will in the distribution of those things. The call for us is to be thankful for the provision and reward that he has chosen to give us.
  2. A Single Focus on Serving God — We are not to measure our significance and worth by comparing our accomplishments and sacrifices with those of other believers. We are called to focus on serving God with a heart of gratitude in response to his amazing grace.
  3. Fight Self-righteousness and a Sense of Entitlement — In both the stories above, we often can identify more with those who “receive the short end of the stick” than with those who have received the “undeserved blessing.” But, should we? No. The fact that we are laborers in the field is by the grace of God. The fact that he has chosen to pay us anything is a result of his grace. Instead of demanding more payment for our “work” we should be falling at his feet in worship and praise of his grace. Fight the sense of entitlement and self-righteousness that is natural for our sinful nature. You have bee redeemed by God. Celebrate his great redeeming grace.  

 

The NT365 Experiment: Matthew 19

What do you value most in life? Is it your family? Is it your job? Is it your commitments to the community? Is it the successes of your life professionally and personally? Is the wealth you have amassed?

Those are important questions. They are questions that determine the nature of your heart’s true affections. They are questions that Jesus posed to his disciples and to those who would be his followers. And, because of the way Matthew records Jesus’ teachings in chapter 19, he poses the same questions to us.

Two Stories with the Same Point (19:3-12, 16-22)

Verses 3-12 tell the story of Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees regarding the issue of divorce and remarriage. This is a difficult passage for many people and would take a lot more time and space than we have here to fully explain. But, the main point is one of willingness to stay in a difficult marriage in order to work it out according to the will of God regardless of the way in which one may feel about it. In other words, are you willing to honor your commitment to your spouse even though you may not want to? Are you willing to give up everything you have in order to live out the kingdom of heaven in your marriage and family life?

Verses 16-22 tell the story of Jesus and the rich young ruler. The point of this story is quite simple. Jesus recognizes that the young man has used his wealth as his means of personal identity, power, influence in the community, and purpose in life. The guy has allowed his wealth to become his god.

Thus, Jesus challenges the man to stop thinking on kingdom life in terms of outward conformity to the Law. Rather, he should look inwardly to examine his heart, to determine who is his real god. In order to repent from his idolatry, the young man would need to sell everything he possessed in order to give his life fully to Jesus. His idolatry had sunk that deep. But, he wasn’t willing to part with those possessions. He wasn’t willing to repent. He wasn’t willing to dethrone the idol of wealth in his heart. And so, he walked away sad.

A Summary Statement (19:23-30)

The point of Jesus’ teaching in chapter 19 is summarized in the last seven verses. Jesus contrasts the great reward of those who count the costs and willing follow him with those who value other things more than him and his kingdom. One will be turned away when Jesus comes into his kingdom and one will be welcomed home.

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters of father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (19:29-30).

Question of Application: Are there things that you value more than you value Jesus? If so, are you prepared to sell them and give them to the poor?