(last edited 2/1/17)
The Old Testament contains several groupings of books called the Law, Prophets, Poetry, and History. Now what section do we find? The Gospels. What does gospel mean? Good news.
A common question is, why four gospels? The four authors had different purposes and slants, wrote to a different audience, and portrayed different things about Jesus. We will notice those differences as we go along. So when we notice that one gospel leaves something out, and another adds something, that is not a problem; remember that their purpose is not to have four identical accounts. One may be telling in chronological order, one may be developing ideas in a certain order. Matthew and John were disciples. Luke was a physician. Mark's gospel is thought to be based on Peter's account.
They were not eyewitnesses of every event they wrote about, but there may have been numerous written and oral accounts circulating at that time for them to draw on. Sometimes we may wonder how they could remember exact wording, or they seem to have knowledge of events that isn't explainable. We don't know how much is from personal knowledge and memory, how much from others' accounts, and how much God revealed to them, perhaps at a later time. What does John 14:26 have to say about the things they wrote down?
Who did Matthew write to? The Jews. If you compare it to the other gospels, you will notice many more quotations from the Old Testament, and the words, "that the words of the prophet might be fulfilled." How does this indicate his slant, his purpose, and his audience? What aspect of Jesus does he focus on? Messiah/King. The Jews were concerned about the kingdom promised in the Old Testament; the Greeks and Romans were not. He will weave in more Jewish terms, customs, Old Testament references, fulfilled prophecies than the other gospels. These things would not interest Greeks or Romans, and are not found as much in the other gospels. Jews were expecting a king who would deliver them from Rome and usher in the promised earthly kingdom. Matthew knew Jesus was that Messiah; but now that the Jews had rejected, even killed, their Messiah, what would happen? Matthew was trying to show them God's true program for Israel, the kingdom, and the world.
It helps to try to remember that the people Matthew was writing to did not know what we know now. Try to keep a Jewish mindset. Many Christians mistakenly think all the New Testament is to, for, and about the church. Not the gospels, not at first. The church age does not begin until after Christ's resurrection. (The New Testament uses the term "church" to mean all those who believe in Christ, those who are "in Christ." Rom. 8:1, 12:5. The church is Christ's body on this earth, Col. 1:18, 24. The Bible does not use this term, as we do, to mean individual congregations or church buildings. The epistles do refer to the church in a certain city, meaning all the believers in that city, or the church that meets in someone's house, which would be a smaller local group of believers, since all those in one city might not be able to meet in one place.)
1-17 What does Matthew begin with? Why would this be important to Jews? If Jesus is the Messiah, He must come in the line of Abraham, of Judah, of David. Which other gospel has a genealogy? Are they identical? Why not? Luke gives Mary's line, Matthew gives Joseph's. (Critics who do not know the Bible will claim that these two are contradictory.) Joseph is not the blood father of Jesus, but he is the legal father. Every descendant is not listed; the Jews used family terms more loosely than we do. Several women are included, all of whom were "questionable." Perhaps Matthew is showing that God works in ways we would not always expect. Note the change of wording in 16.
Compare Mary's line (Luke 2:23) and Joseph's line. They are in reverse order, and Luke goes back to Adam, where Matthew only goes back to Abraham. Note that at David, the lines trace from two different sons of David.
11 Joseph was in the line of Jeconiah. Read Jer. 22:30. If Joseph was Jesus's blood father, Jesus would not be qualified to be king; Mary was not in that line. Here is evidence for the virgin birth.
18-21 Matthew gives not only Joseph's genealogy, but his perspective on the birth of Jesus. Luke gives Mary's line and Mary's story. 18 teaches the virgin birth. Many people choose not to believe the virgin birth, but you can't say that the Bible doesn't teach it. God did not have sexual intercourse with Mary in a human form; it was the Holy Spirit. What does incarnation mean? God took a carnal (fleshly) form. This was not the first chronological event in the New Testament; before Jesus was conceived, the priest Zacharias was told that he and his wife would have a son, John, the forerunner of the Messiah, Luke 1:4-25.
19 Did Joseph believe Mary at first? He knew HE was not the father. It WOULD be pretty hard to believe.
20 God took this into consideration; an angel appeared.
21 So now he knows that this child is not only conceived by God, but is the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. Who are "His people"? Israel.
22-23 Matthew points out to his readers that this fulfilled Old Testament prophecy, Is. 7:14. Some of the Jews realized this and believed, but others did not. Let's review Isaiah 7.
Ahaz, the wicked king of Judah, has been threatened by the king of Syria and the king of Israel. God sends Isaiah to reassure him that it will not come to pass. He also says that Israel's days are numbered. To strengthen Ahaz's and Judah's faith, God wants to give them a sign, a short-term prophecy, that they will be able to see come to pass. Ahaz refuses to ask for one; he disobeys God. God gives one anyway. Is it talking about a young woman or a virgin? The word can be translated either way; consider the context. This prophecy, like many, has a short-term AND a long-term fulfillment.
Mt. 1:18-23 tells us three times that Mary was a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and that this virgin birth was the fulfillment of Is. 7:14. What about the short-term prophecy, something that would be recognizable to Ahaz and his nation? Possible explanation: Isaiah is giving a timetable till the two kings' lands are forsaken. Whether it is meant as virgin or young woman, the idea is that she will conceive and bear a son (9 months), his name will be Immanuel, and by the time he can tell right from wrong (a couple of years), this will take place; in just a few years the alliance would be broken. Also possible: 14 is a prophecy of the distant future, and then Isaiah adds 16 as a short term prophecy for Ahaz's benefit. He might be referring to his son, who God specifically told him to bring along, and who could easily be an infant, since we see in the next chapter (8:3) that his second son is born then.
Jesus was never called Immanuel, so does He really fulfill this prophecy?? Yes; what does Immanuel mean? God with us. The Messiah, the one born of a virgin, would be God in the flesh, divine. He is the only one who has ever fulfilled that prophecy.
Joseph thought of divorcing Mary; they were betrothed, but that was considered as husband and wife, although they did not live together for a one-year betrothal period. To break that betrothal was to divorce. Joseph accepted the angel’s words, even though it would mean scandalous gossip about Mary’s pregnancy, and later, about Jesus’s birth. Why might God have not told Joseph ahead of time about the origin of Mary's pregnancy? Why would He let Joseph struggle with the situation before He tells him? Might God have reasons for letting us struggle with things?
25 Mary did not remain a virgin; see also Mt. 13:55-56. Nor does the Bible teach that Mary was sinless--without original sin. Mary herself realized that she needed a Savior (Luke 1:47); only sinners need a Savior. The Rosary begins, "Hail, Mary, full of grace," but nowhere in the Bible does it say that Mary was full of grace. The only person in the Bible who was said to be "full of grace" is Jesus (John 1:14). Full means not partly; He was not partly God and partly man, but fully God and fully man. Mary was human. Also, the angel's statement, "Blessed art thou among women" (Luke 1:28, KJV) does not mean she was sinless or more than human. "Blessed" simply means favored, happy. Many in the Bible are said to be blessed, such as those mentioned in the Beatitudes (Mt. 5:3-9), those who follow the teachings of Jesus (John 13:17), or those who find wisdom (Prov. 3:13). Our beliefs should be based on the Bible, not on any tradition, church teaching, later book or supposed revelation, on this matter or any other.
1 Where and when this takes place; no date, but the historical setting is given. How many magi? Be careful that your ideas about Christmas are really from the Bible, not from Christmas cards or Sunday School flannelgraphs. It's very possible that there were many; would three really have made such a splash? Maybe. There might have been a large entourage. Were they Jews? How far was Bethlehem from Jerusalem?
2 Why would they want to worship this one? Why would they go to this bother to find Him? If non-Jews studied and had such knowledge of the Scriptures, why didn't more Jews recognize Him? Num. 24:17. Who said this, to whom? It's possible that non-Jews had access to Jewish writings. Some think the constellations were originally given by God to all the world as a visual testimony to the redemption story. See Ps. 19:1-4, 50:6, Rom. 1:20. Or God could have just revealed information to them, in a dream or vision, as He often did in Old Testament times. The information was there for any who desired to know the truth, just like today. Do most people search for truth?
Here is the first New Testament use of the word "worship." It is always interesting to note how the Bible first uses important words; the context sets the tone for how we should interpret these words throughout Scripture. Let's take a brief detour to talk about this very important word. The first Bible use of "worship" is in Gen. 22:5, in the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son Isaac, although the similar word "bow" was already used in Gen. 18:2, where Abraham bowed to the Lord when He and the two angels appeared to Abraham. Both words are translated from the same Hebrew word and are often used interchangeably, or together, as in Ex. 4:31, 12:27; see your margin notes for alternate translations. Strongs: to prostrate (especially in homage to royalty or God), bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop.
So what happens in Gen. 22:5 that is worship? Holding nothing back from God, complete trust and obedience. What happens in Mt. 2:2 and 2:11 that is worship? Recognizing who God is and reverencing Him, humbling one's self before Him. What do people do on Sunday at 11:00 that they call worship? Is that really worship, in the biblical sense? People talk about what they get out of a worship service--if it was good or not, if they got anything out of it, if the "worship leader" was any good. Is true worship for us to get something out of, or is it for God?
The church today, unfortunately, has redefined worship to mean something it is not. It focuses on the feelings we get from group singing. True worship--when Self bows to God--is not about warm fuzzy feelings. What feelings do you suppose Abraham has as he is heading toward the place at which he will worship? It is about dying to Self, about giving up, about saying "no" to Self and "yes" to God. It is often hard. Read Dan. 3, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in which we find the word "worship" used 10 times (in the NASB), and which illustrates what true worship is. Notice that each time the word "worship" appears with another term that helps us understand what worship is--fall down, serve, trust, yield up their bodies.
So instead of teaching this concept of worship, too often Christians, even churches, take the Bible term and use it to mean something nice that is easy and fun to do. In many "worship songs" we sing about what we will do for God, and how we will be His completely. Is that the same as actually doing those things? How many of us are doing, or will do, what we say to God in that song? What about the unbelievers who may be present and singing that song? If we sing those words but are not actually doing them, have we really worshipped? Which would God rather have? Words are easy; actions are much harder. It makes us feel good to sing those words about ourselves, but if they are not really true, we have only deceived ourselves and lied about ourselves to God. It is much better to sing about who God is and what He has done, is doing, and will do, than to sing about "I..I..I"
When we worship, what does God get? Rev. 4:10-11. Can you find any place we are told in the Bible to get together as a body to worship? When and how do we worship? Worship can take place in church, in a group, but only if it already takes place daily in that individual. Ex. 34:8, Dan. 3, Ps. 95:6, Matt. 4:9-10, I Cor. 14:25, Rev 22:8. What ARE we to do as a church? Acts 1:14, 2:1-47, 15:35, 18:11, 20:7, Rom. 12:4-8, I Cor. 16:2, Gal. 6:6, Col. 3:16 (group singing is to be done, but is not presented as worship). In the epistles (the directions to the church), "worship" is never used in connection with a gathering of believers. Notice how angels worship God, Rev. 7:11, 11:16, and the shepherds, Mt. 2:2, 8. Compare what the Bible says about false worship; does it have anything to do with singing to that person/thing or to an uplifting group experience? Ex. 34:14, Deut. 8:16, Is. 2:8, 20, Jer. 44:19, Zeph. 1:4-6, Dan. 3:5-7, Rev. 9:20, 13:4, 8, 12, 15.
One reason people associate worship with church may be the numerous Bible references to coming to the temple to worship. Many people confuse the temple with the church, the Sabbath with Sunday, Israel with the church, and the Old Testament with the New Testament. In the Old Testament, Israel did meet with God at the temple only, Ex. 20:24, 25:21-22, 29:42-43, 30:6, 36, Lev. 1:3. That was the only place that their sacrifices (their required mode of worship) could be offered. For the Jews, the temple and the altar were necessary for worship. In the New Testament (the church age, the age or dispensation of grace), the individual believer comes to God through Christ, and our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The church is not the temple or even the house of God; it is just the place of gathering of true believers. The Sabbath was not given to Israel as a day of worship but as the day of rest, Ex. 20:8-11; Sunday is not the Sabbath or the day of rest, nor are we commanded to worship on Sunday. It is done to remember the resurrection, which was on the first day of the week. Later the Jews did begin to assemble on the Sabbath at the local synagogues, as well as visiting the temple to bring their sacrifices.
3 We usually think of just Herod as being concerned; who else was?
4 So did they know the prophecies about the Messiah? Yes.
5-6 Fulfilled prophecy; this was important to the Jewish reader of Matthew's account. Compare Gen. 49:10; Mic. 5:2, the next lines of this prophecy make it clear that this ruler, the Messiah, would be more than just a man. Eternal = divine.
7 Why secretly, since everyone was already looking into all this? 16, he already knew what he was planning to do.
8 What do we learn about Herod here? But they might have believed him; after all, THEY were anxious to worship Him, and they weren't even Jews.
9 We wonder about a star moving like that; how can a star stop over a building? Perhaps it was the shekinah glory, and that was how they described it; like the fire/cloud in the wilderness, it seemed to lead, and to stop at a recognizable spot.
11 Is this the scene of Christmas cards, shepherds and magi in the stable? Compare the wording with Luke 2:7,12,16. Manger, babe, no house, no magi (surely they would have been mentioned if they were there). So according to Mt. 2, they are living in Bethlehem in a house, and the babe is now a child, not a newborn (Luke uses the word for newborn baby). Some time has passed. Gold is connected with kings; frankincense with sacrifices, Ex. 30:34 and others; myrrh with death, John 19:39. What term do we see here in connection with worship? These two terms are often found together, and clarify for us what worship is.
12 So did Herod really want to worship? Can we fool God, if we say one thing but something else is in our hearts? Herod had no intention of trying to please God. Sometimes we try, or want, to do or say what is right but we fail because we are weak and sinful; that is different than what Herod did. His intentions were evil. So we wonder if these magi were believers? I would think so. They worshipped Christ, they knew who He was, their actions (works) were evidence of their faith. Works don't save, but can be evidence of faith. Read James 2:14-26. Works are to follow salvation, but are never the means of salvation. Read Eph. 2:8-9.
13 God is not mentioned in this verse, but what do we learn here about God? He knows the future, He knows what people are thinking, He is able to protect us, He is able to lead and guide us, He doesn't give us the whole plan but just one step at a time, guidance sometimes comes at the "last minute."
15 This trip to Egypt is not mentioned by Luke; why might that be? More fulfilled prophecy; this is important to Jewish readers. Luke was written to the Greeks, who were not up on Jewish Scripture and prophecy. Read Hos. 11:1; the context is Israel, God's son. God had called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt when they were in slavery. But we see how the Holy Spirit shows Matthew that it is also meant to apply to Christ. Or perhaps Christ taught this and that is where Matthew got it. Prophecies often have several levels of meaning, but none of them ever contradict; they are all true. They never have to be revised afterwards or explained away, like man's writings and later supposed "revelations" that many groups espouse. Unlike a man, God's knowledge of the future is perfect, and His use of words is perfect and accurate.
16 What does this tell us about Jesus? At this time He could possibly have been up to the age of two. Herod was cruel; he had several of his own children and wives put to death because he thought they were plotting against him.
17-18 More fulfilled prophecy. Read Jer. 31:15-17. What was the original context? But the Holy Spirit has applied it to this situation. Rachel was the wife of who? The children of Israel/Jacob/Rachel. Also, Rachel's tomb was near there.
19 Joseph has another dream.
22 Another dream. Matthew gives the story of Joseph, Luke gives the story of Mary. What do we learn about Matthew in this account? He was obedient. This was a son of Herod, possibly was insane (due to inter-marriage).
23 More fulfilled prophecy. The prophets told that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, from Egypt, and from Galilee. Here it is said he would be called a Nazarene, but not that He would be from Nazareth. The Old Testament does not speak of Nazareth. But the word "Nazarene" is very similar to the Hebrew word for branch or sprout (Is. 11:1, 53:2-3, Ps. 22:6, this psalm speaks of Christ), and it was a term of contempt because Nazareth housed a Roman garrison and was associated with the idea of consorting with the enemy; read John 1:45-46. (This is different from the word "Nazirite," one who is under a vow, Num. 6:13-21.)
1-3 Another important character in the story. John the Baptist is a New Testament character, but he is actually the last of the Old Testament prophets. Remember that the new dispensation, the age of grace, the age, doesn't start until after Christ's resurrection. During the ministry of Christ, people were still living in the age of the Law.
More fulfilled prophecy. How much time has passed? Luke 3:23. What does repent mean? To turn and go the other way. A change, not just a feeling. Unbelievers must repent as part of believing; believers are also told to repent. Repentance was the message of the Old Testament prophets. Is. 55:7, Jer. 25:5, Ez. 18:30, Jonah 3:8, Zech. 1:3.
Why repent? Wouldn't ALL Jews enter the kingdom? THEY thought so; John was announcing that "it ain't so." Why did he say the kingdom of heaven was at hand? Hurry and get ready! Something is about to happen! Righteousness was the requirement for entering the kingdom; things must change if the kingdom was to come. Many take the view that "kingdom" in the gospels is just God's reign over us, but I think that view comes from a lack of time spent in the Old Testament. If you are familiar with the Old Testament, you know that the kingdom was part of the earthly expectation of Israel, part of God's covenant that they were waiting for Him to fulfill. This promise was first given in Gen. 12:1-3 (the Abrahamic Covenant) and expanded on throughout the Old Testament.
This is important to understanding the book of Matthew, and the earthly ministry of Jesus. He came as their Messiah, to be their King, but they did not recognize or receive Him. So He did not give them the kingdom at that time. He offered it; they rejected Him. It could have happened that way, but because God gave them free will and they chose wrongly, it did not happen. It will happen later; He will come again, and complete His earthly mission. We will see this subject clarified as we go through this book.
5-6 The response to his message. It doesn't say WHY they were baptized, but the word literally means to be identified with; baptism was done publicly, not privately, showing a public identification with someone. Baptism is never done privately, but it is always a public ceremony, for the purpose of showing others who you are identifying with.
7 More important characters are now introduced. The plot thickens… Why would they come to have him baptize them? They were ready to enter the kingdom too, they thought.
8-9 What is John accusing them of? Saying one thing and doing another (is this a new problem for the Jews??). Being in the line of Abraham is not enough to get them into the kingdom; not all Jews will enter! And, if they SAY they have repented, their actions better show it; empty words of repentance do not fool God. John lays right into them without gentleness or sympathy; is this the way we should talk to unbelievers? Of course not. But these are religious hypocrites; those who had knowledge (but not necessarily faith). They had pride. We will see Jesus deal very harshly with them.
10 Before the kingdom starts, some will be removed for judgment; not all will enter the kingdom, as we often read in the Old Testament.
11-12 Now John speaks about Jesus. What quality do we see in John? Does he present a Jesus that is all lovey and gentle? What do we learn about Jesus here? Judgment is coming. If the kingdom is going to begin, there must first be a separating of the wheat and the chaff. Winnowing, threshing, wheat, chaff are terms related to harvest; harvest speaks of judgment in the Bible, not soul-winning. We want to notice as we go through the gospels how much or how little Jesus stresses "love each other," which is what most people think is His entire message; we will see that much of what He says deals with harsher topics.
13-15 Is baptism for salvation? Obviously not. So what is happening here? Who or what is Jesus identifying Himself with? Sinners. John is confused though; he even questions Jesus! Jesus is drawing attention to the need for righteousness, which would characterize the kingdom He was announcing. There is much argument over how to be baptized; how was Jesus baptized? Read Rom. 6:3-4; what does immersion picture?
16-17 What do we see about God here? The trinity. Apparently John saw and heard these things. Do you think he knows now who Jesus really is? Do you think he might have known before?
1 What major Bible character appears here for the first time in the New Testament? What is the next incident in Jesus's life that we are told about? (Are we told everything that happened?) "Then," how soon? Compare Luke 3:21-23 (here is where we learn Jesus' age when He began His ministry), and Luke 4:1, and Mark 1:9-12 ("immediately"). As soon as Jesus begins His work on this earth, Satan attacks. "Led up by the Spirit" sounds like God planned it that way. Satan only operates within God's permissive will; compare Job 1:8-12.
2 But first what happens? Now Jesus is even more susceptible to temptation, humanly speaking. Why did Jesus fast? God never commands fasting in either the Old or New Testament; it was a cultural practice, followed even by pagans, and by many non-Christian religions today, for the purpose of showing mourning and humility. In Mat. 9:14-15, Jesus is asked why His disciples do not fast. He answered that they did not "mourn" because the Bridegroom (Himself) was with them, but when He was gone, they would "fast." He equates fasting with mourning, as the Old Testament does. The many Old Testament references use these terms with fasting: weeping, mourning, sin, sackcloth and ashes, humbling one's self, seeking God's favor. Jesus would not need to do this. Perhaps such a severe fast would weaken Him so that it could be shown that even in such a weakened state, Jesus is God and Satan cannot cause Him to falter from His divine purpose. For more on fasting, go to notes on Isaiah 58.
3 What name is Satan called by here? What is his opening tactic? "If." If what? What had God just said? When and where? Casting doubt on God's Word. Compare Satan's very first words to man, Gen. 3:1. Same tactic. Was Jesus really tempted by this? He is God, but this tells us that Jesus was also truly human, or it wouldn't have been a true temptation. Read Heb. 2:17-18. Was He at His strongest and best, most able to resist Satan and to think clearly? Do our trials and temptations always wait until we are strong and have it all together? We may be weakened by physical problems or by just having gone through other troubles.
4 What is Jesus's tactic in the face of strong temptation? What does this teach us? Jesus quotes from where? Exact quote. How did Eve respond to temptation, when God's Word was questioned? Read Gen. 3:2-3, compare 2:16-17. She adds to it. What is just as important as physical food? It was God's will for Jesus to be hungry and to suffer temptation; might it sometimes be His will for us to be hungry, or tempted, or sick, or tired, or poor? Some believe it is not, but the Bible teaches that God allows and uses trials in our lives for His purposes.
5-7 Would this appeal to Jesus? It must have. Now how does Satan use God's Word? He quotes it to back his position! It sounds good, but does he quote accurately? Read Ps. 91:11-12. What did he leave out? Angels are to guard us, according to God's plan, not to be manipulated for our ego. Opening His ministry with a spectacular miracle would tempt His ego-a way to get people to recognize and accept Him. "If you fell, God might use angels to rescue you." But Jesus said we are not to what? Putting God to the test is to try to make Him do something, to manipulate God. And it implies that this is true when walking in "God's way," not just any old way. So does Satan know God's Word? What have we seen about how he will try to trick us using God's Word? Adding to, leaving out, misquoting, taking out of context. Cults do all these things. Why do untaught Christians fall for these tricks? So how can we protect ourselves against deception? Learn God's Word.
8-9 Was this tempting to Jesus? We don't see Him scoffing or laughing. It was not only tempting, it WAS Satan's to give. He is currently but temporarily the ruler of this world. Read Luke 4:6, John 12:31, Eph. 2:2.
10 Each time Jesus answers temptation with Scripture. A lesson for us! The issue is who you worship, not, what's in it for me? Satan's way would give Him everything, the kingdom He would someday have, now, without suffering, while God's way led to the cross. Here again we see the word "worship," not meaning stuff we do in church, but what other word used with it, tells us what it involves? Serve. Worship is about our personal relationship and walk with God, not things we do in a group or in church.
11 So we learn some important things about Satan, how he deals with us, and how to deal with him. For more help in dealing with Satan, read Eph. 6:10-17. We have armor. How many weapons do we have? Jesus has just demonstrated for us how to use it. Also read Heb. 4:12. Could you use a sword effectively in battle if someone gave you one right now? How could you get more handy with it?
12-16 More fulfilled prophecy. Read Is. 9:1-2.
17 Jesus begins to preach; the beginning of His ministry. What is Jesus's message? Was repentance optional, or merely suggested? Who was looking for the kingdom? This message was to Jews; not to Gentiles, not to the whole world. The church was still future. He came to offer Himself as what? If they wanted the kingdom to begin, they needed to do something to change. He said the kingdom was at hand, was near. He was offering it; it COULD have happened then, in God's ideal plan. But since they did not accept it, God permitted them to reject it; a postponed kingdom is now God's will. His primary message, at first, was not that all men should believe on Him for salvation; we will see that presented later in His ministry.
18-20 Here is a good example of how the different gospels tell things differently. Read John 1:35-42. Are these two accounts contradictory? What John said could have happened before what Matthew said. Each writer is telling the parts of the story in the way that gets across his message. Matthew is telling about Jesus calling disciples to leave their professions and be His followers, and about being fishers of men. John's gospel draws attention to the question, who is Jesus? Who do people think He is?
20 They respond and follow. It is possible that they had contact with Him before He called them, which is what we see in John's gospel. Remember, the Bible does not tell us every single thing that happened or that was said, just enough to tell us the story. Obviously Jesus said and did much more than we read. Doesn't this incident make you wonder why Jesus chose the men He did? And why He chooses us?
22 What else was left behind? So do we all have to leave our professions and families in order to follow Jesus? No, or we would find it taught to believers throughout the New Testament.
23-24 What was Jesus talking to them about? The kingdom. Remember Matthew is writing to the Jews, who were looking for their Messiah; they knew the Old Testament. Read Is. 35:5-6, 61:1. What should they have concluded about Jesus? Isaiah had told them how to recognize Him. Do faith healers heal all who come to them, immediately and visibly? Why did Jesus heal? To prove who He was. Many claim to be the Messiah, to be Jesus, even today; how can we know if their words are true? The Bible tells us how to recognize Jesus, the first time and the second time.
25 Great multitudes; true disciples, or curiosity seekers? We shall see.
1 Chapters 5, 6 and 7 are known as what? Who is it addressed to? Compare 7:28. Perhaps at this time, before He had commissioned the twelve, all those who followed Him were called His disciples. The word "disciple" means follower; of those followers, 12 are especially chosen. Mountain can be translated hill; Jesus, seeing the multitudes, may have sat on the side of a hill or mountain to better be heard by multitudes. His disciples may have then come and seated themselves around Him. Compare Luke 7:17-20. And the message about what kind of people will enter the kingdom seems to have greater application than just to the 12. These are probably teachings that He gave many times in many places.
Many Christians read this sermon as if Jesus was speaking directly to us; is this to the church? Does it present salvation? Remember the context and the time frame. At this point Jesus is presenting Himself to Israel as the Messiah, who is about to bring in the kingdom on earth that they have been looking for. 3, He immediately speaks of the kingdom of heaven. We will see a number of references to the kingdom. Jesus has been preaching that they must do what to prepare to enter the kingdom? Here is more information on what is necessary for living in the kingdom. Do these instructions also have application to us as the church?
These are like the 10 commandments-rules to live by, but they go much further. These include attitudes. Like all of the Bible, this APPLIES to us, the church, but it is not all TO us. This is an important aspect of reading and understanding and applying the Bible: first notice the context, who said it, who was the original audience. THEN we can correctly interpret and apply to our particular situation.
Liberals and unbelievers often claim that the Sermon on the Mount is their "religion." But it calls for a standard of perfect behavior; can anyone keep that? (only in Christ, by His imputed righteousness) Do we see here blood shed for sin, sin dealt with on the cross, the resurrection? Those are the basic facts of the gospel. This sermon is not the gospel. What part of the Bible IS addressed to the church specifically? The Epistles.
3-9 The Sermon on the Mount begins with the beatitudes--statements beginning with the words "blessed are…" 3 sets the context--the kingdom. They probably focused on the word "kingdom." We tend to focus on the word "heaven," but it is not really speaking about heaven. Were the Jews looking to be taken up to heaven, to spending eternity in heaven? No, we do not find this emphasis in the Old Testament. The kingdom of heaven would be God's kingdom, on this earth, as presented by the Old Testament prophets, and in Rev. 20. Did the Old Testament teach that all Israelites would enter the kingdom? Only the righteous. We see pictured here those righteous Jews. The righteous will recognize their Messiah; 3 and 5 point out humility as the mark of the righteous, as we have seen throughout the Bible. 4, having just read Zechariah, what verse about mourning comes to mind--about the Jews, the kingdom time frame? Read 12:10. So, those who mourn are those who recognize who? 5, who was promised the land? 8, how will they see God? Christ ruling on earth.
The first half of each verse describes the type of person who will enter the kingdom; the second half describes what they will have in the Messiah's kingdom on earth. Compare Luke's wording, 6:20-21. So what is the application for us? These are a new set of values, not the world's values. These qualities should mark believers; instead, many Christians think they should major in things like outward activities and following a list of do's and don'ts. This list contrasts with Self, ego, arrogance, self-righteousness. These are qualities God wants in us, and these are things He has for us in the future, BUT not necessarily in this earthly life. The kingdom on earth has not yet come; it is future, and life on earth will not be that way until after Christ returns. (Does 9 teach that Christians are to be pacifists? Peacemaker is not synonymous with pacifist; a pacifist believes killing for your country is wrong, even though God often commanded Israel to kill their enemies. The 10 Commandments do not forbid killing; they forbid murder. Compare the Hebrew or look in Strong's Concordance.)
10-12 Why were the Jews persecuted? For following God, His Word. This doesn't speak of THEM being in heaven; what IS in heaven? their reward. 6:20 also talks about their treasure in heaven, but not about them being in heaven. For us, what is the application in 10-12? What does 12 teach about rewards? There are greater and lesser rewards for believers; read I Cor. 3:10-15.
13-16 So who is to be the salt and the light? Christians? Israel, in the kingdom. But since the kingdom has not yet begun, who is NOW the salt and light? Christians. But there is a danger that the salt can lose its saltiness, and the light may not shine forth. What does salt do? Preserve (against evil), create thirst (for what?). I had always wondered about 6, why unbelievers would glorify God if I was letting my light shine. Many of them are turned off or could care less. But it's talking about Israel as the center of the Messiah's kingdom, in a world where ALL acknowledge the Messiah, as the Old Testament prophets make clear.
17 This is very important. We do not have to keep the Law; many Christians think you do have to. They criticize our position by claiming that we think Christ has done away with the Law. This verse clarifies the issue. We do not have to fulfill the Law because Christ did it for us; we can't! Read Gal. 2:21, 3:13,24. "The Law and the Prophets" is another way of referring to the Old Testament. Here Christ is claiming to be the Messiah; only the Messiah could fulfill the Law and the prophecies.
18 Why is this verse important? Can the Bible ever be destroyed? Have people tried? People sometimes worry that it has been changed over the years so that we can't know we have the real thing; God will see that doesn't happen. Not only will God protect His Word, what else about it? ALL will be fulfilled. Some Christians believe that the Bible isn't to be taken literally, but loosely, allegorically. How does this verse support the literal interpretation? (Each word and letter has meaning. Therefore we study words and notice even the different nuances of similar words.)
19-20 He is speaking to people who enter, or want to enter, the kingdom. Who can enter? How can anyone be like that? Don't you suppose that was a real shocker to them? The rest of the sermon goes on to make the standard impossibly high.
21 "You have heard" would be a reference to the teaching of the Pharisees. "But I say" contrasts God's intent. Many people think the death penalty or killing in war is unbiblical. This verse clarifies the Hebrew word which means murder, not kill.
22 Jesus takes the Law even farther, to your words, thoughts, feelings. Your heart. We tend to think murder is a worse sin than anger, but anger without cause is equated here with murder.
23-24 What clue here tells us that Matthew is speaking to Jews? Altar. Again, pointing to the literal kingdom; would Gentiles be bringing offerings to the altar? Would the church? The importance of reconciliation. What if God got so mad at us that He insisted that there could be NO reconciliation? Yet sometimes we feel that way toward even another believer.
25-26 More on reconciliation.
27-28 Taking the 10 Commandments one step farther; the look, thought, feeling, lust, desire. Sin comes from where? The heart, not the deed. So you can keep the Law and still be very sinful. Is the one who sleeps around really any worse in God's eyes than the one who indulges his/her eyes and lustful thoughts?
29-30 Is Jesus teaching physical mutilation? Does that part cause the sin? No, the heart does. Eye--the thought, inner. Hand--the deed, outward. Both kinds of sin must be dealt with, even if it is painful, radical.
31-32 Divorce in the kingdom. God takes marriage vows seriously. The Pharisees permitted divorce over every little thing; is that God's plan for marriage? This makes one guilty of adultery, just as the lustful look does, 28.
33-37 An oath is a vow; to swear by something was how people took an oath or vow back then. The Pharisees used various oaths to play word games, so they would not really be bound to keep their word. (That's not what I really said; that's not what I really meant…) People today swear on a Bible in court, or say "I swear on a stack of Bibles!" He is saying that a simple yes or no should be all that is necessary to ensure that you keep your word. The importance of truthfulness and integrity.
38 A quote from the Old Testament.
39-42 But… Now things are changing. Vengeance was allowed under the Law, but now they are to not only NOT take vengeance-they are not to resist, and even offer the other person another chance to take advantage of you. I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that in the kingdom, Christ will be ruling. Righteousness will be the rule, so these people WILL be dealt with, and maybe they were being told not to take vengeance into their own hands.
43-46 Notice that 43 quotes from the Old Testament, then adds a phrase that is not a quote, but merely a saying. Loving your enemy was not required in the Old Testament. Hating your enemy was allowed. But not any more, not in the kingdom. What is added that is new? In 10-12, they were told to be glad when these things happened to them, and now they are told to love and pray for those who do it. What reason is given? Is loving your enemies the same as liking them? Does the Bible require us to like everyone? What's the difference? Read Luke 10:25-37; Jesus answers the question of what it means to love your neighbor by giving the parable of the good Samaritan. Does the Samaritan "like" the man he helps? We can be a good neighbor even to people we don't like.
48 The standard is perfection, righteousness, holiness-like God. Can anyone be that? Without Christ, where does that leave us? We, the church, having the indwelling Holy Spirit and have Christ's imputed righteousness. Here is why liberals and unbelievers fall short when they claim that the Sermon on the Mount is their "religion." They don't want to believe in Christ or the cross, but without them, it is impossible to keep! This "religion" is harder to keep than the 10 Commandments!
1 God is only interested in your outward righteousness if your attitude is what?
2-4 What are alms? Giving help to the poor. Same as 1, a specific example. Sometimes people don't merely hope to be noticed, they actually draw attention to their deeds.
5-6 Same as 1, another specific example. Is this teaching that all prayer must be private? Acts 2:41-42. Both examples say that God will repay these deeds if done rightly. If not done rightly, what is their reward? I think we can also say that God will reward us for right things we do or try to do that are known to no one else, even things that didn't seem to work out when we tried to do them, or things we wanted to do but couldn't; it might be saying He rewards what is in our hearts.
7-8 Is this teaching that we should only ask God once about any request? I think not; it is probably talking about the wrong idea that the more times you repeat it, the more likely you are to have made God do what you want. Is it possible that we can manipulate God to suit our purposes? Is God sitting up in heaven, not acting in a specific situation until we ask or tell Him to? Is that what prayer is for? Will God accomplish His purposes whether we tell Him to or not? If He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-living, isn't He going to do what is best, regardless of what we pray, or if we pray? Is it really possible that our plan is better than His? Would we really rather He drop His plan, which is obviously best, and instead implement our plan? There are many books on how to pray effectively, how to get your prayers answered. Is there such a thing as unanswered prayer? What do we usually mean by that term? Is it possible that there are "secrets" to getting our prayers answered? Can we always see immediately how God is working out that situation? What if the answer is no, or wait, or I'll handle that situation in another way than what you are asking, because My way is best. So how should we approach prayer? Before we answer that, let's go on to the Lord's prayer.
9-13 What does this prayer mean to you? Is it to be memorized and repeated, or is it an example? Or both? What does it teach about prayer? It is rather general; should our prayers be general, or might these be guidelines where we then interject our specific requests in this way?
How does it start, what is most important--God or us? Should we consider addressing God as "she," as the feminists believe? According to Jesus here, is God just a force that is in us all, as the New Agers believe, or is He a person? What does hallowed mean? Holy; God is to be reverenced by us, and we are to pray that He will be reverenced by all. This is His will. Too often Christians act as though God is our "buddy" and speak to Him glibly, completely lacking in reverence, even sometimes copying unbelievers in using His name lightly, as if it were insignificant--"oh God!" It is often spelled "oh god"--does that really change anything?
Hallowed be THY name--not Allah or Budda or any other God. ARE all those just different names for the same God? Do all people really worship the same God, just by different names? The God of the Bible is a Trinity; He has a Son--Jesus Christ. Do those other "Gods"? So are they the same? Do the modern Jews worship a God who has a Son, Jesus Christ? There is only one true God. The others are false gods.
What are we to pray about the kingdom? As we say this memorized prayer, we often say in one breath, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done." But these are two separate thoughts. When and how will His kingdom come? Will some people miss the rapture? So this is a good reminder to pray for the salvation of others. At the end of the seven years of tribulation, what happens, Rev. 19:1-16? Then what happens, 19:17-21? Then what happens, 20:1-6? So is it scriptural to pray that the rapture will take place soon? According to Jesus, yes. The earthly kingdom, the culmination of the Old Testament prophecies, cannot come until Christ returns, just before the 1000 year earthly reign. The tribulation, which must precede the earthly kingdom, cannot begin until Christ has called the church to meet Him in the air (see notes on Mt. 24). So when we pray, "Thy kingdom come," we are saying a mouthful!
God's will as stated here is to bring in the earthly kingdom that has been prophesied, and we are to long for and pray for its fulfillment. We can also take this opportunity to thank Him and praise Him that His kingdom WILL come, and that His plan WILL be fulfilled! Will God's will ever be done on earth like it is in heaven? In the earthly kingdom, under the righteous reign of Christ, it will be more so, and then in eternity it will be done completely. But we are to pray that we and others will live in accordance with God's revealed will and that things will happen according to His revealed moral will. Here is where most of our prayer requests fall into line--not praying that OUR will be done in each situation, not asking or suggesting how God should work out each situation, but acknowledging that in each situation, we are trusting HIM to do HIS will, to work it out in the way that best fits into HIS big plan, and that we are OK with that. Praying for God to bring a certain outcome leaves us hanging, hoping, wondering: will He do what we are asking? But acknowledging our trust in His sovereignty--that He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, that He is completely in control--leaves us with peace and confidence.
So we start our prayer by focusing on God, on who He is, on His sovereign plan that is unfolding. "Hallowed be THY name, THY kingdom come, THY will be done." Doesn't the Bible teach that God's will WILL be done? What does Eph. 1:11 say about God's will? So why does He want us to ask Him to do this? It's NOT to get Him to do it; it's to get us to recognize that He IS doing it! It helps us to start viewing ALL of life as under the control of God's sovereign will, which gives us confidence in God and helps us to trust Him more. It's also a confession that we want HIS will to be done, not OUR will.
How do we generally start our prayers? Asking? Thanking? What is the difference? Aren't those about ME? By starting our prayer this way, we acknowledge that it is all about HIM, not about ME. Compare the beginnings of these prayers: II Kings 19:14-15, Jer. 32:17-22, Dan. 4:34-35, 9:4. Then--our daily needs, confession of sin, asking for leading and guidance and protection, humbly recognizing that we are sinful, are prone to sin. What if your daily needs are being met, and you don't feel the need to ask for that? Then thank Him and praise Him; recognize that WE are not meeting our needs, but that HE is. Thank Him for your many blessings; recognize that your earthly blessings are really only a shadow, a picture of the blessing and joy you will experience with God in eternity. When you confess sins, also take this opportunity to THANK Him that He has forgiven you and given you the gift of eternal life.
Temptation can also be translated as trials, difficulties. Recognizing how susceptible we are to falling, throwing ourselves on God's mercy. Does this say that God tempts us? No, the Bible says He does not, James 1:13; who IS the tempter, I Thes. 3:5? But He tests us, I Cor. 3:13, I Pet. 1:7, 4:12, and in those situations, if we do not obey, we may be tempted to sin instead. Every situation can be looked at as both a test and a temptation, depending on how we respond. Read Mt. 26:41, James 1:12-15, I Cor. 10:13.
Isn't God always leading us by His Holy Spirit, whether we ask Him or not? Ps. 31:3,139:10, Ez. 34:15, Heb. 8:9. Are we always listening or following? Through our own weakness, foolishness, or disobedience, we fall into temptation. Jesus wants us to recognize that only by following Him can we be rescued from temptation. Even though He leads us, the Bible does not guarantee we won't have any problems. As long as we are on this earth, in these mortal bodies, living among other mortals--all of which have been tainted by the Fall (Gen. 3)--we will be touched by temptation and by evil. But God can lead us through those situations if we rely on Him (faith, trust). Remember that the ideas in the Lord's Prayer are capsulized; restate them in your own words as you pray them. And again, use this opportunity to thank and praise Him that He DOES lead you and protect you, that no matter what happens He is still in control.
This last section is not in all the manuscripts; it might not have been in the original. Jesus ends by again praying about the kingdom. Repeating this in such a short prayer model seems quite amazing, so it must be important to focus on the kingdom. It seems to be the focal point of God's program. Before, He prayed, "Thy kingdom come," seeming to focus on the action, the coming. Now He prays "Thine is the kingdom," seeming to focus on "THINE." The kingdom is about GOD; it involves God's plan for Israel and His plan for the church, but it is ABOUT HIM. The Jews were concerned about how Israel would finally be out from under Rome's power, and how they would finally be the primary nation (even the disciples, Acts 1:6). The disciples seem preoccupied with their own role in the coming kingdom, Mt. 18:1, 20:21. Likewise, when we think about heaven and eternity, do we think about more about how God's plan will finally be fulfilled, how wonderful He is, how wonderful to be in His presence eternally? Or do we think about how we will finally be rid of our bodies and our earthly problems, how we will be reunited with loved ones, and how nice it will finally be for us? Do we love and praise God because there is something in it for us? Or because He is worthy of our praise and devotion even if there is nothing in it for us? Do we love Him for HIS sake or just for SELF's sake? Jesus is pointing out that the focus is to be on GOD, not US.
"For Thine…is the power." What sort of power does God have? I Sam 2:6-8, I Chron. 29:11-12, Is. 40:28, Jer. 23:24, Rom. 1:20, Heb. 4:13, Rev. 19:6. We have assigned terms to some of God's qualities of power, such as sovereign, omnipresent, omniscient, onmipotent (this is the only one of these terms found in the KJV Bible, Rev. 19:6). So every time we pray this prayer, we are confessing that God is all-powerful, that He is sovereign over all. Jesus tells us to recognize God's power and to TELL Him that we do.
"For Thine…is the glory." By nature we are concerned with our own glory, with Self. We are self-absorbed, self-centered. This sin, which the Bible condemns perhaps more than any other sin, and which was Satan's sin (Is. 14:13-14, Ez. 28:2,17), is called what in Prov. 16:18? What other words does the Bible use to refer to this attitude, James 3:5, Jer. 48:29? Is this life really about US? Is salvation really even about US? Col. 1:16-18. In Eph. 1:1-14, what phrase is repeated in 6, 12 and 14? This is the purpose of everything that Paul describes in this passage. In II Thes. 1:10-12, is the emphasis on what happens to US, or how we are the means of glorifying HIM? Compare also John 15:8, 17:4-5,10. In John 17:24, is our going to be with Him in heaven ultimately for US or for HIM? Again, Jesus wants us to recognize this fact and to tell God that we do.
"Forever": other meanings of this word, according to Strong's--the vanishing point, time out of mind, eternity, always, perpetual, without end. What does this tell us about God and His plans? Compare Ps. 9:7, 10:16, 33:11, 45:6,17, 48:14, 66:7, 73:26, 78:69, 104:31, 106:1, 112:3, 117:2, 119:89,160, 145:21, 146:10.
What is the meaning of the word "amen"? Is it just a word that we are to tack on at the end of a prayer? Does it just mean, "the end," or "I'm done praying now"? In the New Testament, it is mostly used as the final word of a prayer. In the Old Testament, it was also used as a response by the people (for example, to something said by the king, the priest, the prophet), I Chron. 16:36. Sometimes it was said twice, for emphasis, Neh. 8:6, Ps. 72:19. Strong's: (Hebrew) so be it, truth; (Greek) firm, trustworthy, surely, verily, so be it. So when we end our prayer this way, what are we saying? Often we end our prayers with the attitude of "I hope." This is because we often pray to get certain things or for things to turn out a certain way in our lives or the lives of others; we can't KNOW they will because the Bible doesn't teach us to pray that way. It doesn't promise us that we can get God to make things turn out the way we hope. Study the Lord's Prayer and other Bible prayers to see what things we are to pray for, so we can confidently say "Amen" to our prayer.
Here Jesus Himself is praying to the Father. Elsewhere Jesus teaches us to pray to the Father in His name. John 14:13-14, 14:26, 15:16, 16:23-26. What does it mean to pray in Jesus' name? Does it mean that no matter what you pray, as long as you tack those words on the end, God will give you what you asked? I thought that for years. Finally I realized that it means to ask God for the same kinds of things that Jesus Himself would ask God for. How can we know what those things are? They are things that are within God's revealed will. How can we know what is God's will? By reading the Bible. The things that God desires and are pleasing to Him are His will. Do a word study; look up references to "God's will" or to "will" in that context (it might say "His will" or "Thy will"). Finding God's will is not a matter of getting some kind of "vibes" or special knowledge about this situation or that decision. The Bible does not teach us to look for subjective signs that indicate God's will. God's will is clearly laid out in the Bible. Everything that the Bible tells us to do is God's will. For starters, look at Rom. 12:1-2, I Thes. 4:3, 5:16-18. (Study tip: If you are using Strong's Concordance, keep in mind that there are several Greek words for "will" in the New Testament. In the above references, the Strong's reference is 2307. So look for other listings of 2307, not for every use of the word "will.")
This model prayer ends by recognizing again that God is in control, which should cause us to feel how? Have faith, gratitude. So is prayer about getting God to do what we want? Rather, what? We see that this model prayer is full of Bible shorthand, brief words and concepts that are packed with meaning. So is it OK to pray this prayer as a memorized prayer? Yes, if it is not just meaningless rote words coming out of your mouth; say it thoughtfully, trying to realize what each phrase is about. Or use it as a model and insert your own words. For example:
Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name: Heavenly Father, may everyone recognize who You really are and honor Your name. Help me to live in a way that will draw people to You.
Your kingdom come: Thank You that one day You will return and rule on this earth and make everything right. Come soon, Lord Jesus! Thank you that You are working in the lives of (insert names). Help them to come to know you.
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven: Thank you that I can know that You are working out Your will in my life and in the lives of those I am concerned about (name them) and in these situations (name them). Help me and help those people to learn to trust You more in these situations. Help me to learn to know Your will; give me a greater hunger for Your Word and to want to apply it.
Give us this day our daily bread: Here are my needs (name them) and the needs of these people (name them). I give them to You. Thank You that You will take care of them in the way that You see fit. (or) Thank You that You are meeting my/their needs; thank You for Your many blessings (list them).
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors: I confess that I have sinned (list them). Thank you that You forgive me because You sent Your Son Jesus to die in my place and pay the price for my sins. Thank You for eternal life. Help me to forgive (name) who has sinned against me and not to hold onto feelings of bitterness and resentment, even though I feel like continuing to hold it against them. (spell out the situations) Help me to become more aware of my own sinfulness and my specific sins, so that I may repent of them, be free of them, and be forgiven.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil: Thank You that You are leading me (and others--insert names), Lord. Help me/them to want to go Your way, not my/their way. Help me/them to want to know Your Word better so that I/they will know what You want me/them to do. Help me/them to be pleasing to You in what I/they do, say, and think. Protect me/them from Satan's traps and snares, from evil people, and from danger. Thank You that I can trust You.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.: Help me to focus on You more, and to remember that everything is about YOU, not me. Thank You that You are all-powerful and that You know everything. None of my needs or problems or sins are too much for You to handle. Thank You that You have a plan for this world, and that everything that is happening is fitting into Your plan, even though I don't get it. Thank you for sending Your Son Jesus. Thank you that He died for me, that He is alive, that I have a personal relationship with Him, and that the Holy Spirit lives in me and is working every day to change me. Thank You that You love me, that You saved me, that You forgive me, that You meet all my needs in the way You know is best for me, and that You are in control. I pray these things in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.
Look again at the things Jesus tells us to pray. If we do not pray for these things, does God not do them anyhow? Is He just sitting up there at the control panel, in neutral, waiting for us to push His buttons so He can put a certain plan into action that was not already in action? Are we asking Him to do things that He was not planning to do? If so, wouldn't that mean WE are in control, not GOD?
Then WHY does He tell us to pray these things? If it is not for the purpose of getting God to change His plans, then what is the purpose? Is it to let God know what we think and desire? Doesn't He already know those things? Whose benefit is prayer really for? Perhaps prayer is really for the purpose of changing US, for helping us to get our eyes on God, to see all these things we are to pray about as coming from God, not "just happening." If we are praying about them, then we see what happens as an answer to prayer, as God at work, not as something that "just happened."
This is not the only Bible teaching on prayer, so be sure to compare other passages, such as Mt. 26:39-41, John 14-16, Rom. 1:8-12, 10:1, 11:36, I Cor. 1:4-8, Eph. 1:15-19, Phil. 1:4-5, 9-11, Col. 1:1-12, 3:17, 4:2-4, 12, I Thes. 1:2-4, 2:13, 5:16-18, II Thes. 1:3, 11-12, 3:1, I Tim. 2:1-2, Philemon 4-6, James 5:13, I Pet. 4:7. After looking over these passages, what sorts of things does the Bible teach we should be praying about? But what kinds of things are we often guilty of spending our prayer time on? We need to think about the purpose of prayer, as revealed in the Bible.
14-15 The importance of forgiveness being our own attitude. Debt: (Strong's) something owed. Trespass: (Strong's) a slip, lapse, error, fall, fault, offence, sin. Is this talking about salvation and the basis of our forgiveness? How can we know that? The Bible does not teach that there are conditions for salvation, only that we believe in Christ and receive Christ. Compare John 1:12, 3:16. How might not forgiving others affect your fellowship with God?
16-18 What were the Pharisees doing? We are getting a picture of what the Pharisees' attitude was about their "righteousness." It was more about self than God. Self-righteousness. This would be voluntary fasting, as God never told His people to fast. Voluntary fasting for the right motives can serve a purpose, but is not required, nor does it make us more spiritual or impress God. God does not look at the outward appearance or external acts, but at what, I Sam. 16:7?
Is fasting for today's Christian? Let's take a detour and do a mini-study on fasting in the Bible. What does the Bible teach is the purpose of fasting? Is it a way to grow in our Christian lives, to draw closer to God, to get prayers answered, to devote more time to prayer, to practice self-denial of the flesh?
Mat. 4:2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
We are not told why He fasted. We don't know if food was simply not available, so He was suffering hardship, or if He purposely denied Himself food for some spiritual purpose. This is not an example for us. Nowhere is the church commanded as or pictured as fasting for 40-day periods.
Mat. 6:16-18 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Jesus is not teaching the importance of fasting; He is teaching the Jews that they should not try to impress others with their religious rituals, such as giving alms, praying, and fasting--that those who do so will not receive a heavenly reward, but have already received all the recognition they will get.
Mat. 9:14-15 Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.
Mark 2:18-20 And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
Luke 5:33-35 And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink? And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days
Jesus equates fasting with mourning, as does the Old Testament (2 Sam. 1:12, 12:21, Neh. 1:4, Est. 4:3, Joel 2:12, Zec. 7:5). He teaches that fasting/mourning serves no purpose for those who have the Bridegroom with them. The church has the indwelling Holy Spirit, the presence of Christ Himself.
Mat. 15:32 Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.
Mark 8:3 And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.
Here fasting refers to not eating, for lack of opportunity.
Mat. 17:21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
Mark 9:29 And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.
This verse is questionable, not being in all the best manuscripts.
Luke 2:37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
Luke 18:12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
Fasting was traditionally practiced by the Jews, but was never commanded by God, except for the annual Day of Atonement.
Acts 10:30 And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing.
Cornelius was a Gentile convert to Judaism, and practiced the Jewish traditions.
Acts 13:2-3 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
Acts 14:23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
Jewish believers apparently continued to engage in fasting along with prayer, but we do not find Paul teaching fasting as an important aspect of prayer in the Epistles.
Acts 27:33 And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing.
This fasting appears to speak of simply not having eaten; we don't know why.
1Co 7:5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.
Paul is not teaching fasting; he is recognizing the fact that some Jewish believers practice fasting. He is not against Jewish believers continuing to practice Jewish customs within a biblical understanding of their freedom from the Law under grace. But we do not see him teaching the church to practice fasting.
2 Cor. 6:5 In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;
2 Cor. 11:27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
These references to fasting refer to the hardship of not being able to eat.
Lev. 23:27 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
The annual Day of Atonement, also known as Yom Kippur. In the KJV, the word "fasting" is not used, but the concept is there, in the meaning of the Hebrew "you shall afflict your souls": browbeat, afflict, abase, chasten. These are not concepts that apply to the New Testament Christian, who no longer needs to make himself acceptable to God, but is acceptable in Christ.
Isa. 58:1-14 Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.
Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?
Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward. Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
Here we see fasting presented as afflicting one's self, in connection with sackcloth and ashes, as it generally is in the Old Testament. God chastises Israel for going through the ritual of fasting, yet their hearts are far from Him. This is not the method He has given them as a way to please Him. Instead, He tells them what would truly please Him--how to live sincerely, delighting themselves in the Lord.
Col. 2:18-23 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
Self-abasement and physical self-denial has no value for the Christian as a means to spiritual growth.
Some Christians claim that fasting gives more time for uninterrupted prayer. But the Christian is to pray without ceasing; we can pray while we are eating, or cooking, or doing dishes. Some say that if our physical needs for food, drink and sex are always completely met, then we lack the spiritual appetite or the spiritual energy for communion with God. But it seems there is no reason why a person with a normal appetite and fulfilled marital relationship can't spend just as much time in meaningful prayer as a person who deprives himself.
Others claim it brings a unique clarity of mind to discern the will of God, and a deep peace. Pagans engage in fasting as a means to altered states of consciousness. Fasting, sackcloth and ashes as signs of mourning and humility were cultural practices in Old Testament days among non-Jewish people, Dan. 6:18, Jonah 3:5. The Jews adopted it, although God did not command it. Over time, it became an accepted part of Jewish observance. It is still a required part of various non-Christian religions.
Fasting is an individual choice for the Christian, but be sure you understand what the Bible does and does not teach about fasting. The Epistles--the directions to the church--say much more about the benefits of "stand fast", "hold fast", and being "steadfast" than the benefits of fasting.
19-21 Here again we have a reference to heaven, although Jesus is talking to Jews about the kingdom. But it is not about them going to heaven or being in heaven. It is about spiritual treasure rather than earthly treasure. What does this say about treasure? How should this affect our attitude about things? This speaks to the issue of materialism. Does this mean we should not buy things, or put money in the bank or stock market? What should our attitude be when we do those things?
22-23 What is this saying? Have you ever seen someone with the "bad eye"? What does it tell us about that person?
24 More on materialism. What is the point here? Mammon is money, wealth, property.
25 25-34 is about what topic that is very relevant in our society? Anxiety. Psychology deals with this big problem, but do we need a psychologist? I wonder how many Christians who have problems with this, have thoroughly read and applied what the Bible says about anxiety, worry. God recognizes that this is a big problem for us.
26-34 What does this say about anxiety? Will reading and believing these verses make you stop being anxious? Does it work to say "don't be anxious"? You need to also DO something, not just the "don't." 33 has the "do." Focus on God, who He is and what He is doing. How can we know those things, to even focus on them? Get more in the Word. Read, think about, chew on, then our thinking and feelings will slowly begin to change. When anxious thoughts come, specifically think those OTHER thoughts. Phil. 4:4-9, II Cor. 10:5b. We are often told "be not afraid." Worry is the opposite of what? Would you agree that the more you struggle with worry, the less you show faith, and the more you grow in faith, the less you worry? Does 33 teach that if we put God first, we can have anything and everything? Always study a verse in its context; here the context is daily needs.
1-5 What does it mean to judge? Strong's: to condemn, to try someone, to call into question. (Speck and plank--a figure of speech called hyperbole: extravagant exaggeration for effect.) The topic of judging can be controversial; some say the Bible teaches we are NOT to judge others, some say it teaches we ARE to judge others. Let's examine the passages about judging.
This passage, 1-5, does not forbid judging, but is a warning about how to judge, if we do judge. First we are to examine our own selves and do any necessary housecleaning. Then we can deal with our brother with a clean heart and a clear conscience. 5, "THEN you will see clearly enough to take the speck out of your brother's eye." Also, Jesus is not speaking to the church but to Israel, those who are still under the Law. The church is held to a different standard, that of living by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. In the kingdom, Christ will be ruling on earth, enforcing righteousness and having righteous judges who will administer His laws. Subjects of the kingdom will be operating under a different standard than the church is now.
What is the right way to judge another person? With humility--cleaning up your own act before you try to clean up someone else's, or condemn them for not doing so. Self-righteousness is comparing yourself to others. If you are going to accuse someone, whether publicly or just in your own thoughts, or in your conversation with someone else, make SURE you are not guilty of the same thing, or something similar or even worse. If you don't do this, you are a what? We can be blind to our own faults; we need to ask God to show us and convict us of our own sins. A few verses farther we have the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated.
Rom. 14 speaks of not judging your brother--talking about how Christians may choose differently in the matter of gray areas, those not specifically addressed or forbidden in Scripture. James 4:12 says not to judge your neighbor; compare the context, 4:11. The problem here is the evil speaking of the one doing the judging; it is not speaking of making righteous judgments about a neighbor who is sinning or offending you. Going back further for context, earlier in 4 James is talking about the need for Christians to humble themselves; being judgmental and slandering other believers is not keeping God's law of loving your neighbor as yourself. And even earlier, in James 3, controlling the mouth and exercising godly wisdom is needed by all believers.
I Cor. 5:9-13 says we ARE to judge. The context here is the church, regarding things the Bible clearly says are wrong. The church must judge itself since Christ is not here on earth to act as judge, as will be the case in the kingdom; the church IS the body of Christ. The church is told to maintain unity, but when sin in the church is not dealt with, there can be no unity. When the church functions as the Bible teaches, then there can be unity. John 7:24; there is a right and wrong way to judge.
These passages can be summed up like this: the church as a body is told to judge serious unrepentant sin within the church body, but individuals are not to be judgmental or have a critical spirit. These verses in Matthew are often quoted and misinterpreted by those who do not wish to obey the Bible in the uncomfortable matter of administering church discipline.
6 Use good judgment. Is Jesus talking about dogs and pigs and pearls? Do dogs or pigs WANT pearls? We see that even when we talk about taking the literal interpretation of the Bible, we use common sense and recognize the use of symbolism such as metaphors and hyperboles, as we just saw in 3-4. In 6:22, it is obvious that the eye is not really a lamp, and in 5:29 it is obvious that we are not really to gouge out anyone's eye, because that is not the cause of the sin.
7 What does this teach us about prayer? Asking is OK; here we are TOLD to ask, seek, knock. The question is, ask for what kinds of things? Look at the context; read on, 9-10. What is it talking about? Compare to 6:25-34, 6:11. Keep in mind what the whole Bible teaches about what kinds of things we are to desire, and that God desires to give us. We are not told to ask God for "stuff," or to make every situation turn out the way we want it to (as if we knew what is best for us in God's overall plan).
11 So whatever we think is good, whatever we want, God will give us? What do we think is good? More "stuff," good feelings, less pain and stress. What does God think is good? Read Rom. 8:28-29. He defines "good" as fulfilling His purposes, which is that we be conformed to Christ's image. How does that kind of change generally happen in our lives? When things are hassle-free? Or do we seek God more when things are uncomfortable? So we see that God uses trials in our lives for His purposes, for good. Read James 1:2-4. Perfect/complete refer to maturity. Read Rom. 5:3-5, II Cor. 1:8-9.
12 Does the Bible call this the Golden Rule? Read Mt. 22:40, Gal. 5:14 (quoting from where?). What if someone claims the Golden Rule is their religion? Can those who don't have the new nature (unbelievers) do this? If this were possible, Christ wouldn't need to die for our sins; we could be good enough to please God by just trying harder. However, the flesh is self-centered.
13-14 Destruction (Strong's): ruin, loss, damnation. King James Version: "strait is the gate." Strait (Strong's): narrow, from obstacles standing close about. Narrow (Strong's): to crowd, afflict, suffer tribulation, trouble. Picture trying with difficulty to pass through something almost too narrow. It bumps, pokes, squeezes, is uncomfortable, hurts. To get through, do you jam harder? Or change positions until you can conform to the obstacle and squeeze past it? You will be changed in shape through this process, as was just discussed about Rom. 8:28-29.
15-16 Compare II Pet. 2:1. False prophets were a problem for Israel, but what about the church? Heb. 1:1-2. Read I John 4:1; is this talking about prophets in the church? No, in the world; many claim to be prophets from God. How to tell: if they confess Jesus (the man) Christ (the Messiah). Jesus Christ = God/man. Belief in Christ as Messiah implies a recognition of acceptance of the Old Testament and fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy; Messiah would be God, not just man (Is. 9:6, 7:14, Mic. 5:2, Mal. 3:1). If they confess He has come in the flesh from God, they are recognizing that Jesus is God and man, His dual nature, joined in the flesh, the Savior (Immanuel, God with us, Mt. 1:23). Thus they recognize the need for a savior, recognize man's sin nature. Many religions and cults include someone they call Jesus, but what Jesus? The Jesus Christ of the Bible? Will false prophets or false teachers be easy to spot? Does fruit always appear immediately? It takes time to ripen. Read Acts 20:28-31. Be on the alert. Not everyone who talks about Jesus or the Bible is genuine. Don't just accept uncritically everything you hear from Christians, your pastor, your fellow church members, your favorite speaker or evangelist, your denomination. Can we always tell them by their words? Read and study God's Word, II Tim. 2:15.
17-20 Isn't this just a good general principle? Like we say, time will tell… We see trees used symbolically, here as people (compare Jud. 9:8-15, Ez. 31:1-14). Are all people basically good (according to God's standard)? Judgment for some; fire.
21-23 Again, He is addressing the issue of who will enter the Messiah's kingdom on earth, which will now not begin until the millenium. Believers will enter; how will God determine who are the true believers? Empty words, outer actions without heart change, will not fool God. So does this passage cast doubt on our salvation? No. Just like in 15-20, it is talking about how hard it is to tell (from a human point of view) who are really believers. 22, so is it possible for unbelievers to perform signs? Yes, and so will the antichrist (II Thes. 2:9). Beware; just because someone has "power" doesn't prove they are a believer. 23, had these people ever had a personal relationship with Jesus? So can spiritual gifts be counterfeit? If unbelievers can falsely display "spiritual gifts," where/who did those "gifts" come from? If false "spiritual gifts" can be displayed by unbelievers, can they also be displayed by believers? This is a warning for and about the charismatic branch of Christianity. The New Testament warns us many times to not be deceived. Spiritual deception is a big danger for the believer--deception by others, by Satan, by Self.
24-27 A familiar passage. Jesus sums up; kind of like giving an "invitation," but instead, He challenges them to act on what they have heard. (IS an invitation scriptural? Yet many churches insist that there MUST be one at the end of every sermon.) What is He basically saying? A comparison; Jesus often uses parables and metaphors, to help us to "get it." What is the rock? (Commonly used in Bible for God, Jesus.) What is sand? What is the house? What are winds, rain, and flood? Who is the wise man? Who is the foolish man? 24, like 16-23, it's all about what you DO. So is this teaching salvation by works? Two kinds of roads, gates, trees, fruit, foundations, builders.
28-29 This leads us to think He was speaking to more than just the 12. "Amazed" has the meaning more to be struck, overwhelmed, astounded. He was not like anyone else! He spoke with authority; God's words are authoritative, man's words are not. The Bible is authoritative; Christian books, books about the Bible, men's ideas about God or the Bible, are not. Their scribes-these people were Jews. Jews, not Gentiles, were interested in the kingdom. He is presenting Himself as their Messiah, speaking of His kingdom. Some teach that, therefore, we can ignore this section of Scripture. But we can apply these principles to the present day, where Jesus is King over those who are His. He is not just our Shepherd, He is our King, so if we claim to belong to Him, we are to be loyal, obedient subjects. Many Christians don't like to talk about obedience because it seems legalistic. We can be obedient without becoming legalistic. The New Testament talks a lot about obedience, but also speaks against legalism.
In the Old Testament, God gave His people the Law. Then Christ came and fulfilled the Law, and gave them a higher law, the Sermon on the Mount, which takes the Law to a new level. But the kingdom was postponed; now His people, the church, the bride, the body of Christ, are given a different standard to live by-what? The Holy Spirit. The indwelling Holy Spirit gives us power to life in the new nature, to bear fruit pleasing to God. So we see three standards given to God's people: 1) in the Old Testament Israel is to live by the Law, 2) in the church age, the age of grace, we are live by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and 3) in the kingdom, which is now future, believers will be held to the standard of the Sermon on the Mount, which is similar to the Law but deals with attitudes as well as actions. Also, keep in mind that those living by the Sermon on the Mount will have Christ ruling on earth as King, and enforcing the standard of righteous living.
We find numerous miracles, mostly healings, in the next two chapters.
1 These multitudes apparently heard this discourse.
2-3 What interesting things can we learn from this short account? Mt. 4:23 told us that He was healing every kind of sickness. What can we learn about prayer? How should we pray about illness? Can we demand healing? A leper was untouchable; did Jesus touch Him? Maybe we should conclude that what is necessary in healing is His physical touch? (We will notice if a physical touch is necessary in every healing we see.) Did he start getting clean, or did Jesus tell him to have faith even though he didn't see any change yet, and to just "claim his healing"? What is another word for "bow down"? If every illness is to be healed, why didn't Jesus scold him for his lack of faith-"if"? We are not told about the priest's reaction; perhaps he believed. And how many others might have?
5-9 The centurian's servant. What is a centurian? A Gentile, a Roman captain of 600 centuries (100 men). What can we learn from this man's approach? Humility, faith. What does he understand better than most? I know Christians who believe in resisting authority; I heard a divorced Christian woman say she would never again be under the authority of a man, not a husband, not a pastor. Is authority bad? God gave government, the marriage relationship, and He put elders over churches; we are to recognize and respect that. Read Rom. 13:1-2. The opposite of submission is rebelliousness. Does he think Jesus needs to touch the servant?
10-12 What is Jesus's reaction? Who does He contrast him with? 11, Jesus tells something amazing; believing Gentiles will enter the kingdom! Also, He is saying that the Old Testament saints WILL be resurrected at the beginning of the kingdom; compare Dan. 12:13. And not JUST Israel, but all Old Testament saints; were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob Jews? No; Jews are the children, descendants of Israel (Jacob). Compare Job 19:25-27. 12, will all Israel enter the kingdom? He is saying this in the context of the centurian's faith; faith is what gets you in, lack of faith will keep you out. Now those who aren't careful with words might say this it talking about heaven and eternity, but it doesn't exactly say that. But since the rest of the Bible does teach that, we know that application is there in this passage also.
13 Was a physical touch required? Did Jesus even have to see him? There is not a "pattern." Does God work the same way in each person's situation, life? Be careful of those who say, "God did this for me, so I know He will do the same for you." Did the servant get kind of better, over time, or have to go back again and again?
14-15 Was Peter married? His mother-in-law lived with them. All are healed instantly and completely; not like healers today. We can pray for healing, but there is no point in going to a "healer." It may or may not be God's will to heal. Some point out that a fever is a minor thing, but in those days fevers could be life-threatening.
16-17 Prophecy fulfilled. Isaiah, "griefs and sorrows" (marginal note: sickness and pains). Some use this passage to teach that there is healing in the atonement, but the context is healing from sin. Compare I Pet. 2:24. There are several New Testament examples of people NOT being healed, in the epistles, after the time of miracles and signs, which were given to authenticate Christ's message as being from God. II Cor. 12:7-10 and compare 12; Phil. 2:25-27; I Tim. 5:23.
18-20 A potential follower; why might he have changed his mind? Where does this leave the "health and wealth" gospel? Jesus was poor. He nor His followers were wealthy. First use of the title, Son of Man. Like Son of God, both refer to Jesus as God. Son of Man seems to refer to the fact that God the Son has now come in the flesh, in the form of a man, to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies of the promised Messiah who would be born of a woman.
21-22 Another reference to disciples. We don't know if this is one of many, or one who was wanting to be part of the 12; the 12 not mentioned yet. This verse has bothered many people; Jesus sounds harsh and unfeeling. We know He is not, that we are to care for our family needs. Perhaps he is saying his father is very old, and as soon as he dies he will follow. Or perhaps Jesus is saying, if indeed the man has died, let the spiritually dead bury their own dead. Apparently this wannabe-disciple is making excuses.
23-27 Another miracle; Jesus calms the storm. What can we learn from this? Should we ask Him to calm storms? They were timid then, but were they after the resurrection? Remember, they were not yet given the new nature, the indwelling Holy Spirit. 27, the key question.
28-34 Which of the 12 tribes lived in the country of the Gadarenes (town of Gadara)? Which side of the Jordan was this on? (see Bible map) What did people raise there? Did the Law permit eating this? Read Num. 32:1-5, 19. Adding to, changing God's Word. ALL the tribes were to cross over; this was totally made up. Beware when people tell you something that is not scriptural and say God told them that. Once you do that, you can say anything. Read Gal. 1:8-9.
Do demons know who Christ is, what lies in store for them? They have a certain amount of knowledge about the endtimes, 29, perhaps more than we do, but their knowledge is limited. Do demons, evil spirits, ever appear floating around like ghosts? They inhabit people's bodies; they have superhuman strength. 33-34, why did they do that? Wouldn't you think the people would be glad and amazed? Even when confronted with His power, they don't want anything to do with Him. Some people are not open to truth. The implications are too personal and uncomfortable.
The miracles of Jesus (and the apostles) actually confirm the creation account in Genesis of a literal six-day creation from nothing. If you believe in the miracles recorded in the Bible, then you should have no trouble believing in six-day creation. And if you believe that God can create the universe from nothing in six days, then you should have no trouble believing in miracles. Many people doubt the creation account because of the false claims of the unscientific theory of evolution; for more on this, see my online book, Evolution: Fact or Philosophy?
1-7 Mark and Luke add another interesting detail that is left out here; they came in through the roof. Perhaps Matthew feels the main point of interest to his Jewish audience is the question of blasphemy; what is blasphemy? To speak impiously, to speak evil of. Mt. 27:40-43, John 10:33. So what has He done that in 3, they think He has blasphemed? Read 6. Do they understand that He is claiming to be God? There are many ways to claim this, without saying "I am God." 5, only God can do what and what? So this healing was to prove His what, 6? Attesting signs and wonders are to prove the God-given authority of the one who does them (Jesus, apostles). They are not an example of how things are now to be on a day-to-day basis. Heb. 2:3-4, II Cor. 12:12. Signs and wonders will also be performed by false prophets and false christs, Mat. 24:24, II Thes. 2:9. (Whose authority do they have?)
Does it say that the man was healed or forgiven on the basis of his friends' faith? This story is often presented that way. We don't know if the friends had the faith to bring the sick one to Jesus, or if the sick one had the faith to get his friends to take him. Apparently they all had faith, 2. Does the Bible teach that our faith or our works can save another person? No, each must believe for himself. Compare John 1:12, 3:16. Can burning candles or baptism for the dead save someone else? No. How CAN our faith help someone else?
9 Matthew tells of himself, of his call to follow Jesus. Does he focus on himself in his book? He admits his previous occupation (his questionable past); Mark and Luke tactfully leave that out.
10-13 Here, the disciples must be a small group; they are having dinner. A clash with the Pharisees. What did they think He should be like, if He is really the Messiah? So should Christians just hang around with other Christians and only go to Christian functions? 12, who are the healthy? 13, were the Pharisees righteous? Who was more interested in sacrifices than in compassion? Legalism.
14-15 Where is John? He still has disciples. First mention in the New Testament of the bridegroom. Actually John 3:29 has an earlier reference, by John the Baptist. This is a new concept for the Jews. Where in the Old Testament do we have pictures of the bride and bridegroom, of the choosing of a bride? Song of Solomon, Abraham's servant sent to find a bride for Isaac. But those are types, foreshadowing, not really "teachings." Where is the main New Testament teaching about the church as the bride? Eph. 5:25-32. In the Old Testament, Israel is sometimes referred to as the "wife" of Jehovah (often an unfaithful wife). In the New Testament, the church is referred to as the "bride" of Christ. The church is betrothed; the wedding takes place when? Read Rev. 19:1-9. The church and Israel are two separate groups and each has a unique place in God's plans. What does Jesus prophesy, 15?
Jesus is asked why His disciples do not fast. He answers that they did not "mourn" because the Bridegroom (Himself) was with them, but when He was gone, they would "fast." He equates fasting with mourning, as the Old Testament does. The many Old Testament references use these terms with fasting: weeping, mourning, sin, sackcloth and ashes, humbling themselves, seeking God's favor.
Did God ever command fasting, as part of the Law? Fasting, sackcloth and ashes as signs of mourning and humility were cultural practices in that day, even among non-Jewish people; Dan. 6:18, Jonah 3:5. The Jews adopted it, although God did not command it. Over time, it became an accepted part of Jewish observance.
In Is. 58:5-10, what does God say fasting is about? God tells them what "true" fasting is, what He really requires--righteous living. In other words, God does not require or is not interested in outward rituals or religious observances; He is interested in a right attitude in our hearts, which will result in right living (righteousness). THAT is what He will honor.
Is fasting for today's Christian? Fasting is taught by many churches today. It is justified by the many Bible references to it; most are in the Old Testament but a few are found in the New Testament. Jesus referred to fasting here in the Sermon on the Mount; He did not command that people do it, but He said "when" you fast. Many take this almost as a command, saying, "He didn't say IF, He said WHEN." Note the context of Mt. 6:1-6, 16-18. He is teaching about the concept of doing your good works in secret so that you are not consciously, or even unconsciously, hoping that others will notice what a good thing you did. He is teaching that our motives are just as or even more important than our actions. Also, keep in mind that Jesus was talking to Jews who were still operating under the Old Testament economy, and fasting had become, for some reason, an accepted part of their practice. Not everything in the New Testament is about the church; the church age (the age of grace) did not begin until the resurrection.
So why would the New Testament believer fast? It does not make God more likely to answer our prayers. Do we need to weep and mourn over our sin to seek God's favor? Why not? What is different now than in the Old Testament? Before Christ's substitutionary death on the cross, sin had not yet been paid for; animal sacrifices atoned for sin (temporarily covered it) but didn't bring forgiveness. We now can approach the throne of grace with confidence, Heb. 4:16. We don't need to grovel and seek God with weeping and mourning.
I don't believe that fasting is important for today's Christian, although it has some benefits for health and for practicing self-discipline. Fasting and prayer is mentioned a few times in Acts; we know the apostles and many early believers were originally Jewish and struggled with whether or not to continue many Jewish practices. We don't find fasting mentioned in the Epistles; apparently the early church did not practice it, nor was it commanded.
16-17 What does this picture tell us? What is the new wine? What is the old wineskin? What is the new wineskin? (New covenant, grace; old covenant, law; the church or the church age.) This goes with what He just said in 14-15. Here we have Jesus teaching about what we call dispensationalism. There are different dispensations, time periods in which God deals with man in a certain way. Read John 1:17. Likewise, this reflects the idea that Jesus did not come to fix the old nature; it is unfixable. A new nature is needed for something new that is coming, the indwelling Holy Spirit. So in this picture of the bridegroom and the wineskins, we see Jesus hinting of something new; He still has not yet spoken of His coming death and resurrection, or the salvation that His death will bring.
The rest of the chapter tells of several miracles, 18-25.
18 We have several instances of Jesus raising the dead. Here is a man who had great faith.
20-22 Does Jesus initiate this healing? Of course He did, although we do not see or hear it. Could she get healed without His knowledge or permission or His doing anything?
26 These things were widely known, could not be disputed.
27 Were these blind men Jewish? Apparently so. 28, does He ask this question to all who came for healing? Does He follow a formula in His healing? He emphasizes faith, belief, but every one is different. We can know in general how God works, but He works uniquely in each of our lives. Don't assume that what He did in someone's life is exactly the way He will do it in yours.
32 Demon possession. So should we conclude that people who can't speak are demon-possessed?
34 Is this even logical?
35 Matthew gives the Messiah's credentials, as we saw in the Old Testament. He tells of the miracles; he tells of people's reactions. He is saying, "so now you decide who this Man is." Some conclude that the miracles of Jesus teach that this is now to be expected, that believers should perform these miracles, and should expect miracles in their lives. This is not what He taught; He did give the 12 disciples power, but not all His followers. Rather, we might look at a spiritual application; Jesus is able to change those who are spiritually dead, blind, dumb, etc. If He can do miracles, there is nothing in our lives too hard for Him to handle.
36-38 Usually in the Bible, harvest represents judgment. Here it doesn't seem to.
1 Here we have the 12 disciples (the laborers that Jesus just spoke of?). Who is listed first, last? What are they called in 2? What do those words mean? Can we be disciples? (learner) Can we be apostles? (one sent forth to represent an official, one with miraculous powers) Read Mt. 28:18-20. Most reference to apostles are in Acts and the epistles. There is no mention of further apostles after the 12, or any suggestion that more be appointed. Rev. 2:2, only mentioned in this first letter, giving more evidence that these churches are representative of periods of time; apostles were only present in the early church. Read I Cor. 9:1, 15:7-8. They seem to have been eyewitness of the Lord; read Acts 1:21-25. Apparently there were never more than these 12, Rev. 21:14. Apostles are mentioned in the lists of spiritual gifts; that is evidence that the gifts were for a temporary function, while the church was new and full of immature believers. But some Christians today believe that there are still apostles; so do the Mormons. But we ARE all to be what, II Cor. 5:20? (a representative, like a preacher)
5-6 Some take this section as directions for pastors and missionaries, but that would limit them to Israel, and to wearing only sandals! The church's directions are in Mt. 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, and the epistles. This command sounds unfair and prejudiced, unless you are familiar with the Old Testament and know what the Messiah's purpose is. At this point, Jesus has not come to offer salvation to the whole world; 7, what has He come to do? The Messiah's kingdom is the fulfillment of God's promises to Israel, His particular people. He has not yet spoken of His death, that He came to die for the sins of the world. But that will be revealed soon. If Israel had believed at this point, would the Gentiles not be saved? What did God tell Abraham, Gen. 12:3? Is. 60:3.
The rest of the chapter is His message to the disciples as He sends them out to preach the kingdom message to Israel.
8 He gives them His credentials; they will have His power, His authority. Have all believers been given this power and authority? Those today who believe this is for them should then be able to do ALL these-raise the dead too. But we have never seen anyone who could.
9-10 Compare to Mark 6:8-9. Is this a discrepancy? Acquire vs. take, they were not to go and buy supplies for this journey, just take what they had.
11-15 Those who accepted their message would show it by their actions. Shaking the dust off their feet, acting out symbolically, like Old Testament prophets did. God's judgment will be on those who do not receive the message. We see there will be degrees of punishment. Why would Sodom and Gomorrah be judged less harshly than a city that had heard the truth and hadn't repented? So who would God judge more harshly, a murderer who has never heard God's message of truth, or a good person who has gone to church all his life but never chose to repent of his sin and believe in Jesus? Light creates responsibility. Can we make people believe the truth?
16-23 Was this going to be a prestige job?! Their job could be dangerous; they were not to be naïve. Not just innocent, but ALSO shrewd. Some Christians are crafty and some are naïve and gullible; we are to be neither. 19-20, some churches take this verse to mean that pastors should not go to seminary or even prepare a sermon, but to just let the Spirit speak through them. Read 11 Tim. 2:15, and to love God with our minds, not just hearts and souls. So what DOES 19-20 mean? 21-22, what do we do when faith in Christ conflicts with family unity? Compare Mt. 24:9-13, John 1:18-19. Following Christ can cause division. Enduring to the end is spoken of in other places, indicating that true saving faith will be shown in one's life. (Fake Christians, make-believers, will not endure persecution.)
23, if His comments are directed only to the 12, this could not mean His second coming; nor can it mean His first coming, because He is there. These words, although spoken to the 12, must be directed to a future group of witnesses during the tribulation, when the Son of Man WILL be about to come. 16-23 have reference to the future of the apostles, not to this speaking tour. But the language, especially 22, reminds us of Mt. 24, where Jesus teaches about the endtimes. This is interesting because those who claim that all or almost all prophecy has already been fulfilled (preterists) say that Jesus would not have said things to them that wouldn't apply to them, that such statements would not make sense to them. This is one reason they claim that Jesus returned (in judgment) in AD 70 when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. However, the Old Testament is full of statements made by the prophets that only partially applied to their live listeners, and that would only be completely fulfilled in a much later time. Jesus obviously does the same here, and in other places. Many passages in the Bible can be seen to have several levels of meaning, none of which contradict each other.
24-30 Warning about the cost of being a disciple. 25-26, you may be falsely accused, like Christ was, but someday the truth will be revealed, you will be vindicated. 28, physical death may be the cost, but just keep an eternal perspective. 27, dark/light, what He taught them in private they were now to proclaim publicly.
29-31 What does this teach us about God? He knows and cares about EVERY DETAIL about you, your life, everyone. He is sovereign over everything. Things don't "just happen;" God is not limited in power. We are of value to God, even though we have no value in ourselves.
32-33 Confessing God and denying God. 32 goes along with the previous verses, "don't worry, I'll take care of it." 33 tells the other side of the coin. Does this mean that if you chickened out on your testimony, or were ever persecuted and then weakened out of fear, you lose your salvation? Compare a similar passage in II Tim. 2:12-13. Here we have the one who denies God, and then the one who is faithless. Here it is clearer that it is the unbeliever who denies Christ, who never confesses Christ. But a believer can act in a faithless manner, and what is Christ's response? Why? Eternal security taught here. If we become part of His body, are one with Him, have the indwelling Holy Spirit, that can never change.
34 The popular, New Age, liberal Christian view of Christ is that He came to bring peace and love on earth, if we'll all just try to love each other. What about the angels at His birth? If they had accepted Him as Messiah and He had begun His kingdom reign on earth, it would have happened. Now it will not happen until the future earthly kingdom. At His SECOND coming He will bring world peace. But there is still peace with God for all who DO accept Him as Messiah now. What does the sword often represent in the New Testament? So God's Word might divide people, even families. 37, if it comes to this, how should we choose? Could we face the hatred of family or friends, or even death?
38 What happens on a cross? Many commentators try to soften this harsh picture by saying a cross represents service or some such thing, rather than death. Read Rom. 6:1-11, I Cor. 15:31, Gal. 2:19-20. The parallel passage is clearer in Luke 9:23. We died with Christ, a reference to our initial saving faith in His death for us. But we also are to die daily, to Self, because Self, the old nature, is still a factor in our lives, even though God sees us in Christ. We "reckon" Self to be dead to sin; we are to act as if it were so. Read Rom. 7:14-25. The two natures struggle within the believer. Every day we need to recognize Self for what it is and reckon it to be dead. This is a very difficult aspect of the Christian life.
39 Compare Luke 9:24. I think of "life" as "self." Man's natural reaction is to exalt Self, to seek to save Self; that man has lost, he doesn't have LIFE. Our culture teaches the worship of Self. Psychology is the religion of Self. These people have "found their life." But the one who is willing to give up Self, take Self off the throne of his life and put Christ there instead, in losing his life (Self), has found LIFE. We may not have an earthly life that is successful or wonderful by earthly standards, but all that will look like nothing when we get to heaven. I think these two verses are very important to understand.
40 We are in Christ, Christ and God are one. Two important teachings.
41-42 Our deeds will be rewarded, even if all you can afford is to give a cup of cold water.
So is the Christian life about getting rich and popular, and having everything all cushy? This section casts doubts on the assumptions of the health/wealth teachers.
1 Jesus and His disciples are doing what now?
2-3 Who comes now? Why might John ask this? If Jesus was the Messiah, would John expect to be in prison?
4-5 We have looked up the Old Testament verses that list these things the Messiah will do. Jesus doesn't give a flat "yes," to John or the Pharisees or anyone. He gives information, evidence, and asks them to THINK and draw the right conclusion.
7 Now who is Jesus addressing?
9 John is the last of the Old Testament prophets; he fulfills prophecy.
11-14 A difficult section. 11, being part of the kingdom will be greater than anything yet seen. Until then, prophets had been considered the greatest. But the Old Testament dispensation is being superseded by something so much greater--the kingdom--that even John, who Jesus says is the greatest of the prophets, did not experience such greatness. 13, "prophesied until John"--John was the last of the prophets, the last of the Old Testament dispensation. "The Law and the Prophets" was the Jewish Scripture of that time, referring to the entire Old Testament.
How could the kingdom be taken by violence? According to the Old Testament, the future kingdom, while promising Israel preeminence over the nations of the earth, was not going to be created militarily but through the coming to earth and acceptance of the promised Messiah. Yet Israel was constantly trying to create a kingdom through military force. I Cor. 10:11 says the events of the Old Testament have what relation to New Testament believers? How might these Old Testament struggles and lack of understanding God's plan for the kingdom parallel the believer's struggle in his walk with God? What two ways do believers try to live the Christian life, according to Rom. 8:13? Which way resembles the Jews trying to create a kingdom by human effort? Which way resembles God's way of accepting and believing in Jesus Christ, the Messiah? What happens when believers try to be good enough through self-effort, through keeping the Law, Rom. 7:14-24? Do all believers experience the struggle of the old nature and the new nature, Rom. 7:25? What is the solution, according to Rom. 8:11?
WAS John the Baptist the Elijah, John 1:21? Isn't Jesus saying here that John was? Is this a contradiction? We will compare a few related passages before drawing conclusions. Also pay close attention to the wording; here Jesus says "if"--if what? IF they had been willing to accept "it"--what does "it" refer back to? What was He talking about, in 12? Jesus came as Messiah to offer Israel the kingdom IF they accepted Him as the promised Messiah. Had the nation of Israel accepted Him or rejected Him? So the kingdom will NOT begin now; when will it, Mt. 25:31?
Could the kingdom have been set up now? Yes; in giving us free will, God allows any choices we make, and every possibility could feasibly turn out to be His sovereign will. We don't understand this with our feeble, fallen human brain; all we know is what actually happened. We tend to think that whatever has happened is God's sovereign will, so it HAD to happen that way. But He is not limited by our choices; no matter what we choose, His end purposes will be accomplished. We see here that if Israel had accepted Him as their Messiah at that time (which means they obviously could have), then John the Baptist would have been "Elijah who was to come." People wonder how in God's plan Israel could have accepted Christ as that time; wouldn't that mean the sacrifice on the cross and the saving of the Gentiles (the church) would never have happened? We can't understand how God's plan could have been fulfilled in any way other than what we know, but that does not mean God could not have done it another way.
The next question is how could John be both John and Elijah? Here is where we must compare Scripture. Compare Mal. 4:5 and Luke 1:17. So when Jesus says "John himself is Elijah who was to come," was He speaking metaphorically? This brings up another question: WILL Elijah himself actually come back before Christ returns? Many think this is what the Bible is saying. This is why many believe Elijah will be one of the two unnamed witnesses in Rev. 11:3-12. Since the Bible does not identify these witnesses, we should not make a big deal out of trying to figure out who they are for sure. But this promise of Elijah returning seems to mesh with the description of what these witnesses do, which is similar to what Elijah did. We also see that the two witnesses die (7-10); how many times can a man die, Heb. 9:27? Did Elijah die already, II Kings 2:11? Who else did not die in the Old Testament, Gen. 5:21-24? These passages do not prove that these two are the witnesses of Revelation, but this is why many believe they might be. If it were really important that we know who they will be, the Bible would have told us.
16-19 Jesus questions the sincerity of their motives. They are like spoiled children. Are they just curiosity seekers? Are they really looking for Truth? In today's "post-modern" culture it is popular to make up your own truth; truth is no longer considered as something absolute or knowable, by many. But the Bible says there IS truth, and that the Bible IS true. What God says IS true. Truth CAN be known, but only if you want to know. Post-modern thinking appeals to our sinful minds because the unbeliever does not want to be confronted with God's truth.
Those who are not really interested in truth will make up conditions, excuses, and exaggerations. People make up their own idea of what God or Jesus should be like, and then complain when He does not fit their picture; today it is popular to create your own god. Many people say they believe in Jesus; the question is, which Jesus? The Jesus of the Bible, or one they, or someone else, has made up?
Did Jesus drink wine? What was His first miracle, according to John 2? So does the Bible teach that drinking wine is a sin?
20 Now, in chapters 11 and 12, we see a rift developing, the plot thickening, and a change will be coming in His ministry. What has been the effect of His ministry so far? Who have He and His disciples been preaching to? He is being rejected by Israel.
21-24 Woe! A very harsh tone now, for the first time. Judgment pronounced on several cities; He had presented Himself as their Messiah but they did not repent. He didn't say this about cities where He had not been; light creates responsibility. I don't believe America is a "Christian nation" or God's people, but I do believe that this section applies to our nation. We have had a great deal of light. 22 and 24, "more tolerable." This tells us that the severity of judgment will not be the same for all. 21, "if," "they would have," 23, "if," "it would have." Is Jesus just speculating, or does this tell us that God's sovereignty even means He knows all possible events that COULD have happened, but didn't? We have trouble understanding this, but that is because we, with our little limited human brains, are trying to comprehend an infinite God.
25-26 What does Jesus do out loud for these people to hear? He calls God what? Perhaps the wise and intelligent are the Pharisees, and the babes are just the average people. Will God hide His truth from sincere seekers?
27 Now He is speaking to the crowd. He claims to have exclusive knowledge of God, and to have the power to share that knowledge. He is claiming to be one with God, to be God, although He has not used those words. We see that one of His purposes in coming to earth was to reveal God to man.
28-30 This is such different talk than anything He has said up till now! An invitation to those who really want to know. What is it that burdens us down, weighs us down? Sin. He promises rest, but we must put on a what? So real rest is not found in "freedom" or living for self but in Christ. Up till now, what message has He been preaching, to whom? To Israel; repent if you want your Messiah to set up the promised kingdom on earth. Who is this message to? A nation? Or individuals? A big change; the kingdom will be postponed. And Jesus is a Servant/King. Up till now, what has been Israel's rest? Now, rest will no longer be found by keeping the Sabbath, but by coming to Christ and accepting His yoke. Read Heb. 4:9-10.
In this chapter we will see the beginning of Jesus's break with the Pharisees.
1-2 The last thing Matthew told about was Jesus's remarks about rest; where is rest to be found? Now he tells of Jesus making that even more clear by confronting the Pharisees about the Sabbath. Sabbath-keeping was one of the most important aspects of the Jewish Law.
3-8 Jesus tells them that their attitude about the Sabbath is wrong, that they are legalistic. The Pharisees taught that picking was reaping, rubbing the kernels in your hand was threshing, and blowing the chaff was winnowing. Read 6-8. He claims to be greater than what two things? What do you suppose they thought when He said that? Isn't legalism still a problem for many Christians? Why do you think so?
9-10 Still that same day. This man may or may not have been a "plant."
11-13 Did He give them a straight answer? Jesus often answered a question with a question. Why might He do this? He says it is OK to do what kinds of things on the Sabbath? Necessities, good. God did not intend the Law to be rigid. The Pharisees saw His miracles, but they refused to believe He was the Messiah. They never say that He did not actually perform those miracles; today people say that, but at that time, there were just too many eyewitnesses to make that claim. Were they even concerned or joyful for the man who was healed?
14 The plot thickens. Here is where we see the real break between Jesus and the Pharisees.
15-21 Jesus continues to preach and to heal, but His ministry is low-key. Again Matthew points out how Jesus fulfilled prophecy about the Messiah. 21, Old Testament foreshadowing of the church, that the Gentiles would believe.
22 Now we have an incident where Jesus healed a demon-possessed man.
23 What was the crowd's reaction? Astonished, beside themselves.
24 What was the Pharisees' reaction? Slander campaign.
25-37 Jesus rebukes them rather harshly.
25 When Jesus became human, He did not give up all the attributes of deity. We read several places where Jesus knew people's thoughts. Read 25-29. They not only don't believe Him, but they think what? Of course, if they don't believe He is God, that is the only other possible explanation. There are only 2 sources of power. But how is their reasoning illogical here? What name is used for Satan in 29?
30 What about riding the fence?
31-32 The unforgivable sin. They have witnessed the authenticating miracles of Christ, God's Son, far greater than any prophet before, done by what means, 28? And they have attributed them to what? That is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. We are not told of any other sin that can't be forgiven, yet many people get concerned that they have committed the unforgivable sin. This statement by Jesus must be examined in its context though. They recognized the supernatural power, but rejected Jesus and therefore God.
33-35 What is He saying here about the Pharisees? This is pretty harsh. So was 11:20-24, and 10:32-38. So how much fluffy lovey talk have we seen from Jesus so far? The Sermon on the Mount, love your enemies, the golden rule. But He often speaks of judgment too.
36-37 Idle/useless/careless words do not mean trivial chit chat is wrong; all our conversation does not have to be about God! Does 37 mean if we say the right words, even if we don't mean them, we are OK? Because 34 says what? Read Rom. 10:9-10, the mouth speaks from the heart. Their words had revealed that they had no love or compassion for men, only concern for themselves and their laws.
38 Why would they ask this? Hadn't He been doing miracles? Why didn't He say, "Oh finally! You are ready to believe, so here is a sign just for you!"
39-45 His answer is long and harsh. There are several indications in this chapter that this unbelieving generation, those who saw and heard Jesus and did not believe, may be worse off than others who do not believe. Those who He mentioned as repenting were not even Jews. They were trying to be clean without God's righteousness.
40 First reference in this book to what? What would this sign show them? Does this mean that Jonah actually did die? Possibly. 3 days and nights, a Jewish idiom meaning any part of 3 days. Remember, the Jewish day began at sundown, and Jesus was on the cross on Friday afternoon; that is one day. Friday sundown to Saturday sundown is the second day; Saturday sundown to Sunday sundown is the third day.
45 There are grades of demons, some worse than others.
46-50 What is Jesus saying about relationships here? A reference to the fact that He has brothers; Mary did not remain a virgin.
The Pharisees were zealously misguided. Read Rom. 10:2-3. Like those today who are in error, they fail to respond when confronted with God's truth; admitting you are off-base is threatening to your ego or your status quo.
Israel had rejected her Messiah-what about the kingdom He came to bring? It will still come, in the future. Chapter 13 is called the Mystery Parables Discourse. (Matthew gives 3 major discourse, this, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Olivet Discourse, chapters 24 and 25, about the end times.)
Here is the plan laid out for the future. This is a turning point in this book, and in Jesus's ministry. Now we see Jesus instructing His disciples along different lines than we have seen up till now. He tells He will come a second time, and of the conditions that will prevail on earth from now until His second coming to establish His kingdom. We have parables; have we had them before in this book? (Parable means "to throw alongside." He throws an illustration alongside a truth.) Some won't get it; those who want to know, will.
1-2 Who is He speaking to? Sea/coastlands/isles often refer to the Gentiles; house referring to Israel, see Mt. 23:37-39.
3 The first time we have seen what word? Parable. In this age we are sowing seeds, or maybe cultivating the ground or watering.
3-9 The parable of the sower and the seed.
10-13 Why parables, why now? 11, He is presenting mysteries to them, about what? What does the New Testament mean by a mystery? Something now revealed that was not previously revealed. Here He tells, for the first time, of a period of time that will elapse before Israel accepts Him and the kingdom begins, a period when He will be gone. He is no longer dealing with only Israel, but now He will broaden His invitation to the whole world. This is our impression of His message, but we see it wasn't His first message.
11 He will no longer lay things out so plainly; only those who have ears to hear will hear. Truth will be hidden from those who don't want it. The Pharisees didn't understand much; now they will understand even less. A judgment on them, directly following their rejection of Him as Messiah as they attributed His power to Satan. They didn't respond to the light they were given, so they will not be given any more. See John 7:17.
Matthew often uses the term "kingdom of heaven" but the other gospels only use "kingdom of God." There is much discussion about the definition of these terms or if they are the same or different. I can't see where there are any good arguments about how they differ, so I wonder if it isn't just the way Matthew chooses to refer to the kingdom-no big deal. They refer to the kingdom that is of God.
14-15 Matthew points out more fulfilled prophecy.
16-17 They see and hear; not all can or will.
18-23 Jesus explains the parable to the disciples. This is what happens when people hear God's Word. Are these people believers or unbelievers? 21, falls away, is not losing your salvation; Strong's, caused to stumble, same as in Mt. 26:31, Rom. 14:21. Some don't believe, some believe but stumble; some believe but don't bear fruit; some believers bear fruit in varying amounts. This refutes "lordship salvation" and also the idea that you can tell if a person is a believer by looking at him. But we see that the majority who hear either don't "get it" or, if they do believe, don't do much with it.
24-30 Another parable, the wheat and tares; the comparison is about what? 25, who is the enemy? So can we tell who is really saved? Is it our problem? What is harvest? What two things happen then, in what order? At the end of the tribulation, the wicked will be removed from the earth, and the believers who remain will populate the kingdom.
31-33 These two parables are often interpreted as showing the growth of the church. But the symbols used here have negative connotations. What has Jesus just said birds represent, 4, 19? We see something growing unnaturally large, inhabited by believers AND unbelievers. The visible, institutional church isn't necessarily the same as the true church. Meal is seed. What about leaven in the Bible? Always negative, evil. Read Mt. 16:6,12, I Cor. 5:6-8, Lev. 6:16-17. "Until it was ALL leavened," apostasy at the end. II Thes. 2:1-3. What does leaven do, why do we like it, use it? It makes bread tastier, more attractive to us. Once yeast starts working, does it stop? Not until what? Those who don't take a literal interpretation, who believe the church is now Israel and will receive all the promises, don't see words like birds or leaven as having a specific meaning, and say the church will increase until it has filled the whole world, thus bringing in Christ's kingdom, at which time He will return to receive it.
34-35 Matthew points out fulfilled prophecy about the Messiah.
The disciples ask Jesus to explain a parable. Remember, this is to them a new method of teaching. Read 36-43. How many kinds of people are there in the world? In between the good people and the evil people, are there a big bunch of "neutral" people that fall into a gray area? We see some of Satan's present activity. What does harvest or reaping represent? Judgment. When is the end of the age? Christ's second coming. What age are we now in? The church age, the age of grace. So two groups of people are removed alive from the earth; who, when, and how? Living believers are removed at the beginning of the tribulation, living unbelievers are removed alive at the end of the tribulation, the beginning of the kingdom. We see the beginning of the kingdom here, 41, 43. 41, we saw this phrase in 7:23. Quoted from Zeph. 1:3. 42, is this the lake of fire? No. When will that take place? Rev. 20:11-15, at the end of the 1000 year reign, the millenial kingdom. These are thrown alive into hell. 43, who is left on the earth, to be part of what?
44-50 Not all are explained. Is the treasure the church, Israel, or individuals? Perhaps Israel, Psalm 135:4, hidden in the field, the world, which He purchases with His blood. The pearl would be the church. (Some see a sinner searching for Christ, the pearl, but that doesn't seem to fit; we have nothing to sell anyhow.) So we would see both the church and Israel in God's greater plan. Each example is to illustrate what concept? The kingdom. 47, here we see "sea" used as the Gentiles, because now the gospel is not just being offered to Israel. 48, how many kinds of fish are there? Who separates them, when? Who is taken out, who is left?
51 Do you think they really do?
52 Again, He is weaving some new revelations in with what they already know about the kingdom.
53-58 He teaches in His hometown. What reaction does He get? They were impressed but they didn't believe. We also see names of His half-brothers and that He had half-sisters; Mary did not remain a virgin. This James is the author of the epistle of James; there were several named James but the others don't fit. Apparently the brothers of Jesus did not believe until after the resurrection. See John 7:5, I Cor. 15:7, Acts 12:17, 15:13, Gal. 2:9.
1-12 How John the Baptist died. His father was the Herod that killed the baby boys in Bethlehem. What kinds of things do you notice about Herod? Compare Luke 9:7-9. Like many unbelievers, he is confused; Jesus is claiming to be God, by His miracles, but Herod thinks maybe people can come back from the dead, and that it is more likely a prophet could do miracles than someone claiming to be God! When you reject God and His Word, you end up open to all kinds of confusion and deception. What about his morals? In sex? In the importance of keeping his word and how he looks vs. killing an innocent man? He is the ruler but he fears the people. Herod rejects the message of John, and therefore of Jesus.
13 We see the human side of Jesus. The account from 13-23 is also told in John 6:1-13, with 4 dating this as the Passover which was one year before the crucifixion. So from here on is the final year. We will see some changes in His message.
14 If it was us, what might we have felt instead?
15 The disciples were with Him; the other gospels indicate He took them with Him to a private place. I wonder why the disciples would even say this. It seems that if people were hungry, they would either have brought food or leave when they got hungry enough. Maybe they were just trying to get rid of them; maybe THEY were tired of them, or maybe they were being protective of Jesus.
16 Did Jesus really want them to try? Another gospel says Jesus already knew what He was going to do, and the question was to test them. Why did He do this, and every other, miracle?
19-21 He gave them bread; what does that often represent in the Bible? Was this more than 5000? Probably 15-20,000. This is the only miracle recorded in all 4 gospels; why is it significant? What should the disciples, and we, learn from it? The importance of feeding people and of being fed; with what? How?
22-23 Jesus sends everyone away; John 6:15 tells us it is because the people were wanting to take Him by force and make Him King. The disciples leave by boat; it's evening. As in 13, Jesus does what? What do you suppose the disciples are talking about as they row all night? Don't you suppose each miracle caused their belief in who He is to become even firmer?
25 4th watch, from 3 AM to daylight. Why would Jesus do this? Was it the quickest way to catch up with them? If He could act outside the limits of His human body, couldn't He have just appeared in their boat? But He's not so much concerned about the end result as the process, how we act DURING the crisis! Same for us!
26 What was their response?
28-31 Peter is impulsive and has big ideas! This is the kind of man Jesus chose to use. He blurts, then can't live up to his words. But he DID walk on water. Why might Jesus have done this with Peter? How might this affect Peter's later ministry? Peter knew what he could do through Christ. What is the lesson for us here?
33 Their response; this is the whole point. Worship.
34-36 More healings, even by just doing what?
1-3 Were Jesus and His disciples Jews? Were they breaking the Law of Moses? What had now become just as important in Judaism? But what did Jesus accuse them of breaking? He used their own logic against them; "you say My disciples aren't keeping the Law, are YOU keeping the Law you are so concerned about?" These might have been the "big wigs," or at least been sent by them; they came quite a distance to accuse Him.
4-6 Their traditions could contradict God's Law; can God's Word contradict itself? So what does the Bible teach here about family responsibilities? They were playing spiritual games; Christians do that too.
7 What did He call them? What does that mean? To play a part, like an actor. (A little different meaning today.) How can we be careful not to be like that? Aren't Christians often accused of this?
8-9 This is what God calls hypocritical. What were they doing? Do Christians ever do this? How is it possible to "worship" and "honor" in vain? So Judaism at that time was not just the Law of Moses, which WAS God' Word; now it included what? Many cults and false religions do this. And if the two conflict, which do they always go with?
10-12 Who did He say this to? Now He has really upset the people in power! I imagine a loud murmur going through the crowd; they must be aghast. He is making a definite break with the Pharisees; a confrontation. He is saying they are WRONG. He is trying to get across that it is NOT the physical, it is the SPIRITUAL. It's your words, not your food. Not your skin or digestive system, but your heart. Not the outside but the inside. But the Pharisees had made a religion of the outside things. Why did God give them the Law that required them to do external things, like washing and doing things and only eating certain things? Those things were to be a picture of inner reality.
13-14 Where else did we read about plants being rooted up? Wheat and tares. But it's not our job to root them up.
15-16 How do you suppose Peter felt when Jesus said this?
17-20 He is saying their "religion" is wrong. 20, He is saying that keeping the Law is not what is required anymore. He is bringing in something new, a new dispensation. Those who do not believe in dispensations would have to have us still keeping all the Law; they get around that by saying the ceremonial parts of the Law have now been done away with, but not the moral Law. But the New Testament does not make this distinction; Christ fulfilled the Law, and it always just calls it "the Law." Read Gal. 3:11, 19, 23-25, Mt. 5:17. Has mankind evolved to a higher level? Aren't these the same sins we see today? As Jesus revealed more fully to them what God's truth was, the Pharisees felt threatened. They thought they knew it all. Do we ever feel threatened when we find something from the Bible that doesn't line up with the way we think or were taught? If so, what should we do?
21-28 For the first time Jesus leaves the land of Israel. In this incident, Jesus almost sounds reluctant to help her. But does this fit with everything else we have read about Jesus and healings? So why do you think He talked to her like this? Jews called the Gentiles "dogs," but here, "dogs" is more like a puppy or housedog (Strong's). To whom did He make the remark about being sent to Israel? The crowds who had been following Him and coming for healing were Jewish. Then He DID help this Gentile woman. Do you think she really talked Him into doing something He didn't want to do, or hadn't planned to do? Why had He even gone to a Gentile region then? Perhaps He was making it clear to them that although His mission had been to fulfill the prophecies of Israel's Messiah, NOW His mission had changed to include Gentiles. We have been seeing how Jesus came first to Israel, presenting Himself as their Messiah, but as they clearly rejected that claim, His mission broadens to include all individuals who will believe in Him, Mt. 11:28-30. (Of course this was God's plan all along.) He might have been using this conversation to help this woman understand who He really was, and that Israel had a special position in God's plan. Or, because she addressed Him as Son of David, perhaps she already knew and believed, and this incident was for the benefit of the disciples.
29-38 Feeding the 4000. Some say that the Bible has contradictory accounts, sometimes calling it 5000, sometimes 4000. The details differ, and Jesus says there were two incidents, 16:9-10. The amazing thing about the first incident was the miracle; what is the amazing thing here? The disciples! I wonder if He did this especially to test them? They weren't getting it yet. They believed but they didn't believe. Do we do that too? Or, another possibility is that some of these were Gentiles, perhaps following Him after the incident with the Canaanite woman. The 3 days they had been with Him could mean they had been traveling with Him; also, 31, the fact that they glorified "the God of Israel," which is not said in the earlier feeding of the 5000. This may be a way of showing the disciples and the Gentiles that His message is now to the Gentiles also. The multitudes who were healed, 30, may have included some Gentiles. Some say that Gentiles can't be in the picture here because later, in Acts, when God begins to work in Gentiles, the disciples are surprised. However, we see how often the disciples don't "get it," just as here we see their unbelief even though they have already witnessed the earlier miraculous feeding of the 5,000. 39
The parallel account in Mark says He went to Dalmanutha; same place.
1-4 What did these Pharisees and Sadducees want? So what's wrong with them asking for one? But--hadn't Jesus been performing signs all along? They were implying that they did not accept those signs; they wanted something more spectacular. So He talks to them about the signs of the what? How should they have known the signs of the times? From the Old Testament. What is the only sign they will be given? What happened to Jonah? What will happen to Christ? This incident is very much like what happened in 12:38, and He answers them the same way but more curtly. What does He call them in both instances? What does that mean?
5-7 How are we like the disciples?
8-12 What is the leaven of the Pharisees? 12, false doctrine. Believers are always to beware of this danger; many warnings in epistles. What is leaven like? After the miracles they saw, they shouldn't have been concerned about hunger. Also, He clarifies that He is not speaking of actual bread; that makes me wonder if the miraculous feedings were also about bread as representing God's Word, its power, how He can miraculously cause it to grow, to meet people's needs in miraculous ways. Read Is. 55:10-11.
13 This is the BIG question, even today. Didn't He know what people were saying, thinking? Why would He ask them? Is He now asking them what the Gentiles are saying about Him?
14 Like today, a prophet, a teacher, a good man. Apparently some believed in reincarnation.
16-17 I wonder how long a pause there was after this question… This terminology for the Jew meant deity. Did Peter figure this out because he was the smartest? Can only smart people understand spiritual truth?
18 The Catholic Church is based on the idea that Peter was the first "pope," that here Jesus confers on him the headship of the church. However, look at "this rock." In Strong's, Peter (Petros) means stone, rock (petra) means large rock, bedrock. Is the church built on Peter or on Christ? I Pet. 2:4,7, Eph. 2:20. How do you become part of the church? By doing what Peter just did. Gates of hell=hades, death.
Again, is this addressed to Peter (a pope, or a human leader)? Compare Mt. 18:18, context, addressed to all the disciples. He is giving them authority, as apostles, to carry on the kingdom work after He is gone. This must be the source of the popular idea of Peter manning the door of heaven. In Acts we have the first sermon immediately following Pentecost, by who, to who? What happened with Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10? So Peter brought the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles; perhaps this is the meaning of the keys of the kingdom. And actually ALL the apostles carried out this mission after the resurrection, building the church. And by application, we all are now Christ's body here on earth, so His authority, the ability to give out the Word (binding and loosing) is given to us.
20 Perhaps if the people believed He was the Messiah, they would just focus on making Him King? Everyone had already shown that they were only interested in the earthly kingdom, in the political sense. So He was not presenting Himself as Messiah anymore to the nation; it was too late, and they had already rejected Him.
21 It is now about 6 months before His crucifixion. Finally, we are getting to the part that WE have often been taught that it was all about from the beginning. But it was not this way at the beginning of His ministry. Now this is revealed to the disciples, which again makes me think the previous verse is contrasting a different role, that of Messiah, to the role He is actually taking on, the Savior of the world. Do you think they really heard, or comprehended, the last part? We have in this section the two important things we must know about Christ. 13-16, what? 21, what? Who He is, what He did. What had Jesus just said about death in the last part of 18? Now that makes even more sense--Jesus now begins to teach His disciples about His coming death, and has just assured them that death will not prevail over the church--those He has called out of the world to be His own. When He dies, all is not lost; in fact, His death is to be the means of the church prevailing.
22 Do the disciples get it though? I wonder if Peter has been speaking for the others, or if he is just so quick to speak up before the rest. If only Peter knew that this awful thing was THE ANSWER, was God's Plan! He had just stated that Jesus IS God, the Christ, but now he does WHAT? Contradicts God! Do we ever have such inconsistent attitudes? Do we ever say "No, Lord"? Those two words contradict! What did Mary say in Luke 1:38? What did Jesus pray in Mt. 26:39? When we say we are angry at life, aren't we disagreeing with God?
23 What is Jesus saying? I wonder if the second sentence is directed to Satan or Peter? Hadn't Peter just confessed Jesus as Christ, 16? Perhaps that prompted Satan to really attack him. This does not mean Peter was demon possessed; if he was, we would see Jesus casting out the demon. Think on this statement when you ask God for something specific; are you sure what you are asking is God's will? How can we know God's interests? Don't we often assume that God MUST be interested in the same things we are interested in? Don't we often assume that God is there mainly to provide us with the things we are interested in, to help us with our agenda? Some of our interests are not bad in themselves, but God may have other plans for us. What does John 15:2 say might happen to some parts of our lives? When we do that in our yards, do we do it to branches that are bad or ugly? Why do we do it to them?
24-26 Jesus said this to His disciples earlier, now repeats it. Actually, He probably repeated much of what is recorded, to the disciples, the Pharisees, the multitudes. But when the Bible repeats something, we should give it more importance. In 10:38, slight difference in wording. Here, deny self, which helps define what He means by taking up our cross (death to self). Daily, as it says in Luke 9:23; it's not a once-for-all decision, it's a daily choice. (We are not talking about salvation, but about following Christ.) Is death a pleasant experience? If you want to be a disciple, here's how. Because we take up our cross, it is about choosing, the will, not feelings. (Some people think self-denial is about saying no to pleasures.)
27 Why we should be concerned about our souls-the second coming. He comes with an army of angels (Rev. 19:14), in glory; those who are left alive will either enter the kingdom or be taken alive to hell to await the final future judgment of the unsaved at the end of the millenium.
28 This verse belongs with the next chapter, so we will consider it there. (Paragraph divisions are not in the original manuscripts nor is punctuation.)
16:28 This verse has confused many and caused controversy. Who is Jesus talking to and about? What does "kingdom" mean? The answer is in CH 17.
1-3 What are the disciples seeing? This is not the man Jesus that they know; this is a glimpse of Jesus in His glory. He is with others that are in their glorified bodies, Old Testament believers. Read Peter's comment on this event, II Pet. 1:16-18. This is what Jesus will be like when He returns to earth to set up His kingdom. Who saw this? Were they "some of those standing here" in 16:28? Some see here a picture of what we will have in the millenial kingdom: Christ in His glorified body, believers who have died and have their glorified bodies, believers who have NOT died but were taken up to heaven and received their glorified bodies, and believers still in their earthly bodies. So we have Old Testament and tribulation believers who died, the church raptured (taken up to heaven without dying), and believers who are alive at the end of the tribulation. Christ will not be as He was then, a "regular" man, but in a glorified body. All these will populate the kingdom. Adventists believe in soul-sleep after death, until the resurrection; what does this verse teach about that concept? Believers who have died now have a conscious existence and spiritual, recognizable bodies.
4 What do you think of Peter's response? He seems to have the gift of blab. Jesus would have said if He wanted Peter to do something, but Peter thought he should make suggestions to the Lord, as in the previous chapter (no Lord, this shall never be!). Sometimes his quickness to speak will work in his favor, especially later, but sometimes it trips him up. So many of our characteristics are like that; our strong point can also be our weakness.
5 Where did we have a similar voice from heaven? Why does God say, hear Him? Who was with Him? Who had the Jews been listening to up till now? Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets. Here we have another evidence that God deals with men differently in different times, different dispensations. He doesn't say Moses or Elijah were wrong, for they spoke of Christ--just that NOW we are to listen to Christ. Read Heb. 1:1-2.
6 What were they afraid about, the message or the voice? Which way did they fall? Interesting to compare those who today are supposedly slain by the Spirit, who always fall backwards, but never on their faces before God as the Bible presents numerous times.
7-8 The vision ends, Jesus reassures them.
9 This was not to be public knowledge, yet.
10-13 This is hard for us to understand. IF they had accepted Jesus as their Messiah, John WOULD have been the promised Elijah. Read Luke 1:17.
14-18 Should we conclude that all epileptics are demon-possessed? In this case, either the father didn't understand what was really wrong, or in this case the epilepsy was a manifestation of the real problem. What do we see about the disciples here?
17 Jesus had harsh words-for the disciples or the others?? Perverse (Strongs): to distort, misinterpret, corrupt, turn away. It sounds like He was disappointed in the disciples and was rebuking them. The 3 disciples were with Him, so this was in reference to the others, who were unable to heal the boy. Or, was He rebuking the people who had rejected Him as Messiah but still wanted miracles from Him. We don't know the heart of the boy's father. Of course, the people AND the disciples had the same problem, lack of faith, even in the face of many opportunities to gain faith. Same problem we have. God is able to work in mighty ways, but we can inhibit His work by our lack of faith, lack of prayer, and lack of knowledge of His Word.
19-20 If they had faith and prayed to move a mountain but that was not God's will, would they be able to move it? Is faith and prayer a gimmick to manipulate God or anything else? The Bible teaches that prayer is always to be for the purpose of seeking God's will, to line OUR will up with God's will, for things that will glorify God. How can we know what kinds of things are God's will? Read the Bible.
22-23 Again we see Jesus telling of His death, which He apparently did not talk openly with His disciples until the last 6 months or less of His life. Did they get it? Selective hearing (like us). He alluded to it when He told the Pharisees that they only sign they would have would be the sign of Jonah. Compare Luke 9:45.
24-27 Jesus knows what Peter is going to say. A miracle, not for the crowds this time. Probably a number if not all the disciples were there to watch though. This miracle was for them. Kings don't tax their own children; this tribute/tax was for the support of the temple, He was the Son, AND the King, and His disciples were sons; shouldn't be taxed. The Jews, who paid the tax, were actually NOT sons but strangers! But because they had rejected Him as King, He didn't make an issue over it, although He could if He chose. Sometimes we need to decide if we really need to make an issue over something that we are right about. Jesus chose to submit to government, human authority, which is from God. Some Christians think we should resist authority, government, and taxes, but Christ has set the example, even though government is corrupt.
1-14 About children.
1 What were the disciples concerned about? When we think of great Christians, what do we often think about?
2-3 What is necessary to be part of God's kingdom? Conversion, childlikeness. The New Testament presents the Christian life as starting out as immature, like babes, born again, then growing and maturing to adulthood, from drinking only milk to eventually being able to eat meat.
4 Childlike in what way? Why do you think children can more easily believe/receive/accept Christ? Their intellect does not get in their way, nor does the attraction of their sins. They are still at the stage in life of being dependent; adults are into independence. Children are trusting.
5 How can we serve Christ? By serving others-in Christ's name. This is why good deeds by unbelievers are not recognized by God.
6 Can children believe in Christ? Some do not believe they can, but Jesus says they can. We see the responsibility of teachers of children, and of all believers who set an example to others whether they intend to or not.
7 Inevitable because of the Fall, Gen. 3.
8-9 He is not instructing us to mutilate ourselves; is the hand, foot, or eye the real culprit? We must be willing to do, or allow God to do, painful surgery on Self when necessary.
10 Some think this is a reference to guardian angels, angels assigned to each person. With the previous warning, it could mean that God is so displeased when someone puts a stumbling block in front of a child, especially a believing child, that the angels who are waiting on God, watching His face, are ready to act in that situation, carrying out God's will. Read Ps. 103:19-21. Or possibly a reference to children in heaven, their spirits beholding God. At any rate, we know that God is deeply concerned about children.
11-14 More evidence that children are capable of believing and being saved, esp. 14. The Bible indicates that children who die go to heaven. Read II Sam. 12:21-23; "I shall go to him." Obviously, there comes a time in every child's life when they are capable of choosing Christ, and at that point they would be held accountable as an adult is. Christians refer to this point as the age of accountability, although that term is not found in the Bible. Some believe it is at a certain age, although the Bible is silent there. I think it is probably different for each child; each matures at a different rate.
15-20 The church; new subject matter, Jesus first mentioned it just back in 16:18. These are the only two places Jesus mentions the church in the gospels. Jesus is still speaking to who? Dealing with discipline of sinning believers by the church. What does the word church mean? Strong's: called out ones, an assembly.
15 Some versions say "sins against you." Apparently not just that you are concerned about their sin, but something that personally affects you.
15-16 Who are you to talk to about the situation? Here is an appeal to the Law, in the matter of witnesses; proof of what they said and didn't say (today, a tape recorder could do this?). Are the other two for the purpose of helping to convince the sinner? Maybe, and also to prevent there being two different versions given later. They can witness to the fact that the sinner is persisting in his way, and did not repent.
17 NOW can you go tell everyone you know? No. If it has been established that the person is indeed in sin, and the matter cannot be resolved privately, and the person refuses to repent even when the whole church is a witness of his actions and attitude, then what is to happen? What would be their relationship to Gentiles and tax collectors? This is a way of saying, people who are not righteous, not believers, therefore not part of the church.
So is the church to just love, forgive, tolerate and accept every believer, regardless of their doctrinal position or their behavior? Read Eph. 5:11, Gal. 2:11-14, II Thes. 3:6, 14, Rom. 16:17, I Cor. 5:11, I Tim. 5:20. This is called church discipline; it is not followed in many churches because it steps on toes and those in leadership often find it difficult to confront others.
Eph. 4:13 says unity in the body is the result of growing in knowledge, of maturity. Nowhere is it stated or implied that biblical truth should ever be sacrificed or downplayed for the sake of unity. Rather, unity is to be sacrificed for the sake of truth. The above references indicate that churches are to exercise disciplinary action against those who are sinning and who are unrepentant.
I John 1:7 says that fellowship is conditional; it is present when believers are walking in the light, not in sin. Many churches stress fellowship over biblical truth. The term "fellowship" is often used in churches to mean something it is not. What do many churches call the room or building where meals and socials take place? Fellowship Hall. "Fellowship" is used as a synonym for "socialize," for pursuing friendships. People say, "let's invite so-and-so for dinner and fellowship with them." This is not biblical. Strong's Concordance: partnership, participation, communion, distribution, benefaction, communicate. "Fellow" has the meaning of "co," as in Eph. 3:6. Fellowship in this sense is not a verb; it is not something we do. It is a state of being, the fact that we have fellowship with God and with Christ, and therefore with one another. We are partners or associates with other believers because of our relationship with Christ. So the fellowship hall is really the sanctuary, the place where the fellowship of believers gather to express their fellowship with God.
Another meaning of "fellowship" is distribution, benefaction. The same word is used in Rom. 12:13, "contributing to the needs of the saints" (KJV, "distributing"), and in II Cor. 9:13, "for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all" (KJV, "your liberal distribution"). In this sense, fellowship takes place outside the church as believers meet the needs of others.
Because the unbiblical meaning of fellowship is so common in churches, friendships and social concerns too often take precedence, even becoming more important than following the Bible in the matter of church discipline. People think that unity in the church is more important than biblical truth, and think that the way to preserve unity is to softpedal or even ignore the Bible. However, that only leads to doctrinal division in the church. When the unifying factor--truth--is sacrificed, then there IS no longer a unifying factor. Fellowship has been broken. It is not that people stop "fellowshipping" with one another, because "fellowship" is not a verb. Therefore, we do not fix this situation by trying harder to "fellowship" with each other (to get together and act friendly); until the one or ones who are sinning repent, there IS no fellowship. The one who is sinning is the only one who can change the situation. I John 1:6 says this is the same with our fellowship with God. If we walk in darkness and are not practicing the truth (i.e., we are sinning), we do not have fellowship with Him. It is not then God's responsibility to decide to start "fellowshipping" with us again. We, the sinners, must repent; then we again have fellowship with God. Of course we all sin; this does not mean believers are never in a state of fellowship with God. This is talking about a believer who is "walking" in sin, "practicing" sin, continuing in known sin. If this person claims to be in fellowship with God in spite of his behavior, he is lying, to God, to others, and to himself. He is deceiving himself.
18-20 More about the church, the body of believers.
18 I've never heard a real good clear explanation of this verse, not sure if it is addressed to those disciples only or to the church in general. Perhaps it is about having Christ's delegated authority. That what we do on earth has eternal consequences. KJV, shall be bound or loosed. But NASV, "shall have been," makes me wonder if it might be saying that what we do on earth has already been decided in heaven, God's sovereignty? That even in our free will, we don't really initiate anything?
19-20 Is this about prayer? What about that word "anything"? Is this the only verse in the Bible on prayer? There are other conditions. How does 20 define "church", even though it doesn't use the word? If two believers get together for coffee or quilting, is that church? What determines the type of gathering? In His name; the purpose of the meeting. Is this saying that He is not present with only one believer? No, this verse is just expanding on the previous verse and explaining how that happens.
21-22 Does this mean we are to keep track of this number? What does it mean? I wonder if this is just a hypothetical question, or if Peter had a particular person and situation in mind. Peter probably thought he was showing how great he was by offering such "continual" forgiveness. The rabbis taught you only had to forgive 3 times.
23-35 Then Jesus gives an example to help us understand the importance of forgiveness in the kingdom. If we don't forgive others, can we "experience" the forgiveness that God has given us? This servant owed the king a ridiculously impossible amount; the idea that God has forgiven us so much that we can't even comprehend it, therefore how audacious of us to think that someone has offended US so much that WE can't possibly forgive them. 35, what does this last phrase indicate? Mouth vs. heart.
1-12 Jesus speaks about marriage and divorce. The Pharisees try again to trap Him with a question. "For any cause at all" is the issue here. There were two schools of thought: divorce was permissible for the slightest offense (the popular view), or, only for sexual offense (the Mosaic Law view). They want Jesus to take a side, which would then make Him unpopular with one group or the other. Does Jesus give a yes/no answer?
4-6 Instead of talking about divorce, Jesus talks about what? He takes them back to what? Before the Law. Before what else? The fall. This was God's perfect plan for marriage, before sin entered the world.
7-9 But sin DID enter the world. Because marriage is to be permanent, remarriage is equivalent to adultery, unless unfaithfulness was the reason. What is marriage a picture of? Read Eph. 5:22-32. But DID Moses command anyone to divorce? Playing word games. Jesus changed "command" to the correct word.
10 The disciples get His meaning, that if marriage was to be taken THAT seriously, it might be better not to marry. Apparently marriage vows were taken as lightly then as now, just as convenience, rather than something binding before God. Jesus said unfaithfulness is grounds for divorce; what might Christians today add to that list? Not loving, drunk, brutal. We need to distinguish what is biblical vs. what is popular Christian thinking. Are Christians promised or told to expect a loving fulfilling marriage? What if it is not? Another passage on divorce is I Cor. 7.
11 I'm not sure what this is saying. That not many are capable of having the right approach to marriage?
12 A eunuch is a man who has been physically altered so as not to be sexually active or inclined. Some take this to also apply to those who are not interested in marriage. Some choose not to marry in order to devote themselves to God's work (also I Cor. 7:20-35), but qualifications for elders (pastors) include marriage, so there is no biblical requirement for priests or nuns to be celibate.
13-15 Children. Matthew ties God's concern for permanent marriage with God's concern for children. 13, why might the disciples do this?
14 Some Christians believe children cannot receive Christ, so they do not evangelize children. Adults must become like children, in faith; also points to the idea that children go to heaven when they die, before they reach the age when they are accountable for their own decision about Christ. The context is how to enter the kingdom, who can enter.
16-17 Luke identifies this young man as a ruler, so this is often referred to as the story of the rich young ruler. He was interested in eternal life, entering the kingdom, for which righteousness was required. Jesus counters with a question; why? Who is good (perfect)? So is Jesus good or not, is He God or not? This is what the man really needed to know. This is the way to eternal life.
This addresses the question of what is meant by "good." Most of us think we are pretty good, and we know many people we think are good, by human standards. But in God's eyes, "good" means sinless. Only God is good. We cannot be good enough, because we cannot be sinless. We may be good people, but God says we are NOT good. Rom. 3:10. Our best efforts at being good are so far from His standard of good that He compares them to filthy rags, Is. 64:6. Righteousness in God's eyes comes not by doing good things, but by exercising faith in Jesus Christ, Rom. 4:5, II Cor. 5:21, Phil. 3:9.
18-20 He was either fairly righteous, or arrogant. But Jesus didn't speak to him about arrogance. Why did he think he was still missing something?
21-22 Do all who wish to follow Christ need to sell everything? We don't find that throughout Scripture. Why did Jesus tell him to? For him, this was the issue; this was his god, his idol, the thing that had the highest priority in his life. So he HAD broken the first commandment, Ex. 20:3.
23-24 So does this say that the rich must become un-rich before they can find salvation? No, but what must they do? Stop trusting in their riches, hold them lightly, be willing to part with them if God should ask them to. He is saying that most rich people DO trust in their possessions. If we are not rich, what is the application here for us? We should hold EVERYTHING lightly that we have and value. Jesus knows how to use figures of speech, hyperbole, to get His point across.
25 Hadn't God promised physical blessings to the righteous, to Israel? More evidence of a new dispensation; now God is setting things up different. Wealth is no longer the mark of God's blessing, and can even be a hindrance.
26 We must have faith to be saved; is that faith of our own doing? Read Eph. 2:8-9. Does that mean we have no part in salvation, that it is just election, God's action only? No, we are told in many places to believe and to receive Him, to repent, follow, obey. John 1:12, 3:16.
27-30 What is Peter concerned about? Rewards, status, power. Might he be comparing himself and the disciples to the young ruler; they HAD left much. But does Jesus rebuke his question? What is ahead for the 12 disciples? What does this tell us about who will be resurrected when? 29, rewards for what kind of people? 30, but what? Things might not turn out according to our human earthly values. Or maybe, they who appeared "last" in the world's eyes, will then be first, and those who have everything now will be at the bottom of the heap then. OR, could this be a time reference? They (Israel) were first, we (the church) come last; we will receive our promises first (at the rapture, the church will be complete in heaven), they will get theirs later, after us, at the earthly millenial kingdom. The next chapter opens by illustrating this statement.
1-16 16 tells us that this story illustrates the statement that closes chapter 19. Who is the landowner? What is the story about? Who are the various workers? What about the different hours they are hired? What about the attitude of the ones who worked the longest? Who were those who worked shortest? What does this teach us? It's about how obedient and faithful you are, not how much you accomplish. Is this about eternal life or rewards for believers? We do know that there are rewards and not all will get them; I Cor. 3:12-15. The man who built with wood, hay and stubble is like the seed in Matt. 13:22. The man who built with gold, silver and precious stones is like the seed in Matt. 13:23. I Cor. 3:11-12 likens saving faith in Christ to the foundation, which some have but build poorly upon it. Again, many are saved who do not appear so; we can't judge their salvation by their building, their fruit. KJV adds "some" here. This story also pictures Israel (those who labored longer, keeping the Law) and the Gentiles who will be saved and will be entering the kingdom (those who were only called later, and who did not have to keep the Law). We will see in the Epistles to the churches that Paul often has to correct the Jewish believers for their attitude of superiority to Gentile believers.
17-19 Approaching the last few days. What do you suppose the disciples thought about that?
20-21 Who are they? Matt. 4:21; the only ones that we hear about so much of their family. What is your impression of their mother? I wonder if this is related to what Jesus just said in 19:28; this should have been enough to soothe their egos, but some want MORE! Peter's blurt comes as Jesus has been talking about people being saved; this demand comes right after Jesus talks about His coming suffering and death. They weren't even on His same wave length; it's still all about SELF, not CHRIST.
22 Jesus hadn't scolded Peter, but He does seem to scold these two disciples. Aren't many of our prayers about what "I" want-either to get, or to happen? What does Jesus tell them that they don't know? Do we? Can we know how something will turn out in the future? Should we ask God to make anything happen a certain way? Isn't it audacious to suggest to God how He should run things? How might we pray instead? What is the cup He refers to?
23 Interesting that this is out of His hands. What do we learn here about the relationship within the Trinity of the Father and the Son? They are equal, but are their positions the same? How does this shed light on the issue of the husband being head of the family? Does Jesus say His Father is going to prepare this when the time comes, or that He has already prepared it? What does this teach us about God? Does He "go with the flow" and just deal with situations as they come up, making snap decisions as needed?
24 We wonder why they were indignant. Did the other 10 see these two as power-grabbers? Were they jealous, hoping THEY would get those positions? Were they ashamed for the audacity of these two?
25-28 Was Jesus seeking power over others? Did He enjoy having a superior ranking to others? He had power and superiority because He is God; but we as humans are not to seek those things. Beware of this tendency! What does He say about true greatness, for the Christian? Ransom for many; this was not how Jesus initially presented Himself, but because He knew what would happen, from the very beginning of time, this was the REAL reason He came, even though it appeared to be Plan B, after He was rejected by Israel. What is a ransom? A consideration paid or demanded for the release of someone or something from captivity; to buy back, to free from captivity by payment of ransom.
29-34 Two blind men healed. It sounds like they recognized Him as the Messiah. 34, what do we learn about Jesus? What was their response? I read once that this teaches we are to be specific in our prayer requests, yet other examples of healing do not require a specific request (8:6, 9:2, 21-22, 27-29); there is no "formula" that we need to learn.
1-11 This section is what is often called "the triumphal entry," even though it's not really. That will be His second coming! Again Jesus shows Himself as King, and though the multitude appears to accept Him, they still didn't understand the kingdom He offered, and they turned out to be fickle.
1-7 We don't know if Jesus had arranged this beforehand with the owner or not, but it could be either way. It does seem miraculous though that Jesus rode an animal that had never been rode. This is recorded in three gospels, but only in Matthew is it noted as a fulfillment of Scripture. Who is the "daughter of Zion"? Zion is Jerusalem. Compare Zech. 9:9, why are some parts left out? Second coming. We think of a donkey as a lowly animal, but then, kings rode them; yet Jesus was lowly, humble.
8-11 Why were they chanting lines from the Old Testament? If they really thought He might be their king, why did they not protest His crucifixion? 11, what clue does this give us? (prophet)
12-13 Does the Bible condemn anger? What kind of anger is OK? At sin and wrong, particularly by believers or those who claim to be followers of God. I Cor. 5:9-13, dealing with sin in the church. What are we to do about unbelievers who are sinning? Why did Jesus do something about the situation at the temple and not about the tax collectors and prostitutes that He had dinner with? But didn't 5 just say Jesus was gentle? Can we be both? Gentle doesn't mean we have to be doormats, never standing up to what is wrong. Eph. 4:26, Jesus was angry, but did He sin? So it is possible to be angry, act on that anger, and do what is right as a believer. What about Eph. 4:31? Rev. 2:20, what does God have against the church in Thyatira? Being TOLERANT of sin. 21, should they just forgive her and go on? (They might have been…) What does He require of this person, and of all those involved with her, 21-22? We also see at the temple, God's condemnation of corrupt commercialism, the same thing we see in the outpouring of God's wrath on this earth during the tribulation.
14 Now He heals people there. Do you think these people were now half afraid of Him because of what He had just done? Or were they glad that someone finally had the guts to stand up to people who pretended to be righteous but were cheating others?
15 What made the religious leaders indignant? Were THEY angry? Was their anger OK? Why not? So it's not anger that's the problem, it's what you get angry at and how you then act.
16 His answer must have infuriated them even more.
17-18 Jesus does not stay in Jerusalem overnight, but returns the next day.
19 What was wrong with this poor tree, that Jesus said this to it? When something doesn't make sense, look deeper. What does the fig tree sometimes symbolize? Israel, Hos. 9:10. What was Jesus looking for that the tree didn't have? What did the future hold for the fig tree, or what it symbolized? Does this fit with the rest of Scripture?
20 Instant withering.
21 Is there any reason to ask such a request? Is Jesus teaching us to be ridiculous in our prayers, to test God? The Bible says NOT to put God to the test. Since the fig tree was symbolic, might not the mountain be? What have mountains often symbolized? Nations; Is. 2:12-17, 41:15 (context,11-15). The importance of faith.
22 This verse has often been misused, making God out to be a push-button Santa Claus that we can manipulate. Does the Bible teach that we can and should ask for ANYTHING? What does the Bible teach about what we should ask for? Does it teach that we can ask for "stuff"? How did people in the Old Testament get "stuff"? It was the reward for righteousness. God did not promise this to the church; the New Testament warns the Christian to expect persecution and tribulation. So if we are not praying to get things, or to make things happen the way we want, what else is there to pray for? Read James 4:3. What did Jesus teach them to pray for in the Lord's prayer? A quick concordance check will give ideas about prayer; see Paul's prayers for more ideas. Rom. 1:10-12, II Cor. 1:11, Eph. 1:15-19, Phil. 1:3-4,9-11, Col. 1:3,9-12, I Tim. 2:1-2, II Tim. 1:3, Phil. 4-6. Yet many Christians think learning to pray more effectively means figuring out a system of effectively manipulating God to do what we want, as if we even know what is best for us or for anyone else. Mostly we should pray that people (including ourselves) would come to know God better, to be yielded to Him, to grow spiritually and in the knowledge of His Word.
23-26 In the temple that same day, Jesus is confronted about the source of His authority. Did they truly want to know, or were they setting a trap? Why doesn't Jesus give them a straight answer? Do they really want to know truth? Would they act on it if they did understand it? If you are a true seeker, God WILL give you answers.
28-32 A parable; two kinds of sin, blatant sin and religious hypocrisy. Which is worse? We worry about our kids and grandkids getting into "sin." If they are pressured to think that acting religious has value (to you or to them), they will become like the Pharisees. If they fall into the other kind of sin, they are more apt to be able to recognize it and deal with it at some point. How would 31 make them feel toward Him?
33-41 Who is the landowner? What is the vineyard? Is. 5:7, 21:2-3, Hos. 9:10, 10:1. What does he want, 34? Who are the vinegrowers? Who are the landowner's slaves? Who is his son? What is 38 prophesying? What do 40-41 say will happen to Israel? Who are the other vinegrowers? Remember, this happened the same day Jesus spoke of the fig tree, so this is further evidence that this is the correct interpretation of the fig tree incident. Same picture; no fruit, God wants fruit, it is His right. So what does He expect from us? What does the vinegrower want, 34?
42-46 Who is the stone? What is a cornerstone? Would they know this quote? What two groups are mentioned in 43? God is temporarily through with Israel; His plan for Israel will be continued following the church age. We know His rejection of them is only temporary, Rom. 11:25, Jer. 31:31-37, 32:36-44, 33:14-26. What needs to happen to those who come to Jesus? Ps. 51:17, II Cor. 4:7-12. 46, they think He is good, but don't believe He is God, the true Messiah.
1-14 Although we have a chapter break, I don't think there is really a break here. Who has Jesus just been talking to, middle and end of chapter 21? The last half of chapter 21 through chapter 25 do not move with action; they take place in those final days between Sunday's triumphal entry and Thursday night's last supper and betrayal. They show Jesus speaking to the Pharisees, and then to the disciples about things pertaining to Israel. Mark and Luke don't contain as much of these final words; John contains several chapters of Jesus' final words to the disciples about the new relationship that believers will have with Him-the church.
What is this parable about, 2? 2-3, now the kingdom is likened to guests invited to a wedding feast. Who is the king's son? Who is the bride? Eph. 5:22-32. When is the wedding? Rev. 19:7. So when is the wedding feast? After the wedding. Rev. 19:9. A new time element has been introduced to the kingdom. 3, who were the unwilling guests? Israel. Who were the slaves? The prophets. 5, two kinds of attitudes. 7, what happened to those who were invited but refused to come? Destruction. Could be a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, or it could include a reference to the judgment of the tribulation. Many prophecies have a short-range fulfillment and a long-range fulfillment in view. 10, more are now invited at this point. Bad people; do they stay bad? They will be given appropriate garments. We'll talk about the time element, then the wedding clothes.
A quick reading of this passage might give you the idea that it is about how Israel rejected Christ so the church was grafted in. I used to think the new guests were the church. In a sense, this view is true. But the time element doesn't quite fit. And the church is the bride, so it can't be the guests. A study of the Jewish wedding customs sheds light on this. 1, the father of the groom arranged the marriage and paid for the bride. (Sometimes they didn't meet until the wedding day.) 2, the betrothal period lasted at least a year, to prove the purity of the bride, and could last much longer. Read II Cor. 11:2, Eph. 5:26-27. During this time the groom is preparing their home. Read John 14:2-3. 3, the groom fetches the bride to his home. This would be the rapture of the church with the resurrection of those who have died in Christ. 4, the wedding ceremony takes place in the groom's home, attended by family and a few close friends. When does this take place? Read Rev. 19:6-8, not until the end of the tribulation, just before the Second Coming. 5, guests are invited to the wedding feast. Those first invited, in 3, are Israel, who for the most part are unwilling. Then in 9-10, others are invited later--Gentiles (the church age). This wedding feast takes place just before the kingdom, and here we find the removal at the end of the tribulation of living unbelievers, Mt. 13:30, 41-43, 49-50.
The indifferent are just as guilty as those hostile to God. Following the tribulation and before the start of the millenial kingdom, the Old Testament saints and the tribulation saints are resurrected, to be guests at the wedding feast, along with those of Israel who are alive at the end of the tribulation and accepting Christ as their Messiah. Read John 3:28-19, friends of the bridegroom. Believing Jews and Gentiles who are alive at the end of the tribulation will also be guests. This feast at the beginning of the kingdom is spoken of in Is. 61:10. 11-12, what is required of the guests at the wedding feast? Apparently the king provided wedding garments for all the invited guests. Rom. 13:14, Gal. 3:27, Eph. 4:24. 13, what happens to those without those garments? Rom. 10:3. Could the guests provide their own wedding garment? Our own righteousness is not sufficient.
14 Those who are chosen are called the what? Elect. Some think God is unfair for choosing only some. What does this verse say about that? Read Is. 65:12, John 10:27, 15:16.
Do you think the Pharisees realized that Jesus was speaking about them? See 21:45, and now 15.
16-22 The Herodians and the Pharisees were political enemies; one opposed Rome, one supported Rome. Why are they now in cahoots? What was the trap? What would people have thought if Jesus had answered yes or no? The Roman tax collectors generally collected several times more taxes than people owed, so they were hated. What can we learn from 21 about God's view of our relationship to our government? What are our responsibilities to God? We are to be subject to BOTH God and our government.
23-30 Did these people really want to know? The Sadducees were the religious liberals. They did not even believe in the resurrection, so they were not seeking truth, but to trap Him. They implied that life after the resurrection, IF there was one, would just go on like life on earth, ridiculing the idea of the resurrection. 29, Jesus tells these religious leaders what? What is the application for us? Many of our questions and problems would be solved if we read and studied the Bible more? What do we learn in 30? We will be reunited with those we love on earth, but apparently not in the same way. People like to think about being reunited with their loved ones, as if this will be the most important thing about getting to heaven. But will our emotions and priorities be the same in eternity as here? God will be the most important one to us. (We have been noticing in Matthew if Jesus makes references to heaven in speaking to the Jews; some translations say "heaven" here, but the NASV says "in the resurrection.")
We will not BE angels, as some think. Are angels sexless, neither male nor female? The Bible always portrays them as men, never as women, unlike popular thought today. Nor does the Bible portray them with wings, except for cherabim and seraphim. If someone today "sees" an angel, and it is female or has wings, they might want to consider that such an angel is not from God but is a satanic deception. II Cor. 11:14-15. There is evidence that when they take on human forms, some have engaged in sexual relations, which they are not supposed to. Jude 6-7, II Pet. 2:4-5, I Pet. 3:19-20, Gen. 6:1-4.
31-32 Now Jesus speaks to their real problem, their lack of belief in the resurrection. These three are alive; eternal life, yes. Resurrection, yes. Soul sleep, no.
34 More plotting, trying to trap Jesus in His own words.
35-36 Did Jesus then quote from the 10 commandments? If the fourth (Sabbath-keeping) were the most important as the Adventists say, Jesus would have said so. Nowhere in the Bible is the fourth commandment said to be the most important. Likewise, Christians often get the idea that some sins are more or less acceptable than others; maybe in man's eyes, but not in God's eyes. What does the word "love" mean in these verses? Fuzzy warm emotional feelings? Or a choice to put someone first, before Self?
41 Now what's different? Jesus turns the tables!
41-46 What is Jesus making clear to the Pharisees? The Christ, the Messiah, existed before David, yet will be His son. They believed the Messiah would be a man in the line of David. He is giving them a last chance to recognize who He is.
These are Jesus's harshest words. I wonder what the liberals do with this chapter. No fluffy love here. God is love, and this is part of His nature: judgment on sin, even on those who are acting religious.
1 Who is speaking to whom? He had been speaking to the Pharisees; the disciples and the multitudes had been listening.
2-4 Speaking about the Pharisees, scribes-religious leaders.
5 Why do they do righteous deeds?
6-10 They like the prestige of titles.
11-12 This reminds us of what He just said to the disciples about who would be the greatest. So in God's scheme, what is greatness?
13-16 Woe was a very strong term to them, an exclamation of grief. God hates the attitudes shown here. 13, are they saved? Will those who follow their system be saved? 14, pretense. Can praying be sinful? Greater condemnation; what does this imply? The Bible indicates that there are varying degrees of condemnation. When greater condemnation is mentioned, we never see it applied to Hitler types, but to hypocrites. 15, not saved; hell awaits them. Do their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds? Is that how God judges?
16-22 What is meant by swearing here? Their word would mean more or less depending on what they swore by. He condemns their word games. Do we ever play games with words?
23 Woe again. Outward obedience without a changed heart. Last line, they should have done both. Majoring in minors. Many Christians major in externals, and many churches teach this rather than the need to be born again or the need to grow and mature in your walk with Christ.
24-26 24, a great picture; the symbolism of hyperbole, exaggeration (like the speck and the log in the eye). 25-26, what does the cup picture? What must come first? Like someone who is against makeup but has a vicious mouth.
27 Do they have spiritual life? Jesus is making it clear that these people are NOT righteous, not saved, will not enter the kingdom.
28 This is what happens when you try to clean up the old nature instead of receive a new nature.
29-35 30, weren't they already plotting His death? Pretty serious condemnation from "gentle loving Jesus." Love is one side of the coin; truth is the other. They must go hand in hand. Jesus didn't just forgive them; they had not repented. Yet in Luke 23:34 see what He says on the cross (although this verse is omitted in some manuscripts). Apparently, from the context, this is directed to the Roman soldiers; 33 says "they" crucified Him, "they" obviously being the soldiers. Then the words on forgiveness in 34 are followed by more on "they," again, obviously the soldiers.
If you don't read this carefully, you could mistakenly think Jesus was asking God to forgive everyone there, which would include the Pharisees who we are told over and over had rejected Jesus, who didn't accept Him as the Messiah (God Himself), who had NOT repented of their unbelief. The Pharisees, as students of the Law, had more light than anyone else, but rejected it. If Jesus was saying the Pharisees didn't know what they were doing (rejecting Jesus as God), then we would have to conclude that NO one will be held accountable for rejecting Jesus. This is not what the Bible teaches. Nowhere does the Bible teach that God forgives and saves those who do not repent. So Jesus must be asking God to be merciful to those soldiers who were merely following their orders, as good soldiers should. The soldiers were not crucifying Jesus because of unbelief but because of duty. As far as they were concerned, He was just another criminal to put on another cross. The Bible DOES teach that God will judge fairly, holding each responsible for the amount of light they had, Gen. 20:4-6, Luke 12:47-48, Rom. 2:12.
37 He wanted, they were unwilling. God's will and our will. We have free will. Sometimes we speak of God's "ideal" will (what He would like us to do) and His "permissive" will (what He permits us to do because He gave us free will). He does not force us to do His ideal will; yet, though He permits us to choose sin, we cannot say that our sinful choices were His will. God's sovereign will is never thwarted by our sinful choices; He is able to use those sinful choices to still accomplish His sovereign will. If He were not able to do this, He could not accomplish His sovereign will, because all He has available are sinful people that make many sinful choices (and that includes believers).
38-39 Your house; the house of Israel, as in 13:1. Could refer specifically to Jerusalem or the temple. Israel will not be part of God's program for the kingdom, just yet. God is beginning to deal with the Gentiles now, the church age. Quoted from Ps. 118:26, compare context, 22. Who are the builders who rejected the stone? And in Matt. 16:18 Jesus said what about the church? He has no more to say to them until the day Israel recognizes Him as her Messiah. When will that be? The day He physically returns to earth (Zech. 14:1-5, Rev. 19:11-21), the second coming. The earthly kingdom has been postponed.
The Olivet Discourse is one of 3 major discourses in Matthew. (The other two are the Sermon on the Mount, chapters 5-7, and the Mystery Parables, chapter 13). We have tried to establish as we went through this book that it is written to and for Israel. It is about how Israel is to fit into God's plan for the kingdom. The church is not in the picture in this chapter, but we will see many indications in this chapter that it is about Israel. God has a different plan for the church and for Israel. Where do we find God's plan for the church? (the Epistles) The church is told to eagerly watch for our blessed hope, Christ, who will call us to meet Him in the air, John 14:2-3, Acts 1:11, I Cor. 15:51-52, Phil. 3:20, Col. 3:4, I Thes. 1:10, Titus 2:13, I Tim. 6:14, James 5:8. We are NOT told to prepare for the Tribulation. Surely Paul would have warned us if it were so. Mt. 24 does warn Israel about the Tribulation. Some say this chapter is for us, the church, and that it mentions the rapture. We will look at the context to decide if this could be so.
Endtimes Review: The Tribulation is the beginning of the period referred to as "the day of the Lord," or "that day," or "the day." We saw in the Old Testament that this "day" includes both the Tribulation and the millenial kingdom. When and how does the Tribulation start? The rapture is the first event on the endtimes timetable, and there are no signs given to tell when it will take place. I Cor. 15:51-52, I Thes. 4:14-18. II Thes. 2:1-12 establishes the fact that the church must be removed before the world ruler appears, and he must appear in order to sign the 7-year treaty mentioned in Dan. 9:25-27 which will mark the beginning of the 7 years--the final "week"--the final seven--of the 70 weeks spoken of in Dan. 9:24-27. Because of the importance of the time frame established in Dan. 9, and how it fits into the events of Mt. 24, I will insert here an excerpt from my notes on Daniel.
Dan. 9:24-27 These verses are important in understanding God's prophetic timetable. We want to look carefully and in detail at this section. Notice the main things talked about. 24, who is the 70 weeks about? What place? This is not about the church. Israel and the church are not terms that are interchangeable. 25, a decree; a time period from the decree until the Messiah. 26, the Messiah is cut off; the people of the prince who is to come. 27, a one week covenant; an abomination in the middle of that week.
First, are these 70 literal weeks? Context: 9:1-3, Daniel has been thinking about the 70 years captivity, in which Israel was punished one year for each period of seven years the land was not given its sabbath rest, Jer. 25:11-12, 29:10. Dan. 9:25-26 tell us what is to happen during the first 69 weeks. We are to begin from what event? When was this decree? Read Neh. 2:1-8. Now look at the things listed at the end of Dan. 9:24. They have not yet happened, and will not happen until some time in the future. (Everlasting can be translated as ages. The kingdom will be an age of righteousness. OR, just the idea of these events bringing in the Messiah, in whom is everlasting righteousness. The Most Holy could be the Messiah, or the Holy Place in the temple.)
Since these events did not take place during the 69 weeks following that decree, it must mean something longer than literal weeks. It appears to refer to the beginning of the Messiah's kingdom. Weeks are sevens, so we have 70 sevens, or 70 7-year-periods. And it so happens that years fits the historical time frame exactly. The decree was in 445 BC. The Messiah presented Himself to Israel as King at the triumphal entry to Jerusalem, 32 AD. That is 7 weeks of years plus 62 weeks of years. Or, 49 plus 434. The first 49 years takes us from the decree to the end of the book of Malachi. The next 434 years takes us to the day Christ presented Himself to Israel as King. Compare Luke 19:14. AFTER that point, "Messiah is cut off," crucified. So Daniel is actually prophesying that Israel will reject her Messiah when He comes. Since the first 69 weeks of years have been exactly literally fulfilled, we can know that the last week of years will also. (There are books that give the details of figuring this time period, taking into consideration the Jewish calendar and leap years.)
That still leaves one more week; it is discussed in 27. But 26 tells what happens between the 69th and 70th weeks. So we have a time period followed by certain events, followed by the last week, or the last period of seven years. Have those events happened yet? Those who don't take the literal interpretation say this is 70 actual weeks, and is fulfilled in the literal destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. However, the things listed in 24 didn't happen at the end of that period. But we DO see a partial, "near" fulfillment of this prophecy in that event, while its literal fulfillment awaits a future time.
We do get another clue here identifying this prince; he is the prince of what people? What people destroyed the city and temple in 70 AD? The Romans; just as we saw earlier in Daniel that the last world empire, the legs of iron, was the Roman empire, and as the iron is mixed with clay in the final kingdom, we see pictured that the Roman empire is still in view. Further evidence for future fulfillment is the fact that the seven years of Dan. 9:27, the break in the middle (3 1/2 years), and the comments about this "prince," all fit with other passages telling of the final world ruler. Revelation talks about the 3 1/2 year periods, as does Dan. 7 and Dan. 12. This prince is the little horn of Daniel, the beast of Revelation, and the man of sin or lawlessness of II Thes. 2.
The length of the time gap between the 69th and 70th weeks was not revealed to the prophets. (For more on this gap, see notes on Mt. 25:4-5.) This gap is called the age of what? The age of grace, or the church age. It is an unspecified period of time, in which WE are living--the time following Christ's crucifixion, up until the ruler of the final kingdom, in the time of the 10 toes, Dan. 2:40-43. The church was not revealed in the Old Testament, nor was the church age. The New Testament calls the church a "mystery," Eph. 3:8-11. "Mystery" is not used in the Bible as a who-done-it, something we can't figure out, but as something which was not previously revealed and now is. Christ made it clearer when He came. Compare Luke 4:16-21, where He reads from Is. 61:1-2, but stops in the middle of the verse and says these things have been fulfilled. The last part had not yet been fulfilled; those events were future and wouldn't happen until the Second Coming.
We have also seen that God uses specific time periods when dealing with Israel. Has God given the church any specific dates or time periods? The church age will end when what happens? (when the church is caught up to meet Christ in the air) Review II Thes. 2. And the 70th week will begin when what happens, according to Dan. 9:27? The making (NASB) or confirming (KJV) of a seven-year covenant/treaty with "the many." Everyone says this means Israel, although it doesn't exactly say that. However, the phrase "the many" is used several more times in Daniel and each time seems to refer to Israel, 11:33, 11:39, 12:3. In the middle of the week he breaks the treaty, whoever it is with, and things begin to go very badly for Israel.
This is further evidence that the 70 weeks cannot be literal weeks, because it seems extremely unlikely that any ruler would make a treaty for one week. Rev. 12:13-17 tells of his great persecution of Israel for 3 1/2 years, which would have to be the second 3 1/2 years. Also, read Is. 28:15-18, a description of this time; references to the covenant being with death and Sheol are further evidence of the satanic power behind this man. Falsehood and deception will mark this period and this man.
27 End sacrifice and offering: in order to end, these will have to have been restored. He begins as a political world ruler, but after the first 3 1/2 years, he assumes the role of world religious leader also, Rev. 13. On the wing of abominations: other verses refer to the abomination of desolation in the middle of the seven years, Dan. 11:31, Mt. 24:15. "Makes desolate" (margin: "causes horrors") is similar to Rev. 12-13, telling of the great persecution. Also read Mt. 24:15-21. There will be a time of unprecedented horror following this "abomination of desolation."
So, in short, to answer Daniel's concern about when Israel will come into her kingdom, it won't be right away. These periods of times and these events must take place first. The kingdom is off in the future. (end of excerpt from notes on Daniel)
In II Thes. 2, we see Paul is writing to the church at Thessalonica, assuring them that they have not missed the rapture (2:1) as some had been saying. 3, he tells them it can't start until that world ruler appears, here called the man of lawlessness. And he will not be revealed "unless the apostasy comes first." "The apostasy" ("apostasia") can't mean apostasy from the faith because that has been around forever. Prior to the King James Version, the first seven English Bibles translated it as "departure" or "departing." Paul refers to "the" apostasy as a particular event-the departure or catching up of the church--known to the Thessalonians because he has already taught them about it. For a fuller treatment of this interpretation, click here. Perhaps both views of apostasy are in view here; perhaps there WILL be some unusual apostasy take place at that time in the churches that remain (which will be initially made up only of unbelievers-all true believers having been caught up.)
II Thes. 2:6-8, that man can't appear until "he," the restrainer of evil, is removed. This must be the indwelling Holy Spirit, because there is no other "he" capable of doing this. And when the church, the body of Christ, is removed, the indwelling Holy Spirit will no longer be present on earth. The Holy Spirit will continue to operate on earth as He did in the Old Testament, and because God is omnipresent, He IS still present on the earth, but not in the same way He was in all the individuals known collectively as the church. I Thes. 4:13-18 and 5:1-11 also teach this.
This section appears to be in chronological order, with the catching up mentioned first, and Paul speaking of "we" and "you" (believers); then chapter 5 he begins talking of "they" and "them" (unbelievers, those who are left). 2, the "day of the Lord" will come upon the unsaved who are left like a thief--someone we don't want or like or look forward to; Christ does NOT come to the church like a thief! (2, 4) 9, this is important, compare Rev. 6:16-17. God pours out His wrath on the unbelieving world, NOT on the church, the body of Christ. Christ paid for our sins already on the cross; Hebrews 9-10 makes it clear He did that once for all. If the church were on earth for the Tribulation, God would be pouring out His wrath on the body of Christ, AGAIN. This is unscriptural. The church does not need to be purified, as some teach from Dan. 11:35; Daniel is speaking to Israel, not the church.
Then, after the church age has ended, God again begins dealing with Israel, as we saw prophesied in the Old Testament. Where do we get the teaching that the Tribulation will be seven years? Not in this chapter, but in Daniel 9:25-27. Revelation often mentions the 3½ year division, though; the first 3½ years will be different in character than the last 3½ years. We also find it foreshadowed in Gen. 7:7-10 (this will be discussed in notes on Mt. 24:37-39). Revelation indicates the church is not here for the 7 years of Tribulation. We find the church in Rev. 1-3, then chapter 4 begins "after these things" (church things), and the word is never mentioned again; in 19, the church is referred to again, as the bride, at Christ's return. Revelation does mention "saints" because following the removal of the church, many will believe, but they are not part of the church--the bride of Christ, the body of Christ. All the church are saints, but not all saints are the church.
1-3 The disciples want to know what will happen to the kingdom. They are asking about Israel's future, and it appears that Jesus tells them what is in store for Israel, not the church or the rest of the Gentiles. Remember, they don't know what we know. They still have an Old Testament perspective. We don't see Jesus answering their first question, but Luke records it, 21:20.
4-5 What key word in both verses tells us what will characterize that time? Why? If this is describing the beginning of the Tribulation (I think it could be), who is in power? Some think this is describing the time leading up to the Tribulation, even the entire church age. If this section is indeed in chronological order, as we will see that it appears to be, and this IS the beginning of the Tribulation, what is the first thing that will happen, 5? I don't know which is referred to. Actually, I think both time frames could be pictured here, as we have often seen in Old Testament prophecies that seem to include both a short-term AND a long-term fulfillment.
Have we seen individuals who claim to be Jesus? This could be saying that this phenomena will precede the Tribulation, or it could be saying that it will mark the beginning of the Tribulation. Perhaps both. If it is indeed talking about the beginning of the Tribulation, which won't happen until the church is caught up and the Antichrist is then revealed, then this brings up an interesting possibility. "Many" could refer to an increase in the phenomena of religiously deluded cult leaders, or it could refer to a large group that will appear at the beginning of the Tribulation, misleading many. Many Christians believe that the increasing appearances of "aliens," especially since the late 1940's (curiously, about the same time Israel became a nation--the sign of the "fig tree"), is leading up to something connected with the endtimes. There are many clues in Scripture hinting at this possibility, although no one can know for sure. "Aliens" appear to be merely demons or fallen angels disguising themselves as highly evolved beings from elsewhere in the universe. For a detailed look at Scriptures pointing to this idea, and more information on "aliens" as demons, see notes on Daniel 7.
6-7 Where else do we find this picture? The beginning of the Tribulation, Rev. 6.
8 What is implied by this word picture? This is just the beginning; more painful things yet to come. A new world is coming, new heavens and a new earth. Some think 4-8 are the times preceding the Tribulation, and "then" in 9 indicates the beginning of the Tribulation. Perhaps both; perhaps these events will be increasing in the time just preceding the Tribulation, and perhaps they also will be even more prevalent at the start of the seven years.
9 Who is "you"? Who is He speaking to? Jews. He is speaking to the disciples, so they are not the church. The time word "then" corresponds with the chronological picture we get in Revelation; wars, famines, plagues, disasters, in Rev. 6, then in the middle of the 7 years, the world leader shows himself for who he really is, breaks the 7 year covenant, and the great persecution of Israel begins. See Dan. 9:27, Rev. 12-13. The big change in the middle of the seven years isn't mentioned until 15, so this verse tells us that even though the really severe persecution begins then, persecution of the Jews is already taking place.
10-13 10, "fall away" means "caused to stumble"--not implying losing salvation. Why will people betray others? It could have to do with the fact that those who become believers during this time will not take the mark on the hand or forehead (Rev. 13:16-17), will not be able to buy or sell, and must depend for food, etc., on sympathizers among those who HAVE taken the mark. Perhaps the Antichrist will offer a reward to those who turn in believers; there may be bounty hunters. 11, again the warning of deception. The church is warned mostly about false teachers, not prophets; the church is not here, it has been caught up before the tribulation began, and those who become believers after the rapture are not the church. This warning could be related to the statement in 5 of the "many" who will come, claiming to be Christ--perhaps "aliens." As noted in notes on Daniel 7, the "aliens" bring a very religious message, making great claims about themselves as our spiritual "gurus." Another strong possibility is an apparition of Mary; Marian apparitions have a strong hold over many who believe in them. Very likely, a deceiving spirit masquerading as "Mary" will bring some kind of message uniting all religions and proclaiming the Antichrist as the Messiah; this message will probably be accompanied by deceptive signs and wonders that many will be taken in by. 13, not all believers will be killed. Could refer to true believers vs. make-believers.
14 The gospel with what emphasis? The coming kingdom. It is still by faith in Christ. Compare Rev. 11:3-7, 14:6-7. Possibly also the 144,000 who are protected from death are witnesses. So it sounds like during this time, everyone has a chance to hear. Some Christians think this means that Christ will not come for His church until the whole world has had the gospel presented, so this has been an incentive for missionaries and for those who are translating the gospel into all known languages. But if this chapter is speaking to Israel, this comment would be about the Second Coming, the end of the Tribulation, not the rapture. There are no signs given for the rapture. If this were a sign for the rapture, believers might as well quit looking for Christ's return, because it could not happen yet. But we are to always be ready and watching for His return.
15-21 These verses are obviously directed to Jews. The abomination of desolation, another reference to Dan. 9:27. We know this happens in the middle, after 3½ years. Even though the time frame is not given here, these events seem to follow that time frame: 5-14, the first 3½ years; 15-21, the last 3½ years. 21 labels this second half as GREAT Tribulation. We often call the whole seven years the Great Tribulation, but we really have seven years of Tribulation, with the last 3½ being the GREAT Tribulation. Compare Rev. 6:17, context being after a description of the disasters of the first few years. Likewise, we have seven years of God pouring out His wrath, but in the final 3½ years we have His GREAT wrath.
22 Much of mankind will die, as we read in Rev. 6:8, 9:15,18. Many will also become believers, as we read in Rev. 7:9,14.
23-27 Another warning against deceivers and deception. They will have power. This is the third time Jesus mentions the danger of being misled at this time by false prophets and false Christs. Again we consider the possibility that "aliens" invade the earth at the beginning of the Tribulation, with their false religious agenda, claiming to be gods, and "Marian" apparitions bringing a false religious message. Why the repetition? This must be very important, and will be a very tantalizing lie. (Compare II Thes. 2:11, those who are deluded will believe "the lie.") They have the power to do supernatural signs and wonders (remember that supernatural power comes either from God or Satan), and Satan's man is on the throne, with the power of life and death in his hands. Many will be fooled, at least for a time, into thinking he really is the promised Messiah. 26 continues to warn against believing anything they claim.
The elect are those who become believers during that time. (All the church are among the elect, but not all the elect are the church. Strong's: "elect" means chosen, selected, and is another Bible term for believers. Mt. 20:16, John 15:16, Rom. 8:33, Col. 3:12, Tit. 1:1, I Pet. 1:1-2. Here is a paradox. We are to believe and receive Christ, John 1:12, 3:16, but we only do that because He chose us first. Yet all are free to choose Him, John 6:37.) Remember, they will not have the indwelling Holy Spirit; they are not the church. And there will be no mature believers--all new believers. 27, the church has already been taken before the start of the Tribulation; this is the Second Coming. Believers will be looking for His coming; they won't have to wonder, it will be VERY obvious to all! Compare Acts 1:11.
28 I don't know what this means. Corpses, death. Vultures are birds, what have we seen that birds symbolize sometimes? (Mat. 13, evil) Another possible translation is eagles. Apparently believers at that time will understand what this means.
29-31 More clues that we are seeing a chronological time frame. Now we have what takes place as the Tribulation ends. Catastrophes in the heavens, as in Revelation and Old Testament prophecies. Is. 13:10; 9 gives the context, the day of the Lord. Is. 27:13. Is. 34:4 (note also the references to the vine and the fig tree in connection with Israel). Dan. 7:13-14. Joel 2:10 (11 gives the context, the day of the Lord), 2:31, 3:15. Amos 5:20, 8:9. Zeph. 1:15. Zech. 2:6, 9:14. Deut. 30:3-5; this chapter contains what is known as the Palestinian covenant. 30:5 has never yet been completely fulfilled, so it must be yet future. 30:1-3 tells WHEN it will be fulfilled (note the time words "when," 1, and "then," 3); this has never yet happened, but will happen at the end of the Tribulation. Rev. 6:12-13, 8:12.
Christ's return at the Second Coming will be visible to all, unlike the rapture when the church is caught up to meet Him in the air. It doesn't say what the sign is, so why speculate as some do? Unbelievers will react how? One of the roles of angels at the Second Coming; angels do not gather the church at the rapture, so this is more evidence that the rapture is not in view here. The elect might refer to Israel, since they are regathered to their land, as the Old Testament prophesies. If so, the elect in 22 and 24 might also refer to the elect of Israel. Or it could refer to all the believers alive at that time, or it could include the resurrection of Old Testament saints. But since Jesus is answering the disciples' question about Israel's future, I think it is probably the elect of Israel.
Review of timetable: Church is removed, caught up to meet Jesus in the air (rapture). World leader comes to power; when he signs a seven-year treaty, the seven-year countdown begins. There are many major fatal catastrophes on earth. In the middle of the seven years, he is empowered by Satan himself, he breaks the treaty, he demands worship, he institutes the mark, there is major persecution of Jews and Christians. Finally, all the nations come against Israel, which is when Christ returns in power and glory to set up His kingdom.
32-34 What does the fig tree represent? Israel, 21:18-19, Is. 34:4, Hosea 9:10, Micah 7:1, Mt. 21:18-20. This chapter, this book, is about Israel. As they could observe the fig tree growing, they would know when it is almost time for fruit to appear. The generation that sees all the events Jesus just described is the generation that will see Jesus return. All these events will happen rapidly; these are not events that are spread out over many decades or centuries. Many believe this also contains a reference to the fact that in our day, 1948, Israel has once again become a nation, as prophesied (compare Ez. 37). 33, that's why many believers think these events are right around the corner (plus, just watch the news). 34, what generation? 33, the one that sees all these things take place--us.
However, some think it refers to the Jewish race or the human race. Some think it refers to those Jesus was talking to, but we see that He talked to them of many things that would happen AFTER their lifetimes, so I doubt it. Some think all this was fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. However, many details don't fit, especially 29 (33 and 34 say "all" these things, not just some of them). That may have been a partial short-range fulfillment, a type, picturing the long-range complete fulfillment to come, as we have seen in many prophecies.
Another question is, how long is a generation? Some have used these verses to set dates for Christ's return, figuring from 1948. Could it mean the average length of a generation, or the length of a generation in Jesus's day, or our day? It says "this generation will not pass away." If indeed it is referring to those who are alive when Israel becomes a nation, it implies that at least SOME of those will still be alive. It can't mean that ALL of those will still be around, because many of those have already died. It doesn't say anything about an average, so no one should try to pin a number on the term "generation."
So how does one determine which of these interpretations of "this generation" is the correct one? Must we just choose ONE? Is it possible that several or even all of the above interpretations are included in this phrase? Studying through the Old Testament, we have seen that prophecies often have several layers of meaning, all of which are true, and none of which contradict the others. The Jewish race will NOT be destroyed by man before Christ returns, nor will the human race manage to annihilate itself, even though it has the means. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD DID partially fulfill this prophecy. And it is also quite possible that the generation that sees the birth of the nation Israel WILL not pass away (experience natural death). We should not be dogmatic but should consider all the possibilities. For more on this subject, compare notes on Daniel 7.
35-36 35 gives two important facts. The passing away of heaven and earth is mentioned in II Pet. 3:10-12; this must be at the end of the millenial kingdom, compare Rev. 21:1 and compare the time frame, following chapter 20. 36, date setters throughout history are ALL wrong! But we can watch the fig tree. Actually, once the seven-year treaty is signed, the year will be known, but the day and hour will not be known. Believers today often quote this verse in respect to the rapture, and many even believe the rapture is mentioned later in this chapter, but the context is the Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation. However, we can apply the same general concept to the rapture, since we are given no signs to know when it is about to happen. We can look around at the stage being set and have a pretty good idea that it is just around the corner. We are always to be "looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God," II Peter 3:12. Jesus told us to pray "Thy kingdom come," Mt. 6:10. I Cor. 16:22, "Our Lord come." Rev. 22:20, "Come, Lord Jesus".
37-39 What was going on in Noah's day? What is wrong with eating, drinking, marrying? People were going about their lives-business and pleasure--blind to the significance of what was going on in the world, blind to God, blind to spiritual things, blind to the fact that everything was about to come to a screeching halt, that the end was just around the corner. Genesis 6:5, at that time "the wickedness of man was great…every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Gen. 6:11, "Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence." How did man get to that state? What had happened? God saw fit to give us some details in Gen. 6 that explain what had happened. I will insert here my notes from Gen. 6:1-13...
1 Man has multiplied. With such long life spans and large numbers of offspring, it's possible that the world population could be in the billions. According to one calculation, it would only take 1100 years to reach 3.5 billion.
2 Who are the sons of God? There is much disagreement over what this means. Some think it means the godly line of Seth, although the Bible does not say that the line of Seth was a godly line. This thinking comes from confusing the idea of "the line leading to Christ" with "the godly line." These are not the same thing. "The sons of God" is used three other times in the Old Testament, Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7. Read the context of each; does it refer to angels or men? Does Mt. 22:30 says angels CANNOT marry? Does this verse say that angels are sexless, neither male nor female? Actually, angels are always described as male, or at least as materializing in a physical male body.
So in Gen. 6 we see disobedient or fallen angels--demons--having relations with women. Perhaps this is the origin of the numerous myths of many cultures about gods and demi-gods and how they came to earth and had sex with women. If so, this is saying that such men, and the giants that resulted, were NOT of divine origin, but rather satanic. Mythology makes it clear that these gods were not "godly" but very lustful and wicked. Look carefully at the wording and the range of meanings in the original language. They saw the "daughters of men," human females to satisfy their lust and their interbreeding experiments. They "took"; "took" could also be translated "carried away" or "seized." "Wives" could also be translated as just "women." "Whomever those chose," because they were "beautiful"--selected for physical appearance. Their offspring were tyrants, bullies, "of old"--antiquity, ages, ancient times, eternal, everlasting, forever, long ago. So the implications is that these were not regular human beings. Giants apparently were commonly known in the distant past, since they appear frequently in folk tales that have been passed down over time.
3 What is the meaning of this statement about striving with man? Some say that 120 years will now become the shortened life span of man, but this does not make sense. AFTER the flood, life spans begin to decrease, and continue to decrease to well under the age of 120. Rather, it is the time left until God quits striving with man and judgment falls. Strive (Strong's): contend, judge, minister judgment, execute judgment, plead the cause. So apparently this was how God was dealing with man in that dispensation, when man was held only to the standard of his own conscience. But at some point God said, it will not be this way forever, only for 120 more years.
4 The word "Nephilim" doesn't occur in the KJV, which uses "giants" (Strong's: tyrant, bully) The Nephilim, referred to after the flood as the sons of Anak, or the sons of the Anakim, are thought to be a race of giants, which we read about in various places in the Old Testament, also called Rephaim, Emim (Strong's: terrors), and Zamzummin. They appear even after the flood; apparently demonic activity continued to occur but on a smaller scale. II Pet. 2:5 and Jude 6 seem to refer to these wicked angels of Gen. 6, that they are no longer free to pursue such activities. These verses don't say at what point these angels were put in bonds. Apparently wicked angels interbreeding with human women had offspring, some sort of mutants or hybrids. Apparently human DNA was genetically altered to be no longer 100% human. Interestingly, this is exactly what demons masquerading as "aliens" today claim to be doing--breeding experiments to create "alien"/human hybrids. If so, this could be the meaning of God's words to Satan, "your seed," in Gen. 3:15. "Mighty" seems to have a negative connotation, including the ideas of warrior, tyrant, giant (Strong's). For more on the implications of this, see notes on Daniel 7 and Matthew 24.
5 "Then." After specifying the situation with the sons of God, the daughters of men, and the Nephilim, it says "then." Apparently the judgment was directly related to this situation. How bad were things on earth? Notice the words used: wickedness, great, every intent of man's thoughts, only, evil, continually. A stronger statement could hardly be made. In fact, it's almost hard to believe this could be true. It becomes quite believable in the light of 6:4; demonic interbreeding would literally infiltrate the human race with evil--a kind of evil worse than anything we have ever seen. Mythology is also full of images of creatures that are half human, half animals. Could this have been another facet of the demonic breeding experiments? Could this be why God's judgment included animal life, saving only enough to make a clean start?
6-7 How can God be "sorry"? (KJV: "it repented the Lord") Strong's: sigh, breath strongly, pity. Did He make a mistake? Is He sovereign? Did He know from the beginning how things would be? There is no implication in the word that one has done WRONG and now should do RIGHT. Sometimes it looks to us like God is changing His mind, but is that really possible? But sometimes He does something, then does something different. He knew all along He was going to do that, and that people would act the way they did. God knows the outcome, but He also has a will/desire/plan (His "ideal" will) that we are not locked into because He has given us free will; He permits us to do something other than His ideal will (hence, His "permissive" will). Yet He knew, and it was all under His sovereign control. Keep all this in mind when you read those places in the Bible where God "changed His mind." It does look that way to us, but always remember who God is. This is a hard concept for us to grasp with our feeble human brains, corrupted by the Fall. (But our lack of ability to grasp it does not make it untrue.) If they had trusted and obeyed and yielded, everything would have turned out differently, and obviously better. What about in our lives? Perhaps that was why He caused pain and sorrow to be man's punishment in the Garden, so we could have a glimpse of how our sin makes God feel.
If humanity had indeed been corrupted by Satan's fallen angels, this could explain why Satan would want to do such a thing. If he could cause God to destroy all mankind, then the Promised One, the Messiah, the Redeemer, could not come, and God's plan would be foiled. Spiritual warfare between God and His angels, and Satan and his fallen angels, is one of the themes we find throughout the entire Bible. The book of Revelation records the end of this conflict.
What happened to those wicked angels? I Pet. 3:18-20
8 Apparently Noah was the only righteous man left. "Favor" in the NASB is "grace" in the KJV, the first use of "grace" in the Bible. Because of God's grace, Noah will be saved, physically and spiritually. What does Eph. 2:8 say about God's grace? Does it say Noah found grace because of good things he did?
9 Noah is described as righteous (KJV: just) and blameless (KJV: perfect) in his time (KJF: generations). Noah is described as Job was, "perfect." Were they sinless? Was anyone, ever? A reading of the whole Bible confirms, definitely not. "Perfect" (Strong's): without blemish, complete, full, without spot, undefiled, upright. Other passages in the Bible counsel us to be "perfect." So sinless is not the meaning. "Times/generations" may be a reference to the genetic contamination of mankind mentioned earlier; perhaps Noah's line was the only one still pure. Noah walked with God; obviously, no demonic mutant would do such a thing. But since we read of these giants after the flood, we might wonder if such altered genes were carried on the ark. Noah's line was still unaltered, but what about the wives of his sons? If such altered DNA, resulting in demonic mutants, was found in the land of Canaan, this could explain why God often told the Israelites to wipe out entire groups of people, not sparing man, woman or child, so there would be no chance of that line being carried on. (We will see in Gen. 9 that Canaan was a grandson of Noah--wicked, base, possibly perverted. So perhaps his mother, Ham's wife, was the one with the altered genetic makeup.)
10 Again we are told of Noah's three sons. As in Genesis 1 and 2, we are first given the outline, the big picture, in the end of Gen. 5, then Gen. 6-9 give us the details of Noah and his three sons.
11-12 If the earth was filled with violence, it must have been filled with humans--a large population. "Corrupt" (Strong's): decay, ruin, destroy, mar, perish, spoil. This word supports the idea of the genetic marring of humanity, and that only Noah was unmarred at this point. Were these corrupted humans merely the victims of evil angels? Perhaps it wasn't actually "their" fault? But the end of 12 states that "all flesh had corrupted their way." They had done it--it hadn't just happened to them. Choices had been made.
As we consider the possibility of genetic alteration by demonic activity, this casts an interesting light on Mat. 24:37. If we are indeed living in the last days, and are the generation that has seen the fig tree (Israel) put forth its leaves and become a nation once again (Mat. 24:32-24), and will see the church caught up before the seven years of tribulation, we might consider the phenomena of "aliens"(demons in disguise). More and more people report communication with aliens, and particularly their interest in human sexuality. Are they once again attempting to corrupt human DNA, creating human/demon hybrids? Many think so. Could it even be that the mark of the Beast (Rev. 13) is an implant that will alter the DNA of everyone who takes it? God is merciful and longsuffering, not wanting any to perish, wanting all to come to repentance, yet we read that none who take this implant can ever repent and be saved (Rev. 14:9-11). If they have received demonic DNA, of course they would forfeit eternal life in fellowship with God. They are deceived by the Beast's false prophet into taking this implant (Rev. 13:11-18), but apparently when Christ returns, they will mourn (Mat. 24:30), realizing that they have been duped and damned and that their status is irreversible.
13 God speaks to Noah. What does Mt. 24:38 tell us about Noah's day, comparing the two accounts? What's wrong with eating and drinking, with marrying and giving in marriage? But when we compare with the Genesis account, we see that Matthew is not depicting innocent pastimes. What is he depicting? What didn't they understand? What did they finally understand when the flood actually came? What won't people (most people) understand before Christ's return? What will they understand when He does return and it is too late? What we see pictured is a totally godless approach to life (not necessarily "evil"), a lifestyle devoted to the pursuit of Self and of pleasure, the godless world system that we as believers are warned about.
Why did God destroy the earth too? Couldn't He just have destroyed man instantly and cleanly, like II Kings 19:35 or Rev. 19:21? Perhaps, to keep this from happening again, He destroyed the evidence of what was done and how it was done. Because of the major geologic upheaval in connection with the worldwide flood and its aftermath, there is virtually no record of that civilization. That must be the way God wanted it, for some reason, perhaps to protect later generations. (end of notes on Genesis 6)
Back to Mt. 24…
40-41 Is this the rapture? No, this is the end of the Tribulation. (Here is one reason why some think the rapture comes at the end of the Tribulation, but the rest of Scripture does not support this picture. Keep in mind that Mt. 24 and 25 seem to be giving a chronological view of the endtimes. 29 tells us we are AFTER the end of the tribulation. And immediately following this passage, we have the beginning of the kingdom reign on earth.) We saw in Mt. 13 that at this time, the wicked will be removed from the earth before the kingdom begins; the righteous are left. (We also see here that Jesus tells us the flood DID take ALL human life, so He is teaching that the flood WAS universal, not local, as so many Christians believe and teach, in order to conform to evolutionary theories. So teaching a local flood contradicts Jesus/God.)
42-44 What are they told to do in each verse here? There are many similar warnings in the Epistles for the church also. There is much deception in the church age, and it will get worse at that time. Even though this is not to the church, there is application for us. Like a thief, compare I Thes. 5:2,4, II Pet. 3:10. Is Jesus likened to a thief? No, the day of the Lord is. It will sneak up on those who aren't ready and snatch them away to judgment.
Many Christian teachers place the church and the rapture in this chapter. But a careful comparison of Scripture does not support that view. Some of them are those who confuse or mix the church with Israel. That's why it was important to establish that Matthew was writing to and about Israel. He did not suddenly start writing to and about the church. The rapture is pictured in I Cor. 15:51, I Thes. 4:14-17, II This. 2:3,6-8. No signs are given to let us know when it is about to happen, as Matthew has given signs for Israel to watch for. Read Tit. 2:11-13.
Some Christians that take the allegorical approach rather than the literal interpretation of Scripture believe that all this was fulfilled in AD 70 at the fall of Jerusalem to Rome. Their interpretation of this chapter and Rev. 20:1-6 is that the kingdom is not a literal earthly kingdom of 1000 years duration. They believe that we are in the kingdom age now, that Christ has returned (in our hearts, in a spiritual kingdom), and that Satan is bound (on a very long chain). This view makes it very hard to explain verses 15, 21, 27, and 29-31. They believe that much of this is "poetic language."
Other Christians take the view that Jesus will usher in the Millenial Kingdom only when the victorious church has evangelized and restored righteousness to the world. They see the church as the "Elijah" who is preparing the way of the Lord, even though the Bible says this is a person, such as John the Baptist was. An extremely popular song, "These are the Days of Elijah," celebrates this view, yet is sung uncritically by many Christians who don't even agree with that view of the church. This view holds that the church is on the verge of earthly victory. Since this has obviously not yet happened, Christ could NOT return at any moment as the Bible tells us to expect. It also seems unlikely to happen at all, since tolerance and compromise has characterized the church since its inception and seems to be on the increase as the church continues to accept and adopt the ways of the world, particularly humanistic psychology. The Epistles constantly dealt with the church's tendencies to uncritically accept false teaching. Jesus asks in Luke 18:8, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" Rev. 3:14-23 speaks of the final form of the church (Laodicea) in the last days as lukewarm, poor, blind and naked, yet not even recognizing it.
We also see that Jesus referred to and quoted from the Old Testament. He is reaffirming what the Old Testament prophets have already said, and then He expands on it. God's plan has not changed; this was all anticipated in the Old Testament, but not all the details were revealed to those prophets. The Old Testament referred to the Messiah's suffering as well as His reign as King, but did not reveal how this would take place.
45-51 Here and into chapter 25, we have teachings that shed more light on this time. With the church already removed before these events take place, what is the significance for us--the application? What are we to be doing until He takes us to heaven? According to this passage, we are to be serving Him, taking care of whatever responsibilities He has given us in this life (no matter how mundane), faithfully and sensibly, 45, ever watching for Him, on the alert, not being deceived, learning and honoring His Word, getting the gospel out to others, for we know what is in store for them (even if they don't). We see there is a reward for faithful service. 48, evil slaves would have to be unbelievers. 50-51 also make it clear that Jesus is talking about unbelievers here.
45-47 also give us a clue about what we (the church) might be doing in the kingdom age, in our resurrection bodies. Many Christians who are ignorant of scriptural teaching about the kingdom, who do not know the Old Testament, who do not understand that after the Tribulation will be the earthly reign of Christ, assume that after death, we are just eternally in heaven, doing "whatever"--maybe floating around and singing. If Christ will be reigning on earth, and we are with Him (John 12:26, 14:3, 17:24, I Thes. 4:17), then we must be doing something, serving Him, during this earthly reign. The Bible hints at what that might be.
This passage seems to be directed specifically at those who are alive when Christ returns at the end of the Tribulation, yet there would seem to be application to all the Master's "slaves." What will Christ be doing during His kingdom? I Cor. 15:25, Rev. 2:27, 12:5, 19:15? What does II Tim. 2:12 say we (the church) will do with Him? So this must be during the kingdom. "Endure" here is translated "suffer" in the KJV, which implies going through bad painful things. But according to Strong's, the word means: to stay under, remain, undergo, bear (trials), have fortitude, persevere, abide, take patiently, tarry behind. Compare II Cor. 4:17.
Have you ever wondered why God is so set on changing us and conforming us to Christ's image while we are still in these earthly bodies? He has saved us; isn't it enough that after death we will be sinless? Yet for some reason, He goes to great lengths to mature us and change us; perhaps the reason is so that we may be of more service to Him in the kingdom, the next phase of His eternal program.
So, back to Mt. 24:45-47, apparently the better we do all these things, the more we will be rewarded with responsibilities in the kingdom, as we are part of His worldwide reign of righteousness. Resurrected believers--now in a sinless state--will apparently administer Christ's kingdom under His direction. Life on this earth will apparently continue in a similar manner to our present life, but corruption will not rule as it does now. Those in earthly bodies are still subject to sin, so only sinless servants can justly administer government, business, social and religious affairs. Rev. 5:10, Rev 11:14-18, Rev. 20:6.
Keep in mind what the situation will be in the kingdom. The church will have been resurrected before the Tribulation begins. The saved of Israel, and apparently the rest of the Old Testament believers, will have been resurrected at the end of the Tribulation, so they can inherit the kingdom promises of the Old Testament, Dan. 12:13, Mt. 8:11. Those who have become believers during the Tribulation and are still alive when Christ returns will enter the kingdom in their earthly bodies and repopulate the earth. (Not all of their offspring will become believers, and the kingdom age will end in the final rebellion, Rev. 20:7-10.) We saw this in Mt. 13:24-50, and it will be clarified more in Mt. 25. (See also notes on Mt. 17:1-3.)
Many Christians have the impression that following Christ's Second Coming to earth, at the end of the seven years of Tribulation, the next event is the final judgment and then eternity. Even though the Old Testament clearly teaches that the Messiah will rule in a future earthly kingdom, and even though Revelation and Matthew make this clear, one reason for the confusion is that that King James Version of the Bible uses the term "the end of the world." Newer versions translate this as "the end of the age," which I think is much more accurate in the light of the rest of Scripture. I grew up reading the KJV and thinking in terms of the end of the world at Christ's Second Coming. As I have continued to read and study the Bible, and have been using the NASB for over 30 years, I no longer think in terms of the end of the world. The new heavens and new earth are made at the end of the millenial kingdom, Rev. 21:1.
II Peter 3:10-13 also references these events. Peter could be speaking of the destructive events of the Great Tribulation in 10-12. Or if he is speaking of the destruction of the earth at the end of the millenium, then we must keep in mind that "the day of the Lord" (10) encompasses both the Tribulation and the millenium, according to a study of all the Old Testament references, and these things WILL happen at the end of that period called "the day of the Lord." Again we see why it is SO important to compare Scripture with Scripture, never basing our conclusions on a partial reading of the Bible. We also see in studying the prophetic teachings of Matthew 24 how important it is to read and study the WHOLE Bible before attempting to interpret and understand prophetic passages. The Bible interprets itself if you compare and contrast passages.
Jesus is still answering the disciples' question of 24:3. No break until the end of this chapter, so that is the context.
1 A comparison, about what? Still about the kingdom, which is now future. Look at 10 to get the time element; the wedding feast. The feast follows the wedding in Jewish custom. When and where was the wedding? The feast must be here on earth following Christ's second coming.
2-13 Is it possible that the church is in this picture? Who is the bridegroom? John 3:29. Who is the bride? Eph. 5:25-33. The Bible is consistent in its symbolism; the church can't be the virgins and the bride. So while those on earth are waiting for His return, we see two groups of people in the tribulation, or possibly two groups within Israel, those who didn't prepare, and those who did prepare, by doing what? What does oil often represent? The Holy Spirit, salvation. All Jews THOUGHT they would enter the kingdom, but many, like the Pharisees, did not place their faith in Christ. This could be the judgment of Israel to see who will enter the kingdom, as 31-46 would be the judgment of the Gentiles to see which of them will enter the kingdom.
5-6 Notice the time clues. The bridegroom is who? Where did He go? So does the Bible say He would come right back? No, the word "delay" indicates that some time passes, and no one knows for sure just when He is coming back. We find hints of this elsewhere. Read Hosea 3:4-5. When was their last king? When will they next have a king? God gave definite time periods when dealing with Israel, but to the church He doesn't give set times. Israel was first put out of the land for 490 years, the second time for 70 years, but this time for an indefinite period, "for many days", because it is that indefinite period of the church age.) Read John 14:3; does Jesus say how much time will pass between His leaving and His return? Dan. 9:25-26, after 7 plus 62 weeks, Messiah will be cut off, then we have the events of the final week. Here we have a gap in time of unknown length; what happens in that time period? The age of grace, the church age. 5, how did people on earth react to His leaving and delay? All, even the ones with the oil, get drowsy, lethargic. Read I Thes. 5:1-11. 6, when does the bridegroom return? Midnight, the very end. Read Ps. 45:10-15, Luke 12:35-36.
9-12 It sounds like, when Christ returns, it will be too late to prepare; if you don't already have your oil, you won't be entering the kingdom. You must choose Him BEFORE His return. People that believe in the "partial rapture" get their thinking from this passage; some believers will be taken then, some will be left to go through the tribulation. But the church and the rapture are NOT pictured in Matthew, and this is at Christ's second coming. However, there is application to the church: be prepared and watching for His return, be awake not asleep.
13 All through the New Testament we are told to watch, be on the alert, beware. But especially this will be true in the tribulation. Again, the day/hour is not known, but the year should be: 7 years from the signing of the treaty. So is this for us? No, but it has application to us; be ready, don't let yourself get drowsy. Satan would lull us to sleep if he could. The rapture could happen at any moment. However, I Thes. 5:10 makes it clear that even those believers who ARE asleep, lethargic, not watching, will be taken; the rapture is not just for those who are awake, alert, and watching. All the church will be taken at that time.
14-30 Here is another teaching about this time period immediately following Christ's return and what is happening while He is gone. 14, "just like," another picture comparison. Who is the man? What is the journey? Who are His slaves? (believers, or everyone? I think everyone, based on the end of the story) What are talents? A piece of money at that time; possessions. Does everyone get the same amount to work with, to be responsible for? He gives us different things in this life according to our what, 15? 16-18, we see three slaves. Two did what?
19 Another time clue; when does he return? And THEN what happens?
20-23 What did the first two do? What word does He use twice to commend each one? We will be held accountable for what we do while we are on this earth, waiting for Him to return. We are not to be just twiddling our thumbs, but serving Him as faithfully as we can in our circumstances. It's not about how much but how faithful; we all have different abilities and circumstances. Again it sounds like believers, in the kingdom, will be given positions of responsibility, under the Messiah's righteous worldwide rule. Apparently this is how Christ will be able to administer a world-wide kingdom with righteousness and justice; in every location and every field of endeavor will be sinless people in resurrected bodies.
24-27 The one who did nothing is chastised; he should have done SOMETHING. Even a little would have been OK. He must picture unbelievers, because God calls him wicked, and 30, he is sent to the outer darkness. In 24-25, he sees God as a hard man, is afraid of Him.
28-30 This can't picture the judgment of the church for our works, II Cor. 5:10; the church is not pictured in Matthew, and the ones who did badly end up where? But there is application here for us, the church. We see judgment at the return of Christ; the righteous will enter the kingdom, the unrighteous will not. 29, this is what Jesus said back in 13:12, about those who hear and understand, and those who don't. To those who have Christ, more will be given in the next life (responsibility and positions of honor in the kingdom, John 12:26); to those who don't have Christ, even what they had here and tried to hold onto will be taken away from them and they will end up with nothing eternally. Mt. 6:2,5,16. What they have here is ALL they will have; no further reward awaits them in eternity.
31-46 More details on the judgment at Christ's return. Is this the final judgment? No. When is the Great White Throne judgment? Rev. 20:11.
31-34 32 mentions nations, and one wonders how entire nations could be judged as righteous or not. But the Bible often uses the terms nations/peoples/Gentiles interchangeably, as distinguished from Israel or the church. So here we have all the people of the world, individual Gentiles, at the end of the tribulation. They are separated into two groups; the sheep and the goats are what? The sheep/believers do what, 34? Compare Zech. 14:16.
35-46 The basis of the judgment. Read 35-40. His brothers, a separate group from these sheep and goats; the Jews. How people treat Jews during the tribulation will prove their true heart condition. Only believing Gentiles will have the courage to endanger their own lives, to risk being turned in, to help Jews who are suffering under persecution. This section is often taught as how we should treat others, rather than a picture of the judgment before the millenium. That application is there for us, but it is about the judgment and the kingdom. It is not saying that we are saved by good works, that those who help the unfortunate are saved because they did so. But our actions reveal what is in our hearts, James 2:14-28. 41, what do we learn here about the lake of fire? It was NOT created for people, but for those evil beings. People think a loving God would not make such a place or send people to hell, but it is Satan who wants to take people with him, to keep as many as he can from God.
So at the end of the tribulation, Christ separates those who remain alive on the earth--the believers from the unbelievers. Unbelievers are removed for judgment and are sentenced to the lake of fire, although they will not actually be thrown into the lake of fire until the final Great White Throne judgment following Christ's 1000-year earthly kingdom (Rev. 21); they are in Hades (hell) where all unbelievers await that final judgment and final destiny.
Those who are believers at the end of the tribulation are still in their earthly bodies and will populate the kingdom (25:34), continuing to reproduce. The Old Testament contains many prophecies of what life will be like during the kingdom period. It will be a time of blessing, abundance, and peace; Satan will be bound (Rev. 20:2-3). Over the 1000 years, some of their offspring will believe and some won't, as it has always been. But because of Christ ruling physically on earth, and the administration of sinless resurrected believers, sin will be kept in check, and all, even unbelievers, will give outward obedience (Phil. 2:9-11). At the end of that time, Satan will be loosed and there will be a final rebellion and the final defeat of Satan; Satan and all unbelievers will at that time be thrown into the lake of fire, which Matthew says is eternal fire and eternal punishment, just as the righteous will experience eternal life.
1-5 Man's plans did not happen; God's plan did. It seems that events of our lives are determined or influenced by various people, and they are, but they are also happening according to God's plan. What was the significance of Jesus's death happening during the Passover? What were they to be reminded of each year by observing the Passover? Life came only through the shed blood of the lamb. Read Ex. 12:1-14. What did John the Baptist say in John 1:29?
6-13 This is not the same story as in John 12:1-8, in which Mary, at Lazarus' home, pours perfume on his feet. This woman is unnamed and is described as a sinful woman in Luke 7:39. The two accounts that mention this woman include 13's comments, but not the account of Mary. Simon must have been a healed leper, and was a Pharisee. Read Luke 7:36-50. Matthew doesn't exactly say this happened at this time; he could have thrown this story in here to make a point about Jesus' death. It is also possible that both this incident and the one with Mary happened about the same time, if God so moved them to do these things at that time, to draw attention to what was about to happen. At any rate, we see preparation for death and burial.
14-16 Judas prepares to betray Jesus.
17-19 Most Bible scholars believe this took place on a Thursday; the lamb was sacrificed on the first day of the Passover.
20-25 Interesting that each wondered about himself, not which one of the others. Does Judas call Jesus Lord, as the other disciples do?
26-30 The observation of the Lord's Supper (communion, mass) is one of the big differences in belief of many churches. So when we observe the Lord's Supper, do we really eat His body and drink His blood? Does the bread and wine change into His body? Catholics, Reformed, and some others believe this, that this is how God's grace is physically imparted to you. The Catholic church teaches that the bread and the wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus. Martin Luther held that the bread remains bread and the wine remains wine, but by faith they are the same as Jesus's actual body. John Calvin taught that Jesus's presence in the bread and wine was real, but only spiritual, not physical. But even if Jesus really was telling them to eat and drink His actual body and blood, at this time, before the crucifixion and resurrection, there was not yet any redeeming value in His body and blood. Mark 14:22, Luke 22:17, not in John. I Cor. 11:23-26.
The significance is its reminder of the new covenant, to proclaim the Lord's death. The Passover was about the body and blood of the Passover lamb, Ex. 12; now He is pointing out that it is about HIS body and blood. None of the passages mentions anything we receive of importance from it. If it was the means of imparting grace, surely such an important doctrine would be stated. Also, the Law said to abstain from blood, and even though they weren't under the Law anymore, this was still observed, Acts 15:28. Lev. 17:11, blood has importance to God, not to us. I Cor. 8:8. If it became His body, Jesus would be asking us to be cannibals, which the Bible does not support. It need not be taken literally, even though we take a literal interpretation of the Bible; the literal view recognizes that many symbols are used in the Bible. Common sense tells us to when the literal meaning is unlikely; Jesus is not actually a door either, or a loaf of bread. He often uses word pictures. This is a major doctrinal issue that separates Christians.
29 He will be with them in His kingdom, on "that day." The actual kingdom is not NOW, or this would not be true. The kingdom is future.
31-32 Fall away: is this saying they will lose their salvation? No, but in other places people assume it means that. It means to stumble. He tells them again that He will be raised.
33 Peter is sure he is not capable of falling away. Are we? However, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit which they did not. Read I Cor. 10:12.
34 Jesus tells him otherwise, gives specifics.
35 Peter contradicts Jesus. Do we ever do this? "It's not FAIR!" "I/They don't DESERVE to have this happen!" Does anyone deserve good? We all deserve bad! None of them realized how disgusting SELF is. But later that night they would all know.
36-39 Prayer: not our will but God's will. The Old Testament and Revelation refer to the cup of God's wrath.
40-41 More on prayer. As He is praying, He is teaching them about prayer. 41, like Rom. 7, the battle of the flesh vs. the spirit. Pray without ceasing, I Thes. 5:17.
42-44 He actually prayed this three times; how difficult it was going to be for Him, even though He was God. Probably not so much the physical pain as having the sin and guilt of the world placed on Him, being separated from God. Jesus had never experienced sin.
45-46 He tells them what is about to happen.
48 Perhaps Judas had to point Jesus out because they had to act in the dark. If this had been done in the daytime, there were always the multitudes crowded around Jesus, and there would probably be a riot.
50 What does Jesus call him?
51-54 John 18:10 tells us this was Peter, and the slave was Malchus. Why would Peter go for the slave and not the high priest himself? Bad aim in the dark with too much adrenaline? Not handy with a sword? (Peter was a fisherman.) How would he cut off his ear without cutting off his shoulder or arm? Perhaps Peter was slicing across for the neck, the guy tilted his head, got his ear instead. (Luke 22:51 tells that Jesus healed the ear.) Was force/violence the way for Jesus' followers to handle this outrage? Peter thought Jesus should resist. What about today's militant Christians? Is force and resistance the way that Jesus taught? They couldn't understand that this WAS God's will. What about other things WE see that appear VERY wrong? They could also be a part of God's plan, as God uses the actions of wicked men to bring about His plans.
55-56 Apparently a daylight arrest would have incited the multitudes. Prophecy WILL all be fulfilled. So was His prediction about them falling away.
57-59 Only Peter hung in there. Jesus taken before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. The four gospels tell of several different trials; this is the first. This trial was illegal. In Jewish law, all criminal trials must begin and end in the daylight; this one was held at night. Criminal cases could not be tried during the Passover season. Only an acquittal could be issued on the day of the trial; guilty verdicts had to wait one night to allow for feelings of mercy to rise. Only decisions made in the official meeting place were valid; this was a trial held at the home of Caiaphas, the high priest. All evidence had to be guaranteed by two witnesses, who were separately examined and could not have contact with each other. False witness was punishable by death; nothing is done to the many false witnesses in Jesus's trial. A trial always began by bringing forth evidence for the innocence of the accused, before the evidence of guilt was made; this was not done here.
59-62 What were they accusing Him of? What had He really meant?
63-68 Why did the high priest want to know? So he could believe? See 65. Does Jesus answer yes or no? He quotes two Old Testament passages referring to the Messiah, Ps. 110:1-7, Dan. 7:13-14, so He is claiming to be that Messiah. (Power: added, capitalized for deity, a name for God) I am wondering if they DID believe that the Messiah, when He comes, WILL be God, because the high priest uses the term Son of God, and Jesus answers with the term, Son of Man, both which I think the Jews understood to mean deity. They just didn't believe Jesus was that Messiah. Jesus was either God or a blasphemer. 66, death penalty for blasphemy. But they are subject to Roman law, and lack the authority to execute, so in the next chapter they take Him to Pilate, hoping that by Jesus claiming to be King of the Jews, Pilate will consider Him a criminal under Roman law so they can have Him executed (there can be no king but Caesar). 67-68, compare Is. 53: 3,7. Wouldn't it be hard not to defend yourself?
69-75 Peter's denial. Sometimes we worry that if we were persecuted, we would deny Jesus because of the pain or fear. Peter did, but we will see that Jesus forgave him. Read II Tim. 2:13. It would be more correct to say Peter was faithless; to deny Christ would be to never accept Him in the first place, and those people will experience His denial. What was Peter's response to his sin? Did he rationalize, blame someone else, make an excuse? He was humbled, broken, repentant.
1-2 Here is the second trial. A brief, legal daytime trial just to affirm what was done the night before.
3-5 Did Judas repent? Remorse is not repentance. Sorrow is not change, or even recognizing the need to change. Perhaps he was upset because he hadn't realized that death for Jesus would be the consequences; he said Jesus was innocent.
6-7 Amazing how concerned they were about doing the right thing.
8-10 The quote is from Zechariah, although there are also similarities to passages in Jeremiah 18:2, 19:2,11, 32:6-9. Jeremiah can refer broadly to any of the books of prophecy; in Jesus's day, Jeremiah was the first in the section of books of prophecy. These events were the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. We also see that sometimes Old Testament prophecy, or even quotes that aren't prophecy, were originally in a different context, but the Holy Spirit applies those words to another situation. There are often several different meanings or levels of meaning in a passage, and none of them contradict.
11-14 This charge, treason, is punishable by death under Roman law.
15-18 We meet Barabbus, a notorious criminal; perhaps Pilate offered him because he thought surely, given such a choice, the people would choose to free Jesus. Christ is not the last name of Jesus; it is a title, and signifies that He is God. 18, Pilate was not a dummy.
19 She is telling her husband that Jesus is righteous. Pilate believes Jesus is innocent, and now he has even more reason to believe so. What will he do about his belief?
20-26 See how easily people can be manipulated? Especially in groups, crowds-peer pressure. It's hard to go against a crowd. 23, Pilate asks for facts, but they react emotionally. 24, IS Pilate innocent of Jesus's blood? If he believed this, he should have enforced the law, not taken a popular vote. Jesus is scourged.
27-31 Jesus is mocked; the crown of thorns. What would appear on the earth as the result of man's sin, Gen. 3:17-18? Read Is. 52:14.
32-35 Jesus became unable to carry the cross. See Mark 15:21, Rom. 16:13; Simon becomes a believer. 34, to dull the senses. Fulfilled prophecy; read Ps. 69:20-21, 22:11-18.
36-44 More mockery. 40-42, wouldn't this be a great temptation? A way to finally convince them? They thought He didn't come down because He couldn't do so. They did not understand God's plan. 43, Ps. 22:8. The public execution of criminals was probably entertaining to many, like the Coloseum, like our love of violence on TV. Crucifixions were reserved for only the lowest of criminals; almost never for a Roman citizen. Death by suffocation. 44, we learn more in Luke 23:39-43. Why doesn't Matthew tell this? He is telling about Israel and the earthly kingdom, not paradise or heaven which is where this thief went.
45-50 Darkness from noon to 3 PM. Jesus dies; He gives up His spirit, He chooses the moment of death. He is in total control.
Compare 46 to Ps. 22:1; what was happening to Jesus now? He quotes in Hebrew, making it clear that this applies to Him. Why does Jesus say this? Does He really not know WHY? Rather, it is the cry of grief. Many of us struggle with difficult situations in which our first impulse is to cry out "WHY?" even though deep inside we know God is in control of all things. Is this wrong? Is this doubting or questioning God? Since we see Jesus having this same human reaction, and we know Jesus did not sin, we can know this is a normal reaction. However, then we need to go on to exercise faith and trust in God, submitting willingly to Him, knowing He has a plan that is not obvious to us, and that He is good, just, and loving.
51-53 Several amazing things happen at this point. What is the significance of the torn veil? The way into God's presence, the Holy of Holies, is now open. Why from top to bottom? This was humanly impossible; God Himself did it. (This veil, or curtain, was not only high but extremely thick.) Who would this make a special impression on? Priests in the temple. Read Ex. 26:30-35, Heb. 2:9-10, 7:26-28, 9 (all), 10:10-14, I Tim. 2:5-6. Why do you suppose Hebrews has such an extended section on Christ's sacrifice and blood and priests? It was written to Jewish believers. There are many others passages in the New Testament making clear what Christ did on the cross. Some of the dead came to life and walked around; were they now in their immortal bodies, never to die again? No, that can't happen until after Christ's resurrection, I Cor. 15:20-24. This was a temporary raising, like Lazarus.
54 Who is this centurion? He was in charge of the Roman guard in attendance. Did they become believers? It is possible. Again we see that the term Son of God was understood by those people to mean deity.
55-56 Many women had followed Jesus. Several Mary's, Luke 19:25. Can you imagine what His mother thought and felt? Had she really heard and believed and understood what He said about being raised from the dead? And what about all the events of His birth and life? Luke 2:19.
57-61 The accounts in the other gospels add other interesting details. Read Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:38-42. Mark and Luke make it clear the Sabbath was about to begin, so it was almost Friday evening. Jewish days begin at sunset and end at the next sunset. Joseph made a hurried burial because of the Sabbath coming; the women planned to come back and do it properly after the Sabbath.
62-66 People WERE listening to what Jesus said; they just didn't believe Him. What do they think of Jesus? But who is the father of lies? Jesus had said THEY were of THEIR father, the devil (John 8:44). Because of their concern for tricks by the disciples, they set up a situation that helps confirm that the resurrection happened, sealing the tomb. The body was NOT stolen. This was Saturday, the Sabbath.
These events are not things that "just happened." They were prophesied in the Old Testament, and were fulfilled according to God's sovereign plan, Luke 24:24-27. We will look at just a few of these passages. The first promise of the Messiah is in Gen. 3:15, where God is speaking to Satan. This one who would come in the line of the woman (a hint of the virgin birth) would receive what kind of wound from Satan? Is that type of would fatal? But what type of wound would He deliver to Satan? Satan tried to destroy God's Messiah by causing men to send Him to the cross; he wounded Christ, but does Christ stay dead? Instead, His death and resurrection defeat not only Satan but death itself. Satan's scheme did not defeat God but ended up actually being the means of accomplishing God's sovereign plan.
The account of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son is a prophetic "type" of Christ. Notice the many parallels. Compare 22:2 to John 3:16; what similar wording points us to Christ? Mt. Moriah is where Christ is later crucified. 2:6, Isaac carrying the wood for the sacrifice is similar to what in John 19:17? 22:8, what is required for this offering? What is Jesus called in John 1:29? The wording in 22:12 again takes us to John 3:16. But did God provide the lamb at this time, 22:13? When did He? Again, see John 1:29. From the day God commanded this, on which day was Abraham "given" his son back from death, 22:4?
What important event in Israel's history is described in Ex. 12? What must be killed, 12:3-6? What was the important aspect of this sacrifice, 12:7? What was its purpose, 12:13? What does this picture for us?
Psalm 22 is a picture of Christ on the cross. Compare 22:1 to Mt. 27:46: 22:6-8 to Mt. 27:39-44; 22:18 to Mt. 27:35. 22:14-17 give a graphic description of crucifixion.
Is. 53 clearly speaks of Christ, particularly the substitutionary atonement. Compare 53:7 to Mt. 27:12-14; 53:9 to Mt. 27:57-60. Many New Testament passages quote from this chapter, applying it to Christ.
Dan. 9:26 tells that what will happen to the Messiah? According to 9:24-26, this will happen at the end of the first 69 weeks of the 70 weeks of the prophecy. Refer back to introductory notes on Mt. 24 for comments on the 70 weeks, and the time frame of the 69 weeks.
Jonah 1:17-2:10 pictures what, Mt. 12:40?
The literal fulfillment of biblical prophecy is an important proof of the infallibility of the Bible. No humanly-authored book could predict the future with even a 50% accuracy. Any one prediction has a 50/50 chance of being true of false, but every additional detail reduces the chance by another 50%. There are approximately 300 prophecies of Christ, and all have been accurate to the detail. (Figure up the mathematical chances of that happening, or even of 10 of those things happening.) When the Bible was written, about 1/5 of it was prophetic. Much of that prophecy has already been fulfilled, and always with 100% accuracy. That is why we can know that the literal interpretation is the correct one, and that future prophesied events will also be fulfilled exactly as promised.
1 Just before dawn on Sunday. Two Mary's.
2 An earthquake (only mentioned in Matthew); the earth quaked when Jesus died (27:51) and when He rose. An angel (not THE angel of the Lord, who is the preincarnate Christ in the Old Testament). Was the stone rolled away so that Jesus could come out?
3 What did the angel look like? Do we see wings, or a female angel, as in popular culture today? Always male; the only angels described as having wings are the cherubim, with four wings (Gen. 3:24, Ez. 10:20-21) and the seraphim, with six wings (Is. 6:2, Rev. 4:8).
4 The reaction of the guards.
Each gospel gives a somewhat different view of the events. The Schofield reference Bible gives this possible combined view: Three women (Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, Salome) start for the tomb followed by other women bearing spices. The three find the stone rolled away, Mary M goes to tell the disciples. Mary, mother of James, approaches the tomb, sees an angel. She goes to meet the other women. Peter and John, after meeting Mary M, arrive, look in and leave. Mary M returns, weeping, sees two angels, sees Jesus. He tells her to go tell the disciples. Mary, mother of James, returns with the other women, they see two angels, go to find the disciples, are met by Jesus.
5-7 Why do you suppose that an angel was there at the empty tomb?
8-10 What was their reaction? Jesus and the angel both start with what words? They bowed, fell to the ground before Him, worshipped. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central point of Christianity. Would His substitutionary death on the cross be of any value if He were just a man, subject to death? But the resurrection PROVES that Jesus is God. No other religion has an empty tomb. The sermons recorded in Acts center around the fact of the resurrection. Jesus did not rise from the dead in just His spirit; He had a body that could be seen, recognized, touched, that ate food, that had flesh and bone, Luke 24:39. Yet He could appear and vanish, even in locked rooms, and could ascend bodily into heaven. Read I Cor. 15:13-24. It goes on to explain the difference between our earthly bodies and our spiritual bodies, and how they will be changed. Read 15:50-54.
11-15 Bribing the soldiers. Pretty far-fetched. How could they know this if they were asleep? Why would they admit to falling asleep? Don't you suppose they would have been executed if this had really happened? And other New Testament accounts tell of many eyewitnesses to the resurrection, which refute the idea that Jesus stayed dead.
16 We read nothing about a mountain, so we see that we only have a sketchy account of what all happened and was said.
17 When you realize who He is and what He did, the proper reaction is to worship Him. Even believers doubted. But it's hard not to have doubts, then and now. Read Mark 16:11-14.
18-20 This section is called the Great Commission. Matthew has been presenting the King and the kingdom. Jesus the King has all authority. If He has all authority, does anything "just happen"? Or is everything under His control? After the resurrection, this is the plan. What four commmands? Is a disciple more than just a believer or a convert? "Observe all" is a way of saying what? Obey. The King is to be obeyed by His subjects. Later we will find that we are given the power to obey by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Obedience should follow belief. But it doesn't come automatically; what is needed? Teaching. All nations; this is why we have missionaries. In the old dispensation, the Jews had the Law and the temple, and the world was to come to them; they were not told to take God's Word to the nations. In the new dispensation, the church age, we are to take God's Word to the world. But His primary meaning was probably that now salvation is not just for the Jews, but for the Gentiles too, people of all nations. So this is for each of us; we don't have to go to other nations to obey this, but we can share the good news with everyone, people of all nationalities, everyone we are in contact with.
Baptism is commanded, but is not necessary for salvation, as we see when we study all the related passages on baptism. The thief on the cross was not baptized but Jesus said he would be with Him that day in paradise. The word baptism means to be identified with. Jesus was baptized to be identified with mankind; it obviously had nothing to do with sins or salvation. Rom. 6:3-5 shows us it is a picture, an outward action that pictures a truth, just as the Lord's Supper is an outward action that pictures a truth. The Bible is clear that works/actions of any kind can not make us more acceptable to God-only faith in Christ. We also see the trinity in this statement about baptism.
The term "disciple" is not in the KJV; "go ye therefore and teach all nations." "Disciple" means learner, pupil. There is a teaching among some Christians called "discipling," also called "shepherding." A believer (not just a pastor or teacher) takes another believer, possibly a less mature believer, and "disciples" them. It is a kind of relationship where the one is over the other one, and the one being discipled is accountable to the discipler. In some groups that teach this, it can become an abuse of power over the other person. This arrangement is not found in the Bible; a disciple is someone who has come to Christ, is a follower of Christ. Pastors and other teachers have the responsibility to teach and help people grow, the Holy Spirit is our teacher, and each of us can help and encourage each other in our walk with Christ, and someone might even be "mentoring" a new or young believer. But those who take it farther as an authority over others, a chain of command, are twisting Scripture. This is the only New Testament verse that uses the word "teach" as "to make disciples;" there are many references to teaching, and to disciples as being followers of Christ. But there are no references to "discipling" as a relationship between two believers.
20 The last half of this verse is packed with meaning. Does God ever leave us? Don't we feel that way sometimes though? When we FEEL that way, here is where we go to remind ourselves of the FACTS. Jesus is saying He and the Holy Spirit are equal, even though this doesn't mention the Holy Spirit. Jesus the man is not with us; John 14, 15, 16 make it clear that when Jesus leaves, the Holy Spirit will come and be IN us, not just with us. The New Testament speaks of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is an amazing thing, which we cannot comprehend. It has nothing to do with FEELING Him in our lives. When is the end of the age? Mt. 13:39-40. What happens at the harvest? When is that? So what will happen at the end of the age? He will return and once again be physically with us, in the millenial kingdom, His 1000 year reign on this earth. Believers at that time will not have the indwelling Holy Spirit, as in the church age. Believers have one or the other, not both at the same time, John 16:7.
In Matthew, we have seen very little mention of the terms receive or believe, as far as salvation goes. Matthew has stressed instead the ideas of righteousness and the kingdom (who will enter, and how). We see those other terms more in John's gospel. We have seen God's plan for Israel, for the kingdom He promised them on this earth, why it was postponed, and what God's plan is in the meantime. While Israel is put on hold, God is dealing with the Gentiles, forming a new group of believers called the church, the body of Christ. This is clarified more in the Epistles. When He is finished dealing with this group, He will remove them from the earth and resume His dealings with Israel. At that time, they will receive everything He promised them in the Old Testament.
Copyright 2003 Jan Young
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