Tag Archives: Christ Jesus

Nothing Changes!

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Nothing changes! Well, that is not exactly true. Many things change. The First Law of Thermodynamics informs us that matter/energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only be changed. The Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us that everything is changing from order to disorder. I experience that every day as I endure the aging process.

However, humanly speaking with regard to our relationship with our Creator, nothing really changes. We may be more technologically advanced than past generations, but we still fall into the same sin traps that Satan sets before us. Nothing changes!

In the Garden of Eden, God gave only one command: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Satan’s strategy to bring about the Fall was simple: (1) Create doubt in God’s Word. “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (Genesis 3:1). Not only does he challenge God’s Word, but also he purposefully distorts it to raise further doubt. (2) Challenge the veracity of God’s Word. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). God said, “thou shalt surely die,” but Satan calls God a liar. (3) Character assassination of God’s character. “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). In other words, God is keeping something good from you. God does not want the very best for you.

Nothing changes! Satan continues to use the same strategy: create doubt in God’s Word, deny the truth of God’s Word, and denigrate the character of God. Satan also employs tactics that take advantage of human frailties: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). This too never changes. In the Garden of Eden, Eve “saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh], and that it was pleasant to the eyes [lust of the eyes], and a tree to be desired to make one wise [pride of life]” (Genesis 3:6, emphasis mine).

The Bible tells us that Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, emphasis mine). Following His baptism by John the Baptist and in preparation for His earthly ministry, Jesus went off into the wilderness to fast and pray for forty days and nights (Matthew 3:13-4:11; Luke 4:1-13). At the end of the forty days and nights without food and very little water, Jesus was physically weak and vulnerable. Satan chose this time to attack with the lust of the flesh: “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread” (Matthew 4:3; Luke 4:3). Note that the question also challenges the Word of God: “If thou be the Son of God.” When that tactic failed, Satan tried to seduce Him with the lust of the eyes: “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them” (Matthew 4:8; Luke 4:5). Not only did Jesus see all the glitz and glamour the world offered, but this overture also exploited the pride of life. The final attempt to cause Jesus to fall involved the pride of life because it challenged Jesus’ position as the Son of God. “And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:9-10).  Jesus “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, emphasis mine).

Nothing changes! Satan still uses the same strategy and attacks our human weaknesses just as he has from the beginning of time. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Satan knows that. He hates God, and he hates that which God loves. Therefore, he does all that he can do to keep people from knowing the truth that God loves them and wants them to have eternal life. Nothing changes! Satan still employs the same strategy, and humans still have the same weaknesses. However, things can change when “whosoever believeth in Him.” Jesus beat Satan at his game in the wilderness. He paid the ultimate price for our sins with His shed blood on the cross. He broke the chains and the power of death when He rose from the dead on the third day.

Nothing changes unless we are willing to believe and place our faith and trust in Jesus. Then everything changes! “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). If you want to do that, here is what you need to do:

  • A. Admit/confess you are a sinner: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
  • B. Believe that Jesus is Lord and rose from the dead to give us eternal life. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
  • C. Call on the name of Jesus for salvation. Confess and believe (Romans 10:9-10 above) and ask Jesus to save you. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). “…for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

There is nothing hard about this. It is as easy as ABC; however, it is not a magic formula. The decision must be heartfelt and sincere. God knows your heart. He is not fooled by empty words, but if you mean it, God is faithful, and He will keep His promise.

Nothing changes? Well, maybe today it can change for you.

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Not Here

At the Garden Tomb, Jerusalem, Israel

And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. (Mark 16:6)

Mohammad’s bones lay at rest in the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the “Mosque of the Prophet”) in the city of Medina, Saudi Arabia. They cremated Buddha’s body and divided his ashes among several Buddhist temples in Asia. The remains of Confucius reside in a grave in his hometown of Qufu, Shandong Province, China. The remains of these and others are enshrined by the followers of the religions they founded, and the location of their tombs are known. Followers of these various religions can point to the tombs and say, “Here lies so-and-so, founder of religion ‘you-name-it.’”

However, Christians cannot make such claims. Two main sites in Jerusalem vie for the claim of Jesus’ burial place: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb. The former glitters with gold and looks nothing like a burial place. The latter is located in a quiet garden and is virtually unadorned. It is in a place a short walk from a hillside whose face features two prominent grottos that remarkably resemble two eye sockets of a human skull. Of the two sites, the Garden Tomb seems more likely to be the place where Jesus was laid according to Scripture. “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand” (John 19:41-42, emphasis mine). The Garden Tomb is very “nigh” to the place of the skull, so it seems more likely the right place.

The Garden Tomb, Jerusalem, Israel

Regardless of one’s preference for one site over the other, the fact remains that both tombs are empty. Those who refuse to believe, continue to fabricate all kinds of conspiracy theories as to what became of Jesus’ body. This has gone on since the empty tomb was first discovered. “Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch [the Roman soldiers assigned to guard the tomb] came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day” (Matthew 28:11-15, emphasis mine). All of these conspiracy theories about Jesus’ missing body have been thoroughly debunked.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
(Matthew 28:6)

The truth remains, Jesus’ tomb is empty because He rose from the dead on the third day just as He said, and according to the Scriptures. Furthermore, He is coming again very soon. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine).

 

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Jesus’ Last Days

And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, (Luke 9:51)

Jesus spent most of His time in ministry around the Sea of Galilee. His “mission base” was in Capernaum, probably staying at the house of Peter. As the time for His crucifixion approached, Jesus traveled up to Caesarea Philippi with His disciples – the furthest north He ever traveled (Matthew 16:13).

Caesarea Philippi was built by the Ptolemaic kings around the 3rd century BC as a cult center and named Paneas for the Greek god Pan. When the Romans took control, the control of the area was given to the Kingdom of Herod the Great. In 19 BC, Herod built a white marble pagan temple at the entrance to the cave of Pan in honor of Caesar Augustus. Inside the cave was a seemingly bottomless pit[1] that the pagans perceived by the pagans as the entrance to the netherworld – Hades. “Caesarea Philippi was the location the Cave of Pan, the place of the pagan Gate of Hades. It was in this area that the first king of Israel (Jeroboam) led the northern kingdom of Israel into idolatry.”[2] Philip II (the Tetrarch) founded the city of Paneas and renamed it Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus in 14 AD.[3]

Caesarea Philippi was located at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon. Mount Hermon bears the ignominy of being the frequent site of pagan worship.[4] “In the Book of Enoch, Mount Hermon is the place where the Watcher class of fallen angels descended to Earth. They swear upon the mountain that they would take wives among the daughters of men and take mutual imprecation for their sin (Enoch 6).”[5] Surrounding the base and upon the higher elevations, the mountain was littered with shrines to pagan deities.

It was to this place that Jesus brought His disciples just a few short weeks before His crucifixion.

Matthew 16:13  When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

Mark 8:27  And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?

Luke 9:18  And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?

Jesus’ last stop prior to this was “in the coasts of Magdala” (Matthew 15:39) and “into the parts of Dalmanutha” (Mark 8:10). Both cities were probably near each other, and Matthew and Mark record the location from their own perspective. Note that both refer to the “region” not specifically to the towns. Matthew notes that they came to the “coasts” of Caesarea Philippi. Other translations render “coasts” as district, parts, or region, or it could also be rendered “borders.” Mark reports that they came “into the towns” of Caesarea Philippi. Luke does not specify the location. Apparently, Jesus did not enter that pagan city Himself. Doing so would have rendered Him “unclean.”

Matthew and Mark place the account after the feeding of the 4000 (Matthew 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-9). Luke places this account following the feeding of the 5000 (Luke 9:10-17). Although Luke does not record the feeding of the 4000, the order of events was correct. Jesus fed 5000 first and then 4000 before this event took place. This may be attributed to the way Luke had to go about gathering and compiling the data. Since came “after the fact,” he conducted interviews with eyewitnesses to write his Gospel. As a side note, John, who was an eyewitness, only recorded the feeding of the 5000 (John 6:5-13) as well.

Mark says that they were “on the road,” but that does not indicate that they were traveling when Jesus asked the question. Matthew only remarks that they were in the region. It makes sense that they were stopped in one place where they could all participate in the discussion. If they were “on the road” walking, it would be difficult to have that kind of discussion.

Bible critics often point to the variances in the Gospel accounts to raise doubts in the veracity of Scripture; however, these variances are easily explained. Matthew, as one of the twelve, records the account as an eyewitness. Mark (it is thought) received his information from Peter who was an eyewitness. John, the “beloved disciple,” who was present and an eyewitness, was not divinely inspired to record this event. Luke gathered his information second-hand from eyewitness “to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:1-2, emphasis mine). Therefore Luke often includes details omitted by the other Gospel writers. For example, in this verse, he notes that Jesus “was alone praying, [and] his disciples were with him” (Luke 9:18).

It is in this context that Jesus asks His disciples, “Whom do men say that I am?” Matthew adds the modifier, “the Son of Man.” Both Matthew and Mark use the Greek ἄνθρωποι “men,” while Luke uses the Greek ὄχλοι “people” meaning a throng, i.e., the masses, men and women. The question was a set up for the more important question to follow.

Matthew 16:15; Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20: He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

They had followed Him for three years now. He was nearing the end of His earthly ministry. Did they really know Him? Peter was never shy about speaking up.

Matthew 16:16  And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Mark 8:29  And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.

Luke 9:20  He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God.

The three synoptic Gospels identify Jesus as “the Christ.” “Christ” – Χριστός – means “anointed;” the same as Messiah. Luke specifies “The Christ of God,” i.e., God’s anointed One. Only Matthew adds “the Son of the living God.” Remember: Matthew’s report is a first-hand account, and only Matthew records Jesus’ response to Peter.

Matthew 16:17-19  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven(18)  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it(19)  And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Peter’s confession did not come from “Whom do men say that I am?” Peter received this as a direct revelation from God. “Upon this rock,” i.e., Peter’s confession, Jesus would establish His Church. “The gates of hell” – the temple of Pan and the other pagan gods were nearby.  The disciples were probably familiar with the nomenclature. The illustration was clear: the death of hell cannot complete with the living Church. Gates are defensive measures, which cannot withstand the power of the Church. The “keys of the kingdom of heaven” were not for Peter alone. Jesus would later say the same to all of His disciples, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). To “bind” or “loose” means to “prohibit” or “permit.” “When Jesus gave this power to the apostles, he meant that whatsoever they forbade in the church should have divine authority; whatever they permitted, or commanded, should also have divine authority – that is, should be bound or loosed in heaven, or meet the approbation of God. They were to be guided infallibly in the organization of the church: (1) By the teaching of Christ, and, (2) By the teaching of the Holy Spirit.”[6]

Jesus then foretells of His impending death on the cross: Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31. (Luke missed that detail.) He ends the conversation with a curious statement.

Matthew 16:28  Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

Mark 9:1  And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

Luke 9:27  But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.

Six (or eight) days later “some” had a glimpse of “the kingdom.”

Matthew 17:1-6  And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart(2)  And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light(3)  And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.  (4)  Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.  (5)  While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him(6)  And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.

Mark 9:2-7  And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.  (3)  And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them(4)  And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.  (5)  And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.  (6)  For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.  (7)  And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.

Luke 9:28-36  And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray(29)  And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering(30)  And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias(31)  Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.  (32)  But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.  (33)  And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.  (34)  While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.  (35)  And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him(36)  And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.

Matthew and Mark say “after six days.” Luke says “about eight days.” Matthew and Mark beginning with that day after Peter’s confession, count six days, and “after six days” this event took place. Luke counts the day of Peter’s confession, plus six days, followed by the day of the Transfiguration – eight days.

Jesus selected Peter, James, and John as the “some” who would “see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28, emphasis mine).  Peter and John would later recall this event.

2 Peter 1:16-18  For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  (17)  For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  (18)  And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

1 John 1:1  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

The “high mountain” very likely was Mount Hermon. He was “transfigured” – Greek μετεμορφωθη (metamorphoothee) “transformed, changed, metamorphose” Luke notes that His face – Greek πρόσωπον (prosōpon – the front, the face) was altered. Matthew says that “his face did shine as the sun.” All three remark on the brilliance of His clothing. There appeared Moses and Elias (Elijah) representing the Law and the Prophets – the Old Testament Scripture that testified of the coming Messiah. Luke reveals the content of the conversation. He “spake of his decease [death] which he should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31, emphasis mine).

In their astonishment, the disciples were speechless, except for Peter. “let us make three tabernacles … For he wist not what to say” (Mark 9:5-6, emphasis mine). Having seen the different shrines to pagan gods around Caesarea Philippi and Mount Hermon, Peter must have thought it would be appropriate. The voice that came out of the cloud soon put the kâbash (kibosh) on that idea: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him

As they descended from the mountain, Jesus instructed them to keep what they witnessed to themselves until after He had risen from the dead (Matthew 17:9; Mark 9:10; Luke 9:36). The time had come. “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51, emphasis mine). “Time” – Greek ἡμέρα (hēmera), literally means “day.” The day had arrived that He should fulfill His earthly mission. “Stedfastly” – Greek στηρίζω (stērizō) means to set fast, that is, (literally) to turn resolutely in a certain direction. Nothing would deter Him from His mission. Jerusalem and the cross were His assignment.

Passing through Jericho, Jesus heals three, perhaps four blind men.

Luke 18:35  And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging:

Matthew 20:29-30  And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him.  (30)  And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.

Mark 10:46  And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.

Matthew does not name the two, but perhaps one of them was Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus may have been known to Mark (or Peter) and the second blind man unknown. I could also be that the two mentioned by Matthew are separate from Bartimaeus.

Luke also gives the account of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) that the other Gospels omit. When Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree, He told him to “make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house” (Luke 19:5). “Abide” literally meant to “dwell” or stay over in his house. While in Jericho, Jesus received word that His friend Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, was deathly ill. “ Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again” (John 11:5-7, emphasis mine).

The small village of Bethany was about a day’s walk from Jericho. Lazarus probably died soon after the messengers departed to Jericho. The travel took a day. Jesus delayed two days before leaving for Bethany, and He took another day to arrive – four days total.

At Bethany, Jesus performed arguably the greatest miracle of all short of His resurrection. Jesus had raised others from the dead: Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:18-25; Mark 5:23-43; Luke 8:41-56) and the widow’s only son (Luke 7:11-16). However, both of these had recently died, and it could be argued that they were “resuscitated” rather than resurrected. With Lazarus, there was no question. In fact, when Jesus asked for the stone to be removed, Martha protested, “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (John 11:39). The Jews believed that when a person, their spirit lingered around for three days before departing for good. Lazarus was very dead! “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26, emphasis mine). Then to make His point, “he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43).

The raising of Lazarus caused quite a stir among the religious leaders, who, rather than recognize Jesus’ authority as Messiah and turn to Him, developed a plot to kill Him. “And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,  Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.  And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;  And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. (John 11:49-53, emphasis mine). So irrational were they in their animus toward Jesus, that they sought to destroy the evidence of His resurrecting power – Lazarus (John 12:9-11).

Following this, we have two, arguably three, different accounts of Jesus’ anointing. Luke’s account places the anointing long before the transfiguration while He was still in Capernaum (Luke 7:36-50).

Luke 7:36-39  And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.  (37)  And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,  (38)  And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.  (39)  Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.

Matthew 26:6-9  Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper(7)  There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.  (8)  But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?  (9)  For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.

Mark 14:1-5After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread … (3)  And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.  (4)  And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?  (5)  For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.

John 12:1-6  Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.  (2)  There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.  (3)Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.  (4)  Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him,  (5)  Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?  (6)  This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

Matthew places the anointing after the Triumphal Entry (Matthew 21:1-11) Mark places the anointing after the Triumphal Entry (Mark 11:1-11) and two days before the Passover. John places the anointing the day before the Triumphal Entry (John 12:12). Matthew and Mark place the anointing in the “house of Simon the Leper.” John seems to place the anointing in the house of Lazarus following the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Neither Matthew nor Mark names the woman who anointed Jesus. Had she been Mary, they certainly would have known who she was. John names Lazarus, Martha, and Mary who anointed Jesus. Matthew records that the “disciples” were indignant about the waste. Mark only records that “there were some that had indignation within themselves.” The difference and precision in detail between Matthew and Mark’s account and the account of John are too distinct to be an error in recording. Therefore these are two separate anointings. Luke’s account came too early to be confused with these just before the crucifixion. In all, we have three separate accounts of Jesus being anointed by women. Even though there are some similarities, the differences are too great to conflate them as one or two.

Following this, all four Gospels record Jesus entry into Jerusalem presenting Himself as the promised Messiah. The prophet Daniel predicted this event to the very day!

Daniel 9:25-26  Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.  (26)  And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.

 Week” – Hebrew שָׁבוּע (shâbûa‛), literally means sevened, or “seven times.” This refers to a set of seven years. Verse 24 specifies “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city” – 70 x 7 = 490 years.

seven weeks. The 490-year period is divided into three components, 49 years, 434 years, and 7 years, respectively, in duration … Perhaps most significantly, the 49-year period did terminate with Malachi’s prophecy, which marked the close of Old Testament revelation.”[7]

threescore and two weeks. After the 49-year period was to be another period of 434 years before Messiah would come as Prince of Israel … In all, there would be 69 weeks, or 483 years, ‘unto the Messiah the prince.’”[8]

Most conservative evangelical scholars agree that this prophecy was fulfilled to the very day when Jesus was “cut off.” On the tenth day of the first month (Abib/Nissan), Jewish families selected the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:3). It had to be “a male of the first year,” i.e., the firstborn, without blemish, they were to keep it until the 14th day (Exodus 12:5-6). To ensure that it was spotless. Furthermore, the lamb was taken into the family and loved by the family. Then, on the evening of the 14th day, the lamb was slain, and its blood used to cover the doorposts of the house. When the death angel passed, the atoning (covering) blood of the lamb protected those inside the house.

Jesus, the Lamb of God, presented Himself on Nissan 10. It was the first day of the week, Sunday. John states that Jesus arrived in Bethany, where He was anointed by Mary, “six days before the Passover” (John 12:1). If the Passover took place on Thursday (as I believe), six days before would put Him arriving in Bethany on Friday. The following day would be the Sabbath (Saturday) when He was anointed. Then on the next day, Sunday, Jesus made His Triumphal Entry.

He was now in “the house” of Israel, and the Lamb of God would be thoroughly examined for the next four days to see if there was any defect in Him. The Pharisees questioned Him extensively and could find no fault in Him. In the end, Pilate examined Him and proclaimed, “I find no fault in him” (John 19:4, 6).

Jesus gave His Olivet discourse concerning “the sign of thy coming, and the end of the world” (Matthew 24: 4-51; Mark 13:5-23; Luke 21:5-24).

He celebrated His last Passover Seder with His disciples (Matthew 26:20-35; Mark 14:17-25; Luke 22:14-23; John 13:1-38). Jesus made the promise of His return and His presence with and in believers through the Holy Spirit (John 14-17).

After the meal, they went to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:40-46). Jesus took His top three – Peter, James, and John – to a separate garden to pray. “Gethsemane” means (olive) “oil press.” As the olives are pressed three times, Jesus was pressed three times as He prayed, “let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44).[9] With that, He went out to meet his accusers.

Matthew 26:46  Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

Mark 14:42  Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.

Luke 22:46  And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.

John 18:4  Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?

Isaiah 53:7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

The cross awaited Jesus. He went there of His own accord – not the victim, but the mighty Savior!

Notes:


[1]  “Ancient Caesarea Philippi” – http://www.bible-history.com/biblestudy/caesarea-philippi.html

[2]  Ibid.

[3]  “Caesarea Philippi” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesarea_Philippi

[4]  “Temples of Mount Hermon” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temples_of_Mount_Hermon

[5]  “Mount Hermon – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Hermon

[6]  Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

[7]  Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Henry Morris Study Bible, (Green Forest, AR, Master Books, 2012), 1275.

[8]  Ibid.

[9]  “Pressed Three Times” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/10/22/pressed-three-times/

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The Gates of Hell

The Gates of Hell, Caesarea Philippi

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16:16)

Most of Jesus’ earthly ministry centered around the Sea of Galilee, aka the Sea of Tiberius, with His ministry headquarters at Capernaum. The furthest north He traveled, as recorded in the Gospels, was Caesarea Philippi, an ancient Roman city located at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon. Formerly, it carried the name of Paneas in association with the Greek god Pan. Herod the Great erected a white marble (pagan) temple there in honor of Caesar Augustus in 19 BC. Philip II (the Tetrarch) founded the city of Paneas and renamed it Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus in 14 AD.[1]

Ruins of Temple of Augustus, Caesarea Philippi, Israel

Mount Hermon bears the ignominy of being the frequent site of pagan worship.[2] “In the Book of Enoch, Mount Hermon is the place where the Watcher class of fallen angels descended to Earth. They swear upon the mountain that they would take wives among the daughters of men and take mutual imprecation for their sin (Enoch 6).”[3] From a grotto at the foot of Mount Hermon used to issue a spring that has since stopped due to seismic activity.

Nahal Senir Spring formerly “Panias” for the Greek god Pan. This spring, one of three headwaters of the Jordan River, used to flow directly from the cave.

“The pagans of Jesus’ day commonly believed that their fertility gods lived in the underworld during the winter and returned to earth each spring. They saw water as a symbol of the underworld and thought that their gods traveled to and from that world through caves. To the pagan mind, then, the cave and spring water at Caesarea Philippi created a gate to the underworld. They believed that their city was literally at the gates of the underworld—the gates of hell. In order to entice the return of their god, Pan, each year, the people of Caesarea Philippi engaged in horrible deeds, including prostitution and sexual interaction between humans and goats.”[4]

The Gates of Hell, Caesarea Philippi, Israel

It was to this place that Jesus brought His disciples and asked, “Whom do men say that I, the Son of man am?” (Matthew 16:13).  The disciples recited the popular rumors: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Then, “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Without hesitation, “Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:17-18, emphasis mine).

Jesus then disclosed details of His coming crucifixion.  “Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee” (Matthew 16:22). Jesus, in turn, rebuked Peter in the harshest of terms. “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matthew 16:23, emphasis mine). Then to all Jesus counted the cost of discipleship. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:24-25, emphasis mine). He closed the discussion with these words. “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (Matthew 16:27-28, emphasis mine).

“And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, (Matthew 17:1, emphasis mine). The summit of Mount Hermon is 9,232 ft. (almost two miles) above sea level. From the “gates of hell” to the portal of the Watchers, Jesus ascended with His closest disciples; “And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him” (Matthew 17:2-3.) The disciples were flabbergasted. They did not know how to respond or react to what they were witnessing. “Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias” (Matthew 17:4, emphasis mine). Perhaps because the mountain was littered with all kinds of shrines to pagan gods,

Niches to pagan gods at the Gates of Hell

Peter thought it would be appropriate to build something similar for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. A voice from heaven quickly put the kibosh on that idea.

A niche for a pagan god

“While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matthew 17:5).

Gates are defensive barriers designed to keep out the enemy. The gates of hell are no different. Satan is at war against the Kingdom of God, and he erects all kinds of barriers to keep the Kingdom of God from the hearts of those who are perishing. Peter confessed, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Upon that confession – that “rock” – Jesus declared, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).  All that they had witnessed would not be clear until after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.  Peter later recalled, “… [we] were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. (2 Peter 1:16-18, emphasis mine).

On the mountain, Jesus received His marching orders, and it was time to storm the gates of hell. Luke records “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51, emphasis mine). Jesus tore down the gates with His death, but more so with His resurrection. The gates of hell cannot stop His Church, and we have our orders: “ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  “And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid” (Matthew 17:7, emphasis mine).

Notes:


[1]  Caesarea Philippi – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesarea_Philippi

[2]  Temples of Mount Hermon – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temples_of_Mount_Hermon

[3]  Mount Hermon – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Hermon

[4]  Ray Vander Laan, That the World May Know, “The Gates of Hell” – https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/gates-of-hell-article

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Jesus’ Brethren

There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. (Mark 3:31)

One of the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church holds that Mary, the mother of Jesus, remained a perpetual virgin her entire life, but that is not what the Gospels teach. Here in this passage from Mark’s Gospel, as well as in Matthew 12:46-50 and Luke 8:19-21, we see a different story.

According to Mark, Jesus had just selected His twelve apostles (Mark 3:16-19) and “went into a house” – probably Peter’s house in Capernaum right across the way from the local synagogue. Jesus had just completed a long day of healing the sick and casting out demons, and it was time to sit back and enjoy dinner with His disciples, but “the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread” (Mark 3:20). Among the crowd were “scribes which came down from Jerusalem” (Mark 3:22) accusing Him of casting out demons by the power of “Beelzebub.”

Jesus exposed the absurdity of their charge. “And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end” (Mark 3:23-26).

Then He made this seemingly unrelated remark. “Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation” (Mark 3:28-29, emphasis mine). Note that Jesus, as God, spoke by His authority: “Verily [truly] I say unto you.” By leveling the charge that Jesus cast out devils by the power of Satan, the scribes blasphemed against God Incarnate. However, Jesus did not rain down fire on them for their blasphemy; instead, He overlooked it and only pointed out the absurdity of such a charge.

As Trinitarians, we believe in the three-in-one nature of God: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. It stands to reason, then, that blasphemy of one is blasphemy against all.  Then why did Jesus single out blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as the unforgivable sin? It is the role of the Holy Spirit to “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). He is “the Spirit of truth” which “will guide you into all truth, for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13). Therefore, when the Holy Spirit speaks to a person’s heart and convicts that individual of the truth of the Gospel and his need of the Savior, and that individual rejects the message, he has effectively called the Holy Spirit a liar. That blasphemy cannot be forgiven.

About that time, Mary and her sons showed up from Nazareth. “There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee” (Mark 3:31-32, emphasis mine). Apparently, Jesus’ mother and brothers were well-known by the people. Later, when He returned to Nazareth “he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?” (Matthew 13:54-56, emphasis mine).

Jesus was “the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18), but He was not the only child of Mary. Jesus’ response to the notification that His family was calling for Him strikes us as somewhat aloof. “And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?” (Mark 3:33). This was not the first time Jesus distanced Himself from His earthly family. Luke records the first occasion around the time of Jesus’ bar mitzvah. “And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the [Passover] feast” (Luke 2:42). In all of the festivities, the boy Jesus got separated from His parents. They were on their way back to Nazareth a day’s journey before they noticed the missing child. When they returned, they found Him three days later in the Temple discussing Torah and astonishing the doctors of the Law (Luke 2:46-47). Like any worried parents, they laid the guilt trip on Him for worrying them, but Jesus’ response expressed where His true loyalty lay. “And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49, emphasis mine).

On another occasion at the beginning of His earthly ministry, He was invited to a wedding in Cana. During the festivities, the wine ran out, and Mary came to ask His help. Obviously, she had faith that He would resolve the problem. Jesus’ response to her comes across as rather detached. “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come” (John 2:4). Yet, as any good son, He complied with His mother’s request by turning water into wine.

However, we should not conclude that Jesus held no affection for His earthly family. Indeed, one His final acts from the cross was to see to the care of His mother. “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (John 19:25-27, emphasis mine). John, the disciple “whom He loved,” was a close relative, probably a cousin, whom Jesus entrusted the care of His mother.

So Jesus’ response to the announcement that His mother and brothers were calling for Him should not be taken as lack of affection for His earthly family. No, Jesus had a greater lesson to teach. “And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!” (Mark 3:33-34, emphasis mine). Not all that sat in that place qualified for the privilege. Among them were those who blasphemed against Him by charging that His power to cast out demons came from Satan. However, many in the crowd did meet the standard as Jesus explained. “For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” (Mark 3:35, emphasis mine).

What is that will of God by which we join the family of God? “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God’s will is “that all should come to repentance.” “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, emphasis mine). “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12, emphasis mine). “For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” (Mark 3:35).

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Evil Servant

Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; (Matthew 24:48)

Matthew 24 begins what is known as Jesus’ “Olivet Discourse.” Jesus spoke these words on the Mount of Olives just two days before He went to the cross (Matthew 26:2). Jesus had just issued a series of eight “woes” against the Jewish religious leaders—the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:13-33). Here as in other places in the Gospels, Jesus asserts His authority as God when He predicts, “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city; That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:34-36, emphasis mine). Jesus then laments over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37-39).

As the disciples stood around hearing these words, their curiosity piqued. “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3, emphasis mine).

Before continuing, I must add a point of clarification here. Those asking the question, the disciples, were Jews. They based their question on their understanding of Old Testament prophecies concerning the reign of Messiah, whom they understood to be Jesus (Matthew 16:16). All prophecy—both in the Old and New Testaments—centers around Israel and Messiah’s reign in and from Jerusalem. The Old Testament alludes to the Church, but as Paul points out, it was a “mystery” to Old Testament writers (Ephesians 5:32). Furthermore, at the point of this dissertation, the Church did not exist. The Church was not established until after Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). Jesus, therefore, focused His response on “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), a.k.a. “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 2:22; 7:14). This prophecy was for the Jews and Israel, not for the Church.

Jesus goes into great detail about what will take place during the Tribulation. Even though this prophecy is not directed at the Church, He does provide signs for the Church to discern. “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:32-34, emphasis mine).

The “fig tree” symbolizes the nation of Israel. Jesus had already predicted the demise of Israel (Judah at this time). “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate [i.e., barren; laid waste; devestated]” (Matthew 23:38, emphasis mine). The fulfillment of this prophecy took place in 70 A.D. when the Roman general Titus razed Jerusalem to the ground. The budding of the fig tree indicates the rebirth of Israel. This took place almost 70 years ago on May 14, 1948. Jesus said this generation, which witnesses the rebirth of Israel, “shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34). We are that generation! Then Jesus guaranteed His prophecy, not with “Thus saith the Lord” (Jesus is Lord), but with “Verily, I say.” Then He affirmed, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35, emphasis mine).

Jesus goes on to encourage watchfulness “for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42). For those of us who yearn for the Rapture of the Church and also for those who will live through the Tribulation, that means that we cannot predict that event with precision. However, Jesus provided enough information that we can determine the proximity, so we encouraged to “watch.”

Jesus then asks, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?” (Matthew 24:45, emphasis mine). These are the pastors and teachers whom God has placed over His churches. Jesus instructs these servants to “give them—the churches, i.e., the “flock”—meat in due season.” “Meat” means nourishment, and since Jesus speaks of His “household,” He means “spiritual” nourishment. He made this point clear to Peter at Peter’s restoration when three times Jesus asked him, “Lovest thou Me?” To Peter’s weak responses, Jesus commanded three times, “feed My sheep” (John 21:15-17). In the context of this end-times discourse, the “meat” nourishes the “flock” in preparation for that which is sure to come.

Jesus then contrasts the “faithful and wise servant” with the “evil servant” who “shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants” (Matthew 24:48-49, emphasis mine).  This one does not take the Lord’s return seriously. The Greek word translated “smite” is tuptō and it means to beat with a whip or stick. The Thayer’s Greek Definitions adds that metaphorically the word implies “to wound, disquiet one’s conscience.” This indicates that the abuse is of a spiritual nature, where the pastor or teacher neglects the proper care and feeding of the flock. The flock is spiritually malnourished and completely unequipped for the Lord’s return.

Sadly, we have too many “evil servants” that neglect to prepare the flock for the Lord’s return. They offer many excuses. The worst of the lot simply do not believe in the imminent return of Christ. They do not regard end-times prophecy literally and attribute it to allegory to be spiritualized.  Others think the teaching is too controversial. They fear confusing or offending their congregation. Still, others have church growth as a top priority. “Doom’s Day” teaching might scare off seekers and stunt church growth. They believe church must be a fun and “safe” place. They would not risk making anyone uncomfortable. Some, while saying they believe that Jesus will return soon, feel they must give greater priority practical teaching to equip the flock for dealing with the daily issues of life. In some ways, this last group is the most dangerous. While it is true that pastors/teachers must equip their congregations to face the day-to-day challenges of life; they are still obligated to teach the “whole counsel” of God’s Word (Acts 20:27). That includes encouraging the flock “and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25, emphasis mine). That does not mean that every sermon must be an end-times message, but every exhortation should be peppered with the expectation that the Lord may come at any moment.

Any pastor/teacher who fails to teach the imminency of Christ’s return is, according to these words of Jesus, an “evil servant.” For the evil servant who thus abuses his flock, Jesus says, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6, emphasis mine). Jesus concludes this portion of the discourse with this severe warning: “The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:50-51).

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High Cost of Admission

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:23)

Another Super Bowl came and went. I did not go, nor did I watch it, but I know the cost of admission was outrageous, even for the cheap seats. I read that the cheapest seats in the upper level, 11 rows from the top in the corner of the end zone, sold for $4900.[1] Undoubtedly, people actually paid the high cost of admission for the “experience,” and I am sure that today they are boasting that it was worth the “sacrifice.” For those willing to shell out that kind of cash, the price of admission was not too high a cost.

The Gospel writer, Matthew, records an account of “one” who came to Jesus asking about the cost of admission to “eternal life.” One would think the cost would be higher than for tickets to the Super Bowl. This one said, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16). By Jesus’ response, it seems the “young man” (v. 20) was insincere in his query. “And he [Jesus] said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17a). The young man did not recognize that he was in the presence of God. To him, Jesus was just another teacher (meaning of “Master”) and the attribution of “good” provided the incentive for Jesus to affirm what he thought about himself.

Jesus played along; “if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17b, emphasis mine). Jesus told him what we wanted to hear. Feigning humility, the young man responded coyly, “Which?” (v. 18) pretending that there might be one he missed. Jesus named off a representative list of the Ten Commandments (Matthew 19:18-19), and the young man could no longer contain his self-righteousness. “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” (Matthew 19:20).

The young man must have thought Jesus would commend him for his righteousness and say, “You’re good to go! You are more than qualified to inherit eternal life.” Instead, “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Matthew 19:21). The “follow me” part by itself was doable. If it got too rough, he could always go back to what he did before. However, selling all of his possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor was irreversible. The young man probably inherited all of his wealth and had no idea how to build wealth from scratch. He had probably never worked a day in his life. “Work” was something for peasants, not for him. The price was too high. “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” (Matthew 19:22, emphasis mine).[2]

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23, emphasis mine). The KJV translates the Greek word duskolōs as “hardly,” but what it means is “with great difficulty.” Jesus did not mean that rich people cannot get into heaven. What He did say was that getting into heaven for a rich person is difficult. Why?

Matthew introduced this account with a scene where people (probably mothers) brought their children to Jesus so that He could pray and bless them (Matthew 19:13-15). The disciples rebuked the people for bringing their little urchins to the Lord. “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14, emphasis mine). Mark, in his Gospel (probably Peter’s account), records that Jesus was displeased with the action of His disciples. He further adds, “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:15, emphasis mine). We refer to children as dependents. They are dependent on their parents for food, clothing, shelter, protection, and guidance. They believe what their parents tell them. They trust their parents for everything.

The rich young man was “independent.” His riches provided all that he needed, and, as long as he had his wealth, he was secure. Jesus challenged his source of security. What Jesus basically said was, “I AM all you need. Follow Me.” A child would have followed without question, but this young man chose rather to trust in his many possessions rather than to trust in Jesus. For him, the high cost of admission was too great a price to pay.

“When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:25-26, emphasis mine). The disciples were shocked. If someone who follows all of God’s commandments and has been blessed by God with great wealth cannot be saved, then who can be saved? The lesson is simple. Wealth cannot purchase a ticket to heaven, even if you sell all of your possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. Neither can rigorous religious practice gain one entry into eternal life. However, when one places one’s trust in Jesus with a childlike faith and seeks to follow Him, God gives eternal life. Jesus already paid the high cost of admission.

Reader, in what do you place your trust? Jesus asks that you lay all that aside, and place your trust in Him. If you need help with that, read my page on “Heaven.”

Notes:


[1]  “Super Bowl 2018: How much do tickets cost? Any cheap flights and hotels for Eagles fans?” – http://www.nj.com/eagles/index.ssf/2018/01/super_bowl_tickets_cheap_flights_to_minnesota_eagl.html

[2]  “Too Rich for Heaven: – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/04/19/too-rich-for-heaven/

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