A Bible Study

The Genealogy of Jesus 11-17
The Birth of Jesus 118-25
The Wise Magi 21-12
Escape to Egypt and Return to Nazareth 213-18
John the Baptist Prepares the Way 31-17
Satan Tempts Jesus, but is Defeated 41-11
Jesus begins to Preach, Call and Heal 412-25
The 8 Beatitudes 51-12
The Sermon on the Mount
                  Salt and Light
                  Jesus Came to Fulfill the Law
                  Murder and Hatred
                  Adultery, Lust and Divorce
                  An Eye for an Eye - More or Less!
                  Love Your Enemies
                  How to Give
                  Prayer and Fasting
                  Treasure on Earth or in Heaven?
                  Worry or Trust?
                  Judging Others
                  Ask, Seek, Knock
                  The Narrow and Wide Gates
                  False Prophets
                  A Life Built on Rock
513 - 729
"If you are willing, you can make me clean." 81-4
Centurion has Faith for his Servant 85-13
Many Healed 814-17
Who will Follow Jesus? 818-22
A Galilee Storm is Calmed 823-27
Two Gadarene Demoniacs Set Free 828-34
Jesus Forgives Sins of Paralytic and Heals Him 91-8
The Calling of Matthew 99-13
A Question about Fasting 914-17
A Dead Girl and a Bleeding Woman Touched 918-26
Two Blind Men and One Mute Healed 927-34
'Like Sheep without a Shepherd' 935-38
12 Apostles Sent Out 101-42
Jesus and John the Baptist 111-30
The Lord of the Sabbath 121-21
Jesus Heals by the Spirit of God, Not Beelzebub 1222-37
One Greater than Jonah is Here 1238-45
Seven Parables 131-52
Where and Why are Prophets Despised? 1353-58
John the Baptist Beheaded 141-12
Jesus Feeds 5,000 1413-22
Jesus Goes to Disciples on Galilee 1423-36
What is Clean and Unclean - and Why 151-20
Canaanite Daughter Freed from Demons 1521-28
Jesus Feeds 4,000 1529-39
The Wicked Seek Miraculous Signs 161-4
Beware of the Yeast! 165-12
You are the Christ 1613-28
Jesus is Transfigured 171-13
Rebuked Demon Comes Out of Boy 1714-23
Paying the Temple Tax 1724-27
Who's the Greatest? 181-9
The 'Lost' Sheep 1810-14
Forgiveness 1815-35
Divorce 191-12
Little Children Brought to Jesus 1913-15
A Rich Young Man Went Away Sad 1916-30
Vineyard Workers All Paid the Same 201-16
Jesus Again Predicts His Death 2017-19
Privilege and Greatness 2020-28
"What Do You Want Me to Do for You?" 2029-34
See, Your King Comes to You 211-11
Temple Polluters Driven Out 2112-17
Fig-tree Withers 2118-22
4 Questions, 3 Parables and 8 Woes
                  Two Sons
                  Wretched Tenants
                  A Wedding Banquet
                  Paying Taxes
                  Marriage in the Resurrection
                  The Greatest Commandment
                  Jesus asks the Pharisees a Question
                  8 Woes
2123 - 2339
The End of the Age
                  Matthew 24 Time-line
                  General Details
                  Return is Unexpected
                  Wise and Wicked Servants
                  Wise and Foolish Virgins
                  Sheep and Goats
24 and 25


The Plan of God and the Plots of Men 261-16
The Passover Feast 2617-30
Jesus Warns Apostles of Denial 2631-35
Gethsemane 2636-46
Jesus Betrayed and Arrested 2645-56
Before the Sanhedrin 2657-68
Peter's Denial 2669-75
Judas Hangs Himself 273-10
Jesus Before Pilate 271,2, 11-31
Christ Crucified! 2732-56
Jesus Buried and Guarded! 2757-66
Jesus has Risen from the Dead 281-15
Guards are Bribed to Lie 2811-15
The Great Commission 2816-20

Introduction       [Contents]

Matthew was chosen by Jesus to be one of his 12 apostles.
He wrote his account in Greek (probably in Syrian Antioch in the early 50's AD).
He emphasises how much Jesus fulfilled OT prophecy and his Jewish heritage.
His presentation of events is more chronological than that of Luke and John.

The Genealogy of Jesus  11-17       [Contents]

Why does Matthew begin his gospel with a 16 verse list of names,
      many of which are unknown to most readers?
1. Fulfilment of God's covenant with Abraham.
      All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.  Gen 123
2.      Jesus is the son of Abraham and the son of God.
3. God's unstoppable plan, a miracle of grace during 2000 years.
4. Every name a sinner, except Jesus!

The list is probably truncated and at times gives only the principal names.
We do not know much of these long lists of names; their joys, fears, plans, hopes, faith ...
      Most are lost in time.
      Each were born and then died.
c.f. Jesus!

I am the resurrection and the life.
      He who believes in me will live, even though he dies,
      and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Jn 1125,26
Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.
      Because I live, you also will live.  Jn 1419

Four mothers are included - each with their own story of grace:
      Rahab the (ex)harlot of Jericho
      Ruth the Moabitess married Boaz, great grandfather of David
      The wife of Uriah the Hittite, Bathsheba, mother of Solomon
      Mary the mother of Jesus

Math 11-17  c.f.  Lu 323b-38
Matthew begins with Abraham and goes forward to Joseph.
      He traces the line of Joseph the son of Jacob - the legal line.
Luke reverses the order and goes back to Adam.
      Luke traces the line from Mary's father Heli - the blood line.
Mary and Joseph were both descended from David.
      Mary was descended from David through his son Nathan.  Lu 331
      Joseph was also descended from David, but through Solomon.  Math 16
      As always, God kept his promise to David. 2 Sam 712 Lu 1838

Jesus was descended from Judah not the priestly line of Levi.
      He was priest of a different, eternal order.  Heb 711-28

Zedekiah was the last king before the exile.
Jeconiah (or Neri) was the first king after the exile.
      But Zedekiah was not the father of Jeconiah.  Why?

On God's instruction, Jeremiah cursed the line of the evil king Jehoiachin,
      saying that his line of descent would cease.
None of your offspring will prosper none will sit on the throne of David. Jer 2230
This was fulfilled. The blood-line was broken after Zedekiah,
      when Nebuchadnezzar killed all Zedekiah's sons.  2 Kgs 257
Jesus could never have been born into a cursed line.
After the Babylonian exile, the signet ring (the kingship) was passed
      to the new and righteous 'king', to Shealtiel the son of Jeconiah.
'I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel,' declares the Lord,
      'and I will make you like my signet ring,
      for I have chosen you,' declares the Lord Almighty.
Hag 223

The Birth of Jesus  118-25       [Contents]

This is certainly one of the most amazing events known to man;
      that Almighty God, the Word, who designed and spoke the universe into being,
      who was the great "I Am" before time began, became a little baby boy!
      (Sadly it is not known to all men.)
As Charles Wesley wrote,
      "Our God contracted to a span,
      incomprehensibly made man."

It didn't just happen out of the blue.
      It had all been carefully planned and timed by the Lord God.
      Only now were all the preparations complete;
            And the prophecies could be fulfilled.
            Therefore the Lord shall give you a sign:
            Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
            and shall call his name Immanuel.
 Is 714 (KJV) Math 123

What preparations had God made?
      No rich palace had been built. Just a stable.
      No modern communications system had been installed. Just Angels.
      No magnificent white horse for the Messiah to ride into Jerusalem.
            Just a donkey for his heavily pregnant mother.
Was God careless? Certainly not. Just different; so very different from us.
      The salvation of men was much too important.
      Besides God is never careless even in the smallest details.
So what does he reveal of his preparation plans?
      The elderly Elizabeth had conceived just 6 months earlier -
            (like Abraham's barren Sarah 2,000 years at the dawn of Jewish history).
            She would mother the greatest Jewish prophet - John the Baptist.
                  John would prepare Israel, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near."
                  "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."
      A few months earlier he had placed a special star in the east.
            This had summoned a very small group of Magi to come to Jerusalem.
                  They sought a special king. They found a baby, but what a baby!
      He chose the elderly Simeon and Anna to expect the Messiah in the Temple.
            Both found him and told their friends.
      He sent his Archangel Gabriel to Mary to tell her of his amazing choice.
            Mary was naturally more than surprised,
                  but accepted the news with humility and thanksgiving.
                  But how could she give birth to a child whilst remaining a virgin?
      And Joseph, who was pledged to marry her, what would he say?
            Who's the father? Would he believe her?
            And later what would the child do when he grew up?
            God sent another angel to answer both these questions.
            Mary's child is from the Holy Spirit.  A startlingly brief answer.
            And 'Yeshua' will save his people from their sins.  Yes, but how?
                  In dreams (unlike visions) there is no opportunity for questions.
                  In his place I would like to have asked several.
                  But God knew his man; Joseph was both patient and obedient.
                  He did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him.
            Such was the love that this just and righteous man had for Mary,
                  he did not want to expose her to public disgrace.
            Joseph was both wise and patient.
                  He that believeth shall not make haste.  Is 2816 (KJV)
At this time, and at all others, Almighty God knows what he is doing.
      He never lacks power, or finance, imagination or time, ability or wisdom.

King David, who was born in the natural way to Jesse and his wife, wrote
      I am fearfully and wonderfully made ...
      I was made in secret, and curiously wrought ...
  Ps 13914,15
With today's knowledge of obstetrics, we share even more in David's wonder.
      No mere man can even begin to understand the virgin birth of God!
      We can but bow before the Lord of all creation for this conception miracle.

Many mocked the righteous Mary and accused Jesus of being illegitimate.  Jn 841
Some today go to the other extreme and call Mary 'immaculate'.
But she denies such claims saying, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.  Lu 247
Some also falsely declare that she did not die but was taken up into heaven,
      like Elijah. This is totally unsubstantiated.
Mary is a lady who richly deserves to be honoured, but not prayed to.

The child was to have two names:
      Jesus (Joshua - Heb: Yeshua) = Saviour.
            God's purpose for his life on earth was to save his people from their sins.
            World rulers delight to call themselves: Great, Conqueror, Magnificent ...
            How different from Almighty God on earth who chose humility.
      Emmanuel = God with us.
            What a privilege. Friend of sinners, seeker of the lost, ate with the poor.
            Power to heal, deliver and control elements; yet gentle and compassionate.

How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believers ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
'Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary, rest.

Dear Name, the Rock on which I build,
My Shield and Hiding Place,
My never failing treasury, filled
With boundless stores of grace!

By Thee my prayers acceptance gain,
Although with sin defiled;
Satan accuses me in vain,
And I am owned a child.

Jesus! my Shepherd, Husband, Friend,
O Prophet, Priest and King,
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
Accept the praise I bring.

The Wise Magi  21-12       [Contents]

What was the Star? Speculation abounds.
      It was not a conjunction of planets (where 2 or more planets come in line)
      These occur every 2 months, so are much too common to be a 'sign'.
Much more important is what is the Message of the Magi?
      What is the significance of this story that is only told by Matthew?
What is God telling us?
The 'Star' was ordered by the King of the Universe
because a small group of astronomers in Babylon were seeking him earnestly.
      Such is the amazing grace of God.
      He arranged this special event in the sky to draw a small group of Gentiles
      to be at the right place, at exactly the right time.
      In our search for salvation most of us can witness to some 'God-incidences'.
      though not quite so spectacular an event as this star!

Four things to note about the star:
      1. It was seen in the east. And only in the east. How could that happen?
            It must have appeared over the eastern horizon shortly before dawn;
            and then disappeared with all the other stars as the sun rose.
            If it had been in the east in the early evening it would have moved
            across the night sky from E to W with all the other stars.
      2. Although the star was seen in the east; the wise men travelled west! Why?
            They knew where the Messiah king would be born, but not when.
            The star was a sign to go now.
      3. This special 'Shekinah-type' star did not draw anyone else to seek the King -
            so it was probably only understood by these few.
            God was pleased to give their longing eyes wisdom.
      4. The bright star that only appears in the east for an hour before dawn
            is 'The Morning Star'. This name for Jesus in Rev 2216 is no accident.
The star that had appeared to the Magi in Babylon, then seems to have left them.
      Math 22 says: We SAW (past tense) his star in the east.
      And Herod asked them the exact time the star HAD appeared.  27
      They knew where to go - to Jerusalem in Judea.
      In Jerusalem they were told what the prophet Micah had written
            that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  Mic 52
      They set off, and immediately the star re-appeared. They rejoiced.  29,10
      They 'followed' the star from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.
      A 1 hour journey - due south. There it 'stopped'.
      Like the sun, all stars appear to move slowly E to W across the sky,
            as the earth rotates. They never move south. And they don't stop.

This star that heralded the birth of the Son of God on earth was certainly
      a very, very special one, created by Father for this very special occasion.
      And rightly so.
      The Almighty had waited a long time for this right moment.

Why were these Persian Magi expecting a Jewish King?
      And how would it affect them?
The answer lies in Daniel 9.
      Daniel had been in Babylon all his long life.
      Every day he prayed - 3 times a day.  Dan 610
      He prayed for Jerusalem, for a righteous king and a righteous people.
      After 66 years of daily prayer God sends Gabriel with his answer.
Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your city (Jerusalem)
      the Anointed One will come.
      he will finish transgression
      put an end to sin
      atone for wickedness
      bring in everlasting righteousness
      to seal up the vision
      to anoint the most holy.
      And it will be in times of trouble.
  Dan 924-26
Daniel had served Nebuchadnezzar for over 40 years
      and then lived a further 26 years in Babylon surrounded by 50 idol temples.
      All his life he longed with all his heart for truth and righteousness;
      he longed for the Jewish Messiah to come.
Now well in his 80's God came to give him a solemn promise, an assurance,
      that though it wouldn't be in his lifetime, the Anointed One would come.
      Daniel recorded this promise; and some Babylonian sages shared his longing.
      What would be the sign of his coming?
      How would they know this Anointed One had come?
We are not told exactly.
      But over 500 years would pass.
      Then God told these Gentile Magi that the day had arrived.
      This special star was the sign for them for whom their hearts yearned.
They immediately set off on their 1,000 mile camel ride to Jerusalem.
      They had only one question. Where is the King?
      In Bethlehem they were told.
Guided by the Star they found a helpless little baby - the king of the Jews!
The Magi were not disappointed, but overjoyed to worship their heart's desire.
      They saw the King of the universe, who would become their king too.
These considerate and prophetic Magi presented their gifts to their king:
      Gold for the Royal Family's flight to Egypt
      Frankincense for the fragrant offering of prayer
      Myrrh for the burial of the Messiah King.
Math 811,12 says, Many (Gentiles) will come from east and west ...
      These wise men from the east seeking the Saviour were just the start!

Compare these men to Herod
Herod was an Edomite, descended from Esau; so he was not a Jew.
      God had declared, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.  Mal 12,3
      These are strong words. Totally at variance with the modern concept of God.
      Malachi did not get it wrong. God revealed the truth to him.
      Jacob the cheat became Israel, who prevailed with God,
      such was his longing for the Lord Almighty.
      But his elder twin brother Esau despised his birthright -
      The promise of God to Abraham and Isaac to bless him and all nations.
      He preferred a bowl of soup! What an insult.
      Macho Esau and the Edomites never had any hunger for the Lord.
      They could manage on their own without God very well, thank you.
      Herod had no longing for a Saviour; he felt no grief over sin.
      Have any of you been to Petra, 'the rose red city' in Jordan, cut out of rock?
      It was the principal town of the Edomites, like Mazada that Herod built.
      It was so easy to defend, they said, Who can bring us down to the ground?
      The prophet Obadiah gives God's answer to the arrogance of Edom.
      The pride of your heart has deceived you ... though you soar like an eagle
           and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,
           declares the Lord.  Obed 13,4  And he did.
      There was no military battle, God just changed the trade route.
           Petra became totally isolated in the middle of the desert.
           Today it is just a tourist attraction in southern Jordan.
      It was just like when God scattered the proud men of Babel.
      And today the same proud Edomite spirit is building the EU - on sand!
Herod was an Edomite.
Herod was an energetic cruel megalomaniac.
      But he was also plagued with uncertainty.
      He couldn't bear the thought of losing his throne.
      He was made king by Rome - the Gentile super-power of the day.
      He murdered his first wife (1st of 10) who threatened his throne.
      He murdered 3 of his sons, his mother in law and his brother in law.
      He also killed 45 Sadducees to use their estates to pay his Roman tax.
And now the Messiah had come to whom the kingship belonged. Gen 4910
      To Herod the threat was appalling. So he murdered all the children.
      Wickedness always clashes with the kingdom of Christ.
Herod saw Jesus as a threat, instead of the Saviour he so greatly needed.
But even with all his murderous nature and power,
      he could not thwart the plan of God to redeem sinful men.
Esau and Herod are so different from Jacob and the wise men
      who so persistently sought for the Lord - and were not disappointed.

What about the Chief Priests, the religious leaders?
      They knew where Messiah would come from (Mic 52)
      but amazingly they did absolutely nothing to seek him -
           either then or later.
As Jesus said to them, You diligently search the scriptures
      because you think that by them you possess eternal life.
      These are the scriptures that testify about me,
      yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
 Jn 539,40
Why are men so blind to their eternal plight?
      Jesus gives us the answer: This is the verdict: Light has come into the world,
      but they loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Jn 319
Tragically, they seemed to have no desire for the Lord himself.
Were Anna and Simeon the only two who walked in the Temple longing for God?
Like many before and since,
      Herod's officials and these religious leaders preferred the slavery of sin
      in preference to the glorious liberty of the children of God.
Some even had the knowledge of Scripture in their heads,
      but there was no grace, no longing for God in their hearts.

So the wise men left Herod's court alone.
There was no one else who desired to worship the new-born king.
Where are the 'wise men' today?
      Amid all the economic uncertainty, the political upheavals,
      the natural climatic disasters, the family squabbles,
      Who will seek the King of the Jews? The Saviour of the world, the Messiah?
      Who will cry with Jacob, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.'
      Who will sell all that he has to buy the pearl of great price?
      How great is your need for forgiveness?
      How hungry is your heart for the great Creator and the Saviour of the world?

On that great day some 2000 years ago,
      Jesus was born King of the Jews - and he died 'King of the Jews'.
These religious men first ignored him and later they crucified him.
      What a way to treat their king!

The Royal Family
Nazareth and Bethlehem were little and insignificant,
      but were chosen by God to be honoured.
Bethlehem (Bet Lehem) is Hebrew for 'the house of Bread'.
      How fitting for the Messiah, the Bread of Life,
      who came down from heaven to save and feed our hungry souls.
      He who comes to me will never go hungry,
      and he who believes in me will never be thirsty ...
      and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.  Jn 635-37
      How fitting that when Jesus was born,
      the shepherds and wise men sought him.
      They worshipped the One who made the whole world, and all the stars.
      Their goal was achieved.
      They had found the One they sought,
           the One who brought life to all,
           the One who would so soon give his life for all.
      This is wisdom.
      This is the message of the Magi.
      It begins with the revelation to Daniel that the Anointed One would come.
      The Magi told their story to Mary and Joseph,
           and then Mary told it to Matthew.
The story is clear proof that God always keeps his word.
           The Anointed One had come.
           The Saviour had been born.
           God had kept his promise.

            If you seek the Lord your God, you will find him
      if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.  Deut 429
      This is God's gracious truth to both Jew and Gentile, rich and poor - to all men.
      Those who truly desire to know Christ, and find him,
      will not be put off by any pains or perils while seeking or following him.
      The Magi must have been surprised at the humility of the birth - a stable!
      But they were not put off. In their worship and giving they became rich.
      They knew something of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
           that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor,
           so that you through his poverty might become rich.  2 Co 89

      Another thing that may well have surprised the Magi:
      apart from a handful of shepherds, where were all the Jews?
      Did no one else seek or care that their King had been born?
      Why did everyone else ignore - or wish to destroy - the Messiah?
      Scripture neither asks, nor answers this question.
      Sadly, the slavery of sin is foolishly preferred by many
           to the glorious liberty of the children of God.

Finally we see that the Magi were obedient to a dream God gave them.
      They did not tell Herod where they had found 'The Man born to be King'.
      A prime characteristic of wisdom is obedience to the one we serve.

Escape to Egypt and Return to Nazareth  213-18       [Contents]

Almighty God gives Joseph responsibility for caring for his Son.
      Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you,
      for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.  213
Joseph obeyed immediately - in the middle of the night!
      He didn't wait till morning.
God knew Herod's evil intent;
      and would never allow Satan to thwart his plan for the salvation of man.
For some it raises the question of why doesn't God stop all such evil plans?
      Why didn't he just stop the brutal murder of all the children of Bethlehem?
      Couldn't he prevent the great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children
      and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.?  218  Jer 3115
      One day he will, but not yet.
      One day there will be no more sin; only righteousness, truth and justice.
Notice how often men of power have evil intent and are enemies of the truth.
      Do not envy either their power or their wealth.
      Few rich men walk in the way of salvation or enter heaven.

Jesus was a 'Man of Sorrows' from the start, and had to flee to Egypt.
How long the 'royal family' stayed there is not recorded;
      only that it was until the death of Herod.  215  (probably 4 BC)
Herod, the murderer of many of his own family as well as the Bethlehem babies,
      died painfully of several diseases in God's sovereign timing.
      Pride and the love of money and power are the commonest of sins.
      Humility is the rarest and most beautiful of characteristics.
      Pray for this grace.

For the third time an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph:
      Take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel,
      for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead.  220
      Better than emails and text messages!
      And again Joseph obeyed.

Thus God fulfilled three more prophecies:
      The 'weeping.'  Jer 3115
      Out of Egypt I called my son.  Hos 111
      He will be called a Nazarene.  (Gk. kept, guarded, preserved)

John the Baptist Prepares the Way  31-17       [Contents]

The gospel narrative jumps forward some 30 years.
And God's perfect plan unfolds with a mighty prophet preaching:
      Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.  32
      Jesus also began his ministry with the same plea.  47
      This remains a vital emphasis for today as we await his 2nd Coming.
      Natural man thinks and behaves so differently from what God desires.  Is 558
John spoke in the desert of Judea near the Jordan river;
      thus fulfilling another prophecy.  Is 403
Many went to hear him from Jerusalem - hungry for God and a righteous life.
      Like many Englishmen went to hear George Whitfield and John Wesley.
      Each of them also had to endure much criticism and rotten eggs etc!
Those who obeyed God's command and confessed their sin were baptised.
Many Pharisees and Sadducees came: with them John was very direct:
      You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? ...
      I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me will come one
      who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry.
      He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
      His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor,
      gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
 37, 11,12
John's baptism was symbolic of what had taken place in their hearts,
      by the power and grace of Holy Spirit.
John taught about the great need for real repentance in baptism.
      But there is more; Jesus would baptise with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
      The Counsellor would bring the revelation of Scripture, the truth that saves.
      There must be the work of Christ for us and the work of the Spirit in us.
      The Holy Spirit will gather 'his wheat' into his barn;
      and until then 'his wheat' is in safe hands.
The baptism of Jesus is with the Spirit and also with fire; unquenchable fire!
      The fire of judgement for those who reject him.
      This is no trifling, casual word, but a matter of the highest importance.
      Few today hear such words; partly because they are rarely spoken!
John refused to baptise the Pharisees;
      for their fruit was not in keeping with repentance.  38
      He pre-empted their excuse, 'We have Abraham for our father.'  39
      If only they had the same 'God-changed' heart that Abraham did.
      Jesus would later challenge them about who their father really was.  Jn 837-47
      If you were Abraham's children then you would do the things Abraham did.
     ... If God were your Father, you would love me ...
      The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.  Jn 837-47
John's clothing and food was simple and humble; like that of his Master.
      There was no showy dress or manner, nothing princely or fashionable.
      He cared far more about his spiritual work than his appearance.
      His objective was not to make an impression, but to save the souls of men.
John was from the line of Aaron,
      but unlike his father, he never served in the Temple.
His elderly parents died while he was young, and it seems quite likely that
      he then spent some years with the Essenes.
      They emphasised:
      Water baptism and cleansing.
      Longed for Messiah to come
      Hated the hypocritical Pharisees and Sadducees (+ Temple life)
      Preferred simple desert life, living in caves near Ein Gedi.
           (Very different from life in Jerusalem)

Jesus was baptised by John
      because it is proper to do this to fulfil all righteousness.  315
      He is the only person who could have said that he was sinless
      and thus had no need of John's baptism of repentance.
      But he took the path of humility
      and chose to honour John's ministry before starting his own.
      John's submitted to the request of Jesus - though he did not understand it.
      When a priest became 30 and took up his office, he was washed in water.
      When Jesus began his ministry he was also washed, not in the Temple,
      but by John in the Jordan river. It was indeed a fitting beginning.

When Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and God spoke.
John saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.  316
      How can anyone 'see' the Spirit? John did!
      And he heard God the Father speak,
      'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'  317  Ps 27  Is 421
      Thus the Trinity of God was present at this great event.
      It was good for both John and Jesus to hear these words from the heart of God.
This first public event summarises the whole purpose of his coming:
      his death and resurrection to redeem sinful men
      and to bestow his righteousness upon us.
Here we see the completeness of the Trinity in action:
      The Father speaks, the Spirit descends, and the Son begins his life-saving work.

Satan Tempts Jesus, but is Defeated  41-11       [Contents]

It was the Spirit of God who led Jesus into the desert to do battle with Satan.
Satan's power should not be under-rated, nor over-rated.
      He is Prince of this world, but never King.
      He was not afraid to attack even the Son of God.
      This murderer, liar, arch-enemy of our souls is always near and never sleeps.
      He has one objective: to deceive and ensure all men finish in hell.
Being tempted is not sin; but giving in to it is.
We pray 'Lead us not into temptation', but that is precisely what the Spirit did.
      And then continue, 'Deliver us from evil' - which he both did, and does.
In that he himself has suffered being tempted,
      he is able to help those who are tempted.
 Heb 218

Satan's first thrust was to try to sow doubt -
      If you are the Son of God ...  33
      Jesus knew very well who he was.
      Had he not heard the voice of his Father say This is my beloved Son ...
      Maybe Satan had not heard these words by the Jordan river.
      Or perhaps he hoped that Jesus had forgotten them.
      But he hadn't. As Jesus makes clear in his answer.
           Man lives on every word that comes from the mouth of God.  44
      If only Eve had made the same response when Satan tempted her to doubt
           saying, Did God really say ...  Gen 31
How did Jesus meet each temptation that Satan threw at him with such cunning?
      It is written ...  44,7,10
      God's Word (all Scripture) is always reliable, totally true, very powerful.
      Take ... the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.  Eph 617
Paul lists in this section how we need to put on the full armour of God.  Eph 611
      It is the only way to stand against the devil's schemes.
      The belt of truth
      The breastplate of righteousness
      Walking shoes with the gospel of peace
      The shield of faith
      The sword of the Spirit
      Pray and keep alert.

What were the temptations laid before Jesus during his 40 day fast?

1. Tell these stones to become bread.
      Jesus was hungry - which is not a sin!
      But miracles for self indulgence are.

2. Throw yourself off the highest point of the Temple.
      for he will command his angels concerning you and not let you be hurt.
      Miracles are not for a selfish demonstration of power.
      Satan had abused Scripture, although not misquoted it.
           Besides he was speaking to the Word made flesh!

3. I will give you all the kingdoms of the world if you will worship me.
      Satan may temporarily be prince of this world, but he cannot be king.
      The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof.  Ps 241
      And all the grand empires or kingdoms of men will soon be blown away,
            like the chaff before the wind.  Dan 235, 44
      Jesus rightly quotes Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.  Dt 613
      He tells Satan to go! And he does.
            Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Jms 47
      Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.  411
           God fulfills the very scripture that Satan had twisted.  Ps 9111,12
            He sent angels to strengthen and sustain his victorious Son.

Satan does not give up easily. If one attack fails he will try another.
He always attacks when and where he perceives we are most vulnerable.
Our God will protect his children; but we need to be both alert and trusting.
      God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.
      But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out
      so that you can stand up under it. 1 Co 1013 (also 1Jn 518)
And if and when we do fall, our God is full of mercy when we confess our sin.  1Jn 19 21

Jesus begins to Preach, Call and Heal  412-25       [Contents]

John dared to criticise Herod's unlawful behaviour; so he was imprisoned.  Lu 319
When Jesus heard of this he returned to Galilee, to Zebulun and Naphtali,
      thus again fulfilling what was prophesied. Is 91,2
After he was rejected at Nazereth (Lu 414-30), he began to preach in Capernaum.
      From that time on Jesus began to preach,
      'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.'  417
      The same expression that John had preached.  32
      'From that time on' this was part of what Jesus taught.
      Mark gives us further detail:
      'The time has come,' he said. 'The kingdom of God is near.
           Repent and believe the good news!'  Mk 115
      Believe the 'good news' that the Saviour had come to forgive sin,
           to change our sinful nature, to be 'born again'.
           Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.  Jn 336

Jesus had met John, Andrew and Peter down by the Jordan.  Jn 135-42
      They then returned to Galilee and fishing.
      Now Jesus, who had also returned to Galilee, finds them plus James.
      His walking beside the Sea of Galilee (Math 418) was no casual accident,
           but a divine appointment to call the four fishermen to a new ministry.
           One that would be for life and impact the whole world.
           Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.  419
           They obeyed immediately and Jesus fulfilled his promise.
      Jesus did not go to Herod's court or the Temple to choose his disciples,
           but to the banks of the Jordan river and Galilee.
           There he found these poor, earnest, hardworking, God-seeking men.
           Like Samuel found David,
           a keeper of sheep who became a 'Shepherd of Israel'.

Jesus went throughout Galilee,
      teaching in their synagogues,
      preaching the good news of the kingdom,
      and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
      News about him spread ... 423,24a
      Jesus healing of the people was not to prove his ministry or advertise it,
      but because he had compassion on the many needful people.
      He had created man perfect, now he wanted to restore them -
            in body and soul. No disease was too difficult, too ingrained.

The 8 Beatitudes  51-12       [Contents]

This is the first part of 3 chapters often called 'The Sermon on the Mount'.
It should be noted that it is only a selection of what Jesus taught.
      For instance, Luke describes the Beatitudes as 4 blessings + 4 'Woes'.
      No doubt Jesus taught both, and maybe other variations.
      Almighty God has chosen to record just these two selections.
May I recommend Dr Lloyd-Jones and William Tyndale especially,
      who have written excellent commentaries on the Beatitudes.

These 8 blessings by Jesus are an orderly statement of the normal steps
      on the road to becoming a true, well taught believer.
      (Some count 510-12 as two blessings and thus make 9 Beatitudes)

1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  53
This does not refer to our financial state. It applies to both rich and poor alike.
      A rich man can be poor as was the young man who came to Jesus
      and questioned him about what he had to do to gain eternal life.
      He went away sad because he was not 'poor in spirit'.  Math 1916-24
      Consider also the story of the rich man and Lazarus.  Lu 1619-31
      Lazarus did not gain his seat in heaven because he was a beggar,
      but because he knew what it was to be 'poor in spirit'.
      Blessed are the rich who have no confidence in their riches,
      Blessed are the poor who do not covet wealth;
      Blessed are all men who know their poverty before Almighty God,
      who know there is nothing they have and nothing they can do
      to earn God's approval, his forgiveness or become righteous before him.
      Blessed is the man who sings, 'Nothing in my hand I bring ...'
      For such men know their true estate - abject poverty.
      When Jacob sought to return to Israel after his years with Laban,
      he sent all his belongings and family ahead, and pleaded with God;
      in poverty of spirit he cried, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.'
      And God did indeed bless him. Although all the rest of his life he limped,
      and leaned heavily upon his staff, that is, upon Jesus his Redeemer.

2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  54
This also does not refer to our physical state; bereavement, pain, suffering ...
      Many are the causes of tears in this world and sorrows are common to all.
      This phrase is specific to mourning about our sin and its just consequence.
      It applies to those who see no way to avoid the anguish of God's judgement,
      no way to heaven, not even a distant light, only a solid barrier.
      God has an answer to those who cry, 'what must I do to be saved?'
      Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptised, every one of you,
      in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.
      And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
      The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off.'
 Act 237-41
      That day God fulfilled his promise; some 3,000 were blessed.
      Those who mourned were indeed comforted - and without delay.
      Such men know the amazing relief of sins fully forgiven.

3. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  55
After poverty and mourning comes the time when the light of God begins to shine
      No man can stand proud before Almighty God, especially the crying poor.
      It must be a meek, teachable heart that hears the gracious truth of salvation.
      How Jesus, the very Son of God came and was crucified for me.
      On the cross he bore the punishment I deserve, but could not pay.
      He rose from the dead to lead us alive and righteous into heaven.
      There he is now our great Advocate in heaven. Better than the best QC.
      He opens our hearts to the scriptures and confirms its truth.
      He gives us a new heart and a new spirit.
      Yes. The meek who once only knew poverty and tears, begin to know truth.
      No man can be more blessed that when he learns of and believes in Jesus.
      He is far richer than a man who has been given the whole world!!
      With meekness walks patience. Such a man is earnest and determined.
      Even if learning is hard and others mock, truth will encourage the meek.
Why is meekness rare? Few are willing to walk the first two essential steps.
      Men love to be proud of their achievements, displaying cups and trophies.
      But the meek display a cross, and even that is not their own.
      God hates pride; it is the opposite of meekness. Jesus taught about a man
      who prayed, 'Father I thank you that I am not like other men ...'  Lu 189-14
      He inherited nothing except God's anger!

4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  56
Many long to be kind, patient, honest, wise ... they make resolutions.
      Some train hard. But sooner or later (usually sooner!), find it impossible.
      Those who would be 'filled' hunger not just for these worthy goals,
      but their longing is for righteousness. God's righteousness.
      This he gives only to those who have been enabled to believe in Jesus.
      Those who took each of the first three steps.
      Men who eat and drink to satisfy their hunger and thirst, are satisfied.
      But next day the hunger and thirst return.
      So also in the spiritual life, every day we hunger and God feeds us.
      As in the years of the exodus, God fed them daily manna.
      Every day we long for God's righteousness, to be and think like Jesus.
      God remains faithful, even when we fail and again seek forgiveness.
      He is a skilled master craftsman who will not leave his work unfinished.

5. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  57
If we have received such great mercy by God, shall we not be merciful to others?
      Jesus told the story of a servant who owed much and was forgiven;
      but the servant refused to forgive another who owed little. Math 1823-35
      We pray 'Father, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us'.
      The Lord has ordained that mercy is like two-way traffic.
      Mercy flows in, mercy flows out. Mercy flows out, mercy flows in.
      The Samaritan who cared for the man on the way to Jericho showed mercy
      He had immediate compassion for his 'neighbour'.  Lu 1030-37
      Father, keep me from being self-satisfied, proud, unforgiving. I find it so easy.
      Yet there is absolutely no real grounds for it.
      May I be eagre to share with any less fortunate.

6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
All who have by the grace of God taken these five steps on the road to salvation,
      will continue to long for a pure heart, pure thoughts, pure motives.
      So often our thoughts and motives are tainted and stained.
      I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
      For what I do is not the good I want to do;
      no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing ...
      What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
      Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!  Ro 718-25
      Indeed so. Only the indwelling Christ can transform my heart.
      And he has promised to transform us; to make us a holy people.
      But Lord, why does it take so long?
      The day will come, and in that day we shall see the One whom we love.
      Dear friends, now are we the children of God,
      and what we will be has not yet been made known.
      But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him,
      for we shall see him as he is.  1Jn 32

7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.  59
Who are the peacemakers that Jesus here commends?
      It is not those who employ endless shuttle diplomacy to settle national wars.
      It is far more than policemen who strive to keep society honest and peaceful.
      These peacemakers work to bring alien men to have peace with God.
      They are evangelists, preachers of the gospel, all whose life is to save souls.
      They pray earnestly and witness to the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.
      They tell their friends and everyone they can about what Jesus has done.
      These are the real peacemakers that Jesus calls 'sons of God'.
      The treaties of men are founded on fear and honoured when convenient.
      But the word of God and his promises cannot and will not ever be broken.

8. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
      for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 510
All believers seek to share the 'good news' they have received,
      and are thus 'peace with God'-makers; but many are violently opposed.
      Satan will do his utmost to prevent real peace on earth.
      (He also likes military war because people are killed and maimed.)
      The persecution of believers in Christ is almost inevitable.
      All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.  2Tim 312
Remember the words I spoke to you:
      No servant is greater than his master.
      If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.  Jn 1520
      If men rise up against us and sneer, ridicule, insult, abuse, imprison ...
      may we never complain, or say it isn't fair;
      but remember what Jesus instructed us to do:
           Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.  512
      See how evil men have always treated the prophets and righteous men,
           the Reformation martyrs burned at the stake.
      They each bore their trials with amazing courage for they were not alone;
           the Spirit of the Lord was with them mightily.
      Let us today pray earnestly for those imprisoned and killed for Christ.
      And afterwards, (in the last days) I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
      Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
      your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
      Even on my servants, both men and women,
      I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
      I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth,
      blood and fire and billows of smoke.
      The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood
      before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
      And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  Joel 228-32

In each of these eight steps God declares the we shall find blessedness.
      Not hedonistic happiness that is so much sought by modern men,
      but the soul that is content in God's presence now. We do not walk alone.
      What more can any man ask for in this world?
Almighty God also gives an appropriate promise with each step for the future.
      In his grace we may have a foretaste now.
      If he gave it in all fulness immediately we would be overwhelmed.

The Sermon on the Mount  513 - 729       [Contents]

No man can keep the Jewish Law on his own, however hard we may try.
But Jesus takes the Law many steps further.
      Thus he closed off every avenue of human endeavour
      and makes us all totally dependent on divine grace for obedience.
His teaching emphasises that the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ
      that we might be justified by faith.  Gal 224
We are neither able to keep the law nor pay the punishment for disobeying it.
Almighty God has the only answer to our despair: he sent his Son.
      He paid in full the punishment we deserve.
      And he gives us new birth, a new heart that can obey him.

In the next three chapters Jesus examines many different parts of the Law,
      and opens our minds to his purpose in it.
      The Law of God is much more extensive and good than is commonly supposed.

Salt and Light  513-16       [Contents]

You are the salt of the earth ... you are the light of the world ...  513-16
Salt was primarily used to preserve food.
A salty environment prevents microbes and bacteria from multiplying.
      So a disciple of Jesus will greatly discourage wickedness to thrive.
Most of the world walks in darkness; their path is random and their end unknown.
But God guides his children through all the twisting 'country lanes' of life.
      His path for us is not a multi-lane motorway.
      His true guiding Word is far better than Satnav!
His sure promise is for eternal life with him in heaven.
      Such security and hope are not found in blind darkness.
May our lives be a shining example to all,
      of the grace and compassion of God,
      his kindness and encouragement,
      his humility and strength,
      his wisdom and truthfulness.
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?
      And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?
      And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  Ro 1014
Preaching is not confined to pulpits, but can be our daily witness to others.
Thus we can be both the salt and the light that this world so badly needs.
William Tyndale wrote: 'True preaching is a salting that stirreth up persecution ...
      The pope's pardons must be rebuked; the abuse of the mass, of the sacraments,
      and of all the ceremonies must be rebuked and salted.
      And selling of merits, and of prayers (to the saints or Mary) must be salted.'
      Finally, salt is the true understanding of the law, of faith
      and the intent of all good works. ...
      If the salt has lost his saltiness, it is good for nothing ...
      And what if the doctrine be not true salt?
      Verily then it is to be trodden under foot. ...
      We have as strait a commandment, to salt and rebuke all ungodliness,
      as had the prophets.'

Let us strive to be salt in this world, to make right what is clearly wrong,
      to reveal and share the truth of God's word
      so that all men may learn to call upon the name of the Lord for mercy.
Before the Lord called and revealed the truth to his apostles,
      they were all unknown and obscure men.
      He changed them to be the men who turned the world upside down.
      They shone and made known 'The Light of the World'.
No man, however talented, intelligent, devoted to good works, rich or powerful
      can illuminate the world with the light of God
      unless he first knows his own sin and is saved by the sacrifice of Christ.
Thus, this salt and light is not limited to priests,
      but is given to all who believe and trust in Christ the Saviour.
Salt also makes food taste good.
May we make the gospel 'taste' good to all who are now ignorant of the truth.
      May Jesus become a treasure to them instead of a swear-word;
      the true light that brings revelation to all who call upon his name.
Both salt and light are distinctive, different - may we be so too.

Jesus Came to Fulfill the Law  517-20       [Contents]

I have not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; ... but to fulfil them. 517-20
'The Law and the Prophets' includes all the OT scriptures.
      Because Jesus fulfilled it, some of the ceremonial laws are now obsolete.
      But beware that we do not exceed this and discard laws we object to.
      Freedom today is rightly prized but we are not free to do whatever we like.
      In these three chapters (5-7) Jesus expounds the laws that were not abolished.
No man can be saved by good works or the astute keeping of the law.
We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in the sacrifice of Jesus alone.
      This is what the sacrificial laws looked forward to, and Jesus fulfilled.

No man or government can change God's law to suit their own preferences;
      or in our arrogance think we know better today what is best.
      God hates it when men call good evil, and evil good. When they legislate:
      Homosexuality is natural and good.
      Abortion is not murder but a woman's right.
      Sunday trading, sport, and anything is ok on the Sabbath.
      Marriage doesn't matter, easy divorce, civil partnerships.
      Interfaith is popular, but Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists worship idols.
      Covetousness is encouraged, debt, consumerism, national lottery.
      But God's commandments stand unchanged to challenge men's folly.
      They remain the best designer's instructions for right living.
Jesus fulfilled all the law. He never sinned or broke any of the Law.
      He also fulfilled 'the Prophets', he came as the promised Saviour.
      God and his Law demand punishment for sin - and still do.
      Jesus bore all the punishment I deserve, but cannot pay.
      The just death penalty! Impure blood is of no value.
Jesus said: I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear,
      not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen,
      will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
There is still more of the Law to be accomplished:
      The earth is not yet righteous.
      Israel is not yet honoured.
      We still pray for the kingdom of God to come.
      Jesus is not yet acknowledged as king, but one day he will be.
All the Old Testament sought the redemptive answer for man's sin
      and prophesied God's solution. A perfect sacrifice had to be made.
The NT does not annul the OT. Jesus here affirms the authority of all scripture.
Pharisaical compliance to the law was largely external and led to pride.
      If it had been 'of the heart' they would have welcomed the Son of God,
      the one for whom their souls longed.
      Few cried, 'Lord have mercy upon me, a sinner.'
      No one can enter the kingdom of heaven except he cry thus.
      For no one yet has ever been able to keep the law - except Jesus.

Murder and Hatred  521-26       [Contents]

Murder was always subject to judgement, but so is the anger that leads to it.
At the very start Cain was jealous of his brother Abel, who knew God had accepted his sacrifice.
      But Cain refused to heed the Lord's personal warning that sin is crouching at your door;
      it desires to have you, but you must master it.
 Gen 47
Cain ignored the Lord and planned murder - and paid a very high price.
If we are wronged by a brother (or sister!) let us heed the words of the Master.
Hatred, anger, jealousy, revenge each destroy a man and lead to judgement.
World history is littered with such examples that lead to war and death;
      both national and personal - the written and the unknown.
The desire of Jesus is to spare us the danger of the fire of hell. 522
      His instruction is Settle matters quickly with your adversary.  525
      Anger and hated are always very dangerous.
Only the Son of God could say,
      You have heard that it was said ... But I tell you ... I tell you the truth.  521,22,26
      Jesus was not correcting or modifying what was written,
he explained the sin that is behind murder - hatred and extreme pride,
      intrigue that is without any compassion, intentional deceit, jealousy,
      lust for power, public insult, character assassination ...
      Settle these defects with God and men quickly
           else the victim may not be the only one to die!
But Jesus practised what he preached; he loved even those who hated him.
      Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they doing.  Lu 2334
      Though it did not stop him casting the traders out of the Temple.
      Nor did it stop him calling some of the religious leaders hypocrites!
      Jesus could do such things with purity of heart; we cannot.
      So let us never use such actions by Jesus as excuses for our disobedience.
This instruction refers especially to our 'Brothers' (and sisters), fellow believers.
      Most of us are ashamed when we read these instructions of our Master.
      In the church we often failed to truly love our brothers - all of them.
      Some are as difficult to love as I must be for others.
      Let us learn to settle matters quickly, and be reconciledbefore worship.  524,25

Adultery, Lust and Divorce  527-32       [Contents]

As with murder, Jesus here deals with the sin that leads to adultery. Lust.
This is nothing new to either men or women.
      What has changed in recent years is the social consequence.
      Today there is no shame.
      Media and fashion flagrantly encourage sexual lust.
      Faithfulness in marriage is rare;
      and marriage itself has become an afterthought or even a refusal for many.
      Why marry if it will probably lead to the protracted problems of divorce!?
      It is little wonder that the world has become 'like in the days of Noah',
      and that family breakups are so common and costly.
Natural God-created passion is good and pure,
      but it must never be allowed to rule unbridled - or be outside of marriage.
      Any such idea is scorned by the vast majority of UK's young generation.
      But scorn does not avoid the consequence of sin that Jesus warned us of:
      It is better for you to lose one part of your body
      than for your whole body to go into hell.  530
If any individual should choose to ignore this instruction,
      he, or she, will surely suffer greatly - and probably in this world too.
      God is not mean and restrictive; he knows what is best for us.
As a nation if we choose to be unfaithful and ignore marriage vows,
      or be so reckless as to live together and not make any such binding vows,
      then, as a nation, we will fail. The fabric of society will disintegrate.
      The fall will hurt badly.
      It is far better to heed the words of the Creator, the designer of all we see.
      But even this is officially completely denied today in education.

Oaths  533-37       [Contents]

If I make a promise, will I keep it? Or does it depend on the cost?
If I give my word to anyone, can men depend upon it whatever happens?
      Or is my word a sort of half-promise with a easy let-out clause attached?
Jesus is obviously not saying here that the God-ordained marriage vow is wrong.
Nor is the oath given in court to speak the truth, no additions or subtractions.
Deceit in a democracy is almost inevitable; it is certainly common.
      In order to win votes a leader must say what he thinks is popular.
      The same is all too often true in trade. Honesty is rarely spoken freely.
Imagine how good it would be if Jesus could say to us all, as he said to Nathaniel,
      'Behold a people in whom there is no guile.'
What price the truth? And especially if it is a specific word.
      'I sware by Almighty God to tell the truth, the whole truth,
      and nothing but the truth.'
      Our courts of law would be very different if these oaths were seriously kept.
      But having failed to keep such an oath, it would be much better
           if the name of Almighty God had not been invoked.
           He might just act in judgement upon the lies told!

There are at least two oaths in scripture that were bitterly regretted.
1. Saul. He promised before a battle with the Philistines
      that anyone who ate during the battle would die.
      His son Jonathan was already busy putting the enemy to rout
      and didn't know his father's oath.
      Being very weary he ate some wild honey to restore his strength.
      But it was by popular vote and a substantial humiliation of king Saul
      that Jonathan was not put to death.  1Sam 1424-45
2. Jephthah. Vowed to sacrifice to the Lord whatever first came out of his house
      when he returned home, if God enabled him to defeat the Ammonites.
      His own daughter was the first! And he had to keep his vow.  Judges 1129-39
Jesus clearly commanded us not to take flippant or deceptive oaths,
      never to lie or deceive, but to always to speak the truth whatever the cost.

An Eye for an Eye - No More and No Less!  538-42       [Contents]

This statement of law is often misunderstood and used to justify harsh revenge.
It was to enforce the law that limited revenge born of bitterness.
      'Let the punishment fit the crime', and not exceed it.
Furthermore it was for the court to enforce justice, not the individual.
      The individual should seek to be kind when facing injustice,
      to be gracious when challenged by unfair demands.

Remember that if God were to repay us as our sins deserve,
      no man on earth would be left alive!
      But instead he chose the path of grace and mercy.
      Let us strive to do likewise, even though it is certainly no easy path.
This and the next command have the same godly roots.

Love Your Enemies  543-48       [Contents]

Does this mean that as a nation, when attacked, we should do nothing?
      Were we wrong on Sept. 3rd 1939 to declare war, when despite warnings,
      Hitler marched into Poland?
Does this mean that as an individual, we should never seek justice when wronged?
Were the Israelites wrong to fight the Amalakites who had killed the Jews,
      who were the weakest and slowest as they trekked across Sinai?
Was Samuel wrong to have killed Agag?
Does our righteous Father automatically welcome all the wicked into heaven?
No, emphatically, in each case;
      But God demonstrates his own love for us, in this:
      while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Ro 58
Without such a clear demonstration, would we ever repent and seek the Lord?
If we are to follow our Master and obey him, how and when must we endeavour
      to love and not to fight, to be kind and not retaliate.
After almost 50 years as a Christian this command remains a dilemma.
      A few examples are fairly obvious (though still difficult),
      but I confess many remain to me without a clear answer.
When persecuted, how must we strive to behave?
'Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.'  Lu 2334
'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.' Act 760
How should we respond to extreme Muslims when they insult Jesus Christ,
      or try to steal the land promised to the Jews?
A similar command is also declared in the OT:
      If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat;
      and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink.  Prov 2521

How to Give  61-4       [Contents]

Never ever boast about what, when or to whom we give. Keep it secret.
      Wherever possible give anonymously.
      Obviously a church treasurer must know a gift aid donor to regain tax.
      Christian charity accounts must by law be available for public scrutiny.
      But beware of dropping subtle, or not so subtle, hints.
For most Westerners it is not what we give, but the extent of what we keep,
      that indicates our gratitude to Jesus and our compassion for the poor .
      How much should I keep for me and my family for 'a rainy day'?
Jesus said, 'Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'  621
Many rich people threw large amounts into the temple treasury.
      But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins,
      worth only a fraction of a penny.
      Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth,
      this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.
      They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty,
      put in everything - all she had to live on.
 Mk 1241-44
The level of devotion of this poor widow is extremely rare.
Her name remains unknown to us,
      but she is one of the most highly honoured in heaven.
She will always be a humbling challenge to us on earth.
We can never even begin to give as God has given to us;
      whatever sacrifices are made they are nothing to boast about.
      Never even try to bargain with God because we have given something;
      or expect some reward. Ridiculous!
      But even in our greedy, hedonistic, consumer society God's truth remains:
      It is more blessed to give than to receive.  Act 2035
      The Lord loves a generous spirit, that keeps it secret how he gives to the poor.

Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.  63
      Never count up what you have given lest we become proud or boastful.
      As Tyndale remarked, if a peacock could hear the evil shrieking of his voice,
      he would not be so proud of the beauty of his tail!

Prayer and Fasting  65-18       [Contents]

Like with giving, Jesus expected all men to pray. But how many do?
The Pharisees loved to be seen giving, praying, and fasting.
      They thought it made them appear righteous.
      But Almighty God sees the heart that is largely invisible to men.
      Likewise today, he still sees our motives that are too often mixed.
Do we still hanker after the praise of men?
      God is neither impressed by the quantity of money nor the quantity of words.
      Is our giving centred upon gratitude to God and compassion for men?
      Are our hearts earnest for God and our goal to serve him well?
Jesus did not leave his disciples feeling condemned;
      he taught them, he encouraged them how to pray :
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
      your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
      Give us today our daily bread.
      Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
      And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
      What a masterpiece in brevity and comprehensiveness.
      There is truth and trust; devotion, dependence and desire, assured hope,
      there is humility, contrition and worship.
      Jesus has given us a great pattern to follow; and promised a high reward.
      A pattern that was born of experience.
      He often sought time to pray.  Lu 612 928 111 1810
Daniel spent 65 years as Prime Minister in Babylon; he prayed 3 times a day.
      What a good habit, what tenacity.
      And he did not give up because some jealous Persians threatened his life.
      Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published,
he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened towards Jerusalem.
Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God,
just as he had done before.
 Dan 68,9

Treasure on Earth or in Heaven?  619-24       [Contents]

Well, where is it to be?
What are our dreams?
Have they changed over the years?
Have we found the 'pearl of great price', sold all and bought the field?  1444-46
Earthly treasure can include power, reputation, popularity, position ...
      As well as finance, pleasure and good health.

Before becoming a Christian, I used to read the Bible each evening.
      In a sense it was like the Ethiopian, I read:
      'Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.'  621
      At the time there was no Philip to explain the meaning;
      but I knew Almighty God had spoken to me.
      This verse obviously had great significance. But what did it mean?
      3 years later the truth was revealed.
I was his treasure and he was surely mine;
      our hearts were bound together now and for all eternity.
      His Son had come to the earth that he had created,
      but instead of being honoured, he was crucified
      and had borne the punishment that I deserved.
      O what love - no pen can write. No treasure is so great!
      Money, gold and jewels are trivial compared with the treasure of God.
      They are of little real value even in this physical world;
      and we leave it all behind when we die
      and the Lord God welcomes us into heaven. He is the true treasure.
He has drawn my heart so that it desires to serve only one Master.
      And yet there are times when my service is so poor and distracted.
      Jesus told us the truth, You cannot serve both God and Money.  624
The eye is the lamp of the body.  622
      What but the revelation of God can bring light to our hearts?
      Else it will remain in darkness; the truth of Jesus our Saviour unknown.
      The scriptures reveal him who is the 'Light of the World'.
      Those who seek this treasure will surely find him. 78  Heb 116
      Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  Joel 232

Worry or Trust?  625-34       [Contents]

Jesus tells his disciples four times in these verses not to worry about tomorrow.
      Fear is debilitating, it can distract us from the main task of life.
      Our attention can become focussed on me and my future.
Jesus gives us the antidote to worry.
      Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.  633
At their home in Bethany, Martha was worried (not about tomorrow, but today!)
      Mary was busy with Jesus seeking forgiveness and eternal life.
      He told Martha, 'You are worried and upset about many things,
      but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better,
      and it will not be taken away from her.'
 Lu 1038-42
In seeking God's kingdom and his righteousness, we find assurance,
      tomorrow's problems melt away, and in today's trials we find peace with God.

      If tomorrow brings a trial, he would sends it will send grace to bear it.
      Maybe a neighbour's problem comes to our notice;
      let us not be slow to offer help whenever we can.
Our God has answers to our questions and provision for our needs.
      Though they may seem strange or delayed, never doubt God's promise.
      When Elijah needed food because of the drought ordered by God,
      For two years he commanded some ravens to feed him, then a poor widow!
      Elijah did not starve, and neither did the widow. 1Kgs 171-16
      When the Israelites had the Red Sea ahead and the Egyptian army behind,
      God divided the sea and sent a thick darkness behind them.
      When the 5,000 were hungry, Jesus fed them all with 5 loaves and two fish!
      When Jesus sent out the apostles to preach the Gospel, they went,
      but none of them died quietly in their beds!
      When Gehazi woke up to see the Syrian army surrounding them, he cried out.
      Elisha called upon the Lord to open his eyes, then told his servant,
      Those that are with us, are more than those that are with them.
      Gehazi saw that they were also surrounded by God's 'chariots of fire'.
      The Lord also temporarily blinded all the Syrian army.  2Kgs 68-23
2,000 years ago the two great concerns were food and clothing.
In the UK, with today's welfare state, job security, marriage and war probably top
      the list of concerns, with personal rejection and health not far behind.
There are many situations when we are tempted to fear.
      But there are at least 99 scriptures that instruct us not to fear;
      and a further 28 that tell us why we do not need to fear: for I am with you.
      (Listed at '99 reasons not to be Afraid')
It is the Lord Almighty who holds the future in his hands, not government leaders.

Judging Others  71-6       [Contents]

What do we see in others? The good or the bad?
      And more important, what do we do with what we see?
Gossip is usually seeing the bad and telling others what you have seen / heard.
      It is often based on superiority and pride. 'Of course I would never do that ...'
      Any such arrogance is obviously wrong; but it is very easy to take such a road.
      This warning of Jesus needs continual attention.
If we see failure or weakness in another may our first reaction be deep, heart-felt
      sorrow and private prayer; not the mounting of my favourite hobby-horse.
Thomas Bilney and Hugh Latimer were both studying at Cambridge in ~1520.
      'Little' Bilney saw that Latimer was a Roman priest in need of salvation.
      For some time he pleaded with God with tears and longing.
      Eventually he went to see him alone and shared his confession with true and
      obvious humility how the scriptures had revealed the truth of Christ crucified
      for his sins and the relief of his forgiveness. Latimer was greatly moved by his
      testimony of grace and thus God revealed to him the glorious gospel truth.
Clearly Bilney did not 'judge' Latimer, when he first saw his need.
      By his consequent action we see how God saved and raised up a mighty man.
      (Bilney was the first Reformer to be burned at the stake in 1531)
      (Bishop Latimer was martyred with Ridley 24 years later under Queen Mary)
Jesus warned his disciples to always be alert and not deceived. Math 244,11,24
      They must learn to discern the truth and know what to do if they hear error.
The judging spirit that Jesus here condemns is usually critical of character;
      it can also refer to minor doctrine, the I'm right, you're wrong attitude.
      He condemns a proud, censorious, fault-finding spirit.
We need compassion as well as courage, humility with discernment;
      scripture is not a tool to use to try to prove I'm right, and you are wrong,
      but the gift of God is given so that we may together try to discern his truth.
In this life it is inevitable that some differences will remain.
      Some issues are more important than others that can remain a mystery.
      Some doctrine however must never be compromised.
      But even then let us strive to maintain friendship and respect.
      May our passion for truth not be spoiled by irritability, temper or contempt.
      Listen and weigh the advice of friends.
      Be patient with others. The Lord is a gracious teacher. Let us be so too.

Ask, Seek, Knock  77-12       [Contents]

Of all the bustling activities of men this one above all is a delight to the Lord.
Jesus was emphatic when he said 'everyone' who asks receives ...
      Everyone, no exceptions, no one too bad, too poor or even too rich!
Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.  Joel 232
C S Lewis called Jesus 'the Hound of Heaven'. He was so reluctant to enter.
      Every time he sought the Lord God, the Hound rounded him up to the door.
      And every time he knocked Jesus opened the door.
      Eventually he bowed, and entered.
      All heaven rejoiced - as they do whenever a sinner repents and enters.
For many months John Bunyan also wanted to enter, but couldn't.
      So consumed with his guilt, he believed that God could never forgive him.
      Eventually he bowed to the truth of scripture, he heard the words,
      'He is able'. (Heb 725)  
      'My grace is sufficient' (2 Co 129)
      'Mercy triumphs over judgement' (James 213)
      and 'Whoever comes to me I will never drive away'. (Jn 637)
      He acknowledged that the blood of Jesus was sufficient to cover all his sin.
For some the road to salvation and forgiveness is quicker; and maybe easier.
But to all who knock, God is never either deaf, asleep or unwilling to answer.
      The only tragedy is that many are too busy, deceived, distracted, lazy
      to ever even ask, seek or knock.
      Like those in 'The Listeners' (by Walter de la Mere)
      'Is there anybody there?' said the Traveller,
      Knocking at the moonlit door; ...
      'Tell them that I came, and no one answered,
      That I kept my word,' he said. ...
      In this poem, Jesus is the traveller and does the knocking,
      but the principle is the same. Some don't knock; some don't answer.
      And the result is the same; the door remains shut.

The truth that Jesus always answers shows clearly the extent of his grace.
If God treats us sinners like this, we too must treat others likewise.
      So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,
      for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
 712 (and 2240)
Note that we are not told to treat others as they treat us,
      but we would like them treat us . The difference may be great.

The Narrow and Wide Gates  713,14       [Contents]

Enter through the narrow gate.
      For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction,
      and many enter through it.
      But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life,
      and only a few find it.

This is a most pertinent statement in today's anti-discrimination, inclusive world.
      But it is the Son of God who spoke the words - so they are true.
There are only two roads. One leads to destruction, and one to life.
The wide road allures the vast majority.
      What a fearful warning the mighty but gracious Saviour gives us.
      Most humanity in every age is determined to take such a destructive walk.
      It is free, easy, inclusive, popular, there are few restricting laws,
      you can have any or no religion, it's safe to ignore all the danger signs.
      But this wide road leads to democracy and destruction!!
The narrow road has only a few travellers.
      It is the opposite. It cost the Son of God his life to build this road.
      Our natural desires must be disciplined, God's commandments kept,
      all warnings heeded. But we are given clean clothes, and bright eyes,
      the weight of guilt is removed and grace of God our Redeemer is revealed.
      Although the road is narrow the view is fantastic, the company is good,
      the fellow travellers are kind, and the destiny is eternal life with God.

Because the gate is small, does not mean that it difficult to find.
      In his grace, God makes it easy to find to all who seek. (See previous section)
      It is only small, almost invisible, to those who have no interest in heaven.
Matthew Henry wrote, 'No man, in his wits, would chose to go to the gallows,
      because it is a smooth, pleasant way to it, nor refuse the offer of a palace
      because it is a rough, dirty way to it; yet such absurdities as these
      are men guilty of, in the concerns of their souls.'
Christ never pretended that his way was easy:
      If anyone would come after me,
      he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Paul said,
      We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.  Act 1622

False Prophets  715-23       [Contents]

Jesus warned, watch out for false prophets ... by their fruit you shall know them.
These men sound good, they preach what we like to hear,
      they often produce popular successful results.
      Big churches may be led by false prophets. Be warned.
      They may claim to drive out demons and perform many miracles;
and even say they do so in the name of Jesus.
      But the Lord says, Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you.'  722,23
      These are again terrible words from the Saviour.
      Many who thought they would enter heaven are refused.
      Such men are in grave danger because they trust their works for salvation,
      instead of Christ's redeeming work.
           Jesus, they blood and righteousness
           My beauty are, my glorious dress,
No other dress, no other work, can enable a man to enter heaven.
      False prophets can even be clergyman; though many are willing to trust them.

What is the 'good fruit' by which we may be able to discern if they are false?
Conversely the characteristics of false prophets may include the following:
      Claim to be modern-day apostles.  e.g. Leader of World Trumpet Mission
      Unfulfilled prophecies.
      Preach false doctrine. e.g. Pope and RC church
            (see Danger Signs in the Church Today - Section 4)
      'Pharisees' add to the scriptures.
      'Sadducees' subtract from the scriptures.
      Often, but not always, they are rich because they fleece their flock!
      Preach, but do not live, a holy life.
      Observe what they say/do when they think no one is watching.
      Leadership that tends to make their followers: proud, worldly, contentious,
      liberal (undisciplined), depend on experience instead of scripture for truth.
      Leaders tend to be dominant men of character rather than holiness.
      Worship is usually 'lively', with a strong popular modern appeal,
      but the preaching is based more on the ideas of man
      than on the consistent expounding of the complete Word of God.
      They use scripture to support their arguments,
            but rarely faithfully expound all scripture or go through a whole book.
      For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.
      Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great
      number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
 2Tim 43
      Their prophecies are either very vague, or remain unfulfilled.
      The deceiving of their followers may, or may not, be deliberate.

We all need to heed these words of Jesus, watch out for false prophets. 715
      The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority,
      and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end? Jer 531
It is vital that we study all the Word of God consistently and regularly.
      'Happy is the man who prays over his Bible
      and knows the difference between truth and error in religion.'  J C Ryle

A Life Built on Rock  724-29       [Contents]

The concluding words of Jesus are very important - as all his words are!
He moves from false teachers to false hearers.
It is no good just hearing or reading his words; but then doing nothing;
      or worse, thinking the instructions are only for others, I can carry on as I am.
      Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
      ... Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
 James 122 217

The wise man both hears and is then determined to obey:
      He puts the words of Jesus into practice, his life is significantly changed.
      Such men are indeed blessed.
      Their righteousness shines brightly in this dark world.
      They don't try to bypass the unchanging law of God.
      They see Jesus as the longed-for fulfilment of the prophets.
      Anger, lust and divorce are not part of their lives.
      Their word can be trusted.
      Enemies are dealt with justly, and even loved.
      There is no 'showing off' in their practice of giving, prayer or fasting.
      The Lord God is always their over-riding treasure and delight.
      They seek first God's kingdom and do not give up if the way is steep.
      They trust God's care and provision, putting aside fear and worry;
      and gladly share what God has provided.
      They avoid criticism of others, but are alert to challenge false prophets.

If a man strives for all this he will be wise,
      and by the grace of God his life will be built upon the rock of Christ.
      When persecuted he will not be alone, but will stand with courage.
      Or if sickness, sorrow, poverty, bereavements, come to his life
      he will still trust in Christ and know he will not be alone.
      The wind and rain of conventional worldly practice will not wash away
      the principles of a wise man whose foundations are the Word of God.

'Rock of ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.'

The crowds were amazed at his teaching,
      because he taught as one who had authority.
Most of their teachers were uncertain, vague, compromising ...
      But Jesus so obviously knew the truth - and he taught it.
      And some of those who heard and believed him
      became both obedient and wise - in that order.

In the closing section of the Sermon on the Mount (713-27)
      Jesus teaches there are two gates, two ways, two destinations,
      and two groups of people with two kinds of fruit,
      two groups at the judgment, and two foundations.
      Christ is clearly emphasising that there is one way that leads to destruction
      and another way which leads to life.
He is asking us, which road are we walking?

'If you are willing, you can make me clean.'  81-4       [Contents]

2,000 years ago when lepers approached anyone else they were obliged to cry,
      'Unclean, unclean.'
      What a terrible stigma. Total social rejection, poverty, increasing debilitation.
His request is thus not surprising.
The Son of God was not afraid of catching leprosy.
      Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.
      'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!'
      Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. 83
This was the first of many of his recorded miracles of healing.
The un-named man was not only healed in body;
      he had felt the loving touch of another human being.
There is one sad aspect of this event that Mark records.
      Jesus told him not to tell anyone, but first to testify to the priest.
      The man was so overjoyed that he disobeyed; he told everyone.
      As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly.  Mk 145
      If the Lord gives us a clear instruction that may seem strange, obey it.
      Remember he knows best.

Centurion has Faith for his Servant  85-13       [Contents]

This Roman has great concern for his suffering servant.
      The degree of concern may be expected for his wife or son,
      but is rarely shown for a servant.
Why did a centurion seek help from a Jew, who had only just started preaching?
      Only one leper had been healed at this time,
      though there may well have been more that are not recorded.
      He believed that Jesus could and would heal his servant.
      Not put off because he was a Roman.
           He had good relations with Jews. Why should nationality matter?
      No magic potions, no incantations or 'mumbo-jumbo'.
      He saw Jesus had authority; the authority of Almighty God.
           Thus, like himself, just one brief command was all that was required.
It all sounds so simple, so clear cut - but so very rare, so precious!
      Jesus was astonished.
      I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.
      Then Jesus said to the centurion,
      'Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.'
      And his servant was healed at that very hour.

Jesus confirms that many Gentiles will take their places at the feast
      with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.  811
The centurion would have known the custom
      that any Jew entering a Gentile house would be considered 'unclean'.
      He didn't want Jesus to suffer such inconvenience.
      This is what prompted his word that Jesus only had to command.
In Luke's account of this event
      the centurion made his appeal to Jesus through the local synagogue elders.
      Though he commanded 100 men, he felt unworthy of coming before Jesus.

Many Healed  814-17       [Contents]

Peter's mother-in-law is healed - and immediately began to wait on Jesus.
      What a good way to give thanks!
When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him,
      and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.  816
The British NHS is very good, but they would love to be able to cure all the sick.
      And Jesus also cast out evil spirits that afflicted many.
      Demonic activity is not often recognised today;
      yet many decisions and changes to our laws are demonically inspired.
      And so are some incurable diseases with high sounding names.
      But beware of seeing a devil behind every problem or around every corner.
Jesus clearly reveals both the compassion of God and his personal involvement.
      He made us perfect and longs to see that perfection again.

The four gospels record 35 individual miracles.
      17 healing, 6 deliverance, 3 raising from dead, 9 others (e.g. feeding 5,000)
      There were many more where 'collective' healing of individuals is recorded.
      Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples,
      which are not recorded in this book
(or the other 3 gospels).
      But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
      and that by believing you may have life in his name.
 Jn 2030,31

The two greatest miracles are:
      Jesus was willing to bear my sin on the Cross;
            and thus to pay the redemption price in full.
      Jesus rose again to live and reign with the Father
            and with the redeemed he has saved.

He thus fulfills all that the prophets spoke,
      He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.  817  Is 534

Who will Follow Jesus?  818-22       [Contents]

1. The first man wanted to follow Jesus, but he was a Scribe.
      Jesus saw that he did not realise the cost of rejection by fellow Scribes.
      It was probably a spur of the moment, emotional request.
      Many who went forward at Billy Graham meetings have proved faithful;
           but others felt their need and responded, but it did not last.
           For one reason or another the cost became too high.
      It seems that this scribe enjoyed his settled home life too much.
           The first disciples were to be missionaries.
      True evangelists are brave enough to warn would-be followers of the cost.
           Most will have to bear separation and ridicule, some martyrs for Jesus.
           Tell all of the eternal crown; and never be silent about the daily cross.

2.Jesus called the second man to follow him. Lu 959
      He did not exactly refuse, but neither was he willing to 'leave all and follow'.
      There was a big 'But ...' in his life.
      From what Jesus said about him it seems that he wanted to gain
           his father's inheritance more than the kingdom of God.
           (That is what the expression 'I must bury my father' means).

There is nothing recorded to suggest that either of these men returned to follow.
Lu 1425-35 gives us more detail about the cost of being a true disciple.
      The cost is high, the way is steep and narrow; never underestimate it.
      But the gift of God for all eternity to all believers is far greater!

A Galilee Storm is Calmed  823-27       [Contents]

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.  823
Whose boat? The one Peter and Andrew had left earlier?
Jesus was tired and quickly fell asleep -
      quicker than the time the furious storm took to arise.
      But it did not wake him up. The frightened disciples did that.
      Only 4 of the 12 were fishermen. And they knew how great a storm can be.
      Do we fear what we know more than what we don't know?
      How do we react to fear?
Jesus first asks 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?'
      Why had their faith in God evaporated so quickly?
      How will our faith stand in the day of trial?
      Blessed is th the man who can say with Job:
           Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.  Job 1315
Then Jesus rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.  826
      The disciples were amazed. This was the raw power of God in action.
      No mere man can ever command the weather.
      With the biggest computers men have huge difficulty even forecasting it.
The four fishermen probably had to row the boat the rest of the way.
Where were they going; and why?

Two Gadarene Demoniacs Set Free  828-34       [Contents]

The Son of God did not make journeys for fun.
      Each had a specific purpose and was in obedience to the Father.
The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing,
      because whatever the Father does the Son also does.  Jn 519
      He crossed the lake to set these 2 men free (Luke and Mark only mention 1)
      Just like he 'had' to go to Sychar to save the Samaritan woman.  Jn 44
      And he was needed in Nain to raise the widow's son.  Lu 711
      Finally he set his face towards Jerusalem and the Cross.  Lu 951 1250

The demons had total control of the two Gadarene men.
      They knew immediately who Jesus was.
      They also knew that their destiny was to be tormented for ever.
      The devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur,
      where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.
      They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.  Rev 2010
      This is the destiny for all demons and followers of Satan.
      The scriptures may be ignored or rejected; but their awful warning is clear.
      The demons' desire to enter the pigs only gave them a very brief respite.
      (Demons can inhabit animals and particular places.  Rev 213)
      These men were controlled by a whole band of demons - 'Legion'
      But the gracious desire of God was to see them set free.
      And he did so.
      The whole tribe of demons left, not one remained.

Sadly, the people pleaded with Jesus to leave their area. Why?
      Not told, but perhaps it was a mixture of:
      They feared the power of God,
      they feared they would somehow loose their wealth,
      they didn't trust their future with Jesus.
      They had no care that two men had been delivered from terrible bondage.
Jesus did not challenge their request; he left and returned to Capernaum.
      The Son of God does not force his presence on anyone;
      but his absence is always to their profound and eternal loss.

What about demons in men today?
      Their activity is obvious - lies, deceit, hatred, murder, reject Commandments.
      Many wicked men are oblivious as to the cause of their wicked ways;
      They call evil good and good evil, though deny the fact.  Is 520
      Then, as now, their power is limited and their time is short.

Jesus Forgives Sins of Paralytic and Heals Him  91-8       [Contents]

This paralytic had four devoted friends, in contrast to the Gadarenes.
      They were determined to get their friend to Jesus.
      He did not consider their action (lowering him through the roof. Mk and Lu )
      as an interruption to his preaching of the vital word of God to the crowd.
His first words to the paralytic were a complete surprise to all.
      'Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.'  92
      The reaction of religious leaders present was, 'Blasphemy!'
      They correctly argued that only God can forgive sins;
      But they did not realise that Jesus was the Son of God;
           come to earth for precisely that reason - to forgive sins.
Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so asks them two questions:

1. Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?
      Such 'entertainment' is always dangerous.
      Our minds need constant renewal and careful watching.
      A man is, or becomes, what he thinks.
      They didn't know that Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking.
      Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight.
            Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him
            to whom we must give account.
 Heb 413
      Let all men be constantly aware that God will judge the secrets of men.  Ro 216

2. Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'?
      But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to
      forgive sins. Then he said to the paralytic, 'Get up, take your mat and go
      home.' And the man got up and went home.
      Jesus showed that since he instantly healed him, the seemingly harder task;
      he could also do the easier one, to forgive.
      Anyone can just say, 'Your sins are forgiven.'
      Though it is far harder to achieve, to truly forgive.
      It would cost Jesus the Cross.

The crowd were filled with awe.
      And they praised God, who had given such authority to men.  98
      The authority to forgive sin is only given to one man - Christ Jesus.

Did the religious leaders cease from their 'evil thoughts'? Not told.
Neither do we know the reaction of the ex-paralytic to his true absolution.
Was his paralysis related to some sin that weighed heavily upon his heart?
      He went home both forgiven and walking on his feet.
      Such is the kindness and grace of God; and his longing for all men.

The Calling of Matthew  99-13       [Contents]

As Jesus went on from there,
      he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth.
      'Follow me,' he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

Some verses in Scripture are simple. This is one. Nothing complex here.
      When Matthew rose that morning he had no idea that just two words
      would completely change his life, and that of thousands of others -
      those to whom he would preach and teach, and those who read his gospel.
Matthew obeys instantly. No 'buts', no conditions, no questions.
What an outstanding example. It must have really delighted the Son of God.

Some, however, were not so pleased.
      When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples,
      'Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?'
Jesus did not reluctantly tolerate sinners, like an unpleasant duty;
      he loved them and delighted to eat with them. He came to save them (us).
      The Pharisees had no compassion for sinners; they proudly despised them.

So Jesus answered their question with frank truth:
      'I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'  913 (KJV)
Matthew's repentance was instant; that of the Pharisees was non-existent.
The Pharisees thought they were righteous, and tax collectors were sinners;
      and hopefully, never the twain should meet!
How sad. Especially for Pharisees and all who follow in their footsteps.
      And there are many.
Conversely, how joyful it is for any man who deeply aware of his own corruption,
      and cries out to Jesus for forgiveness. He will never be disappointed.
      On the first day that such a man believes, he come as a poor sinner.
      And we each remain such till we die. Forgiven? Yes!, but still sinners.

There is no suggestion that Matthew's heart was previously yearning for salvation.
      But his job would have caused him to know only the rejection of others.
      No one likes tax-collectors, especially if they work for a hated foreign power.

The KJV includes the last two words of Math 913 'to repentance' (Gk. Metanoia).
[I don't know why all other translations of Math 913 omit these important words.
      All translations of Luke 932 of the same calling of Matthew include them.]

A Question about Fasting  914-17       [Contents]

The disciples of John Baptist asked Jesus why his disciples did not fast.
He gave them a simple answer,
      which also tells us of the root purpose of fasting:
      'How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them?'  915
Then he reminds them that he would not be with them for long.
      The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them;
      then they will fast.

      Jesus would only be with them for 3 years, then he would be crucified.
      There is a time to fast for his presence and a time to rejoice in his company.
      It would have been unnecessary to fast at that time,
      just as in heaven it will again become inappropriate.
      Like patching a garment with new unshrunk cloth,
            or pouring new wine into old wineskins!

What a gracious name that Jesus took upon himself - 'Bridegroom'.
      'What the bridegroom is to the bride,
      the Lord Jesus is to the souls of all who believe in him.
      He loves them with a deep and everlasting love.
      He takes them into union with himself. They are 'one with Christ and Christ in them.'
      He pays all their debts to God. He supplies all their daily need.
      He sympathizes with them in all their troubles. He bears with all their infirmities,
      and does not reject them for a few weaknesses.'  J.C.Ryle

As is often the case, the reaction of John's disciples to the answer is not recorded.
      But in all probability they returned to John enlightened by the word of God.
Do we fast? If so, when and why?

A Dead Girl and a Bleeding Woman Touched  918-26       [Contents]

Jesus was busy teaching when a synagogue ruler came and knelt before him.
He did not consider it an interruption, but listened to his problem.
      'My daughter has just died.'
      Now that really is a problem. But not to Jesus, the Lord of all life.
He got up and went with the ruler.
      The teaching stopped; or did it?!
            The lesson changed and the method of delivering it.
            What a lot we need to learn from the Master.
      Only he knew what he was going to do.

But Jairus was not the only one with an immediate problem.
      A woman also had a problem. She had been bleeding for 12 years!
      She had spent all she had, and still no one could help her.  Lu 843-48
      She was thus weak, poor and ceremonially unclean.  Lev 1525-27
      She reasoned to herself, and what an inspired reasoning it was too:
           'If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed!'  921
      So she came up behind Jesus and touched his cloak.
      Jesus knew immediately.
      He stopped and turned and to the crowd who thronged about him, asked,
            'Who touched me?'  Lu 845
      The unclean, now healed woman, confessed trembling what she had done.
      Jesus commended her. He must have been thrilled.
      This wonderful healing was not an interruption to Jesus;
            neither did her touch make him 'unclean'.
      Interestingly she probably touched the one of the blue tassels
            on the corners of his garment that reminded Jews of their consecration
            to Almighty God and his commandments. See Num 1539

When Jesus got to Jairus' home, there was 'a noisy crowd' , all wailing, crying.
      But he was not put off.
      He told them to go away because the girl was 'sleeping'; they laughed at him.
      Jesus was prophesying, as he did when he raised Lazarus.  Jn 1111,14
      The Lord Almighty took the girl by the hand and she got up!  925
Matthew makes just one short comment:
      News of this spread through all that region.  926 (I bet it did.)
      Life in that synagogue was never the same again.
      Imagine what they thought whenever they saw the girl growing up, laughing,
      playing, talking, marrying - she had died once, then Jesus came ... !

Two Blind Men and One Mute Healed  927-34       [Contents]

Two blind men followed him, calling out, 'Have mercy on us, Son of David!'
      Jesus either did not hear them, or chose to wait to minister to them later,
      when the crown had gone away.
      'Son of David' was a common title for the Messiah.
      Though blind, these two 'saw' and believed in Messiah,
      unlike the Pharisees who had actually seen what Jesus was doing.
      When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them,
      'Do you believe that I am able to do this?'
      'Yes, Lord,' they replied.  928
      Jesus wanted them to affirm their faith in Messiah for healing.
      Both were healed immediately.
Jesus warned them sternly, 'See that no-one knows about this.'  930
      But in their joy of seeing again, they chose to disobey.
      Although Jesus had compassion on all the sick, and never lacked the power,
      he also needed to concentrate on teaching about salvation;
      on the eternal destiny of men.

There was also a mute man present in the house.
      Jesus discerned than he needed deliverance, not healing.
      So he drove out the demon, and the man was able to speak again.
      The crowd were amazed.
      But the Pharisees said,
      'It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.'  934
      How wrong they were! They failed to see the Son of God in their midst.
      Pride blinded their hearts to the kindness, compassion and power of God.
      It always blinds a man's need for God's forgiveness - then and now.
      It is with good reason that it heads the list of '7 Deadly Sins'.
           Pride, covetousness, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth.
      See also 1222-37 when Jesus accused of delivering a man by Beelzebub.

'Like Sheep without a Shepherd'  935-38       [Contents]

Jesus went through all the towns and villages teaching ... preaching ... healing.
Everywhere he went the need for Almighty God in their lives was so great.
How could truth, righteousness and justice become their daily experience?
How could the purpose of their life on earth be revealed?
How could their minds be transformed?
Jesus had huge compassion for the people of Judea.
He saw them as ignorant, hopeless, helpless; dying, yet unfit to die.
      And in this passage we are told why:
      Because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  936
      Imagine a flock confronted by thieves, butchers or wolves.
      Initially when sensing danger they gather together;
     then they scatter, running in all directions in a vain effort to escape.
      In the kingdom of God they would have protection;
      or better still, no enemies and thus live in peace and security.
      They would all know the kindness of the presence of God.
      No more would they be 'harassed and helpless'.
      Jesus longed to be their 'good Shepherd'; to 'lay down his life for the sheep'.
      He ached for the day when he would protect them from all wickedness.
      Jeremiah saw for the day of restoration and the healing of incurable wounds;
      when Judah would no longer be called an outcast,
            Zion for whom no-one cares.
 Jer 3012,17
      Ezekiel saw a day when the worlds' evil shepherds would be replaced;
      a day when the Sovereign Lord would search for his sheep and rescue them,
      he would gather them to their own land and feed them in good pasture,
      he would bind up the injured and strengthen the weak,
      he would save his flock, and would no longer be plundered,
      they would know that I, the Lord their God, am with them.  Ezek 34

How could all this hope and longing come about? Simple!
Jesus said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
      Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'

The disciples obviously obeyed.
So Jesus gave the 12 apostles authority, instructions and sent them out.
Consistent, protracted, earnest prayer is the key.
Work, giving money, training; each are good,
      but it is only by the Holy Spirit that souls are saved.

12 Apostles Sent Out  101-42       [Contents]

Jesus gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease.  101
      It was the decision of Jesus, not the apostles. He chose them to do this work.
      It is clear that evil spirits were active in those days.
      They still are today, though many try to deny their existence or activity.
      Their work is seen in the many wicked decisions and the deceit of leaders,
      both civil and religious and in the everyday choices of common people.
      e.g. evolution, abortion, homosexuality, war, fornication, suicide ...
      Obviously not every war or suicide is demonic,
            but we would often be surprised if we knew the extent of their influence.
      Apostles were given power to heal 'every' disease.
      A few claim this power today - but such claims are debatable.
      There is sometimes a connection between disease and demonic possession;
      but such ministry requires holy discernment and great care.

Jesus carefully chose each of the 12, but one became a traitor.
I am not competent to answer the question 'why did Jesus chose him?'.
      Just as I am constantly amazed that he should chose to save me.
We should learn that the working of miracles does not prove a man is righteous.
      Remarkable cures have been affected by all manner of men.
Neither does ordination prove that the man is a true believer.
Not all regular church-goers are saved.
Like Judas any man can be lured away from Christ.
      Let us beware and take great care we are not deceived.

Before sending out his apostles Jesus had taught them much by example,
      now he also gave them specific instructions:

1. Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.
      Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.
      Why? It was God's sovereign choice; he chose the Jews.
      And they would be the first to hear the Gospel and then to preach it.
      It was the 'first to the Jews' principle.  Act 1346 186  Ro 116
      Practised by Jesus, and then by Paul.
      Every town he went to he preached first to the Jews and then the Gentiles.
      There were two exceptions to this principle:
      When Jesus was near Tyre -  Math 1522-28
            and when going up to Jerusalem through Samaria -  Jn 44-38

2. As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.'  107
      To those with longing hearts, this was indeed good news;
            for the kingdom of God seemed so far away, there was so much evil.
      Today, the kingdom is still 'near'; the glorious day of Christ's return
            is always 'nearer than when we first believed'.
      Jesus began his ministry preaching,
            'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.'  417
      This was the first task Jesus gave to his apostles.
      They were also instructed to heal the sick, raise the dead,
            cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.  108a
      In other words, to do precisely what Jesus had been doing.

3. Freely you have received, freely give.  108b
      What had they received? What have we received from God?
      Forgiveness, life, love, a new heart, revelation of truth,
            assurance and hope, health, strength, courage
            and all the many ordinary things of life - friends, work, rest, food ...
      Jesus told them to share all that they had received - spiritual and natural.
      He also gave them some straightforward hospitality instructions.

4. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.
      Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
      This warning probably came as quite a surprise; but it was reality.
      The world would mostly welcome them now, but later
            they would be severely persecuted - and none would die in their beds!
      So Jesus gave them additional instructions for the future.
      Be on your guard against men;
            they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues.
      On my account you will be brought before governors and kings
            as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.
      But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it.
      At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking,
            but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
      Persecution is an opportunity to witness to others of the Lord Almighty.
      He will direct you what to say; and what not to say.
      See the 'witness' of Stephen.  Act 7.
      Also Tyndale, Cranmer, Bilney, Latimer, Wurmbrand etc.
      All men will hate you because of me,
            but he who stands firm to the end will be saved ...
            Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather,
            be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
      Let us pray earnestly for those persecuted today by Communists and Muslims.
      Lord, give them courage, dignity and a sure hope,
            may they be enabled to love their enemies,
            and experience that they are not alone in their suffering.
      And Lord, if you should chose me to join such a noble company of men,
            may I die and live like Reepicheap, 'with my nose pointing to the east'.
                  (see Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C S Lewis.)
      As Christians there is much to look forward to in death,
            but it is the process of death, disability, pain maybe even torture;
            that is what I fear. Let us trust our faithful Lord in such dark hours.
      Let us avoid two extremes:
      a) Being silent when there is an opportunity to witness to Christ.
      This may be through fear of losing friendship, respect or being persecuted.
            Also sheer laziness or just ashamed!
      b) Holy zeal that creates needless offence, loud mouthed, insensitive.
      Learn to ever seek to proclaim the Cross, but follow our Lord's example.
      He shows us how to question men, how and when to develop a conversation,
            how to challenge according to a man's need and character.
      Be both wise and bold, pray and depend upon the Holy Spirit to lead
            and to reveal how to speak with each individual.

5. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.  1023
      It is not cowardice to flee, it is a wise instruction,
            but it may be if fear makes us unwilling to witnesses of Christ.
      Whoever acknowledges me before men,
            I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.
            But whoever disowns me before men,
            I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
      If I have failed in this respect, remember that Peter also failed 3 times.
            He repented and was not disowned.
      Even the great Archbishop Cranmer denied for a season the truth he loved.
            He too repented, was burned at the stake winning a martyr's crown.
      There was no error in the truth Jesus taught, no defects in his methods,
            but they rejected him. Why should we expect to be treated any better?
      If we do not challenge the world we will probably be ignored;
            but if we strive to do good spiritually and physically
            the world will hate us just as it hated our Master.
      Though misunderstood, rejected, insulted, opposed;
            let us run the race with patience, the day will come when all is revealed.
      The anger of man may be hard to bear, but the anger of God is far harder!

6. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.
      I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
      In today's world, this statement of Jesus is usually rejected or ignored.
      Men hate to be told they are sinners and need to repent.
      The cross of Christ seems folly to all such men.
      Christians have always been persecuted.
      Yet they are the only ones who bring real peace on earth.
      By bearing the death-penalty punishment I deserve, Jesus redeemed me;
            he bought and brought peace to my soul and reconciled me to God.
      But to all who refuse to believe in him for salvation, he brings a sword!
      He brings division.
      Many worldly men preach toleration, unity, multi-faith, compromise.
      Jesus didn't. He stood strong for the truth.
            So men hung the Son of God on a Cross.
      Jesus brings war, as well as peace - a truth that is rarely preached.
      Jesus went on to tell his apostles that:
            A man's enemies will be the members of his own household. ...
            Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me ...
            Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
      In Muslim families if anyone converts to Christianity, his life is in great danger.
      Lu 923 adds that we need to 'take up the cross' daily.

7. Anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man
      will receive a righteous man's reward.
      Compassion towards followers of Christ is always rewarded.
      The reward may well have to wait till they enter heaven;
            but there is joy in following Christ now, even if it costs.
      The chief butler soon forgot Joseph when he was restored; but God didn't.
      For many their work for Christ may seem small, insignificant;
            but in heaven it is recorded.
            One day it will be said, 'I was hungry, and you gave me food.'  2535

Most of these instructions would only be understood after the crucifixion.
      Then they become highly significant.
      The apostles did not forget what he had told them.
      Neither should we!
      Let us strive to bring light to a dark world, kindness and truth.
Matthew tells us nothing of the results of their mission.  see Lu 91-9 101-24

Jesus and John the Baptist  111-30       [Contents]

Jesus continued to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.
When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him,
'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?'
John had been imprisoned by Herod
      because he dared to criticise his marriage to his brother's wife.  143
What had John been preaching?
      1. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. 32
      2. Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. ...
            I came baptising with water that he might be revealed to Israel ...
            I have seen and testify that this is the Son of God.
  Jn 129-34
      3. Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? ...
            He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
            His winnowing fork is in his hand and he will clear his threshing floor,
            gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff
            with unquenchable fire.
 37, 11,12
Each of these was true, accurate and God inspired.
It was not his unjust imprisonment that caused John to doubt,
      but that the promised judgement of the wicked was not being fulfilled.
      Jesus would bring 'unquenchable fire', but not yet.
      It was reserved for another day, the day when he returns to earth.
So Jesus tells John's disciples report to John what you hear and see:
      the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured,
      the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.
      Tell John I am doing what only the Messiah can do;
      I am preaching 'the good news' of salvation you spoke about.
      Then he added, Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.
      John was assured and did not fall away.
      He was never an unstable man - a reed shaken by the wind,
            neither was he a self-promoting prince in a luxurious palace.

Jesus then taught the crowd about John.
      He first asks them a question which they may not have asked themselves:
      What did you go out into the desert to see?  117
      It obviously wasn't a water reed or a prince.
      For most it was more than just curiosity that sent them to the Jordan,
      This was a rhetorical question to make them think; he didn't expect a reply.
      So he told them the answer: You went to see a prophet!
            Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
      The OT prophets told the people that a Messiah would come;
            John told them that he had come!
            'Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.'  Jn 129
            No wonder he was greater than all the earlier prophets.
      John was a faithful herald, a true messenger,
            but just as the one to whom a kings message is written is greater
            than the one who delivers it, so he who receives the message, believes
            and thus enters the kingdom of heaven is greater than the postman.
      Jesus wanted the people to know what John's ministry was (and his own!)
      For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.  1113
      What happened then? John told them the Lamb of God was here.
      John had come to prepare the ground, but few had responded.
            Many longed for Messiah, but none understood what he had to do.
      This generation does not know how to respond.
      They are like adults watching children playing weddings and funerals,
            We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
                  we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.
            They just criticised John, and did the same to the Son of God.
            Why can't men understand who is here, and why he is here?
            Why does the Cross of Christ seem so foolish to so many?
            Why are men so blind to their dire need, so stubborn, so silly?

Jesus then tells the people the consequences of their failure to respond.
      It is serious, alarming, catastrophic!
      Woe to you, Korazin!
      Woe to you, Bethsaida!

      If the miracles that were performed in you
      had been performed in Tyre and Sidon,
      they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
      But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon
      on the day of judgment than for you.  1121,22

What an awful judgement upon those who refuse to repent;
      those who can only find fault in Christians and the Scriptures.
      The men of these Jewish cities were mostly moral, decent and respectable;
      not like Tyre or Sodom.
      This warning of Jesus is both surprising and solemn.
      London, Plymouth, Cambridge ... beware!

Jesus compared Capernaum to Sodom!
      Capernaum didn't 'run him out of town' like Nazareth or the Gadarenes.
      They didn't plot to kill him like the Jerusalem Scribes and Pharisees.
      So what was their great wickedness?
            Indifference to Christ.

      This must say something to our generation in the UK.
      This country doesn't yet persecute Christians like the Communists or Muslims.
      Only a small number of Hindus and Buddhists worship idols.
      But, and it is a big 'but', the great majority are indifferent to Christ.
      He is ignored; seen as irrelevant to modern men.
      They scoff at the very idea of Creation.
      God, if spoken of, is seen as a God only of love and peace.
      See what we have done to Christmas and Easter.
      The very idea that God sent the flood in Noah's day is totally ridiculed.
      Men say the activities in Sodom were only normal and natural.
      The Commandments of God are considered ancient rules best forgotten.
      They say 'We are wiser and live in a modern world ...'
      But what would Jesus say if he were preaching in our cities?
      How would he warn us of the coming judgement?
      We are so privileged in this country; climate, resources, infrastructure, ...
      We have had nearly 500 years of Protestant truth from the Bible in English.
      Yet we are strikingly similar to Capernaum.
      For all our technology, men have not changed.
      We are naturally proud, foolish, sinful and ignore Almighty God.

            INDIFFERENCE   by Studdert Kennedy

When Jesus came to Golgatha they hanged him on a tree,
They drave great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned him with a crown of thorns, red were his wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham they simply passed him by,
They never hurt a hair of him, they only let him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do,"
And still it rained the wintry rain that drenched him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall and cried for Calvary.

The words Jesus spoke suggest that he did not just cry,
      He 'denounced' indifferent Korazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum,
      'Woe to you ... !'
      And I doubt if he did so in a soft tender voice.
      Like us, these cities were also highly privileged.
      The Son of God had taught in their streets.
      They had seen with their own eyes most of the mighty miracles.
      Their response? Zilch!!

Isaiah sang to Judah a love song that told what God had done for his vineyard.
      But they too ignored it. They yielded only bad fruit.
      What more could I have done for my vineyard?
 Is 51-4
The rest of the chapter warns us what Almighty God will do.
      Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field ...
      Woe to those who ... stay up late till they are inflamed with wine ...
            but have no regard for the deeds of the Lord.
      Woe to those who draw sin along with cords of deceit ...
      Woe to those who call evil good and good evil ...
      Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes ...
      Woe to those who ... acquit the guilty for a bribe ...
            for they have rejected the law of the Lord Almighty ...
      Therefore the Lord's anger burns against his people ...
            the mountains shake ...
 Is 58-25
But it was not all 'doom and gloom'; a few did hear and repent.
At that time Jesus said, 'I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
      because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned,

      and revealed them to little children.'  1125
Truth was not revealed to the religious leaders or the men with power,
      but to 'children'; the poor, the sick, to fishermen, tax collectors and 'sinners'.
How hard it is for the rich and famous to enter the kingdom of heaven.
      History shows it not impossible; but it is rare.
No-one knows the Son except the Father,
      and no-one knows the Father except the Son
      and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
      Blessed indeed are all those whom the Son chooses.
      The revelation is life-changing!
Jesus then issues some of the most comforting words to all believers:
      'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
      Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
      for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
            For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.'
      This does not mean that the Christian has a life of ease and plenty.
      It does mean he has peace with God and courage in all circumstances.
      He has hope that is sure, and light when all around him stumble in darkness.
      Let us be sure to enter and remain in God's grace and mercy.
      My yoke is easy promises that it is well-fitting to the 'horse',
            rather than the 'horse' will only be required to pull light loads.
      The 'burden is light' because the Son of God takes all the main weight.
      Christian in Pilgrims Progress bore a great load (the pain and guilt of sin)
            until he came to the Cross when the load fell off;
            it rolled into the open sepulchre and he ceased to carry a load on his back.
      But the very next part of his journey was to climb the 'Hill of Difficulty'.

The Lord of the Sabbath  121-21       [Contents]

The 4th Commandment God gave to Moses reads:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
      Six days you shall labour and do all your work,
      but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.
      On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter,
      nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.
      For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea,
      and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.
      Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
 Exd 208-11

The heart of the Sabbath is often forgotten;
      it is to remember God's 6 day creation.
The way it is to be remembered is that men should cease from work as God did.
      And that 7th day of rest and remembrance should be kept holy.
      For the legally minded, this introduces two minefields of definitions:
      What is work? and What is holy?
      And immediately the wonder of God's fantastic creation is forgotten!
One of the reasons for the Babylonian exile was the endemic Sabbath violation.
      When they returned to Judea they determined keep this and other laws.
      Ezra did much to encourage this, but others then magnified the Oral Law,
      which included 1,500 'laws' for keeping the Sabbath.
'Law-keeping' became the means of salvation, instead of repentance and faith.
      After the massacre / enslavement of Jews following the Bar Kochba rebellion,
the surviving Jews felt they should write down the Oral Law.
      So the Jerusalem Mishna was written ~ 200 AD.
      To this waadded the Talmud and the Babyloniain Mishna in ~450 AD.
Jesus did not here, or anywhere else, abolish the 4th Commandment;
      but he did free it from the erroneous additions that men had added to it.
The Pharisees were corrected for insisting on adding holiness to their Sabbath;
      Christians today often need correction for subtracting from it.
      We are inclined to only keep part of the day holy.

The Pharisees did not like Jesus for many reasons; criticism came easily.
      The breaking of Sabbath 'oral laws' became a habitual irritation.
      But Jesus was not going to be stifled by their un-ordained laws.
      This was the start of a constant battle with Pharisees.
      Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.  122
      What had they done?
      They had rubbed out a few ears of corn because they were hungry.
      This was explicitly allowed in the written Law.
      If you enter your neighbour's cornfield, you may pick the ears with your
      hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing corn.  Deut 2325
      The only action not permitted was harvesting for profit.
      The Sabbath laws of God do not restrict deeds of necessity
            deeds that are service to God, or acts of mercy.
      The Sabbath is for man's benefit ( physically rest and worship Creator)
            and God's glory.
      Jesus quickly demolished their criticism:
      Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?
      He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread.
      They wouldn't dare criticise king David; so Jesus then adds:
      I tell you that one greater than the temple is here.  126
      That statement must have startled them!
      Then he reveals the real problem that lay behind their hatred:
      If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,'
            you would not have condemned the innocent.
      The Pharisees majored on sacrifices.
      They thought these 'works' deserved their favour in heaven.
      Jesus desired 'mercy' - given only to the repentant;
            to the pleading spirit that seeks the undeserved forgiveness from God.
      His final word told them a remarkable truth, but this they failed to hear.
      For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.  128

The battle continued later that day in the synagogue.
      There happened to be a man there having a withered arm.
      The Pharisees purposefully challenged Jesus:
      Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?  1210
      It was against the Oral Law,
            but there is nothing prohibiting Sabbath healing in the written Law of God.
      Jesus reveals to them their hypocrisy and the folly of the Oral Law.
            (Laws made by men; not by God)
      If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath,
            will you not take hold of it and lift it out?
      How much more valuable is a man than a sheep!
      Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.
      The Lord of the Sabbath then heals the withered arm with a simple command.
      Stretch out your hand.  1213
      He didn't even have to 'do' anything.
      The man and many of the people were delighted,
            but it is perhaps not surprising that the Pharisees were not so pleased!
      They went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.  1214
      Very similar to Cain, who having been personally warned by God,
            plotted and then executed the murder of his brother Abel.  Gen 46-8
      Jealousy is such a cruel master.
      Their desire to destroy the Son of God only shows how evil their hearts were.
      Why are so many prophets and men of God martyred? Hatred.

Jesus was very aware of their plotting, so withdrew. Many followed him
He healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was.  1216
The Son of God has compassion on his people,
      and has the power to reverse all the effects of sin. So he did so.
      But he didn't want them the think their Messiah had come to reign.
      Zealous people wanted to make him their Roman-overthrowing king.
      Jesus longed to see justice, righteousness and truth in the land;
            but he had come to fulfill another vital task first:
            to redeem and save, to bear our punishment that justice demands.
      Later he would come again to establish his kingdom of justice and truth.

This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
      'Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
      the one I love, in whom I delight'.  1217,18
See how Matthew uses the term 'servant', not 'king'.
The 'Suffering Servant' events that Isaiah prophesied  (Is 5213 - 5312)
      had to be fulfilled before the great Messiah led kingdom.  (Is 60-62)
There was also another task that had to be completed:
      to take the gospel to the Gentile nations
      so that In his name the nations will put their hope. 1221 Is 424
      For 2,000 years God has been fulfilling this promise.
      But he has not forgotten his chosen, Jewish people, despised by the world.
A bruised reed he will not break,
      and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.  1220
      Such is always the compassion of Jesus for both Jew and Gentile.
      'He came not to gather the strong for a revolution,
      but to show mercy to the weak.' (MacArthur Study Bible)
      The Lord of Glory delights in the smallest spark of light;
      he is glad to strengthen the weakest move a man takes to seek him.
Some have also said that these words can be translated:
      He, being a bruised reed ... he, being a smouldering wick ...
      And are thus prophetic of the work of Christ himself.
      On the cross he seemed to all to be a bruised reed.
      In the tomb his light extinguished, leaving but a dull memory and hope.
      But his resurrection changed all that, and we see how
           he leads justice to victory.  1240
           The debt of sin was paid in full, justice was satisfied,
           believers are redeemed, Satan was defeated,
           all heaven rejoices in the victory that Jesus achieved.

Jesus Heals by the Spirit of God, Not Beelzebub  1222-37       [Contents]

Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute,
      and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.
It sounds so simple when in the hands of Jesus.
First he had to have the discernment that the cause was demonic.
Then he had to have the power to cast out the demon.
      Jesus clearly had both.

The people were astonished and wondered if he were the promised Messiah.
But the Pharisees dismissed any such notion with a derogatory declaration:
      It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons,
      that this fellow drives out demons.
This shows how foolish men can be when determined to oppose Christ.
      (Roman Catholics made the same charge against Martin Luther.)
Jesus publicly challenged this falsehood, this absurd statement:
      If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself.
      How then can his kingdom stand?
      If I drive out demons by Beelzebub,
      by whom do your people drive them out?
      if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God,
      then the kingdom of God has come upon you. ...
      And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men,
      but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
The Pharisees failed to make any positive response, so Jesus concludes:
      You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good?
      For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.  1234
Jesus could say such things, knowing who he was and what he knew;
      but this is one example that we would probably be unwise to follow!
      His directness and truth are obvious.
      So too was his desire to correct their erroneous thinking, and save them.
      I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment
      for every careless word they have spoken.
      For by your words you will be acquitted,
      and by your words you will be condemned.
      Sadly, so far as we know, they ignored the warning.
Some men think that what they say matters more than what they do.
      Others strive to do good, but are quite careless about what they say.
      Jesus makes clear that what we say is vital; whether deceitful or careless.
      Let us take great care in what we say, how it is spoken and when.
      The tongue has the power of life and death,
      and those who love it will eat its fruit.
 Prov 1821
      And remember all to often what a man speaks reflects his heart.
      Though with others what is said rarely reflects their heart;
           such it is their determination to deceive!

One Greater than Jonah is Here  1238-45       [Contents]

Jesus had just healed a man with a withered hand, and a man blind and mute;
      yet some Pharisees said to him:
      Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.  1238
      What more did they want to see?
Only a short time earlier he had even raised two from the dead!
      The widow of Nain's son.  Lu 715
      And also the synagogue rulers' daughter.  925
      What more proof does any man require?
Jesus knew well that signs rarely bring a sinful soul to repentance and faith.
      He said as much in the story of the rich man and Lazarus:
      If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets,
      they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.
 Lu 1631
      When he was in the wilderness Satan had tried to temp him to demonstrate
      a great public miracle by surviving jumping off the Temple pinnacle.  45
      He refused such a futile gesture; and he does so now too.

      A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign!
      But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
      They wanted a sign, not so that they might believe,
            but so that they can attempt to rubbish or deny the miracle.
      Jesus say he will give them a sign; the same sign as Jonah.
            As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish,
            so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
      Jesus was three days and three nights in the tomb before resurrection.
      The Pharisees would later deny that too;
            they bribed the guards and persecuted any who witnessed to the truth.
      The wicked will do anything to deny any sign given by God.
            It was true then, and it remains true today.
      The sign that is most clear to all is God's fantastic creation.
            But what do wicked men do with this sign?
      The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven
      against all the godlessness and wickedness of men
      who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
      since what may be known about God is plain to them,
      because God has made it plain to them.
      For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -
      his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen,
      being understood from what has been made
.  Ro 118-21
      They deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed
      and the earth was formed ...
2Pe 35       Today in UK any talk about Creation is ridiculed by wicked men.
            Evolution theory is taught is schools as the truth.
            Foolish men say God's intricate, fantastic design and creation;
            from the macro to the micro
            they claim that it all happened just by chance evolution.
            The current (June 2011) UK Education Minister has forbidden Creation
            to be taught as science and may only be mentioned in Religious studies.
            God's judgement by flood in Noah's day (another sign) is also mocked.
            But see prophecy in 2 Pe 33-7

Jesus told them clearly that
      now one greater than Jonah is here ...
      and now one greater than Solomon is here.
 1241, 42
      But they rejected the miracles that Jesus did in his compassion and power.
      Unlike the Queen of Sheba or the repentant men of Nineveh,
            they refused to hear the wisdom of one greater than Solomon.
So he warned them how evil spirits move from place to place,
      seeking any place where they are welcomed.
      That is how it will be with this wicked generation.  1245

Note that Jesus here confirms the OT stories of Jonah and also the Queen of Sheba.
      Some men claim to be better informed than the Son of God!

But not all men were wicked, as is shown in the next little domestic incident.
His mother and brothers wanted to see him, but couldn't because of the crowd.
      'Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?'
      Pointing to his disciples, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers.
      For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven
      is my brother and sister and mother.'
Who are his true relatives?
      Those to whom the Spirit has brought revelation and hunger for the Almighty.
      Those who call upon the Lord for forgiveness and rejoice in his mercy.
      Those who are determined to be holy and obedient whatever the cost.
      Jesus considered his family to be those obeyed the Father, like he did.
      In the world they are often weak and poor, they are despised and mocked,
            they are imprisoned and persecuted, men frequently speak ill of them;
            but they embrace the truth of Jesus, their Master,
            and one day they will sit at his table and rejoice for ever.

      Master, speak! and make me ready,
      When thy voice is truly heard,
      With obedience glad and steady,
      Still to follow every word.

Seven Parables  131-52       [Contents]

The disciples came to him and asked,
"Why do you speak to the people in parables?"
At first sight this is a fairly straightforward question with an obvious answer.
      Jesus told stories to help simple folk understand and remember his teaching.
      But Jesus gives us a quite different and surprising answer:
      He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven
            has been given to you, but not to them.
            Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.
            Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."
      He then told them that those who walk in darkness are blind and cannot see,
            their ears are blocked so they cannot hear or understand the truth.
      He quotes from Is 69,10
      In 1959 I was an unsaved church-goer who read his Bible each evening.
            One day it included, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
            For me this was a 'God-highlighted' verse.
            I knew it meant more than just making your goals honourable and unselfish.
            But it was three years later that God revealed the truth;
                  if Christ himself is my treasure, my heart will be with him for ever.
                  It has nothing to do with money!
                  (though it will affect what we do with our wealth).
            When unregenerate I could not see this wonderful and gracious truth.
      Jesus then continued to assure his disciples:
      But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.
            For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see
            what you see but did not see it,
            and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
      Only then did they see and hear the truth of the parables.
            They heard, understood, remembered and obeyed what Jesus taught them.
      It is no small privilege to be shown 'the secrets of the kingdom of heaven'.
            And for the revelation to be ever increasing year by year.

1. The Sower.
It is instructive that Jesus referred to this as the parable of the sower.
      I would have wrongly called it the parable of the Seed.
            (It tells of the yield of good seed on four different types of ground.)
      But it tells us more about the Farmer, the Sower and his goal, rather than seed.
The seed is good wherever it falls; but only if the ground is good does it bear fruit.
      The Sower's purpose is obviously to gather a good crop. This is his delight.

In this parable we are shown the extent of God's grace.
      The good seed is not restricted to good ground;
            but some also falls on hard path, on rocky ground, and among thorns.
      How many times have we tried to tell others of Christ; and been rejected?
            'Many are called, but few are chosen'.
      God has determined that before the end, the gospel will be preached to all.
            The opportunity to hear of his offer of forgiveness will be worldwide.

This parable describes simply why many fulfill the prophecy:
      Though seeing, they do not see;
            though hearing, they do not hear or understand. ...
            For this people's heart has become calloused.
  Is 69,10
But some fulfill the goal of the Sower; they produce a fantastic crop.
      With modern UK agriculture a good yield for wheat is ~3 ton/acre. 40 fold.
            In ideal conditions (in New Zealand) the record is 6.2 ton/acre. 85 fold.

a. Seed on path.
            When anyone hears the message about the kingdom
            and does not understand it, the evil one comes
            and snatches away what was sown in his heart.
            The Ethiopian on the road to Gaza did not understand;
                  but Philip was sent to explain the Scriptures he was reading -
                  and he believed.
            But for most who hear, 'birds' immediately come and eat the seed.
            This can be true for some who attend church each Sunday.
                  (Especially where ministers preach homilies rather than the truth.)

b. Seed on stony ground.
            No root, seed germinates with joy, but it does not last without moisture.
            When trouble or persecution comes because of the word,
            he quickly falls away.
            Believing Christ, especially in Muslim countries, is rarely without cost.
            Christians will always be criticised, teased - and sometimes killed!
            Let us pray earnestly for roots.

c. Seed among thorns.
            is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life
            and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.
            Distraction, compromise, too busy ...
            Desire for worldly happiness, success, power, easy life ...
            There are so many varieties of thorns.
                  Not all have harsh prickles; some smell sweet or taste good.
                  But each can be dangerous and poison / kill the growing seed.
            Today in UK and Western world, 'thorns' destroy many; far too many.
            See  1Jn 215-17  James 44

d. Seed on good soil.
            is the man who hears the word and understands it.
            He produces a crop.
            How does a man understand the mysteries of God?
                  Only one way; the Holy Spirit reveals it.  Jn 14-16
                  The Comforter convicts, teaches testifies, guides and makes known.
                  His ministry is full and ongoing.
                  He enables the transforming by renewing of our minds.  Ro 122
            What is the crop?  Jn 158  Math 2819,20
                  The rebirth of a believing soul to become righteous.
                  The encouragement of other pilgrims.
                  Giving the good news of salvation through Jesus to others.
                  The enrichment of the Kingdom of God.

2. Wheat and Tares
      The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.
      But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came
            and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.
      The kingdom of God has always had many satanic enemies.
            So there is nothing surprising about this part of the story.
            The question Jesus raises is: what should we do about the weeds?
            The servants asked him, "Do you want us to go and pull them up?"
            Jesus does not leave us to speculate, but gives us his answer.
            "No," he answered, because while you are pulling the weeds
            you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together
            until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters:
            First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned;
            then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn."
      Jesus explained the parable in  1337-43
      There is an awful judgement!
            At the end of the age, the Son of Man will direct his angels
            to weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.
            They will throw them into the fiery furnace.
            This parable is not told to justify toleration and compromise.
            Jesus tells us that there is Judgement at the end of the age, not now.
            And that he is the Judge, not men.
            This is not a task for his disciples to attempt.
            Tares are probably darnel, difficult to distinguish from wheat when young.
                  Seed is very thin and useless for bread.
            But this does not mean that evil men should not be resisted,
                  especially if they are in the church.
            Paul warns the elders of the Ephesus church to be on their guard,
                  for men from among them will distort the truth.  Act 2028-31
            Peter challenged Ananias and Sapphira for lying about their giving.
                  They both dropped dead!  Act 51-11
            While we must resist all evil, in and out of the church,
                  this parable tells us that Judgement is thankfully for God alone.
            Jesus explains that he will separate the righteous and the wicked.
                  And the end for the wicked is an eternal 'fiery furnace',
                  where there is nothing but 'weeping and gnashing of teeth'.
                  This is a warning that must not be ignored.

      The church will always be a mixture of wheat and tares,
            even in those with the best preaching and example of holy living.
            And the best preachers are imperfect: we all need the Saviour, always.
            But the day will come when Christ will forever separate us from sin.
                  At the end, but not before, we will be made perfect forever.

      Meanwhile minor differences should not be allowed to split the church of Christ.
            Though some divisions are essential to preserve truth:
                  e.g. Rome, JW's, Latter-day Saints.
            Individually they are not for us to 'Judge',
                  but we can and should endeavour to share the truth of Jesus.
            The Scriptures remain our touchstone, not man's tradition/visions.

      Though not emphasised in this parable, Christ crucified in our place
            He is the only means by which any man can be spared the Judgement.

      These first two parables are explained.
            Jesus ensured that the remaining parables were understood.  1351

3. Mustard Seed
      These first three parables are agricultural - about sowers, seed and fruit.
      The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed,
      which a man took and planted in his field.
      Though it is the smallest of all your seeds,
      yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree,
      so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.
      The kingdom of heaven will be nourished to grow big and fruitful,
            though it started small with just 11 very 'ordinary', but God chosen, men.
      Many 'birds' (nations) will find rest and security in the tree's shelter.
            Men will find peace with God;
                  but they may also have to endure persecution on earth.

4. Yeast
      The kingdom of heaven is like yeast
      that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour
      until it worked all through the dough.
      The kingdom of heaven affects every part of a man's life.
      The kingdom of heaven will affect every nation on earth before the end comes.
      Evangelism requires thorough work; it must be with no small endeavour or cost.

5. Hidden Treasure and Finest Pearl
      The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.
      When a man found it, he hid it again,
      and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
      Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.
      When he found one of great value,
      he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
      This twin parable, though short, has most significant meaning.
            It explains why Christians are different
      a) The kingdom of heaven is treasure of the very highest value.
      b) Its value is hidden to most men.
                  It is only sought when God creates the desire in a man's heart.
      c) The cost of possessing (entering) is 'everything'.
                  Jesus gave everything to redeem us.
                  Once seen, he expects us to do likewise.
                  Any man who is convinced of the importance of salvation
                  will willingly give up all to win Christ.
                  But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
                  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to
                  the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,
                  for whose sake I have lost all things.
  Phil 37,8
                  Abel found the treasure and expressed his joy and thanks to God.
                  Cain was jealous. He wanted treasure - for nothing.
                  His idea of treasure was not the kingdom of God.
      d) Unlike earth's treasures, the kingdom of God exceeds all expectations.

      Though not strictly part of this parable, it should also be stated that
            this treasure is never depleted when shared!
      Furthermore, once found, it will not be surrendered,
            even if it means martyrdom.

6. Net
      Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net
      that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.
      When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore.
      Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets,
      but threw the bad away.
      This is how it will be at the end of the age.
      The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous
      and throw them into the fiery furnace,
      where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
      This parable is very similar in meaning to the 'Wheat and Tares',
      a) The righteous and the wicked live together in the present age.
            This may cause much heartache and trials.
                  As Jesus said, "No servant is greater than his Master.
                  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also ...
  Jn 1520
            Our Master has great affection and longing for his enemies.
                  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us ...
                  when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him
                  through the death of his Son ...
  Ro 58,10
            Was it not because we lived among the righteous,
                  that the Lord was able to bring to us the light of his salvation?
      b) Separation will not come before the end of the age.
            Then it will be the God-directed angels who divide.
      c) The Judgement is something that should cause all men the highest concern.
            Only the redeemed in Christ will enter heaven.
            There is no escape for the wicked from the fiery furnace.
            These are not the words of just a Victorian fire-brand preacher,
                  but are from the mouth of Jesus himself, who longs to save all men.

7. The Instructed Teacher
      Therefore every teacher of the law
      who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven
      is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom
      new treasures as well as old.
      The instructed teacher is in possession of treasure. Ultra high value treasure.
      The treasure is both old and new.
      The Law and the Prophets reveal truth that is ancient and modern.
      The newest treasure was Jesus, the Son of God walking on earth.
            The promise fulfilled by the ever faithful Lord of Glory and Grace.
      Scripture also reveals the treasure of his 2nd Coming and the Kingdom of God.
      Only Christians have reliable, precious truth concerning the future.

      It is important as we grow old that we be always seeking new instruction.
            There is still so much to learn.
            Only thus can we continue to have 'new' treasure to bring out of store.

Jesus asked his disciples - and us - "Have you understood all these things?"  1351
      This remains a vital question.
      It is a small thing to know the parable, the story;
            the important thing is to apply it thoroughly and consistently.
      A sermon without application is only information; and is quickly forgotten.
            A useful sermon must affect our lives and lead to righteousness.
      Most people in UK aged over 50 know the parable of the Sower,
            but how many are concerned that the word of God is either being throttled
            or it is being killed by drought in their hearts?
      Most know the importance of building upon rock;
            but how many strive to obey the Word of God, to which it is likened?
      Have I understood and applied all these parables?
      This is the challenge that Jesus asks.

Where and Why are Prophets Despised?  1353-58       [Contents]

When Jesus had finished teaching these parables he went to Nazareth.
There they acknowledged his wisdom and miraculous powers.
      They knew he had not attended any Rabbinical school.
      Mary and Joseph were not scholars, nor were his brothers or sisters.
      Their reaction?  Where then did this man get all these things?
            And they took offence at him.
      They did not like what he taught and were thus offended.
      Most men, but not all, are offended by the gospel truth.
      The wisdom of God that Jesus taught and
            the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
            but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
  1Co 118
      The people of Nazareth thought Jesus was the carpenter's son. 1355
            They had no idea that he was the Son of God, their Messiah!
            So to their great loss, they despised him.
      And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.  1358
      The most mighty work of God, the hardest ministry of the Holy Spirit,
            is to soften the stony hearts of men.
      God's word can create worlds, still storms, raise the dead to life ...
            but proud, stubborn men still choose to reject him -
                  even those from his home town. "Familiarity breeds contempt!"
      As J C Ryle wrote,
            "There are three great enemies against which God's children
            should daily pray - pride, worldliness and unbelief.
            Of these none is greater than unbelief."

John the Baptist Beheaded  141-12       [Contents]

At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, "This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him."  141,2

Herod had arrested John Baptist some time earlier.  see Math 111-19
Then he beheaded him - also earlier - the story is then detailed in 143-12
Both the arrest and the later beheading were before 141,2 as Mark makes clear.
      But when Herod heard this, he said,
"John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!"
  Mk 616
Herod was saying the same as the people; Jesus was performing miracles
      because he was really John Baptist raised from the dead!
      This was clearly a farcical statement, for Jesus had begun his ministry
            some time before John was imprisoned and long before his beheading,
            and had baptised Jesus in the Jordan river.
But Herod had obviously not heard about Jesus until this time.
      Amazing how isolated from common news he was in his 'ivory tower'.
Now he heard about what Jesus was doing - and probably saying.
      But it did not lead to his repenting.
      What foolish excuses men give to escape from the Lord Almighty.
      Herod did not escape.

Matthew then records the earlier events - what had happened to John.
Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, for John had been saying to him: "It is not lawful for you to have her." Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered him a prophet.  143-5
Historically it has always been dangerous to criticise kings!
      This was no exception.
      Some kings like Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar had no fear of the people.
      Herod Antipas was only 'Tetrarch', not 'king' like his father Herod the Great;
            and he was afraid of public opinion.
John was not a prophet because he claimed to be, or the people thought so;
      he was prophet because God chose him and made him so.
On Herod's birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked.  146,7
Any man, or woman, who fills his mind with erotic pleasure is heading for trouble.
      Much modern TV and media exploit this folly.
Many men have also lived to regret making hasty oaths.
      e.g. Saul 1Sam 1424    Jephthah Judg 1129-40
      Jesus said simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes', and your 'No' be 'No'. 
            (See notes on Math 533-37)
      Always be truthful and always keep your word - it should not need an oath.

Prompted by her mother, she (Salome, daughter of Herodias and Philip) said, "Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist."  148
Herodias had such a bitter hatred of John it led to murder at the first opportunity.
Beware of all hatred and offence; it is an effective and destructive tool of Satan.

The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison.  149,10
Why was Herod 'distressed'?
Earlier he had wanted to kill John, but was deterred by his fear of the people.
While all men are born wicked, God has ensured that men also have a conscience.
      This conscience may be almost extinguished by deliberate repeated wickedness.
      But Herod seems to know that his wife's prompting of Herodias was wrong.
Let all righteous parents and preachers be encouraged,
      that their example and words may cause even the most wayward to repent.
      A man's conscience is a blessed gift of God given to all.
            A man is a fool if he continually pays no heed to it;
                  soon it will become almost inaudible.

John's life was short and his ministry brief but effective;
      it transformed many and prepared the way for the Messiah.
      He saw and knew who Jesus was and was able to declare what he had seen:
            "Behold! the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."  Jn 129
      At the age of just 34 he completed the work he was commissioned to do.

John's disciples came and took his body and buried it.
Then they went and told Jesus.  1412
John had disciples who cared, they buried him.
Unlike Lazarus (Lu 1622), who was so poor that angels were told to carry him home.
It was a sad day for John's disciples; how wise they were.
      Let us not be slow to bring to Jesus all our sorrows and disappointments,
            all our questions, all that bewilders us. He is the caring Lord Almighty.

Jesus Feeds 5,000  1413-22       [Contents]

This miracle, and how later that evening he came to them walking on the water,
      are the only miracles recorded in all 4 gospels
      (apart from his birth and his resurrection)

When Jesus heard what had happened,
he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.
      Jesus wanted to grieve for his cousin John privately,
            but the only time he got was while in the boat.
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd,
he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
      As always Jesus put the needs of people above his own.
      There was no reluctance, no hesitation; only pure selfless compassion.
      Even at the end of the day, he would not send the crowd home,
            as his disciples suggested. First they needed feeding!
      And this was a problem. How could they be fed?
We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish. 1417
      Jesus gave thanks for what they had; then gave it to the disciples.
      They then gave it to the people ... and went on giving, and giving, and giving.
They all ate and were satisfied.  1420
      In the crowd of ~10,000 many were just curious, some perhaps even critical.
      But Jesus fed them all. They all saw the mighty power of God.
      And just to prove how much the little had been multiplied;
      the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

A hungry multitude in a desert place.  Problem solved!
This is also a picture of the world in general - sinful, lost, hungry and helpless.
Though few realise they are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  Rev 317
      Jesus, the Bread of life, would also provide a solution to all this too.
      But it would cost his life on a cross.

There would be another problem - which Jesus anticipated.
How long would it take for the people to realise what had happened?
After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say,
"Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world."  ...
hey intended to come and make him king by force.
  Jn 614,15
This was not the time for his kingship; first he had to redeem us.
      Kingship would come later, much later.
      Men are often baffled by God's timing.  But he is always right.
      Jesus acted to nip this problem in the bud.
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. 1422,23
This demonstrates his authority; none argued with him, they all obeyed.
      And Jesus had a few hours up the mountain alone to pray.

Jesus Goes to Disciples on Galilee  1423-36       [Contents]

When evening came, he was there alone,
but the boat was already a considerable distance from land,
buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.
When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.
4th watch was 3-6 in the early morning. Often thought to be a 'dark' time.
The disciples were tired and terrified.
      Someone walking on water is not something you see every day!
      Jesus immediately reassures them.
      The impetuous Peter immediately says,
            "Lord, if it's you tell me to come to you on the water."  1428
      Jesus gives just one word, "Come."
      Whenever we are afraid, this is the best remedy. Hear him say to us,
      Come to me, all who are weary, or afraid, depressed, sorrowful, guilty ...
            and I will give you rest.  1128
Peter begins to doubt; he took his eyes off Jesus, and looked at the waves.
      If we fill our minds with rubbish; our hearts will soon wither.
      Peter cried out, "Lord, save me!"
      Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
      "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
      Jesus did not let him sink; Peter only 'began to sink'.
      Even when we are foolish, Jesus 'immediately' hears our cry for help.  Ps 9418
            He is so gracious, so compassionate - we don't deserve such friendship.
This miracle again proves that Jesus is the Son of God, creator of all;
      and has the absolute power to make the angry sea submit to his command
      to make the liquid water like rock for his feet - and for Peter too.
      He showed the same power over
            fire for the 3 young Hebrews in Babylon,
            water to divide allowing the Hebrews to cross the Red Sea and the Jordan,
            to make an axe-head float in water,
            to flood the earth in Noah's day or fire to destroy Sodom ...
      If only men would obey the Lord God like the elements he also created.

How did this incident end?
When they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.
Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying,
"Truly you are the Son of God."
      A good conclusion.

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret.
And when the men of that place recognised Jesus,
they sent word to all the surrounding country.
People brought all their sick to him
and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak,
and all who touched him were healed.
Once again Jesus has compassion upon the many sick and suffering.
And all were healed. The power of Jesus was obvious to all.
      None excluded, none too difficult.
      The healing was immediate; none were told to come back later!

What is Clean and Unclean - and Why  151-20       [Contents]

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem
and asked, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?
They don't wash their hands before they eat!"
Jesus responded by quoting a Pharisaic law:
      A man need not honour his parents if he gave the gift to God
            (i.e. to the Pharisees instead of to his parents!)
      Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
      You hypocrites!  ...
      Then returning to their original question he told the crowd:
      Listen and understand.
      What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean',
      but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean'.

      And to his disciples who reported the Pharisee were offended he said,
      Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted
      will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides.
      If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit. ...

      Don't you see that
      whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body?
      But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart,
      and these make a man 'unclean'. For out of the heart come evil thoughts,
      murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
      These are what make a man 'unclean';
      but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean'.

Jesus was much more concerned with men being spiritually 'unclean'
      rather than personal hygiene.
      He was not saying that proper hygiene was unimportant,
      but the consequence of sin is dire, eternal and catastrophic!
The Pharisees were more concerned with public appearances;
      they were continually striving to make a good impression,
            especially concerning 'religion'.
      But Jesus was telling them that God looks at the heart of men.
      He sees all the hidden thoughts and motives -
            and long to make them righteous.
Paul emphasises this in his letter to the Romans:
      Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,
      but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
  Ro 122
      Only God can do this, though it also requires our determination.
      Let us not be slack in doing so.

Likewise when choosing our democratic leaders may we consider:
But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height,
      for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.
      Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
1Sa 167
The media does not encourage such insight
      Their object is not righteousness; but financial profit or political ideals.
The kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking,
      but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Ro 1417
'Religious' people are often critical of others.
      They either add, subtract or alter scripture to suit their own ideas.
      (In this case it is an addition)
      In today's liberal world the danger is probably more in subtraction.
            We discard God's commandments as being too difficult, too inconvenient,
            or they may just oppose what we want to do.
      The Roman church insists on many additions from their various traditions.
            e.g.  celibacy, purgatory, priesthood, papal bulls etc

The Pharisees asked about what is clean/unclean.
      e.g.  Eating with unwashed hands.
Jesus asks the question who is clean/unclean.
      e.g.  Evil thoughts, words and actions that come from an unclean heart.
      It is not what goes into a man's mouth that makes him unclean,
            but what comes out that reveals the state of his heart.
Only Jesus can cleanse my heart.
      Let us with all zeal trust him to complete the work he has begun.

Canaanite Daughter Freed from Demons  1521-28       [Contents]

Why did Jesus withdraw to the region of Tyre and Sidon ?
      For the same reason he went to Nain, Gadarenes, and Jerusalem ...
      He was led there by the Holy Spirit to people who needed his ministry.
In this event Jesus endorses God's choice of the Jewish people,
      and the principle "first the Jew, then the Gentile".  Act 1346  185,6  Ro 210
      Many today feel that God has abandoned the Jews, who rejected him,
            and his first choice now is the Christians, or even all people.
      God's covenant with Abraham is unconditional and eternal.
            Gen 122,3 1315 1518 178 263 2813  Ps 1059-11
      God is faithful - he will never break his promise, or even his word.
      God's prophets reveal that all Israel will be saved at the end.  Ro 1125-29
      Jesus will return and fight for the Jews in Jerusalem. Rev 1911-21  Zech 121-9 142-11

This is not the only occasion that God saves and honours Gentiles:
      Rahab Josh 2 Math 15
      Nebuchadnezzar  Dan 4
      Luke  Luke and Acts
Let us not be surprised that true faith is sometimes found in unlikely places.
      The grace of God is not limited by geography or nation.
      Today many Muslims unsatisfied and yearning for something better,
            have turned to Christ and been given visions of him.
            (See OM dvd "More than Dreams".)
      Afflictions can often lead the bearer to Christ.
            Rich, comfortable men are often content without God - until they die!
            As Jesus said, "It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."
                  Hard, but thankfully not impossible; such is his grace.
            This compassionate Canaanite woman sought Jesus.

Jesus says, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."  1524
      Notice that Jesus did not send her away, like the disciples wanted to.
            This 'delay' by Jesus was intended to draw out her determination for help.
      Truth is, we are all 'sick' and 'lost', sinners who need a Saviour.
            On another occasion he tells them it is the sick who need a doctor.
      Most refuse to admit their need.
            But this Canaanite woman didn't.
            She continued to plead with Jesus for mercy.
            And like Jacob at Peniel (Gen 3226),  she would not take no for an answer.
            Her determination prevailed.
            Her quick response must have delighted Jesus:
            Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs
            that fall from their masters' table.
            Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted."
            And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
            She admitted she was an undeserving Gentile.
            She pleaded for just 'a crumb'; she didn't ask to sit at table with him.
            But Jesus gave her a 'full meal';
                  her daughter was totally freed from the demons' claws, immediately.
            This incident is very instructive.

His work done, Jesus returned to Galilee.

Jesus Feeds 4,000  1529-39       [Contents]

This is a very similar miracle to the feeding of 5,000.
      But it is not the same. In 169,10 Jesus speaks about two miracles.
This miracle followed 3 days of healing and teaching.
      The mute speaking, ... the lame walking and the blind seeing. 1531
Two sicknesses afflict men: physical disease or defect and spiritual heart disease.
      The flocked to Jesus to cure the former, but few sought healing for the latter.
      Yet our souls are far more diseased than our bodies, sin is more deep rooted,
            and difficult to cure, and the consequences more dire.
      The power Jesus displayed in healing the body should encourage us
            to have confidence that he can heal our sin-sick souls too.
As J C Ryle wrote:
"There is no ailment of heart that He cannot cure. There is no form of spiritual complaint that He cannot overcome. The fever of lust, the palsy of the love of the world, the slow consumption of indolence and sloth, the heart-disease of unbelief, all, all give way when he sends forth his Spirit on any one of the children of men. He can put a new song in a sinner's mouth, and make him speak with love of that Gospel which he once ridiculed and blasphemed. He can open the eyes of a man's understanding and make him see the kingdom of God. He can open the ears of a man and make him willing to hear his voice, and follow him wherever He goes. He can give power to a man who once walked in the broad way that leads unto destruction, to walk in the way of life. He can make hands that were once instruments of sin, serve him and do his will. ...
Every conversion is a miracle."
      All this Jesus longs to effect upon all men, if only they would call upon him.

There is no mention of Jesus being tired, only as having compassion for these people;
      they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.
      I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.

      So Jesus fed the 4,000 with the multiplied 7 loaves and a few small fish.

      Jesus never sends the hungry away empty - physically or spiritually.
            He delights to feed and save all who call upon him.
            But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him
            if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.
  Deut 429

            Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find;
            knock and the  door will be opened to you.
            For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds;
            and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

            And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  Joel 232

      Jesus is so generous, gracious and compassionate.
      He does for us immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.  Eph 320

The Wicked Seek Miraculous Signs  161-4       [Contents]

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him
by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
He replied, "When evening comes, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,'
and in the morning, 'Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.'
You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky,
but you cannot interpret the signs of the times."
Why did they ask for a sign from heaven, when so many were being healed.
      423,24  816  114,5  1435,36  1530,31
      Lame walked, lepers cleansed, blind saw, dumb spoke, demons cast out
      Were the Pharisees blind to what was happening in Galilee?
      Had they seen the healings but refused to think they were by the hand of God?
      What sort of sign were they wanting to see?
      They just could not credit Jesus with anything good;
            such was the hatred, jealousy, pride, stubbornness in their hearts.
Jesus did not say 'you do not interpret the signs of the times';
      but he said 'You cannot' !
      What an awful condemnation.
      Today there are still many such men who 'cannot' see the truth.
The Pharisees did not come to Jesus with an open enquiring mind,
      they came to 'test' him. And they really wanted him to fail the test!
      But Jesus didn't fail. He issued one final sentence:
      A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign,
      but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.
            He had already given them this answer in 1239 to the same question.
What was the sign of Jonah? (which presumably they had also rejected)
      The resurrection of Jonah after 3 days in the belly of a whale.
      So Jesus Christ would later be 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth.
      (see notes of 1239,40)

Their response was as before - nil.  So Jesus then left them and went away. 164
      This is a terrible warning to those who reject and despise the grace of God.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness
and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness ...
their foolish hearts were darkened. ...
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity ...
to shameful lusts. He gave them over to a depraved mind. ...
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.
  Ro 118-29
      No one can say that Almighty God has not clearly warned us.

Beware of the Yeast!  165-12       [Contents]

Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Initially the disciples thought he was referring to forgetting to buy bread.
Jesus addresses them as: "You of little faith".  168
      Why?  Because they had also forgotten how he fed 4,000 and 5,000 men.
      Jesus knew how quickly we can forget yesterday's lesson;
            or last week's sermon!
What was the 'yeast' that they needed to guard against?
      The teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  1612
      Their teaching was distracting.
            They wanted more and special signs to prove Jesus was the Christ.
            They should have been awe-struck by the compassion of God
            They should have been worshipping Almighty God for his kindness to men.
      Their teaching was not truth.
            They had added so many 'laws'; especially concerning the Sabbath.
            They were more concerned about clean hands than clean hearts.
            They wanted to appear 'good', rather than be 'good'.
            They were self-righteous and arrogant pretenders (hypocrites),
                  they added or subtracted from God's Word as it suited them;
                  rarely did they weep before the Lord God for their own sin.
      Beware of such 'yeast'.
            It does not lead to salvation or righteousness;
            and a small amount may work to affect the whole.
      Note that this warning needed to be given to the 12 apostles - and to us.
            Their names may change, but their spirit remains an ever present danger.

Let us continually seek the forgiveness of God and his bountiful mercy;
      and be grateful for his grace.
      We can never even begin to earn a place in heaven by striving to be good.
            "O to grace how great a debtor,
              daily I'm constrained to be."

You are the Christ  1613-28       [Contents]

Jesus next went to Caesarea Philippi.
There he asked the disciples a vital question:
      Who do people say the Son of Man is? 
      We would ask "Who was Jesus? What was his goal?  Did he achieve it?"
The disciples answered: Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah;
      and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
      So the general people were far from the truth as to who Jesus was.
      Their answer did not surprise him; he already knew what the people thought.
      So he then asked them, But what about you, who do you say I am?
Peter, so often the first to open his mouth(!), answered,
      You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Jesus was obviously delighted.
He then taught them several important truths:

1.      This was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.
      The identity of Jesus is not learned from books, or even sermons alone,
            only by the personal, precious revelation of God.

2.      On this rock I will build my church
      The church is built upon the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Saviour.
      It is Jesus who builds the Church, though he gives men work to do.
      He remains the designer, the guide, the enabler, the provider.
      The church is the whole company of all believing people.

3.      The gates of Hades will not overcome it.
      Satan will always try to destroy, divide, and corrupt - but he will fail.
      This assurance of the Lord God is most comforting.
      Like the bush that Moses saw, it will burn but never be consumed.
      Through we be frail and fall, all true believers are safe in his hands. Jn 1028

4.      I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
      Peter was given the privilege to be the first to preach to Jews at Pentecost
            and the Gentile Cornelius. On both occasions the door of faith was opened.
      Jesus has chosen to continue to give men considerable responsibility.
      Let us pray earnestly for our leaders and preachers,
            and for the kingdom of God on earth,
            while we eagerly await the coming of the King.

5.      Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
      Why?  Because so many wanted him to be a Rome-destroying King;
            But first he had to be the life-giving, redeeming Saviour;
            and this would necessitate his crucifixion, not his coronation.

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things
at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law,
and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

The ministry of Jesus now takes on a new emphasis.
      His crucifixion and resurrection.
      They had to learn that Messiah had two distinct tasks:
            first to save us from our inborn sin
            and only then to reign as king on earth - this we still eagerly await.
      But they would not really understand the first lesson until after calvary.
      They did not understand how and why the prophecy in Is 53 had to be fulfilled.

Men today still find this a problem.
      Only believers know why Jesus had to die in our place.
      He is much more than just a martyr or good example to follow.
      Our sin needs to be redeemed, atoned for.
            Justice requires the death penalty. A punishment we cannot pay.
            This was the reason for all the OT sacrifices.
                  Few saw that the sacrifices were in themselves useless;
                  they pointed to the true sacrifice that Jesus would make on our behalf.
            Jesus willingly laid down his life to save us from eternal condemnation.
      This was the planned goal of his coming;
            from which he did not flinch for a single moment.
      Men then, and always, need the gracious revelation of God to believe this.

Even Peter, who had just proclaimed Jesus was the Christ, had to learn this.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
      "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"
      How could mere men kill the Messiah?
      It is a contradiction. The Christ is King, the Almighty. Who could kill him?
      Peter had yet to learn the plan of God for our forgiveness and atonement.
      Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan!
            You are a stumbling-block to me;
            you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
      He immediately recognised where Peter's rebuke came from;
            so took appropriate action to suppress it with vigour.
            Peter learned quickly. He never repeated such foolish words.
      Satan hates all efforts to save men, and God's plan to rescue them.
            He will do everything in his limited power to frustrate it.

Then Jesus said to his disciples,
"If anyone would come after me,
      he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
      For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,
      but whoever loses his life for me will find it."
Jesus was about to lay down his life for us.
      As it was for Jesus, so will it be for all who follow him.
      He dispels the false dreams that his glorious kingdom was about to come.
            Their lives would feature affliction and suffering for the gospel.
            The world would hate them as it hated him.
      The saying remains true: "No cross, no crown."
Unlike Jesus, we are often reluctant to follow him in this way.
      We prefer ease, security and joyful living.
      But Jesus says we 'must deny' ourselves such preferences.
      No wonder he also said that the way is steep and narrow.
            The sure destination will make it all worthwhile.

Jesus is Transfigured  171-13       [Contents]

After six days ...
There is obviously a connection between this event and the previous teaching.
In majoring on the Cross, Jesus did not want them to forget his glory.
He showed them something of his kingship and authority.
Though he had to suffer and die, no one would overpower the Sovereign Lord.
That was the agreed plan with the Father - a plan made even before creation!

      I lay down my life - only to take it up again.
      No-one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.
      I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.
      This command I received from my Father.
  Jn 1017,18

He chose to take only Peter, James and John. A privilege they would never forget.
He was transfigured before them.
His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.

In the beginning on the 1st day of creation, God said, "Let there be light."
      God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
      The dawn brings fresh hope and a new day - expectation and longing.
When Moses spoke with God on the Mountain, his face shone.  Exd 3429-35
The Psalmist in describing the splendour of God says:
      He wraps himself in light as with a garment ...  Ps 1042
On the resurrection morning  an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and,
      going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.
      His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.
Paul on the Damascus road testified:
      I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me
      and my companions. We all fell to the ground, ...
      Then I asked, "Who are you, Lord?"
      "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," the Lord replied.
  Act 2613-15
One day we shall all be dazzled by his brightness.
      What a day that will be!

Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.  173
This is highly significant for two reasons:
1)  Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the Prophets.
      All the revelation and teaching of the Old Testament.
      All the best plan of God for men, the pinnacle of his creation.
      The endless blood sacrifices to cleanse men from their sin.
            Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.  Heb 922
      Jesus would be the one full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice.
      The OT sacrifices looked forward to this perfect offering.
      The Prophets looked forward to the same offering
            that brings forgiveness, reconciliation and life with Almighty God.

2)      For his anger and disobedience Moses was denied entry to the promised land.
      Now here he was resurrected with the Son of God in the promised land.
      Such is the mercy and grace of God.
And Luke tells us what the three of them were talking about. 
      They spoke about his departure,
      which he was about to bring to fulfilment in Jerusalem.
  Lu 931
This is what Jesus wanted Peter, James and John to hear.
      To emphasise what Jesus had begun to tell them for the last six days.
      The means of atonement for sinful men is Christ crucified.
      Of all the things Jesus taught them by words and action,
            this was of the greatest importance.

So when the impetuous, zealous Peter interrupted
      and started talking about building three tabernacles,
      Almighty God stopped him:
      This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!  175
      There is a time to speak, and a time to listen.
            This was clearly the later.
            Peter obeyed, he did listen.
      There would come a day when Peter would understand what Jesus came to do.
            Then he would speak, and 3,000 would be saved!  Act 214-41
            He would speak to the Gentile, Cornelius and his household,
                  and they too would be saved.  Act 101-48

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them,
"Don't tell anyone what you have seen,

            until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."  179
      There are moments when some truth has to be hidden for a time.
            This was one.  (See also 824 and 1216)
      Jesus did tell the other apostles because they asked about Elijah.
            Yes, Elijah did have to come to prepare the way for the Christ.  Mal 45,6
            He told them he has already come - and they killed him (John Baptist).
            Very few prophets and preachers of truth have had an easy time on earth.
                  None of the apostles died quietly in their beds!
            Evil men, especially leaders, hate God's truth and all who proclaim it.
      At the end there will be 'Two Witnesses'.  Rev 111-14
            They will preach for 3½ years.
            The Beast will kill them, but they will rise from the dead.
      And many 'preparers of the way' have been martyred in between.
            Each died preaching Jesus - and earned a glorious crown.

Rebuked Demon Comes Out of Boy  1714-23       [Contents]

A man approached Jesus and knelt before him.
"Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and is suffering greatly.
He often falls into the fire or into the water.
I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him."
"O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied,
"how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?
Bring the boy here to me." Jesus rebuked the demon,
and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.
The disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?"
He replied, "Because you have so little faith."

This was fortunate. Jesus was ministering on earth for just 3 years.
He was wise; he brought his vexing problem to Jesus.
Even with today's excellent medical diagnostic ability, and anti-epileptic drugs,
      the NHS could not have healed this boy.
In this case the problem was not medical; the boy was controlled by a demon.
Jesus knew this immediately and rebuked it.
      The demon had no option but to obey; so the boy was healed.
The disciples had failed to heal him and asked Jesus why.
      "Because you have so little faith," was the answer.
      (The NIV omits 1721 This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. KJV)
      Nothing further is added as to why their faith was inadequate.
      Conjecture on this point is foolish.
      They simply did not truly believe Almighty God could or would heal the boy.
      Healing ministries today would do well to ponder these scriptures.
            Too often they blame the recipient for lack of faith, not themselves.

Unbelief, lack of faith will always rob us of victory over the enemy of our souls.
      The Israelites escaped from Egypt and crossed the Red Sea in triumph;
            but when the came to enter the promised land they failed miserably.
            Almighty God had not changed, Moses still led them. Their faith failed.
            They were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.  Heb 319

Lack of faith can also be because of pride or presumption.
After seeing the defeat of Jericho,
      They said, The men of Ai are few, do not weary all the people.
      But they were routed by the men of Ai.
  Josh 73
      Sin had also entered their ranks. Disobedience to God is always dangerous.

When they came together in Galilee, he said to them,
"The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.
They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life."
And the disciples were filled with grief.

The disciples were beginning to believe that Jesus would be killed,
      (it caused them grief)
      but they had not yet grasped the reason why he had to suffer and die.
      Today many church-goers have also failed to perceive this vital truth.
      The emphasis is often more directed to what I can do for God,
            rather than gratitude for what Jesus has done for us - i.e. redeem us.
Jesus would repeatedly tell them this 'uncomfortable' news. 2018
      Because they still didn't understand it.  Lu 945 1834

Paying the Temple Tax  1724-27       [Contents]

The 2 drachma tax (~2 days wages) was paid by all males over 20 annually.
Jesus knew that Peter had been asked about payment.
      How he knew we are not told. The text implies it was divinely revealed.
      He asks Peter: "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes -
            from their own sons or from others?" "From others," Peter answered.
            "Then the sons are exempt, ... but so that we may not offend them,
            go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch;
            open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin.
            Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."

      The implication is clear. 'King' Jesus and his 'sons' should not have to pay.
            But as he had not come to earth as king, he would pay it.
            It is assumed that Peter went and did as instructed, and paid the tax.
How audacious that men should tax the Creator and King of the Universe!
      And how gracious of Jesus to pay it.
      Any other man would have been highly indignant.
      Jesus chose not to offend even the tax collectors.
            Wherever possible, let us also take great care to avoid offending others.

Who's the Greatest?  181-9       [Contents]

Men have always asked this question; some hope it may be themselves!
      Even the disciples were not immune from such thoughts.
      At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked,
      "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
Jesus, the Son of God, did not ask this question. He didn't need to!
      He said:
      The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.  Lu 1910
            He had not come then to be king, but Saviour.

      Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
      And whoever wants to be first must be your slave -
      Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve
      and to give his life as a ransom for many.

      The greatest among you will be your servant.
      For whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
      and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

In this passage he teaches the disciples that they must enter the kingdom
      of heaven like children - humbly, for the gate has a low lintel.
      Little children are simple, helpless, dependent, trusting.
      As the old hymn says: "Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling."
To receive salvation every man without exception needs conversion.
      Powerful kings, learned university professors, captains of industry,
            sometimes even bishops (!) - all need to become like children before God.
      No-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.  Jn 33

Furthermore Jesus warns:
      But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
      it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck
      and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
      Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin!
      Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!
He clearly states that God's judgement remains upon such sin:
      ... thrown into eternal fire
      ... thrown into the fire of hell.
Some say there is no such place of torment, but Jesus himself spoke these words.

The 'Lost' Sheep  1810-14       [Contents]

Then he reveals the heart of God concerning the 'lost':
      If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away,
      will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills
      and go to look for the one that wandered off?
      And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep
      than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.
      In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing
      that any of these little ones should be lost.
The 'lost' here are not the unsaved,
      but the Christian who has wandered from the way.
God's angels wait in his presence for their next instruction;
      to seek the wanderer, to bring him home.
      Blessed is the man who is alert to this calling,
            and has the same compassion as our Father.
      Let us all be aware of how easy it is to wander,
            to be diverted, or to compromise the truth.
      And let us be quick to return if a brother is kind enough to show us our fault.

Forgiveness  1815-35       [Contents]

Jesus then takes the restoring of the lost sheep a step further.
If your brother sins against you ...
      What should we do? How should we respond?
      What did Father do with the lost sheep?
      Sin should not be ignored. And neither should the sinner!
      Go and show him his fault is not an excuse to confront or vent our anger.
      It is a command to have courage and lovingly go and talk it through with him.
            First of all in private; only then with one or two others.
            Again this is not to prove you are right by force of numbers,
                  but to help arbitrate. The fault is often on both sides.
      Finally, and only if the sin is serious, and he refuses to listen to the church,
            he should be treated as a pagan.
      Most disagreements are personal and should be kept as such.
            This final step is taken only if the sin affects the church as a body.

The purpose in all this is restoration and forgiveness, not to prove who is right.
Most times these instructions are for when someone else sins.
      But what if it is me?
      Am I ready to be humbled and corrected? Or do I have a proud spirit?
      Let us be grateful to a brother who acts thus through love to save my soul.

Peter then raises a problem.
      We are not told if this is rhetorical or a practical question he was facing.
"Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?
      Up to seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."
He typically continues by telling him a story, a parable about a king
      who had a servant who owed him a large debt and begged for time to repay.
      The king granted his request.
      The servant had a fellow servant who had a small debt, and who begged time.
      But the servant refused and had him thrown into prison.
      The king was furious and said to the forgiven servant:
"You wicked servant, I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.
Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow-servant just as I had on you?"
In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured,
      until he should pay back all he owed.
"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you
      unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
Men who have no interest in theology can easily understand a forgiving spirit.
Peter's question was answered very clearly.
Today, if it were truly learned, it would solve many church problems.
How often do we pray, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us"?

Debtors' prisons were abolished in England in 1869
      (the year before Charles Dickens died and 3 years after he wrote 'Little Dorrit')

Divorce  191-12       [Contents]

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked,
      "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"

At that time there was a hot debate between two Rabbis:
      Rabbi Shammai who claimed the law only permitted divorce for adultery
      Rabbi Hillel who allowed divorce for almost any reason.
These Pharisees wanted to know which 'school' Jesus supported. Neither.
Jesus quotes from the days of creation:
      For this reason a man will leave his father and mother
      and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
  Gen 224
And he emphasises the oneness of marriage and the importance of the vows made.
      The Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth,
      because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner,
      the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the Lord made them one? ...
      So guard yourself in your spirit,
      and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.
  Mal 214,15

      Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.
      But it was not this way from the beginning.
      Divorce was always a very last resort, not an easy opt out.
      I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness,
      and marries another woman commits adultery.

The stability and progress of all nations depend on the stability of the family unit.
That is the marriage bond and the right bringing up of children.
Wherever this fails, the nation will soon follow in decline.
Today 50% of families in UK don't even bother with marriage.
      Nearly 50% of conceptions are aborted, (the babies are murdered!),
            and many, many more are prevented by different contraception methods.
      Same gender civil marriages are now legal.
There is a solemn price to pay for this 'God-rejecting' behaviour.

Finally Jesus says something that has been badly distorted by the Roman church:
      For some are eunuchs because they were born that way;
      others were made that way by men;
      and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven.
      The one who can accept this should accept it.
      They demand that all priests should remain single.
            This had led to a multitude of sexual problems and sin down the centuries.
      The Jewish tradition was that all Rabbis should be married.
      It is good that a few evangelists have been able to be single;
            to concentrate on their calling. But this should never be a general rule.

Little Children Brought to Jesus  1913-15       [Contents]

Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them
      and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.

The disciples were trying to protect Jesus.
      They thought he had more important work to do.
We are not told what effect his laying his hands upon them had in future years.
      The disciples had a very negative view; but Jesus didn't.
      He knew that these children were destined for the kingdom of heaven.
            Their lives would be for ever changed by his touch.
In June 1954 when the bishop of Oxford laid his hands on me during confirmation,
      I felt nothing and was profoundly disappointed.
      Another 8 years would pass before God revealed what his Son had done for me.
      He had put his hands upon my life from the moment I was conceived.
      He wrote my name in the Book of Life before he created the world!  Eph 14
      God's timing of events is a mystery; so is the touch of his hands.
            Our vision of the spiritual realm is very blurred.
            And we cannot see the future like the Almighty - who created time.
      Thank you Jesus for all that your hands have done and continue to do.

A Rich Young Man Went Away Sad  1916-30       [Contents]

Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?
Note first this man came to Jesus not to be healed or for another's need,
      but he came because of his own soul.
Although he asked the wrong question, Jesus did not reject him.
      (It was wrong because there is nothing I can do to gain a place in heaven.)
      (It is the reason Jesus came as Redeemer and to give his life on the cross.)
"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied.
      "There is only One who is good."

      In other words no one can ever be good enough, we are all corrupted.
            There was no other good enough
            To pay the price of sin,
            He only could unlock the gate
            Of heaven and let us in.
Jesus continued, "If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."
      The young man did not reply, "I've tried, but I can't."
      But asked, "Which ones?"
Jesus then told him the commandments that he knew the young man had kept,
      not the one that he had failed on.
      He wanted the young man to come to this conclusion himself. And he did.
      All these I have kept. What do I still lack?
      Now Jesus could tell him the answer to this question - and his first question.
      If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor,
      and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.

      This is really the application of the summary of the commandments.
      Love the Lord your God with all your heart
            and with all your soul and with all your strength.
  Deut 65
      Later Jesus would tell the Pharisees what the greatest commandment was:
            "Love the Lord your God with all your heart
            and with all your soul and with all your mind.
            This is the first and greatest commandment.
            And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.
            All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
      This was the commandment the young man failed to keep.
      He loved his wealth more than he loved the Lord God.
      Now he knew. He would never again say, "All these I have kept."
            He knew what he lacked - and how carefully Jesus had led him to this truth.
            But he went away sad and reluctant to confess his spiritual bankruptcy.
            We are not told if he later obeyed and found forgiveness and eternal life.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth,
      it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
      Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle
      than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
      Yet nearly all the world seeks to be rich - and sad!!
            For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  1Tim 610
      Only the gracious revelation of God can turn a man away from this desire.
      It is hard for the rich; but thankfully not impossible.
      When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked,
            "Who then can be saved?"
      Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible,
            but with God all things are possible."
            Amen! This is true.
      It was true for Abraham, Moses, Job, David, even Nebuchadezzar.

Peter answered him, "We have left everything to follow you!"
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, ...
      everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother
      or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much
      and will inherit eternal life.
      But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first."

Peter did not go away sad.
He stayed - he was grateful, if probably also somewhat mystified.
The truth Jesus revealed so often turns the world's standards upside down.
No believer has ever been the loser because he believed and followed Jesus.
      Many have had to bear afflictions, sometimes like Jeremiah for many years,
            but each receives a crown in heaven and hears the Saviour say,
            "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
      Many like Richard Wurmbrand, imprisoned most harshly for 14 years,
            testified to being most happy there for he saw Christ seated on the throne!

Vineyard Workers All Paid the Same  201-16       [Contents]

To illustrate what he had told them about receiving reward for following him,
      that many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first,
      Jesus told this parable to the disciples.
All the vineyard workers received the same wage,
      whether they had worked twelve hours or one hour.
      The twelve hour workers received a fair and agreed wage,
            but were grieved that the one hour workers received the same wage.
But he answered one of them, "Friend, I am not being unfair to you.
Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go.
I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you.
Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money?
Or are you envious because I am generous?

Eternal life is in no way deserved, it is all of grace.
      Jesus is most generous. Let us not allow envy to have any part in our lives.
The promise of heaven is the same for all who are saved;
      Patriarch or modern Gentile, those saved when young or on their death-bed.
      But some will receive greater glory in heaven than others.
Let none infer from this parable that is safe to put off repentance.
      Many have done so, and then found it was too late,
            their opportunity was lost, death or incapacity came early, unexpectedly.
      The urgency of 'today' must be stressed.
            Now is the time of God's favour, now is the day of salvation.  2Co 62
      Nonetheless by God's grace some have come to believe at the eleventh hour.

Jesus Again Predicts His Death  2017-19       [Contents]

Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem,
he took the twelve disciles aside and said to them,
"We are going up to Jerusalem,
the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law.
They will condemn him to death
and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified.
On the third day he will be raised to life!"

This repeats what he told them after Peter says, "You are the Christ ..."  1621-28
      after the Transfiguration.  1712
      and again after healing a demon possessed boy.  1722,23
It was vital that the disciples understood why Jesus came.
      They didn't realise that the first task of the Messiah was to redeem sinful men.
      Many church-goers today need to learn this too.
      Jesus is far more than an example to follow, he is the Saviour
            who came to bear the punishment we deserve, but cannot pay.
The OT prophets looked forward to this day of salvation, (Is 53 Ps 22 Dan 924)
      the sacrificial system predicted it,
      the feasts of Israel revealed this gracious plan of God.
      Yet few realised the price the Lord Almighty was willing to pay.  Jn 1018
            They were longing for a triumphant King - their own king instead of Rome.
            Jesus knew, but he never flinched from the task.  Is 505-7  Lu 951
At this time these repeated utterances grieved the disciples.
      Jesus had to reveal the cost of God's plan for their forgiveness.  Heb 922
            He had to change the timing of their hopes and dreams.
      The day will come when Jesus will return as King.  Rev 1911-21
            Dream often of this glorious day -
                  but never forget the cost of our redemption to Jesus on the Cross,
                  and only then his victory over our sin when he rose from the dead.

Privilege and Greatness  2020-28       [Contents]

Parents naturally have a great desire for the future of their children.
      The mother of James and John was no exception when she asked Jesus:
      Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right
            and the other at your left in your kingdom.
      Jesus made a two-part reply:
            You don't know what you are asking.
            Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?
      Amazingly, James and John said, "We can."
      But they didn't really know what they were saying either.
      The cup Jesus referred to was to be his sacrifice on the Cross.
            James and John couldn't be the necessary perfect sacrifice for sin,
                  but Jesus confirmed they could, and would, become martyrs!
            You will indeed drink from my cup,
            but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong
            to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.

That wasn't the end of the matter though.
      The other 10 apostles were indignant.
      So Jesus had another problem to sort. His patience is amazing.
      Jesus called them together and said,
      "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
      and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.
      Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
      and whoever wants to be first must be your slave -
      just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,
      and to give his life as a ransom for many."
      In the kingdom of God, rulers have very different motives.
      Jesus really did come 'to serve', he gave his life as a ransom for us -
            and he was the Almighty, the glorious Creator!
            He willingly paid in full what we cannot even begin to pay.
      The world's leaders live in luxury - Jesus was born in a stable.
            They sometime die because they lack power to defend themselves.
      Jesus chose to use his power to lay down his life for us!
            No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.
            I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.
            This command I received from my Father.
  Jn 1018
                  Jesus did not die as a martyr or an example of self sacrifice;
                  he died to purge our sin, to redeem us from its curse,
                  he died, the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God.  1Pe 318
      Just imagine how different the world would be
            if our national, business and financial leaders were like Jesus!

There is none greater than Jesus.
      He wanted his disciples to know the true basis of greatness.
      At this stage they each believed, but only in part;
            their minds also contained much worldly clutter.
      The sons of Zebedee would later become pillars of the church.
            Jesus did not despise them, but taught them with grace, patience and hope.
      Some 'did not know what they were asking',
            others did not realise how destructive their envy was.
      Let us not be too quick to criticise these disciples. Am I any different?
      We all need to heed Paul's instruction:
            Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,
            but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
  Ro 122

"What Do You Want Me to Do for You?"  2029-34       [Contents]

Two blind men by the roadside were repeatedly shouting to Jesus:
      "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us."
      They were disturbing the peace, so
            The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet.
      But the two were determined and shouted even louder.
      It was their day of opportunity and unlike many they weren't going to miss it.

Jesus was so different from the crowd.
      They didn't care about the needs of the two blind men.
            (there was no work for blind men, and no welfare state)
      As usual the crowd just wanted to silence their cry to Jesus for mercy.
Jesus stopped and called them, "What do want me to do for you?"
      They answered, "Lord, we want our sight."
      So Jesus gave them what they asked for.
      During his ministry, very few followers asked Jesus for salvation.
            That would could come later.  Act 237
            One rich young man came to Jesus asking how he could enter the kingdom -
                  but rejected what he was told.  1916-22
            Nicodemus came to Jesus by night seeking truth.  Jn 31-21

If Jesus were to ask us today this question, how would we answer?

See, Your King Comes to You  211-11       [Contents]

Sometimes called the 'Triumphal Entry', but it wasn't.
      Jesus entered riding a borrowed donkey, not a white war-horse.
      But his 'exit' would be triumphal -
      He rose from the dead, victorious over both sin and death!

Jesus instructed two disciples to go to Bethphage and borrow the donkey.
Say to the Daughter of Zion,
See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey.  214,5  Zech 99
Some in the crowd would know that Jesus was fulfilling this prophecy.
      They spread out palm branches and garments on the road.
      And they cried out:
      Hosanna to the Son of David!
      Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
      Hosanna in the highest!  219
But a week later another crowd would be baying, "Crucify him!"

Luke tells us a further detail of his entry into Jerusalem.
      When they reached the mount of Olives and saw Jerusalem,
            Jesus stopped and wept!
            "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace
            - but now it is hidden from your eyes ...
            you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."  Lu 1942,44
            The joyful, celebrating crowd did not understand - later they would.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred
      and asked, "Who is this?"
      They said, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."  2110,11
      True, he was a prophet, but he was much more than that.
            He is the Son of God, the Saviour and Redeemer.
            This is the gracious revelation that enables men to believe and be saved.
      The wrong or incomplete answer to the question, "Who is Jesus?" 
            has caused many to stumble and fall - eternally.
Unlike previous times when Jesus came to Jerusalem, this was special.
He knew it was the last time.
In just a few days he would be crucified.
Jesus did not arrange a big, modern PR stunt for his last entry.
The crowd appeared 'out of nowhere' - summoned by the Lord God.
The sacrifice of his Son, the Lamb of God, was not going to be 'done in a corner'.

Jesus was given special knowledge about the donkeys and their owner;
      just like when he 'saw' Nathanael under the fig tree. Jn 147-49
      Now as King in heaven he sees all things. Nothing is hidden from his eyes.
            He knows all our actions and thoughts, even our dreams.
      May this truth cause us to zealously pursue a holy life at all times

This passage also shows the transience of human nature.
      Unlike Jesus, we tend to be fickle in character.
      Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.  Heb 138
      Consistent, faithful, never swayed by the crowd or by circumstance.
      He always completes his intentions and his plan for our forgiveness.
            Nothing was able to divert him from his chosen path.
      He knew the joyful crowd would not be able to crown him King.
            That could only to done by Father - later, much later,
            at least 2,000 years after being crucified.

Temple Polluters Driven Out  2112-17       [Contents]

The blatant misuse of the Temple angered Jesus.
Why was the Temple built?
God said, " ... make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them."  Exd 258
They offered daily sacrifices and kept the annual feasts,
      and many longed for the promised day
      when the perfect sacrifice would be provided.  Gen 2214  Jn 856

The Temple trade profaned the Holy Place and exploited the people.
Sacrifices brought were inspected (at a price!)  - 
      and always found to be imperfect.
      Men can only offer their best and thus acceptable; it can never be perfect.
            But neither were the priest's animals perfect.
            Only Jesus, the Lamb of God was to be the perfect sacrifice.
      The people had to purchase an 'official' sacrifice at double the normal price.
Sacrifices had to be purchased in 'temple' shekels,  plus exchange charge.
      Couldn't use impure foreign currency or even normal Jewish money.
No wonder Jesus said,
      "My house will be called a house of prayer,
            but you are making it a den of robbers."
      This was an accurate description on their money-making schemes.
            And very far from the purpose of the Temple.

It should be noted that none of the money changers lost any money;
      they just had to pick it up from the ground.
The animals were not lost; they had to be rounded up outside the Temple.
The doves were not released to fly away and not return.
But Jesus unquestionably made a very strong point to all concerned.
      The Temple was for prayer and sacrifice, for seeking God - not money-making.
At the end, on the Day of Judgement, there will be no money.
      All that is corrupt will be purged and thrown out - purified.
      And all those who had earnestly sought the Lord and believed in him
            would be totally purified for ever and their longings satisfied.
            Faith will vanish into sight, hope will be realised and love experienced.

There is a question as to when this incident occurs:
      Matthew, Mark and Luke only record the crucifixion Passover.
            They record the cleansing with other events in the last week.
      John records 3 Passover's (213  64  1155) and puts this incident in the first one.
            Probably more interested in what and why it happened,  rather than when.
            His is the least chronological of the gospels.
      Jesus may have cleared the Temple twice - note  Jn 1157 
      This problem does not infer any inaccuracy in scripture,
            just that we do not know the answer!

Not all those in the Temple were corrupt.
      Some came to be healed by Jesus - and they were.
      Some children shouted "Hosanna to the Son of David."  2115
            They had probably been with Jesus when he entered riding a donkey.
            But the chief priests and teachers of the law were naturally indignant.
            Jesus replied, "Have you never read,
                  'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise'."  2116
            If the religious leaders had any answer, Matthew does not record it.
            Jesus left them and spent the night in Bethany.

Fig-tree Withers  2118-22       [Contents]

Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry.
Seeing a fig-tree by the road, he went up to it
      but found nothing on it except leaves.
Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!"
Immediately the tree withered.
This incident also has much to teach us concerning the Judgement of God.
The action of Jesus was a divine object lesson, not an impetuous act of frustration.
The fig-tree was all showy green leaves, but totally barren of fruit.
      (In April the tree should have had a profusion of small green figs)
Any man who only has a form of godliness, but does not trust Christ for salvation
      cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.  2Tim 35
      He will suffer the same judgement as this fig-tree.
This is a warning by Jesus to all church-goers who do not yet believe;
      those who try to be good, but don't trust Jesus who was crucified to save us.
Even Billy Graham will not enter heaven because he called millions to make
      a decision for Christ, but only because he believes in the sacrifice of Jesus.
Any man who is content with just the 'leaves' of religion,
      but denies the power of Christ crucified to forgive and give new birth;
      is in grave danger of withering or being cut down.

            Jesus thy blood and righteousness
            my beauty are my glorious dress ...
            Lord, I believe thy precious blood,
            Which at the mercy seat of God
            For ever doth for sinners plead,
            For me, even for my soul, was shed.

Or as Isaac Watts wrote:
            Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain
            Could give the guilty conscience peace or wash away its stain.
            But Christ, the heavenly Lamb, takes all our sins away;
            A sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they.

Going to church is not an insurance policy for heaven.
Neither are our good needs or generosity an entry ticket.
The 'fruit' Christ seeks is repentance and faith in him -
      what he has done for us, not what we can (and should) do for him.
Without such 'fruit' we are doomed; like the fig-tree.
This is the divine object lesson Jesus was teaching in his last few days on earth.

The disciples asked, "How did the fig-tree wither so quickly?"  2120
Jesus told them it was through believing prayer.
He believed because he knew the importance of the lesson he was teaching.
A needful lesson, not just for 2,000 years ago, but for our day and generation.

4 Questions, 3 Parables and 8 Woes  2123 - 2339       [Contents]

The entry of Jesus into Jerusalem had caused a considerable stir.
      Then Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead!  (Jn 111-44)
The Pharisees could not ignore such events.
      It begins a series of questions and parables and culminates with 'the 7 Woes'.
      Jesus reveals their deep rooted hypocrisy and sin.
      How different their future could have been if they had listened and believed.
            But the door was too low and their backs would not bend.
            They refused to cry, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner."
            They believed they could achieve their own righteousness.
            Deceived, foolish and arrogant, they denied any need of a Saviour.

Authority  2123-27       [Contents]

The first question from the chief priests and elders:
      "By what authority are you doing these things?
      And who gave you this authority?" 2123

Jesus gave them a typically Jewish reply by asking a question:
I will also ask you one question.
If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
John's baptism, where did it come from?  Was it from heaven, or from men?  2124

This question was not an evasion; the answer to both questions was the same.
      John and Jesus were both sent from heaven. God was their authority.
      John had spoken the truth about Jesus,
            "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."
But being politically minded, they were not concerned about a truthful answer,
      but only on what effect their answer would have.
      This was what they discussed among themselves.
      If we say, 'From heaven', he will ask, 'Then why didn't you believe him?'
      But if we say, 'From men' - we are afraid of the people,
            for they all hold that John was a prophet. 2125,26
      So they opted for the easy, though humiliating answer, "We don't know".
      Strangely enough it was also a true answer, they didn't know!
      John and Jesus undoubtedly had authority that was from Almighty God.
      The pride of the Pharisees would allow them to acknowledge this;
            else they would also have to admit their own teaching was wrong
            and that of John and Jesus was correct.
      Both preached, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
      The Pharisees adamantly refused to repent - why should they?!.
      Sadly, they were not the first or last to make this disastrous decision.

Two Sons  2128-32       [Contents]

Jesus then told the first parable:
What do you think? There was a man who had two sons.
He went to the first and said, "Son, go and work today in the vineyard."
"I will not," he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing.
He answered, "I will, sir," but he did not go.
"Which of the two did what his father wanted?"
"The first," they answered.
Jesus said to them,
"I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him."

Jesus told this parable to the chief priests and elders.
It needs no further explanation than what he said at the end.
He clearly wanted to tell them what their greatest need was - to repent.
It matters not one iota what a man has been in the past.
      If he repents and believes in Jesus the Saviour, he will be totally forgiven
The response of the religious leaders is not recorded;
      but Jesus continued with another parable.

Wretched Tenants  2133-46       [Contents]

Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them in the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. 'They will respect my son,' he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants? 'He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,' they replied, 'and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.'

Jesus continued with a devastating conclusion:
Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures:
'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;
the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes'.
Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed."

There is no doubt as to why Jesus told this pair of parables.
But they are too often removed from their context;
      and thus the impact reduced.
Jesus wanted the elders to know their awful condition;
      their eternal destiny was at stake, but they were so blind.
These words of Jesus had struck their mark, but their response was not good.
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables,
      they knew he was talking about them.
      They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd
      because the people held that he was a prophet.
Once more they rejected the moment of opportunity and the truth Jesus told them.
Their position and pride were directly challenged.

The vineyard obviously refers here to Israel - see also  Is 5.
But it also refers to Britain which has been singularly blessed by God.
We are in the same danger as the Jews if we continue down the wicked road.
We have had the scriptures in our native tongue for nearly 500 years.
We saw God's gracious hand in the reformation - separation from corrupt Rome.
The gospel has been preached with power and great effect down the centuries.
But in these days God's Commandments have been abandoned,
      creation is denied and ridiculed in our schools,
      180,000 babies are murdered by abortion every year,
      homosexuality is legalised and taught to be 'natural',
      greed is rife and wealth has become the common goal.
      What about holiness - what's that? !

Like us, the Jews refused to budge; so Jesus would tell them a 3rd parable:

A Wedding Banquet  221-14       [Contents]

The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.' But they paid no attention and went off, one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, ill-treated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

There are two groups of people that were excluded:
      1.      By their own choice, those invited declined to come.
            These were clearly the Jewish religious leaders who rejected Jesus.
      2.      The one who came not wearing wedding garments.
            He did not have the righteousness of Christ; he was not 'born again'.
            Not only was he thrown out, but Jesus adds:
            Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness,
                  where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  2213

Those who came to the wedding were both 'good and bad'.
      All were sinners saved by grace;
            but the past sins of some were more obvious.
      However, they were all forgiven, redeemed. See Zech 3  Rev 197-9
            They had washed their sins in the blood of the lamb. Rev 79-17 1211
            The Redeemer's washing was complete and effective.

The invitation was wide - open to all.
      No one was rejected because his sins were too great, too numerous.
      Today the invitation is still open.
      We live in the day of opportunity. Be sure to 'ride the wave' before it is too late.
      Pride and indifference have caused millions to reject the open invitation.

Similar to parable Jesus told earlier when he was in a Pharisee's house. Lu 1416-24
At that time those invited made various excuses as to why they couldn't come.
But the conclusion was the same:
I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.

Jesus concludes this parable:

      For many are invited, but few are chosen.  Math 2214
Why are few chosen?
It remains a great mystery as to why Almighty God should choose me.
      It is certainly not because of anything I have said or done.
      Why did the Holy Spirit convict me of sin?
      Why did he reveal the truth of what Jesus has done to enable our forgiveness?
      Why did he put such a longing for him in my heart?
      I don't know. It is surely 'amazing grace'.
Why so many are not chosen must also remain a mystery.
When considering God's sovereignty and his choice of the Jews Paul writes:
      Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy ... Ro 918
      But he does not even try to explain why one is chosen and not another.
      This follows an earlier statement:
            Those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified;
            those he justified, he also glorified.  Ro 830
No-one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  Jn 644
In the sermon on the Mount Jesus speaks about the 'many' and the 'few'.  713,14
May those who are chosen never forget or be presumptuous of God's choice;
      it is an even greater incentive to gratitude, obedience and holiness.

Paying Taxes  2215-22       [Contents]

What was the reaction of the Pharisees to these 3 parables of Jesus?
They went out and laid plans to trap him in his words.
To ask trick questions themselves would be too obvious,
      so they sent some of their disciples:
      Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity
      and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
      You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.
      Tell us then, what is your opinion, is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?
Did they really think they could fool the Son of God with such initial flattery?
Let us beware of flattery; is often more deadly than hardship.
      'The world is never so dangerous to the Christian as when it smiles.'  J C Ryle

They were not in the least bit interested in his opinion;
      but had constructed this as a crafty, apparently win - win, question.
      If right to pay taxes to Caesar, he would lose much people popularity.
      If wrong, they could accuse him of rebellion against Rome.
The answer Jesus gave has rightly caused men to marvel for 2,000 years.
      First he tells them he knows the trap - and why they set it.
            You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?
      Then he ask them to show him the coin used for paying the tax.
            "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"
            "Caesar's," they replied.
            Then he said to them,
                  "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."
      Jesus did not question the right of political powers to collect taxes;
            neither here or at any other time.  1724-27  also Ro 131,6  1Pe 213
      But he made it clear that Almighty God was the ultimate authority.
            Did the Pharisees give to God what belonged to him?  What a challenge!
            No wonder they went away amazed.

Marriage in the Resurrection  2223-33       [Contents]

This was the third question the religious leaders asked.
      But again it was not that they wanted to know the answer;
            they just imagined they could make the Son of God a laughing stock.
            How very silly.
It was a very 'Saducee' joke / story. (They did not believe in the resurrection)
They thought that by basing it on the Law it would have kudos.
"Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?"

It is sad to think that they told this story / question with such a joyful smirk.
But Jesus was not fazed by such stupidity.
      He just told them that they were in error in two ways:
      1)  You do not know the scriptures. 
            All down the ages this has been the basis of man's error.
            The scriptures are given by God so we may know the truth.
            Any man who mutilates or distorts scripture will suffer the consequences.
      2)  You do not know the power of God.
            They refused to acknowledge that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead
                  that very week!
            Today it has become most fashionable to think everything on earth evolved.
                  That no one either designed or created it from nothing.

He answered their question:
      At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage;
            they will be like the angels in heaven.  2230
      The different reality of human relationships in the resurrection
            completely nullifies their 'clever' question.

Jesus then gave them an example of their twin errors from a well known scripture.
      "Have you not read what God said to you,
            'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?'
            He is not the God of the dead but of the living."  2231,32
      1)  The Sadducees had rejected this quote from the Torah. Exd 36
      2)  Abraham had died some 400 years before God spoke these words to Moses.
            But God did not say 'I was the God of Abraham', but 'I am ...'
            In his creative power, God had resurrected Abraham.
            God was thus still the God of Abraham, and continues to be so
            The sun and all the planets will one day all disappear.
                  But only two days earlier Jesus said to Martha,
                  "I am the resurrection and the life.
                  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;
                  and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Jn 1125,26

The crowds were astonished at the teaching of Jesus.  2233
The reaction of the humiliated Sadducees is not recorded;
      except that they were 'silenced'.  2234

The Greatest Commandment  2234-40       [Contents]

The Pharisees came back for a fourth question.
Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?

They probably wanted Jesus to say which of the 10 Commandments was greatest.
      Or possibly which of the 613 laws in the Hebrew Mitzvot.
Again it wasn't because they wanted to follow the most important one,
      they just wanted to criticise; 'but what about ... isn't that important too?'
Jesus answered:
      Love the Lord your God
      with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
      This is the first and greatest commandment.  2237
      This summary of the Law is a quote from Deut 65
Jesus then immediately continued:
      Love your neighbour as yourself.  (Lev 1918)
      All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.  2239,40
      Thus the 'greatest' commandment is actually two!
      They must remain a pair. Unless I love my neighbour, I cannot truly love God.

And by these two commandments I must still be judged to have failed -
      even after over 50 years as a Christian.
                  O to grace how great a debtor
                  Daily I'm constrained to be ...

If we would complete the will of God, we will do best from a full loving heart.
      We love because he first loved us.  1Jn 419
      His love for us is first revealed by his total forgiveness of all our sins.

Jesus asks the Pharisees a Question  2241-46       [Contents]

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,
      "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?"
"The son of David," they replied.
He said to them, "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him 'Lord'
      For he says, 'The Lord said to my Lord:
      'Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet'.'
      If then David calls him 'Lord', how can he be his son?"
No-one could say a word in reply
      and from that day on no-one dared to ask him any more questions.
  Ps 1101

The quote could only be explained by the Messiah being pre-existent.
      The carnal Pharisees could only think of Jesus being human, not divine.
Jesus was the son of David, but also the Son of God.
      Revelation of this truth was the purpose of his question.

Sooner or later all men must answer the question,
      What do you think about Christ? .
How we answer could not be more important.
      It will determine our eternal destiny. The Pharisees were both unable and unwilling even to try and answer Jesus. So this was the end of the dialogue of questions and parables;
      but not the end of what Jesus had to teach.  He continued with 8 Woes:

8 Woes  231-39       [Contents]

First Jesus gives some generalised statements about the Scribes and Pharisees.
The whole chapter is a surprisingly forthright denunciation and reproof.
We do not expect to hear the loving heart of Jesus to speak like this.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat.
      So you must obey them and do everything they tell you.
      But do not do what they do, for they do not practise what they preach.
      They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders,
            but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
      Everything they do is done for men to see:
            They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long;
            they love the place of honour at banquets
            and the most important seats in the synagogues;
            they love to be greeted in the market-places
                  and to have men call them 'Rabbi'.
                  But you are not to be called 'Rabbi',
                  for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.
            And do not call anyone on earth father,
                  for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.
            Nor are you to be called 'teacher',
                  for you have one Teacher, the Christ.
            The greatest among you will be your servant.
            For whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
                  and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.  231-12

These words have application for us down the ages.
      Ministers should be respected, but never called 'Father'
      They are not priests and can never be a mediator between us and God.
      There is one God and one mediator between God and men,
            the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all.  1Tim 25,6
      The scriptures teach the 'priesthood of all believers'.  Exd 196 1Pe 29  Rev 16
      It is hard for leaders to also be humble,
            especially if they are effective leaders.
      Leaders, beware of robes and special positions and functions.
            Too often it has led to pride instead of humility.
Jesus repeatedly uses one word to describe these Scribes and Pharisees:
They loved position and what men thought of them.
      But were careless about what God saw and knew about them.
      Their life was one big pretence; a sham.

Jesus then gives eight examples of their hypocrisy:

1)      You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces.  2313
      Seeing no need to repent, they did not, and could not, enter themselves;
            and worse they prevented others from doing so too.
            They totally rejected both John Baptist and Christ.

2)  You swallow up widows' houses,
      and for a pretence to cover it up make long prayers.  2314 (omitted in NIV)
      Avarice and pretence for selfish gain from vulnerable women.
      Jesus cleared the Temple of lucrative traders who had replaced praying men.

3)  You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one,
      you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.  2315
      They 'converted' them to become hypocrites too!
      Their motive was not to save their souls but foster their sect and importance.

4)  You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing;
      but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.  2316
      They taught that finance was more important than the presence of God.
      No wonder Jesus calls them 'blind fools'.

5)  You give a tenth of your spices ... But you have neglected the more important
      matters of the law - justice, mercy and faithfulness.  2323
      Giving just a tenth is easy; keeping God's law is much more demanding.
      Justice and faithfulness can be costly,
      Those who have received mercy strive to be merciful.

6)  You clean the outside of the cup and dish,
      but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  2325
      The love of money is the root of all evil. They needed to hear this truth.
      Further, you cannot love God and mammon. They had made a poor choice.

7)  You are like whitewashed tombs, on the outside you appear to people as
      righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.  2327,28
      It is relatively easy to appear good, but God sees the inside.
      Jesus did not like what he saw.

8)  You say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have
      taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.'  2330
      But they lied.  They hated the living Christ.
      In a few days they would crucify the Son of God!
      Jesus knew this; and the awful consequence which he then revealed:

You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore ... upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah ...  I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.  2333-36

40 years later it did.  Jerusalem and many Jews were destroyed by the Romans.
But such judgement brought great sadness to the heart of the Saviour.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
      you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you,
      how often I have longed to gather your children together,
      as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.  2337

Only a few days earlier when he came to the Mount of Olives on a donkey,
      while the crowd were singing and praising God and Jesus;
      He stopped and wept.
      If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace,
            but now it is hidden from your eyes.  Lu 1941,42
Men have only themselves to blame for such disaster.
      It is not because God was unwilling to save. Far from it.
      The majority of men stubbornly refuse his gracious invitation.
      Hear again the tender words of Jesus:
      How often I have longed to gather your children together,
            ... but you were not willing.

Let us take great care that we do not slide into any of these characteristics,
      and thus hear the awful woes that our Lord proclaimed.
Let us strive towards consistent honesty and truth before both God and men.
Lies are words intended to deceive. Pretense is lies in action.
This chapter is not written just for hardened Pharisees 2,000 ago.
Church history may have been very different if these warnings had been  heeded.

In the Jewish scriptures Abel was the first to die and Zechariah the last.
      Gen 48  and  2Ch 2422  ( 2 Chronicles is the last book)

As he was leaving the Temple for the last time, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth,
not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."  242

The End of the Age  24 and 25       [Contents]

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately.
"Tell us," they said, "when will this happen,

      and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?  243

Jesus has just told them that the whole Temple would be destroyed.
The disciples wanted to know when and why.
Men have always wanted to know the future.
      Perhaps they could plan to avoid or at least minimise the disasters.
Jesus does not tell them when; but the whole chapter tells us
      what will happen first and thus how best to prepare for it.
      He is obviously very instructive in what he says - and what he does not say.
Few expected the Messiah to suffer when he came,
      although Isaiah and others did prophesy that he would.  (Is 53)
Neither did they realise he would come first to redeem then later to reign.
Today few have any clear understanding of the tribulation of the last days,
      or of the promises that will be fulfilled concerning Israel.
      But Jesus will return as King and he will reign in Jerusalem, not Rome or London.

Matthew 24 Time-line  (see sermon by Chris Keane, St Leonards).       [Contents]

Primarily there will be deception, alarming events and wickedness.
Throughout the last 2,000 years it has been important to heed these warnings.
At and near the end it will be vital to avoid deception and to lose hope.
Let us learn to be ready and that all the Word of God is thoroughly trustworthy.

Ref When What
242 70 AD "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."
243   When will this happen?
What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? (And the beginning of the reign of the Messiah.)
244-8 Just before the end Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
249-14 At the end, and just before Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
2415-20 70 AD and remember 169 BC So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.
2421-28 Just prior to the end For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
2429-31 At the very end Immediately after the distress of those days 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

General Details  244-44       [Contents]

Watch out that no-one deceives you.
      For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ',
      and will deceive many.  244,5
      This warning is repeated.  2411 and 2424
      How will men be deceived?
            Jesus said it would be by false Christs, false prophets, signs and wonders.
            Men believe what they want to hear and hear what they want to believe.
            False Christs must have a miraculous ministry element to be believed.
                  But miracles can be demonic as well as from God. Beware.
                  Is what they proclaim based on all scripture?  Is it true?
                  Also, is their life righteous and their example holy?
      This was the first concern Jesus had for the last days.

You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.
Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
All these are the beginning of birth-pains.  246-8

Most men would love to live in peace. But national leaders have other ideas!
Their thirst for power will lead to major wars between nations - 'world wars'.
The war-cry can be Communism, Islam, or just national domination.

The 'rumours of wars' is likely to be local civil or tribal conflict -
      rebellions against corrupt or minority group leaders.
All such events will inevitably cause death and suffering;
      but Jesus says 'Do not be alarmed'.
Christians who trust Jesus will not always escape such suffering.
      But his presence will calm our fears and how we react to the news of war.

Famine is caused by climatic variation, population expansion,
      unequal distribution, and sheer greed,
      also the abuse of land and resources (over-fishing and de-forestation).
      It often comes in the wake of destructive war.

Earthquakes are caused by the movement of the earth's crust.
      They cannot be either stopped, initiated or reliably predicted by men.

The United Nationss is powerless to prevent these events.
      Almighty God says they will continue to the end, and get worse!
War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.  Dan 926b
This will be centred upon Israel and the people of God.
Evil leaders hate anything and anyone who is righteous.
Satan will always try to annul God's promises and covenants.
      Jerusalem and Judea remain God's gift to the Jews.
      This will be fiercely contested - as will all God's Commandments.
            (See Bible Prophecies)

What causes fights and quarrels among you?
Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?
You want something but don't get it.
You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  James 41,2

Man's natural nature is not to be content with what he has. So he fights.
Imagine a world where there is no need for weapons or 'defence forces'.
      In 2021 the world spent over $2,108 billion on arms and war.
      Think what could be achieved if this were spent on peaceful purposes.
In the Millennium, when Christ returns to reign, there will be peace, but not before.
Man's best efforts with The League of Nations, and now the United Nations,
      have failed to bring peace.  It even seeks the destruction of Israel!
      The plans of Almighty God are very different.

One sure characteristic of 'birth-pains' is that they grow - until birth.
Jesus said these were just the beginning of birth-pains.
So deceit, wars, famines and earthquakes will each get worse at the end.
Rev 6-18 reveals how much worse!
The degree of wickedness, the scathing rejection of God,
      his amazing creation and his just judgement will only increase.  2Pe 3

Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  249-11

'You' primarily refers to Israel and the Jews, (but it also includes Christians).
The world has always despised the Jews;
      today it supports the Palestinians whose stated aim is to destroy Israel.
      This is not because they love the Palestinians, but because they hate the Jews.
Jesus said that Israel will be persecuted. They are.
Many will betray God's purpose for the Hebrew people and turn aside.
      They will listen to false teaching and pay a high price for their folly.

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.  2412-14

Wickedness and love cannot live together.
      UK education, parliament and media are intent on eliminating true Biblical Christianity.
      Family life has consequently suffered badly, greed and deceit are rampant,
            abortion, evolution and homosexuality are promoted,
            and Almighty God is side-lined or ridiculed.
      We will suffer the consequences that Jesus predicted.
Christians must stand firm to the end.
      It will not be easy; but the grace of God is sufficient - and promised!

Today the Gospel is now being preached world-wide.
      Bibles are printed, Internet or 'Gospel' radio is available in almost every nation.
      How beautiful are the feet of them that bring good news.  Is 527
            Many do not want to hear, but some still do and are being saved.

So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation', spoken of through the prophet Daniel - let the reader understand - then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no-one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no-one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.  2415-20

The 'abomination that makes desolate' was an expression from 168  BC,
      when the arrogant Antiochus sacrificed pig on his altar to Zeus in the Temple.
Jesus was saying here that another abomination would come. It has.
Muslims constructed the 'Golden Dome’ on the Temple Mount in 691 AD,
      and then the al-Aqsa mosque in 705. They vigorously defend it today.
      Such idolatry always causes 'desolation' in men's souls.
      One fine day this abomination will be destroyed.
Many of the Jewish believers in AD 70 fled Jerusalem before it was destroyed.
      Those who remained were less fortunate.
Will this occur again at the end, just before Jesus returns?
      Jerusalem will certainly be attacked by an international army.  Zech 121-9 141,2
      Modern warfare is fast and allows little time to escape.
      Wise Jerusalemites will keep these words in mind.
      It would not be cowardly for a believer to flee, but a Godly instruction.
      They are instructed to pray that it would not be a Sabbath.
            So although much of the sacrificial law is now fulfilled,
                  Keeping the Sabbath remains a holy duty, a commandment.

For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now - and never to be equalled again. If those days had not been cut short, no-one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect - if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.  2421-25

Note first the Almighty God will take care of the elect, however bad the times.
      Some suggest that all believers will be raptured before the tribulation.
      This must be strong evidence that this is not correct.
      (Besides requiring that Jesus return twice!)
In the middle this horrendous distress, men will do anything to try to escape.
      Anyone offering a fail-safe opportunity will be believed.
      False Christs will deceive many - often by performing miracles.  Beware.
      How can we know if they are false?
      Jesus tells us:
So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. Immediately after the distress of those days  the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.  2426-31

Christ will come to us in an instant, like lightning;
      we will all see him together, we will not have to go out to find him.
His coming to us will be very, very obvious - 'with power and great glory'!
      All the world powers will be eclipsed and the 'heavenly bodies will be shaken'.
      If there is any doubt, it is a false Christ.
His second coming will be in high contrast to the first when he came as a baby,
      born to a poor country girl, not in a palace but a stable!
      He became a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
      He refused the protection of legions of angels when he was crucified;
            he had to complete the only sacrifice that could expunge our sins.
On his return his first task is to gather all the elect from all over the world;
      such is his care and longing to relieve their suffering.
      This is the longed for day of the Rapture
            when saints from all ages are gathered together to be with Christ.
            What a day it will be!
In the distress before he returns, let us learn to trust,
      and to heed these warnings Jesus has given us.

Luke includes a significant sentence that Jesus declared:
Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles
      until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.  Lu 2124
Today on the Temple Mount stand the al-Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
On the day, when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled,
      they will both be destroyed.
Jesus did not say how or who by. (Speculators can chew over this.)
      Nor does he say what the Muslims will try to do when this happens.
      But it will happen at the end when Jesus returns as King,
            and the world reign of evil Gentiles will cease for ever.
      Jerusalem and the Jews will then be exalted, and all the ransomed will rejoice.

      The British are a mixture of Celts, Vikings, Romans, Saxons, and Normans.
            And many others today - all assimilated into one people.
      Not so with the Jews; for 2,000 years they were scattered all over the world,
            yet they have remained a distinct people
            Now back in their own God-given land
                  and speaking their ancient Hebrew language.. A modern miracle.
Bishop Ryle wrote (in ~1890 before the Jews started to return to the Holy Land)
"The continued existence of the Jews as a distinct nation, is undeniably a great miracle. It is one of those evidences of the truth of the Bible which the infidel can never overthrow. Without a land, without a king, without a government, scattered and dispersed over the world for eighteen hundred years, the Jews are never absorbed among the people of the countries where they live, like Frenchmen, Englishmen, and Germans, but 'dwell alone'" Nothing can account for this but the finger of God. The Jewish nation stands before the world, a crushing answer to infidelity, and a living book of evidence that the Bible is true. But we ought not to regard the Jews only as witnesses of the truth of Scripture. We should see in them a continual pledge, that the Lord Jesus is coming again one day. Like the sacrament of the Lord's supper, they witness to the reality of the second advent, as well as of the first. Let us remember this. Let us see in every wandering Jew a proof that the Bible is true, and that Christ will one day return."

The Gentile nations don't see the Jews back in Israel as God's prophesied truth.
      But soon, very soon, the Gentile days will be fulfilled!

Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  2432-35

'This generation' cannot refer to the people Jesus was speaking to;
      the desolation, the degree of distress, the gathering of the elect, the 'return',
      have not yet happened.
'This generation' must thus refer to the generation when these events happen;
      the generation alive during the final 7 years of 'Tribulation'.  Rev 6-18
Jesus said these days would be shortened for the sake of the elect.  2422
      The opening of the first 4 seals - the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse -
            is imminent, but not yet being fulfilled.
      These seals which bring world domination, war and disease that kills 1/4 of men,
            will be plain to see.
      But few will acknowledge that it is Jesus himself who open the seals!!

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.  2435

Jesus knew that in the last days scoffers will arise.  2Pe 3
He knew that men of faith would be rare so he gave us this sure promise.
His words will bring us great courage and strength in these awful days.
Let us treasure his words in our hearts, where they cannot be erased or forgotten.

Jesus then issues a vital detail about the end - as to when it will happen!

No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 2436-42

'No one knows when ...'
Yet proud men still continue to try to predict the date.
      Time has proved all of them to be wrong - and will continue to do so.
Noah knew the world flood was coming, but he didn't know when.
      By God's grace he knew it would not be before he had finished building the ark.
      When God closed the door and shut him in, he still did not know when.
            It was in fact 7 days after God shut the door.  Gen 710
So today we do not know when,
      but as the prophesied events take place, we will know that it is imminent.
      Our heart cry will be the more urgent, "Come, Lord Jesus!"  Rev 2220
The world will be a most wicked place,
      totally careless of God's warnings of the immanent return of Jesus;
      like in Noah's day.
      In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation."  2Pe 34

In the Rapture at this time (not before the Tribulation)
      the separation will be final and eternal.
      There is no possible reprieve.
      The sun on the days of opportunity will have set for the last time.

This word of Jesus is given to ensure that we keep watch expectantly.
In Noah's time there came a day when it was too late!

How many are ready today?
How many are careless?
How many are heedless of God's warning?
How many view the Word of God  with arrogance and disdain?
How many discard  the Son of God as irrelevant.

One day the two words 'TOO LATE' will be posted on the door.
      They will shatter all man's perceived wisdom.

Jesus then continued with four parables:

Return is Unexpected  2445-51       [Contents]

But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.  2443,44

As with all parables we should not try to wring out more than the plain objective.
Jesus does not return as a thief to take what does not belong to him.
      He returns 'like' a thief because he is unexpected; not 'as' a thief to steal.
This parable is solely about the importance of being ready.
Let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert ...  1Thes 56

This and the next three parables each concerned with the need to be watchful
      and what men do while waiting for the return of Jesus.

Wise and Wicked Servants  2445-51       [Contents]

Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'My master is staying away a long time,' and he then begins to beat his fellow-servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  2445-51

The faithful and wise servant is obedient and righteous. He is ready and rewarded.
      Let us earnestly consider our calling, our behaviour and trust in Christ.
      May fear or laziness not put us off changing what needs to be changed.
The wicked servant is greedy, selfish and presumptuously disobedient.
      His end is tragic and eternally painful.
      Why are so many in this category?
      Why do so many dismiss so easily God's gracious and clear warning?

Wise and Foolish Virgins  251-13       [Contents]

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: "Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!" Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, "Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out." "No," they replied, "there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves."
But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
Later the others also came. "Sir! Sir!" they said. "Open the door for us!" But he replied, "I tell you the truth, I don't know you." Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.  251-13

Both groups were virgins (bridesmaids at the wedding)
      and both groups went to sleep while waiting - like the apostles in Gethsemane.
The difference between the wise and foolish was the wise kept spare oil.
So this parable hangs on the question of what is the spare oil
      that the wise had and the foolish so tragically lacked?
In the last days church-goers will be a mixed body; some will believe other's won't.

The oil of the wise is the gift of righteousness from Christ.
      It is the new birth, the new heart transformed by Christ when they believe.
      It is the root of God's word that flourishes in good soil.
      It is the oil of grace and kindness, of light in a dark world.
      For them prayer was a daily necessity.
The foolish had a religious profession, but knew nothing of the life of Christ within.
      They had no real revelation of God's truth; they were blind to his Word.
      They knew the stories, but did not understand the meaning.
      They were careless of the future and did not long for the Bridegroom.
      Prayer was but a formality.

At midnight the cry rang out ...

A time when, like death, we often least expect it.
The wise had confidence in Christ.
      They were ready even though they had slept.
      'Jesus thy blood and righteous my beauty are my glorious dress.'
The foolish did not know any such righteousness.
      They were unprepared to meet the Bridegroom.
      They did not have the light of Christ in their hearts.

The wise could not share their oil.
      Only Christ himself can give a man salvation and life.
      Only Christ can give us his righteousness.
      Men can preach, teach or witness;
            but only the Spirit can convict, convince and reveal God's truth.  Jn 68,13,15

The door was shut.
      There will come a time when it is too late to buy oil.
      How vital it is that we 'catch the wave' while it is still a day of opportunity.
      Esau wept and planned to murder his brother when he saw what he had lost.
            He despised his birthright.  Gen 2534
            He chose a bowl of soup  instead of the gift of God.  What folly!
            He received his father's flocks etc, but not the blessing of God.
            God's verdict was Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.  Mal 12,3
      So many down the ages have followed the tragic way of Esau,
            and the way of the five foolish virgins.
      For those on heaven's side of the door, all sin, fear and darkness,
            all sorrow, persecution and pain, and all temptation, is shut out.
            They will be welcomed by their Saviour and Advocate himself.
            They will never leave his glorious presence.
            They will worship him freely and completely, without any restrictions.
            Life will be all kindness, truth and love  -  for ever!

Talents  2514-30       [Contents]

Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.  2514-18
The previous parable looked at what we believe while we wait.
This one looks more at what we do while we wait for the Saviour's return.
The talents here are not our various natural abilities or characteristics.
They are the truth revealed by the Spirit of God.
The big question is what do we do with this revealed truth?
      Do we share it or bury it?

The story has few problems for the first two of the three servants.

After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. "Master," he said, "you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more." His master replied, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" The man with the two talents also came. "Master," he said, "you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more." His master replied, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!"  2519-23

And at the end Jesus concludes:
      For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.  2529
      Truth and yet more truth will be revealed to the seeking soul.
      And with truth will be given a new growing righteous character.
            One who is sensitive to sin and quick to repent
            A man who learns and is given the ability to obey.
            He trusts the Lord Almighty implicitly and walks humbly with him.
            And his Master is happy!

But the third servant is a real problem.

Then the man who had received the one talent came."Master," he said, "I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you." His master replied, "You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. ... And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."  2524-30

First he thought God was a hard man.
      This reveals that he knew nothing of God's amazing grace and mercy.
      He knew nothing about deserving punishment for sin, or receiving pardon.
      He knew nothing of the incredible love of Christ dying in his place,
            enduring the punishment he deserved.
      He knew nothing about our Redeemer pleading for us as Advocate.
      He saw a harsh God who demanded that he keep all the law,
            but that he did not enable him to do so however much he tried.
      If our salvation depends upon our ability to keep God's commandments,
            then we will inevitably think God is a harsh Judge.
The Pharisees and Scribes tried to keep the Law;  and failed.
      Consequently they rejected Jesus.
      They could not bring themselves to admit their failure and seek mercy.
      'God be merciful to me, a sinner' was not their prayer.
This man was afraid and buried his talent.
      He gave up on God and remained wicked.
      So he received a wicked man's just sentence.
And the conclusion of Jesus was:
      Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.  2529
      His future was darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The cost of not being ready, and not receiving the gracious forgiveness of Christ is extreme.
      Today we still live in the day of opportunity.
      Do not be so foolish as to bury the truth of God's salvation, freely offered.
      Do not join this wicked man, but be with the first two servants,
            who received the truth of God with thankfulness
            and added much more revelation as they walked in obedience and grace.

Sheep and Goats  2531-46       [Contents]

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in rison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me." They also will answer, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?" He will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

This parable is about the Last Judgement.
      But Jesus told it so that we can be ready for it.
      How can it be well for us on that great day?
Jesus is telling us that it matters what we do with our lives.
      It is not what we achieve, our rank or wealth.
      It is certainly not what car we drive or the size of house we live in.
In two words, what matters is unconscious compassion.
This is totally impossible except where Jesus has given us a new heart.
      But then we need to practice, to work out what God has worked in.
      It is true that faith is revealed by good works.
            Faith without works is dead.  James 217

How much do I love my neighbour?
      Do we ask who our neighbours are? (as in the story of the 'Good Samaritan')
      They are not just our friends, but everyone we happen to meet along life's road.
We don't do good to others to try to gain a few 'Brownie points',
      it is not to gain kudos or the respect of others, nor for popularity.
      It is the unconscious love and compassion for others.
If we ever become conscious we are doing good,
      we may think we actually deserve to be separated with the sheep!
      That is why, when Jesus was talking about generosity, he said,
            Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.  Math 63

I can never deserve to be a sheep; but I would like to be.
      O God, make my heart like yours, totally devoid of all selfishness and greed,
      willing, glad even, to share all that I have and am with anyone.
      I'm not looking to be a renowned preacher - not any more -,
      but I do want to help others while I still can,
      and by your grace, to especially help those who are not naturally my friends.
      Lord, 'I just wanna be a sheep.'

Note that all earthly ranks and titles, all riches and poverty are discarded;
      all men are judged by Jesus upon the evidence of their life.
      This just judgement by Jesus is fixed and eternal; there is no 'appeal court'.

The Plan of God and the Plots of Men 261-16       [Contents]

Jesus again reveals the plan of God, for his disciples still did not understand it.
As you know, the Passover is two days away -
      and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.  262

It seemed to contradict the long believed concept about the Messiah.
      When he came he was expected to be king and suppress all Israel's enemies.
But before that day, there was another vital task to complete:
      the Son of God must first receive the just punishment for man's sin.
      All the Temple sacrifices and feasts pointed to this death sentence.
Now it was only two days away.
How could they grasp the truth that God himself would redeem men?
Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Heb 922
      And the blood had to perfect - far better that kosher animals.

The religious leaders, who should have been seeking Christ themselves
      and directing the people to him - like John Baptist  Jn 129,36
      were engaged in very different plan.
      Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. "But not during the Feast," they said, "or there may be a riot among the people."  263-5

They were plotting how they could destroy the Son of God, their Messiah!
However, their plan was to wait until after Passover.
      But God's plan was to crucify Jesus on that very day,
            at the very time when the Passover lambs were being slain.
Like all God's plans, that is when it was fulfilled. Perfectly on time.

Matthew then tells us a very contrasting story.
It concerns a woman in Bethany who unwittingly revealed the gracious plan of God.
The incident is recorded in all four gospels.
The following is a combination of them and is thus quite a long passage.
      But it is good to include all the details.   (See also notes on John's Gospel.)

Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. One of the Pharisees, known as Simon the Leper, invited Jesus to a dinner of honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. As he reclined at the table, Mary, who had lived a sinful life in that town came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. And as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is - that she is a sinner." Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you." "Tell me, teacher," he said. "Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he cancelled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled." "You have judged correctly," Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven - for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

The disciples and some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, "Why this waste of perfume? And they rebuked her harshly. Other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" One of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, "Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages." He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. Aware of this Jesus said to them, "Why are you bothering this woman? Leave her alone. She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did what she could to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
Math 266-16  Mk 143-11  Lu 736-50 221-6 Jn 121-11

The woman revealed the plan of God because she sought and found forgiveness
            from the Son of God.
      Jesus not only confirms to her that "your sins are forgiven" ,
            but that wherever the gospel is preached, ... this story will also be told.
      Why?  Because it is the heart of the gospel.
      She loved much because she knew that she had been forgiven everything.
            And she did what she could to prepare me for burial.
      While it is unlikely that she knew the significance of what she did,
            Jesus knew, and commended her for it. She has done a beautiful thing to me.
All the apostles failed to see the beauty of her action until Jesus told them;
      together they asked, "Why this waste?"
      But one never did see anything good in this woman forgiven by God.

Then one of the Twelve the one called Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests and
asked, "What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?" So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

Judas saw no need to be forgiven.
      What had he done wrong?  He was not like this woman.
      He had no appreciation of the compassion of Jesus, or his own need.
      He only saw Jesus as failing to do what he wanted!
            i.e. First to defeat the Romans and second to make him wealthy.
      Privilege and position can never guarantee righteousness.
      In spit of all he had seen, heard and done, his heart had not been changed.

Thirty silver coins was the price of a dead slave.  Exd 2132
Jesus, the Son of God Almighty, came as a willing servant, not a slave.
Ironically, Judas was the slave - a slave to sin from which he found no escape.
Two days later he threw away the silver coins, and hanged himself.
      The love of money is the root of all evil.  1Tim 610

As J C Ryle wrote:
"We are all liable to the infection, from the least to the greatest. We may love money without having it, just as we may have money without loving it. It is an evil that works very deceitfully."

Judas never did find the moment of opportunity himself;
      Jesus told him the right time at the 'Last Supper' to fulfil God's plan:
As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
      "What you are about to do, do quickly," Jesus told him.  Jn 1327
Satan is always a most cruel master.

The Passover Feast  2617-30       [Contents]

For some 13 centuries the Jews had been celebrating Passover'
      from the night of the Exodus from Egypt to this great day.
Now the day had come when the Lamb of God would be sacrificed.
      Jesus would fulfill all these long years of longing.
Right at the dawn of human history Abel longed for a perfect sacrifice.
      He knew that his best was not sufficient to make him 'right with God'.
      But God gave him faith, the assurance of things hoped for
            and the certainty of what he did not see.  Heb 111, 4
      He saw this day, this feast, in the distance and welcomed it.  Heb 1113

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?" He replied, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house'." So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.  2617-19

The meal that the disciples prepared was a Passover supper.
The Passover Lamb of God was about to be sacrificed on a cross.
For over 4,000 years God had planned and prepared for this day.
      (see Study Notes on John for which day this Passover supper was held.)

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me." They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?"  2620-23

What an awful, costly truth it was that Jesus had to reveal.
How could any of them betray him?
      They had lived with him and been taught by him for 3 years.
      They had even been sent out to preach and perform miracles.
Yet the heart of one of those chosen disciples remained unchanged, cold, evil.
No wonder they each began to ask "Surely not I Lord?"
The disciples did not say 'It must be ...'
      They had no idea who it could be.  Only Jesus knew.
None had the arrogance to say, 'Well, it cannot be me!'
Judas didn't asked the question until Jesus indicated who it would be.
Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born." Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" Jesus answered, "Yes, it is you." 2623-25

The condemnation of Judas by Jesus is terrifying.
      It would be better for him if he had not been born.
Many today would ask how Jesus could say such a thing?
      It seems so unlike the 'gentle Jesus, meek and mild' they presume.
But there it stands clear in Scripture.

At the same time Jesus also proclaims another truth:
      The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him.

What is written about him that clearly speaks of his last moments on earth?
See, my servant ...
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man ... He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. ... Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. ...and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. ... he was led like a lamb to the slaughter ... He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. ... he poured out his life unto death, for he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
  Is 5213 - 5312

This was the manner of 'his going'.
It would not be in a chariot or in triumph on a white horse;
      but hanging on a cross while thick darkness covered the earth.
It also reveals the glorious purpose of it.
It was not the just punishment for him, but for me.
His atonement for our sin and his intercession for us was mightily effective.
It will enable the Lord God to see his offspring and to live with them for ever,
It will enable the will of the Lord to prosper - his age-old plan to be completed.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."  2626-29

Many were martyred in the Reformation for maintaining the truth of these words.
The truth is very simple yet profound.
The common, everyday elements represent the body and blood of Jesus.
We eat and drink them to remember what Jesus has done on our behalf.
His crucifixion enables our salvation.
Such remembrance does not require a special priest, we are a kingdom of priests.
All should drink the wine, not just the priest (as is the Roman practice).
The bread and wine are not 'transformed' in any way.
      They have no special properties and should not be 'reserved'.
We remember a completed sacrifice offered by Jesus once and for all.
Today the church traditions are often far removed (in my opinion)
      from the way Jesus began such a simple celebration.
      Having said that, Cranmer's Communion Service wording remains
            filled with meaning and value to all who partake with a true heart.

However we engage in such remembrance in obedience to Christ,
      it remains a huge blessing to the maintenance and growth of body of Christ.

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.  2630

It is probably just as well that we don't know which song or how it was sung!
      Though that does not stop my curiosity.  It was not the following;
      but we always recite it at our home Passover celebration each year.

Beneath the blood-stained lintel
I with my children stand;
A messenger of evil
Is passing through the land.
There is no other refuge
From the destroyer's face;
Beneath the blood-stained lintel
Shall be our hiding-place.

The Lamb of God has suffered,
Our sins and griefs he bore;
By faith the blood is sprinkled
Above our dwelling's door.
The foe who seeks to enter
Doth fear that sacred sign;
Tonight the blood-stained lintel
Shall shelter me and mine.

Jesus Warns Apostles of Denial  2631-35       [Contents]

Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee."

What a thing to have to tell your friends - 'You will all fall away'.
But it was true. The prophecy of Jesus was correct.
He knew because it was written in Zech 137.
'But' - and it must have been a very comforting 'but' -
      Jesus would meet them all again in Galilee; he would not reject them.

Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will."
" I tell you the truth," Jesus answered,
      "this very night, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times."
But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you."
And all the other disciples said the same.

Peter was always quick to respond. He often spoke for all of them.
They all felt the same deep affection and respect for their leader.
But later that evening when faced with the Temple guards, they all ran away.
      And three times Peter would deny even knowing Jesus.  (see 2669-75)
It was their first test of persecution; and they all failed.
      But they learned their lesson well. They would not fail again.
            None of them died in their beds!
      Jesus knew that too. He did not reject them.
      He told them they would meet together again in Galilee.
But it is always unwise to argue with the Lord God. It leads to tears, or worse.

Gethsemane  2636-46       [Contents]

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." 2636-38

When on earth Jesus was limited to different circles of people - just as we are.
      The first circle was his many disciples, then the 12 Apostles,
            and finally Peter James and John, who were somehow special.

Jesus, the Son of God, was overwhelmed with sorrow.
      Not only did he face the physical  Roman crucifixion,
            but far worse, the full cup of divine fury against sin -  not his, but ours.
      He knew this would separate him from his Father.
      Here God shows us the extent of his agony that he willingly bore for us.
      In the fiercest heat of this agony Jesus turns to prayer.
            Prayer which does not tell God what he should do, but submits to his plan,
            whether that plan is known or remains a mystery.

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed,
      "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.
      Yet not as I will, but as you will."

This brief prayer - presumably overheard by Peter James and John -
      reveals some vital foundations of the Christian faith.

1.      For Jesus to drink the bitter cup of sacrifice shows us the full cost of obedience.
      For Father it was most bitter too; to see his Son suffer as he did.
      Both were willing to complete the agreed plan to redeem men.
      We can never know or even imagine the depth of the agony God suffered for us.

2.      That there was no other way for sinful men to be redeemed.
      This was the price that heaven's justice required.
      Even the most zealous, determined resolutions of a man
            can do absolutely nothing to save his soul.
      If they could, Father would have answered this prayer of his Son differently.
      It would not have been necessary for Jesus to be crucified.

3.      Do we bear disappointments with patience?
      How do we react when our various plans are like ships wrecked at sea?
      A mortified will is more valuable to our souls than happy experiences.
      Have we learned the truth that:
            all things work together for good to those who love God.  Ro 828  All things?
      Can we echo God's servant Job:
            The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
            may the name of the Lord be praised.
  Job 121
            Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?  Job 210

      Job knew that it was God's idea to test him.
      It was Almighty God who said to Satan:
            Have you considered my servant Job?  Job 18 23

      He testified that:
            The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first.  Job 4212
            Even the first part when he suffered was blessed by God.
      Jesus knew the prophecy of Isaiah
      Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied ...  Is 5310,11
      At this time of agony Jesus also knew the future:
            ... for the joy set before him (he) endured the cross ...  Heb 122
      But while in Gethsemane he also knew he could not escape
            the very conscious consequence of bearing the just punishment for our sin.

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."

He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"  2640-46

It is so easy to criticise the sleepy apostles; but are we any different?
Have any of us been thorough in our obedience to this instruction?
      Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.
Church history might have been different if we had not been sleepy and indulgent.
Now, in the last days, we need to hear these words even more clearly.
      And not only hear them, but obey them.
      Satan, the enemy of our souls, is continually luring us to careless sleep.

'The Son of Man is betrayed'
And by one of the Apostles! It doesn't seem possible.
Does my loyalty with Almighty God have a limit?
      If my friendship with him has a cost (persecution), how strong is it?
      When the threats, either to me, or my loved-ones, begin to be felt; what then?
Great is the need to pray earnestly for those in Communist and Muslim countries.
      May the Lord provide such sufferers with courage, strength and loyalty.

Jesus Betrayed and Arrested  2645-56       [Contents]

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed  into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"  While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: 'The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.' Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed him. Jesus replied, "Friend, do what you came for." Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.   2645-50

'The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.'
And by one of his Apostles! It doesn't seem possible.
Jesus knew the plan of God and what these sinners would do to him.
His submission was complete.

Far from 'greeting' Jesus, Judas was giving him away to his enemies.
Judas did not see Jesus as his 'Rabbi', he had no respect for him,
      he did not like the teaching of Jesus and felt no desire for forgiveness.
A kiss is a sign of heart-felt affection; but not on this occasion.
Judas had no idea who he was betraying -
      the Son of God, the Messiah, our Redeemer.

Peter tried to defend Jesus with a sword.
      A gallant but totally inappropriate action.
      Jesus told him, "Put your sword back in its place, ...
      for all who draw the sword will die by the sword."

Many use this command to justify pacifism.
      It is wrong to use the sword to promote or enforce Christianity.
      We can only hang our heads in shame at the Roman Catholic Crusades,
            and the British objective to destroy Catholicism in Ireland.
      It would have been better to have heeded our Lord's words in Gethsemane.
      However it was right to defend Europe when the Muslims attacked (and lost),
            at Poitiers in 732 and again at Vienna in 1683.
            (Some argue - with some justification - that the Crusades were just a part
                  of the 1,000 year war of Islam against Christianity)
      There is a time to fight and beat ploughshares into swords.  Joel 310
      And a time to beat swords into ploughshares.  Is 24
At the end the King of kings will return to earth to defeat the Beast and his army.
      There before me was a white horse,
            whose rider is called 'Faithful and True'.
            With justice he judges and makes war ... Rev 1911-21

Why was Peter's action with a sword inappropriate?
      Jesus was not giving in to evil men; he was fighting like no man has ever fought.
            For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
            but against ... the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
  Eph 612
      Jesus would defeat these forces of evil by submitting to the Cross!!
      His mighty victory on the battlefield of Calvary was not won with a sword,
            but by dying alone, by shedding his blood - not with 12 legions of angels.
      My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.  Is 558

      Jesus fully completed the task he came to do.
            He opened the gates of heaven to all who repent and believe in him.
            He has brought revelation, forgiveness and joy to a multitude for ever.
Being betrayed into the hands of sinners and submitting to them
      did not seem like victory at the time.
      Later they would see it in the true light.

Jesus was arrested only because he was willing to be.
      He could easily have avoided it by not going to Gethsemane as usual.
      He knew exactly what Judas had gone out to do.
      This willingness would continue throughout his trial and his crucifixion.
      May it encourage all to believe his willingness to save all who call upon him.

But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.  2656

The disciples would read again the scriptures and understand.
      Until then, Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 (and many others) had been a mystery.
      Soon Jesus would open their hearts and reveal the truth.
He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.  Lu 2425-27

He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."  Lu 2444-47

But this mighty revelation would not take place for another 4 days.
In Gethsemane, when the disciples slept while Jesus prayed so earnestly,
      this truth was still hidden.  So they all deserted him and fled.
      Only an hour earlier the disciples all loudly proclaimed they would never flee.
      How quickly the hearts of men can change when threatened.

Does my loyalty to Almighty God have a limit?
      If my friendship with him becomes costly (persecution), how strong is it?
      When threats, either to me, or my loved-ones, begin to be felt; what then?
      Would I stand, would I fight; or would I run away?

Great is the need to pray earnestly for those in Communist and Muslim countries.
      May the Lord provide such sufferers with courage, strength and loyalty.
            And also give them wisdom if they have the choice of whether
            to stay and suffer, or 'flee to another city' and thus witness to others.

Before the Sanhedrin  2657-68       [Contents]

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. 2659,60

This trial was illegal and corrupt on several counts.
      Evil men have always tried to use the current 'system' for their own advantage.

1.      Though 'religious' they completely ignored the 9th Commandment.
            You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.  Exd 2016

2.      Under Jewish law it was illegal to hold criminal trials at night.

3.      Capital offence trials had to be held in public and in the Temple.

But what did these facts matter to Caiaphas, a zealous High Priest,
      and the Sanhedrin (mostly Sadducees) who both hated Jesus.
            (the minority Pharisees also hated Jesus)
Jesus exposed their hypocrisy and greed,
      their love of power and ungodly sham.  See the '8 Woes' in Matthew 23.
Caiaphas had already declared the answer to such a threat
      He said it would be right for one such to die for the good of the people!
            Or was it for the good of the religious leaders?!  See Jn 1147-50

This trial was never destined to be fair or just.

Finally two came forward and declared, "This fellow said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days'." Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, "Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?" But Jesus remained silent.  2660-63a

These two witnesses did quote Jesus correctly.  Jn 219
      But this statement alone would not be sufficient to crucify him.
      Jesus chose to remain silent - as was his legal right.
      This clearly annoyed the high priest, so he took the ultimate step.

"I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God. "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."  2663b,64

Jesus was legally bound to answer this question.
      So he did so - truthfully and completely.
      If he were only an ordinary man, such a reply would be 'high order' blasphemy.
      And that is what the high priest thought, and so did the Sanhedrin.
Jesus told them precisely who he was.
      He told them that he would return in due time as the Mighty One.
      All world leaders would do well to hear and heed these words of Jesus.

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?" "He is worthy of death," they answered. Then they spat in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, "Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?"  2665-68

Jesus had never done anything that made him 'worthy of death'.
      Never in his life had he done anything wrong.
      Never unkind, lazy or impatient, no trace of greed, envy, lust or deceit;
            He always used his power for the good of others.
No mere man could live as he did, however hard he tried.
      He never lied. He said he was the Christ.
      He was; he is, and he always will be -
            even if Caiaphas didn't think so.
To show their complete disdain they spat in the face of the Son of God!
To prove their supposed power, they punched and mocked him.
Jesus did not retaliate; he did nothing to defend himself.
      Though one day they would each stand before him - and wish they hadn't.
      But it would then be too late.
      Their day of opportunity would have come and gone.

High office has never stopped a man from being in great error.
These religious leaders had no idea who Jesus was.
      They just hated him who had revealed their hypocrisy. So he had to go, to die.
Roman Popes claim to be without any doctrinal error.
      They too are blind, and will remain so, while such a claim is retained.
      They prefer to believe their own statements
            rather than Scripture, the Word given to us by Almighty God.
      (See   "25 Major Roman Catholic Errors")

Peter's Denial  2669-75       [Contents]

Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. "You also were with Jesus of Galilee," she said. But he denied it before them all. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said.  2669,70

At first sight this might surprise us.
      Peter, who always seemed so brave, so forthright, so confident.
      But it shouldn't, for earlier that evening Jesus warned Peter he would deny him.

Twice more in quick succession he would deny his Master.
      Having lied once, it is easier to continue rather than admit the first lie.
The third time he swore to them, "I don't know the man!"
      And Immediately a cock crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: 'Before the cock crows, you will disown me three times.' And he went outside and wept bitterly.  2674,75

Luke adds that Jesus also heard the cock crow.
The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered ...  Lu 2261

So the great Peter failed - defeated by 'a servant girl'.
He would never forget the tears, the shame, and that sad look of Jesus.
But by God's grace it would also serve to impart humility to Peter.
      He would never deny Jesus again, even when he himself was also crucified.
After the resurrection Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to thrice declare his love.
      The brawny fisherman learned to appreciate the tenderness of God.  Jn 2115-19
      True forgiveness brings healing and love that overflows;
            even if the scars remain visible.
      God raised the repentant Peter to be his chosen leader of the early church.
      My soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
      Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
            for his compassions never fail.
  Lam 320-22
This story of man's failure and divine grace is recorded in all four gospels.

Judas Hangs Himself  273-10       [Contents]

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. "I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood." "What is that to us?" they replied. "That's your responsibility."  So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. 273-5

Here we see the difference between repentance(Peter) and remorse (Judas).

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret,
      but worldly sorrow brings death.
2Co 710

Remorse only regrets the consequence of sin, maybe bitterly regrets it.
When Esau despised his birthright (selling it for a bowl of soup )  Gen 2529-34
      he later wept bitterly ... he held a grudge against Jacob
      and determined to kill him.  Gen 2738-41
All sin eventually leads to remorse.
      The tempting lies and deceit of sin is unmasked.
      Consider the end in the story of a rich man and Lazarus in Lu 1619-31.
      The wages of sin is death.  Ro 623
Judas betrayed for 30 useless silver coins!
      And he received such a mountain of despair that it crushed out his life.

Repentance turns to Almighty God and cries with anguish for mercy.
David wrote: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love ...
      Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin ...
      Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me ...
      Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
  Ps 51
God granted David's prayer -
      and also that of Peter when he left the courtyard weeping.

For three years Judas had been privy to all the words and actions of Jesus.
      If he had seen any wrong, now was the time to give his evidence.
      But there was none.
      He knew Jesus was totally innocent, holy and truthful.

Judas was given a suitable epitaph for his treachery.
      With the returned coins the priests bought the potters field
            as a burial place for foreigners and it was called 'The Field of Blood'.

Jesus Before Pilate  271,2, 11-31       [Contents]

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor ... The governor asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied.  271,2, 11

The religious leaders decided to put Jesus to death.
      It is a bad day for any nation when leaders are intent on such injustice.
            So blind in the very area in which they were supposed to be experts.
            So determined in their prejudice and hypocrisy.
      Under Roman law they were not allowed to execute any offender;
            they needed Pilate's approval. So they took Jesus to the Governor.
      Thus in the providence of God, the Gentiles also murdered the Son of God.

What charges they cooked up is not recorded.
      But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge -
      to the great amazement of the governor.
This was to fulfill the prophecy:
      He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;
      he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep
      before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
  Is 537

It didn't take Pilate long to realise Jesus had not committed any capital offence.
      This was just a 'religious grudge' that he was not obliged to humour.
      So the seasoned politician tried a compromise:
      He knew that Jesus was popular with the general public.
      So why not get the public to vote for his release;
            He could use the traditional Passover release of one prisoner.
            That way he would gain popular support
                  and win a few points against the quarrelsome religious leaders.
      The only snag was, the religious leaders 'spiked' the crowd;
            so they voted to release Barabbas (a popular rebel), not Jesus.

Then Pilate made a fatal mistake:
      he asked the crowd what they wanted him to do with Jesus.
      He didn't expect their immediate response, "Crucify him, crucify him!"  2722
He made a feeble attempt to avoid the death of a man he knew was innocent.
      "Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate.  2723
      But the manipulated crowd merely repeated their demand to crucify him.
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood. It is your responsibility!"  2724
      I doubt if this would be an effective defence in the courts of heaven.

Then the crowd made a statement that must be a world record in folly:
      "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"  2725
They obviously had no idea that they had just condemned the Son of God!
      Each of them would live (and die) to bitterly regret this short sentence.
      30 years later the Jews would feel the Roman boot,
            Jerusalem would be destroyed in AD 70 and again in AD135.
            The remaining Jews would be killed or enslaved,
                  and be exiled across the world and hated for 2,000 years.
      Only now have they returned to their own land - but they are still hated.

Pilate then had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.  2726
      If he knew he was innocent, why did he also have him flogged?
      Was he just angry at being defeated (yet again) by the religious leaders?
            If so, why take it out on the innocent party?
            Powerful, angry men are often illogical.
      He presumably also gave approval for the extreme mocking by his soldiers.
            Matthew gives us the details:
Then the governor's soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers round him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. "Hail, king of the Jews!"  they said. They spat on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.  2727-31

I expect they even enjoyed it too!!
One day each of them would have to stand alone
      before the One they had so expertly mocked.
      How would they answer then?

At any time Jesus could have summoned his legions of angels.
      But he didn't.
      He endured it all -
            and fulfilled Isaiah 53; God's only plan to redeem sinners.

In case we are tempted to feel smug and say we would never have behaved
      like the religious leaders or Pilate and especially Judas,
      let us beware, for in this world even the righteous can wickedly:
            The heart is deceitful above all things ...  Jer 179
      The extent of natural corruption is  rarely realised,
            with disastrous consequences.

Christ Crucified!  2732-56       [Contents]

No other event has ever made such a profound effect in all human history.
Without it there could never be a single human being in heaven.
Without it the whole purpose of God's creation would be wasted.
Wise men used this event to date the years BC and AD, Before and after Christ.
      (Though modern foolish men are trying to change this to BCE and CE
            'Before Common Era' and 'Common Era')
Many today believe Christ was crucified, but don't know why.
      He was not a helpless martyr, but a willing Saviour.
      This event was planned and agreed before time began,
            before one 'brick' of the heavens and the earth was even laid.
      Throughout all the years of the Old Testament
            Almighty God told his prophets about the day of Jesus Christ,
            from Abel to Zechariah. He also told kings and peasants.
            It was never a secret - though only a few understood God's plan.
      Today it is all revealed in the Scriptures - though few believe it's truth.

The soldiers who mocked Jesus did not just tease him.
      The crown of thorns was all too physical.
      It was meant to hurt!
      The beating was so great another man had to carry his cross to Golgotha.
      Remember that at this time he had a human body.
      He felt and endured the whole catalogue of intense pain -
            to win my forgiveness.
      He became our effective Substitute
            so that he could be our victorious Advocate.

Jesus refused to drink the pain killing wine mixed with gall.
He was crucified naked. They cast lots for his clothing. Ps 2218

And sitting down, they kept watch over him there.  2736

What was his crime? Pilate wrote:

      This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.  2737

Indeed he was; and much more.
      He is king of all creation and Saviour of the world.
      Is this what such a king deserves?
Yet the Good Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep.  Jn 1011

The evil terrorist Arafat even dared to repeatedly claim "Jesus was a Palestinian".
He hoped today's world would be ignorant of Pilate's charge.
And ignorant of history.
      The Romans began calling the area Palestine in 135AD.
      It never described a people's nationality.
      It was Latin for Philistine and intentionally an insult to Jews who had rebelled.

Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.  2738

Not just thieves, but brigands - robbery with violence.
Did they think that their crimes would incriminate the innocent Jesus?
One robber cursed Jesus and only wanted to be relieved of his crucifixion.
But the other repented and pleaded for forgiveness, admitting his just punishment.
      Jesus comforted him saying,  "Today you will be with me in paradise."  Lu 2343
      'Today' was to be the beginning of all eternity for him!

Some of the religious leaders were there to see the one they hated die.
      They continued to mock him:

      "He saved others, but he can't save himself!       He's the King of Israel!
      Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him."

      They were utterly clueless that this was God's rescue plan for sinful men.
      What seemed weakness, death and defeat
            was the means God chose to give men eternal life.
            "There was no other good enough to pay the price for sin,
            He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in."
      Let us wholeheartedly bless Jesus that he did not come down from the cross.
      And let it impress upon us a great hatred of my sin that put him there.
      He saved others because he would not save himself.
      He atoned and redeemed, he was the one perfect sacrifice and punishment.
      He thus achieved what no man has ever been able to do.
      God's justice was fully satisfied.
            And eternal life is granted to all who repent and believe in this Saviour.

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani" which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'  2745,46

The crucifixion began at 0900. The darkness was from noon to 1500.
Why did God send this supernatural darkness over all the land?
      It was the 'dark' time when the Son of God bore all the sins of men.
      It meant his separation from Father.  Nothing could be worse.
      The darkness was all we could 'see' of Father's pain.
      His Son cried out 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'  Ps 221
      He knew why.
      The physical agony of Roman crucifixion was intentionally immense,
            but the agony of separation from Father and bearing his wrath was worse.
            Far worse.

This moment defines all human destiny; it's importance cannot be over-stressed.
      1.      Jesus gave up his spirit.  2750
            He called out with a loud voice,
                  "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."  Lu 2346
      2.      The Temple veil was torn in two. All men could now see the Mercy Seat.
            All who come to God in repentance and trust would now be saved.  2751
      3.      The witnessing centurion said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!".  2754
      4.      The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  2751,52
      5.      The sun shone again!  It was not the end, but the beginning!
      6.      Foolish men have questioned much of the scriptures,
                  but God made sure that concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus
                  the facts are reliable and certain.

What is the mighty significance of the Temple veil being torn in two?
      It was a great surprise; no one expected such a miracle.
      It marked the end of all the ceremonial sacrifices;
            and the offices that only the High Priest could perform.
      The one perfect sacrifice had been made and accepted in heaven.
      It showed that the mercy seat and forgiveness was now available to Gentiles.
      The door to eternal life for men had been thrown open by God himself.

Many women who had followed Jesus watched - and wondered.
      Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses,
      and the mother of Zebedee's sons.  2756
      Also Salome and Mary the mother of Jesus.  Mk 1540  Jn 1925
      At such a time there was nothing to say or do;
            soon their wondering would be transformed into revelation.

Jesus Buried and Guarded!  2757-66       [Contents]

As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 2757-60

Joseph was a rich man and a disciple of Jesus.
It is good to note that though it is hard for a rich man
       to enter the kingdom of heaven, it is not impossible.
Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin,
      but he did not consent to the condemnation of Jesus.  Lu 2351
      Apart from this act, he was an unknown follower of Jesus Christ.
      No doubt there were, and still are, many other 'quiet' unnamed followers.
He was assisted by the Pharisee Nicodemus, also a Sanhedrin member.  Jn 1939

These two were determined to honour Jesus.
      It hurt to see the cruel conviction of an innocent man
            who had taught them so much.
Whether they realised it at the time is not known, but they fulfilled a prophecy:
      He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death,
      though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.  Is 539
When they had laid his mutilated body to rest with great care and love,
      they rolled a large stone in front of the tomb.
      There was probably also a trench into which it fell,
            so it would take considerable force to move it away.

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first." "Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how."  2762-65

There is no 'Preparation Day' for the normal Sabbath.
      'Preparation Day' was the day the Passover lambs were slain,
            and the day on which Jesus was crucified!
       Jn 1931 also makes this clear,  It was the day of Preparation
            and the next day was to be a special Sabbath
.  ie Passover Sabbath
      (see more detail in Notes on John's Gospel p.174-6)

Pilate agreed to the Pharisees request saying:
      Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.
They did so by placing an armed guard at the tomb.
      But neither they, nor the almost immoveable stone, nor any human activity,
            could prevent Jesus rising from the dead.
      How can mere men expect to thwart Almighty God? !

'Watch this space'.  God is about to act!

Jesus has Risen from the Dead  281-15       [Contents]

At dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.  281-3

What was the cause of the violent earthquake ?
      An angel of the Lord had come down from heaven !!
      Who said angels are sweet little cherubs with delicate wings?
      They are mighty beings, servants of Almighty God.
      Pushing back the big stone was no problem to him.

Why did he roll back the stone?
      It was not to let Jesus out,
            but so his followers could see the grave clothes were neatly folded inside,
            the clothes that his body had been wrapped in were now empty.
      God wanted them to see that Jesus had risen from the dead.

What was the message the mighty angel had come to tell the two women?
      "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.
      He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.
      Come and see the place where he lay.
      Then go quickly and tell his disciples:
            'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee.
            There you will see him.'
      Now I have told you."

Today the resurrection story is well known, it is familiar;
      but to these two women at that time it must have been absolutely incredible.
      May we never lose the wonder of this mighty act of God.
      He is Risen !!  As always, God kept his word.

The women and the disciples saw the risen Christ.
      He had achieved in full all that he came to do:
            to gain forgiveness for all sinful repentant men.
            He released sinners from the chains of hell,
                  and he welcomes us into eternal life with him.
            God and justice are fully satisfied.
            Satan and his plan to wreck all God's wonderful creation are destroyed
                  by the triumphant, living Redeemer.
            "The grave could not hold him beyond the appointed time."  J C Ryle
Each of the Gospel writers give us their own details of events.
      They dovetail together. (See 'Combined Gospels')

Event Math Mark Luke John
On the First Day of the Week 281 161-3,9 241,10 201a
An Angel Rolls Back the Stone 282-4      
Women at the Tomb 285-10 164-8 242-9 201b
Peter and John go to the Tomb     2412 202-10
Mary Meets her Risen Lord       2011-17
Disciples Told, but didn't Believe   1610,11 2411 2018
Guards are Bribed 2811-15      
On the Way to Emmaus   1612,13 2413-35  
Jesus Eats with Disciples   1614 2436-45 2019-25
Thomas Believes       2026-29
Disciples Go to Galilee 2816,17      
Jesus Appears to Disciples       211-14
Jesus Speaks to Peter       2115-23
Last Instructions      Act 14-8 2818-20 1615-18 2446-49  
The Ascension      Act 19-12   1619 2450-53  

Guards are Bribed to Lie  2811-15       [Contents]

When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
There has never been a generation when powerful men
      did not use bribery and corruption to achieve their wicked plans.
But they will not, they cannot, destroy the revealed truth of Almighty God.
Their action proves the resurrection. The body could not have been stolen.

The Great Commission  2816-20       [Contents]

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee ... Then Jesus came to them and said,
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

All authority was given to him who has unlocked the gates of heaven.
      Gates that bar all who have not received the righteousness of Christ.
      Gates that prevent all wicked intruders from entering.
      Gates far stronger than the door which God shut in the days of Noah.  Gen 716
      Gates that have completely baffled the greatest lock-pickers.
What is the key that Jesus holds?  How can he open the gates?
      It was no easy job, even with the key!
      The key is bearing the punishment we all deserve.
      The key is a simple Cross.
      The key is pouring out his perfect blood as a sacrifice.
      The key is rising from dead!
The open gates are not left unguarded.
      Jesus is the door-keeper (not as some have supposed, Peter!)
      He ensures that only those wearing wedding garments can enter.
      Garments of righteousness and truth, given to us by the doorkeeper himself.
            They can never be earned; they are his gift to all who repent and believe.

Such is the authority given to the risen Christ.

His command?  "Go and make disciples of all nations"  -  not just the Jews.
      The Eleven obeyed.  So must we.

Now, 2,000 years later, we can still hear what they had witnessed and taught.
As Jesus said,
      "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." 2435
And however steep the path, however narrow, however hard;
      his most precious promise remains:
            Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.  2820

On the cross and in the tomb, Jesus was alone.
      Let us remember his final word, we are never alone.

He who promised is rightly called "Faithful and True".  Rev 1911