Saturday, September 12, 2009
Matthew 12 Receiving Or Rejecting Christ.
The other day I was asked to debate with a fellow about the gospel.. rather I was asked to help another pastor with a difficult fellow who was rude abrasive and arrogant, demanding that all join him in his rejection of Christ. Every time I tried to answer his objections he became more and more abusive and ridiculous in his assertions. How do you work with people who reject the good news of Jesus? What does the Lord tell us about handling rejection?
Matthew 10: 17 But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; 18 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. 21 And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. 22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake:
The theme of chapters 11-13 is the rejection of Jesus' message. Even in 10:17-25 Jesus had warned his disciples of future rejection and persecution. In Matthew 11 this warning becomes reality for Jesus himself as Matthew begins to emphasize that there is some opposition to Jesus. Matthew 12 relates events beginning the rejection of Jesus by the Jews. There is a theme.. John 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
Matthew groups together incidents that are similar. He is not always exactly chronological, and he often takes themes to show us how these truths were worked out. We have the collection of Christ's sayings in the Sermon on the Mount, followed by the collection of doings in chapters 7. and 9., the collected charge to His ambassadors in chapter 10., the collection of instances illustrative of the relations of different classes to the message of the Kingdom and its King in chapter 11., and now in this chapter a series of incidents presents to us the growing bitterness and antagonism expressed against Jesus by the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes, the traditional leaders of the Jewish community..
Why do people reject the Christ?
The Pardon Christ Gives Upsets The Ecclesiastical Applecart.
All the Gospels indicate that the breaking point between Jesus and the Pharisees was the Sabbath controversy (cf. Mark 3:6; Luke 14:11, John 5:9ff., and Matthew 12:14). Through the Sabbath controversy one discovers why the Pharisees particularly opposed Jesus. The way Jesus understood the Law was different to the way that the Pharisees understood the Law.
Plucking of ears of grain (v. 1) was actually not a crime. It wasn't breaking the Sabbath laws. (cf. Deut. 23 :25), But the Pharisees wrongfully regarded it as breaking the Sabbath law, as though it was "harvest work" (v. 2).
Christ quickly reminded them of two passages they ought to have known from their own Scriptures:
(1) 1Samuel 21:1-6 (vs. 3, 4), where David ate "shewbread on the Sabbath (Lev. 24:8); and —
(2) Numbers 28:9, 10 (v. 5), where priests in temple worked on Sabbath in course of their daily duties. So, if all work on the Sabbath was wrongful, as the Pharisees insisted, the priests would have been continually guilty.
In their endeavour to interpret the law, they had a field day with the Sabbath law, because the Sabbath law declared that they were not to bear any burdens on the Sabbath day. And so it was necessary for them to constitute what was bearing a burden. And it was decided that if you had lost your leg and had a wooden leg, that you could not use that on the Sabbath day, because that would indeed be bearing a burden. Well they went further then that. If you had false teeth, you could not wear them on the Sabbath day, because that also would be bearing a burden. As far as I know, false eyelashes weren't in at those times, but I would imagine they would have had to have ruled on that too. Today in Jerusalem in the Sabbath, they have elevators running continually between floors stopping a few minutes at each level so that no one has to do any work by pushing the button on the Sabbath.
(In the first century there were two major currents of thought with respect to what was lawfully permitted on the Sabbath. One is represented by the Dead Sea sect, as illustrated by the Damascus Document. The other is what generally appears in the rabbinic material. The first is more stringent, the second more liberal. For instance, the Damascus Document XI, 16-17 forbids the saving of a life on the Sabbath day, whereas this was permitted by the rabbis (Yoma 8:6,7; Mekilta Exodus 22:2; 31:13). Further, the Dead Sea sect forbade helping an animal out of a pit or ditch (Damascus Document XI, 13); the Pharisees granted that right (Shabbath 15:1ff; bShabbath 128b). Thus, the rabbis, at least in some respects, were more liberal than the Dead Sea community.
However, the Mishan agrees that the practice of medicine where life is not in danger (such as the setting of a broken bone) is forbidden (Shabbath 22:6). From the data it is clear that Jesus' controversy was with the rabbinic understanding and not with the Dead Sea sect. In Matthew 12:11 it is assumed that the Pharisees would permit a man to help his ox out of a ditch on the Sabbath. This indicates that Matthew's audience was more influenced by the rabbis than by the Dead Sea sect.
There were certain activities that were permitted on the Sabbath. One is mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 1:5: the sacrificial activities of the priests. Further, "the school of Hillel allowed visitation of and comfort of a sick man on the sabbath." Thus there was some diversity of thought as to what was permitted and what was not permitted on the Sabbath.)
The Lord Jesus accepts their position, and rather than argue against it, asks them what the scriptures actually do say in these matters. He asks 'Have ye not read? that they could not produce Scripture for their prohibition, as He would do for the liberty which He allowed. He quotes two instances in which ceremonial obligations gave way before higher law. The first, that of David and his followers eating the shew-bread, which was tabooed to all but priests, is perhaps chosen with some reference to the parallel between Himself, the true King, now unrecognised and hunted with His humble followers, and David, the fugitive outlaw with his band. Our Lord thus showed that while Fourth Commandment was binding, there was greater principle of human necessity making lawful certain activities on Sabbath; and, in light of that principle, there was no essential difference between disciples' ears of corn and David's shewbread.
Then Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 as a principle. If the Pharisees had known the meaning of Hosea 6:6, they would have had the theological lens through which to consider the actions of others. If they had known the meaning of Hosea 6:6, they would not have condemned the disciples.
When we evaluate others based on the technicalities of ritual and precision obedience, we miss the heart of God. God is relational, not technical. God is more interested in mercy than he is ritual. God is more interested in relationship than he is perfectionistic precision. That's what Hosea 6:6, means. We need it as a principle for living in relationship with others just as they did then.
This does not entail a rationale or an excuse for disobedience, but it should soften our heart with the mercy of God as we relate to others. After all, shouldn't we treat others with the mercy with which God treats us? And I am grateful that God's heart yearns for mercy more than sacrifice, for heart more than ritual, for relationality more than technicality. Can there be some that reject Christ today for these matters?
Salvation by the grace and pardon of God through the sacrificial work of Christ is too easy for some. They must add their extra rules for folks to be saved. And they object strongly to anyone who would indicate that we are saved by the mercy of God in Christ alone. Yes even some here today feel that way.
Now the Lord brings to mind something so revolutionary that it must have startled the Pharisses!
Yet.. One greater than the temple
Could it be that the issue of Jesus as Lord is the issue at heart for some people? Here is One greater than ritual, greater than religion, greater than our puny, weak ways of saving ourselves. And how that destroys our pride. Why He is greater than the Temple itself!
"There was much hard work done in the temple on the Sabbath — sacrifices to be slain, fires and lamps to be kindled, and so on. That was not Sabbath desecration. Why? Because it was done in the temple, and as a part of divine service. The sanctity of the place, and the consequent sanctity of the service, exempted it from the operation of the law. And now here in the fields, here gathering the corn, 'In this place' — here among the growing corn, beneath the free heaven, far away from Jerusalem 'is one greater than the temple.' He is all that the temple symbolised. In Him the Godhead really dwells; He is the meeting-place of God and man, the place of the oracle, the place of sacrifice. Then, where He stands is holy ground, and all work done with reference to Him is worship". Alexander MacLaren.
In this claim, to be greater than temple and Lord of Sabbath, Christ was stating that, as Son of man, He knew what was best for man and, as Messiah, He represented Divine authority; further, He was placing Himself on equality with God and asserting that Jewish people were His people.
Here The Person Christ Is Upsets The Autonomous Individual
"The scene changes to a synagogue, Capernaum. Among the worshippers is a man with 'a withered hand,' who seems to have been brought there by the Pharisees as a bait to try to draw out Christ's compassion. What a curious state of mind that was, — to believe that Christ could work miracles, and to want Him to do one, not for pity's sake, nor for confirmation of faith, but to have material for accusing Him! And how heartlessly careless of the poor sufferer they are, when they manipulate his illness for their benefit." MacLaren.
And again the Lord demonstrates without a Word that He is Lord of the Sabbath.
Matt 12: And in order to accuse Him they asked Him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"
13 Then He told the man, "Stretch out your hand." So he stretched it out, and it was restored, as good as the other.
I like how the Lord handled them here. He didn't actually DO anything. He merely instructed the poor guy to hold out his hand. Now what could these Pharisees do? Jesus hadn't actually broken the Sabbath, nor had the man! There was no law against holding out your hand! But He demonstrated by healing in this way that indeed He was Lord, Lord of the Sabbath!!
It was this beyond all else that aroused opposition of Jewish authorities, because they recognized that they would have to recognize Jesus as Messiah As Lord! As THE LORD! John 5:18, Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
10:30-33 and my Father are one. 31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? 33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
It is this that arouses opposition from mankind today. We acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. We acknowledge that He is greater than all forms of religion, and He is greater than our lives and has the right to rule over our lives. He has the right to say how we may or may not use the Sabbath day and every other day of our week. Yes Christians worship Jesus as God! (this was the reason given why Christians were odd)
It is this more than anything else that arouses the resentment of our neighbours to the gospel. Why should we talk about One who has the right to limit our fun?
Why should we impose on ourselves some strictness and some disciplines that the world does not want to impose on itself. And when we do bring ourselves under the Lordship of Christ, then the world finds itself held guilty by our submission to His Lordship. His Lordship over our lives challenges their rights to live independently, and autonomously of God.
Here The Power Christ has upsets the Rationalist
Matthew 12 continues with Continuing rejection by the religious leaders.
And in (30-32) Jesus reveals the desperate place of those who could be hardened enough to attribute His workings to Satanic power. "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad. Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come."
(43-45) The dangerous consequences of their rejection of Jesus. "When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation."
John 1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
The Rejection of Jesus. Receive Or Reject.
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
If you receive Christ You receive His Claims (vs. 6-8) This was twofold:
a. Christ claimed to be "greater than the temple" (v. 6) and can command His disciples (v. 7), "greater than Jonah" (v. 41); "greater than Solomon" (v. 42); "greater than our father Abraham" (John 8 53ff.) ; "greater than our father Jacob" (John 4 :12ff.) ; "greater ... than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4).
2. The Response Of Jesus He Forewarns Of His Reception by the Gentiles
16 Yet He warned them not to make Him known,17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: (1) His Position (v. 18) God is the speaker and describes Messiah as His Servant, His Chosen One, His Beloved
18 " Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! (2) His Power (v. 18) I will put My Spirit upon Him, And He will declare justice to the Gentiles. 19 His Program (v. 19) He will not quarrel nor cry out, Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. 20 A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench, Till He sends forth justice to victory; 21 And in His name Gentiles will trust."
(4) His Patience (v. 20) The character of the Messiah is then described in relation to Jewish people who, like reeds bruised and flax smoking, are regarded as bowed and smouldering under load of ecclesiastical bondage; He will bear patiently with them, enabling them to stand upright and grow strong towards God; He is sympathetic with all who are in earnest about following Him; and He will lead them gently on until complete victory for His just cause is assured. Therefore, take heart, you are never beyond healing unless you are beyond humbling.
(5) His Promise (v. 21) The final outcome is to be that, notwithstanding the opposition of certain Jews, there will be Gentiles who will accept Christ and Divine blessing will be bestowed; if, therefore, His disciples follow Him in this attribute of a meek and quiet spirit, their influence will resemble His and hearts everywhere will respond instinctively to gentle, Christlike lives.
The People Christ Owns Upsets The Rest You are called to decide who you are with.
Matthew 12: 46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. 47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. 48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? 49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
Who will you identify with?