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May 2015
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Jesus’ Resurrection Is All The Sign We Need

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
(Matthew 12:38-42 ESV)

After Jesus’ scathing words for the Jewish leaders yesterday, they ask Him to perform a sign. In the original Greek, the emphasis in their statement is on the word “you”. In other words, they wanted Jesus to prove that He had the authority to speak to them the way He did.

This is quite an absurd request as these leaders had already seen Jesus perform numerous “signs” to prove His identity as God [Matthew 12:10, 24]. Apparently they wanted an even greater sign – perhaps a celestial sign (e.g. darkening the sun) – to prove His power over the universe. Only then would they believe that Jesus had authority over them.

Here we see an example of people who stubbornly refuse to believe. Like many people today, the scribes and Pharisees were not approaching Jesus objectively. They had already drawn a conclusion about Him and ignored any evidence that contradicted that conclusion.

Interestingly Jesus calls such people adulterous. God often describes man’s relationship with Him as a marriage [Jeremiah 3:8; Hosea 4:15 et. al]. When we seek fulfillment and joy in things other than Him we are committing spiritual adultery, just like a husband might seek these things apart from his wife (or vice-versa).

Jesus states that He is not going to give these men the immediate sign they are seeking. Instead He informs them that He will be all the sign they need. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so would Jesus (referring to Himself as the Son of Manbe three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jesus here is predicting His own death and resurrection. He would die, be buried, but would only spend three days in the grave.

One gets the impression from their question that these leaders doubted Jesus’ could perform a sign and were asking only to expose His “weakness” and thereby “prove” He lacked authority over them. In asking this question they were really rejecting God’s authority over their life and were instead attempting to exert their own self-appointed authority over God.

As a result, Jesus tells them, they will be condemned at the judgment when they see the highly evil men of Nineveh (a Gentile city now known as Mosul, Iraq), who repented when a mere man, Jonah, preached a message from God to them, entering heaven [Jonah 3].

Similarly, the queen of the South (aka Queen of Sheba) recognized the God-given wisdom of Solomon and, apparently, believed in God, repented and will be in heaven too [1 Kings 10:1-10].

Jonah and Solomon were two human “signs” of God’s love and power. The Gentiles who heard them humbled themselves and repented. Yet the Jewish leaders, who were in the presence of God Himself – something greater than Jonah and Solomon – refused to believe.

Sadly, they – and anyone else who refuses to believe God – will someday watch as those who did believe and repent enter heaven while they themselves are refused entry.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Our Unguarded Speech Reveals Our Character

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
(Matthew 12:34-37 ESV)

Jesus continues His harsh words for His critics and doubters today by explaining to them the source of their evil claims that He was working on behalf of Satan.

Jesus calls the Pharisees a brood of vipers. Vipers are a type of poisonous snake. They are not only deadly but deceptive. They blend into their environment and launch surprise attacks. It was a viper that bit Paul while he was gathering wood on the island of Malta [Acts 28:3].

Notice that Jesus calls them a “brood”. The definition of “brood” is “a family of young animals from the same parent”. The Pharisees had essentially called Jesus the son of Satan [Matthew 12:24]. But in today’s passage, Jesus turns the tables on them and says that they are the offspring of Satan, who is often represented in the Bible as a snake.

Just like vipers, the Pharisees were deceptive. They had the outward appearance of being righteous but they were not. They harbored evil in abundance in their hearts.

In Jewish culture a person’s “heart” represented their character. According to God the human heart is the source of all kinds of evil [Jeremiah 17:9]. The mouth, when it speaks, exposes what is in a person’s heart. It was the evil nature of the Pharisees that caused them to blaspheme the Holy Spirit – the one and only unforgivable sin [Matthew 12:31].

Our words reveal externally what we are internally. Out of his treasure a good person brings forth good and an evil person brings forth evil. The Greek word for “treasure” here is τηεσαυροσ (pronounced: thay-sow-ros’) which gives us our English word “thesaurus” which means “treasury of words”. A person’s heart is a treasury of thoughts, desires, and attitudes.

Jesus goes on to inform them that on the day of judgment people will have to give an account for every careless word they speak. The Greek word for “careless” here is αργοσ (pronounced: ar-gos’) which means “worthless”. The concept here is any word spoken without thinking.

While it’s easy to pretend to be something we’re not when we carefully consider our words (much like a politician), words that are spoken without thinking demonstrate our true thoughts and reveal what is in our hearts. It is by our words that a person is justified or condemned.

Jesus’ words in this passage are severe and certainly did not sit well with the Pharisees. But Jesus didn’t care about being liked. His goal was to save people – even the Pharisees – from their sins. When necessary He used language that was truthful, but which was never devoid of love.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Don’t Have An Inconsistent Opinion Of Jesus

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.
(Matthew 12:33 ESV)

Over the past couple of days we’ve seen the Jewish leaders acknowledge Jesus’ miraculous abilities and at the same time claim that those powers came from Satan. Today Jesus exposes their illogical thinking by telling them that they can’t have it both ways. They can’t acknowledge the wonderful and miraculous things He did and at the same time deny His claim to be the Son of God.

A tree is judged by the fruit it produces. So too is a person evaluated by their works. The Pharisees needed to form a consistent opinion about Jesus. They either needed to look at His good works and believe His claim to be God. Or they needed to consider His works to be bad and to continue to claim He worked for Satan.

Even today many people have an inconsistent concept of Jesus. They will acknowledge the He did and said wonderful things. But they will not admit that He was God. But such a conclusion, Jesus tells us, is not valid.

As we learned a few weeks ago, Jesus was either God or He was a liar or He was a crazy man. There is no room for any other opinion. Calling Jesus a “wise man” or a “great teacher” is not enough. Jesus said He was God and He backed up such an audacious claim with miracles. To refute His claim to deity renders calling Him a “great teacher” hypocritical. Would a “great teacher” claim to be God if He wasn’t?

The Pharisees didn’t want to believe that Jesus was God because such a thought conflicted with their predisposed notion of God and of themselves. They could not conceive of a God who was compassionate to everyone, including their enemies. They expected God to conquer Rome and liberate the Jews from their earthly oppressors.

What they didn’t realize was that their greatest enemy was sin. They didn’t realize this because they did not see themselves as sinners. They saw themselves as righteous. They thought that since they were keeping all their own man-made rules (at least on the outside) that they had favor with God and did not need forgiveness. They were wrong.

Sadly, human thinking hasn’t changed much in 2,000 years. People today still think this same way. They may admit that Jesus was a real person who said beautiful things and who helped a lot of people. But they don’t want to admit that they are flawed. They don’t want to admit they are broken. They don’t want to admit that they need forgiveness. And they don’t want to humble themselves in order to receive that forgiveness.

Jesus points out that such thinking is inconsistent. We can’t pick and choose what we believe just to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. We must either accept or dismiss Jesus in His entirety.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


The Unpardonable Sin

“Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
(Matthew 12:31-32 ESV)

Today we come to a passage in the Bible that is often misunderstood. It covers what people call ‘the unpardonable sin”.

Notice that Jesus’ first word is therefore. This tells us that what He is about to say is related to what He has just said. He had just finished telling the Pharisees that it was by the Spirit of God that He cast out demons and that there were only two sources of supernatural power: God and Satan. The Pharisees had attributed Jesus’ power not to the Holy Spirit but to Satan.

So Jesus gives these men a very serious warning. He tells them that every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven. But there is an exception. Blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Likewise, anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man (a reference to Jesus) will be forgiven. But anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

Blasphemy is defined as “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God”. Every non-believer, even those of us who are now followers of Christ, were once blasphemers. The apostle Paul was a blasphemer [1 Timothy 1:13-14].

Even after we become children of God through faith we can commit blasphemy by having a thought that mars God’s character. For example, getting angry at God or accusing Him of going back on a promise.

But God is not unreasonable. A person who speaks against Christ out of ignorance, as Paul did and many non-believers do today, can be forgiven. Such people do not have the Holy Spirit of God living inside them and therefore cannot see the complete truth. It is through His Spirit that God reveals the truth about Jesus [John 16:13-14].

Therefore, no one who has the Holy Spirit can call Jesus cursed, which is what the Pharisees essentially did when they attributed Jesus’ power to Satan [Matthew 12:24]. Doing so is unforgivable. Committing this serious offense would seal a person’s eternal (the age to come) fate.

There are many Christians today who worry that they’ve committed the “unpardonable sin”. They haven’t. Anyone who would be concerned about such a thing has not committed it. If a person calls Jesus Christ “Lord” they do so by the power of the Holy Spirit and, hence, cannot have committed this sin [1 Corinthians 12:3].

Even a non-believer, which we all were at one point, cannot commit this sin because as we’ve seen such people, including Paul, did not have complete truth.

This sin was only committable during this point in history. It was applicable to those who witnessed Jesus’ divine power but attributed that power to Satan. They ignored the physical and logical evidence and therefore willfully chose to side with Satan [Matthew 12:25-30].

That was not a good thing to do.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


There Is No Neutrality When It Comes To Jesus

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
(Matthew 12:30 ESV)

In yesterday’s passage Jesus unequivocally stated that there are only two kingdoms: the kingdom of God (which He represented) and the kingdom of Satan. The Pharisees had tried to attribute Jesus’ miraculous healing power to Satan, but Jesus explained why this could not be logically so. Therefore, Jesus concluded, He must be working under the power of God. More than that, He must be God [Matthew 12:22-29].

When it comes to Jesus there is no middle ground. A person must be with Him, otherwise that person is against Him. Notice that it isn’t necessary to oppose Jesus to be against Him. It is only necessary to not be with Him.

This is hugely important. Many people claim to be neutral when it comes to Jesus. But here Jesus tells us that is not an option. There are only two camps: those who are with Him and those who are against Him.

I once took a course on the Roman Empire at Stanford. The teacher was excellent. She really knew her stuff. But when it came time to discuss Jesus, she called Him “an itinerant preacher”. Likewise many people refer to Jesus as “a wise man” or even “a prophet” (as Muslims do). But while all these statements are to some extent true, no one can validly stop there when it comes to their opinion about Jesus.

Not being one of Jesus’ followers means that you are one of Jesus’ enemies.

Additionally, when it comes to the work Jesus is doing – to gather people to Himself to take them to heaven – anyone who is not actively participating with Him is actually scattering people – leading people away from Him.

These words would not only be applicable to non-believers such as the Pharisees, Muslims, and atheists but also to Christians who are not helping to build the kingdom of God by teaching others about Jesus. There are many people who are children of God, saved by faith [John 1:12], who spend their lives living for the things this earth has to offer. These people will go to heaven. But Jesus says their lack of participation is actually harming others by not pointing them to Him.

Notice that one does not have to be intentionally working against Jesus to lead people away from Him. It is man’s natural tendency to want to live apart from Jesus. Therefore, if His followers don’t actively participate in gathering people into His kingdom, people will not come into His kingdom.

Anyone who is not actively gathering people into God’s kingdom is actually leading them away from God for all eternity.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


All Arguments Against Jesus Are Poorly Thought Out

Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.
(Matthew 12:25-29 ESV)

Yesterday the Pharisees accused Jesus of working on behalf of Satan [Matthew 12:24]. In today’s passage Jesus exposes their arguments as ridiculous, hypocritical, and poorly thought out.

The Pharisees claim that Jesus casted out demons by the power of Satan, the prince of demons, was ridiculous because any kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. So it would make no sense for Satan to cast out his own demons. He would only be hurting his own cause if that were the case.

Likewise, their suggestion was hypocritical because the Pharisees had followers (sons) who were casting out demons as well. If Jesus was casting out demons by Satan’s power the Pharisees disciples would have to be doing the same thing. Note that it is likely that the Pharisees followers did not actually cast out any demons – they only attempted to. We can tell this from Jesus’ comment about these sons being the Pharisees judges. In other words, the lack of success from these exorcists would condemn the Pharisees for being spiritually impotent.

Finally, Jesus explains that if He is successfully casting out Satan’s demons (which He was) that would mean that He had power over Satan (a strong man). And the only one with power over Satan is God Himself. So clearly the Pharisees had not thought through the validity of their comments.

Jesus proves that His power does not come from Satan and the Pharisees arguments are unfounded. Therefore Jesus’ power could only come from the Spirit of God. Which means that the kingdom of God must be in their very presence. That is, Jesus must be God. Here is another statement by Jesus in which He was telling His listeners that He was God.

Notice also that Jesus entered the strong man’s house and plunders his goods. Jesus captured human beings from the domain of Satan. Everyone of us, by nature, has Satan as our father [Ephesians 2:2]. It is only as the result of being born-again through faith and forgiveness that we are rescued from Satan and brought into God’s family [Ephesians 2:9-9; Colossians 1:13]

Only God could do such a thing. No one else is capable of overpowering Satan in order to rescue themselves. We need a Savior. God was that Savior in the form of Jesus Christ.

Throughout history many critics (including myself) have had it in their mind that they had the accurate conclusion about Jesus. Some claim He never existed. Others, such a Muslims, claim that Jesus never died on the cross. Others believe that Jesus never said He was God.

But none of these claims holds water. People cling to them because, just like the Pharisees, they don’t want to believe. They don’t want to swallow their pride. I understand. I was a rabid atheist who held many false beliefs about Jesus. Like the Pharisees, I hadn’t thought my beliefs through. When I finally did, they fell apart one by one in the face of physical, historical, and logical evidence.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Don’t Trust Those Who Lead People Away From Jesus

Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”
(Matthew 12:22-24 ESV)

The opposition to Jesus picks up steam in today’s passage. Previously the Jewish leadership had confronted Jesus on several occasions. Most recently, they began to plot to kill Him [Matthew 12:14]. But today they equate Him with Satan.

It all starts when a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus. Up until this point this man must have been very despondent. He may have heard about Jesus or even realized that Jesus was close by at times. But his inability to speak meant that he could not ask to be healed as others had. Thankfully, he had friends who cared about Him and brought Him to Jesus.

Jesus, as He always did, healed him with the proof being he subsequently spoke and saw. Jesus had performed many public, miraculous healings before this one, all of which were impressive. But this one must have really blown the socks off people because they were amazed. The original Greek here is very strong. The people were utterly shocked that this man was healed.

As a result they began to wonder out-loud if Jesus was the Son of David. This is a reference to an Old Testament term for the Messiah who God had promised to send to Israel. The Messiah would be a descendant of King David. They seemingly had doubts most likely because Jesus was so unlike the picture of the Son of David they have been trained to expect.

Here we see a problem of selective belief. The Scriptures the people had at this time – the Old Testament – were very clear that the Messiah would come in power, liberate Israel from its oppressor (which at this time was Rome), and conquer Israel’s enemies. This is easy to believe because it’s what they wanted. But it was harder to believe that the Messiah would be meek and humble even though the very same Scriptures said He would be.

What they didn’t realize was that the Messiah would come twice: first as a meek servant who would die, then as a conquering king. What they didn’t realize was that their oppressor was not Rome but sin.

While the populace wondered, the Pharisees had no doubt. They admitted that Jesus casts out demons and performed other miracles. So they knew that Jesus’ power was supernatural. That left them with only two choices as to the source of that power: God or Satan. But they already made up their mind that Jesus was not from God so they had to attribute His power to Beelzebul, the prince of demons. Beelzebul is another name for Satan.

Notice that the Pharisees state this to contradict the people’s comments. The Pharisees were losing their influence. They attempted to suppress the people’s belief in Jesus to satisfy their own ego. Unlike the demon-oppressed man’s friends who lead him to Christ, the Jewish leaders of the day were leading the people astray with their erroneous teachings. This is never a good thing [Matthew 23:13; Luke 17:2].

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


God Is On Our Side

Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
(Matthew 12:15-21 ESV)

Yesterday’s passage ended with the Pharisees’ plotting to kill Jesus. Despite the compassion He showed for people, the leaders of the day wanted to rid their culture of Jesus’ presence. Sounds very much like today, doesn’t it? Our leaders misunderstand Jesus. But more importantly, they misunderstand themselves, just as the Pharisees did.

Both groups of leaders think more of themselves than they should. They want to be in control. They want to be obeyed. So they do all they can to dissuade the population from following Jesus. Two-thousand years ago this took form of nailing Jesus to a cross. Today our leaders suppress public expression of faith in Christ. But in today’s passage we see that Jesus is in no way threatening.

Despite being aware of the Pharisees thoughts, Jesus did not confront them. Instead He withdrew. This is consistent with the advice He gave His disciples a while back in which He told them to simply move on if someone was not open to receiving His message [Matthew 10:14].

But notice that as Jesus moved on many followed Him. The Pharisees were losing their following to Jesus. Jesus was repeatedly exposing them as aloof, self-absorbed hypocrites while He continued to show compassion for people by healing them all.

He also showed compassion when He told them not to make Him known. Jesus did not want a groundswell of support because the people may have tried to raise Him up as their official leader. And that would have upset the Pharisees and the Romans, putting the people in danger.

Jesus’ non-confrontational manner was exactly the behavior God had foretold of the Messiah through the prophet Isaiah 700 years before. As we learned in our introduction to Matthew’s gospel, Matthew’s goal is to demonstrate that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about the Messiah perfectly.

Jesus did not quarrel or cry aloud. No one heard His voice in the streets – meaning that He didn’t call attention to Himself. Instead He let Himself be lead by the Spirit of God which had been placed upon Him when He was baptized [Matthew 3:13-17].

The truth is Jesus (who was God in a human body) is gentle with us. He is not to be feared. Everything about Him exists for our benefit. This includes His commands, as we learned yesterday.

This world is filled with bruised people. Yet Jesus will not break them. The world is filled with struggling people (smoldering wick). Yet Jesus will not put them out (quench). God is not trying to make our life harder. He’s trying to make it better. The way to do that is to follow Him, not eliminate Him.

We have no reason to fear Jesus. He is gentle with us, knowing how fragile we are. He brings hope and justice not condemnation [John 3:17]. He is on our side [Psalm 118:6; Isaiah 41:10; Romans 8:31 et. al].

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


God’s Laws Are A Guardrail, Not A Fence

He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
(Matthew 12:15-21 ESV)

After being confronted by the Pharisees for breaking their rules in the grain field, Jesus entered their synagogue. It’s interesting that Jesus regularly went to synagogue. Doing so was never commanded by God (to this point). Nor did Jesus have anything to learn there. It seems that He went to set an example to others as well as to interact with the people. Synagogue means “gathering place” and was where people met for various reasons.

Also there was a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees saw this as an opportunity to accuse Jesus by asking Him “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?“. The only medical attention that was allowed to be given on the Sabbath, according to the Pharisees (but not according to God), was to prevent someone from dying. But this man was in no such danger; he could have easily been healed the next day.

Notice that the Pharisees’ question recognizes Jesus as being willing and able to heal. They knew that Jesus would want to heal this man. At least they got some things right.

Jesus saw their question for the trap that it was. Saying “yes” would have invited confrontation. Saying “no” would have been to deny God’s love. Instead, He silences His critics by pointing out their heartlessness and hypocrisy.

Any man, including a Pharisee, would rescue his own sheep on the Sabbath. To be willing to help a sheep but not a human being revealed the callousness of these leaders. They cared about ideology, not people. The leadership in Israel had become too involved with people’s lives, tyrannically watching over every little thing they did.

Jesus sums it all up by saying “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (or any day). Doing good is the goal. God is not about keeping rules. Sure, He gives us a set of rules to live by. But He does this not so He can spy on us and punish us when we break them. God gives us a set of rules to live by because He knows that living that way will result in the most fulfilling life we can have. God’s rules are not a fence to keep us in. They are a guardrail to protect us.


Finally, notice how Jesus heals the man. In previous healings Jesus put His hands on the other person. But if He touched this man the Pharisees could have accused Him of “working” on the Sabbath. So He heals him without touching him.

The man-made law at this time had 613 rules. I’m sure none of them considered the possibility that someone could be healed supernaturally. Jesus achieves His goal of caring for this man without breaking the Pharisees rules.

As a result of being beaten at their own game, the Pharisees begin to conspire against Jesus with the intent of destroying Him. How sad. Rather than admit they were wrong (i.e. repent) they dug in their heels even more.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


There Is No Doubt Jesus Claimed To Be God

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means,‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
(Matthew 12:1-8 ESV)

Yesterday Jesus pointed out that errant thinking of the Jewish leaders with regard to the Sabbath. Today He will make the bold claim that He knows more about the Sabbath than they do and He will explain why that is so.

As noted yesterday, the priests who ran the temple had to work on the Sabbath according to Old Testament law [Numbers 28:9-10]. Therefore, the priests were not in violation of the Sabbath. Jesus exposed the Pharisees’ ignorance by comparing their beliefs with Scripture (the Old Testament), which they should have known but didn’t. This would have angered and embarrassed the Pharisees.

But Jesus was never concerned about angering the proud and He pushes the envelope even further by claiming that “something greater than the temple is here“. The temple was the most sacred thing in all of Israel. It was revered by Jews as God’s dwelling place among the people. The only thing greater than the temple was God Himself.

Jesus had just schooled the Pharisees about the Sabbath so they would have known that by “something greater than the temple” Jesus was referring to Himself, putting Himself on-par with God. But Jesus doesn’t let up.

Jesus goes on to say that He is the one who gets to decide what violates the Sabbath law – not the Pharisees – by calling Himself “lord of the Sabbath“. The Sabbath was established by God when He spoke to Moses [Exodus 20:1-20]. The Sabbath is clearly God’s domain so Jesus again is equating Himself with God by claiming that He has the same authority as God.

Muslims, atheists, and other Bible critics are quick to point out that nowhere in the Bible does Jesus ever utter the specific words “I am God”. That is true. But that does not mean that Jesus never claimed to be God and here in today’s passage we see Him make that claim not once but twice. Just the other day He made the same claim [Matthew 11:25-27].

Jesus’ claims to be God are seen more in what He did such as forgiving sins and receiving worship [Matthew 9:2-6] and claiming the same authority as God on certain issues as He does in today’s passage. The people of His day knew exactly what He was saying [John 10:31-33].

The Bible requires us to think things through and ponder the meaning of people, places, words, and events. God isn’t interested in spoon-feeding us His truth. He wants us to roll up our sleeves and get down into the details. This requires in-depth examination, not superficial browsing.

For example, note that Jesus uses the term “Son of Man“. This was the term the prophet Daniel used for the coming Messiah. [Daniel 7:13-14]. Jesus was declaring that He was that Messiah. God was the Messiah. God is the only one who is capable of saving us from hell [Psalm 65:5, 68:19; Isaiah 17:10].

When we approach the Bible this way we see the astounding truth it contains about our sin, God’s grace and mercy, Jesus’ deity, and the fact that God Himself came to earth from heaven to take on the penalty of our sin so we could take on His righteousness and therefore go to heaven [Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 2:5-8].

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.



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