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There Are Some People God Would Rather Not Be In Church


Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.
(Matthew 21:12-17 ESV)


Today we study a very famous scene in the Bible in which Jesus entered the temple courts and drove our all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

We often think of Jesus as being a humble, loving man and He was. But in this scene He displays His anger. As we learned previously, being angry is not a sin as long as one’s anger is appropriately directed [Ephesians 4:26]. Here Jesus was angry because the outer courts of the Temple had been turned into a marketplace when God had intended it to be be a house of prayer.

This was the Passover season when pilgrims came from all over the world to worship and offer sacrifices at the Temple. As a matter of convenience travelers would purchase sacrificial animals once they got to Jerusalem rather than purchase them at home and lugging them on their journey.

Therefore the Temple was stocked with animals to be purchased by these pilgrims – at mark-up prices, of course. Additionally, pagan coins – with the image of pagan kings and deities – were not accepted at the Temple. So pilgrims would have to exchange their foreign money for Temple currency – again for a price.

The Temple had been turned into a place where people pursued selfish profits rather than being a place where people could sincerely worship God. Providing these conveniences was not a bad thing. The problem was that it was all taking place in the temple not to mention that people, most of them poor, were being price gouged making the Temple a den of robbers.

This dishonest behavior was a bad witness to the glory of God and therefore prevented people from getting to know Him. In that uproar of buying and selling and bargaining and auctioneering prayer was impossible.

Just like the Temple the modern-day church is God’s house – where people go to meet with God. But just like 2,000 years ago some churches today seemingly don’t perform this function.

Unfortunately there are a lot of bad churches around nowadays. Some have jettisoned the true gospel for one that overlooks sin. Many have become entertainment centers with their jumbo videos screens, fantastic light displays, and fog machines. While these things may not be inherently bad, when they distract people from the true reason why we go to church – which, I’ll argue, the almost always do – then they are displeasing to God.

God wants sincere worshipers. He doesn’t want people who use His name for selfish reasons or those who prevent others from getting to know Him [Matthew 18:6]. If you’re going to church to be entertained or to make business contacts then you’re going to church for the wrong reasons. And, frankly, God would rather you weren’t there.

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

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Your Eternal Destiny Depends On Who You Think Jesus Is


Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
(Matthew 21:1-11 ESV)


Today we conclude the story of Jesus’ coming into Jerusalem a week before His crucifixion. This is known as “The Triumphal Entry”.

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey He was fulfilling a prophecy [Zechariah 9:9]. But Jesus’ entry fulfilled another Old Testament prophecy and this one is even more amazing.

God had revealed to Daniel that there would be 483 years from the day the decree was to be given to rebuild the city of Jerusalem until the Messiah entered that city [Daniel 9:25-26]. Nehemiah recorded this decree as happening on March 14, 445 BC (according to our modern calendar) by King Artaxerces of Persia [Nehemiah 2:1-8]. Using a 360-day calendar (which is what the Jews used) we see that there would be 173,880 days (483 * 360) between these two events.

This would place the events of today’s passage on April 6, 32 AD which is the precise day Jesus entered Jerusalem. We know this from calculations using other calendar references [Luke 3:1 et. al].

This is the most amazing prophecy in the Bible. Jesus entered Jerusalem on the exact day God predicted He would some 550 years earlier! It was precise prophecies like this one that made me wonder if my dismissal of the Bible as a hoax was unwarranted and had much to do with me giving up atheism in exchange for following Christ. But this is exactly why God put these prophecies in the Bible – to prove it was written by Him.

The commotion surrounding Jesus’ entry stirred up the whole city. Many did not know who Jesus was as He had spent most of His life in Galilee. Those who had heard of Him simply thought He was a prophet from Nazareth. Such a statement could not have made much of an impression on people as Nazareth was not a highly respected town to say the least [John 1:46].

The question people asked, “Who is this?” is the most important question any person can ask. There are basically three views of Jesus, which we previously studied. One can conclude that Jesus was a good teacher and nothing more, as most of the population of Israel did. One can conclude that Jesus was a fraud as the religious leaders did.

Or one can conclude that Jesus was God on earth as a small handful of people eventually believed. It is only with this conclusion – which is the right conclusion based on the evidence and Jesus’ own claims – that can lead one to repentance and the receipt of forgiveness for one’s sins [John 3:16; Acts 16:31, et. al].

It is only with such forgiveness that one can enter heaven. Anyone whose sins are not forgiven will be excluded from God’s presence for all of eternity. Sadly, only a very small percentage of people who ever live will arrive at this conclusion and have their sins forgiven [Matthew 7:13-14].

Jesus entered Jerusalem about 2,000 years ago. One day He will return to the city and from there He will reign over the earth for 1,000 years before the Final Judgment.

At that time everyone – alive and dead – will have their eternal destiny determined. That determination is going to depend upon whether or not you have properly responded to Jesus’ first appearance on this earth.

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

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Jesus Came To Conquer Humanity’s Biggest Enemy


Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
(Matthew 21:1-9 ESV)


Yesterday we saw Jesus begin His final trip into Jerusalem where He would be crucified about a week later. As this was the Passover season many pilgrims would have been likewise making their way towards Jerusalem and therefore there was a crowd before Him and after Him as He rode a donkey into the city.

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem many of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road. This was an ancient custom symbolizing the people’s recognition of a monarch and their submission to his authority [2 Kings 9:13]. Others cut branches from palm trees and spread them on the road. Palm branches are symbols of salvation [Leviticus 23:40; John 12:13]. One day in heaven people will offer similar tribute to Jesus [Revelation 7:9].

All around Him the people were shouting words of praise and recognition. The Greek word translated “Hosanna” translates a Hebrew word meaning “Save, please!”. It was essentially a prayer for deliverance and help. It is a cry from an oppressed people to their savior.

By praying to Jesus to save them the crowd was recognizing Jesus as the Messiah as well as recognizing His ability to save them from their oppressor, which they perceived to be Rome who was brutally occupying Israel at this time.

By calling Jesus “Son of David” the crowd was also recognizing Him as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament who God foretold would be a descendant of King David.

If Jesus was going to overthrow Rome He was going to have to do it supernaturally as He had no weapons or soldiers. Instead He came in the full power and authority of God which is what it means to come in the name of the Lord. Doing something in someone else’s name is to do it with their full blessing. The people realized Jesus was from God.

What the people didn’t realize, however, was that Rome was not their oppressor. Sin was their oppressor. Rome was their earthly enemy but sin was their spiritual – and therefore more important – enemy. Jesus’ was going to establish a kingdom, but not an earthly one [John 18:36].

When Jesus doesn’t free the Jews from the Romans they will turn against Him, thinking He is a fraud. These very same people who are praising Him in today’s passage will soon be calling for His crucifixion.

Just like today people are fine with a god who does what they want. But they don’t want a god who points out sin. They want a god who grants them a life of ease and wealth. They don’t want their lifestyle to be challenged. Throughout Matthew’s gospel we’ve seen that the vast majority of people were only attracted to Jesus because of how He could improve their earthly lives.

But God knows more about what we need than we do. More than we need the temporary things of this earth we need our sins to be forgiven. Anything of this earth is temporary. Forgiveness is eternal.

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

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Jesus Was The Humble Messiah Who Brought Peace


Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
(Matthew 21:1-11 ESV)


After healing the two blind men yesterday Jesus continues His way toward Jerusalem where His life would end in about a week. In today’s scene Jesus is in Bethphage near the Mount of Olives one-half mile east of Jerusalem. It is the location from which Jesus ascended into heaven and the location to which He will return [Zechariah 14:4].

The purpose of Matthew’s gospel is to prove to his Jewish audience that Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophecies written hundreds of years earlier. One of those prophecies was that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem on a donkey [Zechariah 9:9]. By riding the donkey Jesus again declared that He was the Messiah – the one who would release people from their oppression, although the people were unaware of such significance.

Some Bible critics will claim that Jesus intentionally manipulated events in order to convince people that He was the Messiah. This prophecy of riding a donkey into Jerusalem would certainly be an easy one to fulfill if that were the case. And if it were the only prophecy about the Messiah one could certainly make the claim that Jesus was an imposter.

But Jesus could not have controlled many other events in His life that were prophesied including where He would be born, the manner of His birth, His family’s exile into Egypt, and His resurrection.

Jesus also demonstrates His omniscience – and thereby again proving His deity – by knowing exactly where these animals were, how many there would be, that one would be a mother with her colt and that the disciples would be questioned as they untied them [Luke 19:33-34].

Notice that there were two animals, a foal and its mother. Not wanting to cause emotional distress for either by separating them Jesus commands that both be brought to Him. Yesterday we saw that even though He was on His way to die Jesus took the time to meet the needs of two blind men. Here we see Him also care for animals.

Notice also that Jesus rode the younger animal which was unbroken [Luke 19:30]. Unbroken animals can’t normally be ridden. I wonder if these animals knew what was going on and knew who Jesus was and were therefore submissive to Him.

Riding a donkey was a humble act. King’s rode a stallion when they wanted to declare their greatness or when they came to conquer. But when a king rode a donkey he was sending a message of peace. Jesus is our king who brought peace between God and humanity by bearing the burden of the world’s sins on the cross. How appropriate that He would therefore ride a beast of burden.

As He comes to Jerusalem in today’s passage Jesus didn’t come to conquer. He came to be crucified. But when Jesus next comes to Jerusalem He will ride a stallion and He will make war on His enemies [Revelation 19:11-16].

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

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The Greatest Prayer One Could Pray


And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.
(Matthew 20:29-34 ESV)


Today we conclude the story of Jesus and the two blind men which we began yesterday. They took advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have Jesus heal them. Jesus’ response to these men is no less eye-opening than the men’s approach to Him.

Notice Jesus stopped and called them to them. These men were blind. It would have been difficult for them to find their way to Jesus if He kept moving. So He stopped and directed them to Him with the sound of His voice.

This is exactly how God is with us. He is not a moving target. He calls us to Him so we can find Him. Nor is He silent – He is giving us instructions on how to find Him everywhere we look. All of life points to God – everything from nature itself to the family unit [Ephesians 5:25-33; Revelation 21:2, 9].

Jesus then asks them what they want Him to do for them. Jesus was God. He never asked a question because He didn’t know the answer. In this case He simply giving the men a chance to ask Him to give them sight.

Sometimes in life we don’t get things because we don’t ask. I once saw a group of teenage boys trying to encourage their friend to ask out a girl in a food court. I don’t know if he ever did. But I know that if he didn’t he didn’t get the date.

Similarly God is willing to do things for us. But we need to ask Him. If what we ask for is within His will for us, He will do it.

As soon as Jesus touched their eyes they immediately recovered their sight (which implies that they were once able to see) and followed Him. The appropriate response to meeting Jesus is to follow Him.

Notice also that Jesus had pity on these men. Life on earth is tough. It’s a lot tougher than God ever intended it to be. God created Eden. We created the mess that is now the planet. But God understands. He isn’t mad at us. He isn’t looking for opportunities to punish us. He’s compassionate with us and is more than willing to help us out of the mess we’ve made.

Jesus was on his way to die. He would be dead in a little over a week and He knew it. Yet he wasn’t focused on himself. He took time to address the needs of others. This is exactly why he came to earth [Matthew 20:28].

The request of these men was short and simple yet profound: “Lord, let our eyes be opened”. There is no greater prayer a person could pray. Everyone needs to have their spiritual eyes opened. We all need to see Jesus, receive the healing He offers (the forgiveness of our sins), and follow Him. And if we ask Him, He will make that happen.

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

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The Bible Packs A Lot Into A Little


And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.
(Matthew 20:29-34 ESV)


I like to say the Bible should not be read it should be studied and today and tomorrow’s passages are a great example. These passages are brief and seemingly offer nothing new compared with passages we’ve previously studied. But as we’ll see they are filled with many spiritual lessons.

Jesus and His disciples (they) were in the area of Jericho, on their way to Jerusalem where Jesus would be crucified about eight days later. A great crowd was following Him. Jesus was the equivalent of the modern-day rock star. He couldn’t go out in public without people surrounding Him.

Two blind men were sitting by the roadside and they heard that Jesus was passing by. Wanting to be healed of their blindness they cried out to Jesus calling Him “Lord and “Son of David“, the latter term a recognition that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah promised in the Old Testament and who would be a descendant of King David.

Due to disease, physical blindness was not uncommon back then. Blind people were outcasts from society and had to resort to begging to survive. But even though these men did not have physical sight they had spiritual sight. It’s often the case that those people who have the least in life are the most likely to find Jesus because the “things” of this world don’t distract them from spiritual realities. They have nothing on this earth and so they turn their attention to eternity.

Notice the crowd tries to silence them but they simply cried out all the more. These men would not be deterred. Too often people stay away from Jesus because their friends or family will be critical or will make fun of them. I can vouch for that. But a person’s eternity is too important to let others control it, especially those who don’t know what they’re talking about.

This was the one-and-only chance these men had to be healed. They could have let themselves be silenced, hoping to encounter Jesus another time. But that wasn’t going to happen. Jesus was never going to pass by them again (although they didn’t know that). In about eight days Jesus would be dead. They took advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself. When opportunity knocks its best to answer the door because it may not knock again.

Many people put off learning about God while they pursue their careers and earthly ambitions. They think “some day” I’ll check out the Bible to see if it’s true. But in the end they never get around to finding salvation through Christ so they die without having their sins forgiven. How sad. There is no better time to seek Jesus than right now [Jeremiah 29:13].

Today’s passage is only 67 words. But it teaches us a lot. This is one of the great things about the Bible. It packs a lot into a little. Tomorrow we’ll study – and learn a lot from – Jesus’ response to these men.

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

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How To Achieve Greatness


And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
(Matthew 20:24-28 ESV)


Yesterday we studied the audacious request by James and John to be appointed to the top two posts within Jesus’ kingdom. It’s no surprise that when the other ten disciples heard it they were indignant at the two brothers. The pride of James and John created a schism within the disciples. This is not a surprise either. Pride ruins relationships. Jesus, being the great leader that He is, defuses the situation by calling them to him and teaching them the true path to greatness.

James and John were pursuing greatness as the world (the Gentiles) does: through political power-plays, and currying favor based on familial relationships. Moreover, people in power exercise authority over others in an attempt to exalt themselves and promote their “greatness”.

But, as usual, Jesus turns this type of thinking upside down. The way of the world is never God’s way [Isaiah 55:8-9]. Jesus tells us that whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave. The true path to greatness is not power. It is service.

God calls on all His children to serve one another [Romans 12:1, 11; Galatians 5:13 et. al]. We are not to pursue selfish ambitions [Philippians 2:3-4]. We are not to seek glory for ourselves. Instead we should humbly give up our lives for the sake of others.

This is exactly how Jesus modeled greatness. He did not come to earth to be served but to serve. He left heaven, giving up His deity to become one of His own creations. He served us by teaching us how to live.

He also served us by dying on a cross to pay for the sins that we – not He – committed. As a result, God exalted Him above all else [Philippians 2:5-8]. He gave His life as a ransom for many. The definition of “ransom” is “payment made for the release of a prisoner”. Jesus paid for our sins setting us free from an eternity in hell, which is the penalty for sin [Romans 6:23].

Notice that Jesus didn’t give His life as a ransom for “all”, but for many. Only those who believe they are sinners and who seek and accept God’s offer of forgiveness have their sins paid for by Jesus, become part of God’s family, and enter heaven [John 1:12, 3:16; Acts 16:31 et. al]

To be sure, it is not bad to pursue positions of influence in the world [1 Timothy 3:1]. But it is wrong to pursue the worldly path to greatness and use our positions of influence to control others. Rather, the higher up we go within an organization the more of a servant we should become. Too often, though, rising through an organization chart inflates our ego and bolsters our pride. It is then that we are ripe for a fall [Proverbs 16:18].

According to the world the more people you have beneath you the greater you are. But according to God, you become greater the further beneath others you intentionally place yourself.

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

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Following Jesus Means Suffering As He Did


Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
(Matthew 20:20-23 ESV)


The passage we study today is quite amazing. Just a couple of days ago Jesus had promised His twelve disciples they would sit on twelve thrones in His kingdom [Matthew 19:28]. He then told His disciples that He would be arrested, beaten, and crucified when He got to Jerusalem in just a few days [Matthew 20:17-19]. Yet incredibly, these men (and their mother) were more concerned about their future than Jesus’. They also apparently didn’t believe Him when He explicitly told them He was going to be die.

These two disciples were James and John, who were sons of Zebedee [Matthew 4:21]. What makes this even more interesting is that we know from other gospel writers that James and John were Jesus’ first cousins (their mother was Jesus’ mother’s sister). Apparently they tried to use their familial relationship with Jesus to their favor.

These two men were not exactly quiet and shy. Jesus had nicknamed them “sons of thunder” [Mark 3:17] for a reason. They were bold and brash. Their lofty opinion of themselves – that they deserved the #2 and #3 place in Jesus’ kingdom – is evidence of that.

But they clearly did not know what they were asking. They claimed they were able to drink the cup that Jesus was to drink. But they did not understand the implications of their request.

To “drink the cup” of someone else was an expression meaning to endure the same fate as another. The cup that Jesus was about to drink was the cup of suffering and death, which He had just told them.

If James and John really understood Jesus’ words they would never have claimed to be willing and able to accept His fate as their own. But they were too obtuse and prideful to understand. Their concern for themselves and what would be their reward for following Jesus made them unable to see the reality unfolding before them.

Such is the blinding nature of self-centeredness. When we care solely about ourselves we lose the ability to care about others.

Notice Jesus’ response to them. He knew they did not understand what they were saying. Such is God with all of us: patient and understanding even when we say and do the most ridiculous, arrogant things. Instead Jesus continued to live by example as He submits James’ and John’s fate to His father.

Jesus told James and John they will drink the cup of suffering He drank. History show us this came true but in different ways for each. James would become the first of the disciples killed for his faith shortly after Jesus’ ascension into heaven [Acts 12:1-2]. John would live several more decades facing persecution for his beliefs [Revelation 1:9].

Jesus calls all His followers to take up their cross – suffer for the sake of His name [Luke 9:23]. That suffering may be a martyr’s death like James or a prolonged persecuted life like John, or anything in between.

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

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Jesus’ Crucifixion Was Not The Result of Miscalculation Or Manipulation


And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”
(Matthew 20:17-19 ESV)


With only a couple of weeks left to live, Jesus is going up to Jerusalem in today’s passage.

This was the time of the Passover when many pilgrims would also be making their way to Jerusalem so the roads were likely crowded. At one point on the way Jesus took the twelve disciples aside and told them that He will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes (the Jewish religious leaders) and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him over to the Gentiles (the occupying Roman government) to be mocked and flogged and crucified. This is the third (and final) time Jesus mentioned His upcoming death to the disciples but this version is the most explicit [Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23].

There are many Bible critics who claim that Jesus tried to launch a coup against Rome but failed and was crucified. If that were the case He displayed very little confidence in Himself prior. He also had no army and no weapons. He simply had a ragtag group of teenagers who (as we’ll see tomorrow) were following Him mainly for their own personal gain. The idea that Jesus was a failed rebel cannot be supported.

Neither can the idea that Jesus manipulated His own death. First, no one would want to intentionally be crucified. Such a person would not be of sound mind. Second, the details of Jesus’ arrest, torture, and crucifixion – which He gives here – debunk such a notion. Jesus knew He would be betrayed (delivered), He knew exactly who would be involved and He knew He would be flogged (not every crucifixion victim was scourged).

Jesus’ death was not the result of some miscalculation or manipulation on His part. He knew exactly what was going to happen to Him and He made it known on three recorded instances. As a small boy Jesus knew He was part of God’s plan [Luke 2:49]. He knew He was going to Jerusalem to be the perfect, innocent sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.

All the pain and suffering Jesus was about to go through were a necessary part of God’s plan that He put into effect in the Garden of Eden when the first sin was committed [Genesis 3:15]. And Jesus, who was with God from the beginning [John 1:2], was well aware of what was going to happen.

The next several days in Jesus’ life were going to be quite tragic. He would suffer much emotional and physical pain. He would hang on a cross bearing the weight of God’s wrath upon every sin of mankind ever committed and ever to be committed.

But He also knew the rest of the story. He knew that He would be raised from the grave on the third day in a triumphal display of God’s victory over sin. His resurrection would make it possible for each and every human being to have their sins forgiven and therefore spend eternity with God in heaven where no sin is allowed.

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God Operates On A System Of Undeserved Grace


“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”
(Matthew 20:1-16 ESV)


Today Jesus tells another parable about the kingdom of heaven. This one is in the context of the rich young ruler who refused to place Jesus first in his life and the subsequent question by Peter about what he and the other eleven disciples, who gave up all they had to follow Jesus, would get out of doing so. Yesterday Jesus told the disciples they would receive, among other things, eternal life. In today’s parable Jesus explains the process by which God allocates eternal life.

The parable is pretty self-explanatory but notice that when it came time to pay the laborers the owner of the vineyard commanded that the last be paid first and the first be paid last. This was probably unusual but Jesus tells the story this way to make a point.

The laborers who worked all day watched as those who worked much less received a denarius. They thought, therefore, that they would receive more. But they received only what they agreed upon. Even so, they were disappointed and begrudged the owner’s generosity towards the other workers.

Notice that no one was treated unfairly in this parable, even though some thought they had been. Everyone received no less than what they expected although some received more.

Life was tough back then and if a man went home at the end of the day with no money it likely meant he, his wife, and his kids didn’t eat the next day. So having a full day’s wage – regardless of whether they worked a full day – was a blessing to these men and was distributed simply out of the goodness of the landowner’s heart.

Similarly, God loves to shower His grace on those among His followers who are the most unworthy in this world’s eyes, like the owner did with the late workers, who were probably the least skilled. This may not be how most of us would operate. But God doesn’t do things the way we would [Isaiah 55:8-9].

Human beings operate on a system of earned merit. God operates on a system of undeserved grace.

Regarding eternal life, which is the context of this parable, all human beings, because of our sin, deserve to be separated from God forever in hell. Those who have accepted God’s call to join His family will receive what God promised – eternity in heaven – and, therefore, have infinitely more than we could ever deserve.

Like in the parable, some may have served God more while others served Him less. Some will be saved earlier in life, some later. Some may even be saved just before they die like the thief on the cross [Luke 23:39-43]. Some may have come from typical backgrounds while others lived dubious lives. None of that should matter to us.

No one who has been saved from the penalty of their sins has any reason to complain about or question the validity of the salvation anyone else receives. God’s grace is available and equitable towards all. He will always give whatever is right.

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

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