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God Doesn’t Hate Anyone Because Of Their Sin

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
(Matthew 23:37-39 ESV)

In the passages we’ve been studying over the past few days, Jesus has strong words of rebuke towards Israel’s leaders.One could come to the conclusion, based on Jesus’ words up until this point, that He hated these people because of their sin. But that conclusion would be wrong.

In His final publically spoken words, Jesus demonstrates the love He had for the people of Israel, even though they rejected and mistreated Him. Despite their arrogance and sinful ways, He never stopped caring for them. His heart broke for them because He knew that their sin was destroying their eternity.

All the time that Israel was rejecting Him God was willing to gather them as a hen gathers her brood under her wings. Chicks take shelter underneath their mother’s wings for protection. God takes pity and offers mercy to all the people He has created to protect them from the eternal ramifications of their sin. But notice… we must be willing.

God is patient. He does not turn His back on sinners. He bears with us in love trying ceaselessly to get our attention, as Jesus did during His three years of public ministry. But man is arrogant and stubborn. We don’t want to believe we are sinners. And even if we do, we want to redeem ourselves – something that is impossible [Romans 8:3-4; Ephesians 2:8-9 et. al ].

God will not break down the door of a person’s heart. He will stand outside and knock. It is up to us to open the door and let Him in. While God does describe our sin in incredibly harsh language, as we’ve just studied, He does so not because He hates us but because He loves us and wants us to understand the grave consequences sins holds for us.

As we’ve learned, the overwhelming majority of all people ever born will reject God and end up in hell [Matthew 7:13-14]. This is 100% their fault. They were not willing to accept the truth of their sin and the forgiveness God offers only through Jesus [John 14:6]. If they were, God would have saved them from their sins.

Anyone who ends up in hell will have only themselves to blame. As Jesus has told multiple times, in hell there will be two kinds of people: those who weep over their mistake of rejecting Him and those who harbor anger at themselves for rejecting Him [Matthew 8:12, 13:42]. Everyone in hell will realize the horrible, tragic mistake they made. This is one of the things that will make hell – an eternal existence – so unbearable.

This is a great lesson for those people who don’t yet believe in Jesus. But it is also a great lesson for those of us who do. We are to be like Jesus. We are not to hate anyone because of their sin, including sins committed directly against us. Even if people laugh at us, or beat us, or maim us we must feel compassion for them and must care about their eternity.

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



Don’t Follow The Lead Of Anyone Who Seeks To Suppress God’s Truth

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
(Matthew 23:29-36 ESV)

Today we finish up our study of Jesus’ “woes” against the Jewish religious leaders and their religious system. For the third time in these passages Jesus calls them “hypocrites” because once again He will demonstrate that they claimed to be one thing but they were actually the opposite.

Jesus’ seventh and final “woe” condemns the scribes and Pharisees for claiming they were better than others, notably their ancestors (fathers) who had shed the blood of God’s prophets.

God had sent numerous prophets under the Old Testament to warn Israel of her sin and invite her back into a relationship with Him. Many of these prophets were severely mistreated by the Jewish leaders and people. Some were even killed.

The men Jesus spoke to claimed they would not have taken part in the shedding of the blood of the prophets. But as we know (and as Jesus knew) they were currently plotting His death [Matthew 12:14] which will take place in just two days. This would fill up the measure of their fathers. That is, killing Jesus (who was God’s final prophet), would complete the work started centuries ago by previous leaders of Israel.

In this passage Jesus’ also speaks prophetically about how His disciples, whom He would send, would be treated similarly. The leaders of Israel would kill and crucify some of them. They would flog and persecute others. We know from history that all the disciples, except for John, died a martyr’s death at the hands of the leaders of Israel who for decades after Jesus’ death still sought to suppress any reference to Him in their jurisdiction.

Sadly we have the very same thing in our culture today. Our leaders in government, business, and entertainment are feverishly removing references to God, the Bible, and Jesus from our public places. They are even trying to suppress what can be taught in a church as Annise Parker, the openly lesbian mayor of Houston, is doing.

The reason for this is simple: these people are consumed by their hatred of God’s truth and their love of their sin so they are compelled to snuff out God’s righteousness, which exposes that sin. They eliminate God from their lives (and the lives of others) in a misguided effort to justify their sinfulness.

Such people are a family (brood) of vipers. Vipers are poisonous snakes that look like sticks of wood. They would bite people who naively picked them up. This is the kind of snake that bit Paul when he was gathering wood on Malta [Acts 28:3]. Like these snakes, leaders who toil to suppress Jesus are deceptive and deadly. They are hypocrites. They think they are doing something good when they are actually doing great harm.

Such people, Jesus says, will not escape being sentenced to hell. And neither will anyone who follows their lead and drinks their poisonous Kool-Aid. They must be avoided [2 Timothy 3:1-5].

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


Build Up Your Character And Your Reputation Will Take Care Of Itself

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
(Matthew 23:25-28 ESV)

Today we study the fifth and sixth of Jesus’ seven “woes” – words of condemnation – spoken against the Jewish religious leaders and their religious system. Jesus’ comments are still very applicable to those today who participate in man-made religious systems instead of pursuing a relationship with God through Jesus.

The fifth “woe” from Jesus again identifies the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites – people who pretend to be something they are not. Outwardly these men had the appearance of piety but inwardly they were corrupt – full of greed and self-indulgence. They pretended to care for others but they really only cared about themselves.

Jesus used the illustration of washing the outside of cup but leaving the inside dirty. One might think, from its appearance, that the cup was usable. But the inside would reveal that it is not. Likewise, what people are on the outside is not necessarily a reflection of what they are on the inside. This is true of all of us. But when it comes to our leaders, it is unacceptable. A corrupt person can only lead people into corruption like a contaminated cup can only contaminate those who drink from it.

Jesus says we should clean the inside first. Then He says something quite profound. He says when we clean the inside the outside becomes clean too.

Many people, especially leaders, go out of their way to build a good reputation. But they neglect their character and are often, as Jesus points out, lacking character. As usual, God’s way is the opposite of what we normally do.

We are to become men and women of character first. We do this by walking closely with God and following His commands. The byproduct of this will be an esteemed reputation among our peers and subordinates.

Not only were these religious leaders corrupt on the inside they were also spiritually dead as Jesus’ states in His sixth “woe”. These men were like whitewashed tombs which outwardly appear beautiful but within are full of dead bones and uncleanness. Knowing a bit about Jewish culture helps in understanding Jesus’ words here.

According to Old Testament law anyone who touched a grave was unclean for seven days. Prior to the Passover week the Jews would whitewash tombs in and around Jerusalem so they would be easy to spot and therefore avoid by the crowds who flocked to the city. No one would want to accidentally touch a grave at this time of year otherwise they’d be unclean – ineligible to participate in the Passover celebration.

Jesus is condemning the Jewish religious leaders for going to great care to outwardly appear righteous to others so people would follow them. But like tombs, they were spiritually dead inside – full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Sadly there are leaders today – in government, business, and churches – who care more about what people think of them (their reputation) rather than what God knows them to be (their character).

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


Religion Perverts God’s Law By Ignoring What Is Important

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
(Matthew 23:16-24 ESV)

Yesterday Jesus began His seven “woes” (or condemnations) of false religion and its leaders. Jesus continues His harsh words today by providing two examples of the way these religions and leaders pervert God’s law, giving the pretense they were spiritual when they are not.

In His third “woe” Jesus calls these leaders blind guides, indicating that they were unaware of their ignorance. Earlier Jesus had called them the blind leading the blind. The guides’ mistaken example would be mimicked by their clueless followers causing both to end up in hell [Matthew 15:14].

One of the many erroneous examples of these leaders was their complicated system of making an oath with all kinds of loopholes that would allow them to evade their promises. Depending on what a person swore by (e.g. the temple vs. the gold in the temple or the altar vs. the gift on the altar) they wouldn’t need to keep their vow.

All these convoluted rules were meant simply to give men an “out” if they later decided the didn’t want to keep their promise. Even worse, these rules used holy things as accomplices in the unholy practice of lying.

Earlier in our study of Matthew we saw Jesus condemn the taking of an oath at all. He simply called on every one of His followers to be honest [Matthew 5:33-37], rendering oaths unnecessary.

The fourth “woe” proclaimed by Jesus on these religious leaders condemned them for punctiliousness towards insignificant matters while ignoring essential ones.

These men were more than willing to ensure that they tithed just the right amount of mint and dill and cumin, relatively uncommon herbs. But they neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.

As we’ve seen, the scribes and Pharisees were unjust, unmerciful, and unforgiving towards others. These false religious leaders concentrated on the minutia of God’s law because it was easier for them to do things like count leaves and seeds than it was to show mercy towards their fellow human beings.

This is common of people who adhere to a religion. They are very interested in covering their own guilt but have less, if any, interest in the eternal security of the people in their lives. As such they concentrate on ceremonial trivialities, thinking they are pleasing God (they are not), while ignoring their own sins.

Religion often majors on minors, requiring fastidious adherence to insignificant details but neglecting things of great importance to God. In a reference that surely enticed a laugh from His audience, Jesus likened religious people to those who carefully ensure they don’t swallow one unclean animal (a gnat) but who swallow a larger one (a camel) [Leviticus 11:4, 42].

God calls on His people to do justice and to love mercy and humility [Micah 6:8]. These are the “weightier” aspects of God’s law. That is, they are more important, as Jesus just told us a few days ago [Matthew 34:40].

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


Religion Leads People Into Hell

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves
(Matthew 23:13-15 ESV)

Jesus continues His severe condemnation of the religious leaders (the scribes and Pharisees) in today’s passage. This includes the first two of seven “woes” – harsh critiques of the religious and political leaders of Israel. The Greek word translated “woe” here is ουαι (pronounced: oo-ah’-ee). This was a word of condemnation but it also conveyed an accompanying sadness. Jesus had very strong words for these leaders but He spoke them out of love and concern for their welfare.

Jesus’ most scathing rebukes were not motivated by hate for religious people but by love. His harsh words were intended to open their eyes to the grave and eternal mistake they were making.

The scribes and Pharisees were hypocrites because they shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. They themselves were not going to enter heaven nor were their actions allowing others who would like to enter to go in either. The word “hypocrite” is a Greek theatrical term used to describe one who pretends to be something he is not (e.g. an actor).

The religious leaders of the day in Israel thought they were spiritual but they were not. As a result they would not end up in heaven. Even worse, the people who looked to these men for spiritual direction were likewise not going to heaven because they end up believing and doing the same things they did.

This is the nature of false religions; they don’t lead people to God. They lead people away from Him. This, of course, includes religions that don’t worship the one true God such as Islam and Hinduism. But it also includes those that claim to be “Christian” faiths such as Jehovah’s Witness and Mormonism.

Sometimes such misleading is unintentional. But there are times when it is very intentional such as in the case of the scribes and Pharisees who tried to keep people from Jesus [Matthew 12:14, 22-24]. Such behavior continued after Jesus was killed as the Jews tried to stomp out the early church [Acts 4:16-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16].

It’s also true that people who adhere to man-made religions make a great effort (travel across sea and landto make a single proselyte (i.e. convert). They energetically reach out to those outside their faith – as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses do. But their message is false.

These people demonstrate zeal without knowledge [Romans 10:2]. Their motivation is not to bring people into a relationship with God. Their motivation is to convert people to their way of thinking. Their converts, therefore, often inherit a similar enthusiasm without realizing they are on the wrong eternal path. In the end, they all end up in hell.

We see the same thing happening today as our political leaders in America rampantly remove all references to the Bible from public life and enact legislation that contradicts God and instead espouses their world view. These leaders will spend eternity in hell (unless they change what they believe) as will the people who buy into their lies.

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


The Way Higher Is To Climb Lower

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
(Matthew 23:1-12 ESV)

Yesterday we studied Jesus’ scathing indictment against the hypocritical, self-absorbed Jewish religious leaders. These men were leading people away from heaven with their lies. They loved to use the respect they had from others for personal gain. They also loved being called rabbi. That is, they gloried in their man-made titles.

But true spiritual leaders are not to be called rabbi or any other title. Having such a title implies spiritual superiority. But as Jesus points out, no human being is spiritually superior to any other.

Considering a human being to be our “teacher” (which is what rabbi means) diminishes God’s role as our one teacher. God is the only source of truth. The Holy Spirit is the only teacher of that truth [John 14:26].

Rather, humans beings are all brothers (and sisters), including our pastors and other spiritual leaders. Sure, God has called some to lead His people. But those leaders are still sinners in need of forgiveness through the blood of Jesus, just like the rest of us.

Jesus goes on to say that we should call no man your father on earth. Within the context of the passage Jesus is referring to the idea of a spiritual father; no one is spiritually superior to anyone else. The Catholic church blatantly violates this command by using the term “father” for members of their clergy. This should not be done because we have one Father, who is in heaven.

Note that we should esteem those who work full-time for God [1 Thessalonians 5:13]. But we are not to give them honor that is due to God. Doing so steals the honor and glory that is reserved for God and diminishes people’s respect and perceived need for God as it’s always easier to put our trust in that which is seen versus that which is unseen.

As opposed to the false religious leaders in Israel and the false religious and political leaders of today, we are not to seek honor for ourselves. This is not the way to greatness.

The greatest person is not the one most honored by other people. Rather it is the one who is willing to be servant. Having degrees or acronyms after one’s name (e.g. PhD, MBA, etc) does not impress God. God is impressed by the one who humbles himself. It is this person who God will exalt. This is exactly what Jesus modeled for us with His life [Philippians 2:5-9].

But those who exalt themselves on this earth will, in the end, be humbled when they find out they have been rejected by God after they die.

People naturally calculate another’s greatness by how many people serve and honor them. God determines greatness by how we serve others. The way up is the way down. The lower we fall in our esteem, the higher we rise in God’s estimation [James 4:7-10].

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


Jesus’ Extreme Criticism Of Religion Must Be Heeded

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
(Matthew 23:1-12 ESV)

Many people believe that Jesus was a loving man who spoke nice things. And that is true. But not many people realize that Jesus also spoke some shockingly castigating words. In today’s passage (and continuing for the next few days) we will read these words. Note that Jesus reserved these words for the religious leaders of the day, who were the political leaders as well.

These men thought they represented God but they really only represented themselves and their warped sense of self-righteousness. They claimed to be leading people to heaven but were really leading them to hell.

Times have not changed much in 2,000 years. The world is still filled with religious and political leaders who claim to be teaching truth but who are actually espousing lies. Anyone who follows them will end up in hell, not heaven.

Nobody notices when an habitually ill-tempered man gets angry. But when a person who is known for being gentle and loving explodes in words of wrath people pay attention. That is why Jesus’ teaching in this passage is so important. His extreme criticism of religion must be respected and heeded if we are to identify those who speak spiritual lies.

False leaders are hypocrites. Those who teach false religion preach but do not practice therefore people should do and observe what they teach (as it may be accurate) but we should not do the works they do for their works do not align with their words.

False leaders make a relationship with God burdensome. False religion claims that we must follow a bunch of rules in order to be right with God; people are condemned when they sin. But this is not at all how God works. Jesus’ burden is light and He offers to carry it with us [Matthew 11:28-30]. A relationship with God is supposed to lift people up; it should not drag people down.

False leaders call attention to themselves. False leaders do what they do to be seen by others. Jesus’ comments about  phylacteries and fringes refer to man-made traditions born out of spiritual commands given by God in the Old Testament [Exodus 13:9, 16; Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18]. The Pharisees and scribes had taken these commands literally and used them to show off their alleged spirituality. Many devout Jews still wear phylacteries.

False leaders use their position for personal gain. Rather than serving God, false religious leaders actually are serving themselves. They seek to benefit in social situations (feasts), within the church (synagogues), and in business (marketplaces) because of their titles (being called rabbi).

Yes, Christians are called upon to do good things that other can see. But our motivation must not be to promote self; it should be to glorify God [Matthew 5:16; 6:1-6].

The true goal of the life of a follower of Christ is to decrease while Jesus is increased [John 3:30]. We are to take up our cross and obliterate self [Luke 9:23]. Any leader who does not do this is a false teacher and can in no way lead others into a proper relationship with God.

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


What Do You Think About Jesus?

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Messiah? 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.
(Matthew 22:41-46 ESV)

What had upset the Pharisees the most about Jesus was that He allowed people to call Him the “Son of David” – a clear reference to Him being the Messiah [Matthew 9:27, 20:30, 12:23, 21:9 et. al]. The questions they tested Him with over the past few days were their attempt to disprove this idea. In today’s passage Jesus proves that He meets both the human criteria for being the Messiah as well as the divine criteria for being God.

Jesus’ first question is whose son is  the Messiah. According to the Old Testament (which is all people had back then) God planned to send a savior (aka “Messiah”) to the human race who would liberate people from their oppressive enemy. God also promised that this savior would be a descendant of King David [2 Samuel 7:12-13, 15-16; Psalm 89]. The Pharisees knew this and replied correctly.

Jesus was a descendant of King David on both His mother’s and father’s side [Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38]. The Jews kept meticulous genealogical records. Such information was essential to establish who was allowed to serve in the Temple or as priests. The fact that no one ever challenged Jesus’ ancestry indicates they had verified that Jesus was in fact a descendant of King David. So Jesus met the human criteria for being the Messiah and the Pharisees knew it.

But then Jesus asks them another question. If the Messiah was David’s son then how could David call the Messiah “Lord“? These words of David were recorded in Psalm 110, which Jesus quotes. This Psalm was well known by Jews as a messianic psalm – one that spoke of the coming Messiah.

The Jews were expecting their Messiah (aka liberator) to be a human being who would release them from the oppression of Rome. But as Jesus’ question points out, this theory is invalid because David clearly called the Messiah his “Lord” – a reference to the Messiah’s deity. How could God be one of David’s descendants?

The truth is that God has always planned on being the Messiah for mankind [Psalm 65:5, 68:19]. This was necessary because mankind’s biggest enemy is not other human beings; the Jew’s biggest enemy was not Rome. Mankind’s biggest enemy is sin because sin keeps people out of heaven. And only God can conquer sin.

In His humanity Jesus was a descendant of King David. But He was also God as evidenced by His many miracles. With His words in today’s passage Jesus is telling His listeners that He is, without a doubt, the Messiah. They understood this as they could not say a word in reply.

But sadly they would not admit it. As we’ll see, they refused to let go of their pride and changed their tactics from asking Jesus questions to deceitfully planning His murder.

Jesus’ question – “What do you think of the Messiah?” – is the same question Jesus had asked His own disciples earlier. This question is by far the most important question facing every human being on earth today. Many people understand Jesus claimed to be, and proved Himself to be, God. But, like the Pharisees, their egos prevent them from admitting it. For to admit that Jesus is God is to admit that everything He said is true.

Jesus was God who came to earth in a human body to defeat your biggest enemy – sin. Understanding and admitting that is the only way to eternal life [John 3:16, 14:6; Acts 4:11-12 et. al].

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


The Greatest Commandments Are To Love God & Others

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘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 neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
(Matthew 22:34-40 ESV)

Jesus faces His third test today. This time one of the Pharisees, an expert in the law, posed a question to Him. Note that this man was not a lawyer. To the Jews the term “law” refers to the first five books of the Old Testament. This man was a scribe – one with deep knowledge of the these books which were written by Moses.

This scribe seems to be trying to get Jesus to say something that would contradict Moses. To contradict Moses was to contradict God since the words Moses wrote were dictated to Him by God. And to contradict God would be viewed as heresy by not only the Jewish leaders but the Jewish people. His goal – which was really the goal of the Pharisees who got together and came up with the question and sent him to Jesus – was to turn the people against Jesus so they could kill Him [Matthew 12:14, 21:46].

Over the years Jewish rabbis had identified 613 commandments in the Pentateuch that they believed one must follow to be right with God. This man wants Jesus to declare one of them to be the greatest.

Jesus does not hesitate in avowing that the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. These words come from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and would have been very familiar to His Jewish audience who knew them as The Shema (from Hebrew for “hear”). Every faithful Jew recited these words at least twice a day.

But the scribe gets a two-for-one because Jesus goes on to tell Him that the second greatest command is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. Instead of promoting one command over another Jesus identifies the overarching principle of all of God’s commands – love.

God is love [1 John 4:8]. Everything He does is based in love, including sending His son to earth to die for our sins [John 3:16]. And every commandment given by God to us hangs on the commandments to love God and each other.

In order to be fully obedient to God we, too, must love God and others. If we were to read through the Bible and pay attention to every command issued by God we would see that each of them are, in principle, a command to love God or to love others (or both).

The Ten Commandments, for example, can be broken down into two parts. The first four are commands to love God [Exodus 20:1-11]. The last six are commands to love each other [Exodus 20:12-17]. Notice that we cannot love others until we first love God.

There are many well-intentioned people who want nothing to do with God who think they can love each other and thereby make the world a better place. Today Jesus tells us this cannot be. Neither atheism or man-made religions can ever promote true love among people because they ignore the love of the true God which must come first.

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


The Things Jesus Said Were Astonishing

The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
(Matthew 22:23-33 ESV)

Over the past few days we’ve studied a few scenes that took place during the last week of Jesus’ life in which He is confronted in the Temple by various Jewish leaders who were seeking to discredit Him in front of the crowd. The Temple at this time of year – the Passover season – would have been filled with pilgrims from all over Israel and nearby lands.

In the end, though, it was the Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees who were discredited and embarrassed because Jesus responded to their inquiries with confidence and authority. And when the crowd heard Jesus’ teaching they were astonished.

No one in Israel had ever heard a rabbi speak so confidently or with such an air of authority on spiritual issues as Jesus. And certainly no one had ever before been able to go one-on-one with the Jewish religious leaders and leave them speechless. These leaders had approached Jesus in front of the people with the intent of ruining His reputation but instead it was their reputation that was crumbling.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this. Matthew records several other times when people who heard Jesus’ words and saw His deeds were awed [Matthew 7:28, 8:27, 9:8, 19:25, 22:22 et. al].

When one studies the life of Jesus, as we are doing during this daily study of the Gospel of Matthew, one cannot help but be amazed by things Jesus did and said. Anyone who dismisses Jesus as a fraud has never truly studied His life. Such people dismiss Jesus not because what Jesus said is not true but because what Jesus said is so true that they can’t bring themselves to believe it without giving up their ego.

And this is exactly why Jesus left heaven and came to earth [Philippians 2:5-8]. He came to offend our hearts [Matthew 13:57]. He came to teach us that man-made religion is a fraud because it is nothing more than people making up their own rules about how to get to heaven and, therefore, counts for nothing.

The things Jesus said exposed the Jewish religious system for being a fraud. The things Jesus said contradict every man-made religion that exists on the planet today. They contradict Catholicism. They contradict Islam. They contradict Mormonism. They contradict Hinduism and all the others.

This is why these religions have a distorted view of Jesus. Islam calls Jesus a prophet. Mormons consider Jesus a human being. They need to do this in order to dilute His teachings otherwise their own teachings will be proven wrong as were those of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

No reasonably open-minded person can study Jesus’ teachings and dismiss them. The only valid response is astonishment followed by repentance and submission to Him as Lord and Savior.

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


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