March 7, 2015.
Daily Reading: Matthew 23-25.
Background: Matthew 20-22.
Concepts and Connections.
Seven woe’s to the scribes and Pharisees: In this passage, Jesus talks very openly and distinctly about the scribes and the Pharisees. It does not seem that He is too worried about whether or not they would take offense at His statements, for they were posing a burden on His people (see also Matthew 15:11-13). Before He pronounces the seven woes to the scribes and the Pharisees, He gives His disciples and the crowd a stern warning about them, exposing what they really were by cutting through the façade that they projected. They sat on the seat of Moses, giving the law to the people, but they themselves would not even do the things that they would bind on the people to do. It was all a show. They made themselves appear righteous before men, but on the inside they were no different, or perhaps even worse, than the common man. They loved the high places and being renowned, for their pride, religious pride, is what pushed them. This was not okay with God. So much so that Jesus warned against giving titles to any man in the name of religion. He says call no man ‘rabbi’, ‘father’ or ‘instructor’, for there was only one who fulfilled these roles, and that was Him. All His disciples were brothers, of equal part in the kingdom. He was teaching them humility, in stark contrast to the pride of the Pharisees. Then He gives the seven woes because they:
1. Shut the doors of the kingdom so that none can go in.
2. Travel far and wide to make one proselyte, just to make him twice the son of hell as they are.
3. Place more emphasis on the money in the temple than the temple itself, which is what is actually sacred.
4. Stress the less important part of the law (i.e. extreme tithing) and ignore the much weightier parts (i.e. mercy and love).
5. Clean the outside, but on the inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.
6. Are outwardly beautiful, but inwardly are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
7. Claim that they would not have stoned the prophets as their fathers did, but in reality were going to do the exact same thing.
Jesus has a lot of say about the scribes and Pharisees, and it is mostly, if not all, about their hypocrisy. These were the people who should have had it right. These were the people who knew the law inside and out, and were supposed to be leading the people by teaching truth. But rather they had missed the point all together. They bound burdens that the people could not bear, making laws and rules that God never made, rules that they themselves would not even keep. But outwardly they made themselves look religious. They were fake. All this Jesus could not stand. We often look back at the Pharisees and have some misconceptions about them. We think that they were rebuked because they followed the law, but this is not why they were rebuked. They were rebuked because they went beyond and misapplied the law. They made laws that God never spoke about, and they were hypocrites. It is easy for us to look at them and see how ‘bad’ they were, but in reality we can get caught up in doing some of the exact same things. Let us be careful to look at our own lives and teachings openly and honestly to be sure we are free from the leaven of the Pharisees.
Jerusalem had had a history of killing the prophets that were sent from God and not listening to the word of the Lord. The Pharisees were sure that they would not have done the same. But that exactly what they were about to do.
Be ready: This chapter begins with Jesus’ foretelling of the destruction of the buildings of the temple, which would likely be fulfilled in AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. Then the disciples ask for signs of the end of the age and the coming of the Son of Man, and Jesus gives them signs to watch for and be ready to act. He tells of a time that was forthcoming of great tribulation, probably to prepare His disciples for the rough seas that awaited them in the early church and the persecution that would follow. He warns of false prophets and teachers, and even false Christs who would come in His name, seeking and succeeding in leading many astray. He tells of earthquakes and wars, and rumors of wars, and references the book of Daniel for them to read and prepare (see Daniel 9, 11 and 12). All of these signs, though difficult (as most prophecy is) to interpret with great accuracy, were leading up to one point that Jesus would make several times in this chapter and the next, and that is: Be ready. The Son of Man was coming back, a second return of the Christ, and no man knows the day or hour of His return. So what are His people to do? Always be prepared. Just as in the days of Noah when people were not prepared for the coming flood (though Noah had preached for 120 years), so too will people be partaking in their day to day deeds, ill-preapared to meet their God. When He comes back, will He find you watching? Will you be prepared? No one knows of that day or hour. We should be in preparation for the return of our Savior.
1. Parable of the ten virgins: Continuing on with the theme of being prepared for when the Christ would return, Jesus tells the parable of the ten virgins. In this parable, the virgins are waiting on the bridegroom party to come. The bridegroom was delayed however, and only five of the virgins had been wise enough to bring extra oil so that they would be prepared when He came. When the time drew near, the foolish asked for some oil, but there was not enough. While the foolish virgins go out to buy oil, the bridegroom comes and it is too late, for the doors are shut before they can make it back. This is a very sobering lesson, as the Lord said to the foolish virgins that He never knew them. These were followers who had simply been unprepared when He came. Let us be careful lest we become too comfortable where we are at, and end up being ill-prepared when the Lord returns. We do not know the day or the hour He will return. Blessed are those whom the Lord finds watching.
2. Parable of the talents: The parable of the talents seems to be a bit out of context in relation to preparedness, but it too can be seen as a lesson of preparation. The five talent man (a talent being a certain sum of money) and the two talent man were both prepared (they had used their talent to make more) when the Master returned. But the one talent man was not prepared, for he was afraid and hid his Master’s money, giving back only what he had been given. There are many lessons that we can draw from the parable of the talents, five of which are outlined below:
1. God is the one who gives us our talents. In the story, each man was given his talent from the Master, none had made it on his own volition. We should recognize who gives us our talents (whether money or abilities), and not think highly of ourselves for producing them on our own.
2. There was no “zero” talent man. Everyone is given some ability or resource from the Lord (see also I Corinthians 12:7). Just as there was no zero talent man, we too each have a certain aspect that we can bring to the table for the work of the kingdom. It does not behoove us to say that we have nothing to offer, for God has given us each something. It is simply or choice whether or not to use what we have been given.
3. There was a call for immediate action, so that they would be prepared when the Master returned. The five talent man went “at once” to use his talent to make more. There was call for immediate action, for once the Master gave the talent, He could have returned at any point. Let us stop making excuses and putting off for tomorrow what we could do for the Lord today.
4. Both the five talent man and the two talent man were rewarded, even though their profit was different. Each of us are given talents according to our own abilities, and we will each produce different “folds” of fruit (see Matthew 13:8, 23). Though we each may produce different results (positive results), we will all be rewarded for the fruit of our labor. The one talent man was the only one who was not rewarded, but was rather punished.
5. The Master went away for a long time, leaving His servants in charge. Just as the Master went away for a while and gave His talents to the charge of these three men, so too has Christ went away from a physical form on the earth, leaving us in charge. Let us be good stewards of the word, preparing ourselves and others for His return.
3. The coming of Judgement: When comes the end, all the nations of the earth will be gathered before the throne on which sits the Son of Man, ready to judge the people. This is what Jesus has been warning them to be prepared for, prepared to meet their God. Christ will sit on the throne and separate the sheep from the goats, saying to the sheep on His right hand ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” and to the goats on His left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” The reason for this separation was the action of the two parties involved. The sheep ministered to the Lord when He was tired, thirsty, sick, in prison, etc., but the goats did not. Both the sheep and the goats did not ever know when the Lord was all of these things, however. This ties the previous teachings of humility and preparation together as the sheep were humble and ministered to the least of those who had been tired, thirsty, sick, in prison, etc. The goats did not. If they had seen the Lord, they certainly would have, but they did not treat people the same way, and for this they were cast into the eternal fire. There will come a day of judgement, where we will be separated as sheep and goats. Now is the time to prepare, for then the time will be too late. What are you doing to be ready?
Tomorrow’s Reading: I Corinthians 7-8.
Prepare to meet your God.