One Sabbath afternoon I received a phone call from the mother of a child I had corrected earlier at church. The girl had smarted off to me when I told her to stay out of a room that was off-limits. The mother told me, “My daughter wants to tell you she is sorry, but before she gets on the phone, I wanted to ask you, when she says she is sorry, don’t tell her it is okay. Just tell her she is forgiven.”
“Wow!” I thought. This mother gets it! Forgiveness is not saying it is okay. So many are slow to forgive, because what happened to them was so wrong they can’t just sweep it under the rug. The deed deserves to be punished. What they don’t understand is that forgiveness is not sweeping it under the rug and saying it is okay. Then what is it saying?
When I share the gospel presentation, I always share this passage from the Desire of Ages. It is so clear and simple, and to me, sums up the whole plan of salvation.
“Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. “With His stripes we are healed.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 25
Now I would like to take this passage to the next level – beyond the plan of my personal salvation. I understand that Jesus took the punishment for my sins so that I can now be treated the way He deserves to be treated. Now I need to understand, that the sins my enemy committed have not been swept under the rug. Jesus was also treated the way my enemy deserves to be treated, so that I may now treat my enemy the way Jesus deserves to be treated.
Jesus did not only suffer for my sins, He suffered also for sins committed against me. Why do I need to take it out on my enemy when it has already been taken out on Jesus?
They made fun of me and humiliated me!
Jesus was mocked and humiliated on the cross in their place.
They killed my son! They deserve to die!
Jesus died because they killed your son.
They sexually abused me! They deserve to be sexually abused!
Jesus hung naked on a cross in front of the whole universe, including His own angels!
Earlier this year I was reading through the Old Testament, and when I came to Isaiah 53 something jumped out at me, when I read:
“With his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
Suddenly I realized something I had never seen before. I realized that retaliation against my enemy will never bring me healing. I am healed by the stripes of Jesus, and not the stripes of my enemy. Jesus suffering for my sins can only bring partial healing and partial reconciliation. I am made whole, and totally reconciled, not just to Jesus but to my brothers, when I realize Jesus suffered for their sins too.
In the story in Matthew 18:21-35 a man is forgiven who did not ask to be forgiven. He only asked for more time to pay the debt. However the master forgave the debt anyway. This is important for us to note, because the master represents God who forgave us without us even asking. In the Lord’s prayer we find we are to forgive as we have been forgiven, meaning that we are to forgive in the same manner. God expects us to forgive without being asked to forgive, just as the man was forgiven while only asking for more time to pay the debt.
After the man was forgiven, he goes out and sees a brother who owes him a much smaller debt. Even after being forgiven he refuses to forgive. In the parable the unforgiving man ends up in prison until his full debt is paid.
Wait a minute! Wasn’t his debt forgiven? Separated as far as the east is from the west and into the depths of the sea? How did it come back? I believe it’s this way: When I refuse to forgive my brother, what I am saying is, “I don’t think Jesus’ death on the cross was enough to pay for what was done to me.” Well guess what? If Jesus’ death is not enough to pay for my enemy’s sin, then it is not enough to pay for my sin either! By not allowing Jesus to pay for my enemy’s sin on the cross, I have just disqualified the cross as a payment for sin and therefore I must still pay for my sins – and the only way I can do that is to die an eternal death.
Forgiveness and reconciliation is not saying “It’s okay.” It is saying, “I realize Jesus suffered for your sins on the cross.” It is realizing I am healed by the stripes Jesus received and not by the stripes my enemy receives. We have to be pretty sick ourselves to think that in order for us to be healed, someone else has to be hurt. Jesus does not have to hurt my enemy in order to heal me.
“Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves.” Christ was also treated as my enemy deserves, that I may now treat my enemy the way Christ deserves to be treated.
With His stripes we are all healed.
And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” Matthew 16:19 NLT
Many believe that in Matthew 16, Jesus was setting Peter up as the first pope and
giving the church unconditional authority. This comes from reading more into Jesus’ words than I believe He intended. Instead of giving the church authority over the consciences of individuals in making its own laws Jesus was declaring just the opposite. In Matthew 16:9 Jesus is not giving the church license. To the contrary He is giving it limits in what it can and should teach.
It helps to understand that, the keys of the kingdom Jesus gave the church were not the keys to the “oval office” and special authority and privileges. The keys Jesus gave them were the keys of the knowledge of His own teachings.
What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don’t enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering.” (Luke 11:52 NLT, emphasis added) 1
Jesus made it clear that no man is authorized to make ecclesiastical laws that man must submit to, much less that heaven must recognize!
Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God. For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.” Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. Mark 7:7-9 NLT
Contrary to the idea that Jesus told the church that it could make laws that would be recognized in heaven, Jesus told the church to teach completely those things from heaven alone.
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 NLT
While I was living in Texas, a police officer in a small town was fired, because he was pulling over young girls who were obeying the laws just so he could flirt with them. The town had given him authority to enforce the laws of the city but not to flirt with young girls! Likewise in the passage just cited, Jesus gives the church authority to teach everything He has commanded but nothing more and nothing less! Just like a police officer cannot make up his own laws and pull people over who are obeying the laws of the land, so a church leader cannot make up his own laws and meddle in the personal affairs of others.
A police officer and even lawmakers are sworn in or inaugurated by an oath to protect the laws and constitutions of the land. In Matthew 16:19 Jesus is swearing in the disciples, simply telling them that they are to bind (lock in or require) what is bound in heaven and are to loose (or allow) only what is allowed in heaven. Matthew 16:19 is a command to His disciples and not a license to make their own laws. Jesus told His disciples, what you forbid should be that which is forbidden in heaven and what you allow should be that which is allowed in heaven. As a young boy, when I would get out of line, my teacher would tell me, “you will march right over to the the principal’s office.” That was a command, not a license! By saying “you will” she was commanding me, not licensing me. Likewise when Jesus told them they would be teaching things that would be taught in heaven, He was telling them what to teach and not telling them they could teach anything they wanted and heaven would just go along with it.
The doctrine that God has committed to the church the right to control the conscience, and to define and punish heresy, is one of the most deeply rooted of papal errors. –Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 293.
I am loyal to my parents without claiming they are infallible. I follow my parents as they follow Jesus. No more no less. I am also loyal to my church without claiming it is infallible. I follow my church as it follows Jesus. No more no less.
- Compare Desire of Ages, by Ellen White, p. 413:
“The keys of the kingdom of heaven” are the words of Christ. All the words of Holy Scripture are His, and are here included. These words have power to open and to shut heaven. They declare the conditions upon which men are received or rejected. Thus the work of those who preach God’s word is a savor of life unto life or of death unto death. Theirs is a mission weighted with eternal results. ↩Like(12)
From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary
for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” Matthew 16:21-23 NLT
Years ago, I was eating at a restaurant with a lady friend. The waitress politely showed the dessert tray to us, when my friend, trying to watch her own figure, put up her hand and said, “Get thee behind me Satan!” The waitress turned red in the face and walked away rather miffed. I did not blame her! I explained to my lady friend that the waitress thought she was calling her Satan. That was very rude, especially when she was only doing her job and being polite. My friend felt terrible and apologized to the waitress, even though the waitress really did not want anything to do with her at this point. Whether the temptation to eat sweets was actually from Satan or not, the waitress was not Satan!
Jesus realized Peter was not Satan. Jesus was not calling Peter Satan. Jesus was just looking at Peter while He was talking to Satan. Maybe Jesus just wanted Peter to know where that idea that He should not have to die was coming from.
So if Satan was using Peter to sway Jesus from dying was Peter “demon possessed”? I don’t believe that that’s the intent of Christ’s words. Just because Peter uttered some impulsive words does not mean that he was demon-possessed. Let’s relax a little and give our Christian brothers and sisters some slack when they make bad decisions in the church. Even if a pastor or church leader does make an actual error, it does not mean they are demonic and part of a dark conspiracy to destroy the church. It just means they are human like you and me. Even when Aaron made the golden calf, as stupid as that may have been – and we all agree 4,000 years later it was pretty stupid – neither God or Moses accused him of being demon possessed or intentionally trying to destroy God’s movement. Moses berated Aaron’s actions without ever berating his motives.
But I digress. So why was Satan using Peter to sway Jesus from dying? Because Satan knew that if Jesus died, his power would be destroyed. So he used someone close to Jesus to tempt Him.
But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. 1John 3:8 NLT
Jesus destroyed Satan’s works of deception when Jesus showed God’s true character on the cross. If Jesus demonstrated a love for self, then Satan would have had power over Him, but Jesus had no love for self or desire for self-preservation. Therefore Satan had no power over Him. In order for my phone charger to influence my phone with its electricity, my phone must have an input that will allow my charger to connect with it. And in order for Satan to influence us, we too must have a little input avenue where he can connect with us. Our ego and love of self is that avenue that lets Satan connect with us! As long as we are alive to self and self-interest, Satan will have a connection channel through which He can influence us. The way to break that connection is to die to self!
For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. Romans 6:7 NLT
Satan wants us to keep ourselves and our selfish ambitions alive, because by doing so he will always have a powerful influence over everything we do – even in the church! But if we die to self, we are free from Satan’s power. Truly this is why Jesus said,
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Matthew 16:24-26 NLT
Giving up our own ways is what it means to die to self. We must give up our ways and ask Jesus to give us His mind so we can follow His ways. (See Phil. 2:5-8)
Relationships in the Family of God
The Bible uses several analogies for the church—a body, a building, a flock, and even a brood of chickens. My personal favorite, being somewhat of a human development and relationship expert, is family.
The Lord tells us, “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters” (2 Cor. 6:18). Jesus said that, “whoever does the will” of His Father is His “mother” and “brothers” (Matt. 12:49-50). Paul called us the “household of God” and the “household of faith” (Eph. 2:19, Gal 6:10). Isn’t it good to know, especially given our often broken and estranged natural family relationships, that we have a spiritual family in the Lord?
Our relational God created the natural family to provide a safe haven from life’s hardships, a place of acceptance, a trust-zone. From the infinite riches of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Creator designed human life to be a school in which we learn to love and be loved. Each phase, from infancy to old age, builds upon the last such that we gradually become love experts, showing even angels what love looks like in action (Eph. 3:10; 1 Cor. 4:9). God purposes that the tapestry of our love-bonds grows throughout life and into eternity.
Even if we come to the family of God relationally bankrupt, we have a chance to build a second family, experiencing pure, godly love. In Christ we love, prefer, edify, receive, serve, forbear and esteem one another (John 13:34, Rom. 12:10, 14:19, 15:7, Gal 5:13, Eph. 4:2, Phil. 2:3). The Sabbath provides a temple in time, an entire day devoted to fellowship with God and one another, furthering our heavenly relationship network.
Lust, the Enemy of Love
But it’s not all good. The devil fumes in disgust when he sees love between members. He mobilizes his minions to disrupt good relationships by leading us into relational sin. One of those sins can destroy healthy bonds more quickly than rain destroys a picnic. Paul zeroed in on this sin when he said, “Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (1 Tim. 5:1, NIV).
Why “with absolute purity”? Because God in His infinite foresight spotted a plague that would corrupt the family of God more insidiously than the worst heresy. When those sacred bonds, designed to reflect brother-sister, parent-child bonds, become sexualized, divine love tumbles down from its lofty heights into the gutter of licentiousness.
“Purity,” hagneia, derives from hagnos, meaning “exciting reverence, sacred, chaste, modest.” The intimacy of the bonds God desires for us requires absolute purity. The holy flame of sexual passion finds its one and only safe enclosure within a marriage. Everywhere it burns outside of that sacred circle, it scorches and devastates. As the world around us sinks into a moral abyss, it trades true love and affection for a sensualized, sentimentalized counterfeit. God desires the church to shine rays of truth on this cancer, offering the world-weary something better. When instead of streams of pure love pouring from the church upon the world, the world’s lust backwashes into the family of God, the enemy has gained a great victory.
Lust does the most damage when indulged by spiritual leaders. The tone-setting, influence-wielding ones among us can lead entire flocks into confusion. Recall the events at Baal-Peor, just before Israel crossed into Canaan. The beautiful vale held many idols whose names suggested the vile practices of paganism. Constant exposure unconsciously tainted the minds of God’s people, making them vulnerable to the conniving women who wanted to lead them into idolatry. Under a guise of friendship, these women groomed the noble princes of Israel, finally succeeding at dragging them into an all-out orgy. The people followed suit. A plague broke out, stopped only by the spear of Phinehas as he slew an Israelite prince and his Midianite whore (See Numbers 25 and “Apostasy at the Jordan” in Patriarchs and Prophets).
Love, the Best Defense
What a sobering story! We might assume that the best way to prevent such disasters is to adopt a stiff, cold reserve around the opposite sex. But isolating sexes from one another would be an insufficient solution, given that even same-sexed sexual attraction is possible. So perhaps we should avoid intimacy entirely, keeping at a safe distance, distrusting the very notion of close, bonded relationships. The problem with this approach is that it is true intimacy that weans us from false intimacy. The reason people eat so much sugar is that they don’t eat enough fruit. The reason we hunger for sensualized love is because we don’t have enough pure love. The best defense is a good offense!
How can we keep our relationships pure? Jesus promised, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit put within you” (Ez. 36:26). I don’t want to give a list of proper behaviors without emphasizing this. Well-trained dogs are still dogs! To resist the lust that calls to us from within and without, we need complete moral and spiritual overhaul. As the enemy concocts more and more cleverly disguised temptations, and as the spirit of the age takes over society, we must be fortified to resist intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. God designed the three angels’ message to prepare a people to withstand the most insidious deception ever brought upon the human soul—the mark of the beast. The heart of that message is justification by faith in the merits of Jesus—the most life-transforming good news ever preached. Those who embrace it, “keep the commandments of God” which Paul distills down to “love your neighbor as yourself.” God wants to reveal an unprecedentedly pure and holy love through His people in these last days. As we stand on the borders of the heavenly Canaan, may there be an outbreak of love, rather than the outbreak of lust we saw at Baal-Peor.
Purity requires both individual and corporate conversion, and that conversion comes when we immerse ourselves in the gospel. I have observed that episodes of sexual sin occur in even the most conservative congregations. The enemy loves to trick the most consecrated believers into focusing on their own religiosity such that Jesus and his heart-changing love is pushed out of their field of vision. Worshipping on the Sabbath will not change our hearts if we have no living connection to the Lord of the Sabbath. Our conference president has called us to revival and reformation, echoing the prophet, who said, “A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs.” 1 True godliness means to “love one another, from a pure heart, fervently” (1 Pet. 1:22). There’s that pure love again!
Here’s how pure love looks in action:
1. Pure love starts with pure thoughts- if we allow our minds to run in the gutter, our feelings and behaviors will follow close behind. Modern technology has put almost infinite media choices at our fingertips. We can watch everything from sermons to pornography on phones that fit in our pockets. By beholding we become changed. Choose media that you’d watch if Jesus was watching with you.
2. Pure love respects self and others- our sexuality must be held sacred and not made a matter of public discussion. If a brother or sister makes an inappropriate comment or gesture, the most loving thing to do is reject that advance with such firmness it will never have to be repeated. Don’t be afraid to “hurt their feelings” when hurt feelings might actually help them snap out of their improper behavior.
3. Pure love appreciates modesty- sensible dress and deportment will “shield from a thousand perils.”2 Much of fashion is designed to seduce, but there are always styles that can be worn in good conscience. Choose to dress the way you would if Jesus were coming over.
Don’t Miss Out
The gathering together of people in what we know as the church gives us a golden opportunity to love and be loved. Let’s make the most of his opportunity by cultivating a connection with Jesus and His people. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1). Don’t get mired in the false intimacy the world offers, but press on to experience the true, rich, and deep bonds of love God has for us in His family. These bonds will truly satisfy, will acclimate us to heaven, and will help prepare us for our Savior’s soon return.
Jesus’ cleansing of the temple was an act of compassion. It was the Gentile courts where the buying and selling were taking place, and Jesus intended His house to be a place of prayer and worship for all peoples.
But the cleansing was an act of judgment also. The priests who ran the temple had ruined their chance to bless all peoples; their day of judgment was near. If, after all that Jesus had done to reveal His divine calling, these men still refused to accept Him, what else could happen but that they reap the results of their doleful choices?
Read Matthew 21:18-22. How does Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree relate to His cleansing of the temple?
Jesus cursed the fig tree as an acted parable about many of the leaders of the Jewish nation who were finally and irrevocably reaping what they had sown. We must remember, though, that this parable wasn’t referring to all the religious leaders. Many did, indeed, come to faith in Jesus as the Messiah. “Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7, NKJV). However, just as the fig tree bore no fruit, neither did the temple ministry, which was soon to be made void.
This action and Jesus’ harsh words must have come as a powerful shock to the disciples, who were still trying to learn the lessons of compassion and inclusion that Jesus revealed throughout His ministry. This was the same Jesus who declared that He had come, not to condemn the world but to redeem it; the same Jesus who claimed that “‘the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them’” (Luke 9:56, NKJV). Every word and deed in His ministry was devoted to restoring fallen humanity, to point people toward the hope and promise of a new life in Him. So for Him to act and speak so harshly, with such finality, surprised them, which is why Matthew wrote that they had “marveled” at what He had done.
|No question, sooner or later people totally reject God’s mercy and grace (see Gen. 6:13, Gen. 15:16, Gen. 19:24, Rev. 22:11). Why, though, is it so important that we leave those kinds of judgments to God and never make them ourselves, either about others or even our own selves?|
From the earliest days of fallen humanity, animal sacrifices were God’s chosen means to teach the world the plan of salvation, salvation by grace through faith in the coming Messiah (see Rom. 4:13-16). A powerful example of this truth can be found in Genesis 4, the story of Cain and Abel and the tragedy that ensued over worship, among other things (see also Rev. 14:7-12).
Thus, when God called Israel as His chosen people, “‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’” (Exod. 19:6, NKJV), He also established the sanctuary service as a fuller and more complete explanation of salvation. From the tabernacle in the wilderness, through Solomon’s temple, and through the temple built after the return from Babylon, the gospel was revealed in the symbols and types of the sanctuary service.
However, despite its divine origins, the temple and its rituals were conducted by fallen human beings and, as with pretty much everything people get involved in, corruption ensued, even here with the sacred service that God had instituted to reveal His love and grace to a fallen world. By the time of Jesus, things had become so terribly perverted by the greed and avarice of the priests (the very ones who were entrusted with administering the services!) that “in the eyes of the people the sacredness of the sacrificial service had been in a great measure destroyed.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 590.
Read Matthew 21:12-17. What lessons are here for us, as worshipers of God?
As in so many other places, Jesus quoted Scripture to justify His actions, more evidence that as followers of the Lord we must make the Bible central to our whole worldview and moral system. Besides His quoting Scripture, there were the miraculous healings of the blind and the lame. All this gave even more powerful and convincing evidence of His divine nature and calling. How tragic that those who should have been the most sensitive and open to all this evidence were the ones who fought the hardest against Him. Fearing for their own earthly treasure and status as the “stewards” and “guardians” of the temple, many would lose out on the very thing that the temple service was pointing to: salvation in Jesus.
|How can we make sure that we are not letting our desire to gain or maintain anything here, even something good, jeopardize what really matters: eternal life in Jesus?|
I recently watched a video on Youtube.com as two men attempted to cut a hornet’s nest hanging from a tree. They wanted it to fall into an open plastic garbage bag, and only one thing went wrong as the plastic bag failed open properly and bumped into the nest.
The hornets were quick to counter-attack and the shears failed to reach the stem as angry hornets chased both men away from the nest, while delivering many painful stings. In like manner when Jesus confronted the leaders of the Jewish church in the Jerusalem temple as recorded in Matthew 21, it was as if He poked a hornet’s nest and made the leaders of the Jewish church so angry that they determined to kill Him.
He entered the temple in fulfillment of prophecy, but that’s not all He did. He also healed and taught the people, which was far more important.
We tend to give all of our attention to the scene of confrontation and spend little time on this final week of the wonderful ministry of Jesus, and as I study this lesson I will spend the majority of my time appreciating how Jesus loved people during these final hours.
I’m reminded of this counsel from Ellen White,
“God will bless His people only when they try to be a blessing to others” Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 3, page 436.
“Faithful work is more acceptable to God than the most zealous and thought-to-be holiest worship. It is working together with Christ that is true worship. Prayers, exhortation, and talk are cheap fruits, which are frequently tied on; but fruits that are manifested in good works, in caring for the needy, the fatherless, and widows, are genuine fruits, and grow naturally upon a good tree.” Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2, page 24.
As Jesus entered upon the final phase of His ministry, He never changed the emphasis or priority of what He did. The majority of His ministry was directed towards helping people out of His love for them.
The illustration of the fig tree demonstrates the need for us to bear good fruit, and that is why Jesus pronounced the curse. He didn’t hate that tree. He said those fateful words for your and my benefit that we might better understand how our fruit should result from a relationship with God.
As our bodies are also a temple of God, and as the temple in Jerusalem was to be a house of prayer, so we also should be giants of prayer leading us to partake of the divine nature and bear the fruit of the Spirit. (2 Peter 1:4)
I pray that this study of Jesus will increase our desire to be closer to Him and will transform our lives.
Join me this week and pray more and more. Come closer to the Father and Jesus and let the words of Matthew stir your soul.
Following their 70-year captivity in Babylon, the Jews began to return to Jerusalem. They were excited to be rebuilding their temple, but as the foundation was laid, those who remembered Solomon’s magnificent temple realized that this second temple wasn’t going to be anywhere nearly as nice. Thus, they “wept aloud” (Ezra 3:12, NIV).
The people received some unexpected encouragement from two men standing among them: an old prophet named Haggai and a young prophet named Zechariah. Haggai reminded the people that the true glory of Solomon’s temple didn’t come from what Solomon or anyone else brought to it. It wasn’t Solomon’s temple. It was God’s temple. Haggai said: “‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: “In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the LORD Almighty. “The silver is mine and the gold is mine,” declares the LORD Almighty. “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,” says the Lord Almighty’” (Hag. 2:6-9, NIV).
Things got even more hopeful when the young prophet Zechariah spoke: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9, NKJV).
How do these amazing prophecies apply to Matthew 21:1-11-Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem?
“Christ was following the Jewish custom for a royal entry. The animal on which He rode was that ridden by the kings of Israel, and prophecy had foretold that thus the Messiah should come to His kingdom. No sooner was He seated upon the colt than a loud shout of triumph rent the air. The multitude hailed Him as Messiah, their King. Jesus now accepted the homage which He had never before permitted, and the disciples received this as proof that their glad hopes were to be realized by seeing Him established on the throne. The multitude were convinced that the hour of their emancipation was at hand. In imagination they saw the Roman armies driven from Jerusalem, and Israel once more an independent nation.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 570.
|Again and again, we see how Scripture was fulfilled and yet, at the time, the people didn’t understand it. What lessons might we take away for ourselves about how preconceived notions could distort truth?|
Memory Text:“Have you never read in the Scriptures:‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’S doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’ ? ” (Matthew 21:42, NKJV).
In Matthew 20:27-28 Jesus said, “‘And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many’” (NKJV). Here’s Jesus, the eternal God, the one who created all things, who lived the life of a servant here on earth, ministering to the needs of the lost, the sick, the needy, many of whom still scorned Him. Such self-denial, self-abnegation; we can hardly begin to grasp it!
But as incomprehensible as His servanthood is, the marvel goes even deeper, for He, the eternal God, is now facing the whole purpose of His coming here: to “‘give His life a ransom for many.’” This self-denial, this self-abnegation, will soon climax in a mystery that even “angels desire to look into” (1 Pet. 1:12, NKJV)—and that is the Cross.
This week’s lesson looks at some of the major events and teachings of Jesus as He came to Jerusalem, not to be crowned an earthly king, as so many people had desired and hoped, but to be made “sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21, NKJV).
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, June 4.
Through the centuries some people have argued for what is sometimes called “natural law.” Though it comes in many shapes and forms, the idea is that we can derive from the natural world moral principles that can help guide our actions. In one sense, as Christians who believe that nature is God’s “Second Book,” we could accept that there’s some truth to this. For instance, see Paul’s discourse in Romans 1:18-32 about what people should have learned about God from the natural world.
At the same time, too, we can’t forget that this is a fallen world, and we view it with fallen, corrupted minds. So it should be no surprise that we could come away with wrong moral lessons from nature. For example, one of greatest mortal minds in antiquity, the Greek philosopher Aristotle, argued for slavery based on his understanding of nature. For him, nature revealed two classes of people, one of which was as “inferior to others … as … a beast to a man.” So for them, a “life of slavish subjection is advantageous.” This is just one of many examples we can find of how worldly principles, values, and ideas conflict with those of God’s kingdom, which is why—regardless of where we were born and brought up—we need to study God’s Word and from it derive the morals, values, and principles that should govern our lives. Nothing else, of itself, is reliable.
To truly appreciate today’s story about James and John (and their mom) in Matthew 20:20-27, first read Luke 9:51-56. This event occurred when Jesus and His disciples at first set out for Jerusalem, just days before James and John asked if they could sit on Jesus’ left and right in the kingdom.
James and John, the Sons of Thunder, were still clearly more worried about their own future than about the salvation of those around them, even after they had been sent out to evangelize the surrounding areas. In its own way, this story is somewhat like what we looked at yesterday, with Peter’s question regarding what they could get by following Jesus.
Look carefully at Jesus’ answer here. “‘You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’” (Matthew 20:22, NKJV). In other words, to be identified with Jesus’ future glory means, first, to be identified with His suffering and death, something that they had not anticipated and were not ready for. The fact that they immediately answered, “‘We are able’” (Matt. 20:22) shows that they didn’t know what He was warning them about. They would learn, eventually.
An interesting contrast is presented here, one that we need to think about for ourselves. As we saw in yesterday’s study, we have been promised wonderful things, even “eternal life” (Matt. 19:29, NKJV), if we follow Jesus. At the same time, too, the Bible makes it clear that in this world, following Jesus comes with a cost, sometimes a very big one. Jesus Himself later told Peter that he would die a martyr’s death (see John 21:18-19). Many believers throughout history, and even today, have paid a great price for following Jesus. In fact, it might be wise to ask ourselves if there is something wrong with our walk if indeed we have not paid a steep price for following the Lord. Whatever the price, though, it’s cheap enough.
|What has following Christ cost you? Think hard on the implications of your answer.|
You can view an in-depth discussion of “Lessons from Jesus – Idols of the Soul” in the Hope Sabbath School class led by Pastor Derek Morris. (Adobe Flash Player version.) A Youtube version of this week’s lesson at Hope Sabbath School is below.
Right after the incident with the rich ruler, what happens?
“Then Peter answered and said to Him, ‘See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?’” (Matt. 19:27, NKJV).
Nothing in the text says what prompted this question, but it could easily be in direct response to the rich man’s departure from Jesus.
Peter seemed to be implying that, unlike this man and others who either rejected Jesus or stayed with Him a while and then left, he and the other disciples had left all for Him. They were remaining faithful to Him, even at great personal cost. Thus, the question is, What’s in it for us?
From our perspective today, we might see this question as another indication of how hard-hearted and spiritually dense the disciples were (and, to some degree, that’s true). On the other hand, why not ask a question like Peter’s? Why shouldn’t he wonder what he would get by following Jesus?
After all, life here is hard, even for those who have it the best. We are all subject to the traumas, the disappointments, the pain of our fallen existence. In the 1800s an Italian intellectual named Giacomo Leopardi wrote about the overriding unhappiness of human beings, saying that “as long as man feels life, he also feels displeasure and pain.”
Life is often a struggle, and the good in this world doesn’t always even out with the bad. So Peter’s question makes perfect sense.Because life is hard, what advantage comes to us from following Jesus? What should we expect from making the kind of commitment that Jesus asked of us?
How did Jesus respond to the question? (See Matt. 19:28-20:16.)
Notice, Jesus didn’t rebuke Peter for selfishness or the like. He gave him first a very straightforward answer and then the parable regarding the workers and their wages. Though over the centuries a great deal of discussion has ensued over the meaning of the parable, the basic point is clear: you will get from Jesus what He has promised us.
|If someone were to ask you, “What will I get by serving Jesus?” what would you answer?|
Read Matthew 19:16-30. As New Testament Christians, how are we to relate to this story today? What lessons can we take from it for ourselves?
Though not much is told us specifically about this man, we can pick up a few salient points. He was rich, a ruler (see Luke 18:18), and apparently a very scrupulous follower of God’s law.
We can see, too, that he sensed something was missing from his life. It reminds one a bit of the story of Martin Luther; though outwardly a pious monk, inside he was dissatisfied with his spiritual life and he struggled with assurance of salvation. In both cases, the men sensed that the great gap between themselves and God was not going to be filled by their outward works.
“This ruler had a high estimate of his own righteousness. He did not really suppose that he was defective in anything, yet he was not altogether satisfied. He felt the want of something that he did not possess. Could not Jesus bless him as He blessed the little children, and satisfy his soul want?”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 518.
Some people might argue that, in this story, Jesus is teaching that we receive eternal life based on our good works. After all, in Matthew 19:17 Jesus says, “If you want to enter life, keep the commandments” (NIV). If this were the only text on that subject, one could make an argument here. But too many other texts, especially in Paul’s writings, teach that the law does not save but rather points to our need of salvation (see Rom. 3:28; Gal. 3:21-22; Rom. 7:7). Instead, Jesus must have been guiding this man to see his own great need of more than what he was doing. After all, if keeping the law alone could do it, then the man would already have salvation, since he was scrupulous in keeping it. The gospel needs to penetrate the heart, to go right to the idols of the soul, and whatever we are holding onto that’s an impediment to our relationship to God needs to be gone. In this case, it was his money. Jesus notes how hard it is for a rich man to be saved; and yet, shortly after this dialog, Luke records a beautiful story of exactly that happening (see Luke 19:1-10).
|If you were in the position of the rich man, and you asked Jesus the same question, what do you think He would say to you? Dwell on the implications of your answer.|
Key Thought: By knowing who Jesus is, we can become more like Him in our characters and lives.
1. Have a volunteer read Matthew 18:21,22.
a. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
b. Why is it so important to dwell on the cross and the forgiveness given us when dealing with our thoughts and feelings for others in forgiving them?
c. Personal Application : Have you ever experienced the difficulty of forgiving someone? What made the difference in leading you to forgiveness? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : One of your relatives states: “What if you can’t forgive someone for what they did? Some people have done such evil things, I don’t think I could ever forgive them.” How would you respond to your relative?
2. Have a volunteer read Matthew 19:16-20.
a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
b. Why did the rich young ruler ask what great thing he could do to enter heaven?
c. Personal Application : If you were to ask Jesus what you were lacking, what might He say to you about your commandment keeping? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : One of your friends states, “Shouldn’t we want to do good things and be recognized for it? Don’t we get rewards in heaven for our good works? Isn’t it better to try to do good than not to?” How would you respond to your friend?
3. Have a volunteer read Matthew 20:11-16.
a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. What rewards can the Christian expect to receive in serving Christ?
c. Personal Application: Have you ever wanted to be something or do something great? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : One of your neighbors states, “What does it mean that the last shall be first and the first last? Is this referring to our attitude and humility in serving Christ?” How would you respond to your neighbor?
4. Have a volunteer read Matthew 20:23-27.
a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. How can we keep from getting jealous or resentful of others, especially when they exhibit the wrong attitude or actions in leadership?
c. Personal Application : How can we develop confident attitudes about life without glorifying ourselves? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study : Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.
(Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.”Ministry of Healing, p. 148).
One of the worst consequences of the Fall is seen in interpersonal relationships. From Adam trying to blame Eve for his sin (Gen. 3:12) to this moment on earth today, our race has been ravaged and degraded by conflict between individuals. Unfortunately, conflicts are not just in the world but in the church, as well.
Read Matthew 18:15-35. What does Jesus tell us here? Why, though, do we often not follow His words to us?
Let’s face it: it’s easier to go behind someone’s back to complain about him or her than to go directly to the person and deal with the issue. And that is precisely why we don’t want to do it, despite being told to do it by the Lord. Yet, Jesus teaches us to go directly to someone who has hurt us and to attempt to restore the relationship. If the person is not receptive, then there are additional instructions.
“‘For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them’” (Matt. 18:20, NKJV). Look at the context here; it is about the discipline and restoration of another person. (We tend to apply this verse more broadly.)
Jesus says that the Holy Spirit is present when a small group is attempting to restore a believer. This is the beautiful work of Redemption. And it begins with humbly doing the right thing and talking directly with someone who has hurt you. This, too, would be another example of greatness in those who do it.
Read Matthew 18:21-35 again. What crucial point is Jesus making?
When Jesus says to “forgive seventy times seven,” what He’s really saying is that we must never stop forgiving someone. Jesus is serious about the necessity of forgiveness, not only for others’ benefit but for our own. Look at how strong the parable is that He told to make His point. We can be forgiven a lot of things; that’s what the gospel is all about, forgiveness (see Exod. 32:32, Acts 5:31, Col. 1:14), but if we don’t forgive others the way we have been forgiven by God, we can face dire consequences.
|Why is it so important, then, to dwell upon the Cross, upon the forgiveness that we have been given because of it? If God did this for you, if this is what it took to forgive you, how can you learn to forgive others, no matter how impossible that forgiveness might now appear to be?|