Matthew 28

Vs. 10, “Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”  Yesterday, I shared a message on the women visiting the tomb.  The first part of Matthew, we are reminded of the Resurrection (vs. 1-10).  Jesus’ birth on earth was a miracle and now His resurrection closes His tenure as fully man.  Jesus not only appears to the women, but over a forty day period He would make numerous visits.  While there were many testifying of Jesus’ resurrection, there were others (Chief priests & elders) conspiring to ensure that the truth stays hidden (vs. 11-15).  The whole premise of the story is not very believable given the fact that there were guards hired to guard the tomb.  The guards knew what truly happened with their fear and the earthquake (vs. 2-4).  Matthew then closes his gospel with the Great Commission (vs. 16-20).  Question: Why did the eleven doubt (vs. 17)?  There are differing views on this, but some scholars point out that the doubt here was in the context of the eleven being unsure of the future.

Regarding application…Make Disciples.  Vs. 19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Question: What is our purpose in life?  Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?  Jesus gives us a mandate and purpose to our lives.  The Gospel isn’t just for the Jews, but it is to be spread to all nations.  Question: What does that look like for us?  Does that mean that we all must be international missionaries?  The application to this is quite varied.  Not all of us are going to be missionaries, but all of us can support making disciples; financial support, material support, prayer support, etc.  Someone shared the gospel with you at some point in your life.  They were making disciples.  And now we must help in support not just a church emphasis, but the very exhortation of Jesus!

Matthew 27

Vs. 66, “So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.”  It’s Easter Morning and Jesus is no longer in the tomb!  All the devious plotting by Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin and Pilate failed.  In the beginning of our chapter, we see the tragic demise of Judas Iscariot (vs. 3-10).  While Judas showed remorse for his actions, he did not repent and believe.  We now come to the trial of Jesus (vs. 11-26) before the Romans.  The Jews needed to find a way to convince Pilate to have Jesus crucified.  They spun it to make it look like Jesus was leading a revolt against the Romans.  It’s important to note the politics involved with Pilate and the Jews.  He wasn’t exactly a beloved figure for the Jews and though the Romans were in charge, his position needed to appease the Jews from rioting and also the Roman leaders who entrusted in Pilate’s ability to be the governor for them.  He personally felt no reason for the Jesus to be sentenced to death.  But the politics were pressuring him.  Pilate ingeniously used the tradition of releasing one prisoner and chose Barabbas to be next to Jesus.  He figured the crowds would surely not want Barabbas released and call for Jesus.  But, seeing the rioting crowds and the threat the Sanhedrin made to Pilate (John 19:12), He relents and sentences Jesus to crucifixion (vs. 26).  The Roman floggings (very brutal) is excruciating to read and one of the reasons why Jesus died so early on the cross (crucifixion deaths could last days).  When it came to Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross, we are not given much detail from any of the Gospels since everyone at that time knew what crucifixion entailed.

Regarding application…Christ is Risen.  Vs. 54, “When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”  Not only did he prove that He was the Son of God, but that He was the true Christ (Anointed One).  Jesus overcame the sting of death and paved the way for all to believe.  This Roman centurion had the eyes of his heart open to realize the truth.  Jesus after His resurrection revealed himself to over 500 disciples and it their testimony that gives us the additional sources we need to shed light on our faith.  I pray that this coming week, that you too would testify of our risen Lord!

Matthew 26

Vs. 2, “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”  Jesus points to Thursday evening at sundown where they will celebrate the Passover supper; this would also become known as the Lord’s Supper.  However, at that same time the enemies were plotting ways to kill Jesus (vs. 3-5).  Matthew also records the anointing of Jesus by Mary in Bethany (vs. 6-13).  Bear in mind, Matthew does not place this chronologically for this happened the day before Jesus entered Jerusalem.  I preached on this a few weeks ago and it is a wonderful reminder of the sacrificial love she gave Jesus.  This nard (perfume) was the equivalent of about $60,000 in our present day (at least in LA county where I live).  Sadly, Judas Iscariot goes to the chief priests (vs. 14-16) and unknowingly fulfills prophesied scripture (Zechariah 11:12).  The thirty pieces of silver were about four months wages (a price of a slave) which would be the equivalent of $20,000.  As the disciples gather for the Passover supper, Jesus informs that He not only will be betrayed, but that the betrayer is one of them (vs. 20-25).  It is here that Jesus calls out Judas, but the disciples were probably confused with what was going on.  The Gospel of John (John 13:30) further sheds light and tells us that Judas left the supper that night to go prepare for the arrest.  Jesus than instructs the disciples that the bread would signify His body (vs. 26).  You may recall the Passover was commemorated when God delivered the Israelites from Egypt.  Every home that had the lamb’s blood on the door, the Spirit of God would Passover that house and not kill the newborns.  Jesus was the Passover lamb (I Corinthians 5:7).  The cup (vs. 27-29) would signify the blood of Christ that would bring redemption to all.  Upon leaving the upper room, they travel over to Gethsemane a garden near the Mount of Olives to pray.  Sadly, Jesus predicts that not only was Judas a betrayer, but all of the other disciples will fall away and scatter (vs. 31-35).  Led by Peter protests, Jesus informs Peter he will deny Him three times.  It’s important also to note the others stated they too would not scatter.  The prayers at the Gethsemane (vs. 36-46) are incredibly intense as we get insight to the struggle Jesus was having.  He knew what He was about to face and it was going to be excruciating.  Being beaten and dying by crucifixion was intense, but nothing compared to bearing the sins of all and having the Father turn His face from His son.  The enemies temptation was strong for Satan early had tried to offer Jesus an easy way out (Matthew 4:8-9).  Judas now comes to the garden knowing the Jesus and the disciples would have been there.  He brings an angry mob ready to arrest Jesus (vs. 47-56).  Jesus accepts, Peter overreacts and all disciples scatter.  Caiaphas, the High Priest, broke even the Jewish laws by assembling a disgraceful trial at night and in his own home.  They even concoct bringing false witnesses to contrive lies.  They charge Jesus was blasphemy (speak contemptuously about God) and proceed to seek Jesus’ death.  It’s important to note that capital punishment was only delivered by the Romans (they gave the Jews some power, but not on this).  Additionally, blasphemy to the Romans was a not a legit reason for death.  And lastly, upon Peter witnessing the trial and seeing Jesus beaten, proceeds to deny he knows Jesus.

Regarding application…Overcoming Temptation.  Vs. 41, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Question:  Since our body is weak, how then do we overcome temptation?  Watch and pray.  For believers, certainly our spirit is willing to do the will of God.  But our body/flesh lives by a different code.  Jesus gave us the ultimate example of surrender and trust in the Father.  We see His prayer to the Father if there was any other way, make it so, but if not…He was willing to go through with it.  Isn’t it amazing that the solution is simply prayer?  For in prayer, we surrender our will.  Not my will but yours be done (vs. 39).  We are one day before Easter and I’m so thankful for the resurrection and defeat of sin on the cross!  Last night, we had so many souls turn to the Lord in trust to Jesus at our Good Friday service!  Thank you Lord!

Matthew 25

Vs. 1, “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.”  Jesus continues to speak in parables and emphasizes how we must be ready when He comes back again.  The Parable of the Ten Virgins (vs. 1-13) portrays Jesus as the bridegroom and the ten virgins are bridesmaids who are not yet married.  The general Jewish custom was for the bridegroom to go to his brides home to escort her to his own home.  The bridesmaids were to be with the bride and be ready to celebrate with her.  Sadly, half of them were not prepared with enough oil and thus not prepared for when the bridegroom came.  In the Parable of the Talents (vs. 14-30), we have a picture of a wealthy landowner who entrusts his servants with a portion of his properties.  Sadly, one of the servants never wanted to take a risk and did not know the nature of the master.  And then lastly we see Jesus share a profound example of judgment with the Sheep and Goats (vs. 31-46).  The sheep not only followed the Shepherd, but looked out for the least of these brothers of mine (vs. 40).  But the goats did no have a heart of love nor servant hood.

Regarding application…Be Watchful.  Vs. 13, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”  Question: What does it mean to be watchful?  Some Christians will focus so much study on the End Times (Eschatology) that they forget about being practically prepared for the present.  Question: Are we ready if Jesus were to literally return on Easter Sunday?  Do we have all of our relationships in order?  Have we done our best to forgive others?  Have we shared the Gospel to those who are close to us but don’t know the Lord?  Often times, I believe we procrastinate with such things because we think we have time.  Brothers and sisters, because we don’t know the hour or day let that be a constant reminder on our heart to live like this could be your last day.  Be ever watchful.  Consider things you can do today or soon that will help you be like the virgins who came with enough oil in their lamps.

Matthew 24

Vs. 3 , “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”  It is probably Tuesday on the Passion week of Christ.  Jesus and his disciples are returning to Bethany for the evening.  They rest at the Mount of Olives and look down upon the beautiful city and temple.  The disciple’s comment of the beauty of the temple (vs. 1-2) and it is here that Jesus uses this opportunity to warn His disciples of the future.  Bear in mind, these prophecies had both meaning for their near future (destruction of the temple) and the End Times in which we live today.  We must be careful to watch out (vs. 4-14) for these things: false prophets, wars, famines, death, martyrs, world chaos, and a good one, the spreading of the Gospel.  Brothers and sisters, we are so close to the Gospel being preached to all nations (vs. 14)!  Jesus not switches gears and points to a specific prophecy (Daniel 9:27) concerning the abomination of desolation (vs. 15-28).  This description has a double-meaning for the destruction done in 70 AD, but also the Tribulation that is yet to come.  Jesus also reminds them again of false Christ’s and false prophets.  Jesus then gives all of us a preview into His second coming (vs. 29-31).  The fig tree (vs. 32-35) reminds us to ultimately be ready because the signs point towards Jesus’ return.  Jesus uses the days of Noah and the flood as an example of people being told, but not realizing when (vs. 36-41).  Just as a homeowner must be diligent to keep watch for a thief at night, we too are to be alert (vs. 42-44).  This is a very easy example to take for granted because we think that surely Jesus won’t come back now.  The last example/parable is the good servant vs. the wicked servant (vs. 45-51).  This is more about the heart of each person, one takes for granted that Jesus will return while the other’s heart stays true.

Regarding application…Love Growing Cold.  Vs. 12, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”  This is a startling statement of truth from Jesus!  It’s a sobering thought because He spoke of the time that we live in.  I’ve heard people blame the media for over-exaggerating the atrocities of this world.  Our excuse is that it’s always been that way, so don’t be alarmed.  I would concur that a sinful world has been evil, but Jesus makes it quite clear that IS getting worse.  The concern for us Christians today is that the increase of wickedness is affecting the church.  We see the sinful world and then we look at the imperfect church and we grow disillusioned by it all.  Brothers and sisters, don’t let your love grow cold.  It is this very day that Jesus showed the full extent of His love by washing His disciples feel at the Last Supper on Thursday night before His death on the cross.

Matthew 23

Vs. 13a, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!”  As the time is looming with just a few days left before Good Friday and the cross, Jesus takes time to denounce the hypocritical Pharisees and teachers of the law.  Question: Why do so?  It was important for Jesus’ followers not to revere these leaders.  It was also important that they receive judgment for their actions.  While they did adhere to the good parts of the law, their oral traditions made a mockery of God’s intentions.  Jesus still wanted the people to follow their leadership (vs. 3) as long as it did not go against God’s word.  Jesus proceeds to pronounce seven woes of accusation and judgment (vs. 13-36).  The first woe (vs. 13) is a judgment for leading the people astray.  The second woe (vs. 15) is accusing them for their efforts to make false converts of their own pride and leading them away from Jesus.  The third woe (vs. 16-22) deals with how the Pharisee’s developed a complicated system of their own oaths and vows that were dishonorable to God.  The fourth woe (vs. 23-24) accuses them of focusing so much on tithing even small things that they forget to serve the people in other ways.  The fifth woe (vs. 25-26) is an accusation of pride as they focused on the appearance rather than the heart.  The sixth woe (vs. 27-28) builds on the fifth woe in that they were more worried about how they looked, but inside they were unclean.  The seventh woe (vs. 29-32) reveals their boasting that they would not have killed God’s prophets from the past, yet they were conspiring to kill God’s son.  And lastly, we see Jesus lament over Jerusalem (vs. 37-39) as He knows of the soon destruction when the Romans would invade in 70 A.D.

Regarding application…Ugliness of Pride.  Vs. 7, “They love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’” Sadly, we as humans struggle with this.  I believe especially “honor & shame” cultures are more susceptible to this way of thinking.  Korea is just one of the many “honor & shame” cultures.  Certainly, serving in a Korean culture yet being raised in an American culture, I see the dynamics of this phenomenon.  I’ll quickly point out that we can glean good and bad things from both types of cultures.  For example, Korean churches have a tendency to emphasize their titles (deacon, elder, etc.)  While I understand their emphasis to respect each other, this can be a slippery slope.  Pride can set in and we begin to feel like we are entitled to the praises of men.  Certainly, corporate America can look very similar too.   Let us remember that we are to be servants and consider others above ourselves!

Matthew 22

Vs. 1, “Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying:” Jesus continues to respond the religious leaders questioning on His authority.  In our previous chapter, we were told they (Pharisees and chief priests) began plotting a way to arrest Him.  The Parable of the Wedding Banquet (vs. 1-14) illustrates the refusal of the Jewish leaders to accept the invitation and those that did accept.  Sadly, many are invited but their hearts are too hard and judgment will come upon them.  The man who was casted out (vs. 11-14) reminds me Judas Iscariot.  The Pharisees continue to plot and this time they try to trap Jesus by whether it is right to pay taxes to Caesar (vs. 15-22).  To their amazement, Jesus knows the intention of their heart and gives the perfect answer (vs. 21).  We are to tithe to God and pay taxes to the government above us at the same time.  Now the Sadducees try to trap Jesus with a hypothetical situation involving marriage and resurrection (vs. 23-33).  It’s important to note the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, so they plotted to discredit Jesus by using a crazy illustration that one day she will be married to seven former husbands according to the levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).  Jesus turns the table on their trap and reveals their lack of theology and belief in God’s whole revelation (they only believed in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible).  When we get to heaven, there will be no reason for procreation and therefore no reason for marriage.  Again, they send an expert in the law to challenge Jesus about the greatest commandment (vs. 34-40).  Bear in mind, there were 613 commandments from the Old Testament law.   Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6:5 (love God) and Leviticus 19:18 (love neighbor) and He brings them together.  Then Jesus takes the offensive posture and now challenges the Pharisees with His own question (vs. 41-45).  If the Messiah is the son of David, how could He also be called “Lord” by David?  Jesus is teaching us something about His nature: He is God and He is also man.  By being both, He is fulfilling the OT scriptures.  Jesus silenced His enemies at this time, for they did not have the wisdom of God.

Regarding application…Which One Are You?  Vs. 14, “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”  The Gospel is offered to all, but few respond (chosen).  It is a perplexing thought: Why in the world would people not respond to the love of Christ?  I recall how asking God in my early salvation years why would those I love not respond to You?  I couldn’t grasp it.  But in the end, I just needed to put my complete trust in the justice of God.  I know He is fair and just.  When I am reminded of the atrocities that humans can do, I wonder how God could be so patient and loving.  This Passion/Holy week is a stark reminder for us to continue inviting people to our churches.  Because we are the few that chose God and He chose us, than let us live a life that bears His testimony.

Matthew 21

Vs. 10, “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”  Yesterday was Palm Sunday and now we read today of that account.  How fitting that on the Passion/Holy week that we are going to be doing our bible reading regarding this week.  Having taken the upward route from Jericho to Bethany the previous week, Jesus now begins to prepare for the Triumphant entry (vs. 1-11).  As Jesus rides on a donkey into Jerusalem, He fulfilling prophecy from Zechariah 9:9.  The large crowds have a mixture of everyone; Jesus’ disciples, Jesus’ enemies, the religious leaders, the crowds, the curious.  The palms represent Jewish nationalism and victory from their past.  Hosanna can be translated “O save”, and so some of the people were hoping Jesus would come to overthrow the Roman oppression.  Yet, many still did not completely understand Jesus’ purpose of fulfilling prophecy nor that this would be the last week of his human life.  We then see the dramatic cleansing of the temple (vs. 12-17) as Jesus rebukes the corrupt practices of the temple sacrifice system.  Sadly, many were making an exorbitant profit by providing animals for sacrifice to pilgrims who could not bring their own.  Jesus reminds everyone that the temple should really be a house of prayer (vs. 13) as he quotes Isaiah.  That night, he returns to Bethany and comes back to Jerusalem the following day.  Along the way, Jesus curses a fig tree (vs. 18-22).  The fig tree’s lack of fruit is indicative of the spiritual state of the nation.  When Jesus is back in the temple, the religious leaders confront Jesus’ authority (vs. 23-27), especially in light of his clearing of the temple.  They challenge Jesus with an accusation, but Jesus masterfully turns the tables and poses His own challenge about their thought on John the Baptist.  He trapped them, because whether they said John’s authority came from heaven or from men; they lost.  If they said yes, they would be endorsing John’s words about Jesus.  If they said no, they would turn the populace against them for they supported John.  Jesus goes on to share some parables that will further illustrate Israel’s spiritual failure.  The Parable of the Two Sons (vs. 28-32) gives an example of how the religious leaders did not obey.  The Parable of the Tenants (vs. 33-46) is reminiscent of Isaiah 5:1-7 as Jesus basically denounces judgment of Israel.  This would enrage the religious leaders and at this point they began plotting away to arrest Jesus (vs. 46).

Regarding application…God Will Supply.  Vs. 21, “Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.”  Whether we have large faith or little faith, the lesson in this statement is that God will supply.  If God directs us to do something for him (ministry, missions, small groups, serving, etc), He will most certainly provide all we need to accomplish His will.  When I think about going west as a young man in my early twenties, all I hoped for was to go to Bible College.  I had my doubts and worries, but I also a portion of faith (small as it was then).  But, God did more than I ever dreamed and supplied all that I needed to attend Bible College and graduate!  One thing I’ve learned about giving up my life, is that the adventure is never dull.  Yet, God continues to supply.  Put your trust and faith the Lord in all circumstances!

Matthew 20

Vs. 1, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard.”  The Parable of the Vineyard (vs. 1-16) is unique only to the Gospel of Matthew.  Interestingly, the sermon from my ministry covered Jesus the true vine this morning (John 15).  Some may feel the parable is teaching on salvation or the rewards we shall receive.  However, there is a very rich lesson on our attitude and reason for why we are serving.  The early morning workers should have been very happy for the end of day workers.  For the third time (vs. 17-19), Jesus predicts His suffering and death and this is the first mention of how He will die; crucifixion.  Interestingly, James and John’s mother (Salome) comes to Jesus with a bold request (vs. 20-28).  Some scholars believe that Salome who was Mary’s sister (John 19:25) making Jesus technically first cousins with James and John.  Her request is not only her desire, but Mark’s gospel mentions James and John also requested to Jesus.  Before we get quick to judge, their request also shows their support of Jesus as the future looms.  However, there was some backlash as the other disciples were indignant (vs. 24).  While they would indeed go with Jesus and drink the cup (suffering) he drank, this would not determine their heavenly position.  Once again, Jesus uses this as a opportunity to remind them to seek to be humble (vs. 26).  As Jesus continues His journey to Jerusalem, they are leaving Jericho and come upon two blind men (vs. 29-34).  Jesus not only tells the disciples to be servants, He now shows the heart of a servant by be a servant to blind men.

Regarding application…What is Success?  Vs. 26, “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”  While we may feel this is a subjective question, we are reminded that Jesus gave us many objective lessons.  The disciples of Jesus were not without their own desires for success even in the kingdom of God.  Certainly, like James and John, they wanted to make their mother proud of them.  They also wanted to put Jesus first.  These are two wonderful reasons, but they were approaching it the wrong way.  Success to the Lord is not the accolades of men, but the humbleness of a slave.  Question: Are you trying too hard to be successful?

Matthew 19

Vs. 1, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan.”  Jesus’ ministry in Galilee has ended and He now begins his journey to cross in Jerusalem.  It would take Jesus about six months to complete this journey.  They now find themselves in the region of Perea (east of the Jordan) administering to the large crowds.  But, where God is working the enemy is too (vs. 3); the Pharisees come to test Jesus (vs. 3-12).  Interestingly, the topic they bring to Jesus is still a very hotly debated one in the church today: divorce.  Jesus addressed this before on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:31-32) and now we see Jesus respond again.  God’s gift of marriage and plan (Genesis 2:24) was always for it to remain.  Unfortunately, under the Mosaic Law, the hardening of hearts would lead to a loophole.  However, there is a caveat to divorce (vs. 9) which is sexual immorality.  God’s plan is to have husband and wife together, but there are situations where it is literally unsafe and a spiritual scam among others for a couple to stay married for some sins (adultery, incest, molesting, etc.).  Once again, we are reminded how important children are to the Lord and the lessons behind being like children (vs. 13-15).  We then come to an event recorded in all three Synoptic Gospels; the rich young man (vs. 16-22).  The rich young man was so close to understanding.  He followed the law strictly and faithfully, but sensed something was missing (vs. 20).  Jesus then shocks everyone by sharing the image of a camel going through the eye of the needle (vs. 24) being just as impossible as a rich man entering heaven.  Riches and wealth were a sign of God’s blessing in the past.  The lesson here is challenging us how much we love our possessions (vs. 23-30).  We may have possessions, but God must be first.

Regarding application…Unwilling Heart.  Vs. 22, “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.”  Jesus went straight to the heart of the matter.  The rich young man did everything that a perfect Jew would do in his day.  But, Jesus knew what he truly loved; his possessions and pride.  No matter how disciplined we are in living a righteous life, it will never bring salvation.  There must be a moment of crisis in our hearts where we must choose to follow Jesus.  This was that moment for the rich young man, but his heart was unwilling.  It is an incredibly sad story; but one that is often repeated today.  I give credit to him for he realized that he couldn’t fake it.  Jesus drew the line and the rich young man didn’t try to do both.  But take heart, because there are people who are presented this reality and they do give up all their dreams and goals for Jesus.  Lord, I pray with willing hearts that you would lead us to the cross.