Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bible Study Notes in Matthew- Chapter 28


Matthew 28

 

-Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus had cast out seven demons, was, along with James and John’s mother Mary, there first to bring anointing spices for His body. They were wondering how they would get in to the tomb with the large stone in front of it, but they found it had been rolled away (Mark 16:3). An angel of the LORD came with a great earthquake and rolled the stone away, and the guards who were protecting the site, according to Matthew’s gospel, became incapacitated from fear and were in the state of comatose like dead men. Since they went out of consciousness, it stands to reason they never actually saw the risen Christ and could go along with the deception they were paid off to keep in confidence (Matthew 28:11-15).

-This all happened in the early morning hours of the first day of the week after the Sabbath, which was Sunday. Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene there in the garden according to John and Matthew’s gospels, but she is told not to cling to Him (a statement meant to say there is much to be done) as she and the other Mary worship at His feet (Matthew 28:9, John 20:11-18), but to go and tell of this resurrection and coming ascension to the Father to the disciples. This is what will initiate the Kingdom eventually in all its fullness with the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. If Mary had kept clinging onto this earthly, incarnate One of the Godhead, the Kingdom would be stuck to a single location. But, and this was Jesus’ point, the message must now be spread all over not being contained in one spot.

-The recognition is slow and fear abounds, but the Savior’s appearances begin to erase the unbelief and skepticism as Jesus’ predictive words start to be remembered and joy abounds in this miracle of miracles. He is no longer in the tomb! He is raised and will go before them to Galilee as well as have other appearances in Jerusalem!

-*Application* The resurrection makes all the difference in the world to our faith. If we believe that God is raised from the grave we can be saved (Romans 10:9). Without the resurrection our faith is worthless (1 Corinthians 15). With the resurrection, however, we have eternal hope and joy forever no matter what the situation is here on this earth. We have multiple and detailed accounts of the events of Christ Jesus’ resurrection. Over 500 people witnessed the risen Savior before His ascension back to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:6) including the disciples that surrendered their lives and well-being for the King. They would have never sacrificed so much for a fraud. They had nothing to gain by a deception in this matter. What changed them was real and should strengthen our faith to live boldly for the risen Lord!

-The next intriguing account we get from Matthew is the cover up to the resurrection that was perpetrated by the religious elders and counselors when some of the guard came to them with the news of what had taken place. These guards were paid off with a sufficient sum of money to keep up the front of a lie in spreading false information that the disciples had come by night and stolen the body while they slept. The guards knew that if they had not taken the money and been found to have not done their job, they would have quite possibly been in immense trouble (Acts 16:27-30). This was a good deal for them to escape possible punishment and make themselves a profit at the same time. To them it must have seemed a win-win situation, but this heresy infected the Jewish people. Who knows how many were affected and prevented from hearing the truth of the gospel in a clear-unadulterated fashion even to this day. These guards were more than likely dazed and confused over the appearance of the angel at the tomb and never actually got to see the risen Savior as far as we can discern. The Scriptures state that they fell as dead men in total shock and fear (Matthew 28:4), so they could have easily convinced themselves that what they experienced was a hoax I suppose. Nevertheless, they had been privy to the most incredible miracle of all time, yet they denounced it for pay.

-Therefore, we see in this passage two parties that were in the wrong. The religious leaders who wanted to cover up the propagation of the revelation and resurrection of Christ were certainly at fault. But also, the guards were of ill character to choose financial gain over the truth in a matter. *Application* There are times in our lives when we also face decisions of this kind. What kind of character do you have? Would you be willing to lay down your job and family’s stability to do the right thing in your place of work? My perception today is that there are cowards everywhere who will not stand up for the things of God for the benefit of the almighty American dollar. It makes me sick to think of where our country is headed because we simply will not take a stand for what is true and right because we are afraid of losing a job and financial security with health benefits. Before you go and judge these guards for selling out, make sure you are not doing the exact same thing. Christ’s Kingdom wants sold-out soldiers willing to leave family and die for the cause, not weak money loving cop-outs who care too much for the pleasures of this world (Matthew 13:22; 19:29, Acts 21:13, 2 Timothy 2:3-4). This may seem radical, but it is certainly what Jesus taught and the early Christians lived out. What are we going to do with that? God wants you to live boldly and speak as you ought (Ephesians 6:20).

-Matthew gives little focus to the resurrected work of Christ compared to some of the other gospel writers. He makes mention that Jesus had appeared to some in the region of Jerusalem, but His primary meeting place for worship and instruction would be back in Galilee at a designated mountain (Matthew 28:10, 16).

-Incredible truths on how we are to go about our business as believers are revealed as Jesus gives His disciples, and us, His great commission. He was sent by the Father, called to do a work, which He completed. He was about to send His Hoy Spirit in complete fullness to indwell the believer for amazing power and work in the spreading of the Kingdom. Let’s take a careful look into the aspects of this commission so that we can obey the Lord’s directives and commands.

-As He concludes with the fact that all authority in earth and Heaven had now been given to Him as He had completed His task in saving the world from sin (Matthew 28:18), He tells us what and how to increase His Kingdom the proper way. He begins with the word therefore. This indicates that we are fighting for His purposes through the victory and authority He has already won. The word “go” is a participle and should have the connotation “while you are going.” *Application* This refers to the manner in which we should be operating our lives as believers. We should never put our Savior on the shelf and act like He doesn’t fit in with our lives in any way. We always represent the King in every place. There is to be no dichotomy between the secular and the sacred in our lives. We are to be totally His everywhere we go and in everything that we do. You are just as much a minister in the grocery store or at work as you are in the church building.

-The imperative command in this commission is “to make disciples of all nations.” Disciple making is the key ingredient to building His Kingdom on this earth. *Application* Discipleship is hard work and will take time. We must use the principle laid out by Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2 to his young learner, Timothy. We must invest in people that will take the Word and train others for the perpetual increase of the knowledge of the LORD. Pour into people for the purpose of making them disciples of Christ Jesus and followers of the true Way. In time all the world will know of Him and then the end of the age will come (Matthew 24:14).

-The manner we are to make disciples is by baptism in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism is immersion. They must not only be baptized by water in obedience to His command, remembering though this is not a requirement for salvation (Luke 23:39-43), but also baptized into His Spirit as a believer sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). We are also instructed to teach them to observe everything that the Lord commanded. This all revolves around loving the Lord with all the heart, mind, soul, strength (every ounce of everything), and loving our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. All else supernaturally flows out of these two commands. And in fact Jesus gives us an even better and new command that we can love one another with His love (which is not in our own strength anymore, but by the Holy Spirit), total agape, as we go through life (John 13:34-35).

-Christ Jesus finally taught us that He is always with us in this commissioned work in which He sends us. He will never leave us or forsake us in the mission (Hebrews 13:5). He is the paraclete, the “One who comes alongside” through His Spirit.

-*Application* Be renewed and energized by this ancient but very relevant commission today. While you are going along life’s way, make disciples everywhere you can by doing the works of Christ who is with you and gives you the strength to do His perfect will. You can make a difference for His Kingdom!

 
Verses to Memorize: Matthew 28:6, 18-20

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bible Study Notes in Matthew- Chapter 27


Matthew 27

 

-Judas feels remorse and tries to give back the blood money given to him for the betrayal of Jesus Christ, but that is rejected by the chief priests and elders of the Jewish people. Judas dumps the money in the Temple sanctuary and departed to kill himself by hanging. The priests bought a Potter’s Field with the blood money as a place to bury strangers. This fulfilled an obscure prophecy Matthew attributes to Jeremiah even though the clearest reading of it comes in the prophecy of Zechariah 11:12-13 (It could have been taken from Jeremiah 17:2-3; 18:1-4; 19:1-11; or 32:6-15, In the OT Jeremiah was considered the collector of some of the prophets’ writings, so perhaps this is why his name is cited). *Application* Judas, rather than turning back to the Savior for forgiveness like Peter eventually did, takes matters into his own hands and commits suicide. He opted for a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Don’t let Satan tell you that God can’t forgive. The truth is that He can and will if we will come back to Him in repentance and for forgiveness through the price that Christ paid. You’re never too far gone!

-Now the trial before Pilate takes center stage in the narrative. Christ’s serene calmness and quiet spirit astounds the Roman governor to the point that he was seemingly convinced of the Lord’s innocence, because he knew that it was out of envy Jesus had been handed over to him for punishment. Pilate’s wife warns him not to have anything to do with this righteous Man for she had been tormented in her sleep (apparently by the Holy Spirit in a dream). However, the persuasiveness of the religious leaders won the day as the crowds were stirred up to a riot-like frenzy of evil group-think and wanted the Christ to be crucified. Pilate tried to release Him, but Barabbas was chosen over Him, which led to Pilate’s hand washing symbolizing his desire to be innocent in the condemnation of Christ Jesus (even though he was simply a people pleaser going along with the mood of the moment). Pilate did release Barabbas for them as they requested, had Jesus’ scourged (whipped mercilessly), and handed Him over to be crucified with a death sentence to avoid a riot in the crowd. The people who were there accepted full responsibility for their actions with the words, “His (Jesus’) blood shall be on us and on our children (Matthew 27:25)!” *Application* We know that we are all guilty and responsible for the Christ having to die for the sins of mankind. Instead of trying to wash our hands of the guilt, it is better to accept the fact that we are the one’s responsible for our Savior’s death on the cross. The fact is, Christ laid it down on His own will by submitting to the Father’s desires. Our sin is the reason He had to perform this love sacrifice on our behalf. Simply enjoy the fact that God cares for you this much and receive His forgiveness, which He lavishes upon us in agape.

-Jesus was flogged in the back, beaten with a reed on His head, spit upon, crowned with thorns twisted together and crushed down on His head, and was arrayed in a purple robe to be mocked as a defeated king by the Roman soldiers. He suffered immense verbal and physical torture as He went to His sacrificial death for the sins of mankind. Satan filled these mockers and they acted out in brutality against the King of kings and Lord of lords. *Application* This scene makes most, if not all, of our persecution that we receive pale in comparison to the torment that Jesus endured on our behalf. We should notice His response to every insult and blow. He returned blessing and love for every evil thing done against Him (Luke 23:34). This is the Law of Christ that we love our enemies and bless those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27, 35, Romans 12:14).

-Jesus is led out to be crucified with a procession of followers mourning and lamenting His plight. Some were hurling insults and mockery at Him and were pleased to see the Son of Man dying in front of their very eyes. Simon of Cyrene is an interesting aside to the crucifixion drama as he is compelled to carry the cross of the Lord for what was probably a good distance more than likely because Jesus was too weak to go on with this load. Mark’s gospel even includes the names of Simon’s sons, Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21). From this we may infer that at some point Simon became a believer and in some way gave testimony to the crucifixion accounts for its written account by the gospel writers. *Application* Simon of Cyrene was an illustration to us as believers of Christ’s command to pick up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). This is a load to bear, but it is worth it to know that we are in partnership with the Lord in doing His will His way. Die to yourself and follow the Master wherever He leads.

-Jesus was taken outside the city gates to a place called Golgotha, which means “Place of the Skull (Matthew 27:33, Mark 15:22, Luke 23:33, John 19:17).” Some time later Jerome, translating the Scriptures into Latin, used the term which we now translate as Calvary for the Skull (Latin for skull is calvaria).

-Along this Via Dolorosa (the way of suffering, or grief) He told the women who followed and were lamenting and mourning not to do that over Him, but for themselves and their children (Luke 23:27-28). He foresaw terrible times coming upon His people prophetically, which is taken up in more detail other passages of Scripture (Zechariah 12:10-14, Matthew 24:15-22, Luke 23:28-31, Revelation 6:16-17). There are two sites held by tradition to be the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. The traditional site is west of the Antonia Fortress, built by Herod to oversee the Temple Mount area. It is a steep journey up a mountain; an arduous task for a man who has been beaten and abused such as Christ was. This journey ends at what is now known as The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The other site is known as the “Garden Tomb” and is north of the city outside the ancient gates. This place would have been a high traffic area, was in a garden area near the tomb, had a rock formation cut out of the side of the mountain that looked like a skull (this is from the building projects quarried by Herod’s administration). There are convincing proofs that this could very well be the location of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, but the exact location is unknown and inconclusive.

-Christ’s inscription read that He was the King of the Jews from Nazareth, written by Pilate (John 19:19). The Jewish leaders were upset with this, but Pilate would not change his sign. This may have been a form of mockery, and it was certainly used as a deterrent to further insurrections by the populace as a sign of Roman domination and authority. The Lord, in His Providence, allowed this appropriate message to be displayed as He died for the sins of mankind upon the wooden cross.

-*Application* Again we are brought to the point of decision when we read accounts of the Lord’s suffering and pain on our behalf. If you never have, receive the Lord’s sacrificial death for the atonement of your personal sins and be set free from the guilt and penalty of separation from God. Trust in Him and His work on the cross for forgiveness.

- Crucifixion was widely practiced by the Roman Empire during this era of human history, mostly for the purpose of exposing and ridiculing those who rebelled against their authority. There were stories of Roman soldiers’ exploits of cruelty in different postures and tactics for crucified victims (see Josephus, Jewish War 5.449-551). The use of nails and a crossbar appear to have been common. Modern medical explanations for cause of death by the cross conclude that asphyxiation or shock is the determining factor in killing a hanging victim in this manner. This was widely believed to be the most painful form of death execution style due to the excruciating pain and the public shame it caused. Hanging suspended by one’s arms eventually caused great difficulty in breathing, which could only be alleviated by pushing up with one’s feet to take the weight off of the arms. But that motion itself would cause severe pain in the nailed feet and hands, arms, legs, and back, causing the exhausted victim to slump down again and again unable to breathe in a slow and agonizing death. Eventually, the crucified would succumb to suffocation if the physical trauma hadn’t already killed them. *Application* Magnify the Name of Christ Jesus who suffered a tremendous amount of pain to purchase the believers’ salvation! By His wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

-For what seems to be an unimportant side note to the biblical writers in the area of the soldiers obtaining Christ’s clothes, we should notice that every single gospel writer includes this part of the crucifixion (Matthew 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34, John 19:23-24). This casting of lots for Jesus’ clothes is a fulfillment of the great crucifixion prophecy of David in Psalms 22 around a thousand years before the time of Christ Jesus. This dividing up of the garments is prophesied in Psalms 22:18, and is one of the many exact fulfillments that Christ providentially achieved under the sovereignty of God’s plan. *Application* Things like this help our faith when we realize that such coordination is impossible without the mighty Hand of God in these Divine circumstances. God is at work to fulfill His overarching will and plan in this world. Praise the LORD who works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).

-Jesus is derided and rudely mocked while dying on the wooden cross by passersby coming in and out of Jerusalem, the religious leaders led by the chief priests, and by Roman soldiers who participating in the ridicule of the Lord of lords. Amazingly, Christ took all the bad mouthing and making fun of without responding or getting angry with revenge. He focused on the mission to save the world in love and did not stray off His course set by the Father in Heaven.

-Some of the remarks reveal what these people thought of Him. They took Him to be a blasphemer who made bold claims about destroying and rebuilding the Temple physically. They misinterpreted the significance of the New Covenant and the Spirit-filled age, which was about to be initiated for the spreading of the gospel unto the whole world for the salvation of many lives that were separated from the knowledge and love of the Lord. They scoffed at His claims that He could save, and wanted to see a sign of Him saving Himself as proof of His Divinity. This was a trap and temptation of Satan to get Christ off His mission of an atoning sacrifice, but it didn’t work. Jesus endured and overcame despite every effort to thwart Him. These mockers clearly heard His message that He claimed to be the Son of God, but they were unwilling to accept this message because it seemed so absurd to them. In their minds the Messiah could never humble Himself enough to take this abuse and suffering. They didn’t see Him as the suffering Servant, but the mighty King who would change their own nation for selfish motivations and with self-indulging signs and wonders. They totally missed the point of the Messiah’s first incarnation. The blinders remained on and the ears were still deaf. For the Roman soldiers, their arrogance in imperialistic power kept them from realizing that God had visited them. They thought it to be foolishness that a King would be defeated by a humiliating death on a cross (1 Corinthians 1:21-25). Even the thieves on the cross hurled taunts at the Savior, though one would come around and fear the Lord receiving salvation in the end.

-*Application* Don’t take lightly the abuse of the Lord’s Name. This is the third commandment given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and it is sometimes an easy temptation to fall into. These people we have studied today had no clue what they were actually doing and saying about the King of the universe. We also will face temptations to go along with the crowd and deny the Name of the Lord and His power in our lives. This is dangerous and will lead us into unbelief if we are not careful. The world still thinks little of the Lord Jesus Christ and will try to pull you away from Him and His humble wisdom. Don’t succumb to peer pressure and deceit. Seek His truth and live.

-This darkness that enveloped the area for three hours from about 12:00pm to 3:00pm would be presumed to be a solar eclipse, but this is not possible since the Passover only occurred during a full moon and a solar eclipse can only occur during a new moon phase. Rather, this was a supernatural act of the Sovereign LORD having a physical manifestation (the sun’s light failed) with spiritual implications for us to consider. Darkness in Scripture represents lament (deep, agonizing sorrow, Amos 8:9-10) and Divine judgment (Exodus 10:21-23, 2 Peter 2:4, Jude 1:6, 13). It is often the sign of an eschatological (last things) event taking place (Isaiah 60:2, Joel 2:1-2, 31, Amos 5:18-20, Zephaniah 1:15). These literal events had spiritual implications figuratively representing the fact that Jesus was bearing God’s wrath for His people, and it was also expressive of the LORD’s displeasure for crucifying His One and Only Begotten Son when we think about it. *Application* While there was darkness in the death of the Christ, we see the end result as His children who have received His grace. This vibrant biblical theme comes alive in us as we realize that in Him we step into marvelous Light (1 Peter 2:9, John 12:46, 1 John 1:5; 2:8). He overcomes the darkness of wrath and sin to give us victory and eternal life! Jesus has overcome the grave, which is awesome news for us. He gives us His Spirit to light and illuminate our way (Daniel 2:22, Matthew 5:16, John 1:9; 14:16-18; 16:13), and His Word as a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105).

-Jesus now cries out to the Father because He has been forsaken. God could not look upon the sin, which Jesus was taking on in the spiritual realm, and this separation (which was momentary) frazzled (exhausted and in a very confused or irritable state) the Lord to the point of desperation. This was understandable under His mental and physical duress. We also must consider that this was a new, and undeserved, sensation as He had always been One with God the Father, and now was experiencing, in some way, disunion as a sacrifice for all of mankind. He was taking the penalty as the Just for the unjust (1 Peter 3:18).

-The observers were confused themselves over the words of Christ Jesus, which were probably moaned in His agony and pain. They thought that He may have been calling on Elijah and wanted to see if he would come in a supernatural event. Someone offered Him sour wine as He thirsted (John 19:28), and Jesus offered up His Spirit proclaiming that “Father, into Your Hands I commit My Spirit (Luke 23:46),” and “It is finished (John 19:30)!”

-*Application* It is finished! Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross covers our every sin when we accept His great salvation through repentance and faith. Jesus, through taking on the sinfulness of man, has given us all the unique opportunity to reconnect to the Father and His amazing grace, which gives us all of His benefits in earth and eternity! He has taken pity on us and considered our depraved state and actually done something in love to correct it. Praise the LORD for His compassion and receive His bountiful and abundant gift!

-The Scriptures describe Jesus’ final few moments in great detail before He gave up His Spirit and returned to the Father victorious without sin or blemish in His earthly mission to rescue and save mankind. He received the sour wine (John 19:30), uttered a loud cry, claimed “It is finished,” said “Father into Your Hands I commit My Spirit (Luke 23:46),” bowed His head, and gave up His Spirit (Matthew 27:50).

-The centurion who had been taking care of the crucifixion process, much like the penitent thief, turned in his demeanor and attitude based on Luke’s testimony (Luke 23:47). He praised God and claimed Jesus’ innocence, which was a drastic turn from the mockery he inflicted, or at least allowed under his command as a Roman authority. For this to have happened we must conclude that the supernatural events that were taking place (earthquake, darkness, Temple veil torn, graves opening, etc.) and Jesus’ calm and steadfast Spirit as a testimony must have won him over to see what he hadn’t seen before. He had an up close and personal vantage point of all these incredible events, and it radically changed him it appears by his confession that this truly was the Son of God (Matthew 27:54, Mark 15:39)!

-The crowds who had come together for this, as the Bible describes, spectacle returned home beating their breasts (Luke 23:48, cross reference Luke 18:13) as a demonstration of possible grief and repentance. As Jesus had stated, they knew not what they did, and it was now too late at least in their finite-natural minds (Luke 23:34). Perhaps this was a realization of the truth and deep Godly sorrow. Christ had come in peace and they violently put Him to a horrific death on the excruciating cross. He had gone innocently as the Lamb of God to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7) and now these people may have felt deep regret for their actions. His acquaintances and the women who had followed Him from Galilee stood at a distance watching all these things (Luke 23:49).

-*Application* The death of our Lord and Savior should have the same impact on us as it did for those who stood by witnessing the scene in all its terror, sadness, and ultimate glory unto God. We should reflect deeply on the cost of Christ’s sacrifice for us and the opportunity it gives us to have new life in Him abundant and free. By His wounds we are healed (1 Peter 2:24)! Glory unto our Great and Awesome King forever!

-At the moment of Christ’s departure, some supernatural events took place that the gospel writers included in their biographies. The earth shook violently (earthquakes are common in this region, but the timing of God was impeccable here as to only be of Him). The veil of Temple tore in two from top to bottom at this time, which was very thick. In fact it was too thick to even be separated by an earthquake or the falling of the lintel (for more precise commentary on the veil a great source is: http://www.reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/20%20Split%20Veil,%20etc.htm). *Application* This event has incredible theological implications as the legalistic dispensation is concluded and the age of the indwelling Holy Spirit is in many ways initiated by the access to the Holy of Holies, which Jesus’ death provided. We cannot minimize the significance of this moment. Jesus had claimed that He would destroy the Temple and in three days rebuild it (John 2:19-22). This tearing of the veil from top to bottom was God’s opening up of Himself to every nation and tribe for the spreading of His glory. He would be concealed no longer. His death made a way for the simple plan of salvation to be disseminated across the globe. This was only the beginning. This visible manifestation to the religious leaders would have and should have been a real wakeup call that Jesus was who He claimed to be. The sad thing is even this could not awaken the faith of many of these hard hearted religious stalwarts of tradition.

-We also see the dead resurrected in part and coming into the Holy City being seen by many witnesses after the resurrection of Christ on the third day, Sunday (Matthew 27:53). This is a mystifying and perplexing event that only one biblical author describes in only two verses of Scripture. There is no other biblical or historical account of this event, and Matthew treats it topically out of the order of events here for a theological purpose of emphasizing the resurrection in the midst of the crucifixion. These individuals were no doubt Old Testament believers who had looked forward to the Messiah and His promise and were now resurrected along with the risen Savior (Matthew 27:52 uses the term “raised” to indicate a difference from resuscitations like with Lazarus in John 11:44). We may have some other Scriptural evidence and some shedding of light on this occurrence in Isaiah 26:19, Ezekiel 37, and 1 Peter 3:18-21; 4:6. These resurrected bodies that appeared to many in Jerusalem from their tombs more than likely ascended to Heaven near the time of Christ’s ascension if not simultaneously. Of course this is conjecture because it is not clear in the biblical account. *Application* This resurrection account provides the biblical motif for our own resurrection in Christ, which is best delineated in 1 Corinthians 15. Christ Jesus is the first fruits of the eternal life we can all have in Him by placing our faith in His gracious work on the cross (Romans 8:23, 1 Corinthians 15:20, James 1:18). This is what makes the gospel so impactful for us concerning the hope of glory. This theme is also foreshadowed in the Old Testament by Moses (Exodus 23:16-19; 34:22-26) and other prophets (Nehemiah 10:35, Ezekiel 44:30). (For more on this topic see: http://christianthinktank.com/oddrise.html.)

-The veracity of Jesus’ burial is important for us to consider, because if there is no physical death the resurrection could be considered a hoax. The details of the entombment of the Lord are chronicled by all four gospel writers as witnesses to the fact that Christ was officially declared dead and a genuine burial was indeed conducted. Here we summarize the specifics given as to where, when, and how Jesus was laid to rest in His deceased state.

-First, we see the intriguing figure of Joseph of Arimathea (a small Jewish village thought to be 20 miles or so northwest from Jerusalem). He was a rich man, who fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah 53:9. He was described as a good and righteous member of the Sanhedrin council (Mark 15:43, Luke 23:50). He was a secret disciple of Jesus who did not consent with the religious leaders decision and action with the Lord, and he was looking for the Kingdom of God (Matthew 27:57, Luke 23:51, John 19:38). He was rightfully sacred for fear of the Jews, but he took courage by the will of God and asked Pilate’s permission to bury Jesus in his newly hewn tomb in which no one had ever been laid (Matthew 27:60, Mark 15:43, Luke 23:53). He and Nicodemus anointed the Lord for His burial and wrapped Him in a clean linen shroud and placed Him in the tomb quickly because it was the day of Preparation for the Sabbath. Nicodemus was also a ruler of the Jews in the Sanhedrin, and he was the one who came to Jesus seeking how to be saved in John 3 (John 19:39). Here we see evidence of his trusting in Jesus and the coming Kingdom that was not of this world.

-In addition, Pilate, we see from the Scriptures, is surprised that Jesus was already dead in a matter of hours. With all the events of the day, which he more than likely witnessed, including the time of darkness, the earthquake, and the torn veil, he was probably wondering how they could have so quickly carried out an execution. Mark is the gospel writer who gives us the perplexity of Pilate when asked for permission for the body of Jesus. This gospel writer states how Pilate even questioned the centurion as to the genuineness of Christ’s death, which is even more proof of the physical passing of Christ from this earth.

-Jesus was laid in the garden tomb, which was very close in proximity to the place where He was crucified again for the reason of expediency due to the coming Sabbath (John 19:42). The stone was rolled to cover the grave to complete the process. This whole sequence was orchestrated and carried out ultimately by the Hand of God in amazing fashion to fulfill the Old Testament Scriptures prophetically. It is as if God had seen the whole drama play out beforehand (which He actually did). Here we see the transcendent nature of the LORD at this pivotal time in human history. God, who is outside of time, works in our earthly order to bring about His plans and purposes for salvation. The fulfillment of these prophecies to the exact degree gives us reliable reason to have faith and trust in His authority over all things. *Application* When we actually sit and contemplate how amazing all this is, we should be astonished and amazed with a heart of worship for this incomparable God of glory.

-The women, particularly Mary Magdalene and Mary (the mother of James and John), were watching to see where they laid the Savior. They along with other women who had followed Jesus from Galilee had been watching the whole scene at a distance and returned to prepare spices and ointments for His deceased body. They rested on the Sabbath and would return on the first day of the week to find the most incredible event of history! *Application* Consider the facts of Christ’s actual death today and believe in the supernatural. This was the power of God to save the world and we must believe in His work.

-The religious leaders, the chief priests and Pharisees, went on the Sabbath to Pilate with concerns about the disciples stealing the body of Jesus due to His claims that He would rise in three days. From this statement we can see that the message Christ gave before His death on resurrection was clear, even to the pompous and arrogant leaders of the Jewish manmade traditional system of the time. Jesus had effectively and accurately perpetuated His true gospel so that there was no doubt as to what He had said and what He meant. Christ’s ultimate sign was obvious (Matthew 12:38-42, Luke 11:16-32, John 2:18-21) and these doubting men wanted to make every effort to avoid heresy and fraud by what they thought to be an impostor, which is understandable.

-Pilate gave them a group of guard soldiers, presumably the same military guard assigned to oversee the temple area security, to make the tomb as secure as possible. So they went and sealed the stone over the grave of the Lord and set guards over it (Matthew 27:66; 28:4). After the resurrection, these men were paid off to keep the raising of Jesus a secret, which was widely reported in the region (Matthew 28:11-15).

-*Application* The incident with the guards is yet another opportunity missed to receive the truth of the gospel for the religious leadership. It is kicking against the pricks and foolish to be faced with such an obvious truth, yet reject it. We should not have stubborn hearts in pride that are hard and inflexible. When God reveals Himself to you, don’t rationalize and talk yourself out of His miracles. It is easier to do than we think. Receive all His Spirit has for you and accept His Word spoken over you for fullness of joy. Don’t be like these religious leaders who never could understand the ways of the Lord and made excuses until it was too late.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bible Study Notes in Matthew- Chapter 26


Matthew 26

 

-The instance of the anointing occurs right before Christ’s crucifixion and burial in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, where Mary (simply indentified as a woman in Matthew and Mark), the sister of Martha and Lazarus (John 11:1-19) pours the alabaster ointment on the Head of Christ in preparation for His burial, as Jesus puts it. He assures the guests that observed this act that it was righteous and that it would be remembered throughout the course of gospel history in the whole world (which has certainly come to pass). The disciples, with the spokesman being the pilfering betrayer Judas Iscariot, were indignant and deceitfully remarked about using the money from this having greater potential with the poor. Jesus rebuked them and let them know that there would always be opportunity to help the poor, but He was only with them at this particular time. Had they really realized the significance of this moment and the fact that they were in the presence of Almighty God, their reaction would probably have been much different. Their eyes and ears were still somewhat dull and unperceptive. Jesus corrects them on this and commends the woman’s act of kindness done unto Him. *Application* The issue for us here is to consider our love and devotion to the King of kings and Lord of lords. We must anoint Him as God and Lord every day in our lives by coming into His presence and worshipping at His feet. For Mary to wipe the feet of Jesus with her hair, she had to bow before Him (John 12:3) We must also come humbly before Him every day and all the time for recognition as to who He is. It is only in this manner that we can rise up and do the service of our great and mighty King in the world in which we live. “Bless the LORD O my soul and all that is within me, bless His Holy Name (Psalm 103)!”

-Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, goes to the chief priests and works out a deal for his own personal benefit to betray the Lord Jesus Christ. He is awarded 30 pieces of silver for the delivering over of the Lord to the religious authorities by seeking an opportunity to betray Him in the absence of a crowd. Some have speculated that Judas may have had decent motives in this activity. They will give him too much benefit of the doubt and say that perhaps he was simply trying to usher in the Kingdom by force through instigating a conflict. This in my opinion is a short-sighted misinterpretation of the Scriptures. John and Luke are very poignant that Satan had filled his heart and only had greedy and evil intent with this betrayal (Luke 22:3, John 13:2). Judas Iscariot goes down as one of the greatest villains of all time by denying the Lord Jesus. *Application* Anytime greed and selfish motivation become our foray we are in deep trouble with the Lord. Be careful not to turn away from God and His plans for your life by seeking your own desires and the world’s pleasures. It could absolutely mean your demise and lead to your destruction.

-This last supper with the disciples occurs on the Thursday evening before the Christ’s crucifixion, Nisan 15, which is the first day of Unleavened Bread. Jesus instructs Peter and John to go and prepare the supper in an upper room in the city of Jerusalem at an unknown man’s guest room whom Jesus directed them to, either prearranged or supernaturally. When it was evening they ate the meal together as to the custom of the Jews reclining at the table. It is at this time that Jesus reveals that one with them will betray Him. He dips in the dish bowl with Judas Iscariot, and He pronounces woe upon him saying it would have been better if he had not been born. Ouch! The Lord reminds us that all had been written and determined beforehand concerning His going to the cross.

-The communion is given for the first time here in this occasion. They eat the bread of the body and drink the cup of the blood of the New Covenant together for the last time before Christ’s sacrifice for the salvation of all mankind unto the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28). Jesus prophecies that they will not drink of the fruit of the vine again until they drink it new together in the Father’s Kingdom. This refers to the Messianic wedding banquet in the eschaton (Matthew 8:11, Revelation 19:9). *Application* Communion is a holy, somber, and righteous act done in remembrance of the Son and His salvific activities at the cross. It represents how the Lord has reunified us together with Him and each other as believers in perfect union. It is the consummation of the New Covenant ratified in His blood shed for us in pain and suffering for the purpose of justification from all sin in the Father’s sight unto the believer. Never lose sight of the importance of this offering God in His grace bestowed upon us, His beloved. Some have wrongly taken communion unto serious consequences in the spiritual realm (1 Corinthians 11:27-31). Don’t be flippant when partaking of the Lord’s bread and cup.

-After the disciples had sung a hymn, they were at the Mount of Olives when Jesus told them that the Shepherd would be struck down and the sheep would scatter. Peter, speaking for the entire group piped up and said that he would go to the death with Christ promising to never leave Him or forsake Him. However, Jesus, knowing the heart of man once again, predicted that in that very night before the rooster crowed (Mark says twice, Matthew gives three times) he would deny Him three times. This in fact happens as Jesus is taken into custody, and Peter realizes the truth of the Lord’s claims to the point of immense grief (Matthew 26:69-75, Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:54-62). However, just as Jesus also predicted, Peter is restored and his faith turns again to the Christ (Luke 22:32). His faith ultimately does not fail and he becomes a tremendous leader in the church as the gospel goes out to the world. *Application* The Lord deals in reality and truth. Optimism without reality and truth produces no hope. The reality in Peter’s life was that there were deficiencies, which he was not even aware of. Jesus pointed out his condition and brought His beloved disciple to the point of brokenness and the realization that he wasn’t as faithful as he thought. Allow the Lord to shape your life in the same way. Ask Him to expose the weaknesses and reveal all to you for the purpose of repentance and restoration in Him. You will arise a spiritual giant once the Lord has refined you for His purposes. This is a difficult process, but absolutely rewarding. It is the death to self and the resurrection in His power that we need.

-Jesus, in the night, takes His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray earnestly for the cup of the Lord’s wrath on Him to be removed. Nevertheless, the Christ wanted the Father’s will over His own will in this matter and was obedient to the plans of God. He brought Peter, James, and John into the area about a stone’s throw away from where He was praying. They were tired, weary, and sorrowful at this point and could not resist sleeping in their physical bodies even though the Lord said their spirit was willing (Matthew 26:41, Mark 14:38). This happened three times as Jesus went to pray, came back, went to pray, came back and went to pray and came back a third time. He was deeply grieved and sorrowful to the point of death, the Word tells us, in His final hours before His crucifixion. The stress was enormous as we read about as the perspiration of blood dripped from His body while He knelt in prayer. Luke tells us that an angel came to strengthen Him in these moments. Jesus was in the presence of the Lord, but He was suffering terribly. The realization that His disciples were sleeping probably caused Him even greater rejection sorrow because He knew the supreme significance of this hour and the spiritual warfare that was present. He warned them to pray so that they would not be overcome with temptation. The truth was, Peter would draw a sword and cut off the ear of a servant of the High Priest (Malchus, John 18:10), and the rest of them would scatter in fear. They succumbed to the temptation of the moment, but God eventually restored them and not one of them was lost other than Judas Iscariot (John 17:12; 18:9). *Application* How often does the Lord call on us to do difficult things for His Kingdom and His purposes here on earth? The answer is all the time if we are sensitive enough to hear His voice and obey. It is never easy to completely follow the will and the direction of the Lord, but it will yield the harvest of righteousness and goodness in the end when you do. There is always sacrifice in the offering, but the reward is tremendous as we see in the final victory of Christ Jesus after He had gone through His torture and death but resurrected with power and glory. Obey the Lord in all that He is asking you to do in His Name. Answer the call willingly as Jesus did and put aside your own will. The Lord’s example should inspire our complete devotion (1 Kings 8:61, 2 Chronicles 16:9, Hebrews 12:1-3).

-The crowd of people from the chief priests, scribes, and elders of the people came at night with Judas Iscariot, swords, clubs, and torches to possibly do battle with the people of Jesus and bring Him into custody. Several, if not many, of the disciples probably thought at the time that the Kingdom of God would have to be won by force such as is common to man and the natural order of things on this earth. The Lord turns this potentially violent scene into a virtually harmless event with His words and healing action after the cutting off of the ear of Malchus by Peter (Luke 22:51, John 18:8-11). Judas Iscariot betrayed His Lord with a kiss as a sign in the dark night as to who His Rabbi was for all the throng of captors. The Christ asked him the question, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss (Luke 22:48)?” The Lord, as we see in the book of John, was willing to go with them without a fight and readily identified Himself to the shock and awe of those around (John 18:6). The falling to the ground and back may have been proof of some Divine revelation, which is not uncommon in the Scriptures (Ezekiel 1:28; 44:4, Daniel 2:46; 8:18; 10:9, Acts 9:4; 22:7; 26:14, Revelation 1:17; 19:10; 22:8). Jesus was now in the hands of evil men for the purpose of humanity’s salvation. *Application* I doubt many of us have been in a physical situation like this where people are coming to capture or detain us. The presence Christ had in this tense moment, however, should give us confidence in stressful situations we sometimes face in life. I’m sure we can identify with altercations with mean spirited and angry people who intend to disrupt our peace in stressful environments or situations. Let the serenity of Christ overwhelm you in those moments and put on the Spirit-filled fruit of self-control when these temptations arise. Don’t freak out, stay cool under pressure! It will be a testimony to all.

-The band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews lead the crowd that arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane near the base of the Mount of Olives, just to the east across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem. It was in the dark of night, and Jesus commented concerning this power of darkness and the underhanded way that these had come to Him undercover rather than openly (Matthew 26:55, Mark 14:48-49, Luke 22:53). This was in fulfillment of the prophets in the Scriptures (Isaiah 53:1-12, Daniel 9:25-26). The Lamb must go to the slaughter without a fight sacrificially and carrying the load. No one took Jesus into custody. He could have called down twelve legions of angels (72,000) to deliver Him if He had appealed to the Father (Matthew 26:53), but He didn’t. He suffered, the just for the unjust for the purpose of our salvation if we turn to Him in faith (1 Peter 3:18). Again, He refrained from violence and denounced it commenting that, “…all who take up the sword will perish by the sword (Matthew 26:52).” This was not the way of the Kingdom of God. It would be won through love, faith, and sacrifice, not by force (Luke 16:15-16, John 3:16, 1 John 5:4-5). The Christ will drink from the cup that the LORD had given Him (John 18:11) *Application* Christ’s teaching here seems to our natural minds so antithetical to the normal manner of operation. In other words, He goes against the flow of this marred, diluted, and depraved world and radically alters our perception of how things should be. We would never think naturally that to give up would gain the greatest victory, but in the end it is God’s power that conquers through sacrificial obedience. This is the revolutionary message of the cross and it is still transforming lives today! For an excellent example see the movie To End All Wars.

-Jesus is led by the officers from Gethsemane to Annas and then to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest, as we can ascertain from the Scriptures. He is taken in for questioning in an attempt to garner testimony that would condemn Him before the chief priest, the scribes, and the elders. This was an illegal gathering according to their laws of the Sanhedrin (prominent Sadducees and Pharisees). Many were brought forward to give accusation against the Lord, but they did not concur and were proven false again and again because of disagreements in their witness. It finally came down to a direct question from the high priest as to if He was the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed (Mark 14:61). When Jesus claimed that, “I Am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right Hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of Heaven (Matthew 26:64, Mark 14:62, Luke 22:69-70),” it was enough to draw the ire of the council and condemn Him for blasphemy. His fate in the eyes of the Jewish leaders was sealed at that point, but they could not crucify Him without permission from the governor, which would be the next step in the passion of Christ Jesus. *Application* When we stand against the accusers in our life, how do we react? We learn from Jesus here that our testimony needs to be true and accurate with no deception or lies. We don’t need to make up stories or excuses when confronted, and we don’t have to say all that much. Christ really made no defense. His life backed up His testimony. He would come with Power from on High, which was not a lie fabricated in His mind with falsehood. He simply spoke the facts and left the results to God. So should we when accusation arises. Live with integrity.

-Peter, and one other disciple unknown to the high priest (probably John), follow the Christ into His custody hearing before the high priests, the scribes, and the elders at the house of Caiaphas. There are different accounts of how things happened in the gospels, but we see the Word of Christ coming to fulfillment in the life of Peter, the man who claimed just hours earlier he would never leave or forsake the Lord even to death (Matthew 26:35, Mark 14:29, Luke 22:33). Peter is with Him, but denies even knowing the Man three times before the rooster crowed twice. His response was remorse and bitter weeping knowing that he was not the man he thought he was in light of all that had just happened. He had not yet received the Holy Spirit and the power that would later characterize his life as we read in Acts. Satan had desired to sift him like wheat (Luke 22:31), but Christ prayed for him and he would be restored in faith and turn back to the Lord to strengthen his brothers (Luke 22:32). He had cursed the very association with Christ Jesus and denied Him flatly and plainly. However, this was not the end and he would receive the grace and forgiveness every person needs from the Savior. *Application* O how sweet restoration is! We have it in Christ, who is our great Intercessor before the LORD (Romans 8:34). Please realize how great a God we have that cares for us in our weakness and restores us, and our weak constitutions in depravity, through the remission of sins. Even when we have great intentions, we like Peter, fail and don’t stand for God at times. Turn back to Him and let Him fill you with His strength and power through the Holy Spirit’s work in your life.

 

 

Verses to Memorize: Matthew 26:39, 52

Monday, February 24, 2014

Bible Study Notes in Matthew- Chapter 25


Matthew 25

 

-Jesus, still within the context of talking about His second coming and the last things, compares the Kingdom of Heaven to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five of them were wise. The wise ones brought along oil in flasks for their lamps due to the uncertain nature of the length of time the bridegroom would take to come for the wedding feast. This was cultural and easily understood to those in the audience of Jesus’ teaching. This is a foreign concept in our day and bears some need for instruction here.

-Jesus explains the story of the Jewish wedding and the mirror image it portrays of the first and second coming of Jesus Christ the Messiah. Looking at the parable of the Ten Virgins it is easy to speculate that it only refers to the second coming of Christ.  But, for our edification, I am going to give the whole picture of the first coming of Christ, the Church, and the second coming for His bride.  The Jewish wedding in the time of Christ is different than a Jewish wedding in this modern age.  In Bible times the Jewish people were given in marriage by a betrothal (Kiddushin) which means to sanctify, this was the stage in which a covenant agreement was made for the marriage (Lamm, 146).  

-The marriage consists of three stages and is expressed by the Biblical term kichah. In the first stage, the man gives a women money known as a kessef. The kessef is usually a coin, or something of value. The man is to stand before two witnesses and say, “You are hereby betrothed unto me with this symbol in accordance with the Laws of Moses and Israel.”  The bride then agrees to the price given and accepts. This is an indication that she is willing to marry the groom (Lamm, 146).  The bride and groom are not allowed to be live together, but are considered married.  No intimate relationship occurs during this time of the marriage process.

-The second stage of the marriage agreement is the bond known as the she’tar. This pact is given by the man to the women as a contractual agreement which contains the names of the couple and the groom’s intent to marry. This contract does not give legal evidence for the marriage, but is done before two or more witnesses to move the marriage forward.   The second half of this stage is known as the Ketubah (Lamm, 197). This is an agreement before witnesses that he, the husband, will take care of his wife humanely and financially. This contractual agreement secures a certain financial obligation to the wife in the event of a divorce (Lamm, 198).

-The third stage of the marriage is the consummation known as the bi’ah.  This occurs after the wedding feast has taken place. The bride and groom go to private quarters and consummate the marriage with sexual intimacy and intercourse.  At this stage, the marriage is complete both officially and legally.

-The process of the marriage agreement is drawn out for several months. The longest period of time from the betrothal to the consummation period is twelve months.  The son returns to his father’s home until the time of the wedding feast. During this twelve month period the bride and the groom are immersed in water for sanctification before the wedding feast and consummation. Confession of any sin is stressed and emphasized during this period. Also, the bridegroom gets living quarters ready for his new bride, while the bride prepares and gets everything in order for her new married life.

-On the day of the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom fast for a cleansing of their sins and to avoid drinking or being stained by worldly temptations (Lamm, 189-196).  The groom has a table set up for the feast known as Kabbalat Panim (Lamm, 197).  A throne is set up at the feast for his bride where she can be surrounded by her bridesmaids (virgins) in honor. The groom sings praises to his bride and all that are present partake in a glorious banquet.

-Historically and biblically speaking, this is the picture of Christ. The betrothal is a picture of the covenant agreement the Lord gave to Abraham and the people of Israel.

Genesis 17:9   God said further to Abraham, "Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.”

-The prospective bridegroom would then travel to meet his bride and negotiate the price (contract) for her.  Christ came to earth to pay the price for His bride, the church, including both Jews and Gentiles. The price (kessef or mohar) that Christ negotiated for His bride was death on the cross, the ultimate gift (1 Corinthians 6:20, Isaiah 27:9). He then rose again on the third day. 

-The Period of Preparation - Jesus after paying the price for our sins, returned to the Father’s House for a period of time. This is the period of the church age. This, then, is the stage between the betrothal and consummation period.  In Matthew 25:1 it states, "Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom.”  The analogy given in this parable relates to people of the church.  Each one of us should be waiting for the second coming of Christ just as the bridesmaids did for their wedding feast.

-In ancient Judaism the bride and the bridesmaids did not know when the bridegroom would come. Signs and indications were given to the bride and her party that the bridegroom was on his way, but they did not know the day or the hour. As the days came closer the virgins (bridesmaids) would wait outside with their lamps.  The groom would always come at night, the virgins (bridesmaids) had to be ready to light the way to the feast.

-The bridegroom would arrive with a ‘shout’!  He was coming to get his bride. This is a picture of Christ returning for the second time: Matthew 25:6, "But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.'”

-The wedding feast and all who were ready for the bridegroom go into the wedding feast.  The bride was given a throne were the bridegroom would honor her. The virgins and bridesmaids would be all around her in the wedding feast.

-*Application* The most essential element to this parable is preparation. Is the church ready to meet the bridegroom? In answering the key questions of this passage one has to look at every aspect listed. The ten women in this parable were all virgins, equipped with a lamp and oil; all of them fell asleep waiting for the bridegroom. Let’s look at each piece and define the meaning.

-The lamp is a symbol of light. Each virgin, being pure and set apart, was equipped with the ability to produce light in dark places. Many scriptures can be cross referenced to back the meaning of the lamp. Let’s look at Psalm 119:105  Thy word is a lamp to my feet, And a light to my path.” The lamp is the word of God; each of the virgins was equipped with the ability to know the Lord. Other illustrations given in the Scriptures, especially in Matthew, make the point that the lamp refers to the soul. (Matthew 6:22, Luke11:25) Once a lamp is lit who would hide it (Matthew 5:15)? From reading the parable all were equipped with a lamp and oil. Each girl was set apart and pure (virginity) before the Lord. Yet, five unwise virgins were not prepared with extra oil.

-The oil- What is the meaning of the oil and the preparation of the coming of Christ?  Do we literally sell our homes, buy a virgin dress and sit outside waiting for our Messiah. Some have attempted this. However, this is not what the Lord meant by preparation.

-We must first take a look at Exodus and the meaning of the lamp stand and the oil in the Old Testament. Aaron was a required by the Lord to refill the lamp day and night to keep the flame burning at all times (Exodus 27:20-21). The people of Israel were to bring pure, crushed olive oil to Aaron daily. This refers to the constant presence of the Spirit of the Lord that is needed and essential if there is to be His indwelling blessing.

-The preparation for the five wise virgins illustrates how we are to honor the Lord with our lives and wait for His coming.  Those who are wise understand that the cultivation of the soul is essential to their walk with Christ. Having an abiding relationship should naturally result in the daily reading of the Word of God, prayer, and meditation, all of which are vital to being ready for the Messiah. As believers we are to let our light shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify the Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16).  As Christians we cannot afford to grow complacent, drifting into worldliness while we are waiting. A good example of this is found in Matthew 24:35-51 referring to a servant who was caught unaware.

-The unwise virgins, or fools, represent hypocrisy in Christianity. These women were not prepared; they had a form of godliness but denied the power (2 Timothy 3:1-5). During the great day of testing those who do not have an abiding relationship through the oil of the Holy Spirit will find their lamps going out. By studying Scripture you can observe that those whose lamps are going out cannot borrow at the time of Christ coming from the wise.  Each believer is responsible for attending to his or her own soul. Do not be like the unwise who is caught unaware with worldliness, complacency, and drifting in the faith.  You do not know the day or the hour in which the Lord will return. Are you ready?

-Source: Talmud, Jewish Tradition of Love and Marriage by Maurice Lamm

-The next section depicts the scene when Jesus, the Son of Man, comes in His glory with all the angels and sits on His glorious throne (Matthew 25:31-46). All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will judge them separating the sheep (believers) from the goats (unbelievers). Sheep will go to the right into an inherited Kingdom with blessed eternal life and the goats will go to the left departing into accursed eternal punishment, which was prepared for the devil and his angels (notice it was not designed for mankind but his rejection of Christ led them there) (Matthew 25:34, 41, 46).

-First of all in the parable of the giving of talents we see that the Lord’s Kingdom is compared to a man who went on a journey and entrusted his possessions to his servants (doulous, slaves). Next we see that there is a distribution given out according to each’s ability but in abundance (a talent, or resource, was a great amount of money). Then we see either the produce of effort, or the squandering of opportunity by the servants. There is a “long” time before the master comes back and settles his accounts with the servants blessing the first two who produced double and chastising the one who was lazy. The disciples were near Jerusalem and thought that the Kingdom of God was going to appear immediately (Luke 19:11), but Jesus says basically that He (as the nobleman in the story) was going to be going away to receive a Kingdom for Himself and then return (Luke 19:20). The focus is on how the stewards of the kingdom’s treasures use their resources to increase. The king was so hard on the man who didn’t increase because: 1) he didn’t share his master’s interest in the kingdom; 2) he didn’t trust his master’s intentions; 3) his only concern was for himself; and 4) he did nothing to use the money. *Application* Like the king of this story, God has given you gifts to use on behalf on His Kingdom. How bad do you want His Kingdom to increase? You have been given much and have the power to make a difference. So you may not have all the talents in the world, but you have been given abundant measure. Don’t squander any prospect to do God’s work and especially don’t throw your opportunity for salvation away by neglecting what Christ has done for you. Those who have done more in this realm will be given even more in the Heavenly realm if they produce.

-The Lord makes the point that it was Him who these were ministering to, or not ministering to, in each situation whether it be feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, including the stranger, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, or coming to the prisoner for companionship and encouragement.

-*Application* It is obvious here that we will be held accountable for everything we do in the Name of Jesus Christ here on this earth. These acts of kindness come from a pure heart that has been changed by the love of Christ and extends to others who are in true and desperate need. Don’t reject the promptings of the Holy Spirit when He tells you to help people. You are actually doing it, or not doing it, directly to the Lord as we plainly see here in this passage.

 

 

Verses to Memorize: Matthew 25:13, 46

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bible Study Notes in Matthew- Chapter 24


Matthew 24

 

-As Christ’s disciples and He were coming out of the Temple, the disciples remarked about the beautiful building and its adornment. Jesus prophesied that there would come a time when it would be destroyed with not one stone left upon another (this was fulfilled in 70 AD when the Roman army destroyed the Temple and brick by brick deconstructed it in search of its gold). The disciples privately asked Him on the Mount of Olives three important questions: 1. When will these things (destruction of the Temple) be? 2. What will be the sign of Your coming? 3. What will be the sign/signs of the end of the age?

-The Lord goes into a lengthy discourse to prepare them and the rest of the world, as it is put into Scripture, for the signs of His coming and the end of the age. Important things to note from His teaching are: See that no one misleads you, false Christs and false prophets will come and deceive many, wars and rumors of wars will occur along with famines, earthquakes, tumult on the seas (this is not yet the end though, just the beginning of birth pangs), a great persecution will arise against the elect delivering them to authorities and some will be killed, there will be a falling away (apostasy) and people’s love will grow cold because lawlessness will increase. Endurance to the end is reiterated over and over with a watchful, awake eye on the things that are transpiring. Alertness and readiness are the key components in Jesus’ preparation lecture. The ones who endure will be saved (Matthew 24:13, Mark 13:13, Luke 21:19). The gospel of the Kingdom of God will be preached and proclaimed throughout the whole earth as a testimony to the nations and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14, Mark 13:10).

-The end of the age is set in earnest by the act of the abomination of desolation (spoken of by Daniel, Daniel 12:11) standing in the Holy Place, the Temple. This is the middle of the tribulation period of Jacob’s trouble if we compare Scripture with Scripture in careful analysis, which this devotion does not have time for right now. Jesus tells them that when this happens, the people in the area of Jerusalem are best to head to the Judean wilderness to the east where they can hide and receive the miracles of God for survival (Revelation 12:6). This sparks the great tribulation period of 3 ½ years, which had to be cut short or else no human being would be saved (Matthew 24:22). At the end of this period and in an hour unknown even to the angels and the Son, the Father will send the Son to appear in the heavens coming in great power and great glory and with a trumpet call He will gather His elect (the faithful believers) from the four winds. *Application* The primary focus for us should be on the exhortation to be alert and be ready as we see these things take place with greater frequency and force. We must remain faithful and true to the Word, which will never pass away, and endure to the end no matter how difficult things become. O believer do not lose heart and let your love grow cold. Christ will return and all will be set straight. Our redemption and salvation is for those who overcome in faith by the blood of the Lamb (Romans 12:21, 1 John 4:4; 5:4, Revelation 7:14; 12:11; 17:14)!

 

 

Verses to Memorize: Matthew 24:30, 42

Friday, February 21, 2014

Bible Study Notes in Matthew- Chapter 23


-Jesus warns against the religious leaders who are tearing down the Kingdom of Heaven by their teachings based on the traditions of man rather than building It up by the Spirit of God. Jesus addresses the crowds and the disciples in this discourse themed on hypocrisy in Jerusalem shortly before His death for the sins of mankind. Outward appearances without inward transformation are denounced by the King of kings, along with listening to others apart from our One Teacher in Heaven. He instructs that they should not even call themselves leaders; “for One is your Leader, that is, Christ (Anointed, the Head, Colossians 1:15-18, Matthew 23:10). The greatest among all the brethren in Christ shall be the servant of all. This is a radical departure from where the Synagogue and Temple system was operating. Then Christ gives an all-time classic comment, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled (remember humility is required for Kingdom citizenship, Matthew 18:3-4); and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted (Matthew 23:12).” *Application* Be careful who you follow. A leader who is puffed up and building his own kingdom for his own purposes is unworthy of the genuine Christian life. Our Father in Heaven provides everything we need for spiritual life and learning through His Holy Spirit within us as believers. Trust in His wisdom by His Word alone. Weigh and discern everything that is said by man.

-The Lord then rails on the religious leaders in 8 woes pronounced upon them with the repeated phrase, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites (Matthew 23:13-36).” They are denounced because they are keeping people out of the Kingdom of Heaven, devouring widow’s houses, praying with pride for the applause of man, proselytizing with deception and false doctrine, putting money before God, neglecting justice, mercy, and faithfulness, displaying a fa├žade of purity when they are inwardly impure, and murdering the prophets. *Application* Jesus’ words are strong and stinging and should bring us to self-introspection in the highest sense. We could be guilty of these things just as much as these religious leaders of the first century. Stay pure before the Lord and confess your sins before Him. He is faithful and just to forgive when you do (1 John 1:9).

-Christ ends the chapter with a compassionate-personal touch as He again mourns over the Holy City of Jerusalem preceding His death (Matthew 23:37-39). He prophecies over it and the Jewish people because they had not truly recognized the day of their visitation from the Messiah. However, there remains the promise of restoration when they will one day say, “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD (Psalm 118:26).” The King was about to depart with the certainty of a triumphant return for His people. *Application* We see the tension between God’s wrath and mercy here in this passage. His desire is for compassion and forgiveness, but we must come to Him on His terms, which are really simple and light of burden when we accept it (Matthew 11:28-30). Trusting in Christ is the way we can escape the sentence of hell (Matthew 23:33).

 

 

Verses to Memorize: Matthew 23:8, 37

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Bible Study Notes in Matthew- Chapter 22


Matthew 22

 

-Here in this parable comparing the Kingdom of Heaven, which again exposed the unrighteousness of the Pharisees, Jesus explains how the invited guests refused to come to the wedding feast, and how one who was at the feast had no wedding garment (a picture of Christ’s righteousness, Isaiah 61:10, Revelation 3:5, 2 Corinthians 5:2-4, Galatians 3:27). We see the invitation of the king over and over, but excuses are made and apathetic responses are given. Servants after servants are sent to bring exciting and good news, but they paid no attention, went off to their farms and businesses, treated the messengers shamefully, and even killed them (Matthew 22:5-6). This rejection gave cause for others to be invited in both good and bad, so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

-The man who had no wedding garment is a difficult interpretation and bears some consideration. First, let us consider the facts. He was questioned as to how he got in without a wedding garment. He was speechless and had no answer. He was bound hand and foot and cast into outer darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth. He, as there will be many (in fact all, Acts 15:17, 2 Peter 3:9), was called, but not chosen (“eklektos”, selected, Matthew 22:14). Now, let us consider what this means. We can say that proper wedding attire was still expected by all the guests. There is evidence that in the ancient world a king would supply all of his guests with the proper attire (Genesis 45:22, Esther 6:8-9) and God does the same for His people (Ezekiel 16:10-13). Thus by not wearing the garments provided, this guest highly insulted the host and received just banishment. We should then conclude that the garments refer to the righteousness of Christ that must be “put on” for the acceptance into the Kingdom of Heaven (Romans 13:14). Works will not get us there; it is receiving what the Lord has provided that will make the difference. The Pharisees were complacent in thinking they didn’t need the Savior, content in their good works, which Jesus is correcting them on if any were observant enough to pay attention to His wisdom and instruction. *Application* We have been graciously invited to the best wedding feast of all time (Revelation 19:7-9). God will clothe us in His righteousness as His bride for an everlasting union in paradise, but we must accept it for ourselves. Don’t be left speechless when the King of kings asks where your garments are. Put on Christ and His righteousness for the proper covering. Amen!

-The Pharisees and Herodians (a loosely organized group who promoted Herod’s political and economic influence) approached Jesus for the sole purpose of trapping Him in His words so that they might deliver Him to the government authorities for persecution. The plan was to have Him choose one authority over the other, thereby exposing His allegiance to the other’s chagrin. Jesus brilliantly rightly divides authority lines between what has ordained on earth and what God expectations are from His Kingdom.

-Some of their observations, even though they were in pretense, are noteworthy here. Jesus was said to be true to the LORD, impartial, not caring about anyone’s opinion, or swayed by their appearances. This represents His fear of His Father and His obedience to Him rather than fearing the people, which is a major Scriptural theme.

-Christ Jesus rightly gives authority its proper place. The Lord sets up governments and we are expected to follow in subjection to them to live peaceful lives in the propagation of the Gospel of the Heavenly Kingdom within the context of human institutions (Romans 12:18; 13:1-7). *Application* Whereas it is true that we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29), the general practice is to obey authority as given by the Lord and work within it to do the things God has called us to. Subjection to God and government can usually be a both/and situation as we proclaim the impartial truth of His grace and mercy in Kingdom work not fearing people or being swayed by their opinions.

 

-The Sadducees were a group who derived their power from their involvement in Temple activities and went strictly by the teachings of the Pentateuch had come up with the notion that there is no resurrection of the dead, which was a false teaching Jesus had to correct as they questioned in what they thought was an ingenious way. The Lord actually used their Pentateuch (the five books of the Law of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) to enlighten them on their misconception and bad theology. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. The Sadducees neither knew the Scriptures nor the power of God, which Jesus told them. And, He used the grammar of the Word to refute their doctrine using the burning bush experience with Moses (Exodus 3:1-15). He “is” the God of these patriarchs; as opposed to He “was” the God of them. *Application* How often do we negate the Scriptures in our own lives to follow a particular philosophy or doctrine that may be totally false. Pay attention to the direct and simple grammar of His message to you for clarity and theological instruction. Know your God well, and don’t be deceived in any way.

-When the Pharisees saw that Jesus had sided with their position of the resurrection in His encounter with the Sadducees, they soften perhaps for a moment and tested Him with another question that they were in unity with Him as it turned out. When one asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus answered with the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-6) to love the LORD with everything and the command in Leviticus 19:18 to love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets’ teachings (Matthew 22:40). The scribe recognized that to follow these two commands were more important than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices because these commands were to be followed from the heart and was not an exterior expression. This led Jesus to comment that this person was not far from the Kingdom of God (Mark 12:34). This scribe had gotten the point and was near salvation. *Application* It really does come down to the matter of love, which is the most excellent gift (1 Corinthians 13:13). Love the LORD your God with everything you have and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself and you will find that you are fulfilling every Law of God in fullness. This is simple, but difficult to keep due to our own selfish nature. Only in the transformation that comes from Christ and His Spirit living in us can we really carry out these commands and fulfill the Law of Christ (Galatians 2:16-21; 6:2, Philippians 3:9). Love God and love people! To do that means that you must give up on pleasing yourself as top priority, but this is where real life begins!

-In the Temple area Jesus asks the question to the Pharisees and all gathered around what they thought about the Christ and whose Son He was. When they replied that He was the Son of David, Jesus takes the opportunity to show them that the Messiah was actually David’s Lord as David wrote in the Spirit in Psalms 110:1. They were stunned and silenced by the Word’s of Jesus on this point and dared not ask Him anymore questions for they realized His mastery of the Scriptures and His wisdom. He had passed every test they could hurl at Him and then some. He attempted to teach them properly theology so that they might recognize Him as Lord and Savior themselves, but sadly most of them never accepted Him for fear of man and being cast out of the synagogue. They missed the King and His Kingdom to keep tradition and follow misguided teachers and leaders. *Application* Do you realize who Jesus actually is? Do you accept Him as the Lord and Savior of the universe, God’s only begotten Son with whom He is well pleased to give as a sacrifice for our redemption and reconciliation with Himself? Trust in Christ for salvation today if you have not already. The time will come when it will be too late and the day of your visitation will be over. Behold today is the day of decision (Isaiah 49:8; 55:6, 2 Corinthians 6:2).

 

 

Verse to Memorize: Matthew 22:14

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bible Study Notes in Matthew- Chapter 21


Matthew 21

 

-This triumphal entry event fulfills the prophecy of the Messiah in Zechariah 9:9 made around 500 years before this occurrence. The donkey colt was a beast of burden and illustrated the burden the Lord would bear to bring us back into reconciliation with Him. Ironically, this particular type of donkey has the shape of a cross on its neck in a different hair color that reminds us to this day of this event and its significance. Jesus came humbly into the world as a baby and went to His destination in Jerusalem and to the cross in the same way as the donkey; although, there were those who recognized Him and praised Him as the King that He really was. This is a magnificent moment that preceded the week of Passover in which Christ would suffer and die for the sins of the world. He accepted the crowd’s exultation and joy as a coronation of the coming Kingdom and all that it would entail. This further infuriated the Pharisees that commented that the world had gone after this Christ (John 12:19). Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem as He approached because the Lord’s visitation was not recognized for peace and troubling times were coming because of this (at the hands of the Romans, 70 AD, Luke 19:41). *Application* Recognition is an important concept to consider here as we read and meditate on this account of the King’s coming into His city at this particular time. Do we, in our lives, realize what is going on with what the Lord is up to in us? Are we soooo preoccupied with doing things our way that we miss the blessing that is right before us? Don’t make Jesus weep over you and your situation because you didn’t recognize His visitation in your own life. He will come and go if you don’t pay attention. He will never force His way in, but subtly intervenes giving you a chance to respond positively. Don’t miss your opportunity!

-Jesus is fed up with the abuse of the House of God. The money changers were profiting from the exchange rate and had impure hearts towards the worship of the Living God. Jesus sets the record straight by declaring His House as a House of Prayer for all the nations and that they had made it a den of robbers (Isaiah 56:7, Jeremiah 7:11). He overturned their tables in righteous indignation creating a powerful scene of the Lord’s fury over this matter. This drew the irritation of the religious leaders and they sought to destroy Him, but the people were hanging on every word that proceeded from His mouth and were astonished. His time was near, but it had not fully come and the chief priests and scribes were unable to find anything that they might do (Luke 19:48). Jesus was passing the test of perfection. *Application* This incident should be a warning to us in how we approach coming into the house of God at church. God’s house is to be a place where we gather in reverence and fear of His majesty with awe struck wonder and appreciation. It is a holy place of communication with Him on the vertical level and communication with other believers and guests on the horizontal level. It truly should be a place of prayer for all the nations to come and experience the glory and the power of the Almighty. Don’t minimize the importance of proper heart attitude every time you approach the house of God. Careless worship, as we see here, infuriates our Lord for good reason.

-The fig tree, which is cursed, represents the unbelieving Israel that rejected her King. Even though they had an appearance of life and the potential to bear fruit, they had not produced the faith that was required to grow the Kingdom of God. Therefore, they would dry up and become unproductive in the economy of God during this time period by Jesus’ prophetic act. Mark’s gospel gives us a clearer picture of the time line of the cursing compared to the drying up of the fig tree. The act occurs, then Jesus goes into Jerusalem and drives out those who were buying and selling in the Temple overturning tables of the money changers (Mark 11:15). The “and at once the fig tree withered” that Matthew gives us in the text is relative (Matthew 21:19b). It was considered immediate because it was full of life in the time of Jesus’ hunger as they journeyed towards Jerusalem, but by the next morning, it was dried up (Mark 11:20).

-The disciples, led by the voice of Peter, were amazed at the miracle of the dried fig tree, and Jesus took the opportunity to once again teach them about faith and its power. His conclusion is that “all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you (Mark 11:24, Matthew 21:22).” *Application* What Jesus is talking about here is mountain moving faith that gets the response of Heaven. Notice that there is absolutely no room for doubting here. The man who doubts is like a ship tossed on the ocean and is double minded and unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8). The lack of faith cost the children of Israel their righteous King for the time being. Don’t let unbelief rob you of all that God in store for you. You will bear much fruit if you abide in Him, which only comes through trusting Him (John 15:1-8, especially verse 7).

-As a part of the inspection process of the Lamb of God, the chief priests, scribes, and the elders confronted Jesus with questions about what authority He had to do the things He was doing (teaching, preaching the gospel, miracles, etc.) and who gave Him this authority. Jesus knew the intentions of their hearts and responded with a question of His own that revealed their hearts and at the same time actually answered their questions. He referenced the baptism of John as to whether it was from man or Heaven. They could not answer this because of their unbelief on one hand and their fear of the crowd, who regarded him as a real prophet, on the other. So they were stymied and could not answer, which gave Christ the right not to explicitly answer their questions as well. Jesus’ response did however reveal their unbelief towards the things of God and demonstrated His authority over the schemes of man (1 Corinthians 1:19-2:5). *Application* God is wiser than anything we can conceive in our finite minds. Don’t ever find yourself questioning God or His authority in your life. He has complete control and wisdom to handle any of your life situations. Never fear He is always near and will be your source of strength and wisdom in this world (Matthew 28:20).

-Jesus paints a realistic picture of how people react to the message of the Kingdom of God and His righteousness using the illustration of the two sons. One began with a defiant attitude and said he would not go to work in his father’s vineyard, but he later regretted his rebellion and went and obeyed his father’s request. The other son said all the right things in the beginning with a “yes sir,” but he did not ever actually go and do the work in the vineyard. He lied and did not follow through on his promise before his father to pursue his will. Jesus summed it all up by saying that the tax collectors (this has significance to the writer Matthew here since he had been a tax collector himself) and prostitutes would enter the Kingdom of God before the chief priests and elders of the people (the supposed wise and spiritual leaders of the culture). He then denounced their unwillingness to believe John’s message or even feel any remorse about their plight even when they could plainly hear and see the call, whereas the tax collectors and prostitutes did and received forgiveness because of their repentance and faith (Matthew 21:32). *Application* It’s not how you start, but how you finish in the Kingdom of God. No matter what you may have done, God gives us all a chance to confess and return to Him in repentance and faith. No one is too far gone! Check out: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzHgEhF4Qac)

-Jesus now lays it all on the line in a parable that revealed the anti-Christ spirit of the religious leaders, which even went back to the prophets who revealed the Word of God in ages past. He compares them to rented laborers in a vineyard who were supposed to keep the garden upright and productive. The owner went on a long journey (this depicts the distance between God holiness in Heaven and the activities on this sinful earth) and in time of harvest sent his slaves (doulos, servants, those under His command, i.e. the prophets of God) to receive his produce. They were treated harshly by rejection, beatings, stonings, and killings again and again. Afterward, he reasoned that he would send his beloved son who would surely be received, respected, and honored as an heir to the family. However, the wicked husbandmen conspired against him in an effort to seize the inheritance (a false, selfish, and wordly kingdom of this earth in Israel by the religious establishment). They took the son and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him (Matthew 21:39). The question is then asked by Jesus, what will the owner of the vineyard do when he comes to these hired vine-growers? The reply was that these wretched men will come to a wretched end and be cast out for others who are more worthy and will honor the owner. The scribes, chief priests, and Pharisees understood that Jesus was speaking of them and exclaimed, “May it never be (Luke 20:16)!” But Jesus cited Psalm 118:22-23 prophetically and added that he who falls (from pipto which also means: collapse, become invalid, be destroyed) on this stone (the chief corner stone) will be broken to pieces, and on whomever it falls (the Jewish people who trust in their leaders), it will scatter them like dust (the Jewish diaspora which happened shortly after Christ’s era basically continued until 1948 when Israel became a nation again, and the coming Kingdom of God, Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45). When the religious leaders ascertained that He was speaking of them, they sought to seize Jesus, but they feared the people because of Jesus’ popularity and their belief that He was a prophet. *Application* This remarkable parable should warn us to pay attention to the visitations of the LORD and not rely on religious leaders who have their own agendas and worldly purposes. How easy it is to be deceived and this is why Jesus’ parable is in the Scriptures in Matthew’s Spirit filled biography. He wants us to be centered on Him as the Chief Corner Stone and Heir to eternal life as God’s One and Only Son. Don’t be scattered like dust yourself in this age of false teaching (2 Timothy 3:1-17; 4:3-4).

 

 

 

Verse to Memorize: Matthew 21:32, 42