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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Who's the Boss of You?

Matthew 22-23
These chapters concern Jesus teaching the parable of the wedding guest, answering three questions, and lamenting the religious teaching and following of God in Jerusalem.

Jesus’ parable teaches that we must be ready when God calls us to come, either to a task or to go to His kingdom.  Jesus said many are called to come to the wedding/His kingdom, but not all are chosen to enter the kingdom of God or to do His ministries.  We are all called to give a testimony, but if you have not prepared yourself by studying and growing, then you are not fit to be called to the ministry.  Similarly, we are all called to be the children of God, but not many are chosen to enter God’s kingdom because some have rejected Him and His ways.  This speaks about God’s grace.  It also speaks about who we let be our lord, ourselves or God.

 The first question, which is posed by the Pharisees to Jesus after this parable, concerns paying tribute or tax to Caesar.  They want to know if it is lawful.  Jesus takes a coin and asks them whose likeness is on it.  They tell Him it is Caesar’s.  Jesus says, then, to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.  Subjection to civil authorities is not inconsistent with the reverence and fear of God.  All have a right to have their dues rendered to them be they civil magistrates, the earthly lords, or the heavenly Lord, God.  Even the Jews know that the king of Israel is due his reverence and the King of Heaven is due His.  Religion is not an enemy of civil government.  The Pharisees are amazed at His wisdom. 

The second question is posed by the Sadducees.  Verses 23-34 show us just how astute Jesus was about the beliefs of the people around Him.  He knew the Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection of bodies.  This made their question to Jesus even more biting.  They hoped to trap Him.  In Jewish Law, if a woman’s husband dies, she is to marry his brother and have children for her husband.  The Sadducees took this question to the extreme.  They posed a question where there were 7 sons in a family.  (Remember the number 7 is considered a complete and holy number.)  If they all died before her, whose wife would she be when the resurrection of the bodies occurred?  You see the trick they laid for Him?  If he said that she was the wife of the first or any of the brothers, then they, who do not believe in a resurrection, could catch Jesus and sting Him with their beliefs.  Jesus, however, gave them an answer they did not anticipate, just like He gave to the Pharisees.  Jesus told them they did not understand Scriptures or the power of God.    After the resurrection, there will be no marriage.  Also, He says, concerning the resurrection of the dead, God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He is the God of the living.  He is not the God of the dead.  Jesus was telling them, not only do they not understand the intent of the Law, which was to provide for a widowed wife and her children, they do not understand the kingdom of God and God’s heart .  There will not be dead people in the kingdom.  All who enter the kingdom are alive because they have received new life in Christ when they professed faith in Him.   Those who are dead are the ones who did not believe in Jesus; they are the ones who are watching from hell.  Jesus is stating that not only do they not know the Law by which they live their earthly lives, they do not know Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who is the giver of life to all who believe.  Their question had just blown up in their faces, like the Pharisee’s question.  They walk away amazed at His wisdom.  They must decide Who is lord, their ideas about after-earthly life or Jesus.  They must decide which religious belief is correct. 
We have had the Pharisees, the tribunal keepers of the Law, ask Jesus a question as well as the Sadducees, who don’t believe in the resurrection.  Now, a lawyer, an interpreter of the Law, comes up to Jesus to trick Him.  He wants to check His judgment not His knowledge.  This lawyer asks Him, “Which is the great commandment in the Law?”  Jesus told him what he and all other Jews knew by heart because it is the Shema which is recited at each worship.  It was on each doorpost and spoken about regularly (see Deuteronomy 6).   Jesus answered, “You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind.”  Jesus even reiterated it for all to hear by saying it is “the great and foremost commandment.”  Continuing, Jesus went further to state the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (see Leviticus 19).  When Jesus said this, He made a Law from the Old Testament into a commandment and gave it greater precedent than any other commandment except for the Shema.  Jesus states that all the Laws and Prophets depend on these.  Jesus was setting a precedent; relationship with God and mankind was more important than anything else.  You cannot have this relationship though without considering Who you would allow to be your Lord. 

Jesus then asked them all a question, “Whose son is the Christ, the Messiah?”  He was asking them what they had been taught for generations from the Prophets to the current time.  They knew the Messiah would be from the line of the kings of Israel.  They repeated from rote that He would come from the line of David.  Christ then asked another question of them.  If he is the son of David, from the line of David, how is it that David called Him Lord in Psalm 110:11?  They could not answer unless they said that the Son of the man, of David, was also the Messiah who sits on the throne to whom David was speaking when he wrote this Psalm.  David is accounting Messiah as the Lord yet is the Son of Man and the son of David.  If David is calling Him Lord, then He truly must be Lord, would be the logical conclusion, especially in the Jewish mind since they highly revered King David.  The Pharisees and Sadducees left pondering how to answer this question.  It is answerable when we accept that the Son of God came down in human form to be God manifested in flesh.  This is how He is the Son of man and the Son of David.  The Pharisees and Sadducees could not accept Jesus as Lord yet so they walked away from these answers and are amazed at His wisdom. 

Questions are still being asked.  What was Jesus’ main point now that everyone had asked their questions?  His parable tells us that God’s grace calls everyone to come to Him; however, not all accept this gift and so are not chosen to enter the kingdom of God.  The Pharisees’ question teach us that we must give to the lord on earth and the Lord of heaven.  Religion does not negate our duty to civil authority.  If that is the case, then what is our duty to our heavenly Lord?  (hint: the greatest commandment)  The question of the Sadducees revealed the answer that God is the God of the living not of the dead.  The Law that was handed down by God to the Israelites will not be in effect because the new law of God, of the new life, will be written on the resurrected persons’ hearts and minds by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  The Sadducees will be without God and the Law if they do not turn to God.  Those who die under the Law without acknowledging the Messiah will remain forever in hell under the rule of Satan.  Jesus tells the lawyer that the two most important laws that will not pass away are to love God with everything by which they were created and to love others as themselves.   To each of these three, Jesus teaches them what is important and supreme in each realm.  For the Pharisees, Caesar is lord on the earth and Jesus Christ is Lord over all creation.  For the Sadducees, God is Lord over the living, which points to Satan being lord of the dead.  For the lawyer, Jesus points to the ultimate Lord over all.  This Lord deserves the tribute of each person’s heart, soul, and mind.  This is not too much since He created them.  He also goes further to say that in our living on this earth, we are not to consider ourselves above others, but to love them as we do ourselves.  We are not to be lord over other people, but we are all equals, with the exception of municipal magistrates.   
These questions all come down to the question of who is lord?  Jesus sums it up with a question of His to which they do not want to be committed.  He asks who is the Lord of whom, the Messiah of David or David of the Messiah?  People must all come to this point.  We must each ask ourselves, of whom are we lord over and Who is Lord over us?  So many people will answer that no one is in charge of them.  It is a common phrase used especially by young people.  The Lord laments over each one of us who turns our backs on Him and His gift of grace.  He lamented over Jerusalem, too.  Chapter 23 is Jesus’ lament over them.  He likens them to the chicks of a hen.  He wants to protect them under His wings, but they do not want to accept His leadership and follow Him. 

He laments Jerusalem, the “religious” children of God, for five specific reasons.  The first reason is that they act “religious” but they are not actually faithful to God.  They are hypocrites who say the right thing but do not do that which is required by God.  Jesus is not Lord of them.  Second, they teach false teachings, even to new converts, so that they can have a following instead of giving the converts true knowledge of new life as a child of God.  This is two indictments, desiring their own followers (setting themselves up on the pedestal with God) and false teaching.  Third, they did not care for the disenfranchised, the widows and orphans.  Instead of helping them, they prospered by taking their assets and using it for themselves.  Fourth, they were swearing oaths instead of just being honest and being known for their integrity.  They thought by attaching an oath to something large and tangible, their oath would seem more credible.  Christ calls them on that because they cannot change gold or a tabernacle by the outcome of their action, whether they kept the oath or not.  If they failed to follow through on their promise, that did not give the other party the right or ability to take the gold of the temple or to even take the temple.  These oaths were in vain.  They should be known for their integrity and let shame fall on their name if they do not follow through.  The final thing that Christ laments is that they have killed righteous people of God in the past and present and will in the future.  By claiming they are the sons of someone from the past, they are accepting the sins of that person if that ancestor persecuted, scourged, or killed a prophet or righteous person.  Not only that, but Christ knew they would do it again in the future.  He knew what His demise would be and what many of His followers would endure at the hands of these people.   

Jesus pointed out their faults/sins.  He pointed out who these chosen children of God had been, who they are, and who they will continue to be.  He showed them that they must decide for themselves who is going to be their lord, things of the world which was created by Yahweh, or the Son of David, the Messiah.  He told them in a parable.  He answered three of their “tricky questions” and asked a question of them, which received no answer.  Finally, He showed them His heart; He wept over their hardened hearts.  He lamented that they would not accept His yoke which comes with grace and brings freedom.  When we have decided that Jesus is truly Lord, then we can honestly love our neighbors as ourselves.  Until we love the Lord our God, until that vertical relationship is correct, we cannot get the horizontal relationships right, this includes ourselves.  Until we give to God what He commanded in the greatest commandment, our heart, soul, and mind, we will not be free to be all that we were created to be.  We must make this decision for our selves, each of us must do it.  If we do not make a decision or do not let Jesus be Lord, then we do not have new life; we are not reborn.  We are trapped in the snare that Satan set for us and we are condemned to live separated from God in heaven, a place of eternal bliss.  We must ask ourselves who is lord of my life, me or Jesus.  We must further ask ourselves, will I give my heart, soul, and mind to Him?  I hope you say yes…for yourself, for your relationships on earth, and for Christ.  Unlike the false Rabbis in chapter 23 verse 13, Jesus has opened the doors of the kingdom to you.  He is waiting for you to accept His invitation to the wedding feast.  He loves you and wants to spend eternity with you.  The decision is up to you.