Overview, Part 2
What Must We Now Do?
Matthew Lesson #207
July 15, 2018
“Father, we’re so thankful for the opportunity we have to study Your Word and to be refreshed by Your Word. We are reminded of the psalmist saying that it is in Your light that we see light, that it is in Your revelation that we come to understand the truth about the world around us, about ourselves, and about Your wonderful provision of grace that sustains us and gives us that which we need to overcome each and every problem that we face in this life.
“Father, we’re thankful that Your Word tells us of Your plans and Your purposes for our lives, for being members of the church, the church universal, and our roles and responsibilities in this Church Age as believers in Jesus Christ—that we have a mission and that mission reflects the priorities of Heaven.
“Father, we pray as we study today that we might come to a better understanding, perhaps, of how things fit together in the Gospel of Matthew in the overall lessons that are there, that we may be challenged by the focal point of Matthew in terms of becoming a disciple. And Father, we pray that as we do that, that God the Holy Spirit would use these things to strengthen and edify our souls.
“We pray in Christ’s name, amen.”
Last week we started what I call a flyover of the Gospel. There are several times when we go through books of the Bible, we go through the longer books like Revelation, Matthew, Genesis, I do these overviews because too often as we go verse-by-verse, paragraph-by-paragraph through a book of the Bible, we can lose the forest for the trees. We’re so focused on learning the small parts, the minutiae, at times, of the text that we lose sight of the main message. So constantly I go back and forth to help us all understand what’s going on and why it is going on.
Last time we began this flyover. I was hoping to get it done in one week, but that did not happen for various reasons, and so we’re coming back. We got about the first half covered last week in terms of its organization, and so today we will finish this.
The basic question that I’m asking, as part of the title for the message, is What Must We Now Do? After we have done our study of Matthew, what then are the primary application points that we should be reminded of?
So last time, just to review a little bit, we looked at the author. The author is traditionally believed to be Matthew who is known as Levi, the son of Alpheus. He was a tax collector; and therefore, he was not viewed with very positive feelings by Jews. He was viewed as basically a traitor and someone who had sold out to the Romans.
He is writing now to Jewish Christians who are living in Galilee and Judea before AD 70. AD 70 is a benchmark date because that is the year on Tisha B’Av, which is roughly the ninth of the month of Av on the Jewish calendar, roughly comes at the end of July, early August. You’ll see some things about that in the Jewish community. It is the date of the destruction of the Second Temple, the fall of Jerusalem, and the beginning of the Diaspora, the scattering of the Jews among the nations.
Prior to that time, Jewish believers would be asking, “Well, Jesus came. We believed He was the Messiah. He promised the kingdom. Where’s that kingdom? What’s happened? Were we misled?”
Really, that question, which would have been a normal question, was one that was an echo of the question that John the Baptist had asked earlier. When he was imprisoned, before he died, he sends a couple of His disciples to Jesus to say, “Are You really the One?” So this is a question they had because of the message that was brought by John, by Jesus, by His disciples, to “repent for the kingdom of heaven was at hand.”
He’s addressing them; therefore, it’s one of the earliest books of the New Testament, maybe AD 45 to 50, and its purpose is to explain to the Jewish Christians why the kingdom was postponed.
Now this is such an important area and relates to why Matthew was written, first of all, to convince the Jewish audience that Jesus indeed is the Messiah. That’s why there are more prophecies quoted in Matthew, that they have believed in Jesus as Messiah. They’re absolutely correct because of that, and he marshals evidence throughout the Gospel that Jesus is who He claimed to be, the greater Son of David, the promised Messiah, the prophesied Messiah, and He fulfills these prophecies.
Second, it’s to explain why the kingdom was postponed. This is such a critical doctrine for today, and I’ll add a few things on that in just a minute.
Then third to instruct them and us about God’s interim program, that we are living in the Church Age. It was an age that was a mystery. That means it was not revealed in the Old Testament, and that it was unexpected. It exists because Israel rejected Jesus as Messiah. God’s plan for Israel was put on hold. He hit the pause button and inserted into history an interim period that we are living in called the Church Age. So this is written to instruct about this and what the mission would now be in this interim period.
Last time I referred to these two words as critical words, that the “king” is a term referring to the Messiah who would be a physical descendant of King David, who would rule eternally from David’s physical throne in Jerusalem—geo-physical Jerusalem, not some spiritual Jerusalem—over the Jewish people. David’s Covenant, 2 Samuel 7:4–14, as well as Psalm 89, which we just read this morning.
The kingdom itself is also a literal geophysical kingdom located in the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with the boundaries that are specified in Genesis 15 and Genesis 17. That this land is the Promised Land, and it is given in perpetuity to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
What we see in the Gospels, in all of them, there is this element, but it is more pronounced in Matthew, and that is that the kingdom was announced, it’s rejected, and postponed. Therefore, it will not arrive until Jesus returns at the Second Coming.
The confusion over this is the root of much social and political evil in the Church Age, because if we are living in any form of the kingdom today, then that has implications socially and politically. But if we’re not living in the kingdom today, then we are not engaged in anything related to bringing in even the smallest amount of kingdom ethics, kingdom righteousness, or kingdom justice,
Fourth, Jesus is not now on the Davidic throne. He is sitting at the right hand of God the Father in Heaven awaiting that throne. In Revelation 3:21 He says to the church, that in terms of reward, that we can sit on His throne, even as He is sitting on the Father’s throne, not on David’s throne, and not on His own throne.
In light of this, and just to make a point on this, this month in the July–August Grace in Focus magazine, turns out they had an interview with somebody named Randy White. Randy’s parents are members of this church—Elbert and Patty. Randy was a former pastor of First Baptist Church Katy, and I met him some years ago.
We got to know each other. We had our first lunch meeting together where we got to know each other, and in the middle of the lunch he said, “You know, I’ve been reading this Chafer Theological Journal online, and they have a lot of great articles, but I don’t know anybody who knows anything about Chafer Seminary. Do you know anything about Chafer Seminary?”
So anyway, they interviewed him. He has left Katy. He’s now at First Baptist Church in Taos, New Mexico. He has started Dispensational Publishing House, and the title of this article is “Becoming a Fundamentalist,” trying to understand the difference between a fundamentalist and evangelical, and in this he makes several points. To get the context, I’ll start with one of the first questions he asked.
He’s asked, “What led you out of evangelicalism?” In this he’s going to define a little bit about what he thinks about evangelicals. He said, “Well, for most of my life, I did not even know there was anything but evangelicalism. I knew I wasn’t Catholic, and I knew the mainline Protestant denominations had all but rejected biblical Christianity. All I knew of fundamentalists were that they were angry and didn’t allow ladies to wear pants.”
I heard of guy who was working at an independent Baptist church, and they made the high school girls on a ski trip wear dresses over their bib overalls. See, that’s legalistic “fundy” mentality. That’s not what we’re talking about here about fundamentalists.
He says, “One of the most life-changing studies I ever did was an extensive study of the kingdom of God.” That’s why I’m reading this.
He says, “The more I began to understand the kingdom, the more I understood the motivations behind much of evangelical thinking, especially that which related to the growing social justice emphasis.”
Next question, “So you begin to realize that evangelicals were working with a particular concept of the kingdom?” And Randy says, “Yes, I realized that ‘building the kingdom …’ ” How many times do you hear that? We’re going to do this for the kingdom, we’re to do this for building the kingdom. This has entered into normative evangelical jargon, and it’s wrong. It is just dead wrong. It shifts the whole focus. Also choruses and anything that refers to Jesus as King. He hasn’t been given the kingdom yet.
Randy goes on to say, “I realized that building the kingdom was almost the definition of evangelicalism. I also realized that biblically I cannot build, advance, or strengthen the kingdom in any way because the kingdom of God is future and physical and related to the nation of Israel, not the church. With this new understanding of the kingdom, I realized that evangelicalism, Protestantism, and Catholicism all had the same foundational flaw believing that we are somehow in the kingdom of God today. With this ‘in the kingdom’ thinking, they all build a missional outlook based on kingdom building.”
That missional term nobody ever heard of before the late 1980s. It is another part of this jargon. Every church you go to today with a few exceptions, those that are biblical, they talk about missional. It’s not the same as mission. It is this new jargon that relates to their view of the kingdom ultimately.
He says, “They all build a missional outlook based on kingdom building. In the kingdom, for example, you have total economic, social, and physical justice.” That’s in the true genuine future Messianic kingdom. That’s what He’s talking about. And then he says, “I only use this word because that’s the word of the day. This justice is present in the kingdom and we are in the kingdom now.”
See, this is the view that he’s talking about that is so prevalent today. We need to bring social ethics and social justice into the world today because that’s part of our mission as being in the kingdom in some way today.
Since the kingdom is present in some form, we’re in the kingdom now, he says, “Then Christians must join together to advance kingdom justice.” That’s that rationale.
“This is the fuel,” he says, “beneath the social justice and ecumenical movements in evangelicalism. Consequently, I began to see that evangelicalism had a worldview that was fundamentally different from my own.”
Just wanted to read that. I’m not the only one saying that. He says it well, and that’s the point. Theologically, there are many implications to the fact that we’re not in the kingdom now. It’s not an already, not yet. You’ve heard me talk about that many ways, mostly in relation to interpretive issues and theological issues, but what is happening today is that this is dominating evangelicalism.
There’s a book on the kingdom by Russell Moore. You may have read that name recently, since about a month ago the Southern Baptists had their denominational convention, and he is the chair of, I forget the title of it now, but it has to do with contemporary culture and changing contemporary culture, and he has always voted as a liberal. Why has he voted is a liberal? Because he has this view of the kingdom. We’re in the kingdom now; and therefore, we have to bring in kingdom justice. This has shifted the focus of a lot of evangelicals, and so this is why understanding that the kingdom is postponed, it’s not today, it’s not spiritual. We’re in the church. We’re not in a spiritual kingdom. So that’s the emphasis here.
Now in terms of the outline of Matthew, we saw the first major division, the first ten chapters are on the birth and early ministry of Jesus and His emphasis on the fact that He fulfills Messianic promises and prophecies.
There are five sermons, discourses, whatever you want to call them, in the Gospel of Matthew. We have the first one in Matthew 5–7. It’s before the rejection of the Messiah, and He is teaching His disciples, not unbelievers, but believers, the kind of righteousness that is necessary to enter into the kingdom. I pointed out last time, we will review it again, and that doesn’t mean to get saved or to get justified, and I’ll show you again why I say that.
The second discourse is on kingdom proclamation. He sends out His disciples to proclaim the kingdom to the house of Judah and the house of Israel. He prohibits them from going to the Gentiles. Why? Because it’s a kingdom message, and the kingdom is a Jewish kingdom. It’s not for the Gentiles, it’s for the Jews. Jesus is the King who is being offered as the King of the Jews, and they need to accept Him as that if the kingdom will come in.
So we covered that in the first ten chapters. Then in Matthew 11 and 12 we saw Jesus rejected as the Messiah. We covered that last time.
The third division is from Matthew 13–20, where Jesus announces the postponement of the kingdom and the interim plan—what the emphasis is going to be now that the kingdom is postponed. That’s Matthew 13 through 20. In that He has the discourse on the postponement of the kingdom, the eight parables of Matthew 13, and then a discourse on kingdom humility in Matthew 18.
The fourth division is Jesus’ final presentation to the nation, which happens on what is traditionally called Palm Sunday, His entry into Jerusalem, and His rejection by the leaders again—a second major rejection as the Messiah by the spiritual leaders in Matthew 20:29–23:39.
Tor the fifth division is the discourse on when He will come, how to know the signs of His coming, referred to usually as the Olivet Discourse, the discourse on the coming of the King: “What will be the signs of Your coming,” the disciples asked.
The sixth division is the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus described in Matthew 26–28.
Last time we looked at the first part, just a very quick review. It starts off those first ten chapters, Jesus is born, and He ministered in fulfillment of the Messianic promises and prophecies.
The starting point is the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David. That nails it right there. He’s the Messiah.
The message is the same, the proclamation of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the disciples is “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” You just find that in the first ten chapters. You don’t find it after that.
The disciples are sent to go out and preach this same message.
What’s Jesus doing during this time? Matthew 4:23, He goes “about Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming—a better translation—the gospel of the kingdom.”
He’s announcing that He is the King, which is the same message “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Then He’s giving the signs that He is the Messiah, because He’s healing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people. Specifically giving sight to the blind and healing the lepers were believed by the rabbis to be the unique signs of the Messiah. Only the Messiah would be able to reverse such constitutional defects or diseases.
Then we come to the second division, which I focused on at the end of last time, that Jesus is rejected as the Messiah. This is an official rejection by the religious leaders, by the Pharisees, the chief priests, the Sadducees. This is covered in Matthew 11–12.
If we look at Matthew 11:1, this goes right back to Matthew 4:23, Jesus continues to do the same thing. He’s going around and He’s proclaiming the gospel, and He’s teaching all the people. He goes around all the cities and He does this. That’s just sort of a reminder.
Then we’re told—shift scene to John the Baptist—John is in prison, and he sends two of his disciples to say, “Are you the coming One, or do we look for another?”
Remember John is Jesus’s cousin. John had a miraculous birth; Jesus was born six months later, so he knew the whole story of Jesus. What’s going on here? How can someone with that kind of family tie, family history, his mother Elizabeth would’ve told him the whole story about the virgin conception and virgin birth of his cousin Mary. All of these different things would have been present. How can he doubt what’s going on?
It’s because his expectation was the expectation of the kingdom. Why isn’t it coming? He doesn’t understand what has happened or why it hasn’t happened yet. This sets the stage for what happens in Matthew 12, which is the rejection by the Pharisees.
In this section we see also an emphasis on Jesus’ rejection by the cities that He’s going to in Galilee. In Matthew 11:20, “Then He rebukes those cities.”
He rebukes Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, and compares them to Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom—Gentile cities dominated by perversion and idol worship. So He’s announcing judgment on them.
What’s happening in the north where He’s concentrated His ministry is they’re rejecting Him as the Messiah. The people are rejecting Him as Messiah. Many thousands accepted Him. But the vast majority rejected Him.
Then we come to Matthew 12 and He’s going to be rejected by the leadership. They’re going to say the reason You’re able to perform these miracles is because You do it in the power of Satan, You do it in the power of Beelzebub. As a response to that He says because of this, you have committed an unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit.
That’s where I ended, I covered that last time. The point that we must understand is that the condemnation in Matthew 12, this unforgivable sin, this blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, is grossly misunderstood. People think, “What’s the unforgivable sin? I can lose My salvation.”
This isn’t talking about eternal salvation or eternal forgiveness or eternal condemnation. This whole passage is about temporal condemnation and the removal of temporal forgiveness for the Jewish people for rejecting the Messiah.
This whole section is all about Israel turning their back on the Messiah, so that the condemnation of Jesus here is a condemnation for that generation because they have had the light in their presence. They have had Jesus as the Messiah, healing and teaching in their presence, and they have rejected it.
As a result, Jesus is going to withdraw the offer of the kingdom, and it’s going to be postponed. He announces judgment on that generation which is fulfilled in AD 70 when the Roman armies defeat the Jews, destroyed the temple, and just decimate and burn and destroy the city of Jerusalem.
The forgiveness that’s withdrawn is not eternal forgiveness for sin; the forgiveness that’s withdrawn is the temporal forgiveness for their rejection of the Messiah, and so that generation is going to suffer the consequences, and they do.
Matthew 12:4, this is the Pharisees’ rejection: “This fellow does not cast out demons, except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”
Jesus’ response is, “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.”
He’s not talking about you can’t get saved if you’ve done this. It’s saying, it’s not forgiven. You’ve had offer after offer, opportunity after opportunity to accept Me as Messiah. This is your last chance. You’ve made your final decision. Now judgment is irreversibly coming.
In Matthew 13 we see a major shift. Jesus announces the postponement of the kingdom, and as such, He is going to teach in parables. The parables will cloak the truth of His message to those who are negative, who have rejected Him. But it will be a means of opening the eyes of those who have accepted Him.
So Matthew 13 begins with these seven parables technically, but the last one is often linked in, so I’ve talked about it as eight parables. The language here is that He is teaching them the mysteries of the kingdom.
Some people read something into that, and they say that what He’s teaching is a mystery form of the kingdom. It doesn’t say that in the Greek or in most English translations. It says mysteries about the kingdom.
We all know what a murder mystery is. In a murder mystery what happens in a well-written murder mystery or if you watch murder mysteries on TV and I’m fond of those, is that you get something that’s not known. Often, you don’t even know the key clue until the last chapter, but something that is not known is revealed at the end. You don’t know the key clue, and you don’t know who the murderer is, and that’s revealed at the end. That’s the point of contact in our modern use and the ancient use.
The ancient idea of mystery is revealing something that has previously been unknown. What was never known in the past, because it would have perhaps shaped the decision, is that there’s going to be an interim period.
For the offer of the kingdom to be legitimate, the Jews did not need to know that if they rejected it, God would reject them. They just need to make a clear, clean decision about the Messiah, and when they reject Him, then there are consequences, and so there’s a postponement.
There’s new information being given about the kingdom. The kingdom is going to be postponed and these parables, the eight parables here, all talk about the characteristics during the interim age before the kingdom is established.
That’s fundamental to understanding the nature of this. So Jesus says to His disciples, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”
God said they’ve already made their decision; they’ve rejected Me, they’ve rejected the truth, so they don’t get any more opportunities. Now I’m just speaking to those who have accepted Me, and that’s the focal point for the rest of the Gospel—it’s information to the believer, and the unbeliever is excluded now.
Here’s a list of the parables. The first parable is the parable of the soil, which emphasizes the various responses to the message of the kingdom. Matthew 13:18–23 and Luke 8:11–15. What we discover from looking at the parallel in Luke 8:11–15 is that only the first soil rejects the gospel. The other three all accept the gospel of the kingdom, but with varying degrees of responsiveness. We covered all of that. Then building on that idea of the one who is throwing out the seed, which represents those with the message of the kingdom, the seed then grows.
But you have a second parable, the parable of the tares, that builds on that. There is a someone who comes in the night and sows weeds among the wheat, the tares, it’s called darnel, and it’s looks a lot like wheat, so you can’t really go in and weed it out. You have to wait until the harvest, the end of the age, before you can separate those. And that’s what will happen during the Church Age.
Then you come to the third parable, which is the parable of the mustard seed. This teaches two things about the growth of the kingdom message and its reception in the intervening age.
First of all, there will be a phenomenal growth of this tiny seed into a huge tree. A tree often is used to represent the blessing of God to the world.
Then the second thing that it teaches is that the prosperous growth brings prosperity to the rest of the world. There’s blessing by association to the rest of the world.
The next parable, the parable of the leaven in Matthew 13:33. The leaven represents evil and what this parable shows is that evil will run its course and come to dominate near the end of the age.
The fifth parable is the parable of the hidden treasure in Matthew 13:34. Here it reveals the temporary setting aside of the kingdom program for Israel. The treasure that is mentioned here is an allusion to the kingdom viewed from the standpoint of Israel. The hidden state of the treasure views the dark hours of Israel’s apostasy from the Old Testament times up to the ministry of Christ. The finding of the treasure is the coming near of the kingdom during the time of Christ. That it’s hidden again, that’s when it’s taken from Israel and postponed, and then at the end the selling of all that he has and buying the field is the redemption of the remnant of Israel, which is the treasure.
The sixth parable is of parable of the pearl of great price. This emphasizes the revelation of the Messiah at the Second Coming, that Gentiles are included in the kingdom and their role in the kingdom.
Then you have the parable of the dragnet, which emphasizes the judgment at the end of the age before the coming of the kingdom.
The last that some include as parables, some not because it doesn’t use the phrase the kingdom is like, but neither does the first parable, so that’s why I included as it’s parabolic and that is stating that the disciples are like this man, who is the householder, who is going to teach. That is the emphasis now for the disciples—that they are to teach the truths of the kingdom. So that sets them up for what comes next.
Once you have Matthew 13 setting that stage, you have seven chapters of instructions to the disciples, and Matthew 18—we’re going to skip over parts of this in Matthew 16—and then Matthew 18 has the fourth discourse.
In Matthew 16:16 Jesus asked Peter a critical question. He says, “Who do men say that I am?” Peter says, “Some say you’re Elijah, and some say you’re John the Baptist, and some say others.” Then Jesus says to Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ—or the Messiah—the Son of the living God.”
So that’s the focal point here. And then in this interlude, Jesus says that God has revealed this to you, Peter, and “on this rock I will build My church.” That’s the first mention of the church. In fact, church is only mentioned twice in the Gospels and they’re both in Matthew. There’s teaching related to the church at the end of each of the Gospels, but you don’t have any real content given in the Gospels about the Church Age other than the Upper Room Discourse in John 13–17.
So. Peter is told that “on this rock I will build My church.” We’ve studied that, and Jesus is talking about Himself because He’s relating Himself to the title given to God throughout the Old Testament—that He is the Rock of Israel. So Jesus is saying that on this Rock, meaning Himself, that He will build His church. It’s future and it’s viewed as something that is corporate and something that isn’t beyond just a local representation of that church.
So. during this time Jesus is going to be teaching His disciples about His provision for them. The same thing is for us. He is going to talk about His sufficiency and His provision for them.
This is why He feeds the 5,000 and He feeds the 4,000, because He is teaching the disciples that He is sufficient to take care of their needs, and whatever they may be He’s in control. And so that’s a lesson for us that as we grow and pursue spiritual maturity, we’re going to go through various tests and God’s grace is always sufficient to provide what we need in those times of difficulty. So He uses this time to teach the disciples about grace, about faithful dependence upon Him, and about His sufficiency for any and every problem that they face.
We come down then to His teaching. In Matthew 18:1 it describes the setting for this. The whole chapter, this important discussion and teaching, the disciples come to Jesus and they say, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Now first question: Are the disciples saved and justified and have Heaven as their eternal destiny? Absolutely! All but one, all but Judas. The other Eleven are all saved and justified. So the question isn’t who’s going to get into Heaven. The question is who’s going to be the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven? It’s a question about their role in the future kingdom.
So Jesus calls a little child to Himself. He is going to give an object lesson. He calls this little child to Himself and everybody goes, “Ooh! Isn’t this wonderful. He’s talking about the baby and everything,” and therefore, they get all misled because of their emotionalism.
Jesus says, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
You have two options here:
- Jesus is ignoring their question, or
- He’s answering their question.
If He’s ignoring their question, then the question He is answering is how do I get into Heaven, and He is giving the gospel in verse 3, that you need to be converted in order to enter the kingdom. But that doesn’t make sense contextually.
Contextually you have saved men asking Him who is going to be the greatest in the kingdom. Everything that He talks about in this chapter is going to be about humility. So it only makes sense to understand verse 3 not as a gospel discussion, but as a spiritual life discussion.
When Jesus says, “unless you are converted,” that’s not a great translation. The basic meaning of that word is “to turn.” That goes back to a key Old Testament word, and that word is shuv. In Judaism in the Old Testament, if you repented, if you turned to God away from idols, you did teshuvah, shuv, you turned to God. That’s what this is talking about.
Turning to God is not the same as believing the gospel. Because a believer can become disobedient, can be arrogant, can commit all kinds of sins, and even get involved in idolatry. But then they need to turn back to God and get right with God. Part of that is confession of sin.
So when the Jesus answers them, He says you need to turn. You need to quit being arrogant. See, that’s the whole context here. In preceding this is this emphasis on who’s going to be great. Remember, James and John’s mother comes and says I want my sons to sit on Your right and left hands, and the kingdom, and all these questions related to arrogance. Who’s going to be the greatest in the kingdom?
What Jesus is saying here is you’ve got your priorities wrong. The issue isn’t who’s going to be the greatest, it’s who’s going to be the servant of all. The emphasis is on humility.
This goes back to that Old Testament concept, when you look at the command of God to Israel, to turn back to Him, away from idols. What you see in the future is that in Deuteronomy 30, when they turn to Him, that is when God will restore them to the Land and establish the kingdom. This turning language is always related to enjoying the blessings of the kingdom.
So, He uses a term that is loaded with meaning related to the kingdom, and then He says, “become as little children.”
Now Americans have a very soft, sentimental view of little babies. “Aren’t they wonderful? They’re just so perfect and innocent.” That wasn’t the view in Israel, and it wasn’t the view in the Greco-Roman Empire.
If you were a baby or a young child, you were to neither be seen nor heard. You had no place in the culture. You were not important. You were irrelevant. What Jesus is saying here is quit emphasizing your importance and realize it’s not about you. Okay, you have to be like the child. You have to recognize that you’re here to serve the Lord and to serve the kingdom; and the message, it’s not about you.
That’s what He means when He says you won’t enter the kingdom. See, if that “enter the kingdom” is a term that is related to justification and going to Heaven, then it’s not about believing in Christ as your Savior. But everywhere else in the Scripture talks about if you want to get into Heaven and have eternal life, then you need to believe in Christ.
This isn’t talking about what we normally refer to as salvation or justification salvation. It’s talking about entering into the fullness of the blessings of the kingdom, because you’ve had spiritual growth and you’ve developed genuine humility and not arrogance.
This becomes the part of their training program, and He covers this and He goes all the way down, actually through Matthew 20.
Then we come to the fourth division in the Gospel, Jesus’ final presentation to Israel on Palm Sunday, what’s called His triumphal entry and His rejection as the Messiah.
This begins as He is on His way up from Jericho to Jerusalem in Matthew 20:29. The emphasis there is His healing of these two blind men, who even recognize in their blindness—that’s a contrast to the Jews in their blindness—but these two blind men understand that He is the Son of David, a term that’s repeated twice in that episode.
So Jesus then goes on. Matthew 21 describes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. There are quotes in there from Zechariah 9 and also from Psalm 118, which is quoted a couple of times in this section, emphasizing this entry as a fulfillment of prophecy.
And then what happens on the next day after He has cleansed the temple and turned out the money changers, then there sets up a period of examination and confrontation with the chief priests, the Scribes, the elders, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees.
He continues to perform miracles in keeping with His role as Messiah. He heals the blind, He heals the lame. The children, quoting from Psalm 118, praise Him, which irritates the religious leaders, and they begin to confront Him.
He curses the fig tree. He curses a fig tree because it’s not bearing fruit, and that becomes a symbol of Israel because they have failed to produce fruit. Then they’re going to be judged in time, not eternally. He’s not removing Israel from God’s plan. He is temporarily setting them aside because of divine discipline.
Then the chief priests will challenge His authority and He answers them with two different parables—the parable of the two sons and the parable of the wicked vine dressers—to emphasize the disobedience of the nation in contrast to the obedience of the righteous remnant. And again, He is indicting the nation for their guilt, for their rejection of Him as the Messiah.
We come to the end of this section, and He has the parable of the wedding feast. That parable is designed to show that those who enter the kingdom are going to have the right clothes from the imputation of righteousness from God, as Abraham was justified when He believed God, and it was accounted to Him as righteousness.
This section concludes in Matthew 23 where Jesus pronounces seven woes. In the Majority Text it lists eight woes. So there are these woes, these judgments, condemnation announcements, against the Pharisees.
Then He says to them in Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate.”
He is referring to the temple because they have rejected Him. There is no spirituality in the temple, and then He says, “for I say to you, you shall see Me no more until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,’ ”
… which again is a quote from Psalm 118.
In other words, He’s saying there’s going to be judgment on the temple, and you won’t see Me again until you welcome Me in the name of the Lord.
This sets up the fifth discourse, the discourse on the coming of the King, called the Olivet Discourse. It is answering the question from His disciples, “What will be the sign of Your coming?”
The Rapture is not here. It’s all about the signs that will precede the coming of the Messiah, and then it concludes at the end of Matthew 24 with the parable of the fig tree. So you can know by looking at these signs that the coming, the Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation, is near.
Then there are parables related to the faithful servant versus the evil servant, the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, and the parable of the talents, and all those are related to Israel at the end of the Tribulation period.
That brings us to the last division in Matthew 26 to 28. Jesus the Messiah is crucified and buried, but He rose from the dead. As we went through this, we looked at the observance of the Passover with the disciples as Jesus institutes the Lord’s Table, and says that He won’t drink of the vine or eat with them until He comes in His kingdom. all of this tells us that Lord’s table also anticipates His coming.
Jesus predicts Peter’s denial, which will take place while Jesus is going through His trials. We looked at the prayer in the Garden [of Gethsemane], where we see Jesus in His humanity wrestling with what He is going to face the next day, and His humility, His submission to the Father. He passes the test.
There are two major tests in Jesus’ life. There is the test in the first three temptations described in Matthew 4 and the test in the Garden of Gethsemane. He passes the tests in the garden, and there’s a significance there because Adam failed the test in the Garden. So, Jesus is the second Adam. He passes the test. He’s qualified to go to the Cross. And He’s arrested.
There are six trials that we looked at. There are three before the religious authorities, there are three before the civil political authorities, and at the end Jesus is condemned and He is then sent to the cross.
From the time He was arrested in the garden until the time He dies on the cross, we walked our way through 36 stages of the crucifixion, looking at all of the different Gospel accounts.
Then He is buried in Joseph’s tomb, buried with the rich man. That tomb is just about 60–70 feet from the site of the crucifixion. What happens when Jesus died, is that there is a physical representation of the opening of the way to God.
Matthew 27:51, “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split.”
So His death impacts the spiritual realm and it impacts the physical realm, just as Adam’s sin and his spiritual death impacted the spiritual realm and the physical realm.
There are graves opened from those who have recently died, and they are raised from the dead and they walk around Jerusalem after the resurrection of Christ on Sunday morning. The graves open, as I said, they opened Friday afternoon, but they don’t come out until Sunday morning.
At that time, there is a statement by the centurion, “Truly this was the Son of God.”
Then He is raised from the dead early on Sunday morning. The announcement from the angels at the tomb, “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him.”
We saw that they didn’t do that because they didn’t believe that He really was raised from the dead. But eventually they do. And when they do, we’re told at the conclusion of Matthew that they have a clear mission, and this mission is that they are to take the gospel throughout the world.
As they go, or while they go, they are to make disciples. That is the way it’s expressed in Matthew. He’s the only one who uses that terminology. It is to make students of the Word, as we studied before, by baptizing them, which summarizes the whole process of giving them the gospel, they’re saved, and then they are baptized in Christian baptism by water, which pictures the spiritual reality of the baptism by the Holy Spirit. Then we are to teach them to observe all the things that He has commanded.
That is the mission. We looked at all the different variants on the Great Commission, and the mission of the church is not to bring in the kingdom. The mission of the church is not to bring in kingdom righteousness or kingdom justice. The mission of the church as an entity is to teach believers about salvation, about grace, about living the spiritual life. Then as they live in the midst of a fallen corrupt culture, they shine forth as lights, as Paul says in Philippians 2.
This is what we learn. The kingdom was offered, rejected, and postponed until Jesus receives His title from God, which is described in Revelation 5 and Daniel 7:14. That happens at the end of the Tribulation. So He hasn’t been given the title. He is not the King.
It’s like David. Between the time David was anointed in 1 Samuel 16, until the death of Saul, David is anointed but not yet king. The Davidic Covenant doesn’t begin from his anointing, it begins with his actually ascending to the throne.
The same is true for Jesus. The kingdom doesn’t begin until He ascends the throne of David at the Second Coming after He has defeated the Antichrist, the false prophet, and Satan at the Battle of Armageddon.
Now in this age believers are challenged to be disciples, and that’s the challenge. Do you want to be a disciple? Do you want to be a student of the Word? A student of the Word is not someone who just accumulates doctrinal notebooks or just accumulates information about the Bible, but somebody who has their thinking transformed by the renewing of their mind. Someone who is saying, “Lord, I want 100 percent to serve You in this life, where I am willing to exchange doing it my way for my goals to doing it Your way for Your goals.”
That means, point 3, you have to get your priorities straight in this life. That’s a lifelong process. It doesn’t happen with a one-shot decision, but you have to make that decision every morning when you wake up, and probably at noon, and halfway through the afternoon, and at night. It goes on and on. Am I going to live my life today to serve the Lord or am I going to live my life today to serve me? That’s the difference. The one who wants to be a disciple constantly has to restructure, reform priorities.
We live in an age today when we’re all undergoing the prosperity test. There are so many things we can do with our time. There are so many things we can get our children involved with, but we need to decide are we going to stick with what has eternal value or are we going to give that up in order to get temporary pleasure and enjoyment by the things we go through today.
Now there’s nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with enjoying some of the things, the entertainment, the distractions, the fun things of this world. But when that takes the place of our spiritual growth and spiritual responsibilities, that’s when we slip from pursuing discipleship, becoming a student of the Word. That’s when we slip into living for ourselves, and we have to slip back. That begins with confession of sin. But that’s not the end. It means we continue to walk by the Holy Spirit. So we have to get our priorities straight in this life. Time management is one the most important things that we can do.
The mission isn’t just to get saved. The mission is to grow to spiritual maturity, and not everyone will do that. That’s why in the parable of the soils there are some who produce fruit tenfold, some thirtyfold, some fiftyfold, some one hundredfold. And the question each of us needs to ask ourselves is which category do we want to fall in to?
“Father, thank You for this opportunity, for this tremendous study of Matthew, our opportunity to go through this entire Book and to learn the lessons that You have for us.
“Father, we pray that You would challenge us in terms of the mission to be disciples, to be learners, to be pupils, to be students of Your Word, which means more than just knowing it. It means applying it, being transformed, so that we are remade into the image and likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Father, we pray that You would help us to open our eyes to see the areas where we failed, where we compromise, where we manage to hold onto our own agenda and our own priorities rather than shifting to Your priorities and Your agenda.
“Father, challenge us in the area of our own time management and our own discipline, which is a fruit of the Spirit, that we might focus upon Your mission for us, that our goal in this life is not to serve us, serve ourselves, serve our desires, but our mission in this life is to serve You in every way that we can, and to serve You in the ministry of the local church.
“Father, we pray for anyone listening to this message that if they’ve never trusted Jesus Christ as Savior, this is the hope. This is the good news. That Jesus has done it all. He said “it is finished” just before He died on the Cross. All His work was completed, the payment for sin was completed so that all that is left for us to do is to believe in Him, to accept Him as our Savior and trust in Him for eternal life.
“Challenge us as believers to pursue excellence, to pursue the goal of spiritual maturity, to set aside the distractions of this life, so that we can pursue that which has eternal value.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”