Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Matthew 23

June 26th, 2011 by Vic

June 26, 2011

Matthew 23

“Jesus is like a mother hen”

 

We are a church of people who want to live by God’s design.  We meet together regularly to learn about God’s ways and share how God is blessing us and making us a blessing.  We have found that as we walk in the light of God’s ways we have fellowship with God and better fellowship with others and the sacrifice of Jesus allows us to be forever forgiven of our sin.

 

Contrary to our culture we are not pantheistic.  We do not believe God is everything.  He created everything we see apart from Himself.  Neither are we panentheistic.  We do not believe God is in everything.  His Spirit can dwell in the heart of man but He is not in the rocks and dirt.  As Creator He can control nature and speak through nature, but He does not dwell there.

 

This chapter today is what occurred in the life of Jesus just 2 or 3 days before he was crucified.  The people who should have known who Jesus was, chose not to believe that Jesus was the Son of God.  They could have heard God speaking through nature and through OT prophets, but sin in their hearts blinded their eyes and dulled their ears.  Some thought he was just a radical teacher, but not related to God.  But Jesus is making it clear in this chapter that He is more than the Son of David.  He is also the Son of God.

 

There are 7 warnings in this chapter directed toward those who are blind and deaf toward God.  These warnings are called woes and make clear that there is a judgment coming.  These warnings are parallel to the 7 Beatitudes which are blessings to those who see and hear.

23:1-12

These verses are a warning to the crowds and disciples.  This is the last sermon Jesus gives publically and it is not very positive.  I read this week that Jack Van Impe is not allowed to preach on Trinity Broadcasting any more because he spoke of Rick Warren and Robert Schuller as false teachers in these last days.  We don’t like to hear negative sermons so we censor them.  But Jesus preaches the truth.

 

Jesus says the teachers and the Pharisees have seated themselves in Moses’ seat.  They have taken responsibility for reading and teaching the Scriptures to the people.  But they do not put into practice what they read.  They lack integrity.  There is a discrepancy between their words and their deeds.  Jesus is warning us.  If we say one thing and do something else, we are in danger of God’s judgment.  If we have the perfect doctrine, the perfect interpretation of Scripture but do not live love, we are nothing.

 

The Pharisees lacked sympathy (4).  They were insensitive to the burdens of others and never offered to help.  Their teaching was more harm than good.  It was more of a burden than a blessing.  Jesus promised His burden will be light.  The Pharisees wanted their students to be more devoted than they were and made them slaves of their expectations.  If you expect more of your children than you ever did yourself, you are in danger of God’s judgment.

 

The major sin of the Pharisees was their love for the praise and admiration of others.  If you become proud of your good works, you are in danger of God’s judgment.  If you like to wear big conspicuous badges that tell people you are religious, you are in danger of God’s judgment.  If you like titles of honor and places of honor, you are in danger of God’s judgment.

 

They made their phylacteries bigger and their tassels longer.  The phylacteries were the leather pouches with 4 Scripture portions inside.  One was tied on their forehead and one around their wrist.  What do we do to look very religious?

 

At the banquets, they wanted to be at the head table.  The place of honor at banquets and the seats of honor in the synagogue are the ones facing the crowd, like the big chairs on the platform.

 

The title ‘rabbi’ would be equivalent to our academic titles.  The Latin uses the word for ‘doctor’ to translate ‘rabbi’.   I cringe when I get mail with the title ‘Doctor’.  One lady in the Melbourne church usually addressed me as Doctor.  I wrote up an earnest money offer for a young couple.  This woman added her academic letters after every signature.  She had not read Jesus warning, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled.”  Jesus warns the disciples against using titles that elevate.  ‘Rabbi’ literally means “my great one” but came to be equivalent to master or teacher.  As Christians we have only one Master and one teacher.  He is Jesus.  We also have only one non-physical Father.

 

I think the key phrase is in verse 8, “you are all brothers.”  There is no place for pride that separates us from one another.  There is no hierarchy in God’s kingdom.  We are all branches connected to the Vine.  We have people who function as teachers and rabbis, but they are not important because of a title we give them.  Disciples are called to humility and servanthood in this life and exaltation in the next.  Don’t look for praise in this life.

 

23:13-33

Now Jesus directs his sermon to the teachers and Pharisees.  There are 7 woes written very carefully in a chiastic or pyramid type structure.  This means the 1st and the 7th woes are parallel or complementary to each other in thought.  The 2nd and 6th woes are similarly related.  The 3rd and 5th are related and all of them are tied together with the main thought in the 4th woe (23-24) which points out that they basically failed to understand the overall thrust of Scripture.

 

The word for woe is the opposite of blessing.  These 7 woes are opposites of the Beatitudes.  The Beatitudes were preached to those wanting to enter the kingdom.  The woes are preached to those who refuse to enter.  They refuse to enter the kingdom of God and hinder those who are trying to enter.

 

The word hypocrite meant play acting.  The Greek and Roman actors wore large masks.  They want to appear to be something they are not.

 

Verse 14 in the KJV warns the teachers against using the letter of the law to take widows houses and pretend to be righteous doing it.  You should be comforting those who mourn rather than taking advantage of their calamity.

 

Woe to you who have a distorted view of church growth or kingdom building.  Your converts become more fanatical than you are.

 

Woe to you with distorted values and priorities.  The Temple makes the gold holy, the altar makes the gift holy and God makes His throne holy.  You have differentiated between binding oaths and nonbinding oaths with the wrong criteria.  Everything you say is said before God.  You look for loopholes and cross your fingers behind your back to justify your lying heart.  Our attorneys today have become experts in evasion, half truths, and deceit.  Christians live by the spirit and intent of the contract rather than the letter of the contract.  To ‘shake on it’ used to be a contract.  For the Christian to speak the words is no different than writing it down.  God sees our heart and hears every word.

 

Pharisees were being careful to keep the letter of their law by tithing everything including the seasonings they used in cooking.  This was not required in the Mosaic Law.  It is OK to tithe, but some matters are more important than accurately calculating 10%.  Be careful about the important matters that affect your relationships with others.  Check your Bible.  Do you have some chapters underlined in great detail and others you seldom read?  Do you get more concerned about the naked bike ride than you do about gossip, slander, and banks deceiving buyers into bankruptcy?  It is good to strain unclean bugs out of your drinking water, but don’t get so focused on the unclean gnats that you inadvertently swallow an unclean camel.

 

The Pharisees (25) were fanatical about external religion.  They spent a lot of time debating about how you make a cup clean.  Depending on the shape, size, and material used to make them, plates and bowls had separate cleansing regulations.  However they did not discuss the origin or freshness of the food you put in the bowl.  Making the outside ceremonially clean does not sanitize the food.

 

It is useless to be overly concerned about ritual cleanness when there is moral impurity on the inside.

 

You teachers are like whitewashed tombs (27).  You appear clean on the outside.

 

You appear to be respectful of your heritage and you have become just like them.  The sons are just like their fathers.  God only tolerates your sin for a while.  When your iniquity is full, He will respond in wrath.

 

Vipers are poisonous snakes.  These are harsh words against hypocrisy.  These religious leaders who lived so close to the Scriptures will suffer the wrath of God within 40 years.  They had their favorite verses that made them appear religious, but they neglected those that identified Jesus as the Son of God.

 

23:34-36

It has never been easy to be a follower of Jesus, but the unseen rewards are great.  Jesus promises that His disciples in the first generation of the church will be killed, crucified, flogged in synagogues, and run out of town.  Their fate will be no different from His.  This will fill full the measure of sin for the Jews and God’s wrath will come on them.  That is not a ‘feel good’ message.

 

The first murder in the OT was Abel.  The last was Zechariah, “whom you murdered”.

 

23:37-38

Jesus apparently prayed for the people in the city many times.  All the warnings and woes in this chapter have flowed from a heart of compassion and prayer.  Even though throughout their history God had offered to protect them and to love them they had repeatedly chosen to ignore God’s word and ways that were spoken by the prophets.  They chose not to come to God and even killed those who told them the truth.

 

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem” expresses a broken heart.  “I have longed to gather…but you were not willing.”  The mother hen knows the chicks are vulnerable and helpless.  The chicks are happy and carefree, enjoying life.  The hen’s wings are a cover of safety, protection, comfort, warmth, and growth.

 

How does God call you under His wings?  In the OT He used the prophets.  Today we have the living Word.  Do you hear God’s call?  Are you wandering too far away?

 

How can we avoid predators and escape trouble?  We must come under His covering.  Submit to God.  There are wolves roaming out there.  God loves you and desires for you to come under His protection.  You have to submit to His authority to come under His protection.

 

What happens if we do not submit to God?  Your house becomes desolate (38).  When you choose to reject God’s invitation you have chosen to go to hell.

 

Jesus still invites us to come to Him.  He does not run around, grab us, and throw us under His wings.  He invites us.

 

You wanted to do your own thing.  You built your own kingdom on the earth and now that is all you have.  If you only trust yourself in this life, you only have yourself to trust in the life after death.  And from heaven’s perspective, your house is a burned out shell giving no shelter or protection or love.  The consequence of rejecting Christ was the burning of the Temple 40 years later.  It is never wise to reject the invitation of the King.

 

23:39

This verse is quoted from Psalm 118:26.  In each of the 4 gospels, this is the Psalm that the crowds shout when Jesus came into Jerusalem on the donkey.  This Psalm was chanted when Kings returned to Jerusalem in victory.  It was a processional Psalm.  The first part of Psalm 118 (1-19) was chanted outside the Temple then verses 20-29 were repeated in the temple area where the altar of burnt offering stood.  Jesus chose to quote a verse that was usually spoken in the Temple near where the present discussion was taking place.

 

“It will be impossible for you to see me until you admit that I have come in the name of Yahweh.”  We cannot see Jesus working in our lives until we choose to believe that He is Lord of All, the One sent from God.

 

The first century Jews had been seeing Jesus with their physical eyes, but soon they will need spiritual eyes to see Him.  After Jesus ascends to heaven and is seated at the right hand of His Father, only those who choose to believe that He truly is the Son of God will have spiritual eyes to see Him.

 

The message is clear.  Jesus is preaching a message of woe and wrath from a heart of compassion. He knows our needs and vulnerability.  He invites us to come to Him and find rest and protection.  There is abundant life under His wing.

 

Many stories have been written of mother birds protecting their young.  A farmer wrote of a barn fire that had destroyed a major part of his barn.  When he was walking around after the fire he spotted a dead chicken that was burnt to a crisp.  When he touched her with his boot, 4 baby chicks came running out.  In a similar story a forest ranger found the burnt remains of a bird at the base of a tree.  When he rolled the corpse over, several little ones appeared.

 

You can be protected from the fires of judgment.  “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge…” (Psalm 91:4)  Jesus died that you might live.  He sees the fires coming and calls, “Come unto Me.”

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