Learning from Matthew 22-25
22:1-14 - Jesus speaks in parables. Some hear, understand and believe. Others miss the point altogether. One man was ‘not wearing wedding clothes’ (11). He was dressed in the ‘filthy rags’ of his own ‘righteous acts’ (Isaiah 64:6). He was not clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Revelation 21:1-2, 7:9-14). Without Christ’s righteousness we are naked and ashamed. Sin brings shame. Before sin, there was nakedness without shame (Genesis 2:25). After sin, ‘they realized they were naked... and made coverings for themselves’ (Genesis 3:7). Spiritually, we are naked before the all-seeing eye of God (Hebrews 4:13). Christ says, ‘buy from me... white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness’ (Revelation 3:18). God says, ‘Come, buy... without money... Seek the Lord... call on Him... He will have mercy... He will freely pardon...’ (Isaiah 55: 1, 6-8). Do you want to enter God's Kingdom? Make sure you are clothed in Christ's righteousness.
22:15-33 - The Pharisees were subtle - just like the ‘ancient serpent who is the devil’ (Genesis 3:1; Revelation 20:2). They tried ‘to entangle Jesus in His talk’ (15). They wanted to trap Him and bring a charge against Him. They asked Jesus about payment of taxes to Caesar (17). Jesus moved beyond this question to our greatest responsibility: ‘Render ... to God the things that are God’s’ (21). If we must speak words of political significance - ‘Render.. to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s’ (21) - , let them arise out of this: Giving God His rightful place in His Church, the nation and the wider world. Jesus’ words to the Sadducees, in verse 29, were not simply a protest against the religion of the Sadducees. They were a protest for the Scriptures and the power of God. A positive faith is much more helpful than a purely negative reaction!
22:34-46 - The Pharisees had failed. The Sadducees had failed. Now, ‘they come together’ (34). There were differences between them, yet they were prepared to lay aside their differences and join forces in their common opposition to Jesus. They were trying to get Him to set one commandment above all the others. They would then say that He had insufficient respect for the other commandments. Jesus answered them wisely: Love - for God and our neighbour - embraces all the commandments. They have fired questions at Jesus. Now, He puts a question to them (42). He seeks to raise their thinking beyond the human level - Jesus is not merely ‘the son of David’ (42). He is the Son of God. Greater than all of the great men, He is ‘our Lord and our God’ (John 20:28). No more trick questions. Give the answer of faith: ‘You are... the Son of the living God’ (16: 16).
23:1-39 - As you read Jesus’ stinging words, remember this: there is a ‘Pharisee’' in every one of us! Jesus disturbs the ‘peace’ of ‘those who sit at ease in Zion’ (Amos 6:1). He invites us to see ourselves as God sees us: ‘before Him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do’ (Hebrews 4:13). Why does Christ speak such disturbing words? - He loves us. He longs for us to return to Him and be forgiven. Many times He comes to us - ‘How often would I have gathered you’. Many times we refuse His appeal of love: ‘you would not’ (37). You may have refused Him often, yet still He waits. Still, He perseveres in love. Still, He seeks to show you the emptiness of your life without Him - ‘forsaken and desolate’ (38). Still, He waits for you to say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord’ (39).
24:1-31 - After the first two verses, concerned with the destruction of the temple, Jesus speaks of ‘the sign of His coming and of the end of the age’ (3). There will be times of testing (9,21). We must take care not to be drawn away from Him (4,23-24). Beyond the time of testing, there will be the return of the Lord (29-30). The events of our day are not without significance. They are signs of His coming. We are to prepare ourselves for His return. We must live as servants of the Gospel (14). This will not be easy. There will always be opposition. Current affairs may be confusing, but we must look beyond all this to ‘the momentous event’: ‘the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory’ (30). Awaiting the Lord's return, we say, ‘If no-one joins me, still I will follow’ (Mission Praise, 272).
24:32-25:13 - ‘The times they are-a-changing’. There is, however, one thing that remains constant. Jesus says, ‘My words will not pass away’ (35). In an age of unbelief, our faith is often under threat. We must stand upon this solid Rock: ‘The Word of the Lord stands forever’ (1 Peter 1:25). The scoffers will say, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’ (2 Peter 3:3-4). We are to believe that ‘He is near’ (33). Christ has risen. He will return (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). When He returns need not concern us: ‘the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’ (44). We are to be ready at all times (13) - doing the Lord's will (46). We are to be ‘faithful and wise’ (45). As ‘the bride of Christ’ (Revelation 19:7; 21:2), we await the Return of Christ our Bridegroom: ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet Him’ (6).
25:14-46 - We are to be faithful to God (21). There is a reward for faithfulness (29; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Our ‘reward’ is not to get more glory for ourselves: ‘what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord’ (2 Corinthians 4:5). Bringing glory to God - this is to be our greatest joy. We are not to be thinking, ‘What am I going to get out of this?’. We are to be asking, ‘What can I give to others?’. The ‘righteous’ are not full of boasting about their ‘righteous’ actions (37-38). The Lord’s true servants do not draw attention to themselves. Do you have ‘talents’? Yes - you do! Use them! ‘Serve the Lord with gladness’ (Psalm 100:2). Let this be your ‘reward’: the joyful privilege of bringing blessing to others and glory to God. On earth, we begin to ‘enter the joy of our Lord’ (21). In heaven, there will be ‘fullness of joy’ and ‘pleasure for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11).