Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Little Ones at the Table

Are you small? Small enough to eat bread and drink wine? That might sound backwards to you but it’s not. We receive little ones to our Table and think we have biblical grounds to do so. How do little children eat the bread and wine? They do so eagerly and without a doubt that Jesus told us to do this and to partake of His Spirit by grace through faith.
         But as you grow, doubts can grow. As you grow, disappointments can mount. As you grow, your reason can get in the way of your faith. And what is worse, those disappointments and doubts, those reasons against the simplicity of faith, seem to make sense to you. But not to a little child. If parents say to a three year old that this is the body and blood of Jesus, who died and rose for you, a little child just says, “Okay,” And eats. “If you say so mommy.”

         Are you small enough to eat this bread and drink this wine? Do you believe Your Father in Heaven with explicit, easy and simple faith? Do you lay hold of Jesus Christ in this meal? If not, then you’ve got to get small. Do so now as we eat and drink.

Kingdom Greatnesss

We measure who is great in many ways. The rich, the powerful, the strong, the good looking, the wise, the talented. But Kingdom Greatness does not come in sophistication, knowledge, maturity, or even through age or the wisdom of age. Jesus measures by a different standard altogether. It is a standard so simple and so easy that even a child could do it. In fact, it is a standard so simple and so easy and so incredibly difficult that only a child can do it.
If you have grown too old to qualify, then you must remember your youth. You must throw aside the trappings of cynicism, doubt, the surety of your reason, the arrogance of your wise attainments and harken back to the time when you simply said, “Yes, Father.” And you meant it with all your heart because you knew that your father was the most wise, most kind, most safe place on all the Earth.

Who are the great ones in Christ’s Kingdom? Just such humble children who come to Him with contrite hearts and put their trust explicitly in Jesus. Trust for forgiveness for sins. Trust for living in righteousness. Trust for every breath. The only hard thing about being great is humility. But you have bowed before the Father, in the name of the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Such are great in the Kingdom.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Praise

Our Father in Heaven, we have seen the star that is Jesus and we rejoice with exceeding great joy. We have come into this house to praise Your name, to see, know, bow before, and worship the Lord Jesus. We bring to You our treasures, our gold, frankincense and myrhh, all that we have, and all that we are, body and soul, and we lay them down at Your feet. We exalt You, O Most High, now and ever, world without end. Amen.

Matthew 17 Sermon Notes

Matthew 17:1-27
Believers Believe
Sermon Notes
January 1, 2017
Lynchburg, Virginia

EXHORDIUM
         We have in this chapter three distinct events. One, The Transfiguration of Jesus. Two, the healing of a demon possessed child and three, Jesus paying the Temple Tax by way of a miracle.
         It may appear at first glance that these events are not clearly tied together but I believe they do form a complete pericope.
         The chapter breaks of Scripture are not inspired. They are not in the original Greek or Hebrew. But it is remarkable how often they do reflect the leading of God in scholarship. The chapter heads, with few exceptions, are excellent. Thus, we should not assume that several of seemingly unrelated events in a chapter really are unrelated. We should attempt to find the meaning of the Holy Spirit, of the writers and of those who divided the chapters as we read our Bibles.
         These three events are pointing in the same direction. They point at Jesus as the Messiah, as the Son of God on the Earth, as the ruler of the nations.
         The theme here is belief. Jesus’s disciples are exhorted to have faith in Him, believe in Him, believe Him. They should do so because the voice spoke from Heaven that Jesus is the Son of God in whom the Father is well pleased. They should do so because Jesus rules over the strongest of demons. They should do so because Jesus is the Lord of the Temple and even commands the dry land and the sea and all that in them is. He is ruler and creator, Lord of all.

EXEGESIS
And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
This event is just a week after Jesus asked His disciples who He was. Some said John Baptist, some said Elijah, some said one of the prophets of old. Remember that Moses prophesied that a prophet like Him would arise.  So, just a week after these statements were made Jesus does appear with Moses and Elijah. Clearly, since He appears with them, He is not them. But He is the one greater than Moses, greater than Elijah. In His Transfiguration, Jesus is revealed as the God who is light. His face shown like the Sun, Son.
Law, Prophets in Moses and Elijah. Jesus makes the Kings. Luke tells us that Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus about His death that He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.

4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
Peter is overawed by the spectacle and determines to build tabernacles in honor of these great men. His heart was probably in the right place but he was missing the point again.

5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
God had bigger things in store than a tabernacle on a mountain. Jesus was to a universal ruler. The disciples had still not comprehended this great truth.
The Fathers is pleased in the Son. The Son pleases the Father. These are great parenting truths. They also fit well in the context of the church, a pastor and his congregation.
The cloud is the glory cloud, the shekinah glory of God. This is the Holy Spirit. We have here all three persons of the Trinity, The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost.

6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. 7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. 8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
The fact that after hearing the voice and seeing Moses and Elijah, they looked and saw Jesus only, should have encouraged them that Jesus only was enough to conquer the world. No doubt, that is not how they felt. The disciples likely thought God was now establishing His Kingdom on Earth with Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. They would rule the world from this mountain. They were disappointed in their expectation. Moses and Elijah knew that Jesus must die for the people but the people did not yet understand this.
They did not respond in immediate fear to Moses or Elijah. They were great men but they were men. The voice from Heaven was the voice of God and it struck fear into them.
The only thing that can assuage the fear of God is the touch of Jesus. When they looked they saw Jesus only. Clearly, the Father has spoken. The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father. But there is a growing realization that Jesus is God Almighty. Jesus is Yahweh.
As we approach the cross, we can comprehend the disciples’ confusion. If Jesus is God, then He will rule. If Jesus is God, then He will not die. But Jesus is calling them to something altogether different, something that is outside of their reasonable ability to comprehend. He is calling them to faith in the Resurrection. They are not there and they do not get there until they see Him raised in person.

9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead. 10 And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? 11 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. 12 But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. 13 Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

This is more the humorous miscommunication between Jesus and His disciples. Jesus speaks to them of His death but they only hear that the Messiah has arrived. They do get that now. Because the Messiah was to come after Elijah’s return, they wonder if the scribes misunderstood that portion of prophecy.
No, says Jesus, they got it right. John the Baptist was Elijah and I am the Messiah. His disciples respond, Okay, we got it now.
But in doing so they missed Jesus’s main point in His saying to them. I am going to die. And don’t despair over this because I am going to rise again from the dead.
They could not get the Resurrection because they could not get the death of Jesus. Part of the reason that they could not get the death of Jesus is because they could not comprehend their own deaths. Israel was God’s chosen. He would come and save them. But what if they did not deserve saving. What if they only deserved to die? What if there was nothing left to save?
So, unless God intervened on their behalf, they would all have to die. The Pharisees who rejected Jesus, the Scribes who did not believe in spirits or the Resurrection, the elders who did not properly run the Temple, the chief priests, who ran the Sanhedrin in corruption, the disciple who turned from Jesus at a hard word, the Apostles who denied Jesus thrice, the Gentiles who were without hope and without God in the world. All must die.
And only on the other side of death can there be Resurrection to life. And this, too, Jesus promised them.

Matt. 17:14   And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, 15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. 16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
A certain man was in desperation. His son was possessed of a devil that had tried to kill him many times. The disciples tried to cast out the devil but could not.

17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.
Mark tells us that the scribes were questioning the man and the crowds about this event. That puts a different light on Jesus’s comments of the faithless generation. It is no doubt directed at the man as well as His disciples but it is in also directly aimed at the scribes. The disciples fail to cast out the demon and the scribes are right there to gloat about it. Furthermore, the people seem to be turning to them instead of to Jesus. But Jesus intervenes. He upbraids them but He also does the miracle.
The response here by Jesus seems particularly harsh. He condemns a faithless and perverse generation. But weren’t they trying to have faith? Did they not appeal to Jesus and His disciples for the cure? Why would Jesus upbraid them so vehemently?
How long was Jesus going to be with them? Not much longer.
How long should Jesus have patience with them? Well,  it appears that His patience was growing thin. Yet, he healed the boy and taught the disciples with patience.
How was the faithless and perverse generation? It was a general condemnation but seemed to fall particularly hard on the Apostles. They were the ones who did not have faith to cast out the devil. They only needed a little and they failed.

18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. 19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
Jesus has immediate and absolute power. He rules over the demons. It is clear from this that the demons are not the rulers of the world. They had run rough shod over God’s people but Jesus is bringing that to an end.
The disciples tried to cast out the demon but could not. They are eager to learn what they did wrong.

20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief:
Jesus gives them a twofold answer. 1. Because of your unbelief. This is an internal frame of mind and heart. In one sense, this is not something you do. Belief is something you think and feel. It comes from your inmost being. But belief is accompanied by action. The kind of belief it takes to cast out this kind of demon will also pray and fast. The disciples come up short.
We must add that what Jesus says to them also reveals the immature level of their belief. He encourages to just have as much faith as a grain of mustard, a very tiny seed. He is not exhorting them to have mountains of faith. Rather, He is exhorting them to have even tiny faith that can move mountains.
So, at least by Jesus’s measurement, their faith at this time is not even as big as a grain of mustard seed.

for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
2. Here is the second part. This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. Jesus has prayed and fasted. He spent 40 days in the wilderness. Of course, He also has direct power to rule over the demons.
The disciples need to summon the power of God to do their work. That is what Jesus is driving at. They need to have faith in God, faith in Jesus, that they can do this work in His name and in His power. The faith they need to have is not faith in faith, or faith in themselves. It is faith in God. Up to now, then, according to Jesus, they have exhibited very little faith.

Matt. 17:22   And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: 23 And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.
Jesus speaks plainly now and they understand Him. He had just exhorted them to have faith. He is now calling on them to believe Him both about His death and Resurrection. We know that their faith in Jesus fails. The sheep scatter and dessert the stricken shepherd. But when the Holy Spirit comes in power at Pentecost, these all become men of great faith.
Faith comes from God in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is God breathed. Part of what needed to be revealed to the disciples is their inability to even have faith in and of themselves. They needed to be animated by God’s Holy Spirit to exhibit great faith. Thus, God receives the glory of our salvation and of our works from beginning to end.

Matt. 17:24   And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
This tribute is not a Roman tax. This is a Temple tax. It is listed in Exodus 30. Every person 20 years old and up had to pay it. It called an atonement for your souls. They are asking Jesus, Do you pay to have your soul atoned for? This is God’s irony.
Jesus is the one who atones. He is the atonement. He pays with His life to cover all the Temple taxes, all the atonements. He is therefore exempt from paying to atone for His own soul since it is His soul that atones for all others. Nonetheless, He submits to the authorities.
He does so even though He is disgusted with the rulers of the Temple. They have made it a den of thieves even though it should be a house of prayer for all nations. Jesus could have argued something about failing to support these wicked men in their duties at the Temple. He does not do so and pays the tribute anyway.
Exodus 30:14 Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the Lord. 15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls. 16 And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls.

25 He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? 26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. 27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
Jesus now claims kingship over the land and He performs another miracle to prove it. Jesus is the Son of God, the Son of the Ruler of all the Earth. Therefore, He is exempt from this tribute tax. However, He has subjected Himself to all things, not grasping equality with God. Therefore, He became a man under tribute in order to free men under tribute.
He also rules the sea and the fish of the sea. This is an indication that Jesus rules all things, particularly gentiles and gentile nations.

EXHORTATION
Believers Believe
         Believers believe in Jesus. That is what they do.
Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, ruler of Heaven and Earth? Do you believe that without Him you are lost in sin and without God and without hope in the world?
If so, then believe Him for everything. Believe Him to take away your sins. Believe Him for encouragement. Believe Him to enable you to suffer for Him. Believe Him to provide your daily bread. Believe Him to give you a way to lead and love your spouse. Believe Him to raise and educate your children. Believe Him to give. Believe Him for work. Believe Him for trials that seem impossible. Believe Him for the forgiveness of sins that enable you stand boldly in His presence. Believe Him to cover the sins of the past, the duties of today and the challenges of tomorrow.

Believers believe in Jesus, that’s what they do.