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Sunday, January 13, 2019

[Matt's Messages] “Living the Last Beatitude”

“Living the Last Beatitude”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
January 13, 2019 :: Matthew 13:53-14:12 

Verse 53 begins with Jesus’ finishing.

Matthew tells us that Jesus finishes telling the parables that we often call the Parables of the Kingdom. That’s what Matthew 13 has been all about. Parables about the upside-down, inside-out Kingdom of God which has come (much smaller than we might have expected), is coming (much slower than we might have expected, though it’s happening all around us), and will come (much greater than we can ever expect)! 

The kingdom is a treasure, and if you find it, you have found everything. If you miss it, you have lost everything, and if you know it, you should share it with everyone.

That’s what Jesus has been teaching about in Matthew 13, using parables.

But not everyone likes it.

Not everyone gets it.

Many don’t want to get it!

One of the big reasons why Jesus taught in parables was so that those who wanted to get the kingdom would get the parables and those who rejected the kingdom would not get the parables.

And from this point on in the Gospel of Matthew there is an obvious growing difference between the two.

We’ve seen it already. Some are receiving King Jesus and some are rejecting King Jesus.

But it’s going to become more and more obvious.

More and more of a stark difference.

Today, I want to look at two stories about rejection.

We’re not going to get very far today, and we’re not going to end on a high note in the Bible. We’re going to end with a death.

I propose we read and study Matthew 13 verse 53 through Matthew 14 verse 12.

It’s all about rejection.

Persecution. Unbelief. Scorn. Violence. Death.

Here’s the title I chose to summarize these two major stories:

“Living the Last Beatitude”

Which is a really a happy title!

Because that’s what beatitude, right?

Remember the beatitudes?

The statements of flourishing.

To be blessed is to be in a state that should be congratulated.

To be in a joyful position.

Do you remember the last beatitude?

They were all upside down.

Jesus keeps telling His disciples to “Good for you when...” and then follows it with things you’d never think to congratulate somebody about!

"Blessed are the poor in spirit...”
“Blessed are those who mourn...”
“Blessed are the meek...”

Do you remember the last one?

It’s in Matthew 5:11&12.

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Congratulations, if that is you because you are flourishing and you will flourish!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hear this one.

It doesn’t sound like fun, that’s for sure.

And yet, it does sound good, at least by the end, right?

If Jesus says something is a blessing, then it is, right?

Even if doesn’t seem like it at first.

Even if it’s hard.

Well, today, we have two hard stories, but I think that under and through them both, the last beatitude flows.

The headline of the newspaper says, “Local Boy Makes Good!”

Everybody in Galilee is talking about Jesus. Everybody’s excited because they know this guy. For a couple of decades, he made tools and furniture as an apprentice in Joseph’s carpenter business.

And now Jesus has come back to Nazareth, his hometown, and he’s shown up at the synagogue to teach His popular message.

And Matthew says that the local people were amazed.

But that it wasn’t a good kind of amazement. V.53 again.

“When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. [Listen to their questions. Are these questions about the kingdom of God?] ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?’ they asked. [He isn’t like we remembered him.] ‘Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren't all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?’”

No, those are not questions about the kingdom.

They are questions about Jesus.

They are the kind of questions the Gospel of Matthew exists to answer.

Who is Jesus?

Matthew is a theological biography of Jesus Christ.

It reveals to us the identity of our Lord.

But these folks could not see it.

Familiarity breeds contempt.

They didn’t buy it that Jesus was Who we believe He is.

Notice that they didn’t think he could be doing these miracles because they had never seen them before.

I think that’s interesting because there are some false gospels from the second and third centuries that say for example that Jesus was doing miracles when He was a little kid. I don’t think so. Not only do those Gnostic gospels not sound like the original gospels but they don’t match the picture we get here.

His hometown community did not think that Jesus was anybody special.

And after hearing Him teaching, they were sure of it.

They rejected Jesus.

That’s what this story is saying. Verse 57.

“And they took offense at him. [They were scandalized by Him. They rejected Who He was communicating that He was.] But Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.’”

You know, I’ve always thought that Jesus was just kind of smiling and shaking head when He said that.

But this was serious. This isn’t just a joke that people back home never really appreciate it when their favorite son comes back and all they can see when they look at you is little old so-and-so that they used to know when you were little.

This is serious. These people basically decided that Jesus was a false prophet and a false teacher, and they rejected Him.

At some point, maybe right after this, they decided that He was truly trouble and they were going to push him of the side of cliff!

They did not have faith, and it was serious. See the upshot in verse 58?

“And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”

Because they did not believe.
Because they rejected Him.

He wasn’t going to do miracles because they weren’t interested any longer!

What’s going on is that things are progressing towards the Cross.

We all know where this story is going.

I only have two points this morning, and they’re as much from the Last Beatitude as they are from this passage.

#1. EXPECT TO BE REJECTED.

Jesus was.

And Jesus told us that we should not expect better treatment than He got.

In the Last Beatitude, He said, “Blessed are you when (not IF) people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”

Expect that that’s going to happen.

The Apostle Paul said that, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted...”

So if we aren’t receiving persecution for living a godly life, maybe we are doing it wrong!

Expect some rejection.

Even from family and friends.

Maybe, especially from family and friends.

These people knew Jesus. He grew up right there.

And they said, “No, I don’t think so.” Even though they had seen some miracles!

Miracles don’t convince people who don’t want to be convinced!

Do you want to live as a follower of Jesus Christ but your family and friends think you’re taking it a little too far?

“You don’t have to be a Jesus Freak!”

“You don’t have quit that!”

“You don’t have get that involved!”

“You don’t have to change that way, do you? Don’t you think that’s a bit much?”

I know that we don’t currently experience extreme persecution in the United States right now.

And I’m thankful for that. There are a lot of reasons for it in the providence of God.

We aren’t supposed to go looking for persecution in the hopes of finding it.

We aren’t supposed to be masochists.

We can pray against persecution and hope that it doesn’t come.

But we should also expect it.

If you follow Jesus, it will get hard at times. It just will.

And at some times, it will get really really hard.

Don’t be surprised.

I think that we are so used to comfortability (I know I am) that we think that if persecution comes, then something has gone wrong with the plan. That God made some mistake.

Joel Michaels has been teaching the Wednesday Prayer Meeting from 1 Peter. Peter says in chapter 4, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ...”

You are living the Last Beatitude!

It’s how they treated the prophets who were before you.

And how they are treated your own Lord.

I know that that story was about Jesus, and of course, He was rejected. But do His followers really need to prepare for that?

Chapter 14, verse 1.

“At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, ‘This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.’”

Now this can be little confusing so follow along with me here.

This is not Herod the Great who tried to kill baby Jesus after the wise men came.

This is one of Herod’s sons, Herod Antipas who is a “tetrarch,” which is like a governor of a quarter of a territory.

He hears about Jesus. It would be hard not to.

And he gets scared that Jesus is John the Baptist back from the dead.

Which is weird because we didn’t know yet that John had died.

So verses 3 through 12 are a flashback to inform us in how John the Baptist died.

But before we look at that, notice again what the big deal is.

The big deal is, “Who is Jesus?”

Keep your eye on the ball.

That’s the ball in this book.

Who is Jesus?

Herod Antipas superstitiously thinks that Jesus may be John the Baptist come back to haunt him.

Because, sadly, he had had John killed. V.3

“Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, for John had been saying to him: ‘It is not lawful for you to have her.’”

Now, that takes some explaining, too.

And it’s quite the soap opera!

You see Herod Antipas had been married a first time to a princess of the Nabatean kingdom.

But he didn’t like her.

He liked his niece, a woman named Herodias, who was married to his brother, Philip.

So Herod divorced his wife for no biblical reason.

And Herodious divorced Philip for no biblical reason.

And then they got together.

And John said that this was wrong.

And John kept saying it. “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

That is wrong. Leviticus chapter 18 and chapter 20 says so.

This was adultery. This was breaking the seventh commandment.

John was speaking truth to power.

John the Baptist was being John the Baptist.

“Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is near.”

And he didn’t change his tune.

Even when he was thrown into prison. V.5

“Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered him a prophet.”

You know why?

Because he was one.

I think it’s really important to see that John does not back down.

He doesn’t bow to political pressure.

He doesn’t just say what Herod and Herodias want to hear.

John could have probably changed his tune and gotten out of there.

If you are careful around powerful people, you can get a lot of favor.

But John was a herald of the kingdom, and he didn’t stop.

He expected to be rejected!

And he even chose it.

He didn’t back down.

Do you need to see that today?

Do you need to be emboldened to speak the truth no matter what the consequences?

Not to become offensive by your manner or because of you opinions.

But to speak out for righteousness.
To speak out for truth.
To speak out for the coming kingdom. It’s near!
To speak out for Jesus.

Is there somebody you need to rebuke?

I hate rebuking someone.

Ugh! It’s not so bad when I can do it from up here and be generic.

But when I need to get into someone I love’s face and call them to repent.

Oh man, I don’t like to do that.

Because I don’t want to be rejected in return.

I don’t want them to put their fingers in their ears like Herod did here.

Like Herodias did, too.

They did not want to hear this.

They had ignored their consciences, and they did not want John to reawaken them.

Turn that around for a second.

Perhaps you are being like Herod and Herodias right now.

You know what is right and what is wrong, but you have chosen the wrong, and you don’t care. And you don’t want to hear about it.

Don’t go there.

Don’t stay there.

Don’t choose that.

It is not safe or good to go against your conscience.

Don’t make up stories about how everybody’s doing it.

Or how science has shown that it’s okay.

Or how you only do it a little.

Don’t make excuses and don’t run from your conscience.

“Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Herod was a very weak man.

He wouldn’t kill John (not because he didn’t want to) but because he was scared to.

But then he was given an opportunity. On his birthday. V.6

“On Herod's birthday the daughter of Herodias [by her previous marriage] danced for them and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked.”

What kind of dance was that?

I’m trying not to imagine.

This was Herod’s niece by marriage and great-niece by blood.

And she was doing what was probably an erotic dance on his birthday, and he was loaded and had no self-control and promised to give this girl whatever she asked.

So she asked Mommy. And Mommy said, “Let’s kill John.” v.8

“Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.’ The king was distressed [and should have repented of his oath], but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother.”

This really happened.

It’s gruesome and ghoulish.

And wrong.

Herod was ruled by his lust and pride and fear.

He looked like the most powerful person in the room, but he was really the weakest.

Don’t allow yourself to be ruled by your lust and pride and fear and hate.

And he had John killed and the party screeched to a halt as they brought his severed head in on a platter.

And then the band started back up, and the party went on.

And, friends, this is what happens right now while we wait for the kingdom to come in all of its fullness.

Expect to be rejected.

Choose to be rejected! Even if it means going against your friends and family and community.

And especially if it means choosing the kingdom of God over the kingdoms of this world.

Speak out for truth.
Speak out for the coming kingdom. It’s near!
Speak out for Jesus. He’s the king.

But don’t expect everybody to like it.

Expect at least at times to be rejected.

That’s how they treated the prophets who were before you.

Now, this is the end of our story for today.

And it’s a sad place to end. It ends with a burial. V.12

“John's disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.”

And it’s going to make Jesus very sad, as well.

But it’s not the end of John the Baptist story.

Not the very end.

Is it?

No, they had done their worst, and it was only a beheading.

Remember what Jesus told the disciples before their missions trip?

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

That’s what John did.

John had the fear of the Lord.

So he didn’t have the fear of Herod.

That’s why he could be so bold.

And he knew the promise of God.

He knew the flipside of the Last Beatitude.

#2. EXPECT TO BE REWARDED.

Listen again to the Last Beatitude:

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven...”

We tend to think that the worst thing that could ever happen to us is that we would be beheaded.

But the worst thing would be if we weren’t beheaded because we had denied King Jesus!

One day, John the Baptist will rise again.

Herod was right about that though he was wrong to think that who Jesus was.

But one day John the Baptist will have a whole new body in a whole new world.

Right now, he enjoys living in the presence of God.

“Great is his reward in heaven” because He was faithful!

And great will be his reward in the new heavens and new earth.

We can’t wrap our minds around that, but we should try.

And we should live for that day right now.

You know, all of this prefigures, both the Cross and the Resurrection.

Jesus was rejected, not just by His hometown, but by everyone who should have received Him.

“He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

He died and then He rose again.

He was rejected, and then He was restored.

And, amazingly, we get the reward!

Jesus lived the Last Beatitude perfectly, and it has made all of the difference.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom

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