Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"Contemporary Theology" by Kirk MacGregor

A valuable explanation of the leading theologies of the last 175 years.

Contemporary Theology: An Introduction: Classical, Evangelical, Philosophical, and Global Perspectives came at just the right moment for me. I have been trying to grow as a pastor-theologian, doing more strategic theological reading and deeper theological thinking, but I keep feeling like I’m missing some crucial foundational knowledge.

I already have three degrees in Bible and theology, but I still often feel like I’m playing catch-up when some theological controversies pop up on the radar. So in January, just when I was planning out my reading strategy for 2019, Scot McKnight blogged about this new book by Kirk MacGregor that concisely summarized all of the prevailing theologies of the modern period. 'Yep, that's what I need" I said as I pushed "Add to Cart." I’ve been reading one chapter in a sitting several times a week (just 5-9 pages each), so it’s taken me about 3 months to work through the 38 chapters.

I had heard of the subjects of each chapter, but I wasn’t super familiar with all of them. Before reading Contemporary Theology, I couldn’t have explained the big ideas of many of the theologians of the 20th century such as Barth, Bultmann, Tillich, Moltmann, Pannenberg, Rahner, Yoder, Cone, Plantiga, and dozens more. I had been introduced to many many of them back in seminary and had to read some of their works, but today, I couldn’t have explained their thoughts to someone curious. Now having read the book, I still probably couldn’t explain those big ideas to the satisfaction of their leading proponents, but I believe that those leading proponents would be very satisfied with MacGregor’s explanations. He has a knack for capturing and restating the deep thinking of deep thinkers.

MacGregor tries to keep his opinions to himself. For the most part, he doesn’t offer his own evaluations of these diverse theologies, attempting mostly to help people grasp what the idea is, not whether or not it’s a good or right idea. At times, he can’t really help it, and his own admiration for a particular position, argument, or theologian seeps through (and sometimes his disdain for one does, too). That’s not really a weakness. In fact, I enjoyed reading between the lines to guess at what his theological proclivities are. I also thoroughly enjoyed the parts where several of my own professors showed up as key movers and shakers in the story.

I’m really glad I read Contemporary Theology. It was a refresher course (also now available as an actual video course) in theological movements that have shaped the time period in which I have lived. I’m sure I will refer back to it many times as I continue to grow bit-by-bit as a pastor-theologian. “Oh yeah, that’s what that theologian taught!” Recommended.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Rehashing an Internet-Age-Old Debate: European vs. Japanese Swords

Guest Post by Andrew Mitchell of Anuron Ironworks

There is an ancient tradition among online sword enthusiasts of going on the internet and spitting out falsehoods to make the katana out to be a god-sword. The fanboys spreading these myths love the idea of the katana being the god and king of all cutting implements. They make ridiculous claims about the cutting power of the blades, such as the pervading myth that katanas can cut straight through steel plate armor. And while they prop up their hole-filled theories of how the katana works, they turn around and swear that European swords are nothing more than crude chunks of iron that have been beaten into a rough shape and sharpened. The truth of the matter is that both Japanese and European swordsmiths were master craftsmen with similarly lengthy histories of developing and making excellent weapons. The Japanese smiths and their blades were no better nor worse than European ones.

To answer questions about Japanese swordsmithing we must first know what that means. What does it take to be a quintessentially Japanese-style smith? Well, to start with the Japanese are famous for laminating their blades, that is, forge-welding a high carbon edge onto a iron or mild steel spine. These pieces of high carbon steel are called kawagane, and they are usually folded and welded over and over many times to work impurities and extra carbon out of the steel. The most iconic Japanese blade is the katana, a one edged sword made almost purely for their cutting power (As a result of this cutting-forward design they have a slightly blunted point. They will stab but they aren’t made for it.). These katanas have the hard kawagane on the cutting edge and a softer shingane on the blunt spine. The Japanese smiths poured many years into refining the laminating and forge welding technique that makes the katana and other swords perform like they do.

The katana and its brothers are impressive swords, but like all things there is a mix of good and bad forged into them. The laminated blades lead to a huge amount of durability. The mix of soft and hard steel makes a blade that would be nearly indestructible in the combat that they saw. The downside is the shape. The katana was made for cutting, not stabbing. This becomes a problem if you want to fight a fully armored man, which is hard enough under the best circumstances. The blunt tip would have trouble probing and slipping into the gaps in armor, and no sword can cut straight through steel plate. The Japanese sword is not perfect, but it is supremely effective at what it’s made for--killing people.

What exactly is the European approach to swordsmithing? Well, this may surprise you because no one talks about it, but the Europeans also laminated their sword blades. Not only does the laminating technique add strength to the sword, but the high carbon steel for the cutting edges was far harder to make or buy than the iron to go in the sword’s core (the piece of soft metal sandwiched in the blade making up a large part of the structural support for the sword.). The European sword was often double-edged and came to a sharp piercing point (with the exception of some blades like falchions, but they are not the subject of this essay). The longsword, a flagship model for European smithcraft, is an excellent example of this, two cutting edges and a spear-like tip. The shape of the various European swords has evolved and been tested and proven again and again in the hundreds of battles and wars that were fought during the Middle Ages.

Despite their attractive resume, the European blade is not all rose petals and bloody war. European weapons were too heavy or unwieldy to simply tote around on a journey. Instead, a short arming sword most often had to be substituted for the devastating power of a longsword or similar weapons.

I must admit that I had to do some searching before I found anything bad to say about either of these swordsmithing styles though; all the bad is more than made up for by the good. For example: a European longsword, with it’s reach and sharp point, could slip between the plates on a fully armored knight. A Japanese katana is short enough that it may be hung from a belt and comfortably traveled with. I may be able to bring up points where these blades fail, but that’s because they weren’t designed to do those things. The katana isn’t for stabbing through armor, and the longsword isn’t for traveling with.

With these definitions of the various styles of swordsmithing in mind, how do they shape up against each other? To start with, the proponents of the Japanese style lose a major point when we realize that laminated blades were known to and used by both sides. Combining hard and soft metal to save money and increase durability is an old trick known by many smiths. Both European and Japanese weapon types were made for essentially the same purpose, rending flesh and killing people. Both weapon types evolved through thousands of years of fighting and craftsmanship. Asia and Europe have both had expert smiths living and working in them honing the craft of making weapons for centuries. With these credentials and histories in mind, I don’t think a decision can be reached on the subject. We have to simply say that these blades and their makers were equals.

All this is, of course, a generalization of the craft. Not all smiths are equal; some can do things with steel that other can only dream of. Pumping out low quality weapons for the average fighting man was also a responsibility of the smiths. The weapon itself never wins an encounter. A good swordsman with a bad weapon will defeat a bad swordsman with a good one nine times out of ten. The performance of these blades is totally situation based; it depends entirely upon the skill of the smith and swordsman. For the purpose of this essay, I have assumed that we can compare the best of the Japanese with the best of the European, but it is important to note that these criteria fit only a very small percentage of historical situations.

In summation, the ancient and less ancient swordsmithing techniques of both Japan and Europe are equals. If we look at the facts, we see that neither style can be simply better or worse than the other. It depends on too many variables to be objective in that respect. This debate has never been about the facts, however. This debate is about culture and opinion. Though I am not without opinions myself, I wrote this essay for the odd internet traveler who waded into this debate seeking truth and objective facts. I hope you found it.



Editor's note: This article was originally the final paper for Andrew's homeschool writing class this year. It was supposed to be a research paper, and it is, but it turned out to also be a somewhat tongue-in-cheek persuasive essay written in a breezy yet combative style. I enjoyed how Drew, with some playfully barbed language, took on devotees of both sides of the debate to argue for his own conclusion. He packs a lot into nine paragraphs--the longest thing he's written to date. I appreciate his willingness for it to be published here.

For more about my son the blacksmith and his work, check out his YouTube Channel and popular Etsy shop. He is neither an European or Japanese style bladesmith. So far he's more of a retro-Americana tool and craft blacksmith. His newest video is the heating and hammering of a door-pull into existence.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

[Matt's Messages] “Take Up His Cross”

“Take Up His Cross”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
March 17, 2019 :: Matthew 16:21-28

The first verse of our passage for today marks a major turning point in the book.

Last week (in verses 13 through 20), Jesus was about as far away as he ever got from the city of Jerusalem. He was up north in Caesarea Philippi, and He asked His disciples “THE QUESTION.” The question that this theological biography of Matthew has been asking and answering for us from chapter one, verse one.

“Who is Jesus?”

Jesus said to them, “Who do you say I am?”

And we thought together of how there are several potential answers to that question: liar, lunatic, legend, or Lord.

And how you answer that question determines the course of your life both now and forever.

Well, do you remember what Simon Peter’s answer was to that question?

Peter passed that test with an A+! He said to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”

That’s right! God gave Peter the correct answer.

And then Jesus gave Peter a big promise. He named him, “Rock” and said that on the basis of his right answer to the big question, Jesus would build His new covenant community, the church, on the Rock of Peter and his right answer.

And He would give Peter and the church the authority needed to be an unstoppable force for the kingdom of heaven. Not even death can prevail against us.

Jesus said, “I will build my church.”

And so now in verse 21, Jesus turns a major corner.

He begins to set His face towards Jerusalem.

No more strategic withdrawals to a Gentile-populated territory.

He begins to head towards His fate.

And He begins to explain in plain terms to His disciples exactly what was going to happen to Him.

In fact, He began to explain what kind of a Christ He was going to be.

Peter was right that He was the Christ, but he didn’t really know what that meant.

In verse 20, Jesus told them not to tell anyone that He was the Christ.

That was because they didn’t understand what that was!

But now He was going to explain it to them.

Let’s read the first verse. Verse 21.

“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

Finally, today, we are going to get to our Hide the Word verse. Matthew 16:24. This has been our memory verse since like the second Sunday of January. I thought we’d reach it more quickly than we did.

But it’s been good to repeat it over and over again.

Say it with me once more:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

“Take Up His Cross.”

What a thought that is!

If you want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ...and we all do, right? That’s why we’re here. If you want to be a follower of Jesus (that’s the focus of our whole series on the Gospel of Matthew, following Jesus), then you need to deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Him.

Maybe this should be our memory verse all year long!

It’s definitely worth meditating on.

But before Jesus tells us to take up our cross, He tells us that He will be taking up His.

I have two main points this morning, and here’s number one:


Let’s look more closely at verse 21.

There is a tiny little word in verse 21 that is just mind-blowing.

“From that time on [from the time when Peter got the question right] Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

Now, we are very familiar with this, but it was news to the disciples.

Jesus has alluded to this all along. There have been hints and foretastes.

But now Jesus is making it explicit and crystal clear.

He will be suffering. He says, “suffering many things.”

That’s an understatement, isn’t it? When you read to the end of this book. What He went through...the trial, the torture, the mockery.

They spit on Him!

They pressed a crown made of thorns onto His head.

So that His head was bleeding.

Jesus knew that was coming.

He will be suffering many things.

He will be killed. Unthinkable.

And...on the third day rise again.

Which is amazing news that is even harder to understand.

It says in verse 21 that Jesus “began to explain” this to them. He’s going to do it several more times as the book unfolds. This is the first of three or four major predictions of His passion.

It becomes the theme of the last half of this book.

And did you catch the little word that packs such a big punch?


“He must got to Jerusalem. He must suffer many things. He must be killed...”

The Greek word is for “must” even smaller. It’s only three letters: delta epsilon iota.


In New Testament Greek, that almost always means it’s a divine necessity.

God requires it.

It must happen.

This is something Jesus MUST do.

Jesus had to take up His cross for us.

Now, that’s not the kind of thing that Peter had in mind when He said that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ.

That’s not the kind of thing that most people in Jesus’ day thought the Messiah ought to do.

The Messiah, they thought, should be their rescuer from the Romans.

The Messiah should conquer.

The Messiah should bring a conquering kingdom.

Not be killed on a cross!

So, Peter decides to rebuke Jesus.

Yes, you heard that right.

Peter, I think was feeling his wheaties, from his A+ answer in verse 16, so he decides to correct Jesus, and that never goes well. V.22

“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’”

Well, I’m glad that He loved Jesus. I’m glad that He didn’t want to see Jesus be hurt.

But Peter went from an A+ to F- minus. V.23

“Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’”

So much for Peter being the first pope.

He certainly wasn’t infallible. The first thing he said after being told that he was the Rock, was that he was an unwitting spokesman for Satan!

“Get behind me, Satan. [Cut it out. Get out of here.] You are a rock alright, but it’s a stumbling rock. You’re trying to tempt me. To tempt me to give up doing things God’s way and do things Satan’s way.”

“Satan already tried this approach in the desert (chapter 3)! He tried to get me to acquire the kingdom without the cross. To go around the cross.”

“But it doesn’t work that way.”

“I’ve got to go through the cross.”

“That’s God’s way.”

Jesus had to take up His cross for us.

That’s what God said.

Any way of trying to bring the kingdom without going through the cross was (v.23) man’s way, not God’s way.

The cross is God’s way.

This is profound.

Jesus knew what being the Christ really meant.

Yes, it will mean conquering.

But first it means being crucified.

Yes, it will mean the kingdom.

But first it will mean the cross.

Jesus knew that the Messiah was predicted not just in just in Psalm 2 or Psalm 110.

But also in Isaiah 53.
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Jesus had to take up His cross or we would not be saved.

It was the Lord’s will.

On that day, Peter did not understand. But thankfully the Lord is patient with us, and eventually Peter did understand. Probably better than most.

In His first letter, Peter riffs on Isaiah 53 when he says, “[Jesus] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

This is God’s way of doing things.

It’s different from the world’s way. It’s different from man’s way. And it’s definitely different from Satan’s way.

The world, the flesh, and the devil will tell you that you can have all kinds of blessing with no suffering.

“Just name it and claim it.”

There are people who claim to be Christians who teach this sort of thing.

“You don’t have to suffer.”

“God wants you to be healthy, wealthy, and prosperous.”

“And live your best life now.”

But Jesus had to suffer.

Paradoxically, in God’s plan, suffering is the path to glory.

The kingdom comes through the cross.

But Jesus is not the only one who has a cross to take up.

Jesus is not the only one who is called to walk the path of suffering.

Following Jesus also calls for cross-bearing. v.24 Our “Hide the Word” verse.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Not only did Jesus have to take up His cross for us, but:


What does it mean to follow Jesus?

It means self-denial and cross-bearing.

Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me,” that’s another way of saying, “If anyone wants to be my disciple.”

Sometimes we say “come after me” to mean “chase after me to arrest me or harm me.”

But this is literally saying to drop into line behind Jesus.

He’s going this way, and I’m right behind Him.

Jesus says that if anyone wants to line up behind Jesus, there are just a few simple ground rules. Simple but not easy.

#1. Deny yourself.
And #2. Take up your cross.
And #3. Go ahead and follow Him.

Deny yourself.

What does that mean?

Does that mean fasting? Does that mean giving up nice things?

Sometimes, I think it does. It can lead to that.

But to deny here basically means to “renounce yourself.”

Not just to deny yourself some good thing for a time, but to repudiate yourself.

I would add “as lord.”

To deny yourself as your lord.

To give up being the boss of your life. To disown yourself as the lord of your own life. The captain of your soul.

To stop following yourself.

Stop following yourself.

Have you done that?

The shorthand word for that in the Bible is to repent.

To turn around from following yourself, your own desires, your own path, your own lordship, and take up your cross.

That means to count yourself as dead.

Or as good as dead.

These people had all seen a cross do its terrible work.

We have not seen it, and we would puke if we did.

It’s a shocking metaphor that Jesus would call us to take up our cross.

For Him, it wasn’t a metaphor.

And for some of his disciples, it wasn’t a metaphor either.

Tradition says that Peter was crucified upside down.

I think that Jesus wants to be ready to take this cross thing literally. WE must be ready to lose our lives for Jesus’ sake.

To accept the rejection of the world.

To live our lives as on a death march to the world, the devil, and our own flesh.

To deny yourself and take up your cross.

That’s what it means to follow.

How are you doing at that?

How are you doing at denying yourself?

That’s not a question that we ask ourselves enough.

How are you doing at living a life of repentance?

One pastor has written this about v.24:

“Christ-follower, how’s the self-denial going? Are you saying not to sin, those sins that so easily entangle you? And are you saying yes to Christ, doing something difficult for Jesus’ sake? Do you sacrifice time, money, convenience, comfort, safety to do those things that Jesus especially sees–the list he gives at judgment day–feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, receiving the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting the imprisoned? Yes, self-denial is the sum of the Christian life.” Douglas O’Donnell (“Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and Earth,” pg. 462).

I was struck last Sunday when Abe prayed for the Wild Game Dinner.

He prayed for all of the same things that I would have if I were the prayer coordinator for this outreach.

But he also prayed that God would humble us.

And I thought, “Huh. I wouldn’t have prayed that. I need that. But I wouldn’t have thought to pray that.”

When was the last time that you prayed that the Lord would humble you?

When was the last time that you prayed for the Lord’s help in denying yourself?

Of renouncing yourself as your own lord.

Jesus says that it crucial! Look at the “for” in verse 25.

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”

That’s paradoxical isn’t it?

That’s the opposite of what we tend to think.

That’s upside-down!

Jesus said something almost exactly like this back in chapter 10, verse 38.

He’s calling us to choose. Which one do you want more?

“For whoever wants to save his [earthly] life will lose it, but whoever loses his life [in repentance and self-denial and crossbearing] for me will find it.”

Which do you want more?

The apostles lost their lives for Jesus. Paul lost his life for Jesus.

And they found life in Jesus!

There is another “for” in the Greek of verse 26.

“[For] What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Jesus is explaining why we should take up our cross.

Because He’s worth it!

It’s so easy to get our priorities out of whack.

To go after the world:

...and even family!

For so many family has become an idol.

Health, wealth, prosperity, family, a good job.  What if you give up your life to gain those things and don’t give up your life to gain Christ?

Would it be worth it?

What is your soul worth?

Jesus is worth it all.

The most important words in verses 24 and 25 are the little two letter word “me.”

If anyone would come after ME...follow ME...loses his life FOR ME.

Jesus is worth it all!

And one day soon, He will show that to be true. V.27 Another “for.”

“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

I think that last promise in verse 28 is at least partially fulfilled in the Transfiguration which we will look at next week, Lord-willing.

But the first promise in verse 27 will show that we have made the right choice in deciding to follow Jesus.

The Son of Man (that’s Jesus) is going to come in His Father’s glory. What a thought that is! And with His angels. I can’t imagine.

And when He comes, He will reward each person according to what He has done.

If you have denied yourself and taken up your cross and followed Him, then you will be richly rewarded in Him!

But if you have denied Him and denied your cross and followed yourself, then you will get what you deserve.

I don’t know when that’s going to happen, but I know that it’s 2000 years sooner than it was when Jesus said this.

And I know that Jesus said this to underscore how important it is to do it before it’s too late.

Do you want to come after Jesus? To line up behind Him, to be His disciple, His follower, to be rewarded by Him when He returns?

Renounce yourself.
Disown yourself as lord.
Deny yourself.

And take up you cross and follow Him.

That’s the path to glory!

That’s the path that Jesus walked for us and the path He call us to walk for Him.


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
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise

Sunday, March 10, 2019

[Matt's Messages] “The Question and the Promise”

“The Question and the Promise”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
March 10, 2019 :: Matthew 16:13-20

The Gospel of Matthew is a theological biography.

And the key question of any biography is WHO, right?

For the last several months, we’ve said, “In the Gospel of Matthew, you’ve got to keep your eye on the ball. And the ball is the question of Jesus’ identity. Who is this Person?”

We’ve seen that again and again, haven’t we?

Well, this time, Jesus flat out asks the question Himself!

“Who do you say I am?”

Our title for this message is “The Question and the Promise.” Looking just at verses 13 through 20 this morning. “The Question and the Promise.”

Jesus asks the question.

And then after the question gets answered, Jesus gives a great big promise that is based on the answer to the question.

That’s all I want us to look at for today, and to think about what that question and the promise mean for us in 2019.

First, the question. Matthew 16:13

“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’”

There’s the question.

This event takes place in the north of Israel in primarily Gentile country.

The city of Caesarea Philippi had recently been named that by Herod Philip in honor of himself and in honor of Caesar. It was about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee.

He is pretty far from Jerusalem at this moment. About as far as He gets, I think, in the Gospels.

Pretty soon, He’s going to start moving towards Jerusalem.

But right now He’s miles north of the Sea of Galilee in Caesarea Philippi, and takes a moment to gather His followers and ask them the key question of this whole theological biography.

“Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

“Son of Man” is Jesus’ favorite name for Himself. It emphasizes both His humanity as well as His divinity when you realize the Old Testament background for that name.

But it’s also pretty enigmatic. “The Son of Man.”

“Who do people say I am?”

What’s the word on the street?

By the way, this question is super important, and it’s always being asked.

And it’s being answered.

Go out onto the streets of a big city and ask that question, and what kind of answers might you get back?

Who do people say that Jesus is?

Some people say, “A good moral teacher.”

Some people say, “A renegade Jew.”

Some people say, “I don’t really know.”

Some people say, “There’s no way to tell.”

Some people say, “The Christian’s god.”

Some people say, “A great example.”

Some people say, “A revolutionary.”

What have you heard people say?

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus warned His disciples to guard against the bad yeast, the false teaching, of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

They were answering this question wrongly.

Terribly wrongly!

A few chapters ago, they had said that Jesus was in partnership with Beelzebub.

They refused to consider that Jesus might be the Messiah and instead claimed that He was in league with Satan himself.

There’s a lot of ideas out there about Who Jesus is.

What have you heard?

Well, the disciples had been listening to the crowds, and they tended to think that Jesus was some kind of prophet. V.14

“They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’”

Herod Antipas thought that Jesus was John the Baptist back from the dead. He wasn’t, but it was a popular idea. John was quite prophetic, and so is this Jesus. And they both had the same message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!”

Others said, “Elijah.” Elijah was promised to return. We saw before that it turns out that John the Baptist is the fulfillment of that promise. He was the “Elijah who was to come” so to speak. So, close, but not cigar.

Others said, “Jeremiah.” That’s different. I’m not sure why Jeremiah was often gloomy. He was the weeping prophet, and He had a message of judgment to come.

“Or one of the [other] prophets.”  “You seem very prophetic to people, Jesus.”

And that’s right! He is prophet, priest, and king! He is the prophet promised back in Deuteronomy 19.

But He’s more than just a prophet, isn’t He?

Jesus asks the key question. And He makes it personal. V.15

“‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’”

That could be the key question of the whole Gospel of Matthew.

And how you answer that question determines so much!

How do YOU answer that question?

What do you think?

The classic choices put forward last century by people like C.S. Lewis and Josh McDowell are:


If you read the Gospel of Matthew, and you see Who Jesus claimed to be.

Do you think He was telling the truth?

Do you think He was crazy?

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (Mere Christianity, 55-56).

Some people don’t believe that Jesus ever said these things or did these things.

So that’s another option. That Jesus is just a legend.

But the evidence is against that. If you have questions about that, I have some really good books about the historicity of the gospels. How trustworthy they are as historical sources. Like this one by Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels.

I don’t think that “legend” is a viable option either.

What do you think?

It’s important what YOU think.

What’s most important is Who He truly is.

But it matters whether or not you believe it.

Jesus cares. He asks you the question, too.

“But what about you? ... Who do you say I am?”

I’ve noticed that some people answer the question, “Jesus is God. Jesus is my Shepherd. Jesus is my Savior. Jesus is my friend.”

But they don’t really say, “Jesus is my Lord. Jesus is my King.”

They are happy for Jesus to love them, and they “love” Him, too.

But they don’t necessarily want to do what Jesus says.

They don’t want Jesus to call the shots.

Because Jesus likes to get all up in our business and call us to do things we don’t necessarily want to do.

Remember, if you decide that Jesus is Lord, that means that you are committed to living out His Sermon on the Mount, from the inside-out.

Remember what He said about lust?
Remember what He said about anger?
Remember what He said about prayer?
Remember what He said about money?
Remember what He said about how we would treat our enemies?

Remember what He said about what kind of people will flourish?

What about you? Who do you say that He is?

That’s the question.

I think the answer is obvious.

And, I think the disciples had been getting there, too.

They had been thinking about this, an awful lot.

And now their never-timid spokesman, Simon steps up to answer it. V.16

“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”

That’s the first time in Matthew’s gospel when one of the disciples puts this into words.

They’ve bowed before Him, they’ve asked the question. They’ve even said, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

But they haven’t said, “Messiah” yet.

They haven’t it in Greek, “Christ.”

“You are the Anointed One. The One promised by the whole Old Testament.”

“‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”

How’d he do?

I almost titled this message, “Peter gets an A+”

[But then next week, we’d have to title the message, “Peter gets an F-” when you see what happens there!]

But here he hits the nail on the head. V.17

“Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”

You’ve got it right, Pete!

That’s the right answer to this key question.

You’ve kept your eye on the ball, and you’ve knocked it out of the park.

And so you are blessed.

Do you see that blessing?

Same word as in the beatitudes. “Makarios.”

How blessed you are!


Way to go! Way to be! “Good on ya!”

“Now, don’t get a big head about that.

That wasn’t something you came up with all by yourself.

And it wasn’t even given to you by your earthly daddy, Simon son of the fisherman named after the reluctant sea-going-prophet.

You got that from MY Father.

It’s a divine gift that you know Who I am.”

And that’s true for us, too, isn’t it?

If we know Who Jesus truly is, it’s all grace!

For which we should be so grateful.

Now, I’m sure that Peter didn’t really understand the implications of what He had just said. In fact, it will be clear in just a few verses that He didn’t understand what He’d just said.

But what He’d just said is the right answer to the question.


And the proper response to that is to believe it and to build your life on its truth.


This is what all need.

We all need to answer this question, and then build our lives on this truth.

Don’t believe that anything else is the Christ. That anything else is the Messiah, the Savior.

Everybody is looking for a rescuer.

That’s what’s behind all of these superhero movies, right?

I love ‘em. I’ve been a big fan of Marvel Comics since long before it was cool.

My favorite characters were Spiderman, Captain America, and Hawkeye.

And I never thought I’d ever see Hawkeye in a movie!

But why are these characters so popular?

Because they are saviors, right?

What’s the point of every superhero movie?

What’s the point of every good cowboy movie?

Rescuing right? Saving the day. Saving the town. Saving the world.

That’s one of the reasons why politics are so heated right now.

People are looking for saviors.

They are looking for someone to rescue them from whatever they perceive as the dangers. And that’s true on the right and the left.

People are looking for Messiahs left and right.

But Jesus says that He is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

He’s the rescuer. He’s the Savior.

We need to build on our lives on Him.

And interesting, Jesus says that He’s going to build His church on Peter and His right answer to the big question.

That’s “The Promise.” V.18

“[You told me who I am.] And [now] I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

That’s the promise.


Jesus has a great pun here, doesn’t He?

“Simon, I’ve renamed you Rocky (that’s what Peter means, Rock, wonder if he can do the eyebrow), and on this Rock (you and your correct answer to My big question) I will build my church, and nothing will stop it.”

Jesus will build his church.

I’ve preached that sentence before all by itself.

I (Jesus and nobody else). Will (most definitely, unstoppably). Build (Atop this Rock). My (and nobody else’s). Church (called-out people of God).

What a great promise!

By the way, this is the first use of the word “church” in the New Testament.

Here’s where Jesus first promised that we would come into existence!

Jesus will build His church.

Notice that He does it on Peter.

Not that Peter is the first pope or anything like that.

This isn’t saying that Peter is super special and gets special powers that get passed down from pope to pope to pope until it reaches the guy in Rome.

I don’t see that anywhere in the Bible and certainly not here.

Peter is special because He was first and representative, and He was given the right answer by the Father.

So it all starts here with Rocky and on this Rock, this foundation of Peter and His right answer, Jesus will build His church.

I don’t know about you, but that is very encouraging to me.

As a pastor, I can get to thinking that it’s my job to build the church.

And I just can’t do it.

I can’t make the church grow.

I can’t make the church get bigger.

I can’t make the church get stronger.

I can’t make the church mature!

All I can do is just be faithful to my calling to shepherd it.

To preach the gospel, to the do the work of an evangelist.

To equip the saints of the work of the ministry.

But I don’t build it.

If I built it, they wouldn’t come!

But Jesus said that He would build the church.

I build my life on the right answer to the question.

And Jesus will be the church on the right answer to that question.

Do you see why it’s important to keep your eye on the ball?

That is so reassuring for me.

It doesn’t mean that we sit back and don’t do anything.

We do everything that the Christ, the Son of the Living God tells us to do!

Including putting on a Wild Game Dinner to introduce people to Him!

But ultimately, we aren’t responsible for the church being built.

Only Jesus can do that.

And He has promised that He will.

He has promised that He will!

What are these gates?

I think the gates of Hades are the doors to the prison house of death.

My sense is that it means that death will not prevail against the church.

Death will lose in its fight with us.

I don’t think it’s about Satan or about demons so much as it is about death.

Death does not win.

It’s like 1 Corinthians 15.

When Paul jumps to the end of the story and says, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The church will be victorious.

The resurrection will guarantee it.

That’s what I think Jesus is talking about here.

And invincible, unstoppable, death-overcoming church.

Jesus will build it, and it will be glorious!

I don’t know about you, but I need to hear that.

Because the church often doesn’t seem that way.

The church seems so fragile. So fickle at times. So breakable.

Careful with how you touch it; it might break!

But no, that’s not the reality of the true Church.

The Church is an unstoppable force from Matthew 16:16 on.

Built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets and the right answer to the big question about Who Jesus is, Jesus promises to build an unbeatable church.

And we’re along for the ride!

Jesus promises Peter even more. V.19

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’”

And a lot of ink has been spilled by scholars arguing over precisely what that means.

It sure sound important!

Those are important keys that Peter is going to wield.

The keys to get into or be kept out of the kingdom of heaven!

This isn’t a joke about St. Peter at the pearly gates.

This is the deep authority given to Peter in chapter 16 and, think implicitly to the rest of the disciples there, and then to the whole church in chapter 18–we’ll see that when we get there, the keys are the deep authority that goes with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The authority to tell people the good news about Jesus.

Who He is and what He has done.

And the authority and responsibility, to guard the gospel and keep it pure.

And the authority and responsibility to determine who has believed the gospel and who is not believing the gospel.

These keys are the authority and responsibility to be the gospel-proclaiming church that Jesus is building.

To live out the mission of sharing the gospel with the nations.

And to those who believe the gospel, the doors to the kingdom become unlocked, and they are ushered in!

But to those who deny the gospel, the doors remain shut, and they are locked out, judged by how they truly answer the big question that Jesus was asking.

And there will be symmetry between heaven’s verdict and the church’s verdict because there is ultimately only one right answer to the question, “Who do you say I am?”

In verse 20, Jesus tells them the exact opposite of what He is telling us today. V.20

“Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.”

How come?!

That was the right answer!

It’s because they didn’t really know what that meant yet.

We’ll see that next week. In the very next verse, Jesus begins to explain what it really means for Him to be the Messiah.

And in a word, it means the Cross.

They didn’t get that yet.

And none of the people they would tell that Jesus is the Christ would get that yet either.

So they were supposed to keep it quiet.

But you and I are not.

We know.

We know the question.

We know the right answer to the question.

And we know the promise that is now built on that right answer.

Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

And Jesus will build His Church.

So let’s go tell some people!


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
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

"Resisting Gossip" Is Now An Audiobook!

Rejoice with me!

Resisting Gossip is now available as an audiobook at Audible!

It’s unabridged and read by yours truly, clocking in at 4 hours and 24 minutes.

I am especially thankful for this new development because it is a loooooong time in coming. I first recorded the chapters in the Fall of 2013 and Spring of 2014, but we never got it edited and produced into an audiobook until this last year. Five years later, we finally have an audiobook!

A big thank-you goes to Jim Pitman at CLC Publications for believing in and rebooting this project, finding a quality sound editor, and seeing it through to publication.

Thanks also to my friends Tim Sullivan and Kenneth Hawthorne for volunteering to listen to the raw recordings and find all of my verbal typos to be fixed in post-production.

And a great big special thanks to WTLR, our local Christian radio station, for giving me time in the studio to record Resisting Gossip. The quality of the audio is wonderful because of your generosity.

Now that we have an audiobook version, I can help people with requests like this one that came in a year or so ago:

I have a quick question for you. I have a mother I am counseling whose daughter is struggling with people gossiping about her at work. I gave the mother one of your books. The problem is, her daughter is legally blind. This brings me to my question. Have you put Resisting Gossip on audiobook yet? If not, are there any plans to do so in the near future?
Yes, we have! I pray that this new version helps many people who need to or like to imbibe their books through their ears to win the war of the wagging tongue.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

[Matt's Messages] “The Pharisees and Sadducees”

“The Pharisees and Sadducees”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
March 3, 2019 :: Matthew 16:1-12

I’ve titled today’s message, “The Pharisees and the Sadducees” which are the first four words of Matthew chapter 16.

They are very familiar words for anybody who has read the Gospels, but I was surprised to find out this week that those four words don’t appear very often together in the Bible.

They have already appeared together once in the Gospel of Matthew back in chapter 3 where these two groups of Israeli religious leaders were confronting John the Baptist.

But that’s it so far. And they won’t appear in the same verse again until chapter 22 which is during Passion Week.

One of the big reasons they don’t appear together very often is that these two groups, the Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t agree on very much.

They were very different groups with very different beliefs and values.

The Pharisees were kind of the ones on the right. They were the religious conservatives who were famous for their rules to retain “holiness.”

We’ve heard a good bit about them in the Gospel of Matthew. They were very focused on the “outside.” Remember a couple of weeks ago how concerned they were about Jesus and His disciples not ritually washing their hands?

The Sadducees on the other hand were more like those on the left. We haven’t heard about them tussling with Jesus yet. They weren’t nearly as scrupulous about details and rules, and they weren’t nearly as confident in the Scriptures. They were famous for not believing in the resurrection from the dead.

So they were...Sad, you see?

It may not be that funny, but it’s great way to remember the difference.

The Sadducees were more in the ruling class and the priestly class. So they were more in charge than the Pharisees.

But those were the two main and disputing parties within the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Religious Ruling Council.

They did not get along.

But lookee here. Here they are together.

Jesus has brought them together!

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” At least for a time.

Things have been heating up between Jesus and the Pharisees. And now the Sadducees want to team up and get into the fight, as well.

Matthew chapter 16, verse 1.

“The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.”

That should sound familiar to you. The Pharisees tried to pull this trick back in chapter 12.

We saw then that it wasn’t a request. It was a rejection.

Now it’s a team-up rejection. Not just the Pharisees but the Sadducees, too.

They demanded that Jesus show them a sign from heaven.

I take that to mean a sign from God. And they might have also meant a sign up in the sky. A heavenly sign that would prove once and for all that Jesus was the Christ.

They wanted fireworks. And they wanted them now.

It’s interesting that it says they were trying to “test” him. The Greek word there is the same word that Matthew used to describe what Satan was doing with Jesus in the wilderness.

These guys were not hoping that Jesus would produce a sign.

They were hoping He would FAIL to produce a sign!

It’s really awful what they are doing.

Think about it. Because what are they saying by asking for this sign?

They are saying, “What you have done so far is not enough. And you are not enough. We reject you as the Messiah. You may be Jesus, but you are not the Christ.”

“If you are, then prove it!”

Think about this in juxtaposition to the woman we read about last week.

She was a Gentile. She was a Canaanite. She was from Paganland.

And she had GREAT FAITH. Remember that? She amazed Jesus, “Woman, you have great faith!”

And then look at these men.

They should be bowing before Jesus and receiving Him as their king.

But instead, they are like, “Show us a sign from heaven!”

They are rejecting Jesus. And Jesus is rejecting them. V.2

“He replied, ‘When evening comes, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,'  and in the morning, 'Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

That’s a rebuke.

He’s saying, “You want a sign in the heavens? You’re good at the signs in the heavens.

“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.
Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.”

“You can see the obvious when it comes to the weather.

But you can’t see the obvious when it comes to Me.”

Jesus is saying that they shouldn’t need another sign.

It’s obvious.

It’s right in front of them.

But they cannot see it (because they don’t want to see it). V.4

“A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.’ Jesus then left them and went away.”

Yet another strategic withdrawal.

And it’s a judgment upon them.

He turns on His heel and leaves them.

I have three points of application for us this morning.

Here’s the first one:


Remember in Matthew that we have to keep our eye on the ball.

And what is the ball? The identity of Jesus.

Who is this Jesus?

Jesus says, “By now it should be obvious.”

If you can lick your finger and tell what the weather is, then you can look at all of the evidence and tell Who Jesus is.

Read the signs.

Look the miracles. Listen to the teaching. Listen to the interactions. Watch Him at work and decide for yourself.

Is He a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord?

What you can’t say is, “Gimme some more.”

“More signs, please.”

“What you have done so far is not enough.”

“You are not enough.”

Jesus calls for faith. Jesus calls for us to believe in Him.

And for those who do not have faith, who do not believe, who refuse to believe, He has only one more sign for them.

“The sign of Jonah.”

Do you remember what that is?

Jesus said the same thing to the Pharisee back in chapter 12.

But He explained it more there. He said, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

Jesus is going to be like Jonah, apparently dead and gone. Dead and buried.

But then on the third day, He will rise again!

Look for that sign!

Can you see that sign?!

Can you read that sign?!!

We’re coming into that season when we contemplate what Jesus did for us on the Cross and what happened at the Empty Tomb.

It was the sign of Jonah.

Death, burial, and glorious resurrection that makes all of the difference.

Have you read the signs?

Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ?

Do you believe that Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried, and on the third day He rose again?

If you have never believed that, I invite you to begin today!

Read the signs.

The opposite is unthinkable.

It’s Jesus leaving you and going away.

Leaving you with your hard, cold heart.

Your hard, cold heart that says, “I don’t believe. I reject you, Jesus. You haven’t done enough. Do me another miracle, and then maybe I’ll believe.”

Jesus says, “No.” Those with hard, cold hearts towards Him, those wicked, spiritually unfaithful idolaters will not get a sign on demand. Just the sign of Jonah which should be more than enough.

Read the signs.

Now, in verse 5, the story changes, but the focus stays on the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Jesus has left them, but He’s still talking about them to His disciples. V.5

“When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. ‘Be careful,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ They discussed this among themselves and said, ‘It is because we didn't bring any bread.’”

This is not one of the disciples’ better moments.

They are have failed to bring bread which was apparently their job.

And they are so focused on their failure that they clearly aren’t listening to what Jesus is saying.

“Jesus is talking about yeast. It must be because we forgot the bread!”

This is what we call “adventures in missing the point.”

By the way, I act like this all of the time.

I’m so focused on myself and my thoughts and my performance and what I think I’ve done wrong that I often am clearly not listening to Jesus.

I can be reading the Bible, and I’m so focused on me that I miss the Lord.

Can you identify?

I love how Jesus ministers to them at this moment.

He hits them with a whack up the backside of the head. V.8

“Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, ‘You of little faith [oligoipistoi. There it is again!], why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don't you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’”


It’s a rebuke. But it’s a gentle one.

It’s like when my wife lovingly calls me, “You dummy.”

“C’mon, Matt. You know better than that.”

“C’mon, Disciples. You know better than that. You can trust Me more than that!”

Oligopistoi. You of little faith.”

Here’s point number two.


Jesus says, “Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?

Why are you worried about forgetting that food when I am here with you?

I can take care of the food!”


God wants us to remember what He has done.

How often do we forget what God has already done?

That’s why we celebrate the Lord’s Supper so often.

Jesus said to do it, “In remembrance of” Him.

To remind ourselves what Jesus has done.

Yes, when we come to the Table, we are reminded of what we have done.

We are reminded of our sins.

And worse sins than just forgetting to bring some bread.

But that’s the biggest things we’re supposed to remember at this table.

The biggest thing is not what we have done, but what He has done.


“Remember how much was leftover when did those miracles.”

Jesus is saying, “Remember that I am more than enough. I am more than satisfying. I am more than you need.”

So often we act like Jesus might be less than we need.

But Jesus says, “Remember the leftovers. That’s Me! I am more than you need.”

What do you need to remind yourself this week that Jesus has already done for you?

Maybe you want to write a few things down on the back of you bulletin?

Maybe you are focused on yourself right now.

On Wednesday night before Stay Sharp, I was lying awake and I couldn’t get to sleep, and my mind was just swirling with worries and concerns and frustration, and I just couldn’t corral myself or my mind.

Sometimes I’m a self-tightening nut.

I was so upset.

And my wife said to me, “Can you pray? Can you recite Scripture?”

I could hardly do that, I was so twisted up in a mental knot.

But then I started to thank the Lord for things.

I just started to list the things to the Lord that He had already done in my life. Over the years and recently.

And the list got longer and longer, and then eventually I finally fell asleep.

Remember the leftovers.

Jesus has always been more than enough, and He always will be.

And number three.


Finally, they got the point. V.12

“Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread [duh], but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Oh, that’s what You meant!

Not yeast but yeast. Right!

It’s interesting that Jesus uses yeast as the illustration here of false teaching.

He used yeast positively back in chapter 13 for the secret growth of the kingdom.

But there is a bad kind of yeast as well. The false teachings of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Both of which will kill you.

Yeast is seemingly insignificant.

It is mostly invisible.

It seems innocuous.

It’s easy to miss.

But it’s pervasive.  And it’s contagious. It grows and grows silently.

And before you know it, it’s all over.

Today, we might use the illustration of a cancer.

False teaching is a cancer.

It’s not easily detectable, but it spreads and grows and metastasizes and next thing you know, it’s killing the body.

That’s what Jesus is warning us.

“Be on your guard against the bad yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”

What is that teaching?

Well, both of these groups went wrong in different ways.

The Pharisees, we’ve seen, were focused on the externals, on legalism, on rule-keeping and they ignored the insides and they tried to get out of actually keeping the Law or loving people.

They were always adding to the gospel and trying to dodge obedience in the kingdom.

The Sadducees were unbelieving. If the Pharisees were adding, the Sadducees were subtracting. They didn’t believe in the resurrection! They believed in power and wealth and prestige and position.

Both of them were hypocrites. In the Gospel of Luke Jesus says to beware of their hypocrisy. Saying one thing and doing another.

False teaching comes in many different disguises.

Again, that’s why I’m glad we have things like Stay Sharp to learn about false teaching and be aware of bad ideas with bad consequences.

Ideas have consequences.

They are not neutral.

Do you know what ideas are true and which ones are false?

Can you recognize the bad yeast of false teaching?

The one big false teaching that these two groups had in common was the teaching that Jesus was not the Christ.

They didn’t agree on much, but they agreed on that!

Jesus warns us to beware the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Because bad ideas have consequences.

Especially the bad idea that Jesus is not the Christ.

They were getting that one wrong.

“Don’t be like them,” Jesus says. “Don’t be like this wicked and adulterous generation that rejects Me looking for a miraculous sign.

No. Put your faith in Me.”

In the next section, Jesus will flat out ask His disciples if they get it.

He’ll ask them, “Who do you say that I am?”

Keep your eye on the ball.

Because that question is all important.

Don’t fall for the false ideas that swirl out there in the culture about Who Jesus is.

Come to trust Him as Savior and follow Him as Lord.


Questions for Group Discussion
“The Pharisees and Sadducees”
March 3, 2019

1. Read Matthew 16:1-12. Why do the words “The Pharisees and Sadducees” appear together so infrequently in the Bible? Why are they together here?

2. Focus on verses 1-4. What did Pastor Matt mean by “Read the Signs?” Why did he say that their asking for a sign was not a request but a rejection? What does it mean for the Pharisees and Sadducees to be “wicked and adulterous?”

3. Focus on verses 5-11. What did Pastor Matt mean by “Remember the Leftovers?” List 9 things that the Lord has done for you recently for which you are grateful. What difference does it make in our lives when we focus on thanksgiving and remembrance?

4. Focus on verse 12. Why is yeast such a good metaphor for false teaching? What is the bad yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees? Where do you see it popping up around you? How can we resist false teaching?

5. How can the group pray for you as you seek to live out what you learned this week?


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
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God