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Sunday, November 17, 2019

“The Coming of the Son of Man” [Matt's Messages]

“The Coming of the Son of Man”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
November 17, 2019 :: Matthew 24:15-35

We are following Jesus through the Gospel of Matthew, and we’ve reached that Crucial Holy Passion Week where everything in the book comes to a head.

Jesus has come to Jerusalem, locked horns with and denounced the religious leaders, and has predicted the destruction of the city and the temple. Their house will be left desolate.

And in chapters 24 and 25, Jesus is teaching about that coming judgment of Israel and about His own return.

So, right now, we are learning together about the End Times.

And as I said last week, that can be both exciting and confusing.

It’s exciting because this is Jesus’ own teaching about Jesus’ own return.

And that so incredibly important!

But it’s also often confusing because it can be very complex and complicated, and Christians have often disagreed about the details.

Faithful Bible-believing Christians are all agreed that Jesus is coming back. That Jesus is really coming back, personally, the same Jesus Who left, in the same resurrected body. And that His return will change everything.

But faithful Bible-believing Christians have also not always agreed on all of the details of how and especially when that will happen.

There are actually many many different views out there and different positions.

And I’ve been trying to study a bunch of them.

And I respect those who hold all of these different positions.

I have the greatest respect for those who taught me to love and read and believe and trust my Bible and yet have a different position on these things than I have come to personally myself.

There is lots of room here for disagreement and for helping each other to see what each other sees and to sharpen one another.

So let me ask you: Have I lost you already?

I may have already confused you last week in my teaching.

And/or you may already disagree with me on my interpretation, and that’s okay.

If I haven’t lost you yet, I’ll probably lose you today!

There are a lot of details, and it can get confusing really fast. And every view, every position, has its strengths and its weaknesses. It’s hard to keep these things straight.

I confess that I may not have all of this right.

I’m doing my very best, but I come in a spirit of deep humility.

I have confidence in Jesus’ words, but that doesn’t mean that I understand them all.

When we come to passages like this one, we need to put on our thinking caps and have patience with one another.

Last week, I said that there would be two principles that guide our study of Matthew 24 and 25.

One is that we will always focus on application. Jesus is always focused on our hearts, is He not?

When Jesus teaches on eschatology, He means for it to change our hearts and to direct our lives.

This is not just information about what will happen in Jerusalem in the first century and what will happen when Jesus comes back.

This is the information we need to know about those things so that we live the way our King wants us to live while we wait for the consummation of His kingdom.

So last week, we learned that while we wait for the King’s return we are not to be fooled, not to be scared, and to not let our hearts grow cold.

How did you do?

How did you do at that this last week?

Did you let yourself be swayed by false teaching and start to swerve?

Did you get alarmed by world events and start to get alarmed?

Did you allow yourself to grow indifferent to spiritual things?

Or did you stay close to Jesus and grow in your love for Him?

Did you boldly share the gospel of the kingdom while you wait for the King?

Here’s how we will know if we have really received this teaching in Matthew 24 and 25–if we live differently because we have studied it.

If we go on doing the same old same old, we are wasting our time studying eschatology. ...

The second key thing we are going to do as we study Matthew 24 and 25 is keep our eyes on the ball.

How many times have I said that as we’ve studied Matthew?!

Matthew is a theological biography of Jesus Christ.

And the key question that should always be at the back of our minds as we study Matthew is, “Who is Jesus?”

Because Matthew is keen to show us!

That’s the number one thing that He’s up to–“Who is Jesus?”

So here is my title for today’s message. It goes right along with that.

“The Coming of the Son of Man”

Those words appear in verse 27.

And similar words show up in verse 30.

“The Coming of the Son of Man.”

In Greek, it is “hay parousia tou huiou tou anthropou.”

“The coming of the Son of Man.”

Who is this Son of Man?

That’s Jesus. We’ve seen again and again in the Gospel of Matthew that “Son of Man” is Jesus’ favorite name for Himself.

Do a search on it this afternoon on your Bible app. Search “Son of Man” in your Bible and see how Jesus loves to use this self-designation.

Jesus used it when He asked Peter and the disciples that mega-question in chapter 16, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” “Who do you say I am?” And the right answer was, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

And He’s used it again and again to talk about Himself in relation to the End Times.

In chapter 13, Jesus said the Son of Man would send out His angels to “weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.”

In chapter 16, He said 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.”

In chapter 19, He said, that “at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, [His disciples] will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

And now in chapters 24 and 25, Jesus is teaching more about that coming of the Son of Man. And that’s Him!

What His coming will be like, and how to think about it and how to prepare for it.

And what good news it is.

The coming of the Son of Man is good news for you and me if we are followers of Jesus Christ.

This morning, I have four points of good news to apply to our lives because the Son of Man is coming.

But first, we have to complete the “Birth Pains.”

Do you remember the “Birth Pains” of verses 4 through 14?

Jesus was describing these difficult things that had to happen before His return.

He likened them to labor pains.

Very painful, right Moms?
Birth pains tell you that something big is coming.
Something joyful!
It’s inevitable and on the way.
But first it hurts.

But birth pains also don’t tell you exactly when something is going to happen.

They can come and go in frequency and intensity.

I think that verses 4 through 26 of chapter 24 describe the period of these birth pains.

And then verses 27 through 31 tell us about the Coming of the Son of Man.

So last week, we only made it up though verse 14. To get all the way up to the Coming of the Son of Man, we have to complete the Birth Pains.

Including one of the most painful birth pains there ever would be–the destruction of the temple in the year 70 AD.

Remember the context for this prophecy. In verse 1, Jesus was walking away from the temple, and His disciples try to get Him to stay and pay attention to the temple and its glorious gold-covered buildings.

But Jesus responded in verse 2, “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be throne down.”

Total destruction is coming to the temple.

And hearing that rocks the disciples’ world, so they come privately to Jesus on the Mount of Olives, so that this is often called the Olivet Discourse, the Mount of Olives Teaching on the End Times.

And they ask (v.3), “Tell us when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

And in their minds, all 3 of those things were probably the same thing.

But we know now that they are actually separated in time.

And Jesus knew that, too.

So what was Jesus answer? What did Jesus tell them was when the temple would be destroyed? Or what were the signs of His coming and the end of the age?

I think that most of us decided last week that Jesus did not directly answer their questions in verses 4 through 14.

Jesus doesn’t always tell us what we want to know.

He does tell us what we need to know.

Jesus told them about the birth pains. About these difficult things that will happen from that moment until Jesus comes back.

About deceivers and false Christs and false prophets.
And wars and rumors of wars.
And famines and earthquakes.
And persecution and hatred.
And apostasy and increase in wickedness.
And cold cold hearts.

Birth pains.

Now, last week, I said that there are basically three different approaches to interpreting the fulfillment of the events prophesied in Matthew 24 and 25.

On the one side are those people who think that almost all of this stuff has already happened. It’s over. That approach is called the past approach, or the fancy name for it is the “preterist” approach. And it’s been popular at various times in church history.

On the other side are those people who think that almost everything in Matthew 24 and 25 is still future, hasn’t happened yet. The fancy name is “futurist” for that approach. And futurism has been very popular in the last 150 years especially here in America. I was taught it, and you’ve all heard it taught at some point.

And then everybody else is somewhere in the messy middle. It’s not as clean as either of these two ends (and I’m not sure it even has a name), but somewhere in here is where I land on a number of these things. To me, some things have already happened and some things have not.

I think that verses 4 through 14 are on both sides at the same time! The birth pains are things that have happened, are happening right now, and will happen until the return of Christ. That was last week.

Now, it might surprise you to learn that I think that verses 15 through 21 are actually things that have already happened. I’m “preterist” on the next paragraph.

The next paragraph (vv.15-21) is full of things that were future when Jesus predicted them during Crucial Week, but they were then fulfilled in the first century so now they are past. Look at verse 15.

“So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel–let the reader understand–then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again.”

Now, I was taught by faithful, Bible-believing Christians that all of those things have not yet happened.

And that’s a valid and faithful interpretation of this passage. Many solid Bible teachers believe it, and it might be true. It was certainly all future when Jesus taught it.

But I think that Jesus is answering the first part of the disciples’ question here.

He’s telling them when the temple will be destroyed.

Jesus is prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD.

Look again at verse 15.

“So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel–let the reader understand–then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”

What is this “abomination that causes desolation?” More woodenly translated, “The abomination of desolation.”

Where do those words come from?

They come from the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel.

“The abomination of desolation” was predicted by the prophet Daniel. Daniel uses these exact words in chapter 9, verse 17, chapter 11, verse 31, and chapter 12, verse 11. Look them up this afternoon.

And the Jews who had read the book of Daniel (let the reader of Daniel understand, the Jews) had been looking for this abomination since Daniel had predicted it.

And they had already experienced foretastes of it between Daniel and Jesus.

There was a man named Antiochus IV Epiphanes who was the Seleucid ruler of Israel in 167 BC–that’s after Alexander the Greek and before Rome took over. (If you are one who studies Daniel, that’s the belly and thighs of bronze in his statue vision.)

And this man, Antiochus IV, was evil.

He went into the post-exilic temple and had an altar to Zeus constructed and then sacrificed pigs on it! And he made it illegal to practice Judaism. Circumcision, Sabbath, priesthood. All of those things were outlawed under Antiochus Epiphanes. May his name rot.

And there was an uprising against him by the Maccabees, and the eventual victory they had is celebrated yearly at the Festival of Lights also called Hanukkah. This happened in the time between your Old Testament and your new.

Antiochus Epiphanes was a manifestation of the abomination of desolation.

And yet he was just a foreshadowing.

So in the first century, after Jesus in the mid-sixties, the Jews tried to rebel against Rome.

And Rome sent armies led by General Titus to put down the rebellion.

And the armies surrounded Jerusalem and laid siege.

And then they marched into town. Titus and his generals marched into the temple.

And they walked into the Holy Place. These Roman generals marching around inside the temple.

And then they set fire to it.

And then they went after the gold.

The gold melted in the fire, and so it was everywhere. It was in the cracks between the rocks.

Remember how big those rocks were? Big as boxcars.

So what did they do? The Romans started uprooting and overturning all of those huge stones in the burned-out temple to retrieve the gold.

So that when they were done, there was nothing left of the temple!

Not just no gold left, but no temple left!

What did Jesus say in verse 3? “Not one stone left on another.”

What did He say last chapter? “Your house will be left desolate.”

The abomination of desolation.

In verse 16, Jesus told the disciples that when they saw these things unfolding before their eyes, they should run for the hills!

“...then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”

Run and don’t stop!

“Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.”

And here’s something amazing:

They did that.

This is exactly what they did. They obeyed Jesus.

The Christian historian Eusbeius says when the Christians saw the Roman armies gathering around Jerusalem, they got out of town.

Many of them fled to a place named Pella across the Jordan River.

So when Jerusalem fell, most of the Christians had escaped.

They believed Jesus’ teaching and got out of Dodge.

But the destruction was terrible.

It was worse that 586 BC when Nebuchadnezzar sacked the city and destroyed Solomon’s temple and dragged Daniel into exile.

It was worse than 167 BC when Antiochus Epiphanes sacrificed a pig on the altar.

Jesus says that it was the single worst thing to ever happen in Jerusalem.

“For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again.” ...

Now, those are big words, and I know that it’s hard to see them as describing something that’s already happened back in the first century.

I have great sympathy for those who think they must be pointing at some Great Tribulation in the future. I used to think so myself.

And it’s even possible that it might be both/and. That these words was initially fulfilled in the first century, and they will be even more fulfilled in the future. There are hints at that in Daniel 9, 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, and Revelation 13.

What we need to understand is just how devastating it was in Jerusalem in the first century.

Josephus says that 97,000 Jews were enslaved.

And he says that 1.1 million Jews were killed right there in the city.

Unspeakable horrors and atrocities were committed.

It was a slaughter. And it was total destruction.

Not just of the temple, but of the people.

And for density and concentrated desolation, there has never been anything like it.

It was the absolute worst of the Birth Pains.

Now, I told you that there would be good news. I’ll bet you’re ready for it by now. I am.

Here’s the good news in verse 22: “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.”

I’m not sure if the “those days” in verse 22 are just verses 15 through 21 or if they are verses 4 through 21. Both make sense in this context.

I think, they might be 4 through 21, all of the Birth Pains. If the Birth Pains had not been cut short, then everybody would die. I know that’s true for women giving birth, right?

Here’s the good news. The Coming of the Son of Man will be:

#1. GRACIOUS.

Not everyone will experience this devastating judgment.

Everyone deserves it, but not everyone will experience it.

Because God is gracious.

And because He loves His people. Jesus says, “For the sake of the elect.”

Who don’t deserve it, but are His chosen people.

That’s grace.

When we read verses 15 through 21, we are supposed to tremble.

Tremble at God’s justice being meted out on Israel who had rejected Him.

And tremble at God’s grace being lavished on His people who do not deserve it.

This is Thanksgiving Season. And one of the things we should be the most grateful for is that the Lord does not treat us as our sins deserve. Amen?

We deserve what Jerusalem got!

We deserve the treatment the temple received!

But for our sake (we’re the elect, those who believe in Jesus) those days were shortened.

It will not get as bad as it could get.

That’s grace. That’s amazing grace! How sweet the sound! Amen?

V.23

“At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible.”

Notice what that means.

Can the elect be fully deceived?

No! Because of God’s grace, those who are truly His own children, though often confused, will not be ultimately misled. He’s so gracious!

Verses 23-26 are a lot like verses 4 and 5 that we looked at last week.

Jesus doesn’t want His disciples to be snookered by false Christs and false teachers even if they can do miracles, and some of them apparently can.

V.25 “See, I have told you ahead of time. [He’s a prophet. Keep your eye on the ball! It’s all about Him. V.26] ‘So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.”

Number two. The Coming of the Son of Man will be:

#2. OBVIOUS.

Don’t believe it if some person says, “Hey, come over here. He’s over here.”

There are lots of people who want to convince you they have the secret of Jesus. Just come over to their side and pay your $19.99.

Jesus says that His return will not be hidden or missed.

It will be as public as it gets.

“For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”

The whole world will see it!

“Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.”

Obvious! Impossible to miss.

As obvious as carrion is to a vulture.

Or as obvious to us that there is a carcass because we see the vultures in the sky.

You can’t miss it. Don’t worry! Don’t fret! Don’t think you’ve missed it.

When Jesus comes back, it will be unmistakable.

And when Jesus comes back, it will be:

#3. GLORIOUS.

Verse 29.

“‘Immediately after the distress of those days ‘'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' ‘At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”

Now, believe it or not, there are some faithful Bible-believing Christians who put that paragraph (vv.29-31) in the “past” category.

They don’t think it describes the Return of Jesus.

They still expect the Return of Jesus just like you and I do, but they don’t think that those verses are talking about that.

I think they are wrong.

I think that this is obviously future, and it is the return of Jesus. The coming of the Son of Man.

I believe that the “those days” in verse 29, refer to the whole period of the Birth Pains from verse 4 through verse 26, including but not limited to the Biggest Birth Pain of the Destruction of the Temple in 70AD.

So when Jesus says, “Immediately after the distress of those days...” He means the distress, the tribulation, of the whole period (vv.4-26).

After all of the Birth Pains have finally been completed, then the Son of Man will come.

And what a day that will be!

Heavenly signs. Earth-shattering signs. The “sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”

I don’t know if that’s literal. I think it probably is.

This will be the most momentous event since the crucifixion and resurrection!

And the whole creation will be in upheaval over it.

V.30 “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky...”

I think that means that Jesus Himself will appear. Perhaps with great unfurling banner for all to read “King of Kings and Lord of Lords!”

“...and all the nations of the earth will mourn.”

Why? Why will they cry?

Because they have rejected Him.

Everyone who does not belong to Jesus will realize what they have missed.

“They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.”

That’s also a fulfillment of Daniel. Daniel chapter 7.

Listen to Daniel 7:13&14. Written more than 500 years before Jesus was born.

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

The Son of Man will be given this great authority from the Ancient of Days and then come down here, riding on the clouds, and begin His reign.

Not just with a sign in the heavens. But with a trumpet call. V.31

“And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”

I think that’s what we often call "the Rapture."

Our drawing up to be with Him forever.

Just like it says in 1 Thessalonians 4.

To meet Him in the air and be with Him forever.

The Coming of the Son of Man will be glorious!

I can’t hardly wait. How about you?

Are you ready?

Because it’s going to be wonderful for all of the elect. For all of God’s chosen people.

It’s going to be wonderful!

But it will be terrible for those who are outside.

It will be terrible for the unbelievers.

It will be awful for those who have not trusted in Jesus as their Savior and their Lord.

Verse 30 says all the nations of the earth will mourn. (Zech 12.)

O friend, I don’t want that to be you.

Repent now while you still can.

Or you will mourn when Jesus returns.

Almost there. One more point of good news, and then we’ll sing and go home.

The Coming of the Son of Man Will Be:

#4. SOON AND SURE.

(I couldn’t think of another word that rhymed with glorious.)

Verse 32.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

Now, some people see Israel in the fig tree. And that’s possible.

Israel is likened to a fig tree elsewhere in the Bible. I think we saw that back in chapter 21 when Jesus cursed that fig tree.

So some Bible-believing Christians think that the restoration of the nation of Israel might be a sign that the fig tree is putting out leaves again. That’s possible.

But I think it’s just an illustration of how to think about all of these things. I think Jesus simply means that when you see a fig tree or any tree beginning to sprout leaves, you know that Summer is coming.

You don’t know when. You know it’s Spring right now. But you know that Summer is just around the corner.

Summer is closer if there are figs, but you don’t know exactly when Summer will arrive.

It’s the same thing when the leaves fall, right? You know that Winter is coming. We can feel it. But you don’t know when the heavy snows will come and stay.

It’s like the Birth Pains. You know that the baby is coming. It’s obvious that the baby is coming. But you still don’t know when.

Jesus says (v.33), “Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.”

I think he means all of the things in verses 4 through 26, the things leading up to the Coming of the Son of Man.

When you see all of that, including the destruction of the temple, then you know it’s near. Or that could be translated, “you know that He is near, right at the door.”

Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King.

But soon on His time table. Not ours. We’re going to be hearing this again and again as we follow Jesus through the rest of Matthew 24 and 25.

Soon and very soon, but not on our time table. On His time table.

And so we must wait expectantly and patiently! We’re going to see that again and again. Expectantly and patiently at the same time.

In verse 34 he says, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

There I think He means the same thing by “all these things” as He did by “all these things” in the previous verse. All of verses 4 through 26. Everything before the Coming of the Son of Man in verses 27-31.

Because that’s exactly what happened. Everything in verses 4 through 26 happened between AD 30 and AD 70.

So all of the signs that the disciples asked for and that Jesus was willing to give at that time have occurred.

These prophecies of Jesus have come to pass.

And that means that all of the prophecies He has made that are still to come WILL COME TO PASS.

And nothing will stop them.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

Keep your eye on the ball.

Notice whose words have this ultimate authority.

“My words!”

Jesus’ words will never pass away.

The Coming of the Son of Man is Soon and It’s SURE.

It’s certain and guaranteed.

Nothing can or will stop Him from coming in all of His glory and power and take us to be with Him forever.

Soon and Sure.

Do you believe that?

This should change how we live in the here and now.

If you know that Jesus’ return more certain than the sun will come up tomorrow, how should that effect how you live tomorrow when the sun comes up?

You and I should be living unshakable lives.

I don’t know about you, but I’m easily shakable.

It doesn’t take much to get me worried and insecure and anxious.

And everybody in my life suffers for it.

Jesus is speaking this to me this morning.

“Matthew, did I predict the desolation of Jerusalem and the temple?”

Yes.

“Did it happen?”

Yes.

“Not one stone?”

Not one stone.

“What are you worried about, Matthew?

Are you worried that the Son of Man will not come on the clouds and defeat all of His enemies with power and glory and send His angels with loud trumpet call and gather you, rescue you from wherever you are even Pennsylvania?

What are you worried about, Matthew?”

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away!”


***

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
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet
57. Whose Image?
58. Acing the Test
59. What Do You Think About the Christ?
60. How Not To be A Leader
61. Malignant Religion
62. Fakes and Snakes

Sunday, November 10, 2019

“Birth Pains” [Matt's Messages]

“Birth Pains”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
November 10, 2019 :: Matthew 24:1-14

We have followed Jesus all the way through the Gospel of Matthew to that last Crucial Week in Jerusalem.

We have followed Jesus as He rode into town on Sunday hailed as the Messiah.

We have followed Jesus as He tossed the tables in the temple.

We have followed Jesus as He tussled with the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, the scribes and anybody else who wanted to challenge His authority.

Jesus was left standing, and they were left speechless.

But Jesus was not speechless.

In chapter 23, Jesus denounced the seemingly upright teachers of the Law and the Pharisees for really being fake and wrong and evil. “Hypocrites, blind guides, and snakes.”

“Woe” to them He said.

Jesus has pronounced woe upon them and upon Jerusalem. The exact opposite of flourishing.

In fact, He has pronounced judgment.

At the very end of chapter 23, Jesus said, “Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Right there, Jesus predicted both judgment upon Israel, Jerusalem, and their temple, as well as, His own return.

And that’s exactly what chapters 24 and 25 are all about.

Judgment upon Israel and the return of Jesus Christ.

Now whenever you get to talking about the return of Christ, things get both exciting and confusing.

Prophecy is very exciting because you are studying very important things that are still to come.

But it’s also very complex. There are a lot of details in prophecy that can be difficult to organize and harmonize.

And Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, have disagreed with each other throughout the history of the church on exactly how those details work together.

The main outline is clear. Jesus is coming back. He is really coming back! He is coming back personally, the same Jesus. And bodily, in His new resurrected body. And gloriously, as Judge and King.

But the timing of that return?

And the timing of the events around that return have been hotly debated by faithful, Bible-believing Christians for the last 2,000 years.

I must tell you that I do not plan to solve those debates this Sunday or any Sunday in the next few weeks!

But I do plan to lead us through Jesus’ longest teaching on eschatology, on the end times, in Matthew chapters 24 and 25.

I don’t have the last word on these words, but I believe every last word of them, and they are some of the most important last words on last things.

This is Jesus’ own teaching on Jesus’ own return!

We have studied this teaching before when we did the Gospel of Mark back in 2006 [and a re-visit on 2009] and when we did the Gospel of Luke back in 2011, but this is the first time for me to take you all the way straight through Matthew 24 and 25.

I think it’s going to take us up to Christmastime, at least. We’ll take a break when we get up close to Christmas to celebrate the holiday.

I’m no expert on prophecy, but I’ve been studying really hard to prepare for this part of the Gospel of Matthew. I’ve read several books this year to get my mind and heart set to lead you through this.

And this week, I’ve holed myself up with books from faithful pastors and great Bible scholars with names like D.A. Carson, Warren Wiersbe, David Jeremiah, Paul Feinberg, Dwight Pentecost, John Walvoord, George Ladd, Michael Wilkins, Grant Osborne, Craig Keener, F.F. Bruce, Robert Gundry, Lou Barbieri, Douglas Moo, Gleason Archer, Charles Quarles, R.T. France, Douglas O’Donnell, and Andreas Kostenberger.

You might have heard of some of them, and others not.

It’s amazing to me how much they disagree.

Again, they all believe the Bible. They all believe in the return of Christ. They all believe in Matthew 24 and 25.

But they don’t put all of the details together in the same way.

On one side, a number of people think that almost all of Matthew 24 has already happened in the past. It’s already been fulfilled.

And over on the other side, a whole bunch of people think that almost all of Matthew 24 is still to happen in the future.

And my take is that the truth is somewhere in the messy middle.

Jesus is teaching about things that have happened, are happening, and will happen.

As we go through it, I’ll try to show you what I mean.

Today, I just want to read and study the first 14 verses. Matthew 24:1-14. We’re just going to dip our toes into the water today.

But before we read it, I want to tell give you the two most important principles that will focus our time together over the next few weeks.

Neither should be very surprising, but they are still easily missed.

First, we will keep our eyes on the ball.

This is still the Gospel of Matthew. This is not just a teaching on the return of Christ. This is a teaching by Christ about Christ.

“Who is Jesus?”

Keep asking that question as we read.

And the second key principle is that when Jesus teaches on the end times, He is primarily interested in application.

Jesus does not tell us everything we want Him to tell us.

Jesus tells us everything we need Him to tell us, and He is focused on our hearts and lives.

Eschatology exists to change us.

Jesus’ teaching on His return is always meant to get our hearts in a certain place, to transform our hearts, and have to lives that flow out of those changed hearts.

He is not just interested in giving us information.

He interested in our transformation.

He doesn’t just want us to know what’s going to happen.

He’s going to tell us how to live because it’s going to happen!

So even if we get confused over some of the details (And we probably will! We definitely will!), the application of this teaching can still change our hearts and lives.

Matthew 24, verse 1.

“Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. ‘Do you see all these things?’ he asked. ‘I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’”

It seems that Jesus is leaving the temple in judgment.

He has said that their house will be left desolate, and you won’t see Him again until His blessed return.

He has turned His back on the temple and is walking away.

But His disciples don’t want Him to walk away.

They are in awe of the temple. They come up to Him and point out the buildings.

And they were pretty amazing buildings!

Remember, this is the temple that was rebuilt by Herod the Great. Took him like 40 years. And it was pretty amazing.

The Jewish historian Josephus described the temple like this:

“The exterior of the building wanted nothing that could be astound either mind or eye. For, being covered on all sides with massive plates of gold, the sun was no sooner up than it radiated so fiery a flash that persons straining to look at it were compelled to avert their eyes, as from solar rays. To approaching strangers, it appeared from a distance like a snow-clad mountain; for all that was not overlaid with gold was of purest white. From its summit protruded sharp golden spikes to prevent birds from settling upon and polluting the roof. Some of the stones in the building were forty-five cubits in length, five in height, and six in breadth.” (Quoted in Jesus and the Future by Kosteberger et all, pg. 34).

I'm not good at math, but I think that’s sixty-seven feet long, twelve feet high, and eighteen feet wide.

Stones that big. Bigger than a boxcar!

And gold everywhere.

Most of these disciples were from Galilee in the North. They had never seen anything like it.

They were Gomer Pyle in New York City.

“Shazam. Well, golly!”

And Jesus is walking away from it all.

“Jesus, are you sure you want to walk away from this glorious building?”

“You were just cleansing it a few days ago and saying how it should be used!”

“And now you’re turning your back on it?”

And Jesus says, “Do you see all these things?” Yeah. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Total destruction.

The temple took up one sixty of the land mass of old Jerusalem.

It was a wonder of the ancient world. The outer dimensions would cover twelve football fields.

Scholars estimate that up to 75,000 people could be accommodated in just the Court of the Gentiles!  That’s 5 times the size of the Bryce Jordan Center just in the front court.

And Jesus says that it’s all coming down.

You know the Western Wall, the Wailing Wall? That was part of a retaining wall on the outskirts of Herod’s temple. It wasn’t really part of the temple proper.

It was all coming down according to Jesus.

Now, that’s a prediction of the future.

At least, it was future when Jesus said it.

He is a prophet. And a prophet like no other.

He is the prophet foretold in Deuteronomy 18.

He knows the future, and when He says that something is going to happen, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Like the fig tree withering.

And like the temple being torn down.

So, His disciples want to know more.

They are probably devastated by this prediction. They wanted the Messiah to protect the temple and to kick out the Romans.

But here this Person Whom they believe is the Messiah is now predicting the destruction of their beloved temple.

This probably seems like the end of the world to them.

Like just about nothing worse could ever happen.

So they are looking for more details. V.3

“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’”

Now, we don’t know what they understood and what they didn’t.

They probably thought that all of that was the same thing.

The destruction of the temple, the coming of Christ, and the end of the age.

We know now that they are related things but not the same.

And Jesus knew that then, of course, as well.

And, like I said, Jesus doesn’t always tell us what we want to know.

He tells us what we need to know.

And He tells us what a difference that should make in our life.

So, I haven’t told you the title of today’s message yet.

Here it is: “Birth Pains.”

I get it from verse 8 where Jesus says, “All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

Labor pains.

Anybody here ever experienced labor pains?

I have not.

But I’ve seen people have them.

Jesus is going to list several things that are going to happen in the world and to the disciples.

And He’s going to call them “birth pains.”

What’s the deal with birth pains?

Birth pains tell you that something big is happening.

Something big is coming.

And they hurt. They are painful.

They are not happy pleasant things. They are travail.

The King James calls them "sorrows."

But you know that they are sorrows that lead to joys, right?

When all goes well, after all of that pain, you get to hold a little baby.

Birth pains tell you that something big is happening. It’s definitely happening.

They are painful, but after the pain, you have incredible joy.

But one more thing. They don’t tell you when the baby is actually going to come.

They tell you that it’s going to come. It’s inevitable.

But not when.

Anybody here have false labor?

Anybody here have labor pains one day, and you think, “Here we go,” but then the next day there were almost none?

What’s the record in here? Anybody have in labor here for 24 hours?

The presence of birth pains tells you that you’re in the last days of your pregnancy, but not much more when it comes to timing.

And Jesus says, that’s what these things in verses 4 through 14 are like.

Birth pains.

And He also tells us how we should live while we’re living in the time of labor.

I’ve got three. Here’s the first one.

#1. DON’T BE FOOLED.  V.4

“Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ, 'and will deceive many.”

They asked Him about timing and signs, and He says, “Don’t be deceived. Don’t be misled. Don’t be led astray.”

For many people come claiming to be authorized by Jesus or even to be Jesus Himself and will deceive many.

Has that happened?

Yes, that happened in the first century.

And it has happened every century since.

They have names like Sun Yung Moon and David Koresh and Jim Jones. And they are sneaky and don’t always look like bad people.

This week I read a National Geographic article from 2017 about 5 people who believe that they are in some way Jesus Christ Himself.

And they have followers!

People believe that.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that blatant.

There are plenty of false teacher out there who speak in the name of the Lord, but are really leading people astray.

The word for “deceive” here in verse 4 and verse 5 is “planao” from which we get our word planets. Wandering stars so to speak.

They go off of the track.

Jesus is warning His followers to not let anyone get them off track.

Are you in danger of getting off track?

We all are if we don’t watch out. You see that warning in verse 4, “Watch out!”

Are you watching out?

I think a lot of people don’t pay enough attention to what they are being taught.

And that’s even by me.

Don’t just swallow everything I say. I’m just a man.

Read your Bible. Check what I say against that.

Remember the Bereans? They were noble because they fact-checked the Apostle Paul!

If you have to fact-check Paul, you better fact-check Pastor Matt!

Christians need to develop discernment because there is a lot of false teaching out there.

Is that sign of the end times?

Yes! It’s a birth pain.

It doesn’t tell us that the end is here, but it does say that the end is coming. V.6

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”

#2. DON’T BE SCARED.

Don’t be fooled, and don’t be scared.

You’re going to hear about wars and rumors of wars, but don’t be alarmed.

I don’t know about you, but that’s the exact opposite of what I would do if I heard about war or a rumor of a war.

I would get scared.

But Jesus says, “Don’t be scared.”

And specifically, “Don’t be scared that this war means that the return of Christ is here.”

No, it’s just a birth pain.

It means that return is coming, but what does verse 6 say, “but the end is still to come.”

I think that we get that wrong. We hear about these kind of things, and we say, “Well, Jesus must be returning real soon. Those are signs of His soon return.”

But Jesus is saying the exact opposite. He’s saying, “When you hear about these things, don’t get upset. It doesn’t mean it’s the end.”

King James, “The end is not yet.”

I almost titled this message, “The end is not yet.” v.7

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

All of those things happened in the first century.

And they have all been happening every century since.

Does that mean that Jesus is coming back soon?

Everything means that Jesus is coming back soon!

{Depends on what you mean by “soon.”}

Yes, He’s coming back. And soon. There are labor pains going on.

But you can’t tell from the labor pains exactly how close we are.

Ever since Jesus came back from the dead, the last days have begun. But we don’t know if we are living in the last of the last days.

“All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

So don’t be scared.

I think that’s the opposite of what we normally think when we think about the End Times.

Do the End Times scare you?

Jesus says, “See to it that you are not alarmed.”

They shouldn’t scare us.

Jesus provides this teaching, not to scare us, but to encourage us!

The End Times should bring us hope.
Prophecy should produce in us peace.
Eschatology should give us joy.

Because Jesus wins!

And because we win with Jesus!

Don’t be scared.

It’s so easy to look out on this world and be scared.

There is a lot of trouble in this world. Yes.

Jesus said it would be so.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We have nothing to fear!

At the end of all these birth pains is a glorious joy!

That far outweighs all of the trouble.

Verse 9. "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”

Yes, it’s going to be hard.

There will be trouble. Persecution. Tribulation. Trials. Executions. Hatred.

We just last week prayed for the persecuted church.

That could be us.

Jesus says to be ready for it.

Why?

Don’t miss this. Eyes on the ball.

Why would we be hated by all the nations?

Why would Christians be hated by different people groups?

What’s he say in verse 9?

“Because of me.”

Remember that Jesus is worth any persecution we might suffer.

“Because of me.”

V.10 “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.”

What does this sound like?

This sounds like the New Testament to me.

And it also sounds like today.

These the birth pains. They were true in the first century, and they have been true every century since.

Josephus here chronicles all of them.

And so does our social media feeds today.

Many are turning away from the faith.

This Summer, a former pastor named Joshua Harris announced that he no longer is a follower of Jesus Christ.

I loved his books and have put them in our library and put them in the hands of many of our graduates on Graduation Sunday.

But no longer. He has turned away from the faith. Hopefully, he’ll come back. Let's pray for that.

But we shouldn’t be surprised that people apostasize. Jesus said it would happen right here in Matthew 24.

And professing Christians at each other’s throats.

And false prophets, false teachers in churches, on the radio, in books, on TV, on the internet.

But this is not reason to be scared. It’s a reason to be wary, to watch out, to be discerning, but not to run away.

Instead, run to Jesus.  V.12

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Number three and last:

#3. DON’T GROW COLD.

The answer to all of this apostasy and false teaching is to run towards Jesus, run towards good teaching, run in faith, and keep loving Him.

The answer to all of this falling away is to stand firm.

Do you see how Jesus is focused our hearts?

Has He answered their question?

I don’t think so.

Not yet, anyway.

He hasn’t told them when or what signs.

Instead, He’s told them how to live during the labor pains of the whole world.

Don’t Be Fooled.
Don’t Be Scared.

And don’t let your heart get cold.

Keep your heart warm towards the Lord.

Keep pursuing Him.

Keep praying. Keep meeting with Him. Keep focusing on Him. Keep trusting in Him.

That’s what genuine believers do.

“[H]e who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Not because He earned His salvation, but because He had real faith and real faith keeps trusting in the Lord.

Stand firm to the end.

Either to the end of your life or to the return of Christ whichever comes first!

Because Jesus wins!

V.14 “And this gospel [this good news] of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Not yet!

But someday when the Lord decides that the preaching of the gospel has been heard in the whole world, then the end will come.

But for now, it’s birth pains.

Someday the Great Commission will be fulfilled.

There’s a promise here that the Great Commission to go to all the nations–all those nations that hate us because of Jesus–all the nations will hear that Jesus Christ is King and then end will come.

Now, I think a case can be made that this also happened in the first century with the preaching of Paul. And that it’s been happening every century since.

But Jesus says that one day it will all be over.

So we need to hang on for that day.

Stand firm.

Preach the gospel!  Take that good news to this needy world.

This week!

Stand firm and stay warm.

In Christ.

While we wait for His return.


***

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
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet
57. Whose Image?
58. Acing the Test
59. What Do You Think About the Christ?
60. How Not To be A Leader
61. Malignant Religion
62. Fakes and Snakes

Sunday, November 03, 2019

"Fakes and Snakes" [Matt's Messages]

“Fakes and Snakes”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
November 3, 2019 :: Matthew 23:25-39

I like the fact that even though Thanksgiving and Christmas are approaching, we are at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, looking together at the events of that crucial last week that we often call Holy Week.

It’s a little strange to be studying these events at this time of year, but I think it’s good for us.

There is never a bad time to read any part of the Bible. You don’t have to wait for the approach of a certain holiday to do read any particular part of the Bible. It’s all relevant, all the time.

And sometimes you see things and hear things and feel things when you are studying it at an unfamiliar time, a less than usual time.

And honestly, this part of Scripture shows us what we should be thankful for and what Christmas was all about.

So, we’re nearing the end of this theological biography of Jesus Christ.

For 22 chapters and running, Matthew has been telling us and showing us Who Jesus is and what Jesus wants for us and from us.

Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the King. And Jesus wants us to follow Him.

But there were a group of Jewish Religious leaders who DID NOT WANT people to follow Jesus.

They were called the “teachers of the law and the “Pharisees.”

There were other groups against Him, too, but the spotlight is on them.

When Jesus came riding in on a donkey on that Triumphal Sunday, these guys became indignant that He got so much praise. I’m sure they hated it when He tossed the tables in the temple on Monday.

And then they confronted Him on Tuesday with questions meant to demean and belittle Him and trick Him. Questions meant to stop Him and get Him in trouble with the people and with the Romans.

But Jesus had some questions for them. And when He was done, they were silenced. They hated that!

And they hated Him.

That same day, Tuesday, recounted in Matthew chapter 23, King Jesus began to denounce them in front of the crowd.

He said that they were terrible leaders. They preached but didn’t practice what they preached. They piled on heavy burdens but didn’t lift a finger to help. They loved honor but never humbled themselves.

And therefore Jesus pronounced upon them woe.

Do you remember this?

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees!”

He says it seven times.

This is so devastating.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees!”

We learned last week that a “woe” is the opposite of “blessed.”

It’s the opposite of what we saw back in the Beatitudes.

It’s the opposite of flourishing.

It’s withering. It’s shriveling. It’s dying. It’s wasting away.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees!”

That word “woe” combines condemnation, denunciation, regret, sorrow, lament, and heavy warning into one little syllable.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees!”

Last week, we studied the first four of the seven woes.

Now this week, we’ll look at the last three woes and then the pronouncement of judgment that they have earned.

Jesus calls them names.

He feels so strongly about their awfulness that He uses this kind of name-calling language to make clear what these people are and where they are headed.

Last week, we saw two main names: Hypocrites and Blind Guides.

Hypocrites were play-actors. They pretended to be something that they were not.

And these religious leaders were experts at that.

They were imposters. Pretending to have a relationship with God, but it was all staged and phony.

Jesus is going to call them out for that some more in the last three woes.

And He also said that they were blind guides.

They didn’t know the right way. They didn’t know what they were talking about, but that didn’t stop them from leading other people in the wrong direction.

They were the spiritually blind leading the spiritually blind.

The wrong leading the wrong the wrong way.

We said that “Hypocrites and Blind Guides” could be restated as “The Fake and the Wrong.”

But in verse 33, Jesus adds another name to call them:

Serpents.

Jesus says, “You snakes! You brood of vipers.”

Poisonous, evil, like the devil in the Garden.

Those are strong words!

At the risk of being too cute for so serious a passage, I have titled this message, “Fakes and Snakes” because I couldn’t get it out of my head. It just summed up the passage so well.

These leaders were, according to the Lord Jesus, fakes and snakes.

Pretending to have something they did not.

And having something evil within, namely unbelief and rejection of Jesus.

These are some of the most solemn and serious words ever uttered.

I would have hated to be present when Jesus said them, and even worse for them to be said over me.

Let’s learn from them. V.25 The fifth woe.

“‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites [you fakes]! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”

You see how He’s still talking about hypocrisy?

He uses that image of the cup and dish again that He used back in chapter 15 when He was pointing out the errors of the Pharisees.

They liked to clean the outside of the cup, but not the inside.

Why?

Because it looks good! Right?

I mean, who doesn’t like to look good on the outside?

We all do!

We all want to be thought of as good.

Perceived as having it together.

We all want a good reputation.

So we clean up the outside.

But Jesus says that these guys only cleaned the outside and didn’t clean the inside.

And He’s not talking about the tableware. He’s talking about the heart.

They were fakes.

And that just steams Him.

Remember the Sermon on the Mount?

How the Kingdom of Heaven is upside-down, and it’s also what?

Inside-out.

Jesus wants us to be whole people. The same on the inside as on the outside.

We saw it again and again in the Sermon on the Mount.

But the Pharisees weren’t listening.

It’s not that they were outside-in. Thinking that if they just did the outer conformity stuff, somehow it would get inside of them and change them. (Some of them might have thought that.) But it doesn’t work that way.

But they weren’t outside-in.

They were outside-only.

They were making a good show, but they were fake.

Their insides were v.25, “full of greed and self-indulgence.”

Do you know anybody like that?

Beware of religious leaders like that.

They appear on the outside to be godly, but those who know them truly know that they are actually full of greed and self-indulgence.

Not that they were tempted to greed and self-indulgence.

We are all that.

And not that they had occasionally given in to the temptation of greed and self-indulgence.

They were nurturing greed and self-indulgence.

They were filled with it.

And they pretended that all was well.

It was obvious to Jesus! But they were putting on a show.

In verse 26, Jesus says, “Blind Pharisee!”  There’s that “blind” theme again.

Wrong!

Wrong answer!

This is spiritually wrongheaded.

It’s wrong to get all cleaned up and nice on the outside but not tend to the reality of the inside.

He goes on and gives an even more pungent illustration. V.27

“‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

That’s worse than a cup or a dish, isn’t it?

In this sixth woe, Jesus references the whitewashed tombs.

Why would you whitewash a tomb?

Do you know what the Mosaic Law said would happen if you stepped on a grave?

You would be considered unclean for seven days.

Dalton and Peter mow the church cemetery. If that was in place today, they’d be unclean all summer long!

So you whitewash the tombs so people will steer clear. It’s like putting up caution tape. Don’t walk here.

And the tombs, the monuments, the mausoleums look all nice when they get whitewashed like that.

They look beautiful in their own way.

But don’t let that beauty fool you; what’s inside is dead.

Jesus says that these scribes and Pharisees were dead on the inside.

Hypocrisy and wickedness.

Now, it’s not wrong to be clean on the outside.

It’s not wrong to attend to the externals.

But it is wrong to attend to the externals and ignore the more important internals.

I don’t think we realize how fooled we might be by the Pharisees.

They were the clean-living people.

The teachers of the law were the ones who knew their Bible.

The ones that preached their Bible.

They built their lives around the Bible.

On the outside, they looked good!

They tithed.
They behaved.
They followed the law.
They were the leaders.

But on the inside (and it always comes out, in the end you know where the graves are, you know where the bodies are buried, on the inside) they were dead.

Are you dead on the inside?

Are you just faking it?

I hope not.

There have been times in my life, when I have flirted with this temptation.

It’s hard being pastor sometimes because it’s almost like I’m paid to be a Christian.

At least, I’m paid to be an example of a Christian.

So the temptation is there to just put on a show for public consumption.

But on the inside to indulge in whatever.

But I want to be real.

#1. GET REAL.

Jesus tells these fakes to get real. V.26 again.

“First clean the inside of the cup and dish...”

Get real.

Allow Jesus to cleanse you from the inside out.

Attend to the inner you.

I think a lot of people don’t give much thought to their hearts.

But King Jesus wants our hearts and wants to cleanse our hearts and change our hearts.

So we need to attend to our hearts.

We need to think about our motives.
We need to think about our desires.
We need to evaluate our affections and loyalties.

We need to ask ourselves regularly who or what am I worshiping in this moment?

And get real about the answer.

You see how Jesus feels about pretend religion.

He thinks it’s malignant.

We don’t have to be dead on the inside.

The Holy Spirit is in the business of imparting new life on the inside!

But we need to get real about our need for Him.

And stop our hypocrisy.

Jesus hates hypocrisy.

In the seventh and last woe, Jesus says that these leaders were lying not only to others but lying to themselves. V.29

“‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets” (vv. 29-31).

“You are lying to the world and to yourself.”

And Jesus can see it.

He builds off of the key word “tombs.”

These tombs might have been whitewashed or not but they were set up by the scribes and the Pharisees to honor the prophets of old.

Jeremiah. Isaiah. Daniel. Not Elijah as he was never buried. But Elisha and all those other prophets of old.

So many of them had been killed. Why?

Because the people didn’t want to hear their message!

So these folks, Jesus’ contemporaries, were putting up monuments for those old prophets, and naively telling themselves that they would never do anything like the thumbs-down kings and queens like Ahab and Jezebel.

And at the very same time, be acting just like them.

Jesus says, “Get real.”

“Come on. You need to know yourself better than that.”

“You’re the children of those who murdered the prophets. You’re just like them.”

Get real.

And then Jesus drops the boom. V.32

“Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!”

“Go ahead.”

With His sad sarcasm and biting irony, Jesus tells them to go ahead and finish the job.

“It’s all been adding up. Go ahead and let it boil over.” v.33

“‘You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? [There is not escape for the unrepentant.] Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. [The first Christian missionaries.] And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel [in the book of Genesis] to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. [In the last book of the history of Israel, 2 Chronicles]. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.”

It’s all been building up, and now it’s going to boil over.

Within 40 years, within a generation, Jerusalem will be devastated and the temple will be destroyed.

Because these people and the people following them would refuse to listen and would reject King Jesus and His emissaries.

“Snakes! Brood of vipers!”

Full of evil and wickedness.

John the Baptist called them snakes way back in chapter 3.

Now His cousin Jesus does, too.

And slithering in the background is the serpent of Genesis 3.

Because, on the whole, they would not get real, and they would not repent, there would be no escape.

#2. GET RIGHTEOUS.

Jesus is warning them to repent.

With each successive woe, Jesus has been warning them the un-flourishing to come.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees!”

“Hypocrites...Blind guides...snakes and vipers.”

“Woe to you!”

And He knows that, on the whole, they will not repent.

They will not get righteous.

They will not turn from their path.

He knows.

And He weeps. V.37

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”

Don’t let that be said of you.

If they were willing, then Jesus would gather them up and forgive them and take them under His wings.

Jesus as a mother hen!

Think about that shelter!

Think about that compassion, that tenderness, that safety.

And remember to keep your eye on the ball.

This is the Gospel of Matthew after all.

Look who Jesus think He is.

Jesus thinks that He’s big enough and strong enough to shelter Jerusalem under His wings.

He doesn’t say that God has wanted to do that. He says that He has wanted to.

But He also says that they were not willing.

“Not willing” to get righteous–not externally through observing the Law–but internally by repenting of sin and trusting the Savior.

Those are some very sad words, “but you were not willing.”

Don’t let that be said of you. Instead:

#3. RECEIVE JESUS.

If you have not, now’s the time.

Because there is no way of escape for those who refuse Him.

Jerusalem learned that message the hard way. V.38

“Look, your house is left to you desolate.”

Judgment is coming. Like the fig tree all withered.

The house is left empty, destroyed, abandoned.

The house might be the house of Israel.
The house might be the city of Jerusalem, its capital.
The house might be the temple itself.

I think it’s actually all three.

But the temple stands for the whole.

And I think Jesus is saying that, in judgment, the glory is leaving the temple.

That God is leaving His home.

And in the first verse of the next chapter (and remember, Matthew didn’t put any chapter divisions in there), Jesus turns His back on and walks out of the temple.

“Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

Keep your eye on the ball.

See those little pronouns?

“[Y]ou will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'

They sang those words from Psalm 118 when Jesus came riding into town, and He is saying that they will sing them again when He returns.

Many will have to say those words through gritted teeth.

Grudgingly acknowledging that Jesus Christ is Lord.

But every mouth will confess it.

The question is will we confess it with joy and gladness and faith?

These people did not.

They were fakes and they were snakes.

And they rejected their King.

The Apostle John told the sad story this way. He said that Jesus “came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”

Their house was left desolate.

But we don’t have to follow their fate.

John went on to say “Yet to all who received [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God...”

To those who received Jesus, to those who were willing, there is not condemnation but salvation in His name.

To all who receive Him and say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” and recognize Jesus as the Lord, Jesus gives salvation.


***

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
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet
57. Whose Image?
58. Acing the Test
59. What Do You Think About the Christ?
60. How Not To be A Leader
61. Malignant Religion