Right before it storms, the clouds get really dark. It gets a little colder. The birds stop chirping. The wind picks up.
In today's lesson Jesus tell about signs that the end of the world is cominng. A whole lot scarier than a simple storm. Check it out:
1 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end
is still to come. 8Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
That sounds scary.
False Christs. Wars. Rumors of Wars. Earthquakes. Famines. Persecutions against Christians. Family members hating family members because of Jesus. It certainly doesn’t sound pleasant
But that’s not all. The truth is that these things are already happening. Check out the long list of people who have claimed to be Christ in the Wikipedia article here. Go to CNN and read about wars in the Middle East and rumors of wars in Crimea. Check out this website that tracks earthquakes as they happen here. Besides the economic famine in America, take a look at the results of famine in Africa here. Take to the blogs to read about Christians being ridiculed in the Western world and thrown into prison in the East. Don't miss this article about Christians who were killed during worship just yesterday!
Then there’s that last one. Family members hating family members. I could give you a link of Facebook posts from people who are upset with me for spreading the message of Jesus. But you don't need to read about my life for proof. You feel it on a daily basis. From long distance relatives. From people within your own home.
This sounds so scary. Why would anyone want to be a Christian during these times?
Listen to the end of verse 13 again: The one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Because our Savior Jesus Christ is real. He defeated our sin. He destroyed death. He conquered the devil. He thwarts all imposters. He is the God of war. Earthquakes and famines don’t scare him. Persecutions affect him none. He can take anything angry scientists, vicious bloggers, and vitriol governments can hurl against him.
And so can you.
In Jesus, you will be saved. He will hold you firm to the end. He is our Mighty Fortress! Unlike those temple walls that came crashing down in...Jesus will never crash. His church will never fail. It will remain firm – solidly on Christ until we reach the peaceful streets of heaven.
Suddenly, in the strong arms of Jesus, life doesn't sound so scary anymore.
PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, bear me up. Keep me firm in faith in the midst of very scary things. Help me to cling to you through devotions, Bible readings, and time in your word. Keep me from neglecting church where I am built up by songs, hymns, spiritual songs, messages of your love, your Word, and prayers from my friends in Jesus. Jesus, be our foundation. Hold us up until the end. Amen.
I remember it vividly.
Our Sunday School had sent Mission Trifolds. The trifold could be folded out to reveal a faded picture of a church in progress of being built. In the foreground were tiny stamp sized boxes all in a row. In order to receive a stamp, you had to bring a quarter for mission money. Each stamp could be placed on the trifold until it was filled up. (Total of about $10) The idea was that you were helping to build a church.
I saved up my allowance. I took 25 cents out of my dollar each week. I slowly built my 2D church.
I remember another kid. He hadn't done anything with his mission money. That is until the day it was supposed to be complete. On that day, his mom had given him a $20 bill!!! He completed the charts all at once.
I was frustrated. It was so easy for him to give lots. It was so hard for me. Didn't God want me to build up my stamp collection for Jesus? I must not have been that impressive of a Christian. If I was, I would've needed the teacher to order more trifolds because I went through them so fast.
Is dollar amount what impresses Jesus?
Check out a similar situation: 41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12)
For some reason, I picture the rich people to look very similar to the people on Shark Tank. Mark Cuban throws a couple million in. The guy from FUBU throws another some million. Mr. Wonderful grimaces at them all and places a billion in. There's a big commotion. Everybody watches as the rich put in glorious amounts. Man do they look good.
But this woman didn't make much noise at all. No more than the noise of two copper coins hitting the bottom of the money box.
Yet to Jesus, the woman's gift was more impressive. She gave out of love for her God who loved her. She gave out of thanks for a God who had given her everything. She gave out of trust that He would take care of her -- even if this was her last amount.
Today, I don't want to ask how much you give? But...why? The WHY is so much more important than the 'how much?"
It's easy for us to give for selfish reasons. "Because it makes us look good." "Because it keeps us from looking bad." "Because we feel like we have to." "Because we can afford it." When that happens the cure is to take that selfishness to the cross. There we see a selfless Jesus who was "rich, but for our sakes became poor."
He was God. He owned everything, yet he sacrificed it for you.
Now he has given us eternal riches: forgiveness, eternal life, victory over death and the devil. (These are all things that are not for sale at your local Macys!) So give out of thanks to him! Give out of trust that he'll take care of you. Give out of love because he loved you first!
When you give to a church, a church uses that money to share the Gospel -- this good message of Jesus the Savior. Some goes to keep the lights on at the church. Some pays those who work there so they can focus on sharing the Gospel. Some goes to fliers, invitations, books, Bibles, etc. that are used to share the message with others. Still more goes to help the poor or to enable a missionary far away.
What an awesome opportunity it is! God enable us to participate in his ministry. And he's less interested in the amount, as he is interested in heart that gives out of love.
If only I had realized that in Sunday School!
PRAYER: Dear Lord, forgive me for my selfishness. Oftentimes I give of my time, talents, and treasures in order to look good or in order to get something from you. Forgive me. Instead, help me to give to your Gospel out of thankfulness for the Gospel. Use my gifts to spread your Word this Easter. Amen.
In our recent readings, we've heard the Pharisees and Sadducees take turns at trying to trick Jesus.
Now it's his turn to stump them.
41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”
“The son of David,” they replied.
43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, 44 “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’
45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
The Pharisees didn't get it. The teachers of the Law didn't know. The Sadducees were "Sad...you see" that they couldn't provide an answer.
How about you?
How is it that King David calls one of his descendants "Lord?" How is it that David refers to one of his great, great, great, great (to the many times over degree) grandsons as "Master?"
The answer is found in Christ.
For Jesus was a Jew. He was of the line of David. If he went to ancestry.com, Jesus would be reminded that he was an earthly descendant of King David.
But at the same time, Jesus was Lord. This is where the family tree gets strange. Jesus was not only David's son, but God's son. He was Divine.
He was Lord.
Praise God that both of these were true of Jesus.
As David's grandson, true man, he was placed under God's law.
As God's son, true God, he kept it perfectly.
As David's grandson, true man, he died.
As God's son, true God, he died for our sins.
As David's grandson, true man, his body was placed in a tomb.
As God's son, true God, he rose from the dead.
As David's grandson, true man, he knows what it is like to be tempted.
As God's son, true God, he always defeated temptation and is listening to your prayers for help--right now.
This was hard to believe for the teachers surrounding Jesus. Stunned, they couldn't ask any more question.
My prayer is you too are stunned by the awesome truths of Jesus described in Scriptures a thousand some years before he was ever born.
Why was David calling his grandson Lord?
The same reason you call Jesus Lord.
Because he is.
PRAYER: Dearest Lord Jesus, you are my great master. You love me dearly and died for me. The best things a master could do. Now O Lord I devote myself and this day to you. Be with me and lift me up. Amen.
It seems like congressman are always changing laws. Once they think they have finished a bill, they find all kinds of flaws and begin to readjust.
"Section 11 part 2 sub-point J should really be negatable by loophope X except for exception P9!"
These laws end up being so complicated that even after careful inspection we aren't even sure we are keeping it correctly! (See Filling Out Your Taxes).
Humans are so bad at making laws that we just keep making more and more laws to try to cover up the poorly written laws in the first place.
In the Old Testament God wrote down 10 laws. That's it. No loopholes. No exceptions. No subpoints. No revisions.
Pretty smart, right?
Then, in today's meditation Jesus summarized those ten laws into two commands. Two simple measly rules for life. That's pretty smart, really simple, and easy to keep, right?
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Sounds simple enough. How have you been doing this week?
Have you loved God with all your heart? Or has been more like "love God with that tiny portion of your heart that isn't too tired to love after putting your heart into your work?"
Have you loved God with all your soul? Or has it been more like "love God sure, but make sure the body is taken care of first and worry about the soul if there's time?"
Have you loved God with all your mind? Or has it been more like "love God when your mind says its appropriate and when it won't get you into trouble with our culture?"
And don't even get started on loving neighbors as much as ourselves!
The point? There's two rules. And we fail miserably at both of them.
But Jesus didn't. He loved God his Father perfectly. He completely obedient all of his laws through his lifetime. He placed God's plan first above his own desires. He willingly gave his life up on the cross in order to show love to God.
At the same time, he was loving his neighbor -- namely YOU -- as himself! He gave up his life to save you exchanging his perfect obedience to these two commands for our meager, flawed attempts at keeping them.
Thanks be to Jesus. "God made him who has no sin (meaning that he always loved God in everyway and he always loved his neighbor as himself) to be sin for us (that is he suffered the punishment for all the times we failed to love God and neighbors like we should) so that in Him we might become the righteousness (that is the perfect obedience of these two commandments) of God."-- 2 Corinthians 5:21
PRAYER: Dear Lord, please forgive me. Forgive me for my failure to love you and others perfectly. I am at fault. Forgive me for the sake of your Son who loved you and me perfectly. His loving sacrifice on the cross saves me. May his love motivate me to love you and others the rest of this day. Amen.
If two trains are 1200 miles apart and one train is going west at 102 mph (but there won't be enough coal to keep the engine running at full tilt in two hours), while the other train is going east at 127 mph (but the engineer didn't have his coffee this morning and has fallen asleep with his elbow on the gearshift), plus the wind is blowing southeast, while the tracks are slightly rusty over a span of ten feet and a group of tourists are playing a game of Go Fish in the back car while eating a bag of Doritos...
...what color is sky over Korea?
Yep. That's about how the question the Sadducees asked Jesus in Matthew 22 went.
23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”
It's easy to tell that they weren't interested in an answer. In fact, they were only interested in making Jesus and the idea of a resurrection look foolish.
But they weren't the ones being foolish.
29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.
Jesus' response is similar to the title of a new movie coming out: God's not dead! Their response indicated that God has no power over life. That death is the end. That God can't and won't stop it.
But he does have that power to give life.
It's why earth has life on it.
It's why babies are born everyday.
It's why we're alive right now.
AND EVEN DEATH DOESN'T STOP GOD!
Case in point: Jesus! At the end of this Lenten journey he will have suffered death. But that won't stop him. On Easter Sunday morning he returned from death. He had...a resurrection!
Are we saying that the God who has continually proven that he gives life will suddenly have lost his mojo and be unable to do so? Is he not as strong as he used to be? Has his power worn off?
Of course not!
True, as human beings, we can't accomplish a resurrection on our own. In fact, when we're dead there's nothing we can do. That's the wretched effect of sin. (And apart from Jesus, it is a wretched effect we will suffer forever.)
But with the One who has that power, we will not die, but live! Jesus said, "whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies and whoever lives and believes in me will never die!"
Have confidence in this God. He is a living God. He is a God of the living. He is a God who gives eternal life to the living.
That's not foolish at all.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank you for being an awesome, living God. Help me never to forget that. Help me to turn to you for strength and confidence on a day to day basis. Your awesome living power will never fail me. Let me never forget it. Amen.
Have you ever seen Let's Make a Deal? On the show, a contestant is called to the stage. Wayne Brady offers a nice and shiny package. He says, “It could be a nice new watch or some diamond jewelry. Pick this box. Trust me.”
But not so fast. The musical leader holds up a crisp, new envelope. He tells her, “It could hold a gift card, plane tickets, a check for a thousand dollars. Pick mine. Trust me.”
She turns them both down.
Because the voice over announcer has offered her what's behind curtain number three. He promised her that when she uses the prize she’ll have "a party on wheels." Could it be the new convertible? “Trust me.” The announcer says.
She does. The curtain opens and it’s…it’s…a donkey wearing a sombrero on roller skates.
Life is kind of like that isn’t it? We are constantly having to evaluate whom we should trust. It’s not an easy question. Banks send emails telling you to trust them with your mortgage. Diet plans advertise that you trust their plan to make your body slim. If you’ve dated lots, perhaps you’ve heard someone sell themselves. “I’m a really good person. I’m great fun. I’d be the perfect mate. Trust me.”
In John 4 Jesus met a woman with trust issues. Listen to how he helps her figure out where to put her trust. Then, consider how putting your trust in the same place is of great benefit!
I. The Problem with Trusting Worldly Things.
Jesus was on a long journey from Judea to Galilee. This is before cars so it’s fair to assume he and his disciples had walked quite a distance. Therefore, it’s no surprise that he got tired. Unfortunately, there weren't any Waffle Houses along the way for him to rest at. So he sat at the edge of a well while his disciples went into town for some food.
While he was a waiting, a woman approached the well. She began lowering her buckets to draw some water. As she working, Jesus asked her, 7 "Will you give me a drink?"
The woman herself was astonished, 9 "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How is it that you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
In other words, she was annoyed by what she perceivedw as an arrogant Jew! "You Israelites are so hoity toity. You always act like you are so much more religious than us. Now you are claiming to have a better grasp on water than us too? Do you have some kind of special filter? Did you give it some kind of ‘holy blessing?’ You do realize that the water you are badmouthing comes from one of your own -- the patriarch Jacob himself! Think twice before speaking again, sir.”
Jesus replied to the hostility with an explanation. 13 “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
In doing so Jesus exposes the first problem with trusting earthly things. They don't satisfy the body!
Take the substance in question. Water. Science tells us that water quenches our thirst, but only for so long. Even if you buy the water for $10 at Whole Foods and the label claims to have bottled this water from the top of a hidden spring on Mt. Everest… you will be thirsty again.
It’s not just thirst. A delicious BBQ (Western or Eastern depending on your taste) satisfies hunger, until you’re hungry again. A Starbucks Blonde Roast makes you feel more awake, but eventually it’ll wear off and you’ll need it again. If you have a pain in your elbow, the Tylenol works until it’s effects wear off.
Earthly things only can be trusted as temporary, quick fixes to our bodily needs. They don’t last.
The woman at the well knew this. That's why she replied, almost sarcastically, "Sir, give me some of this water, so that I don't have to keep coming back to get water to drink."
But Jesus didn't keep this conversation at surface level. "Go and call you husband and come back." He told her.
You can almost see her begin to fidget. "I don't have a husband," she said.
Jesus replied, "You are right in saying that you don't have a husband. The fact is that you have had five husbands. What you have just said is quite true.”
Jesus isn’t saying this to make her feel bad. He simply wants her to realize that her trust was again in the wrong place. Because earthly things –and people-- don't satisfy the heart.
There's a longing in humans to be loved, treasured, and accepted. To be whole. Obviously this woman wanted that. Five times she thought she had it! Five times she trusted men to bring it to her. Five times – they didn’t give it. Whether it was unfaithfulness, physical abuse, verbal abuse, or just plain being too busy with work to be together…each time she trusted a man to love her and that trust was broken.
Now? Now she was with a man who hadn’t made any marriage promises of commitment and sticking through the tough times to her. Instead, he basically had given her the watered down promise of, “I like sleeping with you. I promise to stick around as long as that it entertaining. Trust me.”
The saddest part? She was so empty and broken that the reigned intimacy of uncommitted sex helped her forget about the void in her heart.
Are we so different? We desire to love and be loved by spouses, children, and friends. We trust people! We give our hearts to them. Then kids tell us that they hate us. Spouses shout at us to sleep on the couch. Friends betray us!
It’s why earthly things—even people—don’t really satisfy the heart!
Ashamed of the sudden change in the conversation, the woman changes the subject. “Our father's worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that he place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."
Jesus kindly responds to her question. "A time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…God is spirit and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
Jesus was pointing out that it didn’t matter where they worshipped. The earthly action wasn’t that important at all. What mattered was a true spiritual relationship with God.
And in bringing this up, Jesus exposes one last problem with trusting earthly things. They don't satisfy the soul.
Ever feel really Christianity? You go to the Christian book store. You buy a few nondescript Christian items: a cross necklace, a Jesus candle holder, a few devotionals with cool looking covers. You pay for them and walk out with your head held high! Your soul feels close to God as you rock out to Chris Tomlin on the drive home.
Then, you enter your house. The kids have left a mess. You lose it. And after letting out a few choice words, you’re back to feeling unsatisfied in your soul. Apart from God.
These failures in human things to satisfy and keep promises leave us with a dark void in our hearts. Then, just like the woman who kept trying man after man after man, we get caught in vicious cycles of trusting untrustworthy things to satisfy.
Perhaps you could list a few examples. Perhaps you are living a few examples:
*Beer after beer after beer till the stress is gone. But then it comes back. And this time with a headache. We drink another beer to cure it.
*Pornographic photo after pornographic photo. A high. Then this shameful feeling that can only be erased by another pornographic high!
*Money, money and more money. You finally get enough and buy a nice HD TV! You start watching shows about people’s relationships. It reminds you that your relationships are lacking. The problem? You probably just need more pixels. Better get more money.
*Success. You work hard for it. You crave recognition. You work all the time and have no time for God. No time for family. But an employee of the month pin! Until...People don’t appreciate me as much as they used to. I want that “appreciated feeling again.” Time to put in 90s hours this week again.
*Gossip and more gossip. It makes you feel better. Whenever you start to feel bad about something you have done, you go find your friends and repeat this process until you feel better again.
Here's the bottom line: Earthly things do not satisfy. There is not a single earthly thing worthy of garnering our complete trust to give us eternal, unending, complete, total and real satisfaction.
II. Jesus' alternative.
Ever been on a diet plan? Some diet plans you drink shakes. These are the healthy alternative to a normal unhealthy meal. Less calories all the vitamins. Unfortunately, none of them taste like Doritos, so…I haven’t tried them.
Jesus has an alternative that offers completely, total, eternal, unending, real satisfaction. He mentioned it throughout our lesson. Listen to what he said about it:
#1 -- It is eternal. Jesus said, "whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst." This means that Jesus' alternative doesn't run out when you get to the bottom of the can. There isn't a monthly fee to keep it going. It doesn't become diluted over time. It doesn’t lose its effectiveness.
#2 -- It is personal. Jesus said, "It will become in him a spring of eternal water." This isn't something that works for some people and not for others. It isn't some uncaring inanimate object that is only after your money. It isn't some uncaring animate person who is only after his own selfish desires. It is for you.
#3 -- It is truth. Jesus said, "true worshippers worship in spirit and truth." Jesus' alternative isn't some half-truth combined with a lie to make it sound more enticing. It isn't some phony idea concocted to play on your desire to be whole in order to make money. It isn't just true for some and not true for others.
#4 -- It is satisfying. It doesn’t do half the job. It doesn’t require you to finish the job. It satisfies. Completely. Always. Every time.
What is Jesus' alternative?
The woman had an idea. In verse 25 she told Jesus the truth that she did know, "The Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to me." Jesus didn't correct her. He just revealed something to her that he had kept hidden from many.
"I who am speaking to you am he."
This means that Jesus’ alternative was none other than himself! There is only one worthy of full, complete and real trust is Jesus! Because he is the only one who fully, completely and really satisfies all our needs!
Jesus is eternal. His love burns as strongly for you as when he died on the cross to take away all of your sins, will never fail. It will always be true no matter what time of day it is or how often you have turned to it. It is a bubbling spring...always overflowing for you.
Jesus is personal. He knows who you are. He cares specifically for you. He knows when you have been abused. He knows when you have struggles at work. He knows when you struggle with dark, dark thoughts. He knows you and still he promises to you that "Surely, I will be with you always to the very end of the age." (Mt. 28) "Whoever believes in me will have eternal life." (John 3:16) Even…”Your sins are forgiven." (Lk. 7)
Jesus is truth. Miracle after miracle after miracle. Seen by thousands of people. Proving his authority to make the claims that he did. He told the blind to see, they saw. He told the lame to walk, they did. He told the dead to rise, they did.
He said that he would die. That he would stay dead three days. That he would then rise from the dead, completely well, all on his own. He didn't lie then and he doesn't lie now.
Jesus satisfies. It doesn't matter what kind of emptiness you are feeling, Jesus’ love satisfies. If you struggle with finances, his heavenly riches fill your pocket. If you struggle with emptiness, his relentless pursuit of you fills you with love. If you have been hurt by a relationship, Jesus’ love reminds you that there is one who will never hurt you. In fact, who was hurt by you and for you! And you are satisfied.
Brothers and sisters, do you know what the woman did after Jesus talked with her? Scripture tells us that she left her bucket behind and ran to tell her friends!
That’s pretty neat. Suddenly, finding Jesus her Savior, her earthly needs were no longer important. All she needed was this love of Jesus. She ran to her friends to spread this message!
Do the same. This Easter – spread the message of Jesus. Tell your friends about the one who completely, fully, and absolutely fulfills all their needs. There’s no one better to place your trust!
Is there a dirtier word in the English language?
"They cheat us. They take more than they need. They use it for what I don't want them to use it for. They use it foolishly. There are billions of dollars they owe. They can't expect me to pay for it."
This was the same attitude of many Jews under the Roman government. In fact, a certain sect of men had been teaching that because the government was foreign and heathen, they shouldn't have to pay taxes to Caesar.
The Pharisees knew this. They knew people hated taxes. They also knew the government hated people who didn't pay taxes.
So they made a plan:
20 Keeping a close watch on him, the Pharisees sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Tricky, huh? Get Jesus to say "no taxes" and that means he's a rebel worthy of arrest. Get Jesus to say "pay taxes" and that means he's upset his own crowd. He would be no longer worthy to be followed.
But Jesus is smarter than that.
23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
25 He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent. (Luke 20:20-26)
Jesus shows his divine wisdom. He knows that his followers are called to serve in two kingdoms at once. He knows that they are citizens of the government and citizens of God's kingdom. This is true even if the government is non Christian like the Roman government that Jesus lived under.
Romans 13 tells us "No authority exists except that which has been established by God." That means God put our government in place for us. They are his representatives. They are to care for us and protect us.
In return, God asks us to support them. To pray for them. To respect them. To obey them. To...yep...pay taxes.
You get paid for doing your job? Shouldn't they get paid for doing theirs? To do otherwise, would be to slap God in the face and say, "I don' t like what you have established."
Because as Jesus said, "What is God's is God's."
And what is God's?
Yes, when the government rebels against God and promotes goes against God's plans -- that's on them. And in a democratic society where you have free speech and a vote that counts, you should certainly exercise it.
But today Jesus calls you to give what you owe the government to the government-- support, honor, respect, even taxes.
Why listen to Jesus?
Because that's what you owe Him.
PRAYER: Lord, thank you for my government. Thank you for the freedoms you have given me to worship you in the United States. Please bless our president, our congress, our governor, our military, and all the public servants who serve us. Lord lift up my heart to give them honor and respect even when I disagree with them and please, Lord, guide them to govern as Godly men and women with Godly hearts. When I am nervous about how things are going, then, Lord, help me to turn to you. Because you are always in control as my all loving, all knowing, all caring and all powerful Savior. To you be all glory, praise and honor. Amen.
Who do you invite to your birthday party? This is a big deal when you are a teen.
Do you invite your best friend? Probably. The athletic football guys? Yes. The popular girls? Of course.
But that shy girl with the glasses? She won't come anyway. And that boy with the learning disorder? No one wants him. Then, there's the kid that wears the same clothing day after day. He'll scare all the other guests away!
The teen world is a microcosm of adult life. Humans are very selective and oftentimes superficial when it comes to associating themselves with others. The richest, most famous, best looking, and most advantageous to our career type people are the ones we want to surround ourselves with.
This is why Jesus' parable is so shocking:
1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. 4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. (Matthew 22)
Amazing isn't it? The important, fancy people were too busy for the banquet. So their invitation was rescinded. The king then invites the poor, the sick, the simple, those whom you would never expect to be at a royal banquet -- to a royal banquet.
It's a parable though. So there's a spiritual meaning.
God is the king. He invites people to his banquet. He invites them to come and be a part of his family of believers -- a family that will one day join him for a feast in heaven.
But many refuse.
The intelligent say, "This doesn't make sense."
The successful say, "I can't be bothered by this now."
The famous say, "How will this association with Jesus make me look?"
But Jesus doesn't stop with his invitation. He goes out into the streets. He searches for the poor. He reaches out to the sexually abused. He calls to the drunkards and drug addicts. He spreads the words to refugees and oppressed minorities. He asks the mentally handicapped and the physically disabled. He even invites the children to come and join him at his feast!
BOTTOM LINE: Jesus has no problem inviting the people you wouldn't expect to be at a royal feast to his royal feast.
Now you might be asking, "What about me? Am I invited?"
If you are reading this, then the answer is "Yes." Listen to this invitation to Jesus.
"Come. I know this world is a mess. I know your life is a mess. It is because of sin. But I died to save you from that. I rose to assure you of my love. By faith in me, life will turn around. Sadness of failure will turn to the joy of victory in me. The sorrow of guilt will become the peace of forgiveness. The nervousness of life will be replaced with the confidence of life thereafter. Trust me. Believe me. I am your Savior. I am your king. And I want you to be at my banquet."
PRAYER: Dear King Jesus, forgive me. Forgive me when I callously ignore your requests to have me at your banquet. Forgive me when I make assumptions about who you would like in heaven. Forgive me for the sake of Jesus who died for all humans -- including me. Lord, keep me safe from pride. Keep me safe from complacency. Open my eyes to share your invitation with those I meet today. Amen.
Jesus had spoken many parables. Parables were short, earthly stories with heavenly meanings. Usually they were truths about the mystery and grandeur of God's kingdom.
This parable was a bit different.
1 Jesus said, "A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed."
6 “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
7 “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
9 “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture: “ ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” (Mark 12)
Did you catch it? Did you grasp the meaning of this parable?
The vineyard owner is God the Father. He gave his vineyard -- the earth. His tenants -- the people of Israel. God tried to connect with the Israelites through his servants. These were prophets in the Old Testament. Prophets were ridiculed, beaten, and arrested. Finally, God sent his Son to the tenants. Instead of listening to his Son, they killed him. Their warped way of thinking concluded that if they killed the Son, they'd become the heirs.
That Son? He was none other than the one telling the parable. Jesus himself.
This parable is a warning for all who reject the kingdom of God. Strictly speaking it was a warning for the Pharisees. Look at verse 9 again: "What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others."
The Pharisees would do well to repent. To ask the owner for forgiveness in rejecting his ways. To ask the owner to be merciful.
That's not how the Pharisees responded.
12 Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.
In other words, they began to fulfill Jesus' prophecy. They looked all that much harder for a way to arrest him and kill him. They heard Jesus' reprimand for their plot to kill him and they didn't even flinch.
I hope you flinch.
I certainly did.
There are plenty of times when I have acted just like those tenants. I think I am in charge. I think I own everything that's mine. I don't listen to what the real owner of my life has to say.
Ever thought similarly?
We need to heed the warning. We need to be unlike the Pharisees.
Sure the temptation is there to just ignore this devotion. To pretend that God's Word isn't talking to you. To continue to reject Jesus as Savior.
But then, we'd be fulfilling Jesus' prophecy!
Instead, turn to God for forgiveness. He is a loving God. That's why he allowed the Pharisees to eventually accomplish their plot. He allowed them to kill Jesus, because in being killed, Jesus suffered for your sins. Now the Owner of Everything promises you a new vineyard. One in which the vines last forever and the fruit is eternal joy and happiness.
Come and taste this fruit.
Come and trust in your Savior.
Come and serve in the vineyard.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, please forgive me for any attitude of mine that has rejected your authority. Forgive me for not looking to you as in control. Forgive me for the sake of your Son, my Lord, whom you sent to earth to suffer and die. By his suffering, I am forgiven. I trust in that. Help me Lord to remain firm in that trust until I taste the eternal fruit of your love. Amen.
"By what authority are you doing these things!?!"
Can you imagine asking that of the State Trooper who just pulled you over? Just because of your lip, they might be a little bit rougher as they put the handcuffs on you. Or at least, they won't
feel so bad when they write up a big fine for you.
In fact, that's why they have their badges. It shows people that they have authority to do things like that. It's why any cops pull out their badge on C.S.I. when they want to search homes or pull people out of work for questioning.
The Pharisees were asking a similar question of Jesus. They wanted to know what authority he had to challenge their teachers and clean up the temple of marketers. Listen to his response.
23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."
Vintage Jesus. He knows that his answer will get them so upset that they will take him into custody. So instead, he puts the onus back on them. Now they have to decide how to answer this tricky question in order to get to Jesus' answer.
Because Jesus' answer was unbelievable.
John 10:25-30, "“I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe...My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
In other words: Jesus got his authority from the fact that he was God.
His whole life testified to this: The sick -- healed. The blind -- seeing. The lame -- walking. The storm -- calmed. The water -- walked upon (or changed into wine.) The dead --- ALIVE!
Jesus' miracles are like the policeman's badge. They show you the authority that he has to say what he says and do what he does.
Finally, it gives us confidence that he does have the authority to forgive sin. A feat he accomplished on the cross. A promise he made that "all who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life."
And if they were any doubts of his authority to do this?
Take a look at his shiniest badge. His resurrection from the dead.
PRAYER: O Lord, forgive me. Forgive me for reading your word and doubting your authority to command me in the ways of this life. Forgive me for the sake of your Son Jesus, who had authority to give up his life and authority to take it up again. Jesus strengthen me in the conviction that you are true God. Help me to share this conviction with my friends and neighbors. Amen.