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Gregory - sermon synopsis - Matthew

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The Forgotten Man of Christmas (Matthew 1–2)

The forgotten man of Christmas is Joseph. He never speaks in the Bible. One called him "Joseph the silent." He is usually relegated to the role of an extra in the Christmas story. That should not be. Even though Joseph was remarkably simple, he was simply remarkable.

Joseph demonstrates to us all the consequences and influence of obedience to the word of God.

The Forgotten Man of Christmas Demonstrates Obedience to God, Regardless

We can obey God with immediacy. Zacharias denied the command of God. Mary doubted the command of God. Joseph simply obeyed. He woke up from his dream and married Mary. Nothing pleases God like obedience.

We can obey God in painful circumstances. Joseph's obedience came in the midst of betrothal to a pregnant woman. The rabbis demanded that such a woman be put away. Yet Joseph obeyed when it hurt.

We can obey God in spite of fear. Joseph felt terror at the holy thing God was doing. God told him "Do not be afraid" (1:20). We can obey God even while going forward in fear.

We can obey God by staking everything on His word alone. Even though Joseph had no New Testament, he staked his future on the word of God.

The Forgotten Man of Christmas Demonstrates the Consequences of Obedience

Obedience to God always has immediate personal consequences. Joseph "took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son" (1:25). Joseph was probably a young man. The immediate consequence of his obedience was to live with Mary in chastity until she gave birth. He watched her, protected her, but did not touch her.

Obedience to God sets the course for a lifetime of consequences. The trip to Bethlehem, the flight to Egypt, the running from Herod's family, looking for Jesus at the temple, and many other consequences came from the initial decision of obedience.

There is no obedience to the word and will of God without consequences.

The Forgotten Man of Christmas Demonstrates the Influence of Obedience

Your obedience always influences how others think about God. When Jesus called God "Abba, Father" he was reflecting his relationship to Joseph. When the hero in the parable of the prodigal son was the father, we see a reflection of Joseph.

Your obedience influences how others yield to the will of God. When Jesus prayed, "Not my will, but thine," He was reflecting what He saw in the life of Joseph who had obeyed years before, regardless of the consequences.

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23)

Someone noted that there are 365 names in the Bible for our Lord Jesus Christ.

No one name can do justice to what He is. Emmanuel, God with us, is particularly His name for Christmas.

I. Emmanuel —God as He Really Is with Us as We Really Are

The eternal God with us in our little moment.

The omnipresent God with us in our little place. The all-knowing God with us in our ignorance. The all-powerful God with us in our weakness. The invisible God made visible.

God in His holiness with us in our sin.

II. Emmanuel—The Greatest Comfort

A comfort for all people.

A comfort for all people at every moment.

A God who is absolutely approachable.

III. Emmanuel—The Great Rejection

"He came unto his own, and his own received him not" (John 1:11, KJV).

Matthew's Gospel ends with the promise: "Lo, I am with you alway" (28:20, KJV).

The New Testament ends with the promise: "The tabernacle of God is with men" (Rev. 21:3, KJV).

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

The Cradle and the Cross: Changeless Responses (Matthew 2:1-12)

Reactions to Jesus Christ have timelessly remained the same in every epoch of man's response to the good news. The faces we see around the cradle are also the faces we see around the cross. Nowhere may the sameness of man's reaction to the Christ be more dramatically seen than in contrasting His first week and His last week, His cradle and His cross.

The cradle and the cross represent the two points of His greatest weakness, His manifest impotence. From the cradle He grew in the strength and His Divine manhood until the moment He surrendered it on the cross, and once again became as weak as the One in the cradle. Yet, nowhere in His ministry did He more surely shake the world than in those two moments of His greatest manifest weakness. For it was in those two moments of His apparent weakness that kings were shaken, the holy city was shaken, the heavens were shaken, and God Himself intervened. How may we compare these two divine moments?

Witness the Timelessness of Human Reaction to the Christ

Around His cradle, Herod and all Jerusalem with Him were troubled (v. 3). What a paradox that a raging tyrant shakes at an impotent infant! Yet at the last, another Herod and all Jerusalem were also shaken by the crucified Christ. What a paradox that a Man nailed to a tree and bleeding away His life should terrify a city and trouble its rulers. "Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Cor. 1:25, KJV).

In the cradle of Christ and at the cross of Christ, there is the same sequence: revelation, proclamation, and twofold reaction (acceptance and homage, or rejection and persecution). God reveals Himself in a cross, angels proclaim a resurrection, fisherfolk believe while kings and priests reject. Those who are nigh were really far off. Those who were far off were really nigh. The paradox of God, the great reversal of God, the unfathomable wisdom of God. See it in the cradle! See it in the cross! "God chose the foolish things of the world that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world that he might put to shame the things that are strong" (v. 27, ASV).

Wonder at the Cosmic Disruption Because of the Christ

Reaction to the Christ in His cradle and on His cross was not limited to the human sphere. Both events were marked by two profound cosmic disruptions. In each case, there was a disruption on the earth and a disjunction in the heavens. At His conception, there occurred the mysterious moving of the Holy Spirit over the womb of Mary. A quite physical miracle. At His crucifixion, there was a quaking of the earth (Matt. 27:51-54). A notably demonstrable physical miracle. At His birth, there occurred a singular phenomenon in the sky, a new light. At His crucifixion, there occurred a striking disjunction of the heavens—darkness in the midst of the day. He lives and there is light; He died and there is darkness. Among the first to come to Him were Gentile Magi drawn by the light of the star. Among the first to respond to the cross was the Gentile centurion drawn by the shaking of the earth. How sovereign God is! When His own people will not respond, He can shake the earth or move the stars to draw men to Christ.

Why this cosmic upheaval at His birth and at His cross? Because those two moments will have ultimate implications for the farthest reaches of the universe. "The creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God" (Rom. 8:21, ASV). Shakings of the earth and changes in the heavens were only premonitions of that time when all the universe will be changed at His appearing.

Witness to the Divine Intervention for the Christ

In the crucifixion, Jesus dies but is brought back to life through the resurrection. In the cradle, Jesus is taking away to another land but returns. In each instance, God has confounded the kings and the rulers who assembled against Him and His Messiah (Ps. 2:2). God will yet intervene once more for the Christ. Then it will be the cradle, the cross, and the crown!

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

Standing with Us (Matthew 3:13-17)

The public ministry of Jesus began with His immersion in the Jordan by John the Baptist. No meeting between two men ever did more to change history. In His baptism, Christ stands with us in our need, but He stands above us in His uniqueness.

In His Baptism, Christ Stands with Us in Our Need

The baptism of John the Baptist was one of repentance because of sin. As such, it was a baptism that Jesus did not need. Why did He submit Himself to an act designated for sinners?

Jesus voluntarily chose to stand in solidarity with sinners. He identified Himself with the people He came to save. His baptism was an act of loving communion with us in our misery. The Sinless One chose to put Himself alongside the sinful ones.

Jesus still stands with us in our need. His example ought to motivate us to stand with other sinners in their need.

In His Baptism, Christ Stands for Us as Our Substitute

The exchange between Jesus and John (vv. 14-15) clearly states the sinlessness of Jesus. John stated his own unworthiness in the face of Jesus' character. Jesus did not disagree with John. Jesus never demonstrated a sense of personal sin.

As the Sinless One, Jesus stood in the waters of baptism for us. He clearly connected His baptism with His death on the cross: "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am straitened till it be accomplished!" (Luke 12:50, KJV). When He emerged out of the water, it was a prophecy of the resurrection. He went into the water for us, just as He died for us.

In His Baptism, Christ Stands Above Us as Son of God

Three dramatic events immediately following the baptism of Jesus place Him above the human race as the Son of God. No other baptism ever witnessed these events.

Jesus' baptism opens the heavens. Instead of being a wall, heaven becomes an open door between God and man.

Jesus' baptism reveals the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of creation (Gen. 1:2) abides on Jesus as He recreates humanity.

Jesus' baptism resumes the voice of God. God speaks again after centuries of silence. He tells us that the baptism of Jesus is a coronation of a King and the ordination of a Suffering Servant. All of us should echo that voice.

Tested in the Wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11)

In the wilderness, Jesus took the conflict into the enemy camp. Jesus' friends considered the wilderness the very turf of evil itself. Whereas Adam fell to temptation in a perfect place, Jesus overcame temptation in a horrible place. In His victory there are two levels of truth: unique and universal. Because Jesus was Son of God and Savior, the temptations are unique. Because He is Perfect Man, they are universal. In Christ, we win over every level of temptation.

In Christ, We Win Over Temptation of the Shortcut

A shortcut, a sidetrack, from the way of the Suffering Servant belongs to the uniqueness of the first temptation. If Jesus could turn stones to bread, He could feed the mob and be hailed as Messiah.

The temptation to take the convenient shortcut is universal. Satan always suggests that a legitimate craving be satisfied in an illegitimate way. He always whispers that the privilege of a Son is that of selfish gratification rather than responsible living.

In Christ, We Win Over the Temptation of the Spectacular

The uniqueness of the second temptation rests in the appeal to dazzle, to sweep off the feet with the unusual. If Jesus could miraculously float into the temple court, He could be hailed as the Messiah at the beginning of His ministry. He could avoid rejection, betrayal, and Calvary.

The universality of this temptation is the desire to take fast track of the spectacular rather than the long march of daily trust.

In Christ, We Win Over the Temptation of Power

The uniqueness of the third temptation rested in its bald-faced appeal for Christ to join the powers of the age. Rome owned all power: money, politics, culture, connections. Why try to conquer the world with a gaggle of Galilean peasants? It was the temptation to go along in order to get along.

The universality of this temptation belongs to our obsession with power. Religious people are not immune. The way of the clenched fist always seems simpler and quicker than the long march of the faithful servant.

The Only Reliable Deposit Insurance (Matthew 6:19-21)

Jesus did not oppose your having a treasure. Indeed, He recognized that you must have a treasure. He does give direction about the only secure place to deposit your treasure. Only treasures deposited in heaven are ultimately secure. You choose to deposit your treasure where it will certainly perish or where it will definitely endure. By "treasure" Jesus did not mean a great hoard of wealth. In His world a "treasure" was a margin, anything left over beyond subsistence.

The Sermon on the Mount gives the character of those who are entering Christ's kingdom. Those who enter His kingdom place their treasure in His kingdom's work.

You Can Never Have a Secure Treasure on Earth

Our Lord begins with a prohibition, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth" (v. 19). He discourages an attitude He already detected. Jesus is not against treasures. He does prohibit His people from storing up on earth treasures that are only for themselves.

He further gives an explanation. As Son of God and Lord of the church He does not have to explain His commands, but He also knows our natural covetousness, and He gives the reason. Every earthly treasure is transient. In that primitive, simple society there were no banks, safes, or police. Treasure was kept at home in the form of garments, foodstuff, and precious metals. Each of these had its own enemy. Some of these enemies were impersonal. Moths ate garments that were heirlooms. Blight could consume stored foodstuffs. Corrosion could cause precious metal to vanish. Other enemies were personal. Thieves could dig through the mud walls of their homes and steal their treasures. Although the treasures in Jesus' day were different, the truth remains the same. No treasure on earth is safe.

These words call for a qualification. Jesus does not prohibit our saving or planning in a prudent way. God gives the power to give wealth (Deut. 8:18). Abraham, Job, and David were obviously wealthy men. God expects us to save (Prov. 21:20). He even directs us to the ant who knows how to set aside for the future (6:6-8). Parents should provide for their children (2 Cor. 12:14). What Jesus forbids in this passage is giving primary intensity and centrality to treasures on earth. He excludes that excessive, insatiable desire to have more than enough. He calls on us to govern our treasure, not be governed by our treasure. Elsewhere He said, "Labour not for the meat which perisheth" (John 6:27, KJV).

You Can Have a Treasure in Heaven

Jesus points to a reality. You can have a treasure in heaven. His command is to start now investing in a heavenly treasure. How can you have a treasure in heaven? You cannot launch your money into space or have an armored car deliver it to the pearly gates today! You deposit your treasure in heaven by the right use of your possessions on earth. You can invest in this age in such a way that you meet the investment in the age to come. You deposit treasure in heaven when you support those who are in need (Luke 12:33-34). Even the cup of water given in Jesus' name builds heavenly treasure (Matt. 10:42). The way you use earthly treasure actually creates a firmer foundation for the life beyond this life (1 Tim. 6:18-19). In fact, you can so use your money in this world that when you reach the next world those who benefitted by your money will be there to greet you (Luke 16:9). That is, you deposit your treasure in heaven by placing it into the lives of those who are going there.

Our Lord gives a reason for investment in heavenly treasure. It alone is a secure treasure. None of the impersonal or personal enemies that threaten earthly treasures can threaten heavenly treasure. In heaven the market never varies and the value of the dollar never changes. Only the things you invest in God's work will meet you in heaven. You will meet your personal giving record in the presence of God.

Your Heart Follows Your Treasure

No one had the insight that Jesus had into the human heart. The ultimate reason for putting your treasure in God's work has to do with the location of your heart. "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also," (v. 21). Jesus assumes that everyone has a treasure. He also knows that your heart will be where your treasure is. Just as a sunflower follows the sun or a compass needle follows a magnet, your heart will follow your treasure.

The biblical "heart" represents the very center of your personality—intellectually, emotionally, and your will. Our heart goes where our money goes. When you invest all your money in the things of this world, your heart will be captured by this world. When you put your money in the work of God, your heart will be captured by the things of God. Would you like to have your heart in the work of our church? Put your treasure here and your heart will be here. Those care most who invest most in the work of God through His church.

One out of six verses in the Gospels deals with your relationship to money. You handle money more than any other commodity of life. When you face God you will give account for your stewardship of money. Be sure you have a safe deposit.

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

Winning Over Worry (Matthew 6:25-34)

Have you ever kept a worry log? It would be interesting to note for seven days everything about which you worry. One thing would quickly appear. Most human worries center around what we will eat, or drink, or put on. Jesus does not intend that His people be overcome with such worries.

You can stop worrying about life's lower anxieties when you give yourself to life's greatest concern, the kingdom of God.

I. Stop Worrying About the Secular Trinity (6:25-32)

What you eat, drink, or put on.

A. Heed the command—do not be distracted about the basics of life.

B. Analyze the argument—God's greater gifts always include the lesser. Look at the birds—worry is unnecessary.

Look at yourself—worry is unavailing.

Look at the flowers—worry is unbecoming.

II. Stop Worrying About Future Uncertainty (6:34)

You can master the demons of worry if you confine them to today.

When is what you worry about going to happen? Almost always tomorrow.

This philosophy of life worked for Jesus. Humanly speaking, He had more about which to worry than anyone in history, yet He walked without worry.

III. Stop Worrying by Substituting the Great Concern Above All Others (6:33)

This is a command, not an option.

This is a continual way of life for the Christian, a habit.

The substitution of greater concern excludes the lesser concerns.

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

Before You Judge (Matthew 7:1-6)

Jesus calls for the highest moral standard imaginable in His sermon. How shall we react to those who do not meet that standard? The natural tendency is to act with criticism. The disciples' mandate is to refrain from judgment until I have first judged myself. Before you judge, there are words you should remember.

Remember the Prohibition Against Judgment

We must know the definition of the judgment Christ prohibits. He does not prohibit the judicial process of the courts. That the Christian is to respect (Rom. 13). Neither does He prohibit the discerning use of our moral capacities. We must react to the impure, the immoral, and the unjust. He Himself did so. What He does prohibit is the censorious, harsh, self-congratulatory seeking of faults in others. He condemns the attitude that is judgmental. The character of His followers is not to be marked by a judgmental spirit. He Himself did not judge when He might have done so (John 8). He did not judge you when He might have done so.

We must know the motivation that keeps us from judging. As we judge, so shall we be judged. That is true on the human level. Haman is always hung on his own gallows. If you usurp the prerogative of God, your fellows will expect you to be as consistent as God. But Jesus' reference is primarily to God's judgment. At the final court, our own judgment will be conditioned by our attitude toward others. If we have been generous, we will find generosity. If we have been harshly critical, we shall find scrupulous examination by Him who knows how to do it best. His Beatitude reminds us that if we are merciful, we shall receive mercy. His prayer reminds us that we will be forgiven only as we forgive. You will meet what you have been at the judgment.

Remember the Admonition for Judgment

Jesus does not tell us to exercise no judgment. He does remind us that examination of self is always prior. The humorous exaggeration between a speck of dust and a plank of wood contrasts those who judge the trivial in others while neglecting the tremendous in their own lives. Jesus labels this as hypocrisy. The fault is not in our inability to see ourselves, but our unwillingness to see ourselves.

Confrontation with a brother then becomes possible. First judge yourselves; then confront your brother. I am my brother's keeper. Nowhere did Jesus say to leave sin neglected in the life of a brother. Just as a splinter in the eye can be irritating and dangerous, sin in the life of my brother can be spiritually blinding to him. When I have first dealt with sin in my own life, I am to turn to him in a spirit of grace and help (Gal. 6). We are not to accuse our brother, but neither are we to excuse our brother.

Remember the Concession About Judgment

Moral discrimination is necessary. Saints are not simpletons. To refrain from a judgmental spirit is not to refrain from moral discriminations. The prohibition against judgment is not an excuse for moral laziness.

Christ reminds you of your possession. You possess a treasure. He calls it "that which is holy, . . . pearls" (v. 6, KJV). Your experience of God's kingdom and grace is nothing less than a priceless treasure.

Christ reminds you of your caution. The world may not respect your treasure. No wise man parades his most treasured possessions indiscriminately before all men. Some men live on the moral level of dogs and swine. To the Jews, those brute beasts represented all that was unclean and loathed. The wild scavenger dogs cannot even appreciate the food you throw them. Swine would think that pearls were peas. They would trample your treasure and then turn on you! There is a time to refrain from speaking of holy things. You are to judge when that time is at hand. There is even a time to shake the dust off your feet and go on (Acts 13). The message is as simple as it is necessary: judge yourself, restore your brother, and respect your treasure.

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

Good News/Bad News: Mission America (Matthew 9:35-38)

The Lord Jesus desires to pass through America. He sees our nation as we are— harrassed like a hunted animal and helpless with exhaustion. He gazes at the potential for abundant spiritual response, yet He assesses the paucity of spiritual workers. He feels for America a compassion that moves Him inwardly to the core. His solution—out of the deepest desire we are to plead God the Proprietor of the harvest to thrust out workers into America.

The Lord Jesus Passes Through America

The good news is that Jesus always desires to go throughout the land. This was His habit then in Galilee (4:23; 9:35) and today in America. He desires to go through America teaching where God's people gather, heralding the reign of God, and making people whole.

The bad news is that there are 22,000 sites for new churches/missions which will not have them unless we pray and provide.

The Lord Jesus Feels for America

The good news is that the Lord Jesus sees our nation as we really are, and He feels our national pain.

The bad news is that we are a harrassed people, driven, hunted sheep vexed and torn.

We are an exhausted people and the pursuits of our life have dropped us in our tracks and scattered us.

The Lord Jesus Prays for America

The good news is that the harvest is abundant in America. There is an abundance of human life right now responsive to the Lord of the harvest. The Lord of the harvest will send out workers in response to our genuine request.

The bad news is that the workers are few. What avails the abundant harvest if we lack laborers?

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

Christ Calls Us to Rest (Matthew 11:28-30)

The Lord Jesus is the inexhaustible Person. Only He can stand before all times and places with an offer to give everyone who comes to Him rest. We can hardly sustain ourselves and those who need us. For us the weariness of sustaining one other in deep need depletes. Unlike us, Jesus offers a river of rest that runs ever afresh from its highland sources. His offer never diminishes or abates. The more He gives rest the more He seems to have to give.

Jesus offers us the initial rest of salvation. We can never rest until we know for certain that guilt and alienation from God have been removed. But beyond that, Jesus gives us the rest we find in discipleship. There is a deeper rest beyond the initial rest. That is the rest of wearing His yoke. Jesus offers initial and continual rest to all who come to Him.

Jesus Offers Rest in Salvation

Every religious movement and each spiritual leader offers rest. Even philosophical schools claim to give satisfaction from the tensions of life. Towering over them all, Jesus promises rest to everyone weary of the struggle for meaningful existence.

Jesus offers His rest in a great invitation: "Come to me. . . . "His word is both a command that pushes us and an invitation that draws us. This is an invitation from Jesus' sovereignty. Only Jesus has the royal authority to command us to approach Him. Consider how absurd these words would sound from anyone else. His words ring with an urgency. It could be translated "Hither to me, now." Life traps us in a bog of sloth. Unless Christ crisply calls us up and out, we sink. Our Lord's invitation is to a personality, not just a theology. He does not call us to an institution, organization, ceremony, or ritual. He calls us to Himself. Two verses reverberate with the personal pronouns me, I, my. Rest comes only from the person of Christ.

Jesus offers rest specifically to those invited, those who are actively toiling and those passively loaded down in life. Besides those who live on the merely animal level, most experience the toil and weight of life. In our toil we seek fulfillment in human work. But work becomes labor and labor becomes toil. Beyond our jobs, there is a lacerating toil to find meaning in human existence. On top of this, we passively bear the loads of life. The loads include the religious expectations placed on us by others. Religion can place burden on our relief (Matt. 23:4), while others command from you what they themselves cannot perform (Acts 15:10). Jesus invites those who are exhausted in the rat race of religion and bent over with the dead weight of impossible expectations.

Jesus' intention is indeed spiritual rest. The source of this rest is personal, "I [myself] will give you rest" (v. 28). Spiritual rest does not come from reflection, ritual, or religious activity. Rest comes from the Person of Jesus Christ. In that regard His rest is contrasted with the promises of others. Unlike the Pharisees, He can give the power to be and to do what He requires. Christians experience rest-in-relationship.

The significance of His rest is that of pause, recovery, refreshment. Christ gives rest from guilt, disfavor with God, and bondage to our own lusts. His cross rests us from guilt. His righteousness attributed to us rests us from disfavor with God. His life in us releases us from bondage to desire.

Jesus Offers Rest in Submission

Beyond the initial rest of salvation, there is a deeper rest in submission. At the beginning of the Christian life we experience recovery. Under the continuing lordship of Christ, we enter into deep rest. We discover the paradox—Christ places a yoke on us that lifts us up.

We should face the necessity of a yoke. Absolute freedom is absolute illusion. To be "free" in such a way is to experience the bondage of self-absorption, live life on the level of mere self-satisfaction. That is a yoke that chafes and drags down. You will wear a yoke—your own, someone else's, or the yoke of Christ.

We may experience the superiority of Jesus' yoke. By Jesus' time, the word "yoke" was already a common term for discipline, obligation, instruction. To wear Jesus' yoke means to learn from Him, to become His disciple. This learning has to do with His Person, learning about Him from the Gospels and experiencing Him in the circumstances of daily life. Self-satisfaction and self-delusion harness us with a yoke that exhausts. Jesus places on us a yoke that lifts us up. It is like harnessing yourself in a hang glider—a moment of weight and then the strange unseen uplift.

There is a simplicity in Jesus' yoke. That simplicity is one of method and manner. He is gentle and mild. Compared to the unapproachable, hard, and haughty teachers that sometimes represented God, Jesus receives us with meekness. He is not proud, impulsive, ambitious, or desiring dominion over the minds of people. This is not merely true of the external demeanor of Jesus, but pierces to His very heart. Some may assume an attitude of humility. He is the very essence of it.

The significance of the rest resides in its quality. His easy yoke and light burden gives rest to the soul. The cry of the Old Testament was, "Ask where the good way is, and, . . . you will find rest for your souls" (Jer. 6:16). This great invitation to rest preceded the cross. Jesus does not tell us how He will provide the rest. We see that in His death, resurrection, and presence (Rom. 5:1; 8:1). It is enough that He promises. When we know the who, we need not wonder about the how.

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

Present Imitation — Future Separation (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)

Everyone knows that the church contains the real thing and imitation, genuine Christians and those who are not. How did this happen? What should be our reaction?

Jesus knew there would be mixed conditions in His church. They already existed during His ministry. Christians cannot separate the imitation from the genuine in this age, but God will make that separation in the age to come.

The Reign of God in His Church Includes Both Authentic and Imitation Christianity

The Son of man (Jesus) sows only genuine Christians in His church. The field belongs to the Lord. The seed that He sows is excellent. He cannot be blamed for the mixed conditions in His church.

The Enemy (the Evil One) sows imitations in the church. He does this secretly. He also does it harmfully. The tares or darnel weed are not only useless but also poisonous. The Enemy does this intimately. The tares are sown through and through the wheat.

The difference becomes apparent at the time of expected maturity. Tares and wheat cannot now be distinguished at first. But when the grain ripens, the difference becomes apparent.

The Reign of God Prohibits a Separation Now

The servants of the Lord often want to make that separation now. This is a natural reaction of those devoted to the Lord and His church.

The Lord explains why the separation cannot be made now. The imitation cannot be removed without also harming the authentic, genuine Christian (v. 29). The Lord did not say that you cannot tell the difference. The Lord did say that you cannot now make the separation.

This does not prohibit church discipline. The pastor and leaders of the church should do all in their power to maintain a pure church. Nevertheless, with every effort made, we can never in this age totally purify the church. The Enemy works secretly, and you cannot tell the difference at first.

The Reign of God Ensures a Separation Later

That separation will be made at the end of this age. Only at the end of the present church age will the separation between the imitation and the authentic Christian be made.

The administration of that separation will be by those qualified to make it. "The angels" have always been God's administrators of judgment. They rejoice at the beginning of every Christian life (Luke 15:7) and eagerly watch the things of salvation (1 Pet. 1:12). They are qualified to make that ultimate separation.

The destination of that separation will be appropriate. There will be a destination of judgment for imitation Christians. The words speak of punishment and regret. There will be a destination of glory for authentic believers. That destination will include a protection and an illumination. "The righteous will shine like the sun" (v. 43). This suggests that they may have been overlooked in this age, but in the age to come they will appear brilliant in their genuineness.

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

Treasure Hunt—Finders and Seekers (Matthew 13:44-46)

Most enjoy a treasure hunt. Some are surprised by treasure, while others actively seek it. Jesus compared the rule of God in personal life to finding treasure. Some are surprised by finding the rule of God in their life. Others seek the highest good in life and find the rule of God. Whether you are a surprised finder or a serious seeker, you must risk everything for a unique opportunity of knowing God's rule in your life.

Each of Jesus' parables presents a past picture and tells a timeless truth. Look at the picture and learn the truth.

Some Find God's Rule in Life as an Unexpected Treasure

The parable presents a past picture. A poor day laborer plows the field of another man. Suddenly, he finds a treasure trove. Though rare today, such finds were very common in biblical lands. Invasions, revolutions, and natural calamities caused people to bury wealth. There were no banks. When the owner perished, no one knew where the treasure was buried. The common laborer took legitimate, legal steps to secure the field. He sold everything he had to buy the field. This was a good investment, for he only paid for the field, and got the treasure as an extra grace. His motivation was one of joy, transported by wealth beyond dreams.

The parable tells a timeless truth. Many find the rule of God in their life without seeking it. They are surprised by joy. The woman of Samaria suddenly finding living water (John 4) or the jailer of Philippi suddenly finding real security (Acts 16) represent the type.

To most, the kingdom of God is a hidden reality. Like a dull day laborer, they plow through life not expecting more than eating, sleeping, working, and dying. Some suddenly strike the treasure!

The discovery calls for total investment motivated by joy. Impelled by sheer joy, we gladly invest everything to know the rule of God in life. It is an investment joyfully made, with no sense of sacrifice (Phil. 3:8ff.).

Others Seek the Highest Good in Life and Find God's Rule

The parable presents a past picture. The merchant is a traveling wholesaler looking for precious pearls. Whereas there were many day laborers plowing fields, this man represents a relative rarity. He went to the Indian Ocean seeking pearls from the pearl fishers. Suddenly, he found the pearl of all pearls. At once he took advantage of this unique opportunity. He went quickly and immediately sold everything he had. That is, he not only traded his entire stock of other pearls, but divested himself of all else. He was not a collector but a dealer. He knew that this was a good investment. The day laborer was surprised by a treasure. The pearl merchant was successful after a long search.

The parable tells a timeless truth. Many search for the highest good in life—meaning, purpose, reality. After a long, such search, they finally find it in Christ. Apollos was such a man (Acts 19). When that moment comes, there must be the immediate risk of total investment to grasp the unique opportunity. Sadly, many would rather clutch paste pearls.

Both Finders and Seekers Must Risk the Unique Opportunity

The similarity between the finder and the seeker outweighs the difference. When each discovers the power of Christ and His presence, it is a moment to risk everything for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This was central to Jesus' teaching. It is exactly the opposite of those excuses at the parable of the banquet (Matt. 22:5). So urgent is His call that we are to cut off hands (5:29), let the dead bury their dead (8:2), leave parents (10:37) and follow Him. This is no lame, same, tame Savior calling us to a modernized, trivialized religion. This is the treasure hunt. Risk now!

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

The Bridge Over Troubled Waters (Matthew 14:22-33)

After Jesus fed the 5,000, the mob wanted to take Him by force and make Him king (John 6:15). This was a real temptation for Jesus and the twelve to avoid the cross and seize the crown. Masterfully and urgently, Jesus forced the disciples to leave, and He, Himself, dispersed the militant mob. "He went up to a mountain apart to pray . . . he was there alone" (v. 23, KJV). Even Jesus had to have isolation and solitude to avoid temptation and know God's will.

While the Lord was hidden from view on the mountain above, His disciples struggled with difficulty on the sea below. Then, and now, Christ discloses Himself to us in our difficulty, and shares with us His dominion over difficulty.

Our Difficulty Provides Christ's Opportunity

Obedience to Christ often creates difficulty. "Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him" (v. 22). At His insistence, they obeyed, embarking across the sea. Their very obedience to Christ placed them in difficulty. Faithfulness brings no immunity from difficulty. It almost ensures it. To follow Christ in this age guarantees storms. This storm at sea was preparatory. Peter and the others would spend a lifetime in storms because of obedience to Him.

In difficulty we lose sight of Him, but He never loses sight of us. When we cannot see Him, He always sees us. Christ was hidden on the mountain above, while His disciples faced difficulty below. He prayed on firm ground, while they sailed on uncertain waters. Truly, He had stilled a storm already, before their very eyes (8:23-27). But that was in the day, and He was in the boat. Now, it was night, and He was absent. This, too, was preparatory. Christ would ascend on high to the right hand of the Father. We no longer see Him visibly. In difficulty He sees us and comes to us.

Divine delays in difficulty are always purposeful (v. 25). The disciples struggled to exhaustion all night, but Christ did not come until the fourth watch (3:00-6:00 a.m.). He waited until they understood the full force of the storm and the futility of their unaided effort. Then He intervened. In your life He is waiting until you and everyone around knows that only He can act in a delivering way.

Christ's Divinity Discloses Itself in Our Difficulty

Christ discloses His divinity decisively in our difficulty. Do you wish to know the Deity of Christ as the real fact in personal experience? You meet it in your difficulty. Christ walking on the waters of difficulty reveals His divinity. In the Old Testament record only God could tame the sea. God walks on the sea as an opposing power or a defeated enemy where no one else is able to walk (Job 9:8). The psalmist confesses, "Through the sea was your way, and your path through many waters" (77:19). At the end of the storm, the disciples worshiped Jesus and confessed, "Truly you are the Son of God" (v. 33).

We may not recognize Christ's help when it comes (v. 27). The disciples thought they had seen a phantasm or an apparition, the unreal presence of a living or dead person. Further, "He would have passed them by" if they had not called on Him (Mark 6:48, KJV). If it were not for His grace, we would not even recognize Him in our difficulty.

Christ always reveals Himself to us personally in difficulty (v. 27). They recognized both His voice and its content. He gives us a word of affirmation: "Take courage!" He gives us a word of identification: "It is I." He gives us a word of prohibition: "Don't be afraid." When you listen, you know He is there in troubled waters.

Our Difficulty Provides Our Opportunity

Christ calls us to share His dominion over difficulty. When Peter wanted to share Christ's power over troubled water, Christ gladly said, "Come" (v. 29). Our Lord invites us to share in His victory over everything that vexes us.

We do share Christ's victory over difficulty unless faith fails. What Christ commands, He enables. Peter walked on the water toward Jesus. Yet, faith failed at the very finish. He was almost touching Jesus when faith failed. While doing the greater thing (walking on water) he was unnerved by the little thing (the blowing wind).

When faith fails in difficulty, Christ furnishes new faith. "Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him" (v. 31). The touch of Christ recreates, restores, and renews failing faith. Christ has brought you this far above troubled waters to abandon you. When faith fails on troubled waters, He always furnishes new faith. He did that more than once for Peter. He always does that for us.

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

The Great Confession (Matthew 16:13-20)

Sometimes the apparent insignificance of a place contradicts the significance of what happened there. Such is the case with Caesarea Philippi. That remote site on the other side of the globe witnessed the Great Confession concerning Jesus Christ. There Simon Peter testified, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (v. 16). This confession was not made at Rome because it does not need man's political endorsement for its power. It was not made at Athens because it does not need man's academic certification to be true. It was not made at Jerusalem because it does not need the stamp of established religion. Only God can reveal to the individual the truth of the Great Confession.

The Question Posed

Jesus begins with a request for the popular opinion concerning Him. That question may have been either educational or informational in its nature. He asked the question in terms of His favorite self-designation, "Son of Man." "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" (v. 13). That title minimized who He was rather than advertised who He was. You find "a son of man" in Daniel 7:13, a figure of humiliation who is exalted into God's presence. The question of Jesus' identity touches today with a new force. More has been written about Jesus in the last twenty years than the previous two thousand.

Popular opinion about Jesus changes little. Some base their belief on superstition— "John the Baptist." Herod thought Jesus was a resurrection or reincarnation of the Baptist (Matt. 14:1). Some deal with Jesus by categorizing Him with others rather than recognizing Him as unique. Some base their answer on misinterpretation—"Elijah." The last words of the Old Testament indicated that Elijah would return before the Day of the Lord. Some quickly applied those words to Jesus, even though He Himself applied them to John the Baptist (Matt. 11:14). Others based their opinion on mere human observation—"Jeremiah or one of the prophets." They saw in Jesus some of the characteristics of other great Jewish preachers. In each instance the people stopped short of the full confession and surrender to Jesus Christ.

Jesus continued with a request for the disciples' personal confession. Jesus is not concerned with popular opinion. He is concerned with the adequacy of His church's confession. Is it accurate, authentic, biblical?

The Affirmation Given

The Great Confession represents a culmination of other confessions. Preliminary confessions had been made earlier in Jesus' ministry. The first days that His followers spent with Him they confessed that He was the Messiah, King of Israel, and Son of God (John 1:41, 45, 49). What then made the great confession great? It was great because it was born out of the personal experience and observation of the disciples. Our greatest confession about Christ ought always to be our latest confession about Christ. We ought to know more the longer we walk with Him.

The Great Confession represents a new comprehension about Christ. He is not only the Jewish Messiah, but He is the universal Son of God. The Jews expected a human Messiah. There was no expectation that the Messiah would be God-man, very God, invested with the Godhead Himself. This was the flash of revelation that moved Peter beyond anything before confessed—He is the Son of the living God.

Peter made that confession at a location which recognized other gods. Near that site were the worship of nature gods and human gods. In the face of all other gods, Peter confessed Christ as the Son of the living God.

The Foundation Acknowledged

On the bedrock of the confession of Christ's Godhead, Jesus Christ builds His church. The erection of the church begins with Peter's confession of the messiahship and Deity of Jesus Christ. The first layer of that foundation is the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20). Jesus builds His church on the bedrock of their confession.

Since that time He continues to build His church out of living stones (1 Pet. 2:4-5). Every believer coming into contact with the great Foundation Stone comes to life as a living stone, part of the universal church that God is building through the ages. When the last living stone has been added, He who is the Foundation Stone and the Cornerstone will become the Capstone.

We must turn the Great Confession into our confession. It must move from the second person—"You are the Christ"—to the third person—"He is the Christ." On Sunday we confess to Jesus our belief, "You are the Christ." But every other day we must confess to. the world outside, "He is Christ."

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

The Great Confession (Matthew 16:13-20)

The Christian believes one great something about the Person of Jesus Christ—He is the promised Messiah and the divine Son of God. That great confession was first made by Simon Peter in a remote area of the northern Holy Land. Caesarea Philippi was marked by the worship of nature gods and human beings. In this setting six months before the cross Peter confessed that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. Every genuine Christian must make this confession. The church is built on the substance of this profession—the Godhead of Jesus Christ.

The Great Confession Begins with the Rejection of Inadequate Views

Jesus asked the great question, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" The title "Son of Man" was Jesus' favorite self-designation. It roots in the vision of Daniel 7:13 where a divine man comes with the clouds of heaven into the presence of the Ancient of Days. God gives to that divine man authority, glory, and sovereign power. Jesus wanted to know if His generation understood Him in that light. This question may have been educational, to lead the disciples to a deeper knowledge of Him. Or the question may have been informational, He was really seeking to know from them what others were saying.

Their response indicates the inadequate views of any generation concerning the person of Jesus Christ. Some responded on the level of superstition, "Some say John the Baptist." Herod himself feared that John had risen from the dead (Matt. 14:1). These views were on the level of mere superstition. Others saw a reduplication of what God had done before. Elijah was supposed to return before the end (Mal. 4:5-6). Some Jewish traditions stated that Jeremiah would return before the end. Others in Jesus' generation were less sure than that. They saw in Him only "one of the prophets."

In each instance they tried to account for Jesus Christ by previous categories of what God had done. The lesson of the great confession is that He is truly incomparable.

The Great Confession Continues with the Affirmation of an Accurate View

Jesus sharply sets the popular view of Himself over against the view of the disciples: "You yourselves, in contrast to the others, who are you saying I am?"

When the disciples initially met Jesus they had a preliminary confession of faith based on immediate impact. Andrew had said, "We have found the Messiah." Nathaniel had confessed that Jesus was "the Son of God, the King of Israel" (John 1:41, 49). Now after two years of watching His words and works what will their confession be?

Peter speaks for the group or with the assent of the group: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (v. 16). This confession identifies Christ as the expected Jewish Messiah. But it goes beyond that expectation. Peter confesses the divinity of Jesus Christ. It was Jesus' claim to divinity that aroused the popular fury (John 8:58-59), and led to the final confrontation with the religious establishment (Matt. 26:64-65).

These words are followed by the only instance in which Jesus ever called an individual "Blessed." This joyful congratulation to Peter has definite grounds. No mere human insight enabled Peter to see in Jesus of Nazareth the Son of God. It was a direct, divine revelation. It always is.

The Great Confession Provides the Foundation for the Church

This confession determines the nature of the church. Jesus came not only to teach a doctrine but to found a society, an organism, the church. That church would be the congregation of the faithful throughout the world under Christ as the Head.

The foundation of the church is the confession of the Godhead of its Lord. In a historical sense the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets (Eph. 2:20). In an eternal sense it is built on Christ Himself (2 Cor. 3:11). But here the foundation of the church in the world is the confession that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God.

The Builder of the church is Christ Himself. "I will build my church." Wherever the true church truly grows, it is the work of Christ Himself. That true fellowship will be invincible: "the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (v. 18). Nothing in the unseen world will ever undermine God's intention in His church.

Jesus at that time warned the disciples not to tell anyone that He was Christ (v. 20). That is not the case today. We are to go everywhere telling everyone that Jesus is the Christ. Our entire life is to be the Great Confession.

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

The Crisis of the Christ (Matthew 16:13-20)

This time marks the crisis of the public ministry of the Christ. "From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed him" (John 6:66). Six months before the cross, no class of people understood the message or mission of Jesus. Thus, Jesus took the twelve to Caesarea Philippi—a safe, pleasant, isolated area in the far north. He intended to see whether they understood and would commit to Him.

Short of the cross and resurrection, no other event in Jesus' ministry stands on equal ground with this episode. It reveals the insufficiency of all human speculation about Christ and the necessity of divine revelation to know Christ. God lays the foundation for His church in the divine revelation concerning Jesus Christ.

I. This Crisis Reveals the Insufficiency of Human Speculation About Jesus Christ (vv. 13-14)

The critical question of life concerns the Christ: "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" Jesus asked this question for information, affirmation, and education. He did not use His supernatural powers for information when natural inquiry would suffice. At that lonely moment, He sought the affirmation of His closest followers. He intended their education by contrasting the popular confession with the disciple's question.

The inadequacy of speculation characterizes the crowd. Then and now, the mass of people know only insufficient speculation about Jesus Christ. There are some earmarks of human speculation in the answers given by the first followers of Jesus.

Some see in Christ a mere repetition of what God has done before. Unaided human opinion cannot see a wholly, new departure in Jesus Christ. He was like John the Baptist in His mysterious birth and call for repentance. He was like Elijah in His confrontation with religious leaders. He was like Jeremiah in His personal grief over religious barrenness and hypocrisy. Because of that, people have seen in Jesus no more than another religious leader. Human speculation about Christ always places Him in an insufficient category.

Some see in Christ a reduction of what God has done before. For some, He was "one of the prophets" (v. 14). The language suggests a class of people who see in Christ no more than one in a long succession of religious spokespersons. In His own lifetime, people saw in Him only "Josephs son." Some even identified Him with a demon. Mere human reflection on Christ never discovers who He is.

II. The Sufficiency of Divine Revelation About Jesus Christ (vv. 15-17)

There is only one acceptable identification of Jesus Christ: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (v. 16). Peter identified Jesus of Nazareth with the promised, predicted, and expected, anointed Messiah of the Old Testament. But Peter went beyond that. He said something about the Messiah that no Old Testament Hebrew ever confessed or expected. Peter confessed the Godhead of the Messiah, the Deity of Jesus Christ. This is especially significant in light of the surroundings. The most ancient worship of nature gods and the most recent worship of Caesar surrounded the location of this confession.

There is only one source for this revelation about Jesus Christ. Humanity in its feebleness, weakness, fallibility, and fragility ("flesh and blood" v. 17, KJV) can never make this discovery or confession about Christ. There is nothing in human reason, education, tradition, or observation that would compel one to confess this about Jesus of Nazareth.

Every confession of Jesus Christ is an act of God invading and illuminating the mind of the confessor. God, Himself, lifts the veil and parts the curtain, or you cannot grasp or confess the God head of Jesus Christ. In that sense, you do not "decide to become a Christian." No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44).

III. The Permanency of the Foundation of Jesus Christ (vv. 18-19)

Those confessing the Godhead of Jesus Christ constitute the foundation of His church. The person and truth about Jesus Christ is the only adequate foundation for His church. The first layers of the foundation are the apostles and the prophets (Eph. 2:20). Luther: "All Christians are Peters on account of the confession Peter here makes, which is the rock on which Peter and all Peters are built."

Christ's relationship to His church is one of construction. "I will build my church." We do not build His true church. Men may build large, ecclesiastical organizations on the basis of human attraction, but only Jesus Christ builds His church.

Christ's relationship to His church is one of possession: "My church. . . . " The only owner of the local church or the whole assembly of all believers in the earth is Jesus Christ, not a pastor, board, or denomination.

Christ's relationship through His church is one of confrontation: "the gates of [hell] will not overcome it" (v. 18). The unseen world of death and the grave swallow every generation, but they will never swallow the church of a living Lord.

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

Transformation: His Reality—My Possibility (Matthew 17:1-8)

Transformation is both the history of the Christ and the possibility for the believer. The transfiguration was a unique event of revelation concerning the nature of Jesus Christ. But the transfiguration is a prediction concerning the possibility of every Christian. What happened to Christ on that mountain can happen progressively and ultimately to every Christian. Let us look at the transfiguration from both perspectives. The transfiguration reveals the Deity of Jesus Christ and the ultimate possibility for every Christian.

In the Transfiguration the Deity of Christ Shines Out Through His Humanity

Certain circumstances enable us to see more of Christ. Prepared observers in a prayerful place are most likely to see Christ most clearly. Jesus took the inner circle—Peter, James, and John. These three had seen Him most clearly, so they were chosen to see Him most fully. These three were called aside two other times. They saw Jesus superior to death (Mark 5:37-43) and saw Him yield to death (Matt. 26:37). Only those prepared by past intimacy will see more of Christ. Also, they were isolated and alone in a place of prayer and solitude (Luke 9:28). The fullest vision of Christ comes only to those who go with Him into the place of isolation, solitude, and prayer.

The content of the transfiguration itself gives a past revelation about Christ and the future possibility of the Christian. In the past revelation, Christ "was transfigured" (v. 2). The word distinctly refers to an inward change which radiates from the inside to the outside. It is a change not in the superficial, but in the essential. The change touched both His appearance and His apparel. Moses' face had reflected the glory of God (Ex. 34). Jesus' face radiated the glory of God. God gives us "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). In this, we see not only Jesus' Deity, but God's original intention for humanity.

The content of the transfiguration shows us our future possibility. Looking toward Jesus by faith, we "are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18). Even in this life, we are to experience a transfiguration that radiates and reveals itself. Ultimately "the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt. 13:43). Our destiny will be a radiant, luminous kingdom of light where we will "share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light" (Col. 1:12).

We would do well to ask where we are in the personal process of transfiguration. Every authentic Christian should show evidence of transforming change.

In the Transfiguration, the Necessity of the Cross Appears to Humanity

Just as Jesus was transfigured, there appeared two titanic figures from the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah, representing the law and the prophets. What is their significance?

There is an affirmation of the cross. This is a heavenly "summit conference" concerning the cross. Luke states explicitly that "they spoke about His departure, which He was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem" (9:31). For Jesus, it was a conversation of affirmation and encouragement. Moses and Elijah represent the saints of the ages urging Christ on to His final work.

There is an attempted interruption of the cross. Peter's petty parentheses (v. 4) would have kept them on the mountain in the glory of it all. Like all of us, Peter wanted nothing to do with the cross that awaited below. Yet down we must all go to see human sorrow and sin (v. 15), to witness distressing unbelief (v. 17), and to set out for the cross that awaits.

A present perversion of Christianity would keep us on the mountain in the glory without the valley and the cross. "Health and wealth" theology wants all mountaintop and no valley. No cross, no crown.

In the Transfiguration, the Finality of the Christ Appears to Humanity

The acts of God point to the finality of the Christ. A bright cloud revealing the presence of God enfolded them. It is the same bright cloud of the Old Testament which revealed the visible presence of the invisible God (Ex. 24:15-18; 40:35). Such a token most clearly indicated the divine pleasure with the moment. Out of the cloud came a voice. That voice insisted to the disciples, "Listen to him!" (v. 5). Listen to Him when He speaks of the cross, the way of suffering, the necessity of Calvary. Listen to Him more than to Moses and Elijah. Listen to Him and not to Peter. Listen to Him! That voice thunders down the ages to this very morning. "Listen to him!"

The acts of Christ reveal His own finality. "When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus (v. 8). Moses and the law were gone; they had done their work. Elijah and the prophets were gone; they had done their work. There stands Jesus alone, above all, preeminent. May we also look up day by day and see Jesus only. When life is done and we walk through the fear of death, we then feel His touch and look up to see Jesus only!

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

A Wanting World—A Weakened Church (Matthew 17:14-20)

What happens when the church cannot produce? A church can have words without works, promises without performance, a reputation for power without a demonstration of power. Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record a failure in faith immediately following the transfiguration of Jesus. While their Master was gloriously changed on Mount Hermon above, the disciples disastrously failed in the valley below. Representing an absentee Lord, they failed.

We too represent in our church an absentee Lord. The world brings its desperate needs to us and asks, "Can you help?" The church fails to help human hurts because faith fails.

Failures in Faith Embarrass the Cause of Christ

Hurting humanity expects the church to help. The father of an epileptic boy represents all who come to Christ's church desperate for help. The nine failing disciples remind us of the church which does not have the faith to make a difference.

The adversaries of Christ's church criticize failures in faith. Mark 9:14 notes the presence of cynical scribes who ridiculed the disciples before the mob because of their failure in faith. When our faith fails we give cause to the critics of Christ.

Disciples are embarrassed by failures in faith. In the face of critics and the watching crowd the nine disciples could not produce. By implication the failure of the disciples was the failure of their Master. We stand today embarrassed by the inability to make a dent in the hurts of helpless humanity.

The helpless remain unhelped when faith fails. There is hardly a sadder picture in the New Testament than this frantic father whose last hope for help was Jesus Christ. His only son was seized by evil and thrown into places of danger and threat. Our world is seized by life-destroying forces that only Christ can change. Christ Himself is doubted when our faith fails and we cannot heal the hurt.

The Fault for Failure in Faith Rests with the Disciples

A failure in faith is the fundamental failure in discipleship. When Christ cried out "O unbelieving and perverse generation" (v. 17), He did not exclude the disciples from that cry. Unbelief twists, warps, and contorts the world in which we live. The nine disciples had embodied the very perverse unbelief that characterized the world at large. Rather than change the unbelief of the world, they had joined the world in unbelief.

Failure in faith gives personal pain to Jesus Christ. His words reveal that the disciple's failure to connect with His power in simple trust pained Him as much as a personal insult. Christ was pained by the absence of trust more than all else.

Merely mechanical ministry results in failed faith. Christ had earlier commissioned the twelve to do the very thing they here failed to do (10:8). They could not simply go through the motions, repeat the ritual, and make any difference. Life-changing service must continually call down the resources of Christ if it makes any difference at all.

Restoration of Faith Requires a Recognition of Failure and a Request for Instruction

The disciples wisely approached Jesus in private to ask why their ministry failed. We would do well to take our failures in faith to Christ for His correction.

A minute faith can work a great miracle. The mustard seed grew from the smallest seed to the largest garden shrub. Evidently the faith of the disciples had grown small indeed if it was not even the size of a mustard seed! We fail not because of the strength of the opposition but because of the smallness of faith.

Small faith can move the immovable. "To move a mountain" was proverbial for overcoming great difficulty. Elsewhere Jesus stated that faith could uproot what appeared to be permanently rooted.

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

Who May Say, "I Am the Greatest"? (Matthew 18:1-4; Mark 9:33-36)

Who is the greatest person in our church? You would probably nominate someone with ability, gifts, visibility, or strong personal appeal. Our Lord does not choose that way. For Him, the greatest person is "the very last, and the servant of all" (Mark 9:35).

Questions of precedence and rank were extremely important in both Jesus' world and are in ours. The disciples expected that He would begin a temporal kingdom with higher and lower officials. They wanted to be the greatest in that kind of kingdom. Christ confronts and contradicts every human standard for greatness.

Disagreement About Greatness Disrupts Christ's Disciples

Disagreements about greatness can erupt when we compare the gifts and blessings of God. Some are blessed by God with circumstances others do not enjoy. The inner circle—Peter, James, John—had witnessed the transfiguration. Peter had been singled out repeatedly for recognition and blessing. The disciples probably argued about the exact order in which they first followed Jesus (John 1). When you focus on God's gifts to others rather than your own call to servanthood, you will disagree about greatness.

Christ quickly discerns such disagreements. Our pettiness is not hidden from Christ. Although Christ may have overheard their argument, Luke suggests that He knew their hearts supernaturally. Christ knows the smallness of our thoughts. When He revealed His knowledge to the twelve, they were abashed and silenced (Mark 9:34). Would we argue about who is the greatest among us if Christ actually sat in our midst?

Disagreements about greatness contradict the Christian call. This ugly eruption about rank and preeminence exploded after our Lord's announcement of His cross and the call for all disciples to carry a cross (Matt. 16:24). People on the way to execution seldom argue about human greatness. We are to live with that perspective.

Disagreements about greatness tend to endure. When you become obsessed with thoughts of your own greatness, you face a lifelong conflict. The argument about greatness among the twelve continued until the end (Matt. 20:20). Argument about greatness is a danger that can disrupt any fellowship.

Christ Confronts and Corrects Confusion About Greatness

Confusion about greatness calls for a radical reversal of values. Those who argue about greatness must "turn" (Matt. 18:3). We are headed in the wrong direction when debate about "first place" characterizes us. While the twelve argued about greatness in the kingdom, Jesus informed them that they could not even enter the kingdom until they humbled themselves. Willingness to consider myself little because I am indeed little, is the requirement for mere entrance into His kingdom, not to mention greatness in it.

Confusion about greatness calls for a radical reversal in roles. "If anyone wants to be first he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mark 9:35). The word "servant" emphasizes one who performs lowly, personal service for another. That was the last thing on the disciples' minds! Jesus repeatedly emphasized this same truth (Mark 10:43; Matt. 20:26-27; 23:8-11; Luke 14:11; 18:14; 22:26). The sheer repetition of this teaching indicates the weight He gives to servanthood as the pathway to greatness. We stoop to conquer. The way down is the way up in His reign.

Christ Dramatically Demonstrates the Nature of Greatness in His Kingdom

Greatness in Christ's Kingdom is that of a confiding, trusting, docile, humble, simple child. To be called, led, and loved as a child marks greatness under Christ. To possess nothing and need everything, to earn nothing and receive everything, characterizes a little child.

When Jesus called, the little child came without pride in its own response. When Jesus called, the little child did not say, "What an excellent child I am." The little child felt itself loved without reflecting on its own loveliness.

We must beg Christ for the grace to have the child heart. Only such belong to the kingdom.

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

Personal Influence—Beware! (Matthew 18:6-14)

Strong influences bombard our lives on every side. Media, peers, Madison Avenue, and music all bend our minds. Every one of us lives in a sphere of our personal influence over others. Jesus warned in explicit terms of the danger inherent in our influence on others, as well as influences on us. Every believer must live with discipline in the face of the dangers of influence.

Jesus Warns About the Danger of Influence on Other Believers

The designation of Christians is "little ones." This does not refer to babies or children. At the point of personal trust, every believer is the same, like a little child. However sophisticated the professional, worldly-wise the business person, or brilliant the theologian, each must come to the same trust in God of a little boy or girl.

The destruction of a Christian results from negative influence. The warning rests on "tripping" another Christian into sin. The suggestion is that of a baited trap, set with the premeditated intent to entrap. Every single "one" of the believers is of ultimate value and must never be the object of our negative influence.

The destiny of one who so trips a believer into spiritual destruction is terrible. Actually, Jesus contrasted two terrible destinies, one preferable to the other. The thought of being weighted with a huge millstone and dropped into the open sea would strike terror into anyone. Yet, that is preferable to the destiny awaiting those who deliberately trip Christ's little ones.

Jesus Calls for the Discipline of Influence on Ourselves

We discipline our bodies in the face of temptation. Our organs of mobility (hands, feet) may take us toward sin. Our organs of perception (the eyes) may dwell on objects of sin. To refuse to discipline is to invite spiritual disaster. We are to deal with the first line of resistance, not the last avenue of escape.

Cutting off limbs and gouging out eyes are extreme cases not likely to occur. If the only alternative one faced was habitual sin or amputation, the latter would be better. But that is not the only alternative for a believer. We may discipline ourselves into subjection (1 Cor. 9:26-27). Jesus is comparing two courses of action to make a strong point. Actually, a blind person can lust and a footless person can move toward sin. The only course open is dedicated discipline empowered by Christ.

Jesus Presents the Dignity of Every Humble Believer

Every humble believer is the object of angelic observation (v. 10). Angels minister to God for the benefit of the saved (Heb. 1:14). They protect God's servant in danger and difficulty (Ps. 91:11; Matt. 4:6). In some way they observe our worship, and our conduct in worship should respect their observation.

Every humble believer is the object of divine preservation (vv. 12-14). There is a further reason why we should do no harm to childlike believers. A single, humble believer may seem insignificant and unimportant. Not so, says our Lord. The Father Himself takes pains to preserve every single one. We should discipline our influence with a sense of the dignity of every humble believer.

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

Controversial Generosity (Matthew 20:1-15)

What is the kingdom of God like? It is like the controversial generosity of an eccentric vineyard owner! Perhaps the most puzzling of all parables, this parable of controversial generosity has been called the "Wallflower of the Parables." Yet it speaks to the very heart of Jesus' self-understanding and mission.

A remote and an immediate context frames this parable. Jesus' running battle with the Pharisees over table fellowship with sinners is the deep background. Harlots and bums invade God's kingdom at the eleventh hour, while the Pharisees have served all day. The immediate context is Peter's understandable but mercenary question: "We have forsaken all and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?" (Matt. 19:27, KJV) This question betrays a calculating approach toward service.

This parable answers both the Pharisees and Peter. Let God be as good and merciful as He really is, and celebrate that goodness with trust.

God Sovereignly Calls Us to His Kingdom

Sheer sovereignty animates the householder in relation to his vineyard. He calls whom he wishes, how he wishes, and when he wishes. Some he calls at dawn, some at 9:00, 12:00, and 3:00 respectively. In astonishing sovereignty he even calls some to work at the hour of 5:00, the last working hour. In all of this he acts at his good pleasure. This parable is saturated with the sovereignty of God—His sovereign call and His sovereign right to be generous and merciful.

Men may react differently to that sovereign call. The first group to be called haggle and bargain with the householder. They evidence a mercenary spirit that will surface later. The other groups called later simply trust the goodness of the lord who calls them to work. We may likewise react differently to the call of God. Some respond in trust and some with calculating motives.

God Sovereignly Rewards Us in His Kingdom

The householder is outrageously and controversially generous. He pays all the same, regardless of the work done. It is not, as some suggest, that the later workers had worked harder than the earlier. This destroys the intent of the parable. The intent is to demonstrate the sovereign goodness of God. It is simply the fact that we all come into the kingdom at different times. Jews came before Gentiles. Some of us came as children; others have come in the eleventh hour of a life long spent. God's reward is the same for us all.

The mumbling, grumbling twelve-hour men of the parable betray a wrong spirit. They have served on a quid quo pro, tit-for-tat basis. They evidence the same spirit that discolored the elder brother of the prodigal son. They are self-conscious and calculating. The proper spirit for kingdom service is not to let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. That is, the sheer joy of working in the vineyard of the generous King is enough.

God Sovereignly Instructs Us About His Kingdom

His justice and goodness questioned, the lord of the vineyard does not explain or defend himself. He speaks in sheer sovereignty, just as he calls in sheer freedom. What he does do is point to the spiritual defect in his detractors. "Is thine eye evil, because I am good?" (v. 15). The detractors from his generosity will not let him be as good as he wants to be. May we learn from them, and let Him be the controversially generous and merciful Lord!

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

Spiritual Ambition (Matthew 20:20-28)

There is a real possibility of misunderstanding our Master at the point of spiritual greatness. In the context of our passage, Jesus had just predicted His own crucifixion for the third time (Matt. 20:17-19). James, John, and the twelve misunderstood Jesus and His intention. While He was predicting His passion, they were plotting their position. Jesus took this occasion to explain true spiritual greatness. Greatness in Christ's kingdom depends on sharing His suffering and His servanthood.

Jesus Does Not Reject Spiritual Ambition

We may approach Christ with our spiritual ambition. Nowhere in this passage does He reject the idea of spiritual ambition. James and John came on the wrong grounds of ambition. They had been among the first four to follow Jesus. They had been on the mountain of transfiguration. Their mother, Salome, was probably a sister to Mary, the mother of Jesus. They advanced these grounds for greatness.

We may misunderstand spiritual ambition. James and John did not grasp the nature of greatness or the norm for greatness in Christ's kingdom. They did not understand the nature of greatness. They envisioned an earthly kingdom in an elaborate throne room, with prime ministers seated around Christ. Actually, He would come into His kingdom on a cross, surrounded by two thieves. They did not understand the norm for greatness. Christ does not give greatness in His kingdom as an arbitrary favor, as if He were an Eastern king making sovereign decisions. Greatness in Christ's kingdom is not donated, but earned by suffering and service.

Jesus, however, does not reject this request. He does redirect their spiritual ambition.

Jesus Does Correct Spiritual Ambition

Jesus corrects spiritual ambition with gentleness. This is the kind of mistake that comes only from those who believe. James and John did believe that Jesus was the Christ, and that He would have a worldwide kingdom. Because of that, He treated their misunderstanding with gentleness.

Jesus corrects spiritual ambition with thoroughness. He gives a thorough definition, prediction, and clarification to the disciples. To be great in His kingdom is to share His "cup." The word "cup" refers to His ordeal or His destiny in suffering servanthood.

Jesus makes a prediction about greatness in His kingdom. James and John would drink His "cup." James was martyred in A.D. 44, by Herod Agrippa, the first to drink Jesus' "cup."

John would outlive all of the original apostles and be the last to drink the cup of suffering on Patmos.

Jesus gives a thorough clarification of greatness. Greatness in His kingdom is not based on favoritism, but fitness. God has already prepared a place for those fit to be greatest in the kingdom.

Jesus Does Direct Spiritual Ambition

How we react to the ambitions of others reveals more about us than it does about them. Boiling indignation characterized the twelve when they heard the request of James and John (v. 24). They were, in reality, no better than James and John in their ambitions. Christ's disciples rejected the secular model of greatness. Secular greatness depends on those "who lord over it" and "play the tyrant." Power and pressure exerted from above characterize the world's greatness.

Christ's disciples embraced the servant model of greatness. The world must be transformed not by power from above, but by service from beneath.

For Christ, the great man does not sit atop lesser men, but he carries lesser men on his back. For Christ, the higher the dignity, the lower the servitude. He is His own best example (v. 28).

There are seats close to Christ in the kingdom. We should have ambition to sit in those seats, but we must drink His "cup" and employ His model for greatness in order to fulfill spiritual ambition.

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

The Final Week: The Presentation of the King (Matthew 21:1-9)

The word king actually means "one who is able." Until the last week of His ministry, Jesus rejected the title "King." He always was King in the profoundest sense, for preeminently He is the One who is able. If you are a Christian, you have acknowledged this and staked your eternal welfare on that great fact.

Jesus presents Himself as King to every man and in every generation. There are some timeless truths about His kingliness. The same Christ who entered Jerusalem in a triumphal procession, enters the lowly heart of believer on the same principles. What are they?

The King Prepares

As Jesus prepared His final appeal, everything about Him speaks of a Sovereign who has a firm grip on the help of time and steers a certain course. His hour has come. He prepares with regal authority. His preparation displays a sense of command: "go, . . . find, . . . bring" (v. 2). For the only time in the Gospels, He calls Himself "Lord" (v. 3). The moment to openly demonstrate His messianic secret, His hidden identity, is finally at hand.

He prepares with profound symbolism. Other prophets had dramatized their messages in Jerusalem. Now, the object of their prophecies will dramatize His message. In solemnity, He rides a young animal never before ridden. This was the prerogative of a king. Solomon, the lesser son of David, rode a donkey to his coronation. Now, the greater Son of David does the same. The lowly ass is the burden bearer of the East (the horse is the beast of war). Other kings burden their subjects. This King bears the burdens of His subjects!

He prepares with prophetic consciousness. Jesus makes His own a prophecy written five centuries before (Zech. 9:9). The context of the prophet spoke of a coming King who would be rejected. The peculiar quality of His kingdom is to be meekness. The Hebrew word means, literally, "One who does not resist." Jesus will no more force Himself on you than He did on Jerusalem. He presents Himself as the humble King, and then awaits your decision.

The King Receives

This is a strange King, and a still stranger parade. Kings' mounts were often covered with splendid clothes. This King rides on peasants's shirts. Most subjects die for their king; this King dies for His subjects. His court is little children, shouting "Hosanna." His soldiers arm themselves with palm branches. How strange to the Romans visiting the city. A King honored with old clothes and broken trees!

Most of the crowd spread their garments (v. 8). But not all. There were still men talking about the price of wheat, and women gossiping about the neighborhood. The world shook and changed that day, and some never knew it. Josephus says there were three million people in Jerusalem at Passover. The great majority of them never saw and never knew and never cared. Has this changed?

What a strange army this King has. It is an army that cries out words of peace. Hosanna literally means "save now" That was precisely what He could not do. He could not save as a royal king riding into the city. He could only save as a bloody King on a crossly throne. Jesus saw beyond the strewn garments to soldiers gambling for His garment. He saw beyond the strewn branches to the awaiting tree. Did His eyes bedew themselves with tears as He heard the "Hosannas" echo against the walls of Pilate's fortress? Other words will echo there on Friday. The crowd can change its shout.

The King Explains

Rebuked by Pharisees for receiving these praises (Luke 19:39), Jesus clarifies His situation. It would be necessary that the very stones cry out if men did not. This was His hour. The city will think it rejects Him, but in reality, He will reject the city. "You did not know the time of your visitation" (v. 44, NKJV). Do you?

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

Jesus Christ Versus Religion that Forgets Its Purpose (Matthew 21:10-17)

Jesus came proclaiming the kingdom of God, and this proclamation of necessity confronted and alienated the religious establishment of His day. Religion, particularly the Christian faith, may be institutional in either a good or a bad sense. Christianity is institutional in a good sense when its institutions are prophetically alive and instantly alert to God's presence. Christianity is institutional in the bad sense when it simply absorbs its culture, becomes an entrenched establishment, and perpetuates itself.

The first time He came to Jerusalem, Jesus had pointedly confronted establishment religion. His cleansing of the temple dramatically demonstrates God's reaction to cultural, merely institutional, establishment religion. Christ comes again to His temple, the church, to cleanse and to challenge. What are some marks of establishment religion?

Religion Can Forget Its Own Purpose

Both John and the Synoptics connect Jesus' act of cleansing the temple with His first visit to Jerusalem. It was protest at first sight. Jesus passed by many good things that could have been done in Jerusalem to do the best thing, set His Father's house in order.

The Old Testament ends with the promise that the Messiah will come suddenly to His temple (Mal. 3:1). Jesus identified with that prophetic tradition.

Jesus found the outer court of the temple occupied by the "Bazaars of Annas," a fraudulent con game, a tourist trap for the rural pilgrims. Most grievous was the fact that these "money changers" had set up shop in the one place set aside for Gentile worship, the outer court. Those responsible for the temple had forgotten its purpose—a place where needy worshipers meet God. Jesus challenges them with their own Scripture, particularly Isaiah 56. The ancient prophet had predicted a day when the deformed and the sons of the stranger would all have a part in God's house. Jesus Himself heralds that day. These warnings are a word to us when we make central that which should be peripheral, and peripheral that which should be central.

Christ Can Restore Purpose to Religion

For a golden hour, the temple in Jerusalem became what God intended it to be. With money scattered on the floor, tables overturned, and animals bleating in the confusion, the Son of God becomes the center of His temple. What a picture! It was truly springtime in the temple. The face, a moment ago hard with indignation, is now radiant with compassion, as the temple becomes a place of healing for the blind and the lame. The little children gather about Him to say, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" They look in wonderment at the Godlike face of the Christ, and then on the healed sufferers. At least for a moment, God's temple was what the Father had intended: a place for instruction and healing for all men.

The sensitive church must ever ask Christ to come and to cleanse. No body of Christ will ever be ineffective in worship and witness if it can pray daily, "Lord, come and cleanse Your temple again."

Religion Can Become Indignant in the Presence of the Christ

The reaction of the religious establishment was indignation (v. 15). They found no fault in clinking coins and the bleating of nasty animals at the House of God, but they could not stand the cries of happy children. But, Jesus sees in these children the New Israel of God. "The very stones will cry out if necessary." God will always have a people. May we always be that people.

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

Truth or Consequences (Matthew 21:23-32)

Many refuse to acknowledge the truth about Jesus because they fear the consequences. Events from the last Tuesday of Jesus' public ministry reveal this in a striking way. Two days earlier, the city had hailed Him as King. One day before, He had forcefully reformed the temple. This day, He was teaching in the temple porch, as if He were Owner! All this was too much for the religious professionals. They sent a formal delegation of clergy and laity to challenge Jesus' credentials. Jesus' response revealed their incompetence to judge spiritual authority. The authority of Jesus always puzzles unbelief, but you must act urgently now on what you know.

Jesus' Authority Puzzles Unbelievers

The authority of Jesus Christ does not fit into any known categories of human authority. The nature and source of His authority mystifies unbelief.

The nature of Jesus' authority puzzles unbelief. "By what authority are you doing these things?" Jesus had entered the city as a King, reformed the temple, and was teaching as if He owned the place. The authorities demanded to know what right and the power that went with it to enable Him to do these things. What kind of authority does Jesus have? Physical, moral, ecclesiastical, political, spiritual? The authority of Jesus transcends every human category.

The source of Jesus' authority puzzles unbelief. "Who gave You this authority?" The religious establishment gave accreditation to all religious teachers. Jesus amazed the people "because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law" (Matt. 7:29). There was a reality about Jesus' teaching that broke every category.

Non-Christians cannot explain Jesus on the basis of any known authority. You can only accept Him as Lord in His uniqueness, not explain Him.

Unbelievers Lack Competence to Understand Jesus' Authority

Jesus answered their question with a counterquestion. This was not an evasion, but an accepted pattern of religious debate. His question revealed their incompetence to understand any religious authority. If you refuse to act on what you do know, you will be given no more light.

Jesus responds with simplicity. They asked Him two questions. He asked them one— from where did John the Baptist's authority come from God or from man? The Baptist's movement had been the largest intervention with God in 300 years. If the religious leaders could recognize God at all, they should have seen Him in the Baptist's movement.

Unbelief reacts with duplicity. Unbelief refuses to tell the truth because it fears the consequences. If they admitted John the Baptist was from God, they revealed their own inconsistency. They neither believed John nor what he said about Jesus (John 3:25-30). If they denied the Baptist's divine origin, they feared the crowd. The millions in Jerusalem at Passover were easily inflamed.

Most people know the truth about Jesus. They simply do not want to face the consequences of commitment to Him.

Unbelievers Must Act Now on What They Do Know

Jesus refuses to give more of Himself to those who refuse to act on what they already know. The cowardly confession, "We don't know" (v. 27), unmasked the religious leaders. They professed incompetence to decide the greatest religious question of their lifetime. None are so blind as those who will not see.

Jesus bluntly told them that those they considered scum would come to Him before they would. Every word shouts with urgency, "Come now!" God will not give you more than enough evidence. If you do not come on the basis of what you do know, you will never know enough to come.

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

Come to the Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14)

The rule of God in life is a great feast, not a sad fast. The kingdom of God is often compared to a wedding feast. In Jesus' world this was an occasion of joy and significance. The feast lasted for seven days. The significance of the wedding for a king's son is even greater. The king recognized the son as heir to the throne at the wedding feast. In every generation, God gives a wedding feast and invites all to come. The feast recognizes the royalty of His Son, our Lord Jesus. Some do come. Many refuse to come. But God's grace will ultimately draw a large number to that eternal celebration.

God gives a gracious invitation to come to His Son, but He examines those who do come.

The King Extends His Invitation Graciously

The King extends His invitation initially. In Jesus' world there were two invitations to a banquet. The initial invitation was days before. The immediate invitation was given when the banquet was ready, for there were no timepieces. Here the King calls those who were already called.

Historically, God invited the Jews to His kingdom through the prophets who told of the good time coming. That was the advance invitation. Immediately God called the Jews through John the Baptist and Jesus' own ministry. But they refused to come.

Personally, God calls each of us initially and immediately. Everything about our lives is part of our call toward Him. Many of us, however, refuse that initial and immediate call.

The King extends His invitation persistently. An ordinary king would have been insulted. This King is one of grace and mercy who gives repeated calls to come. He renews His call by stressing the urgency. Everything is ready (v. 4). He commends His call by stressing the excellency of the feast. The choicest food is waiting and prepared (v. 4). This King has prepared such a feast as only a King could prepare.

Historically, God persisted in His appeal to the Jews. Following the crucifixion of Jesus, the apostles repeated the invitation to the Jews. They enlarged it and pressed it persistently.

Personally, has not God done the same for you? Through life's ups and downs, sermons, churches, and Christian friends He has appealed for you to come.

Many reject the invitation of the King. Some reject the invitation through indifference. They simply make light of it and go to their other interests. Others reject the invitation with viciousness. They violently reject the messengers and their message. There is a limit to the grace of the King. Judgment has the last word on those who reject His gracious offer (v. 7).

The King Enlarges His Invitation Generously

If you do not accept the King's invitation, others will. The grace of God will not be defeated. He will gather a great people. Whether or not you come, others will.

The King enlarges the scope of His invitation. He sends His servants to the "street corners." This refers to the terminal ends of the roads that bring people from far and near. He extends His invitation where the maximum numbers of people may hear and respond. Historically, when the Jews of Jerusalem rejected the gospel, He extended it to the entire world. Personally, when you reject the gospel He can extend it to the others who will respond.

The King enlarged the recipients of His invitation. At first He offered it to the respectable and the righteous. When they refused, He invited all indiscriminately, "both good and bad" (v. 10). Historically, when the outwardly religious Jews rejected the gospel, the apostles took it to the pagan Gentiles who responded with joy. God will find a way to see that His feast is full. When the Old World was weary with the gospel it moved to a new world. Now the gospel moves toward the Third World. God will have a people.

The King Examines Those Invited

The supreme moment comes when the King enters to view those gathered at the banquet. It is a moment of joy and privilege for all. One must note the reality of the examination. The King did not come looking for an unprepared guest. He could not help but see that there was one, but only one.

The reason for the King's examination is obvious. One must be attired appropriately at a king's feast. Most believe that the king provided the garments he required. This was often a custom in the ancient world, especially when guests were quickly brought in from the streets. Certainly God provides the covering of righteousness which we need to attend His final feast.

The reaction of the unprepared guest is instructive. He is simply speechless. Nothing can be said when the grace of the King provides what the law of the King demands. Those not prepared to stand in God's presence will have nothing to say.

The result of the examination is to be sent outside the feast (v. 13). From the brightness of the Kings feast to the darkness outside is a striking contrast.

Come to the feast with the garment the King provides.

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

Between Now and Then (Matthew 24:1-14)

Tuesday of Jesus' final week of public ministry was a day of controversy and teaching. It was the last day of public ministry to the crowds. The single largest block of Jesus' teaching that Tuesday concerned the judgment of Jerusalem and His second coming. The disciples asked, "When shall these things be?" (v. 3, KJV) It was difficult for them to imagine the destruction of Jerusalem as a separate event from the end of the age.

Matthew 24 is one of the difficult passages in the Gospels. While we may debate the details, it is difficult to miss the main point. Christ describes the problems of the entire age while waiting for the second coming. He also challenges us with the program for the age.

Christ Warns Us About the Problems of This Age

Jesus first warns against deception. The message begins with the words, "Watch out" (v. 4). That which we are to watch for is deception. The most important factor in this age is to avoid deception. The word deception means "to wander off course."

The specific object of our watchfulness is those who claim, "I am the Christ." He means those who pretend to have the authority and the power that belong to Christ alone. He does not mean they will openly make the claim. Those who reject the true Christ leave themselves open to every false Christ.

Jesus warns against the depression that characterizes this age. "See to it that you are not alarmed" (v. 6). The word describes hysterical behavior that issues in crying aloud. He names some depressing things that will not be the sign of the end of the age, but of the entire age before Christ comes.

First, the history of the age will be a history of war. The study of man is the study of war, or the preparation for war. No war or rumor of war is the sign of the immediate end.

This age will be characterized by famine and disease. We should seek to relieve these (Matt. 25). But, their widespread presence is not an immediate sign of the end. They are symptoms of the entire age while waiting for the end.

Unusual physical phenomena are not to cause depression about the end. "Earthquakes" stand for any unusual physical phenomena. These will belong to the entire age of the church. We live in an age when all such things are part of a divine necessity (v. 6). They signal the beginning of such an age, not the end (v. 8).

Jesus warns about the declension that will characterize this age. There will be a falling away from apparent faithfulness by those who claim to belong to Him. There will be two reasons from outside the church why people will fall away. There will be persecution because of His name. The world will never be friendly to the people of the gospel. This will cause some to fall away. There will be lawlessness in the world at large, rebellion against all order. This will cool the agape of the fellowship one for another.

There will be two reasons from within for the declension of Christians. There will be disloyalty within. Christians will hand one another over to persecution. There will be deception from within. False prophets will deceive many within the community of faith. Was not Jesus right? Has not this characterized the twenty centuries since He spoke these words?

"He who stands firm to the end will be saved" (v. 13). In the midst of deception, depression, and declension, the one who endures with triumphant fortitude shows the mark of saving faith.

Christ Challenges Us with the Program for This Age

"This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (v. 14). Although we should do all we can to relieve the problems of this age, these problems will ultimately rest beyond our power to control. Rather than speculate about the problems, we are to be people of the divine program. The good news about the reign of God in Christ is to be taken to every nation in the earth. When all people have heard the gospel, then the end will come. People cannot build the kingdom of God by human effort. But, we can bring back the king by a worldwide effort of witness and evangelism. Christianity has always been at its best when that is its motivation. Not speculation but proclamation should characterize us as we look toward the end.

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

The Watchword Is "Watch" (Matthew 25:1-13)

The very last public teaching of Jesus called for watchfulness in light of His coming again. On the Mount of Olives, He closed His three-year teaching career with three parables, all of which call for a singular attitude—"Watch!" The parable of the wise and foolish virgins applies to all professing Christians of all times. We will meet God in the condition in which we are at the moment of death or at Christ's return.

This story reflects ancient Jewish wedding customs. A group of the bride's friends waited along the route from her house to the groom's house. They joined the wedding procession with torchlights when it passed nearby. But this story also tells a timeless, spiritual truth. It reveals the condition of Christendom at the end. Some who profess Christ have made real preparation to meet Him. Others will be surprised in the moment of truth. The moral is clear: Be ready to meet life's decisive, spiritual moments.

Vigilant Preparation Marks Spiritual Wisdom

Jesus identifies the principal distinction among professing believers as the "wise" and the "unwise." All had lamps, and all expected to meet the bridegroom. Outwardly, there appeared to be no difference. All may appear to have an outer form of Christianity and profess expectation to meet Christ when He comes.

Jesus makes a basic distinction. Some were sensible and others were senseless. Some were prudent and others were imprudent. That basic distinction decided their fate. Some had oil. They were not wise because they had oil; they had oil because their lives had a deeper wisdom. Although there will not be an equal number of wise and foolish in that day, there will be a large number of surprises.

The foolish ignore preparation for life's decisive, spiritual moment. Some took no oil. It was an ancient custom to use torches consisting of a ceramic bowl filled with rags on top a stick. Wise waiters took a jar of oil to replenish the small amount in the torch. Otherwise, they did not have resources for a long wait with a sudden ending. There is a timeless, spiritual truth implied. Oil represents everything required in a lifetime of preparation to meet Christ. Be supplied for the long wait!

The wise make preparation for life's decisive, spiritual moment. The wise took oil with them. In the ancient world, small vessels were carried with extra olive oil. It was inconvenient, but proved to make all the difference. As a timeless truth, believers must be supplied with that oil. There is a suggestion here about a container, contents, and conflagration. The container is the believer, the content is the inner resources of the spiritual life, and the conflagration is the shining testimony that results. The implication is that people will act in their spiritual life with a lack of preparation that would never characterize their material life.

Sudden Intervention Marks Christ's Return

Christ teaches that His return will be marked by delay. In biblical times, the wedding procession was often delayed by bargaining over the gifts exchanged between the families. Waiting for a bridegroom actually happened as described. But, beyond this literal fact is Christ's clear teaching that His return would be after delay. The fact that all ten maidens slept may suggest the reality of death as we all wait. It certainly means that those with preparation may wait with security while those without preparation sleep foolishly.

Christ teaches that His return will be marked by a sudden desire for preparation. A vivid cry will mark the moment of His return (24:30-31). It will be self-evident that it is happening. Each had to make individual preparation for that moment, for all then "trimmed their [wicks]." That refers to everything that makes the light bright and beautiful.

The foolish then found the stark reality of no preparation. They asked for a transfer of what cannot be transferred. The wise were not selfish in refusing to give of their own oil. Spiritual character cannot be transferred, even if we would. Preparation is a quality of life, not a quantity that can be shared. Nothing makes up for unreadiness at the critical moment. Self-preparation at the last moment is impossible. At the end, there will be a great desire for preparation to meet the Coming One, but only those already prepared will be ready.

Final Exclusion Marks the Unprepared

The prepared are included eternally, while the unprepared are excluded eternally. God's grace is vast in its extent, but has a definite limit. An adulterous and murderous David can come in, a thief on the cross can come in, a cursing Peter can come in—all may come while the door is open. But, the door will be shut and none will enter.

Urgent, anxious pleading will not change that situation. What pleading preparation will do must be done now. There is nothing more final than the verdict of the Bridegroom, "I do not even recognize them" (v. 12). Come while the door is open (Rev. 3:20).

The watchword is "Watch!" This refers to everything that makes us ready to meet Christ. To be heedful, vigilant, and intense is the mark of that readiness. It does not mean a feverish activity as much as a long march of deliberate faithfulness. Our Lord's final public word is "Watch!"

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

Great Chapters for Greater Living: Take a Risk (Matthew 25:14-30)

As generations go, ours is less inclined toward risk than many. It seems to be a time when many play it safe, hedge their bets, and cover their tracks. We do a great deal of looking with very little leaping.

Christ is the great "Caller to Risk." The One who told fishermen to drop their nets and follow Him always calls us toward risk. Christ expects those who claim to follow Him to risk the very stuff of life for His sake.

Risk Participating in What Christ Is Doing Rather Than Observing

The central character of this parable is a typical watcher, spectator, observer, and nonparticipant. He does nothing rather than something. Jesus reserved some of His harshest judgments for this one who was prudent but useless. Failure to risk, warps your perspective on God and your fellow servants. As God moves through our church in unusual ways, what is your level of risk?

Risk Doing Something for Christ Rather Than Doing Nothing

The riskless man of this parable was doing nothing out of the ordinary for his day. What he did would have been considered common, prudent behavior. Jesus never promised that following Him would lead to life lived on the principle "safety first." Where are you moving away from the common, routine, and expected to risk the unusual for Christ?

Risk Accepting Responsibility Rather Than Placing Blame

Eventually, God will reveal to everyone the level of risk they have lived: "After a long time the master of those servants returned" (v. 19). Some try to shift the blame from themselves to God or others for failing to risk in Christ's service. All those who risk belong to the same order of heroes in God's sight. God has already tilted the game of life in favor of those who risk in His service. There is a personal threshold of risk that God wills for you to cross.

Gregory's Sermon Synopses: 200 Expanded Summaries.

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