Woe For the Show

Matthew 23:29-30 ~ “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’

This passage is from a succession of woes (or miseries) directed at the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. The theme of the woes has to do with religious hypocrisy and legalism within the pharisaic hierarchy. I refer to it simply the “holier than thou syndrome”. As noted throughout the woe passages contained in Matthew 23, the Pharisees and scribes exemplified a self-righteous attitude, boasting of how meticulous they were at “keeping the law”. In short, their motives were guided by pretense rather than justice, mercy, and faith; principles of God as cited by the prophet Micah. Today, verse 30 may be saying, “If I were him, I wouldn’t have committed the sin he did. I’m better than that!” This attitude sets us up for spiritual pride which is carnal in nature. We need to be careful when we find ourselves comparing sin as this may be an indicator of our own underlying sin. Hypocrisy and legalism are formidable enemies of the Church which can only be overcome by God’s royal law of love. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus and welcome the Holy Spirit’s work on our heart. Let us be victorious over the temptation to present ourselves as judge all the while not neglecting our own call unto holiness.

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Divine Sonship

Matthew 22:42-45 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.

He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.”’

If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”

In this scene, Jesus is teaching in the midst of Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes; the religious big shots of the day. After answering some questions from them, Jesus poses his own. Question one deals with the scriptural identification of the Messiah’s father. If the religious leaders knew their scripture properly, they would know who’s son was the Christ. But they only answer partially correct based on their understanding of many Old Testament passages that declare that the Messiah would come from the royal line of King David. The second question deals with a prophetic quote from Psalm 110 which places Jesus reigning in heaven long before his conversation with the religious leaders. If David calls the Messiah Lord (in the sense of deity), how can he be his son? Of the Messiah, speaking in the Spirit, David paints the picture of Jesus, (the Son) sitting at the right hand of God the Father. This confused the religious leaders and they would not counter Jesus’ challenge of the messianic psalm which informed of a divine messiah rather than a human messiah. When you think of Christ, who’s Son do you believe him to be? A mere human offspring or divinity dressed in humanity? People do have different ideas about the nature of Jesus, but not all are correct. But God the Father (LORD) said to God the Son (Lord), “Stay beside me and rule until the final judgment.”

Am I Perfect?

Matthew 19:21 ~ Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Could you imagine selling all you have and then give the money to some poor folks. Let that sink in. Your Ford; your Mac; your Lazy-Boy; all sold and the money is given to welfare recipients who live on the other side of tracks. After all, there is treasure awaiting you in heaven! Jesus says if we want to be complete, we must sell out and follow him into the realm of spiritual bliss. How literal should we take this? Does Jesus really expect us to become vagabonds ourselves? How do you respond to Jesus, here? In our materialistic culture, these words of Jesus can be frightening. After all, I have accumulated a few possessions along the way. I follow Jesus in accordance with the grace provided, but am I being challenged in some way? I do not believe Jesus is advocating for a poverty stricken society. Those described as sluggards in the Bible are in very dim light. The principle in view here is benevolence. Knowing we are rich and exceedingly blessed through the Gospel, are we generous with our temporal means? Do we see need and act in any way we can? Are we willing to sacrifice? Are we willing to go without so that others may benefit? Jesus is speaking of a higher level of spiritual blessing as we adhere to scriptural statutes and couple that with compassion for those less fortunate. We can know salvation through the Lord Jesus but to truly be perfect in the here and now, our ministry of reconciliation must include genuine care for folks. Come! Follow Jesus.

If We Don’t Forgive

Matthew 18:35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Forgiveness. The word ‘forgiveness’ in this passage is treated with eternal implications. Coupled with the word ‘if’, forgiveness is linked to the opportunity of salvation of the soul. Maybe we know someone who refuses to forgive somebody who intruded on them somehow. Maybe we know a Christian who is dealing with pain caused by someone else, yet can’t bring themself to the point of forgiving them. According to this scripture, forgiveness is a serious matter that requires careful thought about the parallel of God the Father who forgives us through Jesus Christ. Although we do not deserve forgiveness for our transgressions against God and humanity, our faith in the power of the crucifixion and resurrection pardons us and we are therefore free. Failure to forgive others keeps us in spiritual bondage as we fail to exercise one of God’s honorable virtues. If we don’t forgive folks who have wronged us, God exacts the same fate principle on us. A provocative concept, indeed. The verse stresses that our forgiveness must be sincere, from the heart. This implies that God’s forgiveness is not merely a superficial forgetting of our sin, but a heartfelt joy of divine proportion. This is a challenging verse to all as we are inclined to forget that we may be intruding on others.

Your Responsibility If You are Born

Matthew 26:24 The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.

Jesus was fully aware of how His heavenly Father’s plan would unfold. Jesus knew he would be betrayed by Judas and have to face the cross as the sacrificial Lamb of God. The fate of Judas has been debated but this passage highly suggests it wasn’t too glamorous. Starting out as a disciple, Judas eventually succumbs to greed and self-preservation and turns Jesus in to the authorities. For this action as the scripture says, it would have been better for Judas if he had not been born. It seems Judas paid a price for betraying Jesus and it was a price of judgment. Arguably, this betrayal was instrumental in bringing Jesus to the place where salvation could be possible for lost sinners. So why punish Judas? Simply, Judas acted on his free will and God knowing that would happen used him in His plan. For Judas, IF he had not been born, he wouldn’t experience the judgment. While many folks don’t think so, being the crown jewel of God’s creation is quite the privilege. We are the only living creature with the ability to express emotions and choose our eternal destiny. We are also given great responsibility as we do make the choice. That’s just the way it is. Judas experienced life here on earth and was given the opportunity to inherit a glorious existence for all eternity, but chose to satisfy his carnal appetite. For Judas, it would have been better if he were not born because he inherited judgment. Some may think this is not fair but that’s the way it is.

To Forgive or Not to Forgive

MATTHEW 5:46-47 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?

Jesus taught us to love our enemies. How preposterous. Of course the love Jesus speaks about primarily refers to caring for the welfare of souls. We should not wish our enemies be damned. We should care about the eternal destiny of every living soul. It is very easy to care for people who care for us. It’s easy to be kind to people who are kind to us. It is only through our spiritual growth and maturity that our attitude towards the lost shifts from disdain for them to praying for them. The IF in this passage is a challenge and a call to spiritual maturity. It’s no great feat to love those who love you. Even sinners love other sinners. It’s no big deal to treat with respect those who treat you with respect. It’s easy to do that. It is truly benevolent and inspiring to love those who despise you. That is power!

Separate Yourself

Matthew 5:29-30 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.

To be cast into hell is judgment and the judgment is predicated on acts of sin. With our eyes, we absorb images which cause our mind to generate sinful thoughts or instigate ungodly acts. Our hands are implements of carrying out deeds of darkness as inspired by carnal affections or demonic suggestion. The use of hyperbole teaches us to sacrifice attitudes and actions which may lead us down the slippery slope to perdition. If a home computer is utilized for pornographic pleasure, get rid of it. If associates engage in gossip, prejudicial speech, or coarse language, separate yourself from them. Better to distance our self from ungodly influence than to risk a home in hell. IF we don’t rid ourselves of blatant avenues to commit sin, we will fall into the trap from which there is no escape.