This is NOT the End – Matthew 24

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This is the sermon series I am working on for the summer at Bethany EFC .

How often have you heard about wars, earthquakes and other natural disasters being signs that we are at the end of days. One has to notice some things – we can capture more of these events than in past decades because of the advance of technology.  Are there more earthquakes? Are there more by you or in the world at large?

Then when I read Matthew 24, there is a list of “signs” that do not indicate the end of days.  I have compared my listed and compared it to R. T. France and Craig Blomberg and here they are

NOT SIGNS OF THE END – Matthew 24

  1. False Messiahs v. 5
  2. Wars and Rumors of wars v.6
  3. International Hostility v. 7a
  4. Famines and Earthquakes v. 7b
  5. Persecution and martyrdom v. 9
  6. Apostasy and betrayal v. 10
  7. False Prophets v. 11
  8. Cold spiritual life v. 12
  9. The Extension of the Gospel v. 14

Note in verse 6. “but the end is not yet” and v. 8 “these are the beginning of the birth pains.”  Verse 13 talks of persevering through these signs to the end and v. 14 speaks of the end coming after all of these, but not how soon after.

Several have noted that by 70 AD all of these things had occurred. That year was marked by the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  So it would seem to be that these are signs of normalcy in the age between Christ and his return.  It would seem that these signs do not tell us how close the end us, but to remind us that there is an end.  As I like to quote Bob Dylan, “there’s a slow train coming.”

DIS(my con)CORD(ance)!

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Dis(my con)Cord(ance)?

A concordance is helpful for finding how a word is used in the Bible.  One has to take care to check that the English is an accurate reflection of the original Hebrew or Greek and so a scholarly (i.e. fat) concordance will give you that ability.

Even so, there is some discord with my concordance.  What this kind of study is in the danger of missing is the literary context of each use of the word.  Verses do not float free from the Bible, but are each attached to a context.  The meaning of words is narrowed by it’s use in context and in literary form.

I am thinking about the “little ones” in Matthew 18.  In the chapter there are two words for child (“paidion” v. 2, 5 and “pais” v. 3). One is child the other is little child.  There is another word for offspring (“tekna”) and a word for little ones (“mikron”) are all used.  Then if we wonder how these relate to the “least” (“elaxistos” Matthew 25:40,45) we see a cluster or words around the idea of small, children or insignificant.

We notice that the child in Mt 18:2 is used by Jesus as a metaphor for a quality of faith – “unless you then and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

He had said previously, “I thank you, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children…” (Mt 12:25 “nepios”)

Now then does the child become a disciple after that?  Are the “little ones” in verse 6 to be understood as literal children or converts to Jesus?  Is the one lost sheep a “little one” in the sense of a child or in the sense of a disciple?

We wander now to the Olivet Discourse in the passage in Matthew 25 where Jesus states that when the disciples would do acts of charity to “the least (“elaxiston”) of these my brothers, you did it to me” (v. 40,45). Is that saying that we should do acts of random kindness to anyone? or is it saying that we should to acts of kindness to those humble and poor followers of Jesus (Matthew 5:3-10)

We now have gathered four words for children and two words suggesting smallness and associated all of those with ideas such as poor in spirit, the meek and the persecuted.

What we must have is the idea that true following of Jesus is not about becoming rich and powerful, but admitting, if not becoming, poor, meek and small. And that following Jesus is not accomplished by serving the powerful and the popular but by serving those who are poor, meek and small in this world, but who are also members of the Kingdom.

What is more we should not cause stumbling for any weak and frail follower of Jesus, nor should we write off any wandering lost ones from the flock.  Rather the reliable 99 can be put into safe hands while we go searching for the lost and lonely 1.

Yes, that sounds like Jesus talking.

That’s Harsh! Matthew 23

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John Stott wrote a book called “Christ the Controversialist” which captures the section of Matthew from chapter 21 to 23.  In chapter 23 Jesus is recorded as laying into the religious leaders who opposed him and lays down a series of 7 “woes” on their brand of religion.

In the 21st Century we are supposed to be accepting.  Jesus does not model universal acceptance.

In the realm of spiritual conversations, we are not supposed to engage in diatribes, but that is one commentators description of the literary form and vocabulary Jesus uses.

Some say that this passage is anti-Semitic.  That is hard to hold in that Jesus himself and the apostles and the first generation of Christians were all Jewish.

What are we to do with this?

First, let’s avoid spending our time identifying all the others we can blame.  I could preach a long sermon against the 1st Century Pharisees, but that has the aspect of a history lesson, and not a very relevant one at that.

Second, lets try to point the finger at ourselves.  What in these accusations apply to me?

Here is a short list

  • You do not practice what you preach. v. 3
  • Everything you do is done for people to see. v. 5
  • You shut the door…in people’s faces v. 13
  • You make the trivial into the essential (v. 16-22)
  • You clean the outside…but the inside is full of greed and self-indulgence. v. 25
  • You hypocritically honor the prophets of old. v. 27

This is not a finger to point at others, but at ourselves.

The Son of Man Leads

scribe.2I am reading this week the Third Passion Prediction in Matthew 20:17-19.  In doing so I take note of the context of the three passion predictions (16:21-23; 17:22-23; 20:17-19). The first instance is an indirection quotation where it says “he must go to Jerusalem…”, but the second and third are in direct quotation and he refers to himself as the Son of Man.

I looked up the 23 quotations of the Son of Man in Matthew and found that the name is associated with Authority and Humility. The Authority passages have to do with his present authority over forgiveness of sins, and the Sabbath (9:6, 12:8).  These also reference his authoritative future return (13:41; 16:27; 24:27,30,37,39). The Humility passages refer to his present unassuming appearance (8:20; 16:13) and his betrayal and death (12:40; 17:9,12, 22; 20:18) which serve as a ransom (20:28).

In the passion predictions Jesus calls for a kind of follower-ship that accepts humility:  To “deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (16:24); “whoever would be great among you must be your slave” (20:27).  The pattern of being a follower includes the pattern of Jesus life – suffering first, reward later. Greatness is achieved by service.  Or as Jesus said,  “the last will first and the first last” (19:30; 20:16).

Among the nations rulers lord it over the people.  James and John longed for the best seats, to the left and right of Jesus in his Kingdom, so that they could be first and second in line and lord it over all the rest.  Grasping for power leads to resentment as we see in the response of the others. “And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.”

And so in this season leading up to Good Friday and Easter consider that this came about as “Jesus was going up to Jerusalem” (20:18), “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (20:28).

Matthew Quiz Answers

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  1. Tamar, Rehab, Ruth, Bathsheba (the wife of Uriah), Mary
  2. Son of David, Son of Abraham, Christ
  3. discourse, narrative
  4. maybe 1:17, certainly 2:1ff with the Magi
  5. Exodus Wanderings: wilderness, 40 (years/days), bread, testing, Jesus citing Deuteronomy 3 times
  6. Deuteronomy
  7. Disciples
  8. How to follow  Jesus – discipleship
  9. it is a model, simplicity vs repetition, personal (father).
  10. Teaching, Preaching, Healing
  11. Miracles
  12. Evidence from his healing and preaching fulfilled passages such as Isaiah 42
  13. The first part is specific to their ministry, but it speaks of the nations and a longer term mission
  14. Chorazin and Bethsaida (11:20)
  15. Resurrection
  16. Parables
  17. in a boat, inside, it is for the disciples
  18. Parable of the Sower
  19. both have a prediction of Judgment day – sorting the good from the bad
  20. That he was John the Baptist reincarnated
  21. Herod/John; Feeds 5,000; Walks on Water
  22. They said miracles are irrational
  23. Favorite Verses

Parables for Inside and Out – Matthew 13

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The first part of this post is kind of nerdy….the second raises a question.

The text notes that Jesus spoke from a boat in Matthew 13:1 and then it notes he moves inside in 13:36 where he gave an explanation for the Parable of the Weeds.  This makes me wonder if the parables in the first part were all outside and if  those in the second part were all inside.  The outside parables then would be for a larger, general audience and those on the inside would be for the disciples. Matthew, as we have seen, is more interested in topics than chronology, so we have to be careful here.

There is also a pattern to each half – 4 parables, in each case there are paired parables (mustard/yeast and treasure/pearl), in each there is an explanation, though this is longer int he first half, and both halves refer to the sorting out process at judgment (wheat/weeds and good fish/bad fish.)

Outside (from the boat v. 1-35)

  • Sower (responses to the word of God)
  • (reason for parables/Sower explained)
  • Weeds
  • Mustard
  • Yeast

Inside (v.36-52)

  • (Weeds Explained – sorting out)
  • Hidden Treasure
  • Pearl
  • Net (sorting)
  • Owner of House

Hometown (53-58)

  • Consequence of lack of faith (bad soil, not selling all for treasure/pearl)

Other Links

In the Inside section:

  • first and fourth parables are linked by the idea of treasure (Gk thesauros)
  • second and third parables are linked by the word “good” (Gk kalos – good pearls and good fish)

Implication:  I have always thought of the hidden treasure and pearl of great price parables as expressing the initial joy of encountering the message of the Kingdom.  But since these are placed by Matthew in the INSIDE section of the chapter, should we read them more as parables about following Jesus, rather than parables of the first encounter.  So they call us to sell out totally to Jesus and his message.

Back to Nerdsville – I am kind of grooving out on v. 52, where the scholar who receives the kingdom can bring out the treasure of Old and New.  Note that there is nothing bad said about the OLD.  but that the treasury contains both, and the scholar/homeowner takes joy in both!

Doesn’t ” Good Fish,Bad Fish” sound like a Dr. Seuss title?