Aletheia Christian Fellowship Podcast
Truth in Love
120119 - Matthew 13f - Will You Trust?
December 02, 2019 07:40 PM PST
Pastor Scott Keller
Alêtheia Christian Fellowship
8:00 ~ Service - 9:30 ~ Fellowship & Adult Sunday school - 10:30 ~ Service with the King’s Kid’s
330 N. Somers Rd. (Mail: PO Box 10626) Kalispell, MT 59904~ (406) 755-1776
1) Why the two parables about selling everything?
2) Is the “Treasure” Jesus? Is the “Pearl of great value” the Gospel? Is the “Dragnet” the church?
3) Who is “Every scribe who has become a disciple”?
MATTHEW 13:44 ~ 44NASB“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
1) This is directed to the ________________ and 2) Jesus wants them to ________________ something with it.
Clearly, the _______________ of being in the Kingdom is stressed.
There are those who propose a _________________ dilemma. Shouldn’t a good person tell the owner of the field about the treasure?
There was, and still is, a strong allure of mysterious buried treasure. Before _____________, people routinely buried their valuables. As such, there were all kinds of parables, axioms and proverbs regarding buried treasure.
What would a typical person do if they discovered hidden treasure where they had no legal claim? They would do __________ they could to secure a legal claim. A true treasure is worth pursuing with abandon.
Did the Kingdom of Heaven that the Disciples were experiencing seem like true treasure?
Whether it always seems like it, or not, it is the greatest treasure. Give up everything that ____________ you from gaining it fully.
MATTHEW 13:45&46 ~ 45NASB“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Same point. Giving two similar parables _________________ the point.
Rejoice that you are in the Kingdom, because your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life… And if you’re not in the Kingdom… Do everything possible to ensure you obtain it. Nothing is more _____________ than that.
This parable is the longest of the three, it has the least in common with the other two, and it is _____________. The first parable to the crowd was the longest, it had the least in common with the other two, and it was the parable Jesus _____________. It creates a chiasm.
The point is different from the other two, but closely _____________ the Parable of the Tares. Each point Jesus made in this chapter was emphasized by _______________.
The biggest point of the chapter is, evil coexists with good – for now.
___________ was an integral part of that kind of fishing. In His explanation, Jesus says the ____________ will be thrown into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This parable stresses the ______________ of the wicked, where the sister parable stressed the ______________ or the righteous.
Jesus has let us know that there is a ___________ going forward.
What follows from that, is will you ___________ God? In the face of the realities of this life… Through it all, will you _________ that God has this – that God, has you?
There will soon be ____________ two distinct realities:
One is an eternity in the _______________ of a perfect God, where there are no more tears and there is no more fear at all.
The other is a place of outer _______________, where fear has driven out every vestige of love.
MATTHEW 13:51&52 ~ 51NASB“Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.” 52And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”
The “Scribe,” is γραμματεύς (gȑäm-mä-tüs). Jesus was saying to His Apostles, you are My disciples and you are _______________ in the Scriptures. Because of that, you will both teach and judge.
Alêtheia ~ Matthew 13f ~ 120119
What’s important to remember is that there has been a change of venue. We began with Jesus speaking to a very large group of people on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. That’s where He gave everyone His opening parable about the Sower and followed it with three more parables that were also directed to all the people.
Then in verse 36, Jesus and His Disciples left the beach and the crowd and went back into the house. What follows now are parables directed to Christ’s followers.
The other thing I want us to remember, is that Jesus said to the crowd in verse 9, and also separately to His Disciples in verse 43, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Beyond that, Jesus will conclude His parables with this question, “Have you understood all these things?” (Matthew 13:51).
It implies that people, whether unbelievers, or believers, can respond positively to what He’s teaching. You do not ask someone if they understand, unless there’s a possibility that they don’t and a possibility that they can. Again, given God’s Sovereignty, no one knows how all of that works exactly, but what we do know with certainty, is that from our perspective we must choose.
From our personal point of view, we choose to yield to the Holy Spirit and accept Christ and as Christians we continue to choose to yield to the Holy Spirit and accept His work in and through us.
What the Bible tells us is that every person will one day give an account for their choices and that they will be held eternally responsible by Almighty God for those choices made… Relative to the Grace we each were given.
Incidentally, that’s another reason we are never to judge another person’s eternal destination – we don’t know what Grace they have to work with.
Matthew 13:44 ~ 44NASB“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Pretty cool. Remember the two things we just established… 1) This is directed to DISCIPLES and 2) Jesus wants them to DO something with it – it’s not merely information.
With that, and with all that we’ve learned about parables, what is Jesus’ intention here?
Clearly, the VALUE of being in the Kingdom is stressed. The basic gist is that the Kingdom of Heaven, where a person is surrendered to the Will of God through Christ, is so valuable, so important, he or she would do anything, expend every resource, realign every priority, do whatever was necessary, to obtain it. You would give up everything else, to be that surrendered subject in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Once again, people who do not understand parables come up with all sorts of differing interpretations, inappropriate questions, and wild claims.
There are those who propose a MORAL dilemma.
Shouldn’t a good person tell the owner of the field about the treasure? Doesn’t it really belong to that person even if you buy the field? What was the man doing, digging around on someone else’s property in the first place? You trespass, then vandalize, then hoodwink the owner taking advantage of his ignorance, or worse, his faulty memory and become rich. Jesus said earlier in this chapter that “The deceitfulness of riches” (Matthew 13:19) was one of the things that prevented one from Salvation.
There are easy proposals to deal with such worries, but it is unnecessary to even address such things. Jesus formulated the parable the way He did in order to make the point we all get – the point they all got. Never read more into these things than the speaker intended.
Moral questions and concerns are not part of the parable. Jesus was simply using an easily understood concept and applying it for its similarity in a particular respect.
What I know, however, is it is unsatisfying for me to simply say don’t worry about it. In those days, much like today, there was the allure of mysterious buried treasure.
Have you ever thought about coming across some great treasure? It was a far stronger thing then, because people were routinely burying their valuables, since getting to the safety deposit vault was difficult… Before there were BANKS.
As such, there were all kinds of parables, axioms and proverbs regarding buried treasure, as well as laws governing the disposition of such discoveries. Horace, the Roman poet, wrote about 50 years earlier: “If only I could accidentally find a pot of gold, like the hireling who discovered the treasure and bought the field where he found it!”
It was an extremely well-known story throughout the Roman Empire. Regardless of the moral implications –the point, is a person discovers a vast treasure buried on land to which they have no legal claim… What would they do? They would do WHATEVER they could to secure as much of the treasure for themselves as possible.
A true treasure is worth pursuing with abandon. Did the Kingdom of Heaven that the Disciples were experiencing seem like true treasure?
Think about what they were experiencing that particular day. The people were flocking to Jesus, not to become His fully devoted followers, but to get something. “Feed us, heal us, free us, give us a better life.” That was the best of it. Most people were merely looking for some entertainment and on the other extreme, the Jewish leaders were already plotting how to murder Jesus. How valuable and important was the Kingdom Jesus was offering?
What Jesus was saying to His guys was that being in the Kingdom of Heaven, even though it is, by definition, a yielding to God – a living for His purposes, rather than your own purposes. Even though it is challenging and difficult. Even though most of the people don’t get it and they are actively opposing us. Even though it may end in physical mistreatment, torture and death… It is still the most valuable and important thing there is… Expend everything you have, and everything you are, to be truly surrendered to God’s rule and reign.
Whether it always seems like it or not, it is the greatest treasure by far – give up anything and everything that HINDERS you from gaining it fully.
Please notice that finding the treasure is nothing but good fortune – the person wasn’t looking for it, they stumbled across it. Finding it is a pure blessing, but the exhortation is once you are so fortunate to find it, do whatever necessary to secure it.
Matthew 13:45&46 ~ 45NASB“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Same point. Giving two linked and very similar parables EMPHASIZES the point. You may remember that in the first set of three parables, two of them, the Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Parable of the Leaven, were very closely linked together and made the same basic point. It was for further emphasis there, and the same thing is happening again.
If your life is pearls and you finally come across the most perfect pearl you’ve ever seen – you’ve got to have it. You’d expend every resource to obtain it and you’d be overjoyed once you had.
Rejoice that people persecute you, rejoice that Satan and His demonic army oppose you, rejoice that you are on a path of self-denial and selfless love that leads to genuine Christian self-control.
Rejoice that you are in the Kingdom because your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life… And if you’re not in the Kingdom… Do everything possible to ensure you obtain it. Nothing is more valuable or IMPORTANT than that. Get everything else wrong but get that one right.
Matthew 13:47-50 ~ 47NASB“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; 48and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. 49“So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, 50and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This third parable to the Disciples is the longest of the three, it has the least in common with the other two and it is explained.
If you’ll remember, in the three parables to the crowd, the first, not the last, was the longest it had the least in common with the other two and it was the parable Jesus explained. It creates a chiasm.
Chi is the Greek letter that looks like an “X.” A chiasm, is a reversal of grammatical structure, an inverted parallelism, where the material follows an in and out, or “A, B – B, A” arrangement. It can be simple or complex and it can be large or small. A easy example is what I just said. Simple to complex, and then complex in the sense of large to simple in the sense of small. Here’s another, “The wife has all my love; my heart belongs to her.” “Wife,” and “Her,” are the same and “My love,” and “My heart,” are the same, but in the two phrases they are reversed.
In this chapter we have three parables to the crowds where the first one is the longest and most independent and is explained. The other two are simpler and very closely aligned and require no explanation. Then in the three parables to the disciples we have the reverse order in a chiastic structure.
I point it out to show the care and attention to detail the author employed, but also to show that the interpretation of the parables we’ve settled on is correct for many reasons beyond the words themselves. There are a whole host of literary and rhetorical things going on behind the scenes that help us arrive at the right understanding of Christ’s teaching.
In this parable, the point is different from the other two, but it closely parallels the Parable of the Tares, or Weeds that Jesus previously explained.
Each point Jesus made in this chapter was emphasized by doubling. There were two short parables to the crowds that made the same basic point as each other and were so simple they needed no explanation… Likewise there were two short parables to the Disciples that made the same basic point as each other and were so simple they needed no explanation. There was a longer, explained parable making a different point, given to the crowds and we have here a longer, explained parable making a different point, given to the Disciples. These two longer parables parallel each other, both making the same basic point as each other.
That makes this the biggest point of the chapter. Evil coexists with good – for now.
There’s little need for me to dig into this parable, since Jesus has already done that, but just to satisfy any curiosity let me say that this was a dragnet as properly translated here.
Dragnets come in a wide range of sizes. Some are over 1,000 feet long and 15 feet wide on down to a more manageable 75 feet long and 10 feet wide. They have weights at the bottom and floats at the top. They function as gill nets. Fish try to swim through and if they are the right size for the gauge of the netting, they are caught. Generally, two boats would stretch the net between them. Sometimes people on the beach would hold a rope connected to one end of the net and guys in a boat would make a big circle in the water letting out the net as they went. Once back near shore the folks holding the rope would pull the net ashore.
It was an effective means of commercial fishing, but it was quite indiscriminate. Other than what was smaller than the gauge of the netting, it caught everything, both good and bad, both animate and inanimate.
It was standard procedure to collect what was profitable in baskets and discard the rest… Sorting was an integral part of that kind of fishing.
In His explanation Jesus equates the profitable or good fish with “The righteous,” which is to say, the people who embrace God’s Will and are therefore Kingdom of Heaven people, who are, by definition, Christian disciples of Jesus. He equates the bad with “The wicked,” which is to say, the people who are too sure of themselves to be swayed by Jesus’ Message. They reject God’s purposes for their lives and are cast into the Lake of Fire ultimately speaking.
And that’s a good way to speak, because this parable emphasizes the end far more than the Parable of the Tares did.
There the stress was on the good wheat be gathered into the barn – here the stress is on the bad fish being rejected in grim fashion.
Evil presently coexists with good. That’s true, it cannot be denied, mitigated or diminished. Even though God abhors evil far more than we do, it’s flourishing existence, suits His purposes, for now.
For now. Jesus has let us know that there is a plan going forward.
What follows from that, is will you trust God? In the face of the realities of this life… The vile self-serving nature of humankind, that not only set evil loose, but feeds it exponentially, so that it continues to grow exponentially. The resultant pain and sorrow, abuse and regret, pestilence and disease, hatred and fear, war and death. Through it all, will you trust that God has this – that God, has you?
The exhortation is to trust Him enough to simultaneously shun evil in our own lives, while gently offering God’s grace to others.
There will soon be only two distinct realities. One is an eternity in the presence of a Holy and perfect, gracious and loving God where there are no more tears and there is no more fear at all.
Please imagine that for a moment. In God’s presence there will be no fear of anything ever. There can never be an anxiety or worry, any concern or unease.
That means that no one can give or take offence at anything. There is no jockeying for position, no subtle jabs, no manipulating the situation, no positioning or posturing no be noticed, or accepted, or loved… Because it is life in pure love where fear cannot even exist. Can you imagine being so relaxed that you can freely love God and your heavenly family with absolute abandon, because everyone else is doing the same towards you?
That’s one place. The other is the Lake that eternally burns with fire and brimstone… The place of outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is a place where pure fear has driven out every vestige of love.
Forever, so full of self, that the fear always attendant to self-focus… Get that, my friends. Self-love is the very thing that creates fear in us. Fear in us, is the very thing that manifests every evil and vile act that we humans commit.
The other place, the only destination outside of Heaven, is an eternity of self-focus, driving internal fear, driving ever greater degrees of separation from others in an ever-increasing aloneness. It’s analogous to the universe. Each person is a star moving further away from all other stars out into the colder darker reaches of an expanding space, less and less frequently colliding with another star in a mutually catastrophic encounter.
You can think of it this way… When a person loves God and others more than themselves, they get to spend eternity in that company. When a person loves themselves more than God and others, they get to spend eternity with only themselves – forever alone, locked in fear and regret, forever weeping and gnashing their teeth.
This life may be hard – it may make no sense at all – it may be far worse for those aligned with God’s Will and serving His Purposes… What are you going to do?
As for me and my house…
Let me say a word about suffering, especially suffering because you’re a Christian. It can be handled in only one of two ways.
It will either be a temptation of your flesh, to lose faith and react from fear, or it will be a test of the Holy Spirit within you, to increase faith as you react in love.
That is precisely what the final petition in the Lord’s Prayer is all about… Almighty God, as You lead me through the steps of my life, and I encounter all the difficulties along that path, do not let it be to me, a temptation of my flesh. Surely, if it is a temptation, I will fail. From a lack of faith, my fear will drive me, and my resultant reaction will be evil.
Instead, keep me ever mindful that You are leading me. That you are with me. That You dwell within me. Let every difficulty be a test of You and Your character in me. In Your strength let me have the faith to operate in Your love, where my resultant reaction will bring glory and honor to You and be a blessing to others in the midst of my trial.
It is through trusting You, Lord, that even greater trust is built going forward. The result is complete and total deliverance from all evil – that which is within and that which is without, that which is physical and that which is spiritual, that which is temporal and that which is eternal. To Your eternal praise – “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever, Amen.”
We’re not masochists – we’re not called to enjoy pain. We’re not Buddhists – we’re not called to pretend pain does not exist. We’re not British – we’re not called to ignore pain. We are Christians – we’re called to remember Who God is and respond to pain with the Joy of the Lord that produces an inner peace that passes all understanding. It occurs because of a greater reliance on Him, not on ourselves.
Matthew 13:51&52 ~ 51NASB“Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.” 52And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”
As mentioned earlier, Jesus didn’t teach to merely impart facts, nor does the Bible merely impart facts. There is a consistent effort to ensure comprehension and to elicit an appropriate reaction. “Do you understand?” is far more than, “Can you regurgitate what I’ve said?”
That is evidenced by what Jesus said next. “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven,” has sparked a lot of unnecessary controversy.
“Therefore,” in this construction means, “to take things I’ve said a step further…” Because you understand what I taught through those 7 parables this applies.
The “Scribe,” is γραμματεύς (gȑäm-mä-tüs), and does not mean student as the HCSB and the MSG, translate. Quite the opposite, it means expert teacher and therefore judge. A γραμματεύς was a scholar who knew the written material, whether secular, Jewish, or now Christian so well, that they could duplicate it by copying, they could teach it to others, and they could act as judges regarding the meaning.
Jewish Scribes also called experts in the Law or Lawyers, were the ones who normally sat in the Seat of Moses, meaning to judge Jewish matters (Matthew 23:2). In our secular society, nearly every judge is a lawyer first.
To “Become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven, means to become a sincere and maturing Christian.
Now putting it all together we get to a bit of Greek that is not easy to put into English. The underlying meaning is not that every Jewish expert on what we call the Old Testament who subsequently becomes a Christian, it is more like “Every Christian who is an expert in the Bible.” However, whenever they became an expert on the Scripture is irrelevant. The two things are brought hand-in-hand. A Disciple – so a disciplined Christian, combined with a person who is an expert in the Bible.
Jesus was saying to His Apostles, you are those guys. You are My disciples and you are experts in the Scriptures. Because of that you will both teach and judge.
That might seem crazy. How were these guys now experts on the Scripture? First, it is a Holy Spirit calling – they would be filled on Pentecost. Second it is a process – they would get better over time. Third, and most salient for this point is the fact that they were already more correct in their interpretation of the Old Testament than the best Jewish Scribes of the day.
Our fifth-grade kids have a more accurate understanding of cosmology than the Harvard PhD chair of the department still stuck in a purely materialist way of thinking.
Jesus equated the Apostles in that role with a master host who gives out to others from his treasure… “Brings out,” is a poor translation here. It is to cast out and so the emphasis is not on what he brings forth, but on what he hands over. It is someone who teaches others.
The reversal of the words old and new mean that He takes from his old treasure and presents it as though it is new. With the stress being on the new part. It is a new way to understand the old treasure.
These Apostles would follow Jesus and they would explain the Old Testament, and the Old Covenant it represented, in a new way, as seen through the light of Jesus, that would be a New Covenant, described by the New Testament, that they would produce.
The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, 18NASBAnd Jesus came up and spoke to them (that’s the 11 remaining Apostles), saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
November 29, 2019 05:33 AM PST
Pastor Scott Keller
Alêtheia Christian Fellowship
8:00 ~ Service - 9:30 ~ Fellowship & Adult Sunday school - 10:30 ~ Service with the King’s Kid’s - Communion is for all Christians
330 N. Somers Rd. (Mail: PO Box 10626) Kalispell, MT 59904~ (406) 755-1776
1) What do the birds signify?
2) What does the leaven signify?
3) What is a “Wisdom-style instructional opening”?
MATTHEW 13:31&32 ~ 31NASBHe presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
A ___________ beginning ends with a ____________ result.
Jesus was bluntly saying that you can’t judge the ______ by the beginning.
There is no indication that Jesus was saying that the tree is the church and the birds are _________ people making it their home.
Jesus wasn’t giving a botanical lecture. His example is both hyperbolic (tree) and proverbial (seed). _____________, I went to Flathead High School a hundred years ago. _____________, “A watched pot never boils.”
Christianity started very small and today, it is the largest religion, with 2.3 billion people claiming that title. Beyond that, Jesus was clearly looking to the _______________ (Eschatology) with this parable.
MATTHEW 13:33 ~ 33NASBHe spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”
It is a __________________ leavening the flour? Jesus recognized two _____________, He maintained that they were _____________ from each other, that each had specific _____________ to play in this life, but that both were ______________ in worth and importance eternally.
Do you seriously think that in Heaven you’ll be an…
“Leaven,” is thought to be ___________ Biblically speaking. It is שְׂאֹר (sᵊ-ŏȑ), or what has been leavened – like leavened bread, חָמֵץ (CHä-mĕtz). The purity of plain flour, once exposed to leaven, could never be retrieved (Galatians 5:9). It’s not always negative (Leviticus 7:13, etc.).
The nuance difference here is how the Kingdom has an _______________ on the whole. The point was that Jesus’ Messianic ministry might seem dismissible, but it would lead to a ______________ impact.
1) Some people cannot let go of the idea that ______________ and _____________ stand for evil. 2) They want to __________ these two parables with the Parable of the Tares.
The Kingdom of Heaven is here in the form of a massive mustard bush and a massive quantity of flour, but in both cases ___________ people are also present in the form of nesting birds and leaven.
MATTHEW 13:34&35 ~ 34NASBAll these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. 35This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.”
Once again, we can easily get the idea that Jesus used parables to be intentionally ____________________ in an effort to keep His listeners from understanding Him.
The quote is from _______________________ and is what is technically called a “Wisdom-style instructional opening.” Psalm 49:1-4
Biblically, because the information is God speaking, the consequence of not paying attention, is _______________ __________________.
Biblically, the people that do not understand, are the people who already believe that the know and so they’re not even ___________________.
Alêtheia ~ Matthew 13e ~ 112419
This is another parable that causes confusion when people try to analyze it too closely. Quite frankly, the gist is just what the gist is… A tiny beginning ends with a big result. A very small seed produces a huge bush big enough for birds to nest in. How is that possible?
Anyone without knowledge of such things, who looked at a single small mustard seed would dismiss it as inconsequential, insignificant, unimpressive. They would say there’s no way that tiny thing can produce anything of any worth or size. Yet it grows to such a large size it’s like a tree!
In fact, the “Mustard” plant has become so substantial that birds are able to make their home in it, trusting in its branches to support their nest where they’ll raise their young.
Some translations have the birds resting, or perching, in the large bush. The verb as it relates to birds, means to nest, not perch. The “Mustard Seed” has produced a home.
Why the parable? People around Jesus were probably saying, “How can Jesus be the Messiah?”
“I mean, He’s been at this for a while, and what does He have to show for it? He’s the leader of a small band of misfits. How is this ever going to amount to anything?”
Jesus was bluntly saying that you can’t judge the end by the beginning, you can’t judge the worth, scope, or impact accurately, from the way it starts.
Any reasonable person, watching the start of this church through the first few months, would have said there’s no way it will ever amount to a thing. There’s no way it will last another few months… Well that was 16 years ago. Final outcomes are difficult to judge from initial beginnings… Especially, where God’s involved.
A lot of people get hung up on the birds. Birds often stand for evil in the Bible. While true, that’s not always the case. In fact, Jesus uses the imagery of birds with positive, neutral, and negative meanings elsewhere, depending on the point He’s making.
There is no indication that Jesus was saying that the tree is the church and the birds are evil people making their home in the church… While we know that happens, and to some degree, that’s the point of the previous parable, it’s not His point here.
Part of why it doesn’t work that way, is we become the interpreters of Jesus, rather than allowing Him to interpret Himself. As an example, someone else could say, with every bit as much conviction, that the tree is faithful Israel and the birds are the Gentiles that find a home in her. Again, not unreasonable. Can you see how it goes when we allow ourselves to speculate?
As we’ve discovered, parables are simple and that’s why they work. When we overcomplicate them by looking beyond the intent of the speaker, we run into problems… Tree) Such as, while mustard plants, in extreme cases, can get to be more than ten feet tall, they are never, really, trees.
They are a garden-type annual plant. They’re not even perennial plants, let alone, deciduous trees. As such, they are so temporary, so relatively small, and so relatively weak, that birds rarely trust mustard plants with their nests and their young.
Seed) In addition to that, mustard seeds are not technically the smallest seeds, something naysayers love to point out. Well, Jesus was wrong – the Bible is not infallible!
There are smaller seeds than the mustard seed, such as begonias, petunias, and orchids. Just realize that parables work to illustrate a point in a dramatic fashion – they are never intended to be dissected, especially for their literal precision! Jesus’ actual point was you could take a single seed – the smallest one in the bunch – and from that a plant could grow so incredibly large it would be to birds like a tree suitable to live in. The implication? Small things can be deceptive in their power to produce big results.
To answer the claim that Jesus made a mistake, let me say that He didn’t say that the mustard seed was Seed) literally, physically the smallest seed on earth, Tree) nor was He literally saying that a mustard plant was a tree.
He wasn’t giving a botanical lecture. He crafted a parable to make a point that is entirely unrelated to seeds, plants, trees, or gardening.
The example is both Tree) hyperbolic and Seed) proverbial. Seed) We know from Greek, Persian, Roman, Egyptian and Jewish sources from the time, that the mustard seed was the smallest seed proverbially.
What that means is that people from modern-day India to Spain and from the Black Sea to the Blue Nile, regardless of the factual details, used the mustard seed as the smallest thing, proverbially speaking. Jesus simply used language that everyone then was completely familiar with.
It’s like us saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” That’s not literally true. “If you play with fire, you will get burned.” “A picture is worth a thousand words.” “No news is good news.” “A watched pot never boils.” “Life begins at forty,” none of those are literally true, but we understand the meaning conveyed.
We have thousands of proverbial sayings that are not literally true, but we all know what they mean. Mustard seeds back then were in that category. Back then everyone was well acquainted with the mustard seed as proverbially the smallest of the garden herbs and vegetable seeds.
Tree) Beyond that, Jesus uses a bit of hyperbole regarding his description of the seed producing a tree. It’s never really a tree – everyone, including Jesus, knew that, far better than we do today. In extreme circumstances a mustard plant could grow to 10, or 12 feet, and in such a case, it would pass for a tree, especially from a bird’s perspective.
Again, the point of His parable, is that something small and seemingly insignificant, can become surprisingly big. Specifically, the growth Christianity would enjoy considering the seemingly disappointing start, would shock people. From a physical perspective, Christianity started with an itinerant preacher who had little support, was betrayed by His own people and brutally executed. Today, Christianity is by far the largest religious group on the planet with 2.3 billion people claiming that title. From a human point of view… The smallest start possible has resulted in the biggest result imaginable.
Beyond that, Jesus was clearly looking to the end with this parable. Eschatologically speaking, Jesus started off smaller than anything and yet what would be produced would give an eternal home to vast numbers of people who would be saved through Him.
In that same vein…
Matthew 13:33 ~ 33NASBHe spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”
Hopefully, without me saying a word, you get the gist of this parable.
I’ll just point out a couple of cool features and then we’ll take a closer look at the whole. Did you notice that it’s a woman leavening the flour? Just prior, in the parable of the Mustard Seed, it was a man who sowed the seed. It gives a nice symmetry, but more than that, it is another example of how inclusive Jesus was concerning women.
Rabbis at the time rarely spoke of women and never to them. When they did, it usually had some negative connotation. Jesus maintained gender role differences, but He clearly elevated females as entirely worthy equals of males spiritually speaking.
In plainer language, Jesus recognized two genders, He maintained that they were different from each other, and that as a result, that each gender had specific roles to play in this life, but Jesus also made clear that both genders were equal in worth, value, importance, significance and in whatever other way they could be eternally measured.
In Christianity, the Bible always addresses women directly when describing, discussing or demanding something pertaining to them. Never, ever, does Jesus, or any Christian Bible Author, tell men to MAKE women do anything.
In Colossians and Ephesians, we find that women are supposed to be submitted to their husbands. In neither case, does it say that husbands are to MAKE them submit. That the Pastor, or the Elders, or the church, is supposed to enforce the command. In both places God speaks directly to the wives. He commands them to submit voluntarily.
My friends, whether a wife submits, or not, and if she does, how well, and to what degree, she does, is strictly between her and God – it is their relationship, no one else’s.
For the husband’s part, he is commanded by Almighty God to unconditionally love his wife even to the point of dying for her. That means to love her, even if she’s horrible at the submitting thing – it’s not a man’s job to MAKE a woman be a better Christian, it’s his job to make sure he’s the best Christian he can be.
Likewise, ladies, you cannot make your husband be a better Christian. What you can do, is be the best Christian you can be, and pray fervently for him.
That was free bonus material. While I’m at it, let me assure you that gender is no different than size, strength, nationality, or ethnicity… These are all temporary physical categories.
Do you seriously think that in Heaven you’ll be an American, or a Canadian? That you’ll be Oriental, Caucasian, Hispanic, or whatever jumbled up mixture of ethnicities you’ve got going on? That you’ll still be relatively short or tall, narrow or wide? What in the world makes you think you’ll still be male, or female?
We fuss and fight over categorizations that are so temporary that in the grand sweep of eternity they cannot even be measured. How foolish.
Let it go for now – back to our parable. “A woman hid leaven in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”
More unusual things… Things that would have struck the people hearing it back then as odd. “Leaven,” is generally thought to be a negative or even evil thing Biblically speaking. It is שְׂאֹר (sᵊ-ŏȑ), but more commonly is what has already been leavened – like leavened bread, חָמֵץ (CHä-mĕtz).
Leavening is basically what starts the fermentation process and thereby causes bread to rise and be fluffy. We typically add yeast to flour and some translations go with that, but it is a bit different. What they used was basically sourdough. They always kept a small amount of leavened dough in reserve. Generally, they would take that, mix it with water and add the frothy fermenting soupy brew to the new flour.
The purity of plain flour, once exposed to leaven, could never be retrieved. Leavened flour couldn’t ever be made into unleavened flour - it could never be purified again. That’s why it lends itself so well to a negative connotation. Just as Paul wrote in Galatians 5:9, 9NASBA little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. Biblically, “Leaven” was often used as a metaphor for sin in general, often, pride, or hypocrisy, in particular.
Not always though. As with birds, sometime the meaning is neutral and sometimes even positive. Leviticus 7:13 commands, 13NASB‘With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving, he shall present his offering with cakes of leavened bread. A Rabbinical proverb of the time goes, “A good judge sprinkles his verdict with the leaven of mercy.”
The word “Hid,” instead of mixed, or something like that, is strange. Why would she hide the “Leaven”? The word is ἐγκρύπτω (ĕn-kȑüp-tō), a New Testament hapax legomenon (occurring only one time). It is generally accepted to mean “Hid.” Luke’s Gospel uses a simpler related word that definitely means “Hid” (Luke 13:21). Why “Hid”?
Three pecks of flour is unusual for two reasons. First, it’s flour, not dough. Adding water is a must in order to turn flour into something useful, like bread. Second, it’s a massive quantity. “Three pecks” is really three σάτον (sä-tŏn), nearly 43 quarts of dry flour. The HCSB has 50 pounds of flour and the NIV has it as 60 pounds. I came up with 47 pounds with my own calculations, but whatever the precise amount, that’s a lot of flour! It’s enough for more than 60 loaves of bread.
Then it’s three σάτον. Maybe if it was two, or four, or eight, people wouldn’t get hung up on it – nah, it wouldn’t matter… Many folks can’t resist defining the number three in the parable – of course, like all allegorical interpretations, none can agree what it symbolizes. Some say it refers to Jewish, Greek and Barbarian. Some Jewish, Gentile and Samaritan. Some say the body, spirit and soul. Some say the Trinity. Some say Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth. Some say the three continents of the Bible, Asia, Africa and Europe – too bad Western Hemisphere. Some say Adam’s Covenant, Abraham’s Covenant and Christ’s Covenant. Some point to Sarah baking for the three supernatural visitors discussing Sodom and Gomorrah with Abraham. You get the idea.
Again, we must keep in mind what parables are, and way aren’t. We’re looking for a simple point.
The easy, straightforward, meaning is that a little thing that seems irrelevant, hidden, inconsequential… In the end, has a dramatic effect.
The nuance difference here is how the Kingdom has an influence on the whole. The previous parable, like this one, was about the Kingdom starting small but having a big effect. There, the “Birds” nesting showed that the Kingdom will grow to provide a safe and secure future – a home.
This parable shows that the influence of God – through the Kingdom, through Jesus, through His Message, through Christians, permeates the entire world. It’s possible that it means that God influences the entire person who accepts Jesus, but most likely it has the whole world, broader scale in mind.
Jesus’ point here, was that His work would create a new reality that would be ubiquitous – it would be everywhere – it would have an influence on everything. God through the present Kingdom would have a global reach.
We wouldn’t want to push that farther. If Christ’s influence is everywhere affecting everything, why aren’t all people Christians? That is a thought well beyond the intended scope of the parable.
Contrary to the spring-loaded assumption we make, Jesus wasn’t talking about bread, or dough to make bread. He was simply saying that even a vast amount of flour is, and here’s the key, forever and inextricably modified by a tiny bit of leaven.
Once the leaven was added, nothing could alter the new properties of the flour. It could never be used to make unleavened bread again. A relatively small amount would forever change the relatively massive amount.
The point was that Jesus’ Messianic ministry might seem dismissible, but it would lead to a global impact.
While both parables stress the growth of the Kingdom in size and scope, the difference between them is the first looks to the home established, while the second one looks at the influence caused.
Let me throw a monkey wrench into the program. There’s another way to look at these two parables that is worthy of our attention. It’s not only common, it is basically the opposite of what I’ve been saying.
1) Some people cannot let go of the idea that birds and leaven stand for evil. They latch on to the negative connotation associated with those symbols. 2) In addition, they want to closely tie these two parables with the Parable of the Tares, making all three parallel to each other - all making the same basic point.
The Kingdom of Heaven is here in the form of a massive mustard bush and a massive quantity of flour, but in both cases evil people are also present in the form of nesting birds and leaven.
The basic point is true, because that’s the point the Parable of the Tares made… It has to be true. In a very general sense, without delving into the particulars of each parable, that interpretation is okay, again, because it is a true reality from Scripture elsewhere.
There are better reasons to see it the way I first laid it out, but I don’t see the harm in seeing it this alternate way. For the original audience the question about small beginnings resulting in big outcomes was far more necessary than it is for us, who have already seen it grow.
Besides that, nowhere do we see any eventual attempt to get rid of the birds in the tree, or the leaven from the flour. There are other reasons to go with the interpretation we started with, but I wanted you to be aware of the negative interpretation in case you meet someone who wants to defend it or even fight about it.
At the end of the day, that interpretation is still Biblically true. What they miss isn’t going to derail Christianity. Let them have their idea. It’s not going to hurt anything. It is perfectly fine to disagree about such things and still love – still be unified.
There are many places where one can interpret the Bible in what I would say is a less accurate way, but still have a Biblically acceptable outcome. Recognize that, respectfully discuss, but don’t fight.
Matthew 13:34&35 ~ 34NASBAll these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. 35This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.”
Once again, we can easily get the idea that Jesus used parables to be intentionally cryptic in an effort to keep His listeners from understanding Him.
The quote is from Psalm 78:2 and is what is technically called a “Wisdom-style instructional opening.” It’s a thing. In ancient times it was a commonly used rhetorical opening specifically designed to get people to pay close attention to what you were about to say.
It is a call for the audience to listen up, because important wisdom information is about to be passed along using a variety of rhetorical means and methods so wise people will be wiser people. Psalm 78 starts, Psalm 78:1-4, 1NIVMy people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. 2I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old— 3things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. 4We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.
Another example is found in Psalm 49:1-4, 1NIVHear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, 2both low and high, rich and poor alike: 3My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding. 4I will turn my ear to a proverb; with the harp I will expound my riddle. Proverbs 1:5-7, 5NIVlet the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— 6for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. 7The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Be a wise person by paying close attention and you’ll be even wiser, otherwise you will not understand the new material, you won’t get smarter and you’ll prove that you’re a fool, because of it. The Bible and other ancient writings are full of these “Wisdom-style instructional openings.”
Biblically, they are more serious, because the information about to be shared always has to do with God speaking to the people through a prophet, leader, sage, or in this case, through His Own Word made man. The consequence, of not paying close enough attention to gasp the teaching, is that Divine Judgment follows.
Those unwilling to grasp and so absorb the new information are unable to do what the information directs and so, are unable to please God. They fall under His wrath, rather than His grace, because they did not… In a sense, believe Him. Trust Him, Surrender to His reign. It is impossible to be IN the Kingdom of Heaven and resist God’s reign in any way, shape, or form.
So again, the point wasn’t that Jesus was intentionally obfuscating His Message – just the opposite – He was going to great lengths to make it understandable… Even using many parables to help in the process.
The problem was they still didn’t get Him, because they had hard hearts. The only thing left, is judgment.
Please connect something here. Notice Biblically, that a person’ hard heart, is the thing often highlighted as the reason people are unsaved. Notice also, that just as often, it is said that the thing that prevents salvation is a human pride. How can both things be said to prevent salvation? A person’s hard heart is a direct result of them thinking that they are right.
Please think about that. The only reason a person doesn’t surrender to Jesus fully is because they do not see it as important enough to do it. Because… They are already convinced in their mind that it isn’t that important. They have reasoned in themselves that it isn’t necessary.
Being closed to new information means you’ve decided it isn’t worth your attention. That is, in itself, an arrogant position. What’s dangerous about it is that most people don’t even realize that they’ve put themselves in that boat.
I’ve oftentimes mentioned confirmation bias. It’s where we have already formulated a strong opinion, whether we will admit it, or not, and we therefore see what resonates with, or confirms our thinking, instead of what’s really there.
Biblically, the people that do not understand, are the people who already believe that the know and so they’re not even listening – and the second bit – is they don’t even realize that they aren’t listening. If you were to ask, they’d say they heard it all – the problem is they only heard what they wanted to hear.
Many people over the course of human history have said the same basic thing. Here’s how Victor Villaseñor said it, “The beginning of all wisdom is to understand that you don't know. To know is the enemy of all learning. To be sure is the enemy of wisdom.”
The wiser a person becomes, the more they recognize how much they don’t know – it results in a humble attitude towards learning. That’s the essence of God’s statement, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. To fear God, means that you take Him seriously enough to humbly seek and search, work and cling to His Word.
The Message was easily understandable to a person willing to be open and working to search for it. How’s your attitude?111719 - Matthew 13d - Inquisition or Indulgence?
November 18, 2019 10:06 AM PST
Pastor Scott Keller
Alêtheia Christian Fellowship
8:00 ~ Service - 9:30 ~ Fellowship & Adult Sunday school - 10:30 ~ Service with the King’s Kid’s
330 N. Somers Rd. (Mail: PO Box 10626) Kalispell, MT 59904~ (406) 755-1776
1) God’s sovereign choice is to allow opposition to His reign. Is it real?
2) Is it possible that God’s desire, is to have sentient creatures who want to dwell in His love and embrace His reign?
3) What is it that Jesus’ parable tells us to do?
MATTHEW 13:24-30 ~ 24NASBJesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven (________________________________) may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field (The man is: __________, the good seed are: _____________________________, and the field is: _________________). 25“But while his MEN were sleeping, his enemy (_________________) came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away (_____________________________________________). 26“But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27“The SLAVES of the landowner (_____________, again) came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28“And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The SLAVES said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29“But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers (_______________), “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up (___________________); but gather the wheat into my barn (________________________________).”’”
Jesus was basically saying that the reason so many people were “Rejecting God’s purposes for their lives,” was because His enemy, the __________________, had infiltrated the field planting his people.
Biblically things operate on different ______________. The Kingdom of Heaven is here and now, and yet… God is unopposed and yet…
The “Good seed” was God’s work, not the work of the seeds. Yet we also see ___________ ____________ in His statement to His Own in verse 43.
I Peter 4:18 is one example, of a God, Who makes several expert rhetorical appeals specifically designed to ________________ people.
1) Don’t press the parable for meaning, that Jesus never intended, Let it be what He made it and enjoy the ___________________ of it.
2) Evil is allowed to flourish with God’s beloved, because that’s the way He has ___________________ it to be.
Will you trust Him?
The first step called _______________, is called that with an eye to the end. It means, it worked and that is not actual until the end. A person is either _____________ or they are not – they cannot be both.
3) An honest self-reflection always leads to a focus on ______________.
Focus on your own conformity and on the good of others, instead of focusing on your own good and the conformity of others.
So many Christians focus on their own good to the detriment of the group and simultaneously, focus on the conformity of the group, rather than on their own conformity. Such people are a ____________ to say the least…
Why does it happen? Because fleshly people are _____-__________.
If church, or anything else, is not working for them, they’re not going to ignore it, because they’re _______ and they’re important.
Such people blame others for their ________________.
We are supposed to grow to the point, that we can focus more on the needs and desires of the group, to our own detriment. And simultaneously, focus on our own personal conformity to Christ so we can be a _______________, rather than a _______________.
For nearly 20 centuries some people have taken this parable to mean that, in the church, ________________ goes – just let God sort it out at the end.
As a backlash, the church has often taken the parable as a polemic against lazy leadership and used it to mean the ______________ of the natural meaning. Thomas Aquinas used it to justify religious wars and the Spanish Inquisition used it to justify torture and ___________.
Nowhere, do we get even a hint, that we should try to pull weeds. Trust God entirely, do your best to conform to His reign personally and put the good of others ahead of yourself and it will all work out.
Does that mean we do nothing about the weeds? Philippians 2:1-16
We are told to ___________ God, ___________ the church and ____________ the Lost. Within that is standing firm with integrity and gentleness. No Inquisition, but no Indulgence either.
Alêtheia ~ Matthew 13d ~ 111719
If He was ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven that they had all been waiting for – why wasn’t that more obvious? Why wasn’t it working?
Jesus said the reason was that God’s purposes were opposed by an enemy we all know as the Devil.
Matthew 13:24-30 ~ 24NASBJesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven (where God’s reign is embraced) may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field (The man is Jesus, the good seed are people who embrace God’s reign, and the field is the world). 25“But while his MEN were sleeping, his enemy (that’s the Devil) came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away (Wheat is the good seed again and the tares are people who do not embrace God’s reign). 26“But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27“The SLAVES of the landowner (Jesus, again) came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28“And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The SLAVES said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29“But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers (His angels), “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up (the Lake of Fire); but gather the wheat into my barn (The Kingdom of their Father).”’”
Again, Jesus was basically saying that the reason so many people were “Rejecting God’s purposes for their lives,” was because His enemy, who we know as Satan, Lucifer, the Devil, the Serpent of Old, had infiltrated the field planting people allied with him.
Biblically things operate on different levels. The Kingdom of Heaven is here and now, and yet, on another level, it is still future. Likewise, on one level, nothing can oppose God.
It isn’t like Satan, the demonic army, and all the evil people pose a legitimate threat as though they are some equal and opposite force to God. This is not a yin and yang thing of balancing dualism. God’s got this. His purposes will be achieved – have no fear.
Yet, on another level, there is an open war between the forces of Good and the forces of evil. The forces aligned with God and those opposed to His reign.
In fact, that’s why the Kingdom is here and not fully here. The two things go hand in hand. The Kingdom is where God’s rule is unopposed. In the grandest sense, it is already is unopposed, because nothing can thwart His Will. He can do anything He wants. Yet, due to His Own perfect plan, He has allowed both supernatural and human beings to actively oppose His Sovereign Reign… For now.
As a side note, you may ask why. Think on this… Is it possible that God’s desire, is to have sentient creatures who want to dwell in His love and embrace His reign?
Back on track now… Since some embrace God’s rule and others oppose it, the Kingdom is here, now, partially. It exists where people have surrendered to God’s Will and it fails to exist where people “Reject God’s purposes for their life.”
Additionally, at another level, even among Christians, the embrasure of God’s reign is imperfect. So, at 1) one level, no one is perfectly and permanently surrendered, 2) at another, all Christians are so, because Jesus has made us so, 3) and at still another level, all humans are obeying God’s plan.
Regardless, the reality we find ourselves in, is one where the anti-God forces opposed to Him, are by natural extension, opposed to all who stand with God as well.
This is a war where it is impossible to be a conscientious objector. There is no Switzerland. Everyone is on one side or the other. Everyone is a combatant in the war, like it or not. Never be surprised when God’s enemy attacks you.
Jesus was saying that He had come to earth and His very presence was a revelation of God and His purposes. Jesus was a manifestation in our physical realm of God and His purposes.
His very existence as a human was enabling a new reality. The Kingdom of Heaven where God’s Reign was accepted and embraced was at hand. People could, through God’s activity, become His subjects – in other words, fully accept His rule by accepting His plan of Salvation as offered in Christ Jesus. They were Good seed. They would grow and produce and be gathered into God’s presence.
The way they became Good seed was Christ’s sowing. It was God’s work, not the work of the seeds. Yet we also see human responsibility in His statement to His Own in verse 43. There is a humble surrender by the seeds in order to reach the Harvest.
Who were those able to accept the Messiah that God provided? Biblically, as we saw last week, only those who were humble enough to say, “Okay God – that’s not what I expected, but okay.”
There’s a great scene in the movie Rudy where he’s seeking advice from a priest. The priest says, “In 35 years of religious studies, I’ve come up with only two hard incontrovertible facts. There is a God, and I’m not Him.”
“I’m not Him.” When we allow God to be God, we have entered the Kingdom of Heaven.
You may say, I don’t see where the Good seed is doing anything. The Ladies Group had a question from I Peter 4:18. That entire chapter consists of the Apostle Peter making several expert rhetorical appeals specifically designed to persuade his audience.
Since it’s the Bible, we can easily say that it is God Who makes several expert rhetorical appeals specifically designed to persuade His audience.
Who is the audience? Christians. Biblically, even Christians, who are already eternally saved and already indwelt by the Spirit of God, are persuaded, cajoled, encouraged, motivated, exhorted by God to do something. In that particular place it is to persevere through the persecution they are experiencing.
If it is all determinism where every human is a robotic automaton only doing what God forces them to do like a puppet on a string, why in the world, does He waste time, energy and resources, trying to persuade people to do, the very thing determinism says they have utterly no ability to do?
God has orchestrated all things for the greatest possible good but has also, from our perspective, given us choice. It may be an illusion, it may be difficult to reconcile, but whatever the particulars, it is all we know. And since that is true - since it is all we know, we must, in fact, choose! We must do.
What is it that Jesus’ parable tells us to do? It tells us to reflect on the fact that not only does Good and evil coexist in this present world, not only does God know all about it, God has a plan to deal with it, once and for all.
Therefore, it is first about trusting God. Will you trust Him with in the midst of this craziness – in this present world, field, environment, of rampant bad weeds?
See how much faith it requires? Especially with the weediness in the church and within ourselves. How easy it would be if Jesus returned today, destroyed all evil and handed “Over the Kingdom to God who is our Father” (I Corinthians 15:23-26 My Translation). When Revelation 21:3&4 is fulfilled as, “3NLTGod’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
How easy if that was the way things were today? It is that way, in a sense, but that’s not what we see with our physical eyes and so it requires faith – it requires trusting in the Father, through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Beyond that, or secondly, Jesus’ parable implies a self-reflection… Which are you – a seed sown by Jesus, or a tare sown by Satan?
God never asks us to reflect on something if there’s no hope of changing it. If you are not a seed sown that is producing fruit, or in this case, grain, it’s likely because you’re not wheat. What are you going to do about that?
We discussed what fruit, or grain, is, a couple of weeks ago. In general, 1) it can be seen as a love for God and others that is not changed by circumstances or emotional state. 2) It can be seen as the transformation of a person’s mind and actions towards godliness. 3) It can be seen as the beneficial ministry of God to others through a person.
Are you wheat, as evidenced by supernatural Good grain? If not, what are you going to do about that?
Beyond that, what does Jesus tell us to do from this parable? Nothing. The answer is nothing, my friends and because people don’t like that answer, they come up with something. Please don’t. There are things, we as Christians, are supposed to do regarding God, ourselves, the church and the Lost. We find our marching orders regarding those things in other passages of Scripture – this is not one of them.
Remember, Jesus does not define the workers, or slaves in His parable. Technically the workers and the slaves are one and the same, and they are the guys who actually sowed the seed provided by the Sower. While they’re also the ones who fell asleep, they’re also the ones who recognized the problem in the first place and they’re the ones who offered to pull the weeds without delay.
Jesus didn’t define those guys and yet, as I mentioned last week, Christians have been correcting that oversight for millennia. It’s funny, because it’s ridiculous. We’re going to clarify for Jesus. We’re going to put words in the mouth of the Word.
Anyway, the common interpretation has been that the workers are the clergy. Church leaders over the centuries have been asleep at the wheel and allowed Satan to infiltrate Christ’s “Field.”
I hope you can see right away, that for that interpretation to work well one must see the “Field” as the church. A similar, less popular version is that the “Field” is the individual Christian person and through our own lack of alertness we allow Satan to sow evil within us.
Jesus defined the “Field.” It is the world, not the church and not the individual. Therefore, the sleeping workers cannot be the lackadaisical clergy, or the unwary Christian.
Who then are the workers? We could plug in the Prophets of Old, or John the Baptist, or the Apostles, or even the Early church Fathers. None of those ideas are without problems, but the biggest problem, in my mind, is why are we trying to figure out what Jesus left ambiguous?
It cannot possibly be important, or Jesus would have defined it. The Good Seed stands for all Christians, regardless of their role.
Knowing what we do, how can we properly apply the parable? Just as we said, but now adding another important step…
1) Don’t press the parable for meaning Jesus never intended or assigned. Just let it be what He made it and enjoy the simplicity of it.
2) That brings is to our original first point. The Kingdom of Heaven has come in the sense that because of Jesus’ completed work, human beings can obey God. People can enthusiastically and perfectly embrace the entirety of His reign – in Christ. In other words, Christ has done it for us. The Kingdom is here, now.
Yet, that’s not what we experience physically.
How can that be? Why don’t all people embrace Christ and get onboard the Kingdom train? Why do those of us who are onboard, still disagree with how things are, still disagree with how God reigns?
That’s the point of the parable – Evil is allowed to flourish side by side with God’s beloved because that’s the way He has ordained it to be.
Will you trust Him?
Trusting Him is more than just believing that one day this world, with its pervasive weed problem, will end. It means that you trust God with your eternity despite evidence that seems contrary.
As I alluded to earlier, we perfectly obey God right now through Christ – we call that SALVATION. As Spirit-filled Believers we grow in our actual conformity to His reign as we yield to the work of the Spirit in a maturation process called SANCTIFICATION. There will come a day, when we will truly, literally, obey perfectly. When we will be entirely in harmonious conformity to God’s reign forever. That day will be when the fullness of the Kingdom comes and for us it is called GLORIFICATION.
Again, that’s how the Kingdom is already here and not here yet.
Just to put a bow on that, let me say that the first step called SALVATION, is called that with an eye to GLORIFICATION. SALVATION means that a person is saved. No person is actually saved until they are glorified forever. You cannot correctly call a person saved, if at the end of time, they weren’t.
SALVATION is not a concept that can be temporary. A person cannot be saved today and unsaved tomorrow, by definition. A person is either saved or they are not – they cannot be both.
It’s because saved means saved into eternal life – anyone not entering eternal life was, again, by very definition, never saved. So, the term SALVATION incorporates the entirety of the process from start to eternity – You’re not saved until you’re saved. Because the work is Christ’s and because through Him we have reconciliation into right relationship with the Father and because we have received the surety deposit of the Holy Spirit we trust God with the entirety of our eternity and correctly call ourselves saved. Hebrews 5:9, 9NASBAnd having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.
Anyone who is unsure of their salvation or thinks that they can lose their SALVATION, trusts God far too little, and trusts in their own ability, far too much.
Will you trust Him?
3) Now for the next thing – an honest self-reflection always leads to a focus on fruit, or grain. Here’s the deal, focus on your own conformity and on the good of others, instead of focusing on your own good and the conformity of others. Here’s what I mean.
So many Christians focus on their own good to the detriment of the group and simultaneously, focus on the conformity of the group, rather than on their own conformity. Such people are a burden to say the least… Really, they are a curse upon the church. In some churches they say that 10% of the people do 90% of the work. It’s as true to say that 10% of the people require 90% the pastor’s attention. Some people are a lot of work. Let me caveat that… Please hear this… Pastors are happy to spend time with people who are trying. I’m talking about people who are always complaining – always wanting things to change to suit them better.
Why does it happen? Because fleshly people are self-centered.
If church is not working for them, they’re not going to ignore it, because they’re right and they’re important. At the same time, such people blame others for their failures. If I’m not conforming well to Christ, it must be because I have a bad pastor, bad church, or bad Christian friends… Something, because I know it must be an outside influence preventing me from being all that I can be. I’m plagued by the Devil, I have a rotten spouse, my kids are the spawn of hell. It can’t be me.
Speaking of kids, such people will invariably blame someone or something else, when their kids get into trouble. It was the other kid who was a bad friend – a bad influence on my kid, it was another parent, it was the school, it was our society, it was the video games.
Such people focus on themselves, except when it is negative, and then they focus on others.
Be the opposite. Focus on others, except when it is negative, and then focus on yourself. As Spirit-filled people we are supposed to grow to the point that we can focus more on the needs and desires of group to our own detriment and simultaneously, focus on our own personal conformity to Christ so we can be a BLESSING to the church. When we focus on our own needs and desires to the detriment of the group and simultaneously, focus on the group’s conformity. to Christ – we act like spiritual infants and are, in fact, a CURSE to the church.
Be humble, take responsibility, be self-controlled. Strive to build up the group by focusing on what it needs and wants, while focusing on your own behavior and attitudes.
For nearly 20 centuries some people have taken this parable to mean that in the church anything goes – leave everyone alone and let them do whatever they like and let God sort it out at the end.
As a backlash to that idea, the church has often taken the stance that the parable was a polemic against lazy leadership and so this parable has often been used to mean the opposite of the natural meaning. Thomas Aquinas used it to justify religious wars if the weeds threatened the wheat. The Spanish Inquisition was justified by saying, that at the edge of the field one could “Pull out two or three, on occasion six or eight or even ten or twelve, indeed, even a hundred weeds without damaging the wheat.”
The “Field” is the world at large, that contains within it the Jewish audience Jesus spoke to, as well as the church through the ages, and, as well as the individual Christian person. Each thing is part of the whole.
While the world contains those things, it is not those things, specifically and so we must be cautious in our application. As such we can recognize that the parable gives us insight into why evil still exists, it gives us assurance that God is well aware of the problem and that He will fix it in His timing and it implies that we should ensure that for our part, we are wheat producing a Good crop.
Nowhere do we get even a hint that we should try to pull weeds. Trust God entirely, do your best to conform to His reign personally and put the good of others ahead of yourself and it will all work out.
Does that mean we do nothing about the weeds? No, it means we do the best thing we can do about the weeds, that is to be the best wheat possible. We, ourselves, for our part, stand firm in Christ
Do not allow bad company to corrupt your good character. Resist weeds always, make no peace with weeds – love them, bless them, pray for them, but do not make peace. In other words, never get the idea that since God allows weeds to flourish, it’s okay to be a weed, or okay for you to act like a weed.
One day, “Soon and very soon,” God will deal with the weeds. Until then… be wheat!
I thought this passage would help… Philippians 2:1-16, 1NASBTherefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion (in other words, if you’ve gotten anything good from being a Christian within the Body of Christ… At all, Paul says), 2make my joy complete…
(As the NIV says, “In a warped and crooked generation… You will shine among them like stars in the sky. How is that done? As you hold firmly to the Word of God. It is by holding fast to Jesus and allowing ourselves to be conformed to Him, that we are lights in a field full of weeds – a sky full of darkness) …
I think most of us understand what Jesus wants from us here. But humanly and historically we don’t. People love to define themselves in ways and in areas that are important to them.
Perhaps politics, religion, sports, work, lifestyle, culture, nationality, etc. So, a person may define themselves as a fiscally conservative Democrat. Perhaps as a Pentecostal Christian, perhaps as a New York Jets fan, as a sheep rancher, an archery wild boar hunter, a vegan hippie, an American.
Then they recognize that other people, not only don’t fit in the same categories, they claim rival categories for themselves. That scares people. It might seem weird, but fear takes over at that point, like it, or not. Both sides and really all sides jockey to promote their thing, while diminishing opposing things. It’s not enough to say what you’re for – you must say what you’re against.
In several polls, liberal Americans consistently say that while they don’t even really like the Democrat Party, they hate, despise and loathe the Republican Party. Likewise, conservative Americans consistently say that while they don’t even really like the Republican Party, they hate, despise and loathe the Democrat Party.
It is a conflict where we equate our beliefs with our person. Those who disagree with us, because they aren’t just fellow human beings made in God’s image who happen to have a different opinion – they are vile, reprehensible, evil agents trying to destroy us. So, we defend our choices and have learned that the best defense is a strong offence. We attack because we fear, and fear turns hate. Because of that, we begin dehumanizing those we see as threats to our way of life.
Evidently that’s not enough. Comments left on our Facebook page show what I’m on about… It isn’t enough to ignore, it isn’t enough to disagree, it isn’t enough to enter into a debate, it must be an attack. “You’re too dumb for science.” “You’re fooled by fabrications of Paul.”
People with different ideas are not just misled, they’re not just stupid, they’re not just the enemy, they’re evil, they must be attacked and, if possible, they must be destroyed.
If you’re honest, and I know many people refuse to be honest, because they’re so afraid, but if you’re honest you will admit that both sides in our political debate, whether Republican or Democrat, actively vilify those of the other party… As just another example.
Once we begin the negative process, we are on a road that leads to separation, divorce, war, murder, atrocities and genocide.
It can be any relationship – your relationship with your church, your employer, your fellow American, your spouse… Trust me my friends… Negativity is so much easier – so much faster – so much more momentum is involved, once it’s moving, it’s nearly impossible to stop.
The Bible tells us to Trust God, to actively seek to be the best Christian we can be, to grant grace to others as you try to see them through God’s eyes – allowing them to be who they are.
Their relationship with God is theirs, not yours. It is perfectly fine to disagree and still love. How insane that we now think if people disagree with us, they must be our enemy – how un-Christlike.
We are told to love God, love other Christians and to love the Lost. Where are we told to hold our own Spanish Inquisition and purge people from our life who don’t measure up to our standard?
I wanted to respond to these people commenting on our church page. After much consideration, I did. My response? I prayed for them. Let God deal with the weeds, my friends, just make sure you’re not one of them.111019 - Matthew !3c - What are Tares?
November 13, 2019 09:48 AM PST
Pastor Scott Keller
Alêtheia Christian Fellowship
8:00 ~ Service - 9:30 ~ Fellowship & Adult Sunday school - 10:30 ~ Service with the King’s Kid’s
Thank a Vet and wish a Marine Happy Birthday
1) Did Jesus make His parable an allegory by explaining it?
2) What is the “Field” in the “Wheat and Tares” parable? Can it stand for the church? Can it stand for the individual Christian?
3) What shout the wheat do about the tares? What about the workers?
The impact of any parable is greatest when no ____________________ is necessary. Like the parable Nathan told King David (II Samuel 12:1-15).
Or the Rabbi Gamaliel and Caesar.
Parables were a standard way of ___________________ ideas in those days. People back then were far more _____________ than we are today and far better at _____________________ information. Stories that made a point were hugely popular.
MATTHEW 13:24-30 ~ 24NASBJesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25“But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26“But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27“The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28“And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29“But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”
Again, if we need an ________________, it loses much of its impact. Skipping verses 31-35 for now, we pick it up in verse 36…
MATTHEW 13:36-43 ~ 36NASBThen He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40“So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41“The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43“Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
How many different outcomes are there?
Inclusivity of Christianity –
Whoever believes will have eternal life (John 3:15-18).
Jesus is the One Mediator between God and mankind (I Timothy 2:5).
No person will ever come to the Heavenly Father except through Jesus (John 14:6).
Jesus paid the price no human could and only through His active agency can there be right relationship with Almighty God (Hebrews chapter 10, etc.).
The parable addresses a fundamental question: What about __________?
Strictly speaking, this parable is not about the ____________, nor is it about the ______________. Jesus was addressing Jews in various states of openness. Some may have been saying, “If you’re the Messiah, why isn’t everyone, especially our religious leaders, recognizing You as such and joining You?”
Jesus, through this parable, was pointedly telling the crowd, not every Jew, is a child of God.
Fill out the other side, detach this part of the page, and place it in the offering plate or the prayer/suggestion box in the lobby or with an Elder or Deacon of the church.
God Bless You!
Jesus said the same thing even more bluntly (John 8:42-47). Jesus did all He could to reach the Jewish people. The problem was, most of them were only Jews in ___________, not in ___________.
It was not a __________ problem. The prophets had been saying the same thing for millennia.
The “Kingdom of Heaven” is like. That’s what the parable is about. We think of a kingdom as a realm, like the Kingdom of Great Britain. It’s an area and a people. That is a ________________ way to think of the “Kingdom of Heaven,” which emphasizes a _____________, not a realm. The “Kingdom of Heaven,” is for now, the fully accepted/embraced, reign of Christ Jesus.
The “Tares” are unregenerate opposers to God’s purposes for them (Luke 7:30). Notice, it is never said, “Bad seed,” but rather “Tares.”
Does Jesus define the sleeping workers?
Greek word ζιζάνιον (dzē-dzä-nē-ŏn), refers to what we call darnel.
Notice that it is ______________ who will send forth His angels to reap.
Heaven can be defined as our _______________ Kingdom.
_____ I want to talk with the pastor about ___________________________________________
_____ I want prayer for _________________________________________________________
_____ I want to volunteer to _____________________________________________________
_____ I want more information about ______________________________________________
_____ Other __________________________________________________________________
Name ______________________ Address _________________________________________
Phone ______________________ Email ___________________________________________
Matthew chapter 13:
When we think of parables as secretly coded messages that are designed to obscure meaning in some clandestine effort to keep outsiders from understanding, we get a distorted view of Jesus’ explanation.
Our interpretation becomes the opposite of the true meaning. Without going over all of it again, let me just say, that the point was that, even with the added aid to understanding that parables provide – in other words, even with Jesus’ Message being made as simple as possible through His use of parables – the people still did not accept Him.
It’s not that they couldn’t understand Him literally – it was that they chose not to embrace Him personally. Basically, they didn’t believe Him… At least not enough to become His disciples.
It has to do with the type of Message He was presenting. It wasn’t just information; it was a call to action… From God. Some of you responded to a call to arms from Uncle Sam – thanks, but how much more important to properly respond to Jesus’ call to arms?
Because it is a call to action, anyone not accepting Jesus’ Message to the point that they would act – to the point that they would begin producing real evidence of that acceptance – was in effect, a person failing to understand Him. Such people are blind, deaf and hard-hearted.
Beyond Jesus’ disclosure for why the people didn’t get Him, Jesus explained the parable to His Disciples in detail. It may, or may not, have been necessary, but the point was, to those who were eager to understand Jesus, more would be given. They would receive even more clarification to ensure that there was no misunderstanding. Will we likewise strive for the Truth?
Because people through the ages have missed that rationale, they have erroneously gotten the idea that it was more of an allegory, than a parable. Worse, they saw it as a license to further allegorize the parable beyond the designations Jesus gave. Even worse than that, people have seen it as a green light to allegorize all of Jesus’ other parables, analogies, metaphors, examples and even His plain language statements. In this painting from about 1565 by Titian the three heads stand allegorically for past, present and future.
With so many people over the centuries coming up with ever-more creative ways to interpret the signs and symbols, types and images, elements and characters, of Jesus’ teaching, is it any wonder that no one can agree?
His parable was not an allegory. The fact that He explained it actually detracts from the parable. So why did He do it? It was done just to make sure that the Disciples, then and now, were on the right track.
It works as it was intended when we keep in mind what a parable is and what it is not. It fails to work, when we mistakenly think Jesus’ parables are open to interpretation as allegories.
The impact of any parable is greatest when no explanation is necessary. Like the parable that Nathan told King David. “You are the man” (II Samuel 12:1-15).
I’ll give you another parable (slightly redacted by me) to show you what I mean. The Rabbi Gamaliel, who was the Apostle Paul’s Rabbinic mentor, had an encounter with the Roman Emperor. Caesar said to Gamaliel, “Your God is a thief.” “How so,” the great Rabbi responded. “He took Adam’s rib without his knowledge,” Caesar replied. Gamaliel answered with a parable… “Because you love your daughter you decide to give her an ornate, priceless gold pitcher for her room. Later your daughter comes to you in a panic and asks to see the Commander of your Praetorian Guard immediately. ‘Why you ask her?’ ‘Because a thief broke into the palace last night,’ she blurts out. ‘What was taken,’ you ask. She tells you ‘The thief stole a silver pitcher from my room, leaving an ornate gold one in its place.’”
You get that. It makes a nice impression because it is easy to grasp and has a single point of comparison to make the point with a certain impact and panache.
Can you see that if Gamaliel had to explain the symbolic meaning of the thief, his daughter, the silver pitcher and the gold one, he would have lost the power of his point?
Can you also see that pressing analogies too far causes problems – Eve being compared to an inanimate object someone owns, even if it is a priceless gold pitcher? Caesar’s daughter standing for Adam – that’s weird. God Almighty being compared to a Roman Emperor, or worse, to a thief?
Can you see the folly of asking questions unrelated to the story as told? What if the silver pitcher had sentimental value to the daughter one might ask? What if the daughter didn’t like pitchers that were too ornamental? The parable works when we just take it how it was intended… “Caesar, you’re a moron. God gave Adam a perfect lifelong companion for one lousy rib!”
Parables were not a unique feature of Jesus’ ministry. Sometimes people think that parables were a special kind of Biblical example that was new and unusual – something Jesus invented for the purpose of being cryptic.
Parables were a standard way of communicating ideas in those days. While the Greeks turned parables into an artform and the Romans tweaked them into pragmatic everyday examples, the Jews were no strangers to them, even before Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar brought their influences to bear. We see many parables in the Old Testament and the Rabbis, before, during and after, Jesus’ day, loved to use them.
Please recognize that the people back then were well acquainted with parables as teaching tools and were well versed in sussing out their meaning. These people didn’t have movies, T.V., video games, restaurants, and malls to occupy their time. More to the point, they didn’t read or write, they didn’t have local libraries, newspapers, magazines or the internet. No cell phones, tablets or Kindles either.
That means two things… First, they were far more verbal than we are today. The second thing is because of illiteracy and the lack of anything to read even if you had the ability… What they knew, they had remembered. Naturally, the more dramatic the information, the more memorable it was. Stories that made a point were especially popular.
They had all sorts of creative mnemonic devices, which is to say, aids to memorization. This allowed them to retain important information and be able to accurately share it with others. It was still a largely oral society then and they were good at listening, remembering and repeating.
Parables were wonderful to assist the audience in getting a point and keeping it. I’m quite certain that many, probably most, if not all, of the people understood precisely what Jesus was driving at as they listened to His opening parable. The problem wasn’t their ability to comprehend His meaning, the problem was their willingness to embrace it. They got what He was saying; they just didn’t find it compelling. They didn’t agree – they were unmoved. Their hard hearts prevented them from allowing His parable to change their attitude.
Now Jesus gives the crowd three more parables that explain concepts related to the Kingdom of God that He had been preaching to them. In a very real way, these parables answer questions and objections the people had no doubt voiced.
Matthew 13:24-30 ~ 24NASBJesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25“But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26“But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27“The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28“And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29“But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”
This is a cool parable and again, if we need an explanation it loses much of its impact. Nevertheless, Jesus does explain it after giving a couple more related parables. Let’s just skip them for now, so we can fully digest this first one. So, skipping verses 31-35, we pick it up in verse 36…
Matthew 13:36-43 ~ 36NASBThen He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40“So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41“The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43“Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Never fear, there will come an inevitable day when everything will be properly sorted out. Everyone will be revealed for who they truly are.
And how many different outcomes are there? Two – once again, not only are there are only two possible outcomes; they are outcomes that are lightyears apart. Outcomes that are diametrically opposed and on opposite ends of the spectrum. A spectrum that contains absolutely nothing in-between. It’s either “The furnace of fire” where there’s “Weeping and gnashing of teeth,” or it’s the place where “Righteousness will shine forth as the sun” forever. That’s it – no other possibilities exist.
It’s important for people today to understand the INCLUSIVITY of Christianity – Salvation, and the resultant eternity in God’s perfect presence, is every bit as available to any person, as it is to any other person. It is an inclusive opportunity for all people, with no one excluded for any reason. That’s important, but in our day and age, it’s perhaps even more important, to understand the EXCLUSIVITY of Christianity. It is either, you are a Christian, or you are bound for eternal damnation. There are no other paths to God. The Bible declares that there is one and only one mediator between God and mankind and that is Christ Jesus (I Timothy 2:5). Jesus Himself declared that no person will ever come to the Heavenly Father except through Him (John 14:6). The central Message of the Bible is that Jesus paid the price no human could and only through His active agency can there be right relationship with Almighty God (Hebrews chapter 10, etc.). That is as exclusive as it can get… Christian or bust.
Well, believe it or not, that was a message that was just as vital for people to grasp in Jesus’ day as it is now. The Jewish people were well acquainted with the four major branches of Judaism and how they differed widely from one another. Beyond that, they were inundated by a flood of admixtures of Jewish, secular, folk and/or pagan beliefs. Much as today, there were all sorts of possibilities on the religious menu to suit any taste.
Many of the people listening to Jesus probably saw His offering as just another variation on the theme. A slightly different path, method, or we could say, denomination, in order to reach God.
Jesus didn’t want there to be any confusion about His Message in that regard. He existed as pure Truth – He spoke pure Truth – everything that deviated from His Message, wasn’t merely another way to look at it – it was false, wrong, evil.
Be one with Jesus fully and forever, or live out eternity in the “Outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12) swimming in “The lake of fire that burns with brimstone” (Revelation 19:20). Those are the choices.
The parable addresses a fundamental question that has plagued people from then till now. How can the Kingdom of God be here, now – and there be so much evil all around? Taken more generally, it is the age-old question of the existence of evil.
Perhaps evil can exist, but if God has sent His Messiah, and especially now, if Christ has already conquered sin and death, how can evil flourish?
More to the point for Christians is how can bad things still happen to us, if we are God’s beloved children? A more mature question is how can evil exist inside the church, and even more mature than that, how can evil still exist within me, if I’m filled by the Holy Spirit?
Let me first say, that strictly speaking, this parable is not about the church, nor is it about the individual child of God. We will look at both of those things in applying the passage, but please understand that the original meaning and therefore the correct interpretation is not about either of them.
Again, context tells us what we need to know. Jesus was addressing the crowd. People in various states of openness, but more importantly, Jews in various states of openness to the One Who was purportedly their Messiah.
Some of the crowd may have been saying, “If you’re the Messiah, why isn’t everyone, why isn’t every Jew, and especially, why isn’t every Priest, Rabbi, and Scribe, recognizing You as such and joining You?”
“How can You say the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, when nearly everyone is opposed to You?” The religious leaders have not only rejected You, they are, at this very moment, plotting how to execute You?”
Jesus, through this parable, was pointedly telling the crowd, not every Jew is a child of God.
Through a wonderfully vivid story, Jesus just told His huge audience that the reason they didn’t embrace His teaching, and so, embrace Him, was because the Devil was their father.
The people were not dumb… I’m quite sure the meaning wasn’t lost on them.
Later in His ministry Jesus will say the same thing even more bluntly. As an example, we have John 8:42-47, 42NIVJesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
That’s not how you win friends and influence people. During His earthly ministry, Jesus used every rhetorical device and every graphic example at His disposal in order to reach the Jewish people. The problem was, most of them were only Jews in name, not in heart.
It was not a new problem. The prophets had been saying the same thing for millennia beforehand.
The “Kingdom of Heaven” is like. That’s what the parable is about, the “Kingdom of heaven.” What does that term mean? It is not intuitively obvious to a human mind. Nothing concerning God is, and that’s one way we know that humans didn’t invent the God of the Bible. Give to receive, die to live, be humble to be elevated, forgive to be forgiven, perform because you’re already accepted, not in order to be accepted… Human logic fails us.
We think of a kingdom as a realm, like the Kingdom of Great Britain. It’s a defined area and it is a people. A kingdom is a geopolitical entity. That is a backwards way to think of the “Kingdom of Heaven,” which emphasizes a reign, not a realm.
The “Kingdom of Heaven,” is the proper, uncontested, reign of God. For now, more specifically, it is the fully accepted, or embraced, reign of Christ Jesus.
The “Sower,” is the Word of God incarnate, so technically, “The Son of Man” – Jesus, then and there.
“Field” is the world. World is a general term for the whole world of mankind, as well as subsets within that sphere – more on this later.
The “Good seed,” is people who freely and fully submit to the “Kingdom of Heaven,” which is to say, to the rule of Jesus.
The “Tares” are unregenerate opposers to God’s purposes for them (Luke 7:30). Notice, it is never said, “Bad seed,” but rather “Tares,” meaning weeds. Satan doesn’t create people, but he’s the father of weeds.
The “Harvest” is the final Judgment where each person is either cast into the Lake of Fire or welcomed into God’s Holy presence forever.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t define the sleeping workers. Historically, people have corrected His oversight by saying they are the church leaders who, because they are spiritually asleep, have let evil into the church.
Again, please don’t press these things beyond their intent. Take it for what it is and then apply the principle involved.
Jesus didn’t intend His audience then, nor His audience now, to carefully scrutinize the details of the parable – He wanted us to feel the impact of the primary point.
So, we could talk about the weeds. The fact that the Greek word ζιζάνιον (dzē-dzä-nē-ŏn), refers to what we call darnel, which is a weed that looks nearly identical to wheat, early on. As it matures the difference becomes more obvious and the real give away is the black grains it produces when fully grown.
Darnel is very susceptible to a fungus that is poisonous to humans. Its scientific name is LOLIUM TEMULENTUM, from Latin meaning tufted grass and drunk. A little can make a person light-headed, a little more, can be fatal. Again, not from the grain itself, but from the fungus it hosts.
A farmer wouldn’t typically notice the difference until the plants were fairly well established. In fact, a Greek document from about 300 B.C. tells us that it was their belief then, that darnel was actually wheat that was somehow transformed into darnel during the growing process.
Anyway, by the time it was noticed the roots of the darnel and the wheat would be close enough together and even interwoven with each other to the point that pulling the darnel, would no doubt result in pulling a lot of the wheat as well.
Of course, you could just cut the darnel. How would harvesting it later, be better than cutting it before it had a chance to produce seeds? See how that’s not part of the story? See why we don’t press these things? That option is not possible, because of the way Jesus framed the parable.
Additionally, the typical farming practice when the darnel was already mature was to carefully harvest the wheat first and only after the wheat was secure, did they go back and destroy the darnel. Jesus has them doing the opposite in His story, because He was stressing the point that the owner of the field was not only well aware of each and every darnel plant, He was going to go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that every one of them was cut down and burned up. In addition, putting the wheat last is a rhetorical way of emphasizing its importance over the weeds.
Never look too closely at analogous speech. Even so, looking at the particulars can be fun. I just want to make sure that we don’t lose sight of the fact that there really are only two possible destinations and we need to do whatever it takes, to make sure that we are wheat, producing a good crop, rather than darnel, imitating wheat. Jesus said, “He who has ears, let him hear.”
I’ll indulge in a quick expansion… As wheat produces a crop that sustains life, darnel produces a crop that is poisonous and results in death.
Let me point out two more interesting features. The first comes in verse 41. Notice that it is Jesus, who will send forth His angels to gather up and burn the weeds. Only God has angels and only God can send the Reapers of Judgment Day forth. In the privacy of a home, surrounded by His disciples, Jesus plainly equated Himself with God.
The second one comes in the final verse. Jesus says that the seed sown by God will persevere until the end and will “Shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Jesus opened this parable with “The kingdom of heaven may be compared…” The change in language makes it clear that this is the completed Kingdom after Jesus has handed it all over to the Father and what’s really cool is that Heaven can be defined as our Father’s Kingdom. Our Father, yours and mine, our Father’s Kingdom where we will be members of the royal household forever.110319 - Matthew 13b - Authorial Intent
November 04, 2019 07:50 AM PST
Pastor Scott Keller
Alêtheia Christian Fellowship
8:00 ~ Service - Communion is for all Christians
1) How many different outcomes are there in the Parable of the Sower?
2) How is the productivity of the soil increased?
3) A parable about eternal security? About a clockwork universe?
It becomes quite easy, when you put yourself in the scene, to recognize that this famous “Parable of the Sower,” was really about…
While the Bible can speak to us _____________, we must be careful, and we must acknowledge that such interpretations are often _____________ the original Biblical meaning.
If we all get to interpret the Bible the way it works for us, Christ’s Body ends up _____________. We need to agree on what it says first, and then grant ___________ to the way it applies to others.
“So please,” Jesus was saying, “Look at ______________. What is it that you expect? What is it that you are willing to accept? How important is this to you – how much ____________ will you expend in order to get Me?”
Ultimately, the seed yields a ________, or it doesn’t. Only seed that yields a _________ has had the intended effect.
1) Preaching as an example… You don’t need to get everything for the sermon to produce a ____________ – you just need to get something.
2) Alêtheians as an example… “Do your human opinions and your personal feelings ____________ the unity of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s Body, or not?”
3) Dating as an example… Dating either leads to marriage, or it doesn’t. I didn’t frame my example to include the possibility of _______________.
The parable does not address the possibility of good soil producing a large yield and then becoming _________ soil that no longer ______________.
The first three situations result in a person ___________ embracing Jesus, while all three levels of harvest indicate people who ______.
Bearing fruit means the person exhibits the intended effect of the Word. The person is transformed as evidenced by ________________effects.
(James 2:14-26). The fruit, crop, or works, can be many things, but we could break it into three categories.
1) God Love…
2) The Fruit of the Spirit…
3) The Gifts of the Spirit…
When we see this in a person’s life – it is evidence of salvation. Even so, all of this can be imitated for a time. (II Corinthians 11:14).
The parable also functions as a demonstration of the ________________ of God. While many will fail to produce, those who do, will produce an outrageous abundance far exceeding the seed lost.
MATTHEW 13:10-17 ~ 10NASBAnd the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12“For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. 13“Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14“In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; 15For the heart of this people has become dull, With their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes, Otherwise they would see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.’ 16“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17“For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
God’s Word is sharper than any two-edged sword and it cuts both ways (Hebrews 4:12). To the person who is open, it produces __________. To the person who is not, it produces ___________. It will not return void (Isaiah 55:11). There are only ___________ possible outcomes.
From your perspective, you must choose. So, choose! “Choose today Whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).
Alêtheia ~ Matthew 13a ~ 102019
It becomes quite easy, when you put yourself in the scene, to recognize that this famous “Parable of the Sower,” was really about the people listening to Jesus on that day nearly 2,000 years ago. Would that audience then, respond to Jesus’ Words, in a way that would be ultimately beneficial, or not?
That’s the proper context. That’s the proper interpretation. That’s how we find the proper application. Most everyone wants to make it much more than that, and by doing so, they actually make it much less.
As soon as you mention this parable to studious Christians, they will immediately use your interpretation to categorize you as either a Calvinist, or an Armenianist. Beyond that, there have been dozens of interpretations and applications by preachers and Bible teachers throughout the ages.
Some are less harmful than others, all play loose with God’s Word, making it more about human opinion and personal feelings than about the Lord’s intent.
People love to find a deeper, more hidden, more esoteric meaning that only they and other elite Christians can decipher. I guess it makes people feel special.
While I’m not saying that passages such as this one can’t speak to you personally, where you’re at and for what you need, I am saying that must be done with care and it must be done acknowledging that it is straying from the Biblical meaning. That’s okay once the tether to reality is established.
If we all get to interpret the Bible the way it resonates for us, Christ’s Body ends up divided into a thousand different denominations that cannot agree. Let God speak to you individually from His Word, but recognize the difference between that, and what the Word actually says.
We need to agree on what it says and grant grace to the way it resonates with individuals and applies to their lives – then we can have a unity of belief.
Personally, I find the original meaning far more incredible, far more satisfying and far more real than the many inventive interpretations people have devised. It was a masterful way for Jesus to start His sermon. He basically said, “You are all gathered around Me here today, to see what I’ll say and do… You’re here for a show, of one type, or another.”
He was saying, “We have all types here today. Some have already committed to follow Me, others have already begun plotting My murder, and we have people scattered everywhere along that spectrum in between.”
“Some of you are spies, only here to gather ammunition to use against Me later. Some of you just came out for a bit of afternoon entertainment. Some are here because you’re hoping I will fix your problems – make your life better. Some of you are here reluctantly – convinced against your will by another. Some of you want to join Me in a violent overthrow of our Roman oppressors. Still there are some who legitimately want to see what I’m all about – to hear what I have to say, but even for those, there’s more to hearing Me, than just being present in the moment.”
“You must all recognize that to a large extent you’ll be unable to grasp the meaning of My Words and therefore the meaning of My person, if you’re focused on your EXPECTATIONS.”
“In other words,” Jesus was saying, “You’re not going to find, what you’re not seeking. If you’re focused on some specific thing that you desire, you won’t find what you’re not looking for and you probably won’t find what you are looking for either. You’ll walk away disappointed.”
“But, know this, whatever the reason you’re here, you are here. There is an opportunity. Why not put aside your expectations for a moment and open yourself up to what I have to share with you, and in doing so, find out Who I really am?”
“Because, in order to really hear Me, to actually understand My Message, and so, understand Me, you must first examine and adjust your own heart-attitude.
“So please,” Jesus was saying, “Look at yourself. What is it that you expect? What is it that you want to hear? Who are you are hoping that I will be to you? What are you wanting Me to do for you? Who are you seeking? What is it that you are willing to accept? How important is this to you – how much effort will you expend in order to get Me?”
Can you see my dear friends, that His message is still just as applicable today in this place as it was then in that place? Will you be completely open to Jesus as He truly is, or will you demand a Jesus of your own making?
Jesus forcefully, bluntly, and very dramatically told them that they were going to react to Him. Beyond that, He told them that no matter what their personal response looked like individually, no matter how quickly, or how slowly, they came to a firm decision about Him, there were only two possible outcomes.
There are only ever two possible outcomes.
Jesus was trying to show them that they were each predisposed. Each person had their own hang-ups, preconceived notions, proclivities, desires, hopes and dreams… And those things would either derail them, or enable them…
They needed to be reminded of that fact and they needed to recognize that it was up to them to set aside those things and really open themselves up to what Jesus was saying and doing.
As part of that, He showed them that ultimately there was no difference between the arrogant Pharisee who was already plotting His murder and the person who enthusiastically followed Him for a lengthy period of time, but eventually fell away… The final result was identical… No fruit produced.
The seed yields a crop, or it doesn’t. Only seed that yields a crop has had the intended effect.
Using another example, we can take what I see when I preach. There are people who never even begin to listen to me. They’re already certain that I have nothing for them. Maybe they’re here because someone coerced them into coming, maybe they wanted to try it out and have already decided because of the music, or the lighting, or my appearance, that it’s no good and even though they sit through the sermon, they never hear it.
I see others who listen enthusiastically for a bit. They’re excited, they’re happy to be here, until the sermon passes the 15- or 20-minute mark and then they start squirming, they get bored, they get lost, and basically tune me out.
In other cases, I watch people stay with me for a long time, but then towards the end, I’ll say something that doesn’t work for them. They start whispering to their companion, rustling through their Bible, checking the notes… They get so focused on that one thing I said, that they never hear me explain it, and so they end up dumping the whole sermon, because of their one point of disagreement.
Others wade through the whole sermon and fight to glean what they can… Some 30%, some 60% and some 100%. For them, and only for them, the sermon had its intended effect.
In a similar way, there are people who reject this church outright. Then there are those who enthusiastically adore the church, only to quickly fall away. There are also those who stay for perhaps a few years and then leave.
Still others dig in and stay. They struggle with things they don’t understand, or don’t like. They work through difficulties and disappointments and even hurt feelings and because of it, they produce fruit to one degree, or another. They are the true Alêtheians.
The difference between true Alêtheians and those who were never really part of us, is that the ones who leave are people who hold their opinions and their feelings as superior to the good of the Body, while true Alêtheians don’t.
Those who hold their opinions and their feelings as superior to the good of the church – any church, will eventually reach a breaking point and leave. It may be one thing, it may be ten things, it may be a hundred things, but it is always an accounting, a keeping track of perceived errors, wrongs and insults, that add up, until there is a tipping point and they bail out.
For those who stay, it is because they struggle without ceasing to do the opposite. They strive to put each perceived error, wrong and insult behind them. Erased, as it were, by the blood of Jesus. As they embrace the forgiveness and grace Jesus has showered upon them, they extend that forgiveness and grace to the church. To all the people who make up the church – including to the pastor and to the leaders.
When I talk this way, people get nervous. What if the church is not good? First, there isn’t a church on planet earth that is perfect. Second, while it is unfortunately true that there are many churches that are unworthy of Christ, most churches are doing their best to follow Jesus as they are able.
It is God at work perfecting them, not them at work perfecting the church. Find a church group that is sincerely trying and make it your church family and grow with them. It is the struggles within the church that God uses to grow you, not the easy idyllic status quo. The question one must ask himself, or herself is, “Do your human opinions and your personal feelings supersede the unity of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s Body, or not?”
Anyone can say “Yes,” for a little while… Can you say “Yes,” for the duration?
That’s a couple of examples to show how the parable works and to better see the principle Jesus was driving at. Let me use another one in order to show a subtle point of erroneous interpretation.
There are people who date once and know it’s not going to work. Others date for a while and become so extremely happy it’s crazy. They can’t eat, they can’t sleep, and they shouldn’t operate heavy machinery. But their zeal is all emotion and hormones that passes as quickly as it came, and they move on to the next exciting thing. Still others go all the way to getting engaged. But through the stress of making wedding plans and fussing over the guest list and the venue and the caterer, they end up getting cold feet on their special day, and say, “I don’t,” instead of “I do.” Still many others do go through with their wedding plans and they have a marriage of some degree of success.
In every case, regardless of the details, there are only two possible outcomes. Dating either resulted in marriage or it did not.
Here comes the subtle point of erroneous interpretation I talked about… Someone might say, what about those who got married, but then got divorced? It is an irrelevant question that creates a false assumption. That third possibility was never part of my example – to think along those lines is to go beyond my intent.
My example was about dating and my definition of fruit in my example was marriage. Dating either leads to that result, or it doesn’t. Now, if I want marriage, followed by divorce, to be part of my example, then I frame my example that way, rather than the way I did…
Can you see the Truth of it? Can you see how sometimes we ask the wrong questions? How we sometimes apply a false assumption? How we push the example beyond its intent?
The parable is not at all concerned with the possibility of good soil producing a large yield and then becoming bad soil that no longer produces. The harvest happens once at the end. It is a faulty insertion into the story that does not belong.
Now that we see the wrong kinds of questions to ask the text – we can clearly see that in Jesus’ parable the first three situations result in a person never truly embracing Him. Just as assuredly, all three levels of harvest indicate people who did fully embrace Jesus. How do we know for sure? Because that’s the way Jesus framed His parable.
The idea that two or three of the non-producing soils were true followers of Christ who lost their position in the Kingdom of Heaven, or as we put it, lost their salvation is also a completely false insertion into the way Jesus framed His parable. It’s not a different way to interpret – it’s a wrong way to push an interpretation never intended.
This parable has nothing to do with eternal security, or the possibility of losing one’s salvation. That’s not the scope. This is about being one with Christ, or not, and how a person’s predisposition influences that outcome.
Part of the problem, besides a confirmation bias, is that we think the parable is about the different soils, or about the seed, or even about the Sower… The point of the parable is the fruit yield. What does the fruit stand for in the mind of the One creating the parable? Verse 23 tells us that the seed (the Word of God) was sown (proclaimed) on the good soil (people receptive to the Word), this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth (an abundance).
Bearing fruit means the person exhibits the intended effect of the Word. The Word changed the person. Not just more knowledge, not just a mental ascent, it is a transformation of the person’s life as evidenced by tangible, recognizable, undeniable effects.
Truly, “Faith without any actual evidence of that faith, is not salvific faith” (James 2:14-26). What is the fruit – the legitimate evidence of one who has heard Jesus and fully embraced Him, and so has entered into the Kingdom of Heaven.
For those people Jesus spoke to on that day, it was their commitment, due to His partial Gospel, to be His disciples until His Resurrection and then to continue on as full-fledged Christians.
For people since, it is the entire Gospel and it is salvation. The person corresponding to good soil is the person who is saved. Such a person, by Biblical definition, is reborn in Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit who immediately begins transforming that person.
The fruit can be many things as an effect of the work of the Spirit within a person, but we could easily break it into three categories.
God Love, otherwise known as Agapê, is that altruistic, self-sacrificing, unconditional, covenantal commitment to another come what may. The first type of fruit is seen as a love and devotion for God that does not depend on circumstances or emotion. It extends to the church and then to the Lost.
The second category is partially listed in Galatians 5:22&23, we know as the Fruit of the Spirit. It is the work of the Holy Spirit conforming a person into the image of Jesus Christ. We see a person who is uncharacteristically joyous, peaceable, kind, gentle and above all self-controlled. We see a person who acts like a member of God’s family – as though they are indeed filled with His Spirit.
The third category of fruit has to do with Pentecost. It is what we know as the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. There are many lists of Gifts. The fundamental difference between the Fruit and the Gifts is whereas the Fruit is personal transformation, the Gifts are given as an empowerment to minister to others. Preaching, teaching, helping and leadership, are examples.
When we see this in a person’s life – this love without conditions, this personal transformation of mind and action, this beneficial ministry to others – it is evidence of salvation.
Even so, all of this can be imitated for a time. “Even Satan masquerades as an angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:14). While exhibiting such fruit is not a perfect proof, we would be right to say a complete failure to exhibit any of it would be a proof that one is not saved.
Please don’t use this as a test for others – let God judge the eternal disposition of all things – let’s just focus on yielding to His work in and through us.
The parable also functions as a demonstration of the purposes of God. While many will fail to produce, those who do, will produce an outrageous abundance far exceeding the seed lost.
In those days, with the conditions and farming techniques they had, a typical yield was 5 to 10 times the seed sown. If everything was just right 100 times was possible but was the extreme limit of fantastic productivity. Even a 1 in 30 yield was amazingly productive.
How is the productivity increased? In other words, what does the soil do to itself to become good soil and beyond that, what does the good soil do to itself to increase its yield?
Realistically, nothing. Good soil is born that way and then it is enhanced to be even better soil by the farmer… Working with Amy. What role does the soil play in being wildly productive?
If the answer was genuinely nothing at all, then why go through the motions? Why bother people at all? In such a case, the parable and the Gospel and all the preaching in the world is mere posturing – mere pontificating – mere self-aggrandizing loquaciousness.
It must be that God gives us enough faith that it becomes possible for us to surrender to the Farmers activity. The precise details are a true God-mystery, but what we know with certainty, is that from our perspective, we must each choose to submit and embrace, or not… And God will hold each person eternally responsible for that choice.
Matthew 13:10-17 ~ 10NASBAnd the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12“For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. 13“Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14“In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; 15For the heart of this people has become dull, With their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes, Otherwise they would see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.’ 16“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17“For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
Once again, parables were common, easily understood and powerful aids to learning. They were used to help people understand, but there is a catch… A parable can only be understood by a person who is essentially on the same page with the speaker.
I will demonstrate that with other examples in future sermons, but for now, realize that the entire passage I just read is really stressing only one point.
There are those with a hard heart towards God and for such people the Word spoken to them only further hardens them and so it becomes a witness testifying against them – it becomes a judgment, rather than a blessing.
We’ve used many examples to illustrate this Truth and one of my favorites is talking with pre-Christians about the Bible. In that unilluminated state the Bible is complete, nonsensical, disjointed, gibberish to them. They don’t get it at all – they can read it, hear it, have it explained, and they are like deer in the headlights. The very moment they are Born Again, the Bible jumps to life for them. The same person who minutes before couldn’t make heads or tails of it, suddenly can’t get enough of the treasure-trove of Truth it contains.
Saul of Tarsus could not comprehend why anyone would be taken in by Christianity for even a moment and then He became Paul the Apostle responsible for half of the New Testament.
Jesus quoted Isaiah 6:9&10. The gist is that the person with a hard heart cannot understand even the simplest, most basic things – nothing gets through to them in such a state.
Yet, God’s purposes are God’s purposes. God is Sovereign. That does not mean that He is always successful as we humans measure success – it means He’s always successful as He measures it. God said in Isaiah 55:11, 11NIrV“The words I speak… will not return to me without producing results. They will accomplish what I want them to. They will do exactly what I sent them to do.”
God’s Word is sharper than any two-edged sword and it cuts both ways (Hebrews 4:12). To the person who is open, it produces fruit. To the person who is not, it produces judgment.
Jesus told His Disciples that it was a mystery in verse 11, and again, people think that means that it was a hidden Message. In a sense, it is, but only in the sense that it’s hidden to the dying. To those unwilling to get on the same page with Jesus.
The mystery is a mystery, not because Jesus was trying to obfuscate, but because the people’s ears were deaf, their eyes were closed, and their hearts were hard.
Therefore, whoever has, will receive more. “You can’t fill a cup that’s already full.” Billionaire Edgar Bronfman said, “To turn $100 into $110 is work. To turn $100 million into $110 million is inevitable.” But, in keeping with Jesus’ parable, if the person produces no fruit, they don’t get to live as a fruitless stalk of grain – they wither and die. Whatever they had, such as it was, will also be taken away.
As I said, Jesus then quoted the famous Isaiah 6 passage. The context is that the people had forsaken God and hardened themselves against Him. Isaiah was sent to proclaim God’s Message, but for the hard-hearted it would be a Message that would fall on unproductive people and would produce no fruit – it was for them to be a Message of Judgment because God’s Word never returns void. It will always produce an effect of creating fruit or condemning the unfruitful.
Even so, the purpose was and always is, to also encourage the faithful and to reach the receptive.
Jesus then mentions the blessedness of those who do understand, and the implication is that somehow it is by God’s election and also by man’s responsibility to respond. That is as I said before a true God-mystery we’ll never solve in this life, but we don’t need to solve it.
Why, pray tell? Because, from your perspective, from your point of view, from the reality you exist within, you must CHOOSE. So, CHOOSE! “Choose today Whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).102019 - Matthew 13a - Parables and Principles
October 22, 2019 02:56 PM PDT
Pastor Scott Keller
Alêtheia Christian Fellowship
8:00 ~ Service - 9:30 ~ Fellowship & Adult Sunday school - 10:30 ~ Service with the King’s Kid’s
1) Is there a difference between seeking an emotional high in worship and seeking an exciting secret message hidden in the Bible?
2) What drives us to see allegory in the Bible?
3) What was Jesus’ main point in His Parable of the Sower?
Matthew uses the Greek word ______________, παραβολή (pä-ȑä-bŏ-lā), 12 times in this chapter, and only 5 other times in the rest of his Gospel. What is a parable? It is literally to _________ alongside.
1) Parables are employed to help people __________________ the concept, not to obscure it.
2) A parable is _______ a simile, metaphor, fable, or allegory. An Allegory, ἀλληγορία (äl-lā-gŏ-rē-ä), is where the true meaning of the content is hidden in a contrived story, where each element symbolically stands for something else. It was to hide the meaning from all, but those in the know.
Parables are generally focused on _________ important point of comparison and they are intended to enlighten, rather than to _______________.
II Samuel 12:1-7 ~ 1NASBThen the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him and said, “There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. 2“The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. 3“But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb Which he bought and nourished; And it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, And was like a daughter to him. 4“Now a traveler came to the rich man, And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, To prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; Rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” 5Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. 6“He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.” 7Nathan then said to David, “You are the man!”
Was Nathan interested in anyone dissecting his parable and discerning what each thing stood for symbolically?
Next, Jesus was not a humanist philosopher. His parables must be grounded in the context of His person and His ____________.
Finally, the context. What is the context of the Parable of the Sower?
Every human being is either child of Satan, or they are a child of God. Yet, there seems to be a transitional phase. Weren’t the people Jesus was talking to in various states of acceptance?
MATTHEW 13:1-3a ~ 1NASBThat day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. 3aAnd He spoke many things to them in parables, saying…
“Do the will of God.” If we’re not the people ignoring it, we are the people making it about personal _______________. It may be natural, but it’s not God.
To “Do the will of God,” is to be His child, which is to whole-heatedly accept the Father’s proffered means of right _________________ and through the power of the Holy Spirit, actively follow Jesus as His disciple.
As a new creation in Christ, the Christian has a totally ________________ foundation or lifeforce. We are not in very good contact with that new basis, because we are used to being __________, not alive. And we are still surrounded by a ___________ world.
“Be transformed” into who you really are by presenting yourself to the Holy Spirit’s work “Renewing of your mind.” That’s what Romans 12 means. Do not __________________ to go through life “Conformed,” to who you were without the Holy Spirit… That’s no longer you.
Present yourself daily… Hourly…
Jesus sat in the boat and the Disciples likely followed suit, while the crowd stood on the beach. There is an intentional _________________ going on here.
Now Jesus was ready to speak to the whole crowd… Disciples in the boat, famous to infamous. The people on the shore, ranging from people ready to be ____________________ to people already set against Him and everything in-between.
MATTHEW 13:3b-9 ~ 3bNASB“Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5“Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6“But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7“Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8“And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9“He who has ears, let him hear.”
He listed six possible results, three that produced no fruit and three that did. The outcome is never _____________.
MATTHEW 13:10 ~ 10NASBAnd the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”
Alêtheia ~ Matthew 13a ~ 102019
It will take a little work though. Because we want to understand Jesus correctly, we need to start with some general information.
Since that’s the case, we’re not going to fully cover even the first parable today – you may have questions after the sermon – good. We will get to all of them over the next month or so that we are camped in this chapter… Write your questions and ideas down and we’ll plan to have some fun together investigating all the possibilities.
Please remember, I’m never up here giving a speech – I’m up here to facilitate mutual learning.
First, from verse 3 through verse 53, Matthew uses the Greek word parable, παραβολή (pä-ȑä-bŏ-lā), 12 times. 12 times in one chapter, and only 5 other times in the rest of this 28-chapter Gospel.
That’s significant. What is a parable? Search the internet and you’ll find that there are a lot of different ideas and most are blatantly wrong. A parable is a special and specific form of Greek rhetoric. It is, as I said, παραβολή (pä-ȑä-bŏ-lā), from παρά, as in parallel and βάλλω, “To cast or throw,” and so it is literally to cast alongside. It is to set something familiar and easy to understand beside the new thing the speaker wants the audience to grasp.
The entire reason that I use stories is to accomplish the same thing. My purpose is to help you better grasp what I’m teaching by relating it to a story.
So, the first and perhaps most important thing we need to know about parables is they are employed to help people better get the concept, NOT to obscure it. Never to obscure it.
Jesus was not intentionally making it harder for people to understand Him – just the opposite! He was masterfully using rhetoric – parables – to reach the people and help them get onboard with Him… That was His goal.
Second, Jesus had access to a variety of rhetorical devices and He often used them, but here, He chose to explain using parables. A parable is NOT a simile, it’s NOT a metaphor, it’s NOT a fable, and it is, especially, NOT an allegory.
Similes are similar. “Life is LIKE a box of chocolates.” Metaphors are direct statements. “It’s raining cats and dogs.” Fables are like parables, but the story is purely fanciful, like the race between the “Tortoise and the hare.”
I’ve talked about the dangers of an allegorical interpretation of the Bible before.
An Allegory is a different type of Greek rhetorical discourse. It is ἀλληγορία (äl-lā-gŏ-rē-ä) from ἄλλος, meaning “Another,” combined with ἀγορία, “To speak at length in public.” Therefore, public speaking that was not plain, but “Another” way to say it. It is to hide the true meaning of what the speaker is saying in a contrived story, where each element of the story symbolically stands for something else. It was done to give the speaker 1) plausible deniability. As an example, someone could publicly speak against their leader – a death sentence back then – and get away with it if their allegory was clever enough. If they hid their true meaning behind enough symbolism. Many people wrongly think of the Book of Revelation as an attack against Rome veiled in allegorical symbolism. 2) Allegories were also used to hide the meaning from the uninitiated. Only those with the secret decoder ring would understand.
The two biggest differences between a parable and an allegory is that 1) a parable was designed to take ordinary, every-day examples and situations to create plausible, easily understood stories, in order to convey an important point. Parables usually drive and emphasize only one thing the speaker wants people to grasp.
They are dramatic that way – they make an impression and so, the point is memorable if it was a well-designed parable. Jesus formulated excellent parables. So, the first difference is that with a parable the speaker generally wants there to be only one main point of comparison so that the audience doesn’t get distracted or lost. 2) Which brings us to the second difference. Parables exist so the people can clearly understand. Where an allegory is meant to hide the meaning, a parable is meant to make it obvious.
The crazy thing… Is the very thing a parable seeks to avoid, is the confusion created by people allegorizing the story… Taking everything symbolically and searching for a deeper meaning. That’s what ἀλληγορία is for – a παραβολή is to get people to see and affirm the general point of comparison.
Let me give this example. Turn in your Bibles to, II Samuel 12:1-7, 1NASBThen the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him and said, “There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. 2“The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. 3“But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb Which he bought and nourished; And it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, And was like a daughter to him. 4“Now a traveler came to the rich man, And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, To prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; Rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” 5Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. 6“He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.” 7Nathan then said to David, “You are the man!”
Can you see that Nathan was completely uninterested in anyone dissecting his story and discerning what each thing stood for symbolically? Nathan didn’t want David trying to figure out a deeper secret meaning… Nathan’s intention was to illicit in the King the exact reaction he did and then to show the one point of intended comparison… “You are the man!”
An allegory, on the other hand, is a complex story where several elements stand symbolically for other things. The famous books “Animal Farm,” by George Orwell, “The Great Divorce,” by C.S. Lewis, “Divine Comedy,” by Dante, and most famously, “The Cave,” by Plato are all allegories.
Our problem, and it is a problem that we share with people going back 2,000 years, is we want to turn Jesus’ parables into allegories. It can be fun. It can be informative, and it can even be enlightening, but whatever it is, it is not what Jesus meant.
Understand the actual meaning and then carefully add other layers if you want, but always remember that those added layers are yours, not His.
Next, Jesus was not a humanist philosopher. His parables are not intended to give general universal truths so people could glean a moral or ethical lesson. Jesus was “God with us” and His parables must be understood based upon that fact and therefore must be grounded in the context of His life and teaching.
Finally, the context. Not just the context of the Gospel narrative, but the context of the careful organization of the chapter with its 7 parables and of course the formulation of the parables themselves.
Speaking of context, we recently finished chapter 12, which was an entire chapter devoted to demonstrating that there are only two possible positions. Every human being is either, a card carrying, Mark of the Beast wearing, self-absorbed, child of Satan, or they are a full-fledged, Seal of God branded, Holy Spirit filled, disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There seems to be a transitional phase though. The people Jesus was talking to were in various states of acceptance.
We see that in our experience as well. Rare is the person who has never had a single thought about God, hears the Gospel, and immediately becomes a fully devoted follower of Jesus.
People seem to ooze into the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus is about to address that very thing. Since I don’t want anyone to have the wrong impression while we are discerning Jesus’ meaning, let me just say, that we will find that the one concept, does not negate the other.
Everyone is currently a Christian, or they are not – it turns out that many people who are not – are hanging around Christ. Some will eventually accept, and some will eventually walk away, but both groups are bound for the Lake of Fire while they are shopping.
Matthew 13:1-3a ~ 1NASBThat day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. 3aAnd He spoke many things to them in parables, saying…
The house is 80 yards from the beach. From me to the middle of our parking lot is the distance.
The opening of this chapter closely ties it to the previous chapter. The context is Matthew 12:50, 50NASB““Whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” Anyone, everyone, whomsoever, whenever, wherever… Jesus expands the possibility universally as applicable to all people, at all times without any qualification, other than what – what is the one qualification required of any and every person in order to be in the Family? They must “Do the will of God.” Notice quickly, the implication is there are people in that category and there are those outside… And that’s it; no other possibility.
This is such an important point. Here, Jesus is telling us that not only are there just two possible positions, the positions have to do with the whole person inclination, NOT just a simple choice, or philosophical viewpoint, or an agreement with a set of parameters.
So many people think you can believe in God, or even Jesus, and they’ll be good to go. So many people think that all that’s necessary is an emotionally charged acceptance of Jesus at an altar call and everything will fall into place. Jesus said, “Do the will of God.” Do! Act! live out! obey! accomplish! What it is that God wants.
Man, people have a hard time with that concept.
If we’re not the people ignoring it, we are the people who immediately make it about our personal performance. Because we do, we also quickly make our approval of others based upon our perception of their performance. It’s natural. It’s our experience. It’s what we know and it’s wrong.
It is not God. If God’s love were as fickle and self-serving as our love, He would be just as lost as we are.
To “Do the will of God,” is to be His child, which is to whole-heatedly accept His proffered means of right relationship. REPENT! Fully embrace Jesus. Above all, to “Do the will of God,” is to surrender to the Salvation and Lordship of Christ and that means to actively follow Him as His disciple.
What’s unique to Christianity is that it isn’t about a person manufacturing enough internal fortitude to obey a set of rules, or follow a secret code, or conform to the conduct of the club; it is about being accepted by God into His Own family with the initial pledge of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
That Spirit-filled person has been reborn. As a new creation in Christ, the Christian has a totally different foundation – a different lifeforce, if you will. We are not in very good contact with that new basis, because we are used to being animated by sin’s death-force, not Jesus’ Life-force. We spent some time being dead and we still exist in a dead world, surrounded by dead things – dead ideas, dead agendas, dead people.
The sanctification process, which is to say the Christian growth to greater maturity – greater self-control – is one in which we actively yield to the power of God in us to conform us to Christ. “Be transformed” into who you really are now by presenting yourself to the Holy Spirit’s “Renewing of your mind.”
That is a passive process in which God does the work… Your part is to daily, hourly, intentionally present yourself to Him so that He can help you get in better contact with your new self. That’s what Romans 12 means. Do not continue to go through life “Conformed,” to who you were without the Holy Spirit… That’s no longer you. It’s insane to live like you’re dead, when Christ has made you alive!
Actively present yourself for the renewing of your perception so that you are in better conformity with who you are in Christ – who you really are, rather than with who you once were.
For some people, like me, it is easier to graphically see the work of the Holy Spirit, but it is also more difficult, because the death of the old life is so ingrained.
For those who were raised in a Christian home and in the church, it is more difficult to grasp the amazing grace God has bestowed, but it is also easier, because there is far less personal experience with the dead life.
We all have our cross – the point to remember is that reborn people “Do the will of God,” by being reborn people, and they continue to “Do the will of God,” as they grow in their connection to the Christ within them.
You’ll remember that Jesus was in the house in Capernaum when His family showed up. They couldn’t get near Him for all the people crowding around the house. They, along with the rest of this press of humanity, were all wanting a piece of Jesus for one reason or another, but had been forced to wait, probably impatiently, outside.
Matthew indicated that it was a huge crowd. In Mark’s parallel account, he says that it was the biggest crowd yet. Jesus exited the house and was mobbed by the masses. The people who had been waiting, no doubt including Jesus’ mom and His brothers, now had a chance to see and hear and possibly touch Him. As He went down to the shore, they followed closely followed behind Him.
With so many folks crowded onto the small beach, Jesus was basically pressed back to the water’s edge and so He got into a boat.
We can be relatively certain that it was one of the boats belonging to the fishing business owned by Peter and John’s families. Those two, and the rest of the Disciples, likely got into the boat with Jesus. They pushed out a little way into the water, which would amplify Jesus’ voice and make it easy for the whole massive audience to hear Him clearly.
Jesus sat in the boat and the Disciples likely followed suit, while the crowd stood on the beach. There is an intentional differentiation going on here… Those with Jesus and those still standing on the outside. Both here and with the house earlier. The people standing on the outside looking in were sampling Jesus to one degree or another. They were still testing and appraising, we might say today, they were seeking, but they, unlike the Disciples, were not in the Kingdom yet.
Rob and I found an old school rancher last week. He was like ranchers in Montana used to be before a new generation of… Well, never mind about that. He was happy to let me hunt on His place, once I passed his initial assessment of me. Later we went back to thank him, and he began sizing up both Rob and me. It was basically an evaluation… After 15 minutes or more, he relaxed and began showing us around his place… He had made up his mind about us and we became friends.
Until he was ready to accept us, he was standing outside of our program even though we were welcoming the whole time.
Now Jesus was ready to speak to the whole crowd… Think about that for a moment. He was going to address everyone. The Disciples in the boat, famous to infamous. The people on the shore, ranging from people ready to be disciples to people already set against Him and everything in-between. To this very diverse audience Jesus said…
Matthew 13:3b-9 ~ 3bNASB“Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5“Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6“But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7“Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8“And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9“He who has ears, let him hear.”
Let’s look a little closer. Matthew used the same verb ἐξέρχομαι (ĕx-ĕȑ-ӿŏ-mī), in verse 1, when he wrote, “Jesus went out,” as Jesus used for the “Sower went out” to start His parable. It would be striking to anyone reading or listening to the Gospel. Matthew intended us to see the connection… He wanted us to see Jesus as the Sower.
And as soon as we do see that we are well on our way to making the parable an allegory. Resist. Even though the Sower is the subject, his identity is not particularly important to the point. The four different soils, so to speak are quite central and it is unimportant to identify them to get the point. The seed is also key and yet it is inconsequential to the point.
The way a parable works, is to glean the central point from the context of the whole, in keeping with the speaker’s thrust and intent.
It is very easy to see that Jesus was trying to show all the people there that day that they would each respond to Him. No matter what the individual details turned out to be… How quickly one might reject, or how long another might hang around… No matter how small or how large the fruit yield others might have… The bottom line is there were only two kinds of people.
Those who enter the Kingdom of Heaven and those who do not.
Isn’t it just fascinating? Jesus’ first parable to start His teaching was to show His audience that some of them would accept Him and some of them would not.
Like the real-world situation Jesus used, the result is what’s important. He listed six possible results, three that produced no fruit and three that did. The Sower, the seed, even the soil falls into the background as we recognize either there is a positive outcome, or there is a negative outcome. The outcome is never mixed.
Fruit is either produced or it is not. People are either born again or they are not. People either get Jesus and His Message or they do not – that’s the point of the parable.
From that correct basis we can move on to dig deeper and glean a great many things, but if a person skips that first step of anchoring their interpretation to coincide with Jesus’ original intent, their application may drift into very dangerous waters.
Matthew 13:10 ~ 10NASBAnd the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”
To move the story Matthew puts the disciples question here. It may have happened just that way. The Disciples may have interrupted Jesus’ teaching for a private conversation in the boat, it’s unlikely, but possible. Just know that the Gospels are arranged theologically, not necessarily chronologically.
As I said before, the Divinely inspired Matthew did a great job of composing his Gospel account and chapter 13 is particularly good. We have an opening that connects to chapter 12, a closing in verse 53 that connects to the narrative going forward. We have a primary parable told, then justified, then explained. That’s followed by 3 parables told to the crowd, with an explanation and then 3 more parables told to the Disciples, making 7 parables in all.
The material is organized by the Holy Spirit through Matthew as He chooses. That is why context is such a big deal. You can’t say God inspired the words, but not the order of the words.
“Why do You speak to them in parables?”
As I’ve tried to show, parables are powerful aids to learning and are specifically designed for that very purpose. Jesus used parables to help people understand, but there’s a catch… A parable can only be understood by a person who is essentially on the same page with the speaker.
If you were in tune with Jesus, you would have readily understood His meaning upon hearing His parable. If not, what was required was some effort to get on the same page. You’d need to think about it, ask some questions, pray about it, work towards a correct understanding.
Either way, the person who got the point was the person with an open and eager heart to get the point. Well, then, conversely, the person who did not get the point was the person who was not on the same page with Jesus and also not willing to work to get on the same page.
We’ll talk about that more next time. For now, let me jump ahead to Jesus’ explanation because it will cause more confusion if I don’t address one quick point now.
Matthew 13:18-23 ~ 18NASB“Hear then the parable of the sower. 19“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. 20“The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22“And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23“And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”
We will pick this back up starting in verse 11 and examine the whole thing in greater detail. What I want to say today and why I jumped ahead to read these verses, is with Jesus’ explanation, you might think the parable was full of secret symbology and really was an allegorical story.
I said the parable really only had one main point. I also said in order to get that point, the listener had to be on the same page with Jesus.
His explanation of the various elements serves to help people get on that same sheet – but once they are – the details are unimportant. That’s the difference between parable and allegory.
Nathan told King David a parable and David was oblivious to the meaning until Nathan said, “You are the man!” David instantly saw the connection. If he hadn’t, Nathan would have had to explain that the “Rich man,” was David, the “Poor man,” was Uriah and the “Little ewe lamb,” was Bathsheba. Once understanding was achieved though the particulars of the parable are unimportant.
Likewise, once a person understands Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, defining the various aspects of the story is actually counterproductive to grasping and acting on the point.
My friends, there are two kinds of statements. Closed statements that are what they are, period. And then there are statements meant to elicit a response. Jesus’ opening parable is the latter kind. Remember verse 9, “He who has ears, let him hear.”
Jesus is trying to get the people to react – again it would be Jesus saying, recognize that you will either accept Me, or reject Me, be very cautious how you proceed.
That’s a message for all people through all time including for us here today. Jesus is speaking… How far will you go to ensure that you are open to what He has to say?100619 - Testimony Part 2 - The Aletheia of Aletheia
October 17, 2019 02:55 PM PDT
Pastor Scott Keller
Alêtheia Christian Fellowship
8:00 ~ Service - 9:30 ~ Fellowship & Adult Sunday school - 10:30 ~ Service with the King’s Kid’s
Easter 1999 surrender to pastoral ministry
Fall 2003 surrender to full-time ministry and starting the church
December 2003 Alêtheia is officially born
January 18, 2004 Alêtheia’s first service
October 31, 2010 Alethia has a home
John 13:34&35 ~ 34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 15:12-17 ~ 12“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14“You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17“This I command you, that you love one another.
Romans 12:10 ~ 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;
Ephesians 4:1-6 ~ 1Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
I Peter 1:22 ~ 22Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,
II John 5 ~ 5Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another.
Alêtheia ~ Testimony Part 2 ~ 100619
After the events I described last week, I was truly transformed in a dramatically obvious way. Right away, people knew that I was different. God instantly delivered me from my blasphemous attitude, from my constant rage, from my horrible tobacco addiction, and from my womanizing ways.
Other things took time, and some things are still a work in progress. I often say, I’m not only not perfect Christian, I’m not even the best Christian in our church. Typically, someone will take that the wrong way. I just mean that there are a lot of folks, right here, who do a better job of living what most folks would consider a good Christian lifestyle, than I do. At least in some facet, or respect. God’s still got a big job ahead of Him, when it comes to me, but He’s already done so much, we should give Him honor and praise – He’s brought me a very long way.
As I mentioned, one of the first things I did after meeting Jesus was to marry Mariah. The Fourth of July 1992. She had proven her love, devotion and commitment through thick and thin. She had demonstrated tremendous loyalty, which is a character trait that I personally value above most. Loyalty is huge to me. Personally, I find disloyalty, repugnant – common, but repugnant.
Mariah came from a non-Christian home. Her parents didn’t teach her about God, they didn’t go to church and they still don’t… Pray for them. They did allow her to attend church with her friends though, so she was open.
When I told Mariah that I met Jesus and that I was going to be a Christian fanatic from here on out, I didn’t know how she’d take it. She was like, okay, good, let’s be fanatical Christians. Well, that was easy.
I got everything square with the Air Force but knew that it was no longer where I belonged. Through a few more miraculous events, I survived some things and was able to transfer to the Air Force Reserve. It was the Ready Reserves, where I didn’t do much, but for the next 27 years, I was on the hook to be recalled to active duty. All together about 40 years of military service, in one form or another.
My dad was offered a job flying a corporate airplane based in the Flathead. He was already 74 years old at the time, so the stipulation was that he would groom a younger pilot to take over for him.
I was that younger pilot he chose and so we flew together for more than four years until a pulmonary embolism sidelined him in 1996. He was a great pilot and I learned a lot.
Getting that gig with my dad was a real dream come true and although it wasn’t all roses – I am grateful for our time together.
So that meant that Mariah was adjusting to the Valley as a brand new 22-year-old bride. It seemed good, the problem was, the job had me gone from home days and sometimes weeks at a time. On one occassion, I was home one day, in an entire calendar month.
Initially, Mariah didn’t know anyone in the Valley, except my dad’s wife, who treated Mariah horribly. She was a young woman, mostly alone, in a foreign place and quickly with child. It was a tough start for her. I’m sorry.
After I took the reins as chief pilot, I hired an old squadron mate – callsign “Walt,” as my copilot. He wouldn’t even consider the job until our mutual friend Smokey told him it was okay – Scott has changed. He’s a Christian now. Walt came up and flew with me for a week and was so amazed at my transformation he resigned from the Air Force and took the job. It was remarkable to me, because by then Walt was flying the F-117 Stealth Fighter.
After about a year, I sent Walt to school to get his type rating in the jet we were flying. It’s a required certification to act as the pilot-in-command. His first flight back was as the Captain flying without me - another pilot was in his right seat. Walt got into trouble when a storm front passed the destination airport as he was landing. The winds shifted dramatically on him and it ended up being an ugly arrival and landing. Unfortunately, the company CEO, a nervous flyer anyway, was onboard and was terrified, even traumatized by the whole thing. He called me at home and insisted that I fire Walt. I pushed back as far as I could, but there was no reasoning with him.
Walt was a good man and had become a very good Christian friend. He and his wife had just had their third child and they had just moved into a home they bought in Kalispell. It was unpleasant business to say the least. It bothered me a lot and made me reevaluate my position. Shortly afterward, in the fall of 1997, I resigned from the company and became a pilot for Continental Airlines.
They based me in Houston, Texas. My dad had commuted to work as an airline pilot, and I thought it would be no big deal. I was wrong. My commute was twice as far, I had a tenth of the seniority, it was always at least two legs and the first one was always begging for a ride in the cockpit of a rival airline – typically Northwest, or Delta.
I did it for a while, but it just became too difficult and so we very reluctantly, moved to the Houston area in March of 1998. We moved in the middle of a fierce blizzard – Me driving the U-Haul, Mariah completely freaked out driving a pickup behind me loaded with boxes and kids.
In our 5 plus years together in the Flathead, Mariah and I, had become the parents of Scotty, Katie and Cari, all born in Kalispell in 93’, 95’, and 97’ respectively. We had also become very serious Christians serving at Big Fork Chapel.
You may know it; it is an Assembly of God church, still going today, just north of Bigfork. I was a Deacon, the adult Sunday school teacher and the Youth Group Leader. Mariah was helping me with all of that and also teaching Bible studies in our home. Even with all of that, I never felt like it was enough.
I knew God wanted a bigger commitment, mainly because He let me know that’s what He wanted on a daily basis. Every time that I would pray, I would feel certain that I was supposed to be a pastor.
But, as soon as I stopped praying, I’d come to my senses. I can’t be a pastor. If you heard even part of what I said last week, you would agree. Anyone… Other than me, could be a pastor – I would be the last resort and I didn’t think God was that desperate.
I was still 100% willing to serve God for the rest of my life – just like I promised, but surely not in any kind of pastoral leadership role. I felt like I was permanently disqualified from that, because of my past. Plenty of Christians then and now would heartily agree. Believe me I’ve heard it.
I finally mentioned the nagging feeling to our pastor at the time, and he didn’t offer much insight either way. He probably would have agreed that I was not a good candidate, but diplomatically recommended taking some classes towards ordination while I figured it out. My first course was Greek 101.
It was perfect for me. I loved the whole idea of removing the English translators that stood between me and the original writings of the Bible. To see a photograph of a 1,800 year old Papyrus copy of the Bible and read it – well I thought it was cool.
It wasn’t just that though… Learning to understand the Bible at a more basic level was very appealing to me, because of what I mentioned last week.
All of my life, people, human beings, so-called experts and self-appointed prophets, told me what Christianity was about. The Catholic church, and then the Mormon church, and then a whole host of Charismatic Pentecostal groups, and then a cult and then various mainstream Christians, all had not only said they had the correct Christianity – they had the only Christianity.
Man-made interpretation, full of man-made rules makes for nothing more than man-made religiosity. I didn’t want anything to do with it before I met Jesus in my office, I didn’t want anything to do with it as a new Christian and I don’t want anything to do with it today.
At the end of the day, every person on the planet decides to what authority they will submit. I have preached a whole sermon on the subject before, but suffice it to say, everyone must trust something.
It might be a hodge-podge of ideas that you pick and choose like a philosophical smorgasbord. It might be science, or some wiseman, guru or charismatic life coach. It could be a religious institution, or denomination… For me it must be God. God Himself. If God were unknowable, I could live with that far better than I could with someone else’s theories on the matter. I could be okay with agnosticism, if God were unknowable.
Fortunately, He is not unknowable, because He has revealed to us everything that He wants us to know about Him in this life. He has given us His Holy Word through the prophets of old, through the manifestation of the Word in the flesh and through the Divinely Inspired Writings of the Apostles and their proxies.
We have the Bible. The only reason anyone would disregard clear Biblical teaching to do something else is because they don’t trust the Bible as God’s Word created and preserved for us through time.
It must be the Bible and the Bible alone. I love church history and from it, we have a rich heritage that is of tremendous benefit to us, but none of it rises to the same level of the actual Words relayed, recorded and protected through millennia by Almighty God.
The better we are able to understand what the Bible actually says, the better we know God and what He wants from us.
It is no accident that the name of this church family is Alêtheia – Truth. While I loved the people at Bigfork Chapel, I had become more and more aware of the various errors in the denomination’s doctrine. Bad doctrine either comes from, or leads to, bad theology. In other words, if your position concerning Christian belief and practice is faulty, it will show up in your thinking about God.
Anyway, we said goodbye to great friends and moved to The Woodlands, Texas. Once there, we hit every church in the area – it was a lot of churches. They call it the Bible Belt for a reason. Down there if a church is small enough for a family atmosphere and some accountability, it’s because there’s something seriously wrong with it. The doctrine is off, or the pastor can’t preach, or the people are scary, something… Otherwise the churches are 1,000 people plus.
We eventually found a small church that was very good – the reason? It was brand-new and hadn’t grown yet. It was a church plant of the Southern Baptist denomination. We liked it and the people. Within a couple of years, it grew from about 100 to about 1,000.
Baptist’s love testimonies. We weren’t at the church more than about five minutes before the pastor was sitting at our kitchen table asking us how we had become Christians.
I gave him the same testimony I gave you last week. Well, praise the Lord, that’s wonderful, he said. The next thing I knew I was giving my testimony all over the place. To the church leadership, to other Baptist pastors, to men’s groups and then to youth groups. It was insane, but by going through it so many times publicly, it really helped me come to terms with a lot of my past. It was both cleansing for me and glorifying for the Lord.
While working through things and trying to really accept God’s grace fully, my certainty about God calling me as a pastor was getting stronger. Every time I prayed it was worse, or better, I guess depending on how you look at it. I knew God wanted me to be a pastor, but it made no sense, so as soon as I would step out of my prayer closet, I would, as ever, rationally come to my senses.
Even so, I figured I should talk to our Baptist Pastor, just to get his take on the phenomenon. He knew about me, what you all know – so the topic I was there to discuss was awkward. I sat with him in his office and hemmed and hawed for a while, not really knowing how to begin and so, I finally said just that… “I don’t really know where to begin.” He said, “Why don’t you just tell me that God is calling you to pastoral ministry?”
What? Why would you say that? He said, “Scott it is crystal clear to me, all the pastoral staff here, and the other people who have heard your testimony, that you are called – we’ve just been waiting for you to figure it out.”
I’m not sure I wanted his enthusiastic support on this thing. I think I would have been far happier if he’d have said, with your past, it’s a non-starter. Why didn’t he say, look you continue to fly airplanes, keep making a lot of money, keep giving generous amounts of it to the church, and leave the pastoring to good people.
I wasn’t convinced and told him I needed more time. He was a good pastor and knew that you can only push people as far and as fast as they are capable.
He told me to keep praying and that he wanted to start meeting with me weekly. Mariah and I prayed and talked. The pastor and I started spending a lot of time together discussing all manner of things pertaining to ministry. I was allowed to do more at the church – lead classes, teach groups and do a little preaching at smaller, peripheral gatherings like at a Bible study, a special Sunday school event, or a Wednesday evening thing.
This went on for a while and we all seemed to come to terms with everything. It was time to take the plunge, we we’re all on the same sheet of music, or so we thought. At the main Easter service in 1999, I was ordained. The next day the Senior pastor and I met as had become our custom. He asked when I planned to resign and come on board.
I said, “What?” Resign as a pilot for a global airline – “Are you crazy?” I can do both. I only fly 15 days a month – I can pastor the other 15 days. That morning we discovered that we were not on the same sheet of music.
He was gracious about it. Patient with me. As I said, he knew that God moves people at His pace, not ours. He said it would be fine. He would still be happy to mentor me under those conditions and that it might be a good idea to get more Seminary classes under my belt and more experience preaching, before I transitioned to full-time ministry.
I had pretty much gotten over my past being a disqualifier for life, but now found that the idea of full-time ministry terrified me. So, while I had finally been able to wrap my head around being a pastor of some kind, I hadn’t even begun to wrap my head around not being a pilot anymore.
I must tell you that I loved being a pilot. I loved the everything about the actual flying, the combination of technical expertise and hand-eye coordination was and is very appealing to me. I also love the prestige. I know people who don’t think much of pilots, but from my personal perspective the only thing better than being a pilot was being an astronaut. I was proud to be a pilot. For me it was such a cool profession that when people would ask me what I did for a living, I was embarrassed to say because I felt like I was bragging. Beyond that, the lifestyle was amazing. I had so much time off, my neighbors thought I was unemployed. There is no better view on the planet than the view from a pilot’s office window. Finally, the money and the benefits were outrageous for the amount of work you did. I still keep in touch with several of my pilot buddies. They are all barely working, 6-7 weeks of paid vacation a year, not to mention ample sick leave, travel and other benefits, making $250,000 – 300,000 per year, and getting ready to retire on 2-4 million dollars.
So, it was a terrifying idea – full-time ministry, as in, no longer a pilot.
The pastor continued to mentor me weekly, I took classes towards a Master of Divinity degree and I started preaching Sunday sermons occasionally.
At one point, a small church a few miles up the road temporarily lost their pastor. I filled in for him for a month. It was my first experience actually pastoring and while it didn’t start off all that well, by the end of the month, they asked me to stay on as the associate pastor. That’s more significant than you might think, because we were the only white people in that church. Mariah and I loved those folks and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but, by then it was time to get back to Kalispell.
Continental had been growing dramatically – it was the reason I went to work for them in the first place. In a little less than four-years, there were 800 pilots who were junior to me, which allowed me to have a much better schedule and made it seem like commuting would be doable.
We moved back in the spring of 2001. We had a great summer. I was teaching a Bible study for adults and continuing my education. That fall we got the older kids settled into school down in Lakeside and then September 11th.
Within a few months Continental furloughed 600 pilots. While I was grateful to still be working, I had lost all my seniority and we were forced to move back to Texas.
Over the next year, or so, things started to improve, and we moved back to Montana, again in the spring of 2003. I call it “Out of Egypt 2.”
Throughout that summer I resumed teaching an adult Bible study. My mom and Jerry, Rob and Nora, Jerry and Leola, were all part of that group.
The intensity of God’s call to ministry was continuing to increase. It had become quite a dramatic thing. I would pray and absolutely know without any doubt at all that I was supposed trust God, walk away from all security and start a church as the founding pastor. I would finish praying and immediately be overwhelmed with a flood of reasonable, rational, reality. Walking away from my career and starting a church made no sense at all. Really, the problem was that trusting God that much made no sense at all.
I don’t want to belabor the point, or sound like a braggart, but I was already making a lot of money and we were on the cusp of a new contract that would pay me even more. In addition, I had amazing benefits, health, dental, retirement, etc.
My family was set financially. With a wife and three small kids, the idea of walking away with zero support, zero protection, zero security, just seemed dumb.
In the fall of 2003, I was running around the indoor track at the Summit, talking to God. I could almost audibly hear Him ask me, “How long are we going to go around and around on this thing?”
I was finally broken, and I said, “Okay Lord, you’ve got me, but now You have to convince Mariah.”
Mariah was like any mother of small kids – she was all about the nest. Security, safety, stability, a sure and reasonable future for her children.
She signed up to be a pilot’s wife, not a pastor’s wife. She accepted my wedding proposal before I was even a Christian, let alone a fanatical one.
I walked into our home and Mariah, straight away, without me saying a word, said, “I was praying, and I think we are supposed to start the church.”
God really does do some very impressive work.
Through my mom we were able to find a worship guy and he along with my brother Rob and Jerry Wabschall were the original Elders.
I wrote the bylaws, set up the website, booked the Outlaw Inn as a venue, and we had our first service on January 18, 2004.
In my mind, Mariah and I had really put ourselves out on a limb, trusting in God, and so I expected hundreds of people to be there in a standing room only kind of situation.
The only non-family members there was the musician, his sister and her husband who came to support him, and Miss Leola who only came because she is so nice.
I was slightly disappointed.
Both Leola and Jerry came to the second service and never left. Jerry was our next Elder on the Board.
We started the church without any money saved up, without any income, without any support of any kind from any denomination, Christian group or anything else – we didn’t have a clue what we were doing, and it showed.
For months, I paid from our personal savings for places to get together. We kept getting bounced from venue to venue and from room to room. One time we had to meet in an actual motel guest room with the bed removed.
I have never counted the people – it’s a thing with me. Baptists are always talking about the numbers and it bugs me – so I refuse. But it’s hard not to have a pretty good idea of the attendance, when less than 20 people show up each week.
Many of them were homeless and came for some company, a chance to get warm, and to fill up on the free refreshments we provided. Mariah used to go out and pick them up – alone.
The was nothing encouraging about what was happening and any reasonable person would recognize that this was a failing venture. I resigned from the airline anyway.
Mariah and I, without any sign of future success trusted God fully… And things didn’t get much better.
After a couple of months of bouncing around we finally, we settled into the Fireside Lounge at the Center Mall. It was bizarre. We were holding church services in a room that I had unabashedly partied in a few years earlier. God has a sense of humor.
Six months in and there was very little money coming in and it was far less than the money going out. Not just the money we were spending trying to keep the church going, but the money needed to keep a family of five rolling.
Mariah and I had a serious meeting. We had run through all our savings and we were broke. I said, we must have gotten this thing wrong. We misunderstood God. I don’t know how we can keep going. She said, Mariah, the mother of three little kids said, we can go into debt a little – let’s give it one more month.
We were able to move to the Russell School Gym. It gave us a little more space and it wasn’t a dance hall and bar. It was better. Our financial situation was worse. We were at the end of it and I couldn’t understand what God was doing.
I get it now, but then it was hard. At the last possible moment things started to turn around. A few new people, a little more giving and slowly over time the church grew.
After one year, Aletheia moved into the Seventh Day Adventist building on Buffalo Hill. We were able to sign a lease, giving us a more permanent spot in an actual church facility with a real sanctuary, baptismal, kitchen and a classroom.
Looking back, I know that we made every mistake passible. We left no stone unturned in finding a new way to make a mistake. Yet, God was faithful.
A rational person would say that the church floundered in the beginning because I made so many mistakes, but the truth is God knew that I would do what I did.
God perfectly orchestrated events for His purposes. If the church would have been as successful as say Fresh Life, I would have thought it was because of me. The way God has grown Aletheia and has grown me, I know to the core of my being that it was all Him.
I don’t care how well I would have done things – how few mistakes I would have made – it wasn’t ever about me. God makes the increase in His timing for His purposes if it is His thing. This has always, first and foremost, been His thing.
It can never be about what I want and since that is true, it can never be what anyone else wants either. We are only interested in what God wants here. This has been and as long as I’m here, will always be His church, His people.
The Elders of this church are the perfect Elders for this church, because none of them pushes their personal agenda. Every Elder will gladly give their input, will gladly argue the merits of a decision, none of the Elders gives me carte blanche. The board is far from a rubber stamp, but neither will any of them try to impose their will on me or the others. They will all gladly pray and think and discuss and patiently wait to see how God reveals His Will.
Most pastors dread board meetings – I look forward to ours and we meet a lot. Nearly every week. What a commitment from them.
It wasn’t always that way. We’ve had some bad apples in the past who were pushing their agenda. I opposed one of those guys years ago and he actively worked behind the scenes to get the other Elders on his side in a coup attempt.
Humanly, it might have worked, but God evidently wasn’t ready for me to go. Later another wolf in sheep’s clothing came in and tried to wrestle the church from me. God enabled the Elders to see through it immediately.
There are always threats to the church – always. We must recognize that we are in a war, we must be vigilant, sure. We must be prepared and willing to do the hard things, sure. But the way God wins is when we put ourselves, our interests, our preferences, our egos and our feelings aside in an active sacrifice of service to get along in the love only God provides.
Pray fervently for this church, which is to say pray fervently for one another. Encourage, build up and love one another because that’s precisely what Jesus has commanded us to do.
When we exhibit the unity of the Holy Spirit, we bless God, we bless each other, and we bless our community. Only in that divine unity, can God properly use this church family to reach the lost all around us.
How you treated others will be a far bigger deal when we see Jesus, than most people realize.
We get so wrapped around the axle about so many things and blatantly ignore the fact that Jesus said
John 13:34&35 ~ 34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”092919 - Testimony Part 1 - The Miracle of Grace
October 03, 2019 09:31 AM PDT
Pastor Scott Keller
Alêtheia Christian Fellowship
8:00 ~ Service - 9:30 ~ Fellowship & Adult Sunday school - 10:30 ~ Service with the King’s Kid’s
I’m not giving my testimony. I’m giving ______ testimony concerning ____.
1) If you like me more after today…
2) If you like me less after today…
Luke 15:11-32 ~ 11NIVJesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons… 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
3) We’re not going to glorify sin…
A) You may not get a chance to ____________________.
B) You may not be capable of _____________________.
C) Even if you do, you will be plagued for the rest of your life with the _________________ of your actions, the associated ______, _______and ______, not to mention the ___________________.
Negative versus positive ________________________.
Acts 7:59–8:1a ~ 59NASBThey went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep. 1aSaul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death.
Acts 9:1–5 ~ 1NASBNow Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”
Luke 5:8 ~ 8NASBBut when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
I Corinthians 15:9&10a ~ 9NASBFor I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10aBut by the grace of God I am what I am.
Alêtheia ~ Testimony Part 1 ~ 092919 ~ Transcript
The purpose is three-fold… Of course, to better get us all on the same page going forward, it’s nice to know where we’ve been and so, how we got where we’re at.
Also, it’s very good to remember the faithfulness of the Lord. The Israelites built their Ebenezer as an encouragement to their faith – a reminder of the great things God had already done. We need to remember.
The other purpose is to glorify the Lord. He lifted me out of the miry clay, and He built this church - both belong to Him, such as they are…
So, this first part is basically a personal testimony. Personal testimonies are big in many denominations and sort of taboo in others, but here’s the deal most people don’t get, whether they like testimonies, or not… I’m not giving my testimony. I’m giving God’s testimony as it happens to pertain to my life. It’s not about me, it’s about Him.
That’s the first thing to keep in mind, and I’ve got a few more ground rules before we start. 1) If you like me more after today, you have missed the point… Like Jesus more after today. 2) If you like me less after today, while understandable, you have shown yourself to be the older son in the Parable of the Prodigal… Guard your heart.
3) Please don’t miss the point by thinking that my sinful behavior was fun, or cool, or in any way acceptable. We’re not going to glorify sin. Beyond that, don’t get the ridiculous idea that you can do the types of things I did, and get away with it, just because it seems like I did. A) You may not live long enough to repent. It was a miracle that I did. B) Even if you do live long enough to repent, the psychological toll sin takes may harden your heart beyond repair. C) Even if you have the time, inclination and ability to repent later, you will be plagued for the rest of your life with the consequences of your actions, the associated pain, fear and guilt, not to mention the memories of your vile transgressions.
My friends, no matter how close to God you become, how well you’re finally able to accept His forgiveness, or even how well, through time and prayer, you’re finally able to forgive yourself… You will never be able to forget how you hurt Him.
I have had Christians say to me, “I wish I had a great, dramatic testimony like yours.” No, you don’t. I have a negative testimony where God had to rescue me from my own stupidity and arrogant pride. Instead of that, cultivate a great, dramatic testimony like Justin and Rebekah are doing, like so many in this room have done.
Let God’s testimony concerning you, be about His faithfulness as you boldly step out in faith and minister His Gospel to others. Build a dramatic life with Him that is a positive testimony where God rescued you from the stupidity and arrogant pride of others.
My dad was a combat pilot in WWII. He dropped paratroopers behind enemy lines. He became an airline pilot after the war, eventually rising to Vice President of Flight Operations for the old Frontier, that was bought by Continental, which later bought United. I ended up flying with guys at the end of their careers who flew with my dad at the beginning of their careers.
He was the product of the original Mormon pioneers. I joke, that Rob and I are basically Mormon royalty - it’s not far off - probably at least Mormon nobility. Our ancestors arrived in Utah in 1847. Our great, great grandmother raised six daughters by herself in a one room cabin on the Green River in what is now Wyoming. Our great, great grandpa, John Scott, yes that’s where I get my name, was the personal bodyguard of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, was in charge of the Mormon militia, was a Mormon enforcer, known as an Angel of Death and helped found several towns in the intermountain west.
Mormonism, like all cults, is very difficult to leave, but especially for Mormons like those in our family, because they take such immense pride in the accomplishments of their ancestors.
Our mom is half Italian and comes from a long line of Catholics, probably going back to the beginning of the Church. While I had some Mormon influence growing up, I was raised as a Catholic, attended Catholic school for a couple of years and served as an Altar Boy.
Bluntly, honestly, Rob and I had a dysfunctional childhood. Our dad, as great as we thought he was and as much as we loved him, was a dedicated alcoholic. If you haven’t had first-hand experience with an alcoholic or addict, you just can’t understand.
He would often fly a multi-day trip and just not come home at the end of it. Sometimes for several days he would binge drink in a shady motel somewhere.
Mom didn’t take that too well. Things got even more contentious when she was saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. It’s a great story, but it’s hers to tell, not mine. As a result of her new Christian sensibility, she got rid of all of Dad’s booze. He had a full bar in our house - I mean, like a bar, fit for a bar, and she put his bar out of business.
Dad didn’t take that too well. As the tensions increased, there was often talk of separation or divorce, and there were frequent moves. We lived in 9 different houses, in 4 different states, and I attended 8 different schools in 8 completely different school districts, starting all over, each time, without knowing a single soul there.
My childhood was in constant state of flux, without any real sense of stability.
In 1974, Mom, searching for answers, took us to many strange Charismatic groups and was finally taken in by a false prophet charlatan and formally separated from our dad and took us to be part of what was a Jim Jones, David Koresh type of full-blown cult. If you haven’t had first-hand experience with a cult leader, you just can’t understand.
About two years in, mom realized the deception and reunited with dad, and we all moved to Kalispell.
We attended Christian Center, Grissom was the pastor, his son Gordon, was in my class. Later, Bob Ross became pastor, and switched from using the KJV, to using the new NASB.
Cries of outrage were heard around to globe - Elders walked out and the church split. That nonsense, coupled with all the deceit and deception of Mormonism, Roman Catholicism, Signs and Wonders Pentecostalism and manipulative brain-washing cultism, then coupled with the hypocrisy I saw in supposedly correct Christianity… People acting like saints in church and devils outside… My own dad, by that time appointed as a church Elder, still binge drinking… Still staying away from home, drunk out of his mind, for days at a time. Let’s just say, I was done with Christianity.
Add to that, the continuing drama at home and me going through that transition from child to adult, with all the uncertainty, concern and fear that brings… I was kind of a mess. I would say an angry mess. I quit going to church, started chewing tobacco and drinking in local bars… I was 16.
I say all of that to give you a feel for where I was at as a young man. I don’t say any of it as an excuse for anything. I have fully forgiven anything there may have been to forgive, I take full responsibility for my actions and make no excuses at all.
No matter how bad your childhood, no matter what trauma, what neglect, what disappointment, what pain… No matter how unfair you think life has treated you, at some point, you must stand up and take ownership of your actions and reactions.
Until you do, you will remain that scared, hurt, little child, no matter how old you get.
In the late 1970’s descent jobs were hard to come by in this valley and so, at 18, Tom ushered me into the Marine Corps. Thanks Tom.
Two of the Pilskalns boys talked to me about joining the Marine Corps - they both served - God bless them for their sacrifice. I tried to talk them out of it. When that failed, I tried to talk them into joining the Reserves instead of active duty - it didn’t work.
I spent 7 years as an active duty Marine. I was promoted quickly. By the time I left, I was an E-6, Staff Sergeant, I had a wealth of experience leading Marines and I had a Bachelor of Science Degree (Largely paid for by them). With that level of success, why didn’t I enthusiastically recommend the Marine Corps to Hans and Atticus?
It’s hard. It’s very hard and it changes you forever. Former Marines oftentimes seem like normal people - we’re not. I’m just telling you something is changed deep down inside, and you never come back from that. As a junior Marine life is very hard and I was angry.
Shortly after becoming a Marine, my parents finally divorced, and both rather quickly remarried. Most people think that divorce and remarriage is much easier on adult kids – it’s not. Most research show just the opposite.
All I know, is I didn’t take it well. Not only had I given up on organized religion, not only was I so angry with life I could spit, now my disillusionment with God turned to furious rage.
The divorce was the final straw for me. How could God be so uncaring, or so incompetent or so vindictive and mean-spirited? Not only did I hate God, I wanted to hurt Him. How do I know that evil is at war with Christians? Because I began to actively oppose Christians. I didn’t like them. I thought they were weak and stupid.
It’s weird, but I was so enraged all the time, all I could see was the bad in my life and I attributed it all to God.
Honestly, in my mind, every achievement, every positive thing was made possible only through my hard work and ingenuity, while every failure, every negative thing, every injury, slight and injustice, was directly due to God’s mismanagement or, more and more, His direct action against me personally to make me suffer and to see me squirm.
To me, God was a big kid with a magnifying glass burning an ant caught outside of the pile and I was that ant.
In 1986, I transitioned from the enlisted ranks of the Marine Corps to the officer corps of the Air Force.
You’d think that being an Air Force officer flying fighters that I would have been grateful, happy, or at least content. I wasn’t. For whatever reason, I always had the attitude that no matter what I achieved, it wasn’t enough. I always felt that God was holding me back from my full potential, and honestly, I was so bitter, so full of anger, so outraged when things didn’t go my way, that I invented ways to be evil.
I got to where I thoroughly enjoyed being good at being vile, because I felt like I was getting back at God – punishing Him for ruining my life.
While the Air Force could never be confused with the Marine Corps, for aviators strapping themselves into fighters, it was as close as it could be. In both cases, the tip of the spear - the warfighters of America. In both cases, high testosterone, high aggression, high competition, check your slack at the door, environments.
As such, my harsh demeanor, my readily accessible violence, and my ever-present rage, was largely appreciated and even somewhat encouraged.
On March 10, 1992, Rob’s 29th birthday, God decided that He had, had enough of my snotty attitude.
Two quick background facts: 1) I was living with a woman, nearly 10 years my junior. We were engaged and we were living in sin and I take full responsibility – it was my doing – I was definitely the one to blame.
2) The Air Force had revamped the way they did business, putting all the aircraft maintenance units directly under the control of the operational squadrons.
Previously, a Master sergeant was the number 3 dude in his maintenance unit. A couple of officers were technically in charge, but this guy ran the show, He had all the stripes and he was the Big Kahuna, directly supervising maybe 300 enlisted maintainers.
In our flying squadron we had about 60 officers. Putting Maintenance under Operations, instantly took the Big Kahuna from number 3 to number 63. He didn’t like it. None of the enlisted guys liked it, and they showed us, by doing shoddy maintenance work on the jets.
We were to take off together as the sun was setting, fly to a tanker for air-refueling, continue to a holding point and then, in the pitch-black night, roll into a steep dive, aim for the rocks and pull up at the last moment to fly a low-level route through the mountains at 600 mph and 400 feet above terra firma to our intended target where we would each drop a single bomb and go home.
By the time we started the low level, the fighter I was flying was already falling apart. So many things had quit working by then, it was ridiculous. Because there are backup systems and work arounds, we were able to continue, but the effort and stress required to keep all the parts moving in the same general direction was rising exponentially.
As we flew through the canyons in the dark, well below the rims, peaks and ridges, we were completely reliant on our radar to show us the terrain.
Systems continued to fail. It had become unsafe and we should have aborted and returned to base, but retreat wasn’t in my nature, so I pushed - stupidly, typically, I pushed.
My student was getting more and more nervous… He asked a few times if we should climb out and go home. I insisted we keep going. We must accomplish the mission!
By the time we got to the range we had lost every primary system associated with navigation, weapons calculations and release, and all the low-level sensors, radars and displays.
The only thing I had left was a small strip map, a stopwatch and our main mapping radar. I knew I’d never see the target in the radar in time, so I made some calculations and drew a grease pencil line on the radar with an azimuth and bearing from an offset point I would see.
If we could maneuver the jet onto the correct run-in line, be at the right altitude above the target and be at the correct speed, accelerating to just under 700 mph, then when the offset point hit my mark, I would start my watch, and 1.2 seconds later push the pickle button, and voila.
Just as we got all lined up, I saw the offset point tracking down the screen towards my mark… And then the screen went blank - the radar rolled over and completely died.
Now, we were just a few hundred feet above the ground going nearly 700 mph, and completely, 100% blind. Both protocol and common sense said you had to climb immediately. My student wasted no time and started to initiate the climb and I predictably yelled at him to stay the course. We were a few feet higher and a knot or two slower, I made my best guess and I pickled off the bomb. Then I allowed the climb to safety.
As we did, the ranger told us the bomb had impacted off the range. I’m saying the bomb - fortunately a practice bomb, but still a 25-pound hunk of metal, with an explosive marking charge, flying just below the speed of sound, landed in a farmer’s field, in the middle of the night.
I was displeased. I didn’t react well. Like the divorce earlier, everything came to a head in that moment. All the stress, all the anger, all the resentment… I exploded in a rage and started punching the dash of the airplane. I then turned my attention to the radar and punched it. It was a wimpy punch, because my control stick was between the screen and me, but the glass shattered, nonetheless.
I was surprised, a little taken aback, but so furious, I quickly got over my shock and continued to boil.
Once on the ground, the procedure was to call maintenance on the radio and tell them about any issues with the jet and then they would tell you where to park, so they could work whatever was wrong.
I got on the radio, gave them a laundry list of discrepancies that went on and on. finishing with the radar screen is cracked. There was a long pause - I’m sure the guy was trying to write it all down.
I was, who I was, and so, I keyed the mike again, and said, “Are you going to give us a parking spot, or do you want me just to taxi this thing up to the front gate and put it on a pedestal?”
The Master Sergeant I mentioned earlier who was number 3 and now 63, was listening in and was not amused. He had been around long enough to know jets and to know my reputation, He quickly surmised the truth about the radar screen and had his chance to get back at an officer.
He was smart though and played dumb. Later, when I was filling out the aircraft log, he cleverly got me to write in a reason the glass was broken. I was too angry to understand his ploy. I wrote that the map light had come loose while pulling “G’s” and had hit the screen.
I wasn’t going to tell them the truth, but I honestly intended to tell my Squadron Commander what happened the next day. I figured he’d yell at me, make my life miserable for a few weeks, and that would be the end of it. I was wrong.
That night the Master Sergeant called his buddy who was the Chief Master Sergeant of the Numbered Air Force. This guy worked directly for the Three-star General in charge of several bases, including ours.
At our base, the Wing Commander, a Bird Colonel, was the guy in charge of the four fighter squadrons, including mine. The only thing on his mind, was the same thing that is on every Colonel’s mind, and that’s getting a star. The guy who would largely decide if the Colonel would ever be a General, was this Three-star.
The General had called early in the morning to chew out the Colonel, demanding to know why he had to hear from his Master Sergeant that some Captain was over there at Canon AFB, breaking his airplanes.
Right after that call ended, I got a call. Not only does it roll downhill, in the military it rolls downhill fast. I was ordered to report to the Wing Commander immediately. I poured myself into my flight suit and headed for the base but detoured to the home of my student pilot first. I didn’t intend to tamper with him as a witness, I just needed to find out what he was going to say.
He told me that he didn’t know how the screen got broken and that he would stick with that story. I then went to see the Wing King and was met by Judge Advocate. He was a Lieutenant Colonel in charge of Base Legal. He was the Wing Commander’s legal counsel, the chief prosecutor and as the commander of Base Legal was in command of all the lawyers, both the prosecuting and the defense attorneys.
He told me that he had advised the Colonel not to talk to me, but rather open a formal Article 32 investigation into charges for a General Court’s Marshal. It’s like convening a grand jury to see if there’s enough evidence for a federal trial. The potential charges were Conduct unbecoming an officer, destruction of government property and falsifying an official government log – the aircraft logbook. He went on to say, that he would personally be handling my prosecution and would press for the maximum punishment possible. What was the max? Federal felony conviction, loss of rank, 10 years hard labor and a dishonorable discharge on the other end. Why, you might ask?
In the Air Force, if you don’t fly airplanes, even if you’re a doctor, or a lawyer, you are at best, a second-class citizen – particularly in a fighter wing. This guy was thrilled to have an opportunity to stick it to an arrogant flyboy. As for the Colonel, he would go along with destroying me, to show the General he was worthy of promotion.
I was then read my rights. If you’ve never been read your rights for real - it is a sobering experience.
They told me I could go to base legal where a young captain there would act as my defense attorney. Yes, my assigned defense attorney worked directly for the dude who was so eager to prosecute me he was literally all a twitter, buzzing with excitement for the chance.
I was taken off the flight schedule awaiting the outcome. They did the same to my student in an effort to break him. Young fighter pilots want to fly more than anything else, yet this guy never flinched.
I’m skipping a lot of details, but basically, I had politely declined representation from Base Legal, and had requested an attorney directly from the headquarters of the Air Force. The wheels of justice turn slowly. It took three months for my attorney to meet face-to-face with me. Up till then we’d talked occasionally on the phone, but I was so paranoid about my line being tapped, I never told him that I was basically guilty.
Friday afternoon we got together for the first time and I spilled the beans. He was shocked, having assumed that I was innocent all this time. He finally just blurted out, “Are you stupid?”
He said as an officer you must testify, or the panel will know your guilty for sure, and since we’re both officers and I know the truth, I cannot allow you to lie on the stand. You’re done.
The only thing we can do now, is go to the Wing Commander and confess. Plead insanity for dragging the investigation out and hope for some leniency. I think I can talk them into three years in prison.
I freaked and told him I couldn’t do that. We finally agreed that since it was already late Friday and the Commander was probably getting ready to leave – I should take the weekend, get my affairs in order and that he would meet me in the Wing King’s office first thing Monday morning.
I drove home in a daze and considered my options. What I knew for sure was that I wasn’t going to confess. I’d been a Marin, so prison didn’t scare me, but the dishonor was unacceptable. I may have been an idiot, but I was an idiot who had done his best to serve the nation for 13 years and I wasn’t going to go out like that.
I thought of running – living in a cave in the wilderness for the rest of my life – it was a foolish notion, not much better than confessing. As I saw it, there was only one choice. By then, I had been very close to several friends who had successfully committed suicide, even watched a guy do it. I also felt like I had cheated death on numerous occasions and now it was my time to pay up.
Resolved, I had one final task and that was to get rid of the woman I was living with. She was sweet and still fairly innocent, despite my efforts to corrupt her. I did not want her to have to deal with my mess.
I went home and told her that she had hitched her boat to a sinking ship and ordered her to pack her junk and go home. She became the second person in a few hours to ask me if I was stupid. I did everything I could to send her away, until she was crying and begging, and then I relented.
My plan was to get alone during the weekend. Try as I might, I could not get away from that girl – she was stuck to me like Velcro. I’d say I’m going to run an errand and she’d say let’s go. By Sunday night I decided to take my pistol to work Monday and kill myself on base.
As I laid in bed Sunday night, I said, God, if You’re out there and You can get me out of this, I’ll serve You for the rest of my life.
As the idea of God entered my thinking, my life passed before my eyes – just like they say when you’re about to die. What stunned me was how far I had fallen into vile blasphemous behavior. I really was shocked at how the good little Catholic Altar Boy had become a man who had literally broken all Ten Commandments.
People often say, that thy have broken them all. Friends, there is a world of difference between taking away a person’s life and thinking about it… Or taking away another man’s wife and thinking about it. Every commandment literally broken.
I didn’t apologize, but I didn’t feel too good about it either. The next day, I kissed the girl and drove to the base with my Glock 10mm in the glove box. I decided I’d stop at the Squadron and say goodbye to a few friends and then go out to my car and finish what I thought had to be done.
As I stepped into the building, I was surprised to see my Commanding officer standing there. He said follow me and even though I wanted to bolt for my car, something wouldn’t let me. It was almost like someone else was driving by body following after him into his office.
He had me sit, something made me bend my legs and sit. He said, “I just got off the phone with the Wing Commander.” I tried to run but couldn’t move. He said, “The investigation has been concluded, you’re completely exonerated and you’re back on the flying schedule, get to work.
You could have pushed me over with a feather. The military is all about inertia – once you get a ball rolling downhill, no one stops it, not until it has run its course. There was no way that could happen. It was utterly impossible.
I stubbled back to my office and sat down behind my desk. After I gathered a bit of composure, I said out loud, Man, I’ve got to hand it to You God, I’m impressed! That was unbelievable.
At that moment the room filled with a supernatural presence. I knew instantly and precisely Who it was. The Lord Jesus Christ entered that room and began slowly moving towards me.
As He got closer, I got further away, until I was literally standing with my back against the wall.
I don’t know if I said it out loud or in my mind, but I remember trying to push Jesus away saying, A deal is a deal, I’ll serve you in whatever way You want, but we can’t be friends. I know I’m evil, I know I crossed a line back there in my past, I know I’m going to Hell, I know that You can’t forgive me… I just relived my past last night… I’m well aware that I’m beyond redemption, way beyond love.
Jesus moved forward until He embraced me fully – He enveloped me with love and forgiveness – there wasn’t even a hint of holding back, no displeasure, no judgment - it was complete acceptance and renewal. It was I love you and I want you to be healed – I want you to be whole.
I don’t serve Him because of the deal I made. I serve Him, because who wouldn’t after that?
If you hadn’t guessed, that girl that wouldn’t give me any space to kill myself was Mariah and we got married as soon as we were able.
My question is this… How much more did my salvation cost Jesus, than your salvation cost Him? Shouldn’t we all serve Him with the exact same devotion?092219 - Matthew 12e - Demonology Class?
September 24, 2019 05:46 AM PDT
Pastor Scott Keller
Alêtheia Christian Fellowship
8:00 ~ Service - 9:30 ~ Fellowship & Adult Sunday school - 10:30 ~ Service with the King’s Kid’s
1) In the example, what is the “unclean spirit”?
2) In the example, what is the “house”?
3) Did Jesus brush aside the Commandment to honor your father and your mother?
MATTHEW 12:43-45 ~ 43NASB“Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. 44“Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. 45“Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”
This is an _____________, to challenge the people interacting with Jesus to choose.
“That is the way it will also be with this evil generation” is the point of applicability. Just before it, “The last state of that man becomes worse than the first” is the ________________ they are to apply.
Jesus was saying, you are ______________ of the Kingdom of Heaven right now. To you it is a great ______________, but if you don’t fully embrace Me and My Message, your condition afterward, will be far worse than it ever was before.
That sub-point enhances and bolsters the main point of the chapter.
There are only __________ possible positions.
Therefore, as God said through Joshua, “Choose today Whom you will serve.” Choose today, because there are no guarantees about __________________. It will either be God, or it will be _________.
An “Unclean spirit,” is an angel who _________________ against God - otherwise known as a fallen angel, or an evil spirit, or a demon.
Satan relies on his vast demon army to further his ____________. Demons are specialized, at least at times.
Luke 13:11, Mark 9:25, I Kings 22:22–23; II Chronicles 18:20-22, Isaiah 19:14, 29:10, Hosea 4:12; 5:4, I Chron 10:13; II Chron 33:6
Familiar spirits are those demons who ______________________ as the spirits, or ghosts of deceased people.
That’s only partially why seeking to ________________ with the dead is forbidden by God.
When it comes to spiritual warfare, I recommend realizing that there is a __________ raging and everyone is on one side, or the other.
Next, remember the “Seven sons of Sceva” (Acts 19:14-16).
Add to that I John 4:4b, the “One,” is Jesus who has overcome the world (John 16:33). “The world,” is ultimately __________ his team & agenda (John 12:31).
When evil comes against you remember that you are covered by the ___________ of Jesus.
The example isn’t about the demon - it’s about the condition of the house.
Jesus called it “The unclean spirit.” It could refer to the House of ___________ (Zechariah 13:2).
MATTHEW 12:46-50 ~ 46NASBWhile He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. 47Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” 48But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! 50“For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
This makes a lot of folks uneasy. Some even use it to disparage Jesus, saying He violated the Commandment (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16).
Mark chapter 3 sheds light. In verse 6, powerful people want Jesus dead. Verse 21, “To seize,” is the verb κρατέω (kȑä-tĕ-ō): __________________
His family had no compunction about interrupting Him because they were there to _____________ Jesus. He knew and so used the opportunity to make a vital point… Nothing at all matters in being a Kingdom of Heaven person, except obeying God.
That is simultaneously the exclusivity & inclusivity of Christianity.
Alêtheia ~ Matthew 12e ~ 092219
So many people take the passage we will address today as a standalone teaching. I cannot possible stress enough… That is not the case.
Matthew 12:43-45 ~ 43NASB“Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. 44“Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. 45“Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”
We distort Christianity when we misapply Scripture. For 42 verses leading up to these 3 verses, and for several more verses afterward, Matthew is driving home a point.
The Apostle hand selected by Jesus and ordained by the Father to write this Gospel under the Divine Inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is ordering the material in such a way as to expertly establish a principle that is vital to grasp. Getting bogged down in the details distracts us from God’s purpose.
The last half of verse 45, says it all my friends. Jesus talked about exorcism, the expelled demon and repossession on a larger scale, as an example, in order to directly challenge the people interacting with Jesus back then.
The last sentence explicitly states, “That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.” That’s the point of applicability - that’s to whom the example is directed…
The entire point is made just before that sentence, “The last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”
In context, Jesus was saying to the people there, you are tasting of the Kingdom of Heaven right now. To you it is a boon - it is all tea and crumpets and a good time. Healing, exorcism, interesting teaching and drama with the religious leaders - you are all getting a benefit by being around Me, but if you don’t fully embrace Me, get completely onboard My program, jump into this Kingdom with both feet, accept Me like there’s no tomorrow… Your condition afterward, will be far worse than it ever was before you met Me.
That is the point in this passage, which functions as a sub-point, enhancing and bolstering the central thesis, the primary principle, the main point of the entire chapter.
Again, that is that there are only two possible positions. One is either in the Kingdom of Heaven or one is in the kingdom of Satan. That’s it, no other possibility exists, either for humans, or for supernatural beings.
Jesus was essentially telling the people in front of Him that day, all you who are experiencing the benefits of association with Me now. Whether physical healing, spiritual exorcism, emotional encouragement, mental renewal, sacred teaching… Whatever goodness you are gleaning, unless you fully commit and enter the Kingdom of Heaven… Your eternal situation will be far worse than if you had never heard My name.
As God said through Joshua, “Choose today Whom you will serve,” Whom you will worship. Choose today, because there are no guarantees about tomorrow. Choose today Whom you will serve, and worship, and love, and be dedicated to, and live your life for… It will either be for the Lord God Almighty, the Heavenly Father, through Jesus the Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit… Or it will be you. You, yourself, which is the same as the Original Sin, the same as agreeing with the Serpent of Old and being in league with him and his anti-god, good is evil and evil is good, agenda.
Please keep that foremost in your mind as we take a little closer look.
An “Unclean spirit,” is assumed to be one of the angels who rebelled against God at the instigation of Lucifer - otherwise known as a fallen angel, an evil spirit, or a demon.
Since Satan is neither omniscient, omnipresent nor omnipotent, he relies on his vast demon army to further his agenda. Demons are specialized, at least at times.
Sometimes they will act as a “Spirit of infirmity” (Luke 13:11), a “Deaf and mute spirit” (Mark 9:25), a “Lying spirit” (I Kings 22:22–23; II Chronicles 18:20-22), a “Perverse spirit” (Isaiah 19:14), a “Spirit of deep sleep” (Isaiah 29:10), a “Spirit of harlotry” (Hosea 4:12; 5:4), and some act as “Familiar spirits,” (I Chronicles 10:13; II Chronicles 33:6). Familiar spirits are those demons who masquerade as the spirits, or ghosts of deceased people.
When someone goes to a spirit medium to communicate with the dead, what they get is either a scam, or a demon pretending to be the lost loved one. That’s only partially why doing so is forbidden by God.
Some people overthink and over-focus on the demon world. Satanic forces are at work, they are actively opposed to God and everything that belongs to Him, including Christians.
As a bona fide Child of the Living God (I John 3:2), indwelt by Christ (Ephesians 3:17), filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), and bearing the Seal of God on your forehead (Revelation 9:4), you are at war with the demonic, whether you like it, or not.
There is a stone-cold reality that goes with that truth… Jesus has already conquered Satan and all who stand with him.
When it comes to spiritual warfare, I recommend realizing that there is a war raging and everyone is on one side, or the other… “If you’re not with Me, you’re actively against Me,” Jesus said.
Next, remember the incident with the “Seven sons of Sceva” (Acts 19:14). These dudes were Jewish exorcists and decided to use the Name of Jesus as part of their repertoire. We pick up the action in Acts 19:15&16, 15NIVOne day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
The “One,” is Jesus who has overcome the world (John 16:33). “The world,” is ultimately Satan and his entire team (John 12:31).
Whenever supernatural evil comes against you and says to you, “Well, I know Jesus, and I’ve heard about the Apostle Paul, but who are you?” You simply respond, “I am no one, but He who dwells within me has already defeated you, your boss and your entire camp. I am covered by the Blood of Jesus, get behind me.”
Even though we get a sense of which it is when we meet people, we cannot physically see the Mark of the Beast, or the Seal of God that all humans possess, but the demons see. They completely understand. Fear not, they can do nothing to anyone with the Seal of God, that God does not specifically allow.
Therefore, I don’t get too focused on demonology and exorcism. I get focused on focusing on Jesus. As long as you do that, you have nothing to fear.
By definition, a Christian cannot be demon possessed - their house, so to speak, is occupied by Christ. So, when it comes to exorcism, the key is to get the individual to accept Christ and become a Christian, filled with the Holy Spirit, thereby pushing any demons out simultaneously.
Jesus is using this example to make the point that, if you don’t fully commit to Him as His disciple, not only does it do no good to hang around Him, it is actually far worse, than just being the straight up evil person you really are.
If you’re going to be a Christian - be a Christian with everything you’ve got. - it’s all or nothing with Jesus. If you’re going to reject Christ, please do it with gusto. Please go crazy, have fun with it, do it up bigly! You’ve only got a few short years and then you’ll be swimming with your buddy Satan in a Lake of Fire, so live it up while you can. Your credo should be “No Ragrets.” Don’t regret even one letter, “Ya know what I’m sayin’?” Jesus said, “Count the cost.” It’s worse to try Christianity on and then bail out, than it is to have never tried at all.
The example Jesus used, is just that, an example, but at the same time, there is nothing here to suggest that it was fictitious, imaginary or in any way misleading. His example, while hypothetical, was in keeping with spiritual reality.
So, while this is just an example to make His point and not a teaching on demons and possession, it is nonetheless real.
Yet, we can glean a few concepts from the example He chose.
An Apple and an orange are often used as anti-analogous. “Don’t compare apples and oranges.” 1) If you had never seen an apple before, but were well acquainted with oranges, I could use that to help you picture an apple. They are about the same size, they both grow on trees, they’re both fruit, you eat them, etc. 2) Even though oranges are real, I would not be talking about oranges - I would be trying to teach you about apples. 3) If you push my apples are like oranges analogy too far, it will give false information about apples. 4) Even so, after you understand what I want you to know about apples, you could go back and glean information about oranges, if you were careful.
When a demon is cast out of a human host, the demon, for lack of a better word, is homeless.
He travels where demons travel. He does what demons do, which is to look for work - any anti-God work that is suited to him. The demon is restless until he is gainfully employed again.
When the demon checks on his old job/residence and finds it unoccupied, he is overjoyed at his good fortune and probably angry he had to leave in the first place, so he recruits many other friends to join him.
Please notice, the story really isn’t about the demon at all - it is about the condition of the house. - which is explicitly defined as the “Person.”
The most important point regarding demonology is that a house once occupied by evil that has been expelled, that then remains empty, as in, no Holy Spirit occupant, is a house that demons find irresistible.
The most important point for our Gospel is that there are only two camps and even though these people, we would call seekers are visiting God’s camp and getting some benefit from Jesus, if they don’t become full-fledged residents of His camp, they will ultimately be far worse off than they ever were before they visited.
For us the principle is similar. The seekers, the hangers on, the visitors, the pretend Christians do gain some benefit from their association with the church, but unless they become real Christians, their fate will be far worse than if they had never bothered with Christianity.
The, use Christianity as long, and as far, as it gives you a better life here and now, routine, will not get anyone into Heaven, barely into Heaven, or partially to Heaven. As a friend used to say, “You can’t play fast and loose with Jesus.”
Why is it worse? Partially because “To him who much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48).
Another way to interpret is to notice that Jesus calls it “The unclean spirit,” not an unclean spirit, not unclean spirits in general, but “The unclean spirit.” Zechariah 13:2, 2NASB“It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord of hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the (false) prophets and the unclean spirit from the land.
It is possible that what Jesus was actually referring to had nothing at all to do with demons possessing people, but of “The unclean spirit” of apostacy and unfaithfulness dwelling in the house of Israel.
Messiah had come and had defeated “The unclean spirit,” but if Israel wouldn’t repent and embrace their Messiah, their fate would be far worse in the end.
Take it how you like, because the thrust of the point is the same, whether for Israel, or for the Jews standing around Jesus back then, or for all people throughout time… The point is the same.
You must choose sides is a way we say it, but a better way, is you must choose to change sides, or you will perish on the side of evil. That gives the proper urgency… Change to Jesus’ side, or die eternally.
Jesus wasn’t playing. Look what He bluntly said, “That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”
Finally, and I really hate to do it, but I think it’s important. There is another very common way this passage is interpreted by Christians today. We need to talk about it for a moment.
It is an allegorical interpretation put forward in about 150 A.D. by Valentinus. Valentinus was born in Egypt in 100 A.D. and was in the running to be named the Bishop of Rome. When another was chosen instead, he went off the rails and ended up leading a breakaway gnostic cult. He believed in the individual gaining control over their sins through secret wisdom.
He allegorically interpreted this passage as “The unclean spirit,” being sin itself and as the “Person/House” being the human heart of a Christian. See how allegorically we make one thing stand for another? The demon is not a demon, but sin. And the person/house is not a person, or Israel - it is the Christian individual.
The idea was expanded on in various ways by Augustine, Jerome, and Chrysostom, 1,600 years ago and has lived on ever since.
Basically, the belief is that every Christian must be extra vigilant, or the sin of their former life will return with a vengeance and they will be lost.
First, the text cannot support such an interpretation. Second, such an interpretation ends up promoting a legalistic and a self-focused form of Christianity, that has often been used by the church to control people.
I recommend we take God’s Word as intended. If you want passages about Christians being vigilant - there are plenty of legitimate ones to choose from, like Philippians 2:12, “Work out their salvation with fear and trembling.”
Matthew 12:46-50 ~ fifth commandment ~
As told here, this incident and subsequent teaching, makes a lot of folks uneasy. Some people even use it to disparage Jesus, saying He is violating the Commandment to “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16).
To help, let’s look at Mark chapter 3. Even in Nazareth, about 30 miles southwest of Capernaum by road, the people were buzzing about Jesus and the things He was teaching and doing.
As everywhere, some people had positive comments, and some people had negative comments. The real problem, was those with the negative comments, were people who had the power to do something about Jesus. Mark 3:6, 6NLTAt once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus.
The “Is out of His mind,” bit is the verb ἐξίστημι (ĕx-ēs-tā-mē), which is literally to “Stand outside of yourself.” We have a similar phrase, “To be beside yourself.” We take that to mean, so full of emotion you are nearly out of control. The slight difference here, is while also meaning to be somewhat out of control, it is because you are crazy, confused, bewildered, or insane.
These people want to arrest Jesus, basically tie Him up and carry Him home for His own protection, because they think He’s dazed and confused, crazily out of control. Bluntly, they think He’s going to get Himself murdered, because He’s lost His marbles.
According to the Catholic Church, Mary is the only person ever born of two parents, without Original sin. She is the only woman in human history to be a mother and also a Perpetual Virgin, for eternity, perfectly pure, never consummating her marriage to Joseph. She’s the only one to be Assumed, alive, bodily, directly into Heaven, to make intercession with her Son. She is the only one Jesus cannot refuse, cannot disobey, besides the Heavenly Father.
Because of that, many have tried to soften Mark 3:21, and the best way is to ignore the context and retranslate as the KJV does… Mark 3:21, 21KJVAnd when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.
The word, “Family,” is replaced by the word, “Friends,” or something similar. The Greek phrase underlying the word is παρʼ αὐτοῦ (päȑ ŏw-tü), it means those very close to you and in some cases could legitimately be translated as “Friends.” Here the context demands, “Family.” The only reason anyone would change it is if they found it objectionable to think of Jesus’ family as being human… As being worried about Him… As being somewhat embarrassed by Him… As being a little fearful of being endangered because of Him.
We know they all became wonderful Christian pillars in time, but at this point they were just as confused about what Jesus was saying and doing as the rest.
Realistically, Mary, His worried mother, probably told her other sons, we must go immediately to Capernaum, get Jesus, and bring Him home, before someone does kill Him. Humanly speaking, she was right.
By the time they arrived in Capernaum (again, 30 miles by road, hoofing it all the way), Jesus was in an inner room of the house that He was using as His base of operation. The crowd pressing in to hear and see Him was so big, no one could get through. People were packed in like proverbial sardines.
Word got passed along through the crowd and someone near Jesus told Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.”
Get the scene… Jesus is teaching and healing people, they’re pressing in, dropping people down from the roof, He’s ministering to them. “Hey, Jesus, your family is outside, and they want a word - now.” Jesus was probably thinking, “I’m in the middle of something, Ray.”
His family has no compunction about interrupting Him because familiarity breeds contempt, but also, ironically, they are eager to save Him. They are there to save Jesus. To save Him from Himself.
Jesus knows full-well why they’ve made the journey and He uses the opportunity to make a vital point. Nothing at all matters in being a Kingdom of Heaven person, except obeying God.
To be a Child of God, to be a Christian, to be a Disciple of Christ, it doesn’t matter what your family connections are, it doesn’t matter what position you hold in society, it doesn’t matter how much money, power and influence you possess.
Your gender, your culture, your ethnicity, your political affiliation, your skin color, your whatever else you can name - none of it means anything at all. The one and only thing that matters is that you “Do the Will of God.” That you “Hear God’s Word and put it into practice.” that you “Obey the Heavenly Father.” That is the only thing that can change anyone’s eternity.
Jesus’ human mother Mary will be with us in Heaven forever, not because she carried Him for nine months and gave birth to Him and raised Him and was deeply concerned about Him for His entire earthly life… Mary will be our sister eternally because she herself obeyed God the Heavenly Father by believing and putting into practice His testimony through the Holy Spirit concerning her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Just as we must.
That is simultaneously the exclusivity and inclusivity of Christianity. Christianity, which is “Doing the of our Father in Heaven,” is completely open to all - anyone can obey God by accepting Jesus… Anyone at all - no restrictions whatsoever - completely inclusive. God’s love poured out through Jesus’ Blood extends to all.
Yet, obedience to God by accepting Jesus is the one and only way to be a Christian and to be a Christian is the one and only way into the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus said, “I AM the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Jesus is the only way to Heaven - that is completely exclusive. Truth, by definition, is exclusive. If it were all-inclusive nothing would be false - there would be no Truth.
In verse 50, Jesus made the teaching universally applicable. What was for the people around Him then, was made valid for all. He said, “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
That is the final sub-point in this chapter making and enhancing and bolstering the central thesis, primary principle, and main point, that there are only two possible positions. One is either in the Kingdom of Heaven, or one is in the kingdom of Satan. That’s it, no other possibility exists.
To which Kingdom do you belong? If not the fully obedient to the Father, Spirit filled disciple of Jesus Kingdom… Can you be absolutely certain that you will you have time in the future to get that right? Are you willing to bet your life on it? Are you willing to bet your eternity on it?091519 - Matthew 12d - Why Not A Sign?
September 23, 2019 08:02 AM PDT
Pastor Scott Keller
Alêtheia Christian Fellowship
8:00 ~ Service - 9:30 ~ Fellowship & Adult Sunday school - 10:30 ~ Service with the King’s Kid’s
1) What kind of a sign were they asking to see?
2) What does “Three days and three nights” mean?
3) What is the significance of Gentiles in the two examples?
MATTHEW 12:38 ~ 38NASBThen some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”
What they are asking for was a supernatural event of true Biblical proportions. Like God’s sign to King Hezekiah in turning back __________ (II Kings 20:8-11, Isaiah 38:7&8). Like God’s sign to Moses in speaking from a _____________ ________ (Exodus 3:2-6, 13-15). Like God’s sign in ______________ the Red Sea for the Children of Israel (Exodus 14:21). Like God’s sign in giving the people ____________ from Heaven (Exodus 16:13-36).
They were asking for some completely ___________________ supernatural manipulation of the natural world, not by Jesus, but by ________ Himself, to prove that Jesus was His Anointed One.
As the Messiah, surely You are greater than Elijah, who called down ________ out of Heaven (II Kings 1:10, 18:38). Surely You are greater than Joshua, who had the Lord stop the _______ and the ________ in their tracks (Joshua 10:12-14). Surely You are greater than Samuel, who called down __________ and _______ in the dry season (I Samuel 12:17&18).
MATTHEW 12:39-42 ~ 39NASBBut He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41“The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42“The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
_______________ had asked Jesus for a similar sign and Jesus told him, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test,” quoting Deuteronomy 6:16 (Matthew 4:7). How does Malachi 3:10 compare?
Both mean, ___________ God.
Signs bolster faith and harden unbelief. A Miracle is only a miracle to the person who ______________ it as a miracle.
Deuteronomy 13:1-3, basically says, “A sign or wonder” can be _________ and so it should not be the _____________ for Truth.
To the Pharisees, Jesus was encouraging the people to _________________ God’s commands.
So many Christians are so opinionated - so certain of their ideas, interpretations and doctrines. So rigid in their stance, so unyielding and unteachable. They, like the _______________, cannot recognize the vast chasm between what the Bible actually says, and what they think it says.
There is a reason that God requires ___________ for Salvation.
The Jewish leaders “Craved a sign,” because they didn’t really ___________ God.
“An evil and adulterous generation” is one in which trust in God and the relationship that kind of trust fosters, is supplanted by trust in religion and the trust in one’s own _______________ and in one’s own ___________.
Christianity isn’t about God rewarding good people - it’s about God forgiving bad people (Sam Allberry).
First, Jesus quoted Jonah chapter 2. God provided a ______________ prepared fish. Technically a דָּג (däg), in Hebrew, κῆτος (kā-tŏs), in Greek. Jonah was in its belly for three and three nights” (Jonah 1:17).
To the people then, the “Sign of Jonah,” specifically dealt with God _______________ him from the grave within three days.
John 11:17, 17NIVOn his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Verse 39, 39NIV“Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” With a word, Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out and he did.
Not only, did it not literally mean three full days and three full nights, as in 72 hours of time, it didn’t mean a time period at all. It meant that specific ______________ to hades and back again.
In I Samuel 30:11-&12, David comes across an Egyptian who had been left for dead. It says, “He had not eaten bread or drunk water for three days and three nights.” This good man was essentially in hades, and was brought back. His journey was over in less than…
Matthew saw no contradiction. Matthew 16:21 & 27:63. The entire early church saw no controversy.
The Pharisees and Scribes got it.
Second, Jesus used the episode told in both II Chronicles 9 and I Kings 10, where the Queen of ___________ came to meet King _______________.
She travelled a tremendous distance just to hear Solomon and now the ______________ was speaking, and the Jewish leaders were uninterested.
Alêtheia ~ Matthew 12d ~ 091519
In context, Jesus had performed many miracles including a dramatic healing and exorcism of a blind, mute and demon-possessed man.
The restoration of his sight, and his speech, along with the expulsion of the demon, was somehow so stunning to the crowds, they actively considered whether Jesus really was the Messiah even though He didn’t meet many of their expectations.
The religious leaders were so certain in their refusal to go there, they had no choice but to attribute the grand and good, supernatural event, to the power of Satan, instead of to the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus told them that their words, calling the good of God, the evil of Satan, was a spiritual death sentence. Their words revealed their heart to be hardened against God and the testimony He was bearing that Jesus was the Christ.
Refuse to embrace that reality and it is impossible to be forgiven, because you’ve refused the only means of forgiveness.
They respond. “Look, show us a sign and then we’ll believe.” Specifically, the request is attributed to the Scribes. The Scribes were the Biblical Scholars of the day. They were the experts in the details of the Scripture.
What they are asking for was not another healing, or another exorcism, or another supernatural feat, like pigs drowning in a lake, water becoming wine.
What they wanted was a supernatural event of true Biblical proportions. Like God’s sign to King Hezekiah in turning back time (II Kings 20:8-11, Isaiah 38:7&8). Like God’s sign to Moses in speaking from a Burning Bush (Exodus 3:2-6, 13-15). Like God’s sign in parting the Red Sea for the Children of Israel (Exodus 14:21). Like God’s sign in giving the people Manna from Heaven (Exodus 16:13-36).
They were asking for some completely undeniable supernatural manipulation of the natural world, not by Jesus, but by God Himself, to prove that Jesus was His Anointed One.
The tenor of the question means that it was not a sincere request. It was essentially, we know You are not the guy, and to prove that we’re right, go ahead and ask God to do something irrefutable, unassailable incontrovertible - something so incredible no one could possibly deny it, or by extension, deny You.
As the Messiah, surely You are greater than Elijah, who called down fire out of Heaven (II Kings 1:10, 18:38). Surely You are greater than Joshua, who had the Lord stop the sun and the moon in their tracks (Joshua 10:12-14). Surely You are greater than Samuel, who called down thunder and rain in the dry season (I Samuel 12:17&18). Do something at least that obvious and dramatic - we will not believe until we see God confirm You in such a fashion.
Matthew 12:39-42 ~ 39NASBBut He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41“The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42“The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
Satan had asked Jesus for a similar sign and Jesus told the King of Evil, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test,” quoting Deuteronomy 6:16 (Matthew 4:7). A website run by an atheist had this picture and then indicated that if the Bible was so blatantly contradictory on such a simple thing, how could anyone trust it for teaching them about God?
Context. In the Deuteronomy Text God is saying don’t approach Me with unbelief and demand I give a sign to prove I AM Who I say I AM. In the Malachi Passage God is saying trust me with all you have, and I will prove to you that I AM Who you already believe that I AM.
The first case is tempting God to put on a show so you will believe Him. The second case is believing Him and conducting yourself according to that faith, and it becomes a test where God will prove Himself to be trustworthy and faithful. The first is about unbelief and the second about belief.
Both mean, trust God.
Jesus never performed miracles for His personal benefit, or to prove His identity to unbelievers. All of His miracles were to bless others and they functioned as proof to those who did believe.
You see proof is in the eye of the beholder. Signs bolster faith and harden unbelief. A Miracle is only a miracle to the person who accepts it as a miracle.
What they were asking for was a demonstration of God’s power that would never have been any more certain than the exorcism Jesus had already performed. They wouldn’t believe, because they already didn’t believe.
Doing damage to Satan’s kingdom by casting his demon underlings out of their human homes is far less ambiguous than the type of sign the Scribes wanted.
Since we just read Jesus’ quote of Deuteronomy, here’s another passage from that Book. Deuteronomy 13:1-3, 1NIVIf a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, 2 and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. 4It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. 5That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.
Just like a magic illusion, “A sign or wonder” can also be faked and so it should not be the litmus test for Truth. What’s obvious is that even if Jesus had granted their pseudo-request, they would have, no doubt, appealed to this passage to say He was a false prophet and should be “Put to death.”
You see, to the Pharisees, Jesus was encouraging people to disregard God’s commands - to disobey God. Nothing He could do, at this point, was going to change their mind about that.
Now, as we saw before, what Jesus violated was their interpretation of God’s desire, rather than God’s actual desire, but the Pharisees couldn’t see that and so, no matter what happened they wouldn’t believe.
Please, I pray, my friends, do not fall into that trap. I talk to so many Christians who are so opinionated - so certain of their ideas, interpretations and doctrines. So rigid in their stance, so unyielding and unteachable. Please recognize the vast chasm that exists between what the Bible actually says and what you think it says.
Someone might think, and I’m sure the Pharisees that day would be among them, “Well if the sign was big enough, supernatural enough, undeniable enough, then we would believe.” When something is certain - it requires no belief. As one fairly famous dude said, “Cogito ergo sum” (Descartes 1637).
There is a reason that God requires faith for Salvation. It’s a bit elaborate and somewhat tedious, but it is what He requires for good reason. Because that is true, no one will get the kind of evidence that an unbeliever would call irrefutable… At least not until it’s too late. Step out in faith and trust God - it is the only way.
I’m sure it’s the same for most of you. In our many years of following Christ and doing active ministry, Mariah and I have had a front-row seat to many supernatural miraculous events. Every one of them undeniable to us and every one of them completely deniable to unbelievers who can rationalize away anything.
There are many reasons why Jesus wouldn’t put on a show for them and not the least of which is that merely requesting it was blasphemous. What they should have asked for was the faith to see what God wanted them to see. What they should have prayed for was a softened heart and complete openness to the Holy Spirit’s testimony.
We all should. Being the pastor of a non-denominational church, I often meet folks who have a different idea on how to do Christianity and church than we do at Alêtheia.
Far more often than I like, the people are highly opinionated, unwilling to listen, adversarial and sometimes very mean. It’s not fun, it can be hurtful to me personally and even damaging to the church on occasion. Regardless, I have learned to take it to the Lord and sincerely ask Him what He wants me to see - to change - to embrace.
Even if, God confirms that I can disregard the criticism, I can still glean something from it, if the only thing I glean is to be humble and take it to Him.
Please be humble enough to take it to the Lord and make sure that He isn’t trying to tell you something. The Pharisees didn’t do that.
In that way, bottom line, the Jewish leaders “Craved a sign,” because they didn’t really trust God - believe me, at the end of the day, that was the problem.
“An evil and adulterous generation” is one in which trust in God and the relationship that kind of trust fosters, was supplanted by trust in religion and the inevitable result, which is trust in one’s own understanding and in one’s own efforts. No thanks! I know what I’m doing.
The attitude is, “I don’t need to pray about it, I know good from evil for myself.” It is reliance on your ability to know good from evil and your ability to unbalance your personal cosmic scales slightly towards the good side, thus earning your own salvation… At least in part.
Last Wednesday night, our group watched a video of a pastor saying that He came to be a Christian when his thinking about Christianity was changed. He said that he had always thought that Christianity was about God rewarding good people. Then he discovered that what Christianity really was about, was God forgiving bad people.
Legalists never seem to grasp that fact. Perhaps, it’s because they’re too busy.
Jesus then gave them two examples from the Old Testament where Gentiles, of all people, Gentiles, would stand as a testimony condemning the unfaithfulness of the Jewish majority.
First the “Sign of Jonah.” Jesus quoted Jonah chapter 2. There’s a lot going on in the Book of Jonah, so let me just remind you of some of the highlights.
God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach to the Assyrians. They happened to be Israel’s greatest enemy at the time, and Jonah was afraid that they would repent at his preaching and that God would then forgive them for the horrific way they had treated the Israelites.
Put yourself in his position. Imagine the person who has hurt you most. Maybe they abused you horribly. Now, God says to you, “Go and tell them about Jesus.” You know that they will repent, and that will forgive them and love them, as though nothing ever happened.
So, Jonah, intending to go as far from his ordained audience as possible, boarded a ship bound for Tarshish (most people think it was a city in what is now Spain). Wherever it was, it was far, far, away. The kid’s song admonishes Jonah saying, “Jonah, you don’t go to Nineveh by way of Tarshish.”
God made the sea so rough the sailors finally agreed to throw Jonah overboard. God provided a supernaturally outfitted fish.
Technically a דָּג (däg), in Hebrew, κῆτος (kā-tŏs), in Greek. It was a “Huge fish,” or really a “Sea monster,” not a whale.
The “Sea monster” was specially prepared by God to swallow and keep Jonah. It was not a natural fish that swallowed him naturally. Please don’t fall into the ridiculous trap of trying to explain the event naturally. It was supernatural!
After Jonah got with God’s program the specially prepared, or God appointed, fish expelled Jonah on the shore.
Jonah went to Nineveh, he preached, the citizens repented, and Jonah went into a fit of depression over the whole deal.
There are two obvious, but related parts of the story I left out. First, 17NIV“Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17).
Second, Jonah himself repented for his actions in the form of a psalm recorded in Jonah chapter 2. The most significant idea for our purposes today is Jonah equated his fish experience with death, with being in the grave, Sheol, hades, the netherworld, the place of the dead and that only God could save him from that place.
I’m going to attempt to put those two things together in an understandable way, but before I do, I want to mention a Biblical reality.
Jonah’s psalm is intensely expressive. It is typical Biblically. Constantly, in God’s Word we are shown that we are to worship, adore, praise and love God with our mind, and with our physical activity, but also with our emotions as well. Jesus said in Mark 12:30, 30NASBand you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’
Psalms, hymns, contemporary songs are all music meant to evoke an emotional response to a cerebral understanding… To enable a whole person worship of God. Read Jonah’s psalm. It is full of metaphorical and emotionally evocative language. It is meant to connect one’s feelings to the story in an experiential way.
We founded this church on the idea that we would worship God with our minds and with our affections and with our actions. To shun in-depth study, as some do - to shun emotional experience, as some do - to shun physical interaction, as some do - is to deny God our whole selves in our worship of Him.
In their thinking it was a place, not necessarily good, or bad, just a repository for the dead until they were judged.
All around the ancient near east and the Mediterranean from India to Carthage and from Egypt to Greece the people had stories about the Netherworld. In those stories dating back more than 2,000 years before Jesus, there was a theme that ran through in every culture. The common tale was of a hero who went to the Underworld and returned within three full days.
Whether it was the ancient Sumerians, or Akkadians, or Hittites, or Egyptians, or Minoans, or Israelites, the story always had the feature that after three full days, the return to the living world was impossible.
We see that in Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It functions as Jesus’ most significant miracle and was the one that put the nail in His coffin, so to speak.
Jesus intentionally delayed going to Bethany so that not only would Lazarus die of his illness, he would be dead a buried for more than three full days before Jesus arrived. John 11:17, 17NIVOn his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Verse 39, 39NIV“Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” With a word, Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out and he did.
That was doubly impossible. Raising the dead after one day was impossible, but after three full days, it was thought that not even God Himself would raise someone. If there could have been an undeniable sign - that was it.
That whole, less than three full days for a hero to return from hades, was colloquially stated as, “Three days and three nights.” It became a colloquialism, an idiom, a popular expression, common jargon, a cultural saying, among many cultures to mean the hero’s journey to Sheol and back.
Not only did it not literally mean three full days and three full nights, as in 72 hours of time, it didn’t mean a time period at all. It meant that specific journey. To the Greeks, heroes like Theseus and Heracles, better known by his Roman name Hercules, could go there and return by their ingenuity, magical items and some supernatural help.
To the Jews, a man of God could go and return only by way of God’s salvation. To Christians, the Word made flesh returned because He is God.
The point is that in the story of Jonah the “Three days and three nights,” may be literal, but even if it is, the phrase refers to the journey and the salvation, not the time period.
Another Biblical example is found in I Samuel 30:11-&12, David comes across an Egyptian who had been left for dead. Giving the man care, food and water he was revived, and the Bible says, “He had not eaten bread or drunk water for three days and three nights.” Again, I’m not saying that it couldn’t have been a literal 72-hour period of time without food or water, but even if it was, that’s not the point.
It was that this good man who was essentially dead and in hades, was brought back from there. His journey to the netherworld was over and it lasted for not more than “Three days and three nights.”
The best proof is that Matthew, in this same Gospel account, recorded these words of Jesus and also tells us that Jesus was in the tomb for approximately 36 hours… He wrote in Matthew 16:21b, that Jesus began explaining 21bNIVThat he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Then he wrote in Matthew 27:63, that the Jewish leaders went to Pilate and said, 63NIV“Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’”
Matthew saw no contradiction. According to His Gospel, just before the “Great Sabbath” (Great Sabbaths occur when the lunar holiday coincides with the weekly Sabbath) started at 6pm on Friday Jesus died and He was in Sheol until about sunrise, maybe 6am Sunday.
Matthew was a skilled author. His Gospel circulated widely, quickly. Neither he, nor anyone else, saw a problem, because to them, it was no problem.
The entire early church believed that - there was no controversy about it at all and to them, why would there be? Jesus died on Friday, He was dead on Saturday, He rose on Sunday. His death touched three days and by the way they reckoned things it could be legitimately said that He was in Sheol “Three days and three nights.” Because it wasn’t about exact times.
Neither Jonah, nor the Egyptian guy that King David found, nor Matthew, had wristwatches or cell phones with the time.
People today , mostly Adventists and Messianic Jewish groups, think the Gospel writers were too dumb to see the contradiction, or they say Jesus must have really died on Wednesday at about 5pm and rose on Saturday at about 5pm and then just haunted the tomb area until the ladies showed up the next morning.
Both ideas are wrong and completely unnecessary once you understand the saying, “Three days and three nights,” is about the journey and not literally about time.
Because we get confused, we assume the Pharisees and Scribes were likewise confused by Jesus’ answer - they weren’t! They got it. Jesus was saying that He would be God’s man who would go on a mission for God into Sheol and return. Just as Jonah had done symbolically.
To the Pharisees it would have been another blasphemy.
After being vomited on to the shore, the Book of Jonah tells us that the prophet went, as previously commanded, to preach to the Assyrians. Those despicable Gentiles did repent, and God forgave them.
The worst of the worst, repented at the preaching of the wayward prophet Jonah, and here, now, the Messiah was preaching, and the supposedly Godly Pharisees refused to repent.
Finally, in the Book of Jonah, we see the despondent prophet slump against the east city wall and bitterly complain. God sent him a shade plant to give a respite from the heat, but then took it away. Jonah “Begged with all his soul to die” (Jonah 4:8). What does that have to do with Jesus’ point? Nothing. I bring up this part of the story as a vivid reminder, not to press examples, analogies, metaphors, parables, or symbolic language beyond the author’s intent.
The second illustration Jesus used was the episode told in both II Chronicles, chapter 9 and I Kings, chapter 10, where the Queen of Sheba came to meet King Solomon.
She travelled a tremendous distance just to hear him and witness his greatness firsthand. Jesus’ point here is even simpler. A Gentile Queen traveled about as far as people could imagine then in order to listen to Solomon and now the Anointed One of God is speaking, and the Jewish leaders can’t be bothered to travel a few measly feet to listen to Him in earnest.
We have unbelieving Gentiles in both cases, becoming believers and their actions will be a testimony against the supposedly believing Jews who refuse to recognize their own Messiah.
The larger point is that there are only two positions and the Pharisees and Scribes have chosen to remain in the position opposite to Jesus.
You can visit our website at www.myaletheia.com or www.aletheia.us
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