Law- Old Testament, New Testament, Sunday School

Woe is We ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 11-9-14


These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 45 ~ Nov. 2-8
Luke 18:15-21:38, Mark 11-13, John 12, Matthew 22-25
Woe Is We

Matthew 23

The Pharisees* were the movers and shakers in Jewish religious life. They held positions of authority in the Sanhedrin (Jewish governing council) and temple, and generally concerned themselves with keeping and enforcing what they perceived to be proper law and order within Judaism.

The main problem with the Pharisees (as Jesus so often, and rightly, pointed out) was that they had added hundreds of their own laws on top of God’s laws and equated the keeping of their laws with the keeping of God’s laws. We often look back through history and chide them for this (sometimes deservedly, sometimes hypocritically), but let’s keep something in mind: they had seen what disobedience to God’s law had caused. Warfare, siege, starvation, bloodshed, exile. It was horrific. But instead of seeking to love God with all their hearts and obey Him out of that love, they started “double fencing.” If God put up a “no trespassing” fence around, say, working on the Sabbath (doing your regular job/work instead of resting and worshiping), the Pharisees backed up about 100 yards and put up an additional fence to make sure you wouldn’t break that law. You couldn’t walk more than a certain number of steps- that might lead to working. You couldn’t rub grain in your hands to hull it and eat it (Luke 6:1-2)- that was too much like working.

One of the things Jesus was trying to show people, including the Pharisees, was that a right relationship with God was about loving Him, not rule-keeping. This scared the Pharisees. It probably sounded too loosey-goosey. They were afraid that if Israel didn’t maintain strict adherence to the law, anarchy would break out and result in an even harsher judgment from God than they had previously experienced. And since Jesus was spearheading this movement away from the heavy burden of Pharisaical law, the Pharisees wanted to get rid of Him.

As we approach chapter 23, the Pharisees’ approach to getting rid of Jesus had been largely passive aggressive instead of direct. Hoping to show Jesus for the blasphemer they thought He was, they spent most of chapter 22 trying to trick Him into saying something they could nail Him on. Taxes, the resurrection of the dead (that was actually the Sadducees), the greatest Commandment. They couldn’t seem to trip Him up. Jesus, having answered all their thinly veiled questions, turns the tables on the Pharisees, and manfully addresses them, and their sin, directly, pulling no punches.

Intro to Woe (23:1-12)
Jesus prefaces what he is about to say to the scribes and Pharisees by addressing the disciples and the gathered crowd. He wants to make sure the people understand that there is a difference between God’s law, which is good, and the Pharisees’ perversion of God’s law, which is bad. The people were to keep God’s law as it was presented in Scripture (3), not as it had been built upon by the Pharisees. Furthermore, whatever good motive the Pharisees might have started out with in making all these extra laws (i.e. keeping the people from breaking God’s law), their motive had now morphed into attention and honor-seeking (3-7). They were no longer motivated by a genuine concern for God’s people and holiness, but by a desire for accolades and prominence. Jesus wanted the people to be careful not to fall into that trap themselves (8-10), especially the disciples, who would soon be heading up the New Testament church. They were to humble themselves and serve those they shepherded, not become “celebrity pastors.”

Woes 1&2 (13-15, Luke 3:8, Genesis 15:6)
It’s interesting that the Pharisees were so proud of their Abrahamic heritage (“We have Abraham for our father…” Luke 3:8) but they forgot what God declared to be the theme of Abraham’s life- righteousness through faith, not law-keeping:

And he [Abraham]believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6

The Pharisees were believing and teaching a false doctrine of righteousness by works, not faith. They were teaching this both to the Jews under their care (13) and to any Gentiles who might be seeking the one true God (15). False doctrine, even if it sounds good and holy to the ear, even if it seems to be “Bible-ish,” even if it’s being preached by someone in religious authority, sends people to Hell. Jesus says so right here. The only gospel that saves is the one Jesus preached, the one that is true to God’s word.

Woe 3 (16-22, Matthew 5:34, Exodus 20:16, Proverbs 12:22, John 14:6)
These days, nobody seems to give a second thought to saying, “I swear to God,” to make people believe them, even when they’re lying. People place their hands on a Bible in court, swear to tell the truth, and then perjure themselves, fearing only the legal consequences, not the spiritual. The Pharisees were a little more concerned that God might zap them if they used His name to convince someone of their honesty, all the while deceiving him. Their deceitfulness was so pervasive that they had devised a list of things they could swear by that wouldn’t bring down God’s wrath even if they were lying. But they were only deceiving themselves. It didn’t matter what they swore by, because everything belongs to God and is under His control. God’s command is not to lie (Ex.). Period. He says that “lying lips are an abomination” (Pr.) The God who says, “I am THE TRUTH,” (Jn.) wants us to be so in love with truth that truth is all we speak, rather than seeing how many lies we can get away with.

Woe 4 (23-24)
The tithe didn’t really cover these tiny little herbs, but the Pharisees dutifully measured out a tenth of everything to show their righteousness. But they were so focused on the metrics of righteousness that they had lost the heart of righteousness. That’s why we see them, in several instances, not rejoicing that a blind or crippled person had been healed, but chastising Jesus for healing the person on the Sabbath. Notice that Jesus didn’t say they were wrong to tithe, only that they should not have forgotten to love and serve their neighbors while doing so. Their religion had become a rigid skeleton of laws and regulations, do’s and don’t’s. No heart, no flesh.

This is one that so many churches today are guilty of without even realizing it. When we focus on man-made rules and traditions to the extent that we don’t notice the people we’re trampling on in the process, or we cannot help people because we’ve backed ourselves into a corner with our own rules (and please notice, I’m talking about man-made rules here, not strict adherence to sound doctrine, which is required by Scripture), we are doing exactly what Jesus was scolding the Pharisees for.

Woes 5&6 (25-28, 1 Samuel 16:7b)
1 Samuel 16:7b says:

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

And what Jesus saw in the Pharisees’ hearts was people who were dead (27) in their sins (25). They concerned themselves only with appearing righteous to others, not with the actual condition of their hearts. Because they were unsaved, the best the Pharisees could do was to put on a facade of holiness, and they worked hard to maintain that facade. Jesus tried to explain to them that if their hearts were right with God through faith, humility, and repentance, a righteous outward appearance would be a natural overflow of the righteousness inside. Righteousness isn’t about what we do, it’s about who we are in Christ. It isn’t about behaving like a good person, it’s about trusting in the only good Person who ever lived and having His goodness credited to our accounts.

Woe 7 (29-36)
Jesus is already pretty torqued, but you mess with His faithful servants, and He goes ballistic. Remember all the prophets we read about in our study of the Old Testament and the way many of them were treated? Many of them were murdered by God’s people simply for speaking God’s word to them. And here came the Pharisees, patting themselves on the back, decorating tombs, and saying, “Well, of course we would never have done such a thing.” Hogwash. They were already plotting to kill Jesus (in fact, by now, they had already tried stoning Him and throwing Him off a cliff), and they would go on to martyr 11 of the 12 apostles as well as others of Jesus’ followers in the early church era. Anybody who spoke the truth of God rather than what the Pharisees wanted to hear was in just as much danger as an unpopular Old Testament prophet.

Some Christians are very much the same today. They read the gospel accounts of the Pharisees plotting against, and crucifying, Jesus and think to themselves, “I would never do that,” but if a fellow Christian calls them to repent of obvious sin, or shows them that they’re following false doctrine or a false teacher, they immediately attack that person as “judging,” “unloving,” “divisive,” etc.

Whoa (37-39)
Christ’s public teaching ministry was over with this final diatribe. Having completed these seven woes, what is His tone? Is it angry? Condemning? No, it is sorrowful. One of the defining characteristics of Jesus is that, no matter how much we have sinned, He loves us. And, in the same way you can be absolutely furious with your child yet still love him, Jesus loved these Pharisees. It grieved Him that they preferred their sin of a fake relationship with God to a real relationship with God. God is not the cruel taskmaster the Pharisees’ endlessly burdensome law-keeping implied. In Christ, there is freedom from the yoke of the law– the freedom to love God and obey Him from the heart. That’s what Jesus wanted for the Pharisees. He didn’t want to punish them; He wanted to set them free. Free from duty and drudgery. Free from facades and fear. Free to rest in Christ and enjoy their Father rather than slaving away for Him.

And that’s what Jesus wants for us, too. He obeyed the Law perfectly for us so we wouldn’t have to (because we can’t). And when we trust that He did that for us, He gives us the righteousness that He earned with His law-keeping. Jesus sets us free from the need to strive, to try harder, to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. He sets us free to love and enjoy Him.


*Who Were the Sadducees and the Pharisees? by Got Questions?

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ Matthew 28


Matthew 28:

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers

Questions to Consider

1. What is the purpose of the book of Matthew? Which genre(s) of biblical literature (prophecy, epistle, narrative, wisdom, etc.) is the book of Matthew? What is the historical backdrop for this book?

2. What is the setting for Matthew 28? Briefly describe the events that led up to this chapter. How might the events of this chapter have been different if the women and the disciples had understood and/or believed Jesus the numerous times He told them He would die and rise again?

3. Compare and contrast the way the angel presented himself to the guards (unbelievers) (2-4) with the way he presented himself to the women (believers) (5-7) and the reaction to the angel by the guards (4) and by the women (8). What did the angel tell the women that he didn’t tell the guards? Why didn’t the angel tell the guards not to be afraid, or explain to them what was happening? What was the women’s reaction to encountering Jesus? (9-10) Did the guards get to see Jesus? Why is it good and right for unbelievers to be fearful and hopeless when encountering God, but for Believers to be joyful and reassured when encountering God?

4. Who was the guards’ employer – the Roman government or the chief priests? Yet, to whom did the guards report back after the resurrection? (11) What does 11-15 tell us about how deeply enmeshed the leaders of God’s people had become with pagans? Apply these passages to this relationship between the Jewish leaders and the Roman leaders. What does all of this teach you about your own life? Do you have any yokings (close partnerships or intimate relationships) with unbelievers that you need to reevaluate?

5. Notice the sequence of 16-20: Obedience (16) >> Nearness to Jesus (17a) >> Worship (17) >> Being sent out and used by God to further His Kingdom (18-20). How does this demonstrate the principle of “faithful in little, faithful in much“? What if one of the disciples had decided not to go to the mountain (16)? What would he have missed as a result of his disobedience? How does obedience to Christ draw us nearer to Him, which then fuels our worship of Him? Why should ministry work always be founded on worship?

Why was it important for Jesus to announce His authority (18) before commissioning the disciples (and by extension, all future disciples, including us today)? Does anyone else – pope, pastor, priest, etc. – have the authority to create, establish, or declare the mission of the church and individual Christians? What is the mission of the church and individual Christians? (18-20) Are you carrying out this mission? Is your church?

Forgiveness, New Testament, Sin, Sunday School

Sin-opsis ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 10-26-14


These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 43 ~ Oct. 19-25
Matthew 15-18, Mark 7-9, Luke 9:18-11:54, John 7-10

Sin. That word can cause us to think of a lot of different things, from our sin, to people who have sinned against us, to forgiveness. Today, we’re going to hear what Jesus has to say about five different aspects of sin.

Matthew 18

Causing Another Believer to Sin (1-5, Matthew 20:20-24)
Have you ever noticed that the disciples asked a lot of interesting questions? Why do you think they wanted to know who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Pride? A desire for clout or recognition? The disciples and Jesus lived in a society in which people were acutely aware of who had rank, recognition, and power (the Pharisees, scribes, Saducees, lawyers, priests, and Levites), and who did not (everybody else, including Jesus and them), when it came to the way Judaism was structured. We talked last week about what people, even the disciples, expected the Messiah to be: a conquering king who would overthrow Rome and restore Israel to prominence and prosperity. Here, as in the case of Mrs. Sons of Thunder asking if her boys could sit on either side of Jesus’ throne (Matt. 20), they were likely thinking of their offices in the new government they imagined Jesus would head up once He reestablished the kingdom.

Once again, Jesus had to set them straight. “It’s not about how high on the power ladder you can climb, Boys. It’s about how humble you can be, as humble as a little child.” And why did Jesus have to set them straight? Because they had been, skandalizo, “entrapped” or “tripped up” as verse 6 puts it, by faulty teaching from those who were responsible to rightly handle God’s word. The disciples would soon be in the position of teacher and preacher themselves. It was imperative they had a correct understanding of God’s word and God’s ways so they could accurately teach the new “little children” coming into the church.

When we share the gospel with others, teach the Bible, offer others advice or counsel, etc., we must make absolutely certain we have a correct understanding of what God’s word says. Otherwise, we might be tripping others up by leading them to believe things that are in conflict with the Bible. Jesus takes that very seriously saying (7) “it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Pretty strong words.

Recreation of a millstone used for pressing olives in Nazareth, Israel.
Recreation of a millstone used for pressing olives in Nazareth, Israel.

When I Am Tempted (7-9)
What about when someone else tempts me to sin? Again, Jesus has strong words for anyone who entices someone into any kind of sin: “woe.” What are some ways we can cause people to sin or be drawn into someone else’s sin, even in the church? Gossip, adultery, inciting other church members against the pastor or other leaders, playing “politics”, etc.

But whether tempted by a church member or the world, Jesus paints a serious picture of how we should respond to that temptation. Now, Jesus isn’t suggesting we literally maim ourselves, because, if you think about it, even a blind person can lust. Sin is an issue of the heart. Jesus is saying that we are to get away from temptation to guard our hearts, whatever the cost. Your relationship with Christ is worth it.

What might “gouging your eye out” or “cutting your hand off” look like for someone facing a certain temptation? For a person tempted to drunkenness, it might mean not drinking at all or not going to certain social events where they know the booze will be flowing freely. A person tempted to lust and adultery might need to make certain she is never alone with a man she’s not married to. She may even have to avoid spending any time with certain men she’s attracted to. Sin is serious, and we sometimes have to take big, inconvenient steps to stay out of it, but our relationship with Christ is completely worth it.

When Another Christian Sins (10-14, Romans 8:1)
Our brothers and sisters in Christ are going to sin. There’s just no way around it. How should we respond to a fellow Christian who has wandered off into sin? Ignore it and hope she’ll stop? Stop speaking to to her? Castigate her? No. We are to respond to her the same way Jesus does with the lost sheep:

10– We are not to treat any of our brothers or sisters unkindly; we are to treat all with kindness and love.

12– We remember that Christ came to save the lost from their sin. Of course, He does not want those He has saved to wander off back into their sin. Jesus goes after the wandering sheep to bring it back into the safety of the fold. We are to do the same. If someone wanders off, we don’t just let her go. We go after her in love and concern to bring her back to where she needs to be.

13-14– “If he finds it…” If is kind of an interesting word to use here, since Jesus is the shepherd in the story. Will there ever be a case in which Jesus can’t find someone who has wandered off? No. God is sovereign over all things. He knows where we are, what we’re doing, and the state of our hearts at all times. These verses are referring to the lost sheep who is willing to be found and return to the fold with Jesus. When a Christian repents and returns to Christ, Christ rejoices over her. While there may be consequences of the sin to face, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom.) Isn’t that awesome? When that repentant sheep comes back to the fold, we are to have the same loving, embracing, and forgiving attitude towards her that Christ has. Christ’s desire is always restoration and reconciliation, and that should be our desire as well.

When Another Christian Sins Against Me (15-20)
One of the most important things we can focus on in this passage is the word “sins”. In the church body, there are going to be times when things happen to us that we don’t like. That doesn’t necessarily mean these things are SIN. Maybe we don’t like the style of music, or a particular mannerism of the pastor. Maybe somebody tells us a truth we need to hear that stings a little, or someone is annoying or inadvertently hurts our feelings. Our feelings don’t determine what sin is, the Bible does. When deciding whether to confront the person, we first need to determine if what she did is sin according to the Bible (not according to our opinion), or if it’s a non-sinful offense, and we can overlook it and extend grace, realizing that people have probably done the same for us on many occasions.

On the other hand, if the person IS sinning, we can’t shy away from an awkward conversation with her about it. Remember the wandering sheep? We need to have the same love for that wandering brother or sister and try to restore and reconcile him/her. First, we go to the person privately -not in front of a group, not on Facebook- one on one, and, remembering the way we would want someone to approach us, kindly and lovingly, yet firmly, talk to her about her sin. If she repents and returns, let the rejoicing and forgiving commence! If she persists, we take a couple of other Believers with us to kindly, lovingly, and firmly approach her again. If she still persists in her sin, the next appropriate and required step is to take the matter before the church body for disciplinary action. If the person still refuses to repent, we are to treat her as “a Gentile and a tax collector.”

What does that mean? Are we supposed to shun her? Hate her? No. Look how Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors (like Matthew and Zacchaeus). He loved them, shared the gospel with them, and called them to repent and believe in Him. In other words, He treated them like the unbelievers they were. People who persist in unrepentant sin show us that they are not Believers. When we have exhausted all attempts at restoration, we agree with their behavior that they are not Believers and treat them that way. We remove their names from church membership and remove them from any positions of leadership or responsibility in the church, but we keep loving them, keep sharing the gospel with them, and keep praying for their salvation.

Why We Forgive (21-35, Ephesians 4:32)
This parable can be summed up in the words of Ephesians 4:32:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Who is the king in this parable? Jesus. Who is the first servant? Me. How big is our sin debt to Jesus? Verse 24 describes it as ten thousand talents. One talent was a unit of money equal to twenty years’ wages for a laborer. Therefore, ten thousand talents would have equaled 200,000 years’ worth of wages, an impossible amount to even begin to repay, just like our sin debt. But when we throw ourselves on the mercy of Christ and repent, He forgives us that enormous debt. Just wipes it right out. Any sin that anyone can commit against us, no matter how egregious, is peanuts (verse 28 calls it 100 denarii, or 100 days’ wages) compared to the grief and agony we put Christ through on the cross. How can we, knowing how hugely we have sinned against Christ, refuse to forgive others anything they might do to us?

The “Sin-Opsis”
There’s an old Carman song that contains the line

“Black is black, and white is white.
And Hell is hot, and sin ain’t right.”

It’s a pretty good “sin-opsis” of the what sin is. It is Christ’s desire that we stay out of sin ourselves, not lead others into sin, rescue others who have fallen into sin, and forgive those who have sinned against us.

New Testament, Sanctification, Sunday School

Persecution 101 ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 10-19-14


These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 42 ~ Oct. 12-18
Matthew 8:14-11:30, 12:22-14:36, Luke 8:1-9:17, 11, Mark 4-6, John 6
Persecution 101

Last week we took a look at this pattern:

God—>God calls and trains His people—>God’s people minister the gospel to others

We saw it across various contexts of the Bible: the “macro,” or overall theme from Old Testament to New, the “micro,” or the way God works in our personal lives, and the “messianic,” or the way this pattern applied to Jesus’ own life. This week’s reading was another example of this pattern, the “ministerial,” or the way it applied to Jesus’ and the disciples’ ministry.

In this week’s reading we saw that Jesus’ ministry started with Jesus, Himself. Next He called out and trained His disciples through many parables and healings. Today, we will be looking at the passage where He sends them out to minister the gospel to others. In His final training session before Jesus sends out the twelve, He wants to make sure they’re ready for what they’re about to face.

Matthew 10:16-39

Go Ye Therefore- 5-13 (10:7-8, 5-6, Mark 1:14-15, Isaiah 35:5-6)
Jesus is sending out the disciples. What is He sending them out to do? Verses 7-8 tell us that their ministry was two-fold: first, they were to preach, just as Jesus did (Mark 1):

the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.

Second, they were to perform various signs and wonders. Notice that the signs and wonders are secondary to the message of the gospel. Wasn’t the gospel enough? What was the purpose of the miracles? When Jesus perfomed miracles, the miracles were both a fulfillment of prophecy (Is.) to help the Jews to understand that He was the promised Messiah, and they also authenticated His message of the gospel to the gentiles and others who weren’t familiar with the prophecies. Street cred, in other words– if He can do that, what He says must be true, and we’d better listen. The miracles the disciples were to perform were to serve the same purpose– to point to Jesus as the Messiah and to give credibility to the gospel message.

Who were the disciples sent to? Jesus told them not to go to the Samaritans (half Jew, half gentile, as we studied last week) or the gentiles, but “rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Why? Because He didn’t love gentiles and want them to hear the gospel? Not at all. We saw last week that He had already been to a Samaritan village to preach the gospel. And, of a Roman centurion (a gentile) whose servant He healed, Jesus said, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith,” and went on to say- to an audience of Jews- that there were many gentiles who would make it to Heaven while many Jews would not.

Jesus sent the disciples to the Jews because that was the order God had ordained- first the Jews, then the gentiles. Why?

1. His promise was to the Jews, not the gentiles. God had promised that the Messiah would come through the Jews and to the Jews. All of Jewish history and ceremony had been pointing to this moment in time. God had been laying the ground work through types and shadows and prophecy for millenia. It was only right that Messiah should be revealed to them first.

Imagine if you’ve been promising your child since the day he was born that when he turned 16 you’d buy him a car. Over the years you talked about it together, looked at pictures, visited car lots, and finally picked out the perfect one. Then, on the day of your son’s 16th birthday, you run into a random 16 year old on the street and buy him a car first. Even if you immediately thereafter drove your son to the car lot to buy him his car, would that be the right way to do things?

2. At this point in history -Jesus’ earthly ministry through the birth and spread of the church- we’re looking at very rapid Kingdom growth. Teachers and preachers are going to be needed, like, fast, to shepherd these thousands of new Christians, most of whom are clueless gentiles.

If you work at a computer company and you’re launching a completely new type of software that you want to make accessible to as many people as possible as fast as possible, are you going to hire field representatives who have a professional background in computers or someone who’s never used a computer before?

Same idea here. The Jewish people already had a background in “messiah-ology.” Once saved, they could be up and running as teachers and pastors much faster than your average gentile.

Good News, Bad News- 14-25 (John 3:19)
God is sending out His people (the disciples) to tell His people (the Jews) that He has kept His promise and sent Jesus, the long awaited Messiah. Plus, they’re going to heal a bunch of people and do other miracles. What Jew in his right mind wouln’t be overjoyed at this awesome news, right?

So, what’s all this stuff about the disciples being hated and persecuted and charged with criminal activity? That’s not the way people usually respond to someone who’s bringing them good news. But God’s news isn’t good news when you don’t love God, and these Jews didn’t. That’s why Jesus referred to the people He was sending the disciples to as “lost sheep.” They were just as lost as any gentile.

1. They loved darkness rather than light (Jn.). The good news of the gospel is bad news when you love your sin and don’t want to give it up, because the gospel requires us to forsake our sin -all of it- actually admit that we’re scum, and fling ourselves on the mercy of Christ for forgiveness. It’s only by the gift of God’s grace that we’re able to do that.

2. They wanted the idol-messiah they had fashioned in their minds, not the Messiah of Scripture. Many in Israel were expecting and/or hoping for a messiah who would come in, conquer Rome, sit on David’s throne, re-establish the theocracy of Israel, and bring them back to prominence and prosperity. In other words, just like the woman at the well from last week, they wanted the temporal stuff, not the eternal. A Christ who would set them free from Rome and poverty, not a Christ who would set them free from sin.

That’s why, to many people the disciples preached to, the good news was bad news.

Fear Not- 26-39
Jesus is delivering a pretty sobering message here. When the disciples preach the gospel (now, and in the early church era), they’re going to be: shunned (14), turned over to the courts (17), flogged (17- and they’re not too far from seeing this happen to Jesus), dragged in front of kings and governors (17), betrayed to the enemy by family members (21), hated by all (22), fleeing for their lives (23), slandered (25), executed (28), and alienated from their closest family members (35-36). That’s a tough row to hoe, but Jesus wants them to understand that what many of the Jews are expecting -Messiah will re-establish the kingdom of Israel and bring peace (34)- isn’t reality, and when they tell people that, things are going to get ugly. He hasn’t come to bring earthly peace, instead, standing with Christ will be the hardest thing they’ve ever done.

But what is their response to this persecution supposed to be? Are they to give up, retaliate, cower? No, Jesus tells them to do two things:

1. Don’t be afraid of them (26). The worst thing they can do is kill you. If you’re going to be afraid of something, fear God and fear denying Him (28).

2. As long as you’ve got breath in your body, you preach the gospel. You preach it loud and you preach it long (27). Do. not. stop. no matter what.

Why? Because God loves you. He values you. He’s going to take care of you. And He’s in control.

The Demands of Discipleship Today
There are Christians today in countries like North Korea, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, and other areas, who understand all too well what Jesus was warning the disciples about. They experience the same things on a daily basis. Those of us born in America have very little grasp of just how blessed we are to be able to worship God openly, freely, and without much real persecution.

But the times, they are a-changin’. Fast.

If you’ve been paying attention to the news over the last couple of years, you’ve seen stories about the Bible, prayer, and Christianity being systematically removed from and prohibited in public places. We’ve seen Christian bakers, photographers, and t-shirt company owners sued for declining to provide their services for homosexual “weddings,” rallies, and other events. Just last week, we saw Houston officials subpoena sermons and other materials from pastors in an effort to bully them into silence about their homosexual agenda.

Real persecution is coming to America at breakneck speed. And in the same way that the disciples were persecuted by both gentiles and the “lost sheep of Israel”, we will face persecution by both the world and those who claim the name of Christ, but actually follow a messiah-idol of their own making. Those of us who stand with the true Christ of Scripture and His word will be shunned and rejected by our closest family members- even those who claim to be Christians. We will be hated and slandered. We will be arrested, prosecuted, and even executed by both lost people and church people.

But Christ’s message to us is the same as it was to the twelve. Keep preaching the gospel. Preach it loud, preach it long, and preach it with your dying breath. Love Me more than your family, more than your reputation, more than your very life, because I care for you. How could we fail to stay true to Him after all He has done for us?