– The Prophecies of the King: Fulfilled by Christ Matthew 1 – 4
– The Genealogy and Birth of Christ: His True Glory as Messiah Matthew 1
– The Childhood of Christ: His Reception and Persecution Matthew 2
– The Ministry of John the Baptist & the Baptism of Christ Matthew 3
– The Temptation of Christ in the Wilderness Matthew 4:1-11
– The Beginning of Christ’s Public Ministry Matthew 4:12-25
– The Principles of the Kingdom: The Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5 – 7
– The Beatitudes: The Blessedness of the Subjects of the Kingdom Matthew 5:1-12
– Salt and Light: The Twofold Influence of Believers on the World Matthew 5:13-16
– The Principles of the Kingdom in Connection with the Law Matthew 5:17-48
– Having a Right Focus in Connection with Spiritual Things Matthew 6:1-18
– Having a Right focus in Connection with Material Things Matthew 6:19-34
– Having a Right focus in Connection with Social Things Matthew 7:1-6
– The Characteristic Virtues Needed for Subjects of the Kingdom Matthew 7:7-29
– The Powers of the Kingdom: Demonstrated by Signs Matthew 8 – 9
– First Dispensational Outline: A Leper, Centurion, and Mother-in-law Matthew 8:1-17
– (The Cost of Discipleship) Matthew 8:18-22
– The Messiah’s Power Over Every Other Force Matthew 8:23 – 9:8
– (The Nature Of Discipleship) Matthew 9:9-17
– Second Dispensational Outline: The Ruler’s Daughter & Infirm Woman Matthew 9:18-26
– The Messiah’s Power To Heal Israel’s Spiritual Condition Matthew 9:27-34
– The Preaching of the Kingdom: Twelve Disciples Sent to Lost Sheep Matthew 10
– The Heart a Disciple must have to be Useful in Service Matthew 9:35-38
– The Delegation of Authority to the Twelve Matthew 10:1-4
– The Sphere and Nature of their Work Matthew 10:5-8
– Dependence for Their Needs, Acceptance or Rejection Matthew 10:9-15
– Things for the Preachers of the Gospel of the Kingdom to Remember Matthew 10:16-42
– Conclusion of Commission, Continuation of Ministry Matthew 11:1
– The Prevention of the Kingdom: Christ Rejected by Israel Matthew 11 – 12
– John’s Doubts: The Significance of the Coming Dispensational Change Matthew 11:2-19
– Judgment to Fall on the Northern Towns because of Unbelief Matthew 11:20-24
– A Faithful Remnant Preserved for the Father’s Delight Matthew 11:25-30
– Rejection Concerning Jesus’ Authority over the Sabbath Matthew 12:1-21
– Rejection Concerning the Source of Jesus’ Power: the Unpardonable Sin Matthew 12:22-37
– Israel’s Unbelief would Result in Solemn Judgment Matthew 12:38-45
– The Lord Cuts His Ties with Nature (My Mother and My Brethren) Matthew 12:46-50
– The Postponement of the Kingdom: A Change in Dispensations Matthew 13 – 17
– The Parables of the Kingdom of Heaven Matthew 13:1-52
– The King in Withdrawal from the Nation of Israel Matthew 13:53 – 15:39
– Coming Changes: The Assembly and the Millennium Matthew 16 – 17
– The Principles of the Kingdom in Mystery Matthew 18 – 20:28
– Having Grace in Our Interactions with Others Matthew 18
– Having God’s Mind in Our Views on Natural Things Matthew 19
– Having Humility and Contentment in Our Service Matthew 20:1-28
– The Presentation of the King: The Son of David and Son of Man Matthew 20:29 – 25:46
– Symbolic Actions: The Presentation of Christ to the Nation Matthew 20:29 – 21:22
– Parables & Questions: The Hardness of the Jewish Leaders Exposed Matthew 21:23 – 22:46
– Seven Woes: The Moral Condemnation of the Jewish Leaders Matthew 23
– The Olivet Discourse: the Coming of Christ Matthew 24 – 25
– The Persecution of the King: Christ’s Death and Resurrection Matthew 26 – 28
– Events Preceding the Death of Christ Matthew 26:1-56
– The Trials of Christ Matthew 26:57 – 27:26
– The Crucifixion and Death of Christ Matthew 27:27-66
– The Resurrection of Christ Matthew 28
Matthew has a strong dispensational line of teaching that deals with the changes in God’s ways with His people on the earth. The greatest change that is emphasized is the setting aside of Israel for a time in the ways of God, and the blessing of the Gentiles in the interim. The future blessing of Israel through a remnant is also brought forward. The great theme of the book is the kingdom of heaven; it was prophesied of in the Old Testament, its manifestation was postponed because of Israel’s unbelief, but it has been set up in mystery form until the Church period comes to a close. Read more…  Matthew helps us to get established in the truth of the Christian dispensation, although this book was primarily written to the Jewish people. Throughout the gospel there are a number of dispensational outlines; i.e. dispensational changes illustrated by symbols and actions. I have tried to capture some of these in the outline of the book, and designated those sections containing dispensational progressions as follows:
             = a Dispensational Outline
The purpose(s) of the book. There are a number of purposes for the Gospel of Matthew. For the Jews, Matthew shows that Jesus is their Messiah, as the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies. Matthew also establishes the nation’s guilt in rejecting their Messiah. But for Christians, Matthew serves to establish us in the broad changes of God’s dispensational ways.
A different style of teaching is seen in the gospels compared to the epistles. In the epistles the truth is stated outright, but in the gospels the Spirit of God teaches more often through symbolic actions of our Lord, and through parables. Both the epistle-style (direct) and gospel-style (indirect) are very good and helpful methods of teaching, but we need to understand the difference. If we do not understand that the gospels present a different style of teaching, we will not get the full benefit from all the miracles and parables which are recorded in them. At the same time, there needs to be added carefulness when seeking to apprehend the true interpretation of indirect teaching. It is easy to read things into the scripture that the Holy Spirit never put there. As with other parts of scripture, we need to read the gospels in the light of all the other scriptures.
The fulfillment of prophecy. In Matthew we see many of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah fulfilled by Jesus. The Spirit of God acted in the capacity of “the porter” (John 10:3) to show, from the Old Testament scriptures, that Jesus was the Christ. This is highlighted in the first four chapters especially.

Dispensations or administrations are the various ordered dealings of God with men on the earth at different times. The Children of Israel in the Old Testament were in a different dispensation than we are in today. In the Millennium, inhabitants of the earth will live in a different dispensation than we are in today. Having an understanding of these changes in God's dealings is tremendously important. Our behavior as Christians is largely based on the principles that God has given to us in the present dispensation.

Read more… The book of Matthew deals with dispensational changes relating to the rejection of Messiah by Israel. Particularly, the changes involve: the setting aside of Israel, God turning to the Gentiles, the restoration of Israel through a remnant, and the final blessing of Israel in the Millennium.
The seed-plot of the New testament. Just as the book of Genesis is the seed-plot of the Old Testament (having the elements of promise, government, election, faith, and resurrection, etc.), so Matthew has the seeds of New Testament doctrine, although they are not brought out in their full depth in Matthew. To give some examples:
  • Practical Christian conduct (ch.5-7)
  • The failure of the Christian testimony (ch.13)
  • The assembly (ch.16 & 18)
  • Prophecy and the coming of Christ (ch.24-25)
  • Christ’s glory in the kingdom (ch.17)
It is important to see that this “seed plot” is painted on a Jewish backdrop. Romans 15:8 tells us that “Jesus Christ became a minister of the circumcision.” Christianity did not properly begin until Christ rose from the dead, ascended to the Father, and sent down the Holy Spirit. Christ’s ministry on earth was primarily to the circumcision. But in that ministry we see – by miracle and parable – the seeds of New Testament doctrine, particularly the setting aside of Israel and the bringing in of a new order.
Connection between Matthew, John, and Paul. Matthew documents the rejection of Jesus as the Christ, and John begins with His rejection as a forgone conclusion! In Matthew, man's rejection of the Christ is the cause of Him retreating into His eternal identity as the Son of God (Matt. 11:17, Matt. 16:16), but just mentioned in a kernel-form. Then in John, the glories of the Son of God and the revelation of the Father are fully treated of. In Paul's writings, we have the glories of the Son as a foregone conclusion, and the main subject is the unfolding of those blessings that are ours as associated with the Person of the Son! There is a doctrinal progression therefore from Matthew to John, and from John to Paul.
Foregone conclusion
Old Testament history of Israel
Main subject
Christ presented and
rejected by His people
Foregone conclusion
Christ presented and
rejected by His people
Main subject
The glories of the Son,
the Father revealed
Foregone conclusion
The glories of the Son,
the Father revealed
Main subject
Our blessings in
association with Christ
Four gospels, Four perspectives:
  • Matthew - written for the Jew
  • Mark - written for the Roman
  • Luke - written for the Greek
  • John - written for the Church
We can all learn and enjoy each gospel, but they are understood best when we know the perspective they are written from.
Four gospels, Four themes:
  • Matthew – Jesus, the King of the Jews
  • Mark – Jesus, the Perfect Servant
  • Luke – Jesus, the Perfect Man
  • John – Jesus, as God Himself in the Person of the Son
The synoptic gospels are Matthew, Mark, and Luke because they give a short synopsis of the Lord’s life from beginning to end. John doesn’t do that, he focuses on the Lord’s ministry in and around Jerusalem. In the synoptic Gospels, we have Christ presented to man to be received, but man fails the test and Christ is rejected. In John, Christ is rejected by man and Israel from the beginning, and God’s sovereign ways in grace and resurrection are brought in. Another difference is the audience. In the synoptic gospels we often have Jesus preaching to multitudes, but in John He is very often seen in a pastoral role, speaking to individuals... and it is to those individuals that He reveals the deepest truth of His Person!


  1. Kelly, William. Lectures on the Gospel of Matthew. Loizeaux Brothers, 1943.
  2. Darby, J. N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible. G. Morrish, 1940.
  3. Hole, Frank B. The Gospels and Acts. Scripture Truth Publications, 2007.
  4. Ironside, H. A. Expository Notes on the Gospel of Matthew. Loizeaux Bros., 1982.
  5. Bellett, J. G. The Evangelists: Papers on the Four Gospels. Loizeaux Bros.
  6. Darby, J. N. Notes on the Gospel of Matthew. G. Morrish, 1900.

Matthew 1

The Prophecies of the King: Fulfilled by Christ
Matthew 1 – 4
Matthew 1 – 4. This first portion of Matthew’s Gospel is dedicated to establishing the true Messiahship of Christ, proven by the fulfillment of many prophetic scriptures. There are at least ten major tenets of messianic prophecy fulfilled by Jesus in the first four chapters of Matthew:
  1. His Royal Genealogy (ch.1) – Son of Abraham and Son of David
  2. His Virgin Birth and Divine Nature (ch.1) – Jesus & Emmanuel
  3. His Place of Birth (ch.2) – Bethlehem in the land of Judah
  4. His Being Worshiped by Gentiles (ch.2)  with gold & incense
  5. His Being Called up out of Egypt as the True Israel (ch.2)
  6. His Being Called a Nazarene (ch.2) – Dwelt in Nazareth, the Branch
  7. His Being Heralded by John the Baptist (ch.3)
  8. His Sinless Perfection (ch.4) – Tempted by the Devil
  9. His Appearance in the North of the Land for Blessing (ch.4)
  10. His Coming in Millennial Power for Blessing (ch.4)
This section of Matthew’s gospel can be divided as follows:
– The Prophecies of the King: Fulfilled by Christ Matthew 1 – 4
– The Genealogy and Birth of Christ: His True Glory as Messiah Matthew 1
– The Royal Lineage of the Messiah Matthew 1:1-17
– The Virgin Birth of the Messiah Matthew 1:18-25
– The Childhood of Christ: His Reception and Persecution Matthew 2
– Worship and Persecution of the Messiah Matthew 2:1-15
– Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents Matthew 2:16-18
– Joseph, Mary, Jesus Come to Nazareth Matthew 2:19-23
– The Ministry of John the Baptist & the Baptism of Christ Matthew 3
– The Ministry of John the Baptist Matthew 3:1-6
– John the Baptist’s Warning the Pharisees Matthew 3:7-12
– John’s Baptism of Jesus, A Voice From Heaven Matthew 3:13-17
– Forty Days in the Wilderness and the Devil’s Temptation Matthew 4:1-11
– The Sinless Perfection of Christ Manifested Matthew 4:1-11
– The Beginning of Christ’s Public Ministry Matthew 4:12-25
– John’s Imprisonment, Christ Ministers First in Galilee Matthew 4:12-17
– A Sample of the Messiah Calling Out His Disciples Matthew 4:18-22
– Concise Summary of Christ’s Ministry in Galilee Matthew 4:23-25
The Genealogy and Birth of Christ: His True Glory as Messiah
Matthew 1
Matthew 1. Two of the ten major tenets of messianic prophecy are shown to be fulfilled by Jesus in the first chapter:
  1. His Royal Genealogy (vv.1-17) – Son of Abraham and Son of David
  2. His Virgin Birth and Divine Nature (vv.18-25) – Jesus and Emmanuel

The Royal Lineage of the Messiah (1:1-17)

The Two Great Ancestral Requirements for the Messiah (v.1)

Book of the generation of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham. v.1 There were two great ancestral requirements for the Messiah… He had to be the Son of David to fulfill the Davidic promises (2 Sam. 7:12-13) to inherit the “crown”, and He also had to be the Son of Abraham to fulfill the Abrahamic promises (Gen. 17:19) for the “land”. The number two represents adequate witness according to the Jewish legal system (Heb. 10:28; Matt. 18:16).
Why is the genealogy traced to David and not Adam? In Luke the Lord is presented as a man, and so His genealogy is traced back to Adam, the first man. In Matthew it is Christ presented as the true king of Israel, so His genealogy is traced back to David, the first true king of Israel!
Why is the genealogy traced through Joseph and not Mary? In Luke the Lord’s genealogy is traced back through His human mother. Mothers in scripture bring out the moral side of things, while fathers in scripture bring out the official or administrative side (compare Galatians 3 and 4). In Matthew, the Lord’s genealogy is traced through His natural father, because His royalty is in focus. In a similar way, the angel appears to Mary in Luke, and to Joseph in Matthew (v.20). 

Fourteen Generations from Abraham to David (1800-1000 B.C.) (vv.2-6a)

2 (1) Abraham [‘father of many peoples’] begat (2) Isaac [‘laughter’]; and Isaac begat (3) Jacob [‘supplanter’], and Jacob begat (4) Juda [‘praise’] and his brethren; v.2 The first four generations from Abraham essentially give us the time covered in the Book of Genesis. The royal line came through Judah, because Jacob prophesied; “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen. 49:10). Shiloh means “great tranquility, or peace” and it comes from the same root as the name Solomon. It is a clear reference to the Messiah. But it also says, “and his brethren”, because while only Judah was integral to the royal line, God always had in mind all twelve tribes.
3 and Juda begat (5) Phares [‘divisions’] and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat (6) Esrom [‘sure defense’], and Esrom begat (7) Aram [‘exalted’], 4 and Aram begat (8) Aminadab [‘noble nation’], and Aminadab begat (9) Naasson [‘good omen’], and Naasson begat (10) Salmon [‘distinguished garments’], 5 and Salmon begat (11) Booz [‘in him is strength’] of Rachab; and Booz begat (12) Obed [‘serving’] of Ruth; and Obed begat (13) Jesse [‘gift of God’], 6a and Jesse begat (14) David [‘beloved’] the king. vv.2-6 Next we have the period of time covered by the books of Exodus through Samuel. Expositor William Kelly called this portion of Israel’s history “the dawn of glory for the Jews.” During this period we see Jehovah establishing Israel as a kingdom according to His own sovereign will. It was their highest moment in antiquity. Notice that David is called “the king”… this is the official capacity of the Messiah. It is beautiful to see that two Gentile women were brought into the royal line during this period: Rahab and Ruth. One was a harlot, the other was a Moabitess. This went totally against the mindset of the Jewish leaders at the time of our Lord, but it is a beautiful testimony to the grace of God.

Fourteen Generations from David to Captivity (1000-600 B.C.) (vv.6b-11)

6b And David begat (1) Solomon [‘peace’], of her that had been the wife of Urias; v.6b The reign of Solomon was the zenith of Israel’s history. Both Mary and Joseph were descendants from David, but through different sons. Mary was a descendant of Nathan, a son of David and Bathsheba. Joseph was a descendant from Solomon, another son of David and Bathsheba. It is in v.6 that the line of Joseph and Mary diverges. But the genealogy of Joseph is given in Matthew because the purpose is to establish the fact that Christ was the rightful heir to the throne of David, according to Jewish law.
7 and Solomon begat (2) Roboam [‘extending of the people’], and Roboam begat (3) Abia [‘Jehovah a father’], and Abia begat (4) Asa [‘physician’], 8 and Asa begat (5) Josaphat [‘Jehovah judge’], and Josaphat begat (6) Joram [‘Jehovah exalted’], and Joram begat (7) Ozias [‘strength of God’], 9 and Ozias begat (8) Joatham [‘Jehovah is upright’], and Joatham begat (9) Achaz [‘he took’], and Achaz begat (10) Ezekias [‘strength of God’], 10 and Ezekias begat (11) Manasses [‘forgetting’], and Manasses begat (12) Amon [‘very extended’], and Amon begat (13) Josias [‘Jehovah gives’], 11 and Josias begat (14) Jechonias [‘Jehovah establishes’] and his brethren, at the time of the carrying away of Babylon. vv.7-11 Next we have the period of gradual decline of Jewish royalty that followed Solomon, beginning with the rash and foolish Rehoboam. We have already seen two Gentile women brought into the royal line, but if we look at 2 Chron. 12:13 we will find that another Gentile woman, an Ammonitess named Naamah, was the mother of Abia. Why are three kings missing? Between Joram and Ozias there were three kings that are omitted here in the genealogy: Azariah, Joash, and Amaziah… all were the seed of Athaliah. They are left out most likely because they were the progenitors of idolatry. True to Prov. 10:7, “the name of the wicked shall rot”, the Spirit of God would rather take a disgraced Gentile woman (Rahab) than an idolatrous king. Manasseh was the worst of all the kings, even the kings of Israel, but he repented of it. Nevertheless there was a point of no return with Manasseh (2 Kings 21:10-15). We need to understand that v.11 gives a summary. Josiah had three sons: (1) Jehoahaz, (2) Jehoakim, and (3) Zedekiah. “Jechonias” refers to Jehoiakim in v.11, and is also used for his son Jehoiachin in v.12. Therefore, “his brethren” refers to Jehoahaz and Zedekiah. Judah was carried away in three phases (2 Kings 24).

Fourteen Generations from Captivity to Christ (600-4 B.C.) (vv.12-16)

12 And after the carrying away of Babylon, (1) Jechonias begat (2) Salathiel [‘petition of God’], and Salathiel begat (3) Zorobabel [‘dispersion of confusion’]13 and Zorobabel begat (4) Abiud [‘a father’s glory’], and Abiud begat (5) Eliakim [‘God establishes’], and Eliakim begat (6) Azor [‘strong help’], 14 and Azor begat (7) Sadoc [‘just’], and Sadoc begat (8) Achim [‘wise’], and Achim begat (9) Eliud [‘God is my praise’], 15 and Eliud begat (10) Eliazar [‘God has helped’], and Eliazar begat (11) Matthan [‘gift’], and Matthan begat (12) Jacob [‘supplanter’]vv.13-15 This next group of names covers the inter-testamental period. God was able to maintain the royal line throughout the 400 silent years. The royal line after the captivity were not call “kings” because they lived in the times of the Gentiles. However, the royal line during this dark period ends with the King of kings, the Lord himself! If we didn’t understand the double use of “Jechonias” (see note on v.11), we might count thirteen generations in this section. The “Jechonias” mentioned in v.12 is Jehoiachin, the grandson of Josiah. But how does that work with Jeremiah 22:30, which says that Jechonias would be childless? We find in 2 Kings 25:27-30 that the Lord allowed Jehoiachin to be partially restored, and this is when he begat Salathiel. “Zorobabel” or Zerubbabel was the governor of Judah when the remnant returned to the land under during the reign of Cyrus.
16 and Jacob begat (13) Joseph [‘adding’], the husband of Mary, of whom was born (14) Jesus [‘Jehovah saves’], who is called Christ. v.16 Why is “begetting” or “begat” mentioned in every case but here? It is because the Lord was born (became a man) but He was never “begotten” in the sense that every other human person “came into being”. Instead, Jesus is “the only begotten Son of God”. Also, the words “of whom” are in the singular! This is to guard the fact that the only human involved in the birth of Jesus was Mary; there was no human Father.

Three Divisions within the Generations (v.17)

17 All the generations, therefore, from Abraham to David were fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away of Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the carrying away of Babylon unto the Christ, fourteen generations. v.17 Matthew, by the Spirit of God, breaks down the genealogy into three sections of fourteen generations each. These three great sections give us a historical outline of Israel’s history:
  1. From Abraham to David: establishment of Israel in God’s sovereignty.
  2. From David to Captivity: the failure of Israel under man’s responsibility.
  3. From Captivity to Christ: a remnant is preserved according to God’s grace.
This same pattern is repeated in every dispensation: (1) God gives it; (2) man ruins it; and (3) God recovers a remnant in grace. Read more… The expression “the Christ” in the gospels simply means “the Messiah” (see John 1:41). In Paul’s epistles, sometime “the Christ” refers to the mystical union between Christ and the Church (e.g. 1 Cor. 12:12 where clearly “the Christ” is a reference to the one body).
The mention of women in the genealogy. The mention of four women in the genealogy is remarkable on all counts. As the gospel written to the Jewish people, the inclusion of these women is a remarkable testimony to the inspiration of Matthew. Jewish scribes would never have included these women:
  1. Tamar – got pregnant through her father-in-law.
  2. Rahab – an Amorite harlot.
  3. Ruth – a Moabite, prevented from entering Israel.
  4. Bathsheeba – an adulteress.
By including these women (all of whom were of questionable background) in the genealogy of the Messiah – where traditionally only men mattered – the Spirit is showing that God was now reaching beyond the narrow vision of the Jews. Another woman in the genealogy is Naamah – an Ammonitess, although her name is not mentioned (v.7). The fifth and final woman in the royal genealogy was:
  1. Mary – she was beyond reproach.

The Virgin Birth of the Messiah (1:18-25)

The Virgin Birth. We have already shown that the royal genealogy of the Messiah was a requirement that the Jews regarded as important for their Messiah. Another requirement was the virgin birth. The Old Testament scriptures spoke of the Messiah as One who would be born of a virgin, and therefore that He must be a Divine person. 
  1. Isa. 7:14 – the Messiah would be born of a virgin (see also Zech. 6:12, and Gen. 3:15… Mary was the only woman to have seed not by man)
  2. Isa. 9:6 – the Messiah would be Divine (the names and titles could only be true of God… e.g. “the mighty God”).
Up until the time of Jesus, the rabbis taught these things, and insisted on them as requirements for their Messiah. Later on, they changed their views on the messiah in their writings. Likely this was done to “cover their tracks” due to the nation’s rejecting Jesus, One who truly fulfilled every requirement. One of the reasons Matthew was writing was to establish the guilt of Israel in rejecting their true Messiah. They knew the requirements. They said:
Rabbi Yarchi: “The birth of the messiah alone shall be without any defects”.
Rabbi Moshe Haddarshan: “His birth shall not be like that of other men”.
The Jerusalem Talmud: “The birth of the messiah shall be like the dew of the Lord, as drops upon the grass without the action of man”. 1

Mary’s Pregnancy and Joseph’s Consternation (vv.18-19)

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was thus: His mother, Mary, that is, having been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit. v.18 The virginity of Mary is carefully guarded by the Spirit of God. She was “betrothed” to Joseph, but they had not yet “come together”. There was no cloud of their situation… no behavior that would allow for accusations or questions. The child she carried in her womb was of Divine origin, conceived by the power of “the Holy Spirit”.
19 But Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man, and unwilling to expose her publicly, purposed to have put her away secretly; 20 but while he pondered on these things, vv.19-20a These verses give us something of Joseph’s character. The situation appeared as though his fiancée had been unfaithful to him. Joseph was:
  1. Righteous “a just man” – he was prepared to not marry her because she appeared to be defiled.
  2. Merciful “not willing to make her a public example” – he did not want her to be made an object of scorn. Joseph’s mind was made up to put her away (divorce her), but to do so in a discreet manner so as to save her embarrassment. They were “betrothed”, and at this time in Judaism, betrothal was a very serious thing, and nearly final. To break a betrothal agreement required divorce (“putting away”).
  3. Temperate“he pondered on these things” – he did not react in careless haste, but weighed the matter in his mind. When we sit quietly like Joseph, in the presence of the Lord, He will communicate His mind to us.

These three characteristics are very necessary in any husband. Perhaps God gave this to us as an example for godly husbands.

The Angelic Appearance to Joseph (vv.20b-21)

Four dreams or visions given to Joseph. In Luke, several visions are given to Mary. But in Matthew, several visions are given to Joseph. As we already remarked, mothers in scripture bring out the moral side of things, while fathers in scripture bring out the official or administrative side. Look at the things that God revealed to Joseph:
  1. Matt. 1:20-21 – explaining the virgin birth of Christ
  2. Matt. 2:13 – instructions to flee to Egypt
  3. Matt. 2:19-20 – instructions to return to Israel
  4. Matt. 2:22-23 – instructions to settle in Nazareth
In any marriage, the husband needs to be dependent on the Lord for guidance and direction. 
20b behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, fear not to take to thee Mary, thy wife, for that which is begotten in her is of the Holy Spirit. v.20b Joseph’s first dream. The Lord addresses him as “Joseph, thou son of David”, because He is bringing out the royal connection that the Messiah would have to David. It is in keeping with the whole character of this chapter and book. What a trial for Joseph to pass through! He went through it with God, and what a reward! Not only was his betrothed pure, but she had been given “the desire of women” (Dan. 11:37), the greatest privilege a Jewish woman could have. We read in Luke 1:35 that at her conception,  the Holy Spirit came upon her and overshadowed her to protect both the mother and fetus.
Begotten in her of the Holy Spirit. The pregnancy began through the Spirit of God. The origin was holy. It would appear that every mortal receives a human nature through their mother, and a sinful nature from their father. Jesus’ birth was not through a mere natural conception. The corruption of the human nature did not perpetuate to Jesus. But, by the power of the Holy Ghost He alone was born of woman without a human father! Consequently, while He had the human nature from His human mother, He had a Divine nature by the Holy Ghost. In the incarnation, both the divine and the human natures were joined together in one inscrutable union, and they remain forever joined in that one Person. 

The incarnation is one of the greatest events in time. The Son of God took manhood into His Person, forming a permanent union between His divine nature and His human nature. He became a man, spirit-soul-body, but did not give up anything He had as God.

Read more…
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus, for “he” shall save his people from their sins. v.21 Her son would be called “Jesus” which means “Jehovah saves”. It is the Greek form of the name “Joshua”. Far more than a military leader, this Man would save His people from their sins. When would He save His people (the Jews) from their sins? He was rejected by the Jews, and so this national salvation was postponed until His second coming (see Rom. 11:25-27), but the foundation price for their salvation was paid at the cross.

The Fulfillment of Messianic Prophecy (vv.22-23)

22 Now all this came to pass that that might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord, through the prophet, saying, 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel,” [Isa. 7:14] which is, being interpreted, ‘God with us.’ vv.22-23 This is the first of many Old Testament prophecies quoted in the New Testament (perhaps some 695 times). See helpful encyclopedia entry on Old Testament prophecies quoted in the New Testament. The quotation is from Isa. 7:14, and was fulfilled completely here. We have the Lord Jesus presented in three ways in this chapter: (1) the Christ, v.16; (2) the Savior, v.21; and now (3) God with us, v.23. Jesus is His manhood name. Without any other titles, the name Jesus refers to the Son as a man. Christ is His official title as Messiah of Israel. Emmanuel brings in His divine nature. Though a man in this world, He was a Divine Person! Until this moment, God had not come down to meet man’s need. Now God was here… we did not go to God, but He came to us! The story would not be complete without the cross. The cross was the necessary price to bring us to God.

The Marriage of Mary and Joseph and Birth of Jesus (vv.24-25)

24 But Joseph, having awoke up from his sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had enjoined him, and took to him his wife, 25 and knew her not until she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus. vv.24-25 Joseph was obedient to the Lord, not like Peter, who said four times “not so, Lord”. Contrast this with Adam and Eve, who named their firstborn son “Cain” or, “a possession”. Mary and Joseph realized that this child was a Divine gift, and not a possession. Joseph and Mary’s marriage was about the will of God, not their own will. This should be the purpose of every Christian marriage. We are not our own; our homes, our marriages, our children, all belong to God.
  1. Gaebelein, Arno C. The Gospel of Matthew, An Exposition.

Matthew 2

The Childhood of Christ: His Reception and Persecution
Matthew 2
Matthew 2. Four of the ten major tenets of messianic prophecy are shown to be fulfilled by Jesus in the second chapter:
  1. His Place of Birth (vv.5-6) – Bethlehem in the land of Judah
  2. His Being Worshiped by Gentiles (v.11) with gold and incense
  3. His Being Called up out of Egypt as the True Israel (v.15)
  4. His Being Called a Nazarene (v.23) – Dwelt in Nazareth, the Branch
A Dispensational Outline. Before we dive into the chapter, if we step back and look at an outline, we can see in it a summary of God’s dispensational ways illustrated by the details of the chapter. The full teaching of this dispensational change is more fully developed in Romans 9-11.
  1. Israel’s rejection of the Messiah (vv.1-11) – In this period of time the Messiah was not known or acknowledged in the city of the king, but was sought and worshiped by a few Gentiles.
  2. The period of Gentile blessing, trouble for Jews (vv.12-18) – In this period the Messiah is taken away to Egypt for a time (2000 years), and meanwhile the Jews pass through terrible persecution. This persecution lasts “until the death of Herod” who is a figure of Antichrist.
  3. Restoration of Israel in the Millennium (vv.19-23) – Finally, the Messiah returns to Nazareth (a picture of the faithful remnant) and is named “the Branch”, or the One who will bring in the Millennial kingdom blessings.

Worship and Persecution of the Messiah (2:1-15)

Magi from the East Seek the Birthplace of the Messiah (vv.1-2)

Now Jesus having been born in Bethlehem of Judaea, in the days of Herod the king, behold magi from the east arrived at Jerusalem, saying, v.1 The words translated in some versions as “when Jesus was born” should really be “Jesus having been born”. These events transpired sometime after the birth of Christ, perhaps two years later (v.16). These wise men are not to be confused with the shepherds of Luke 2. The magi from the East were from occultic peoples (modern day Yemen, or Saudi Arabia). These were some whom God had quickened, and was leading to do homage to His Son. Perhaps they formed a substantial entourage, because Isaiah 60 says “a multitude of camels.”
2 Where is the king of the Jews that has been born? for we have seen his star in the east, and have come to do him homage. v.2 God had revealed to these wise men that the Messiah of the Jews would be born at a certain time, and that His place of birth would be marked by a certain star. When the star appeared, they began their journey, which could have taken up to two years (see v.16).
Knowledge of the magi. Where did they learn about the king of the Jews? Was it through dreams or visions? Perhaps their understanding came from Daniel’s prophecy when he was in Babylon and Persia; that the Messiah would be on earth after sixty-nine weeks of years? Or perhaps it came from Balaam’s prophecy to Moab and Midian in Numbers 24:17, “There cometh a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel”? Perhaps it was a combination of both? They had only a little light, but they acted on what they had and were greatly rewarded. This was a long and expensive journey. The Jews had a tremendous amount of light – even had scriptures telling them the birthplace of Messiah – but they rejected and persecuted the child. It is better to have less knowledge and a seeking heart than great knowledge with a cold heart (Matt. 12:42, Psa. 25:14).
The star. The star – possibly a meteor of some kind – appeared at the time of Christ’s birth. Those from the East were great observers of the heavens, and were very sensitive to any uncommon appearance. It doesn’t say they followed it directly from Midian to Judea. They knew the star meant the Messiah was born, but they traveled all the way to Judea on faith. Then they asked Herod and the Jews where the child was. What a surprise to the Jews and Herod that the Messiah had already been born! What a surprise to the magi that His own people were not expecting Him. The star did not start leading them until they had left Herod’s presence. God wanted Herod and the Jews to have this testimony of the Gentile wise men, and a proof that the Messiah had come.
Calculating the time of the Messiah’s birth. If the rabbis had been diligent in the scriptures, they could have told Herod what he asked the magi from the East. By reading Daniel 9:26 they could have learned that sixty-nine weeks would expire after Nehemiah’s wall was completed (483 years), and then the Messiah would be cut off in death. Then, by comparing with Psalm 102:24, which says that the Messiah would be killed halfway through His lifespan (or, 70 years total, Psa. 90:10), they could have deducted 35 years to get 448 years after the completion of the wall. If the wall was completed in 455 B.C. then they could have expected the Messiah to be born at some point after 6 B.C.! He was born two years later in 4 B.C.

Herod’s treacherous agenda (vv.3-8)

3 But Herod the king having heard of it, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; v.3 This entourage made a big impact on the city. The Jews, and especially Herod who considered himself “king of the Jews”, were very upset. It shows that there was something wrong with the state of Israel, that the city of the king would be upset with news that the king had been born.
Rejected from birth. The Lord had not even begun His public ministry. He had not said anything that would offend the Jews… but they were already troubled by His presence and tried to have Him killed! “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11).
Herod the Great. The fact that Herod the king was ignorant of this prophecy is not surprising, because he was not an Israelite but rather an Idumean, a descendant of Edom. Yet, when told of the magi’s mission, he immediately viewed this child as a rival claimant to his throne. Recall the “great red dragon” (Rev. 12:3-5) of the Roman Empire, the power of which was vested locally in Herod, and was just ready to devour the “man-child”. Herod was a usurper. He was only king of the Jews under the influence of the Western powers, and in conjunction with the religious heads of Israel. He is a type of the apocalyptic Antichrist. Read more…
4 and, assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ should be born. 5 And they said to him, In Bethlehem of Judaea; for thus it is written through the prophet: 6 “And “thou” Bethlehem, land of Juda, art in no wise the least among the governors of Juda; for out of thee shall go forth a leader who shall shepherd my people Israel.” [Micah 5:2] vv.4-6 These verses show: (1) that the birthplace of the Messiah was known to the responsible Jewish leaders, and (2) that they rejected the coming of the King in their hearts. Herod was interested in two great questions concerning the birth of the Messiah: (1) where, v.4; and (2) when, v.7. Notice that it does not say “that it might be fulfilled” because the final fulfillment of this will be at the Lord’s second coming, when He takes His title of Governor, and “rules” Israel. But the declaration about where the Messiah would come from (“out of” Bethlehem) certainly marks His place of birth, and therefore it says “thus it is written”. The Spirit of God in the New Testament is very precise in marking out which prophecies are partly fulfilled, and which are completely fulfilled at the first coming of Christ. Read more… This is a quotation from Micah 5:2. We find the Lord Jesus now under a new title, “Governor”.
  1. In JESUS we see God come forth to save (Matt. 1:21).
  2. In EMMANUEL we see God come forth to dwell (Matt. 1:23).
  3. In GOVERNOR we see God come forth to rule (Matt. 2:6).
It is in this capacity of governmental authority that the false king Herod (and the apocalyptic Antichrist) takes issue with the man-child, and with the remnant of Israel. Note: in v.23 we get a fourth title; “THE NAZARAEAN“.
7 Then Herod, having secretly called the magi, inquired of them accurately the time of the star that was appearing; v.7 Herod needed to know the moment of the star’s appearance to make his calculations (v.16). The wheels were already turning in his mind. If the rabbis had been diligent in the scriptures, they could have told Herod what he now asks the magi from the east (v.2). He was diligent in plotting the death of the child. Not all diligence is good.
8 and having sent them to Bethlehem, said, Go, search out accurately concerning the child, and when ye shall have found him bring me back word, so that “I” also may come and do him homage. v.8 Herod’s statement “that I may come and worship him also” was a lie. Herod was an Edomite, but he had adopted Judaism for political reasons. He had to appear nominally Jewish to maintain his popularity with his political party, referred to elsewhere as the Herodians (Matt. 22:16), who were a group of worldly, business minded Jews that were content to have a leader such as Herod in control.

The Magi Worship the Messiah (vv.9-12)

9 And they having heard the king went their way; and lo, the star, which they had seen in the east, went before them until it came and stood over the place where the little child was. v.9 The magi weren’t guided step-by-step by the star until they had gotten out of Herod’s presence. They had seen it before in the East, and now it re-appeared and went before them. This was a secret intended only for those of faith. God reveals His truth to those who fear Him – for those who are faithful to the light, even though it be just a little; “the secret of the LORD is with them that fear him” (Psa. 25:14). It was a definite leading, for the star led the magi to the “house” where the little child was.
How did they end up in Bethlehem again? The Lord was born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:4), the city of David. His birth coincided with the decree from Caesar Augustus, at which time the shepherds came from the fields. Just days later, Jesus was brought over to Jerusalem (Luke 2:22) where He was blessed by Simeon. Then we read (Luke 2:39) that they returned into Galilee, seventy miles north, to their own city Nazareth. How did they end up in Bethlehem again? Bethlehem is not far from Jerusalem, and we know that the Lord’s family went there every year to the feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41). The visit of the magi took place at another visit to Bethlehem. The star led the magi to the “house” (not a barn or stable) where the little child was, now two years old.
10 And when they saw the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. v.10 How their hearts must have quickened when they saw the star descend and hover over a certain house! Our hearts ought to rejoice “with exceeding great joy” at the prospect of being in the Lord’s presence.
11 And having come into the house they saw the little child with Mary his mother, and falling down did him homage. And having opened their treasures, they offered to him gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. v.11 While they saw the child “with Mary his mother” yet they fell down and worshiped Him, and offered their gifts to Him. Mariolatry is completely unsupported by scripture. When they saw the star they rejoiced… but when they saw the child they worshipped. This event would be a partial fulfillment of Isa. 60:6; “A multitude of camels shall cover thee, young camels of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall publish the praises of Jehovah.” The gifts presented by the magi have symbolic meaning:
  1. Gold – represents the glories of His Person; His divinity.
  2. Frankincense – represents His pathway; the moral beauties of Christ as a man.
  3. Myrrh – represents the atoning sufferings of Christ.
12 And being divinely instructed in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. v.12 The Lord provided a path for the magi to return to the East without crossing paths with Herod… “a path which no foul knoweth”, etc. (Job 28:7). There is a nice moral application of this; if we spend time in the Lord’s presence, we will go home in “another way” from how we came in. There will be an effect in our lives from being in His presence. They were “divinely instructed”… God’s direction for our life is a result of communion.

The Flight to Egypt (vv.13-15)

13 Now, they having departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appears in a dream to Joseph, saying, Arise, take to thee the little child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be there until I shall tell thee; for Herod will seek the little child to destroy it. v.13 Joseph’s Second Dream. This is the second of four dreams or visions given to Joseph. Why was it necessary for the Lord to Go into Egypt? Why didn’t twelve legions of angels protect the child in the land? Perhaps it was because God saw fit that Christ should pass through everything His people Israel did as a nation. Christ Himself is carried into the very place that had been the “furnace of Israel”. He knows what it is to be carried into Egypt, and in a far more painful way than Israel had experienced. The rejection of Christ was from His own people, and from an Edomite king that had usurped His throne. Sometimes the ways of God seem difficult or complicated… but God wants us to pass through circumstances to mold and shape us for His purpose.
14 And, having arisen, he took to him the little child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt. v.14 How sad to think that the king of Israel, as a little child, was hunted by the leader of His own people. What a welcome He could have expected! Instead He had to be taken to Egypt in the darkness of night. That “night” of Christ’s rejection has rolled on since that day… but one day it will break as the Sun of Righteousness arises with healing in His wings!
15 And he was there until the death of Herod, that that might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” [Hos. 11:1] v.15 He had to go to Egypt before He could come up out of Egypt. Christ had to be rejected by the nation of Israel (formally at the cross) to complete the testing of the first man, so that the Second man could come forth in perfection (1 Cor. 15:46), as the true Israel. The expression “that might be fulfilled” tells us that this event is the object of Hosea’s prophecy, the fulfillment of it. See helpful encyclopedia entry on Old Testament prophecies quoted in the New Testament.
Christ replaces Israel. Israel was God’s firstborn, in Egypt. “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt” (Hos. 11:1). Rom. 9:4 says “to them pertaineth the adoption” in a national sense (ex. 4:22, Deut. 14, Deut. 7:6). Israel means “a prince with God” (Gen. 32:28). In Isa. 49, the nation of Israel was, as the servant of Jehovah, intended to bring Him glory. But in that chapter, Christ replaces the nation as Jehovah’s Servant, gathering a faithful remnant that become the nucleus of reborn Israel. We see this very thing in this chapter. We see Christ as the true fulfillment of Hosea’s prophecy; He is morally the new stock from which they spring. The same substitution of Christ for Israel is found in John 15. Israel had been the vine brought out of Egypt (Psa. 80:8). Christ is the True Vine (John 15:1). The history of Israel as the witness for Jehovah is continued in the Person of Christ. In a wider sense, as Son of man, the history of man is continued in Christ as the second Adam in relation with God.

Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents (2:16-18)

16 Then Herod, seeing that he had been mocked by the magi, was greatly enraged; and sent and slew all the boys which were in Bethlehem, and in all its borders, from two years and under, according to the time which he had accurately inquired from the magi. v.16 Herod felt that he was thwarted by the magi, but in reality he was being mocked by God… “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision” (Psa. 2:4). How could God allow all these children to die? Instead of these children being among the future rejecters of the Messiah as part of the apostate nation, these ones were cut off and taken directly to heaven (Matt. 18:10). It was Bethlehem’s connection to Christ that made them the objects of Satan’s animosity, the great red dragon of Rev. 12.
Two years. Herod knew it was important to “accurately inquire” about the time of the star’s appearance (v.7). He then calculated a time window that would cover the possible age range of the young Messiah. He was probably only around a year old, but Herod wasn’t taking any chances.
17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremias the prophet, saying, 18 “A voice has been heard in Rama, weeping, and great lamentation: Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” [Jer. 31:15] vv.17-18 The expression “then was fulfilled” shows that this prophecy is being quoted because the event in time is an illustration of the prophecy, although not the object of it. See helpful encyclopedia entry on Old Testament prophecies quoted in the New Testament. “Rama” is basically the same area as Bethlehem. The final fulfillment will be the two tribes (Rachel) weeping for the ten tribes before they return to the land (Jer. 31:15). The two tribes will be so touched, so repentant, so restored to the Lord that the absence of their long lost brethren will make them weep. After this, the Lord will comfort them, and bring a remnant of the ten tribes home. The weeping of the mothers of Bethlehem for their murdered children is a picture of the lamentation that the two tribes will make.

Joseph, Mary, Jesus come to Nazareth (2:19-23)

Joseph. The Lord’s earthly father quickly disappears from the pages of scripture, apparently set aside in some way, we aren’t told, but likely by death. This would have happened when the Lord was somewhere between twelve (Luke 2:42) and thirty years of age (Luke 3:23). Also, the Lord would shortly commence His public ministry in which He would speak constantly of “my Father”… there could be no confusion that Jesus was referring to God.
19 But Herod having died, behold, an angel of the Lord appears in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, 20 Arise, take to thee the little child and its mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they who sought the life of the little child are dead. vv.19-20 Joseph’s third dream. This is the third of four dreams or visions given to Joseph. It is called “the land of Israel”, not “Judea” or “Galilee”. Israel is a name that reminds us of the privileges bestowed by God on the people that represented Him. Now Christ has replaced Israel in the sight of God, and He returns to His own land. What of the antagonists? “They are dead”. So it will be with the enemies of the Jewish remnant when they are called out of the mountains back into the land of Israel.
21 And he arose and took to him the little child and its mother, and came into the land of Israel; v.21 It is wonderful to see Joseph’s obedience. He did word-for-word what the angel of Lord commanded in v.20. Note that the expression in v.21 is properly translated “the little child and its mother” not “the mother and her little child” (and so all though ch.2). It guards the preeminence of Christ. Mary was nothing more than the vehicle used by God to bring the Savior into the world. Mary herself needed a Savior (Luke 1:41).
22 but having heard that ‘Archelaus reigns over Judaea, instead of Herod his father,’ he was afraid to go there; and having been divinely instructed in a dream, he went away into the parts of Galilee, v.22 Joseph’s fourth dream. This is now the fourth dream or vision given to Joseph. He had good reason to be wary of Herod Archelaus. Herod Archelaus (23 B.C. – 18 A.D.) was ethnarch of Samaria, Judea, and Idumea, the son of Herod the Great, and brother to Herod Antipater. He was appointed by Augustus Caesar, and was known for his pride and cruelty, preeminently his massacre of 3000 Jews in the temple. When he married another king’s wife, the Jews complained to Caesar. Archelaus was banished in 6 A.D. God takes care of every concern, but in this case, the way He did it brought the Son of David into a place of reproach. “The parts of Galilee” refer to that region to the north of the land that speaks of the faithful Jewish remnant (Isa. 8 – 9). Those who lived there were despised by those who dwelt in Jerusalem. The Son of David, entering His own land, could not approach the throne of His fathers. Instead He must take the place of a stranger among the despised of His people.
23 and came and dwelt in a town called Nazareth; so that that should be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazaraean.” v.23 Nazareth was known as the ‘scourge of Galilee’… it was the lowest of the low, and yet it was the Lord’s home until the death of John the Baptist, at which time He moved to Capernaum and commenced His public ministry. The phrase “He shall be called a Nazaraean” is cited from the prophets. However, the quotation is not found in one particular prophet, but “the prophets”, the spirit of the prophets who spoke of Him. To be called “a Nazarene,” was to be an object of contempt, and more than one prophet said that Christ would be despised and rejected of men (see Isa. 53). But “Nazarene” is really the Greek reading of the Hebrew word “the branch, a Messianic title for the blesser of the earth in the Millennium, and a common name for the Lord Jesus in prophecy (read Isa. 11:1-10). In this verse we add a fourth name to the list (c.p. v.6). Earlier we have had: (1) Jesus; (2) Emmanuel; (3) Governor; and now: (4) Nazarene.
The Nazarene, “The Branch”. As the Nazarene we see in the Lord Jesus, God come forth to bless (Matt. 2:23). Just as a branch supplies and carries the fruit on a tree, so the Lord Jesus will be the source of blessing to the Millennial earth. In the New Testament it is translated “Nazarene”. While on one hand Jesus is the despised Nazarene from Nazareth, on the other hand He is the one in whom Israel and the nations hope. It is used to portray Christ in four aspects:
Matthew Mark Luke John
the King of Israel the Perfect Servant the Son of Man the Son of God
Jer. 23:5 Zech. 3:8 Zech. 6:12 Isa. 4:2
“…unto David, a righteous branch, and a King…” “…behold, my servant the branch…” “…the man whose name is The branch…” “…the branch of the LORD for beauty and glory…”

Matthew 3

The Ministry of John the Baptist & the Baptism of Christ
Matthew 3
The Kingdom of Heaven is a dispensational term only found in Matthew’s gospel. It is a very important subject to grasp in order to understand Matthew, and the whole scope of God’s counsels. I recommend getting a solid grasp of this subject (see entry for the Kingdom of Heaven) before proceeding.

The Ministry of John the Baptist (3:1-6)

 Now in those days comes John the baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 and saying, Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn nigh. vv.1-2 His basic message. “In those days” are the days of Jesus dwelling in Nazareth, but many years after the events of ch.2, when He was closer to thirty years of age (Luke 3:23). John was the son of a priest (Luke 1), but he took a position “in the wilderness” outside of the corruption that was in the city. John’s basic message was ‘repent, because the king is coming’. “Repent” means to have a change of mind, but repentance will always result in change of walk. Read more… “The kingdom of heaven” was now at hand… signaling that a great dispensational change was near.
John’s message. The gospel John the Baptist preached was threefold:
  1. The Lord is coming. The object of all the Old Testament prophecies was about to arrive.
  2. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. A great dispensational change was about to occur in which there would be a kingdom on earth under the rule of Christ.
  3. Israel needs to repent. John was working to “plow up the ground” and create a condition of repentance in the hearts of the Jews so that they would receive their Messiah.
In Luke 3 we get the moral features of John’s message. Men ought to manifest fruits of repentance (v.8). John didn’t preach the gospel of the grace of God, as Paul does in Romans, but the gospel of the kingdom. John was not the sower (Matt. 13), but he was the plowman. It has been said that John’s hand held the plow, but not the seed. The Lord was the sower, and we can see how His ministry dovetailed with John’s.
3 For this is he who has been spoken of through Esaias the prophet, saying, “Voice of him that crieth in the wilderness: prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” [Isa. 40:3] v.3 His credentials. John was the fulfillment of Isa. 40:3. His exhortation was for Israel to clear a moral highway for the Lord to come to His people, by opening up their hearts and consciences. We need to do the same. To make something “straight” is to make it free of restrictions. John was “in the wilderness”… he lived consistent with the message he brought. Note: in Luke 3:4-6 we see that Luke, who quotes less frequently from the Old Testament, not only quotes Isa. 40:3 but the two following verses as well. Why? Because John’s burden was to show the grace of God bringing salvation to “all men“.
John the Baptist Foretold. There are at least three scriptures the Jewish rabbis knew that required the Messiah to have a herald (or forerunner).  Those three scriptures are:
  1. Isa. 40:3 speaks of  “one crying in the wilderness”. From this scripture they knew that Messiah’s herald would come preaching the coming of the Lord and Israel’s need to prepare themselves morally to receive Him.
  2. Mal. 3:1 speaks of “my messenger”. From this scripture they knew the herald would be successful in preparing the way before the coming of Christ.
  3. Mal. 4:5-6 says “I send unto you Elijah the prophet”. They knew the Messiah’s herald would come “in the spirit and power of Elias” (Luke 1:17).
With each reference we get added detail. They believed that Elijah personally would come as this forerunner, because of the wording in Mal. 4:5-6. But John the Baptist came “in the spirit and power of Elijah”, and the Lord says that this John was Elijah to those with faith, who was promised to come (Matt. 11:14; 17:12). However, the nation at large rejected John, just as they were about to reject the Son of Man. Because of their rejection, John’s Elijah-like work was cut short, and so he is only a partial fulfillment of Mal. 4:5-6. Notice that the Spirit of God makes John the complete fulfillment of Isa. 40:3 and Mal. 3:1, but carefully avoids that with Mal. 4:5-6. This is also the reason that John said he was not Elias (John 1:21). John never applied Malachi 4:5-6 to himself. This is because the same ministry that John began will be taken up by faithful witnesses in the tribulation who will completely fulfill Malachi’s prophecy (see Rev. 11:1-14). 
4 And John himself had his garment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins, and his nourishment was locusts and wild honey. v.4 His character. The Jewish rabbis believed that Elijah would literally come back, because of Malachi’s prophecy and also the fact that Elijah was taken up without going through death. John was similar to Elijah, not only in his ministry, but right down to his clothing; “a hairy man, girt with a leathern girdle” (2 Kings 1:8). But John’s food was unique. Lev. 11:22 allowed a Jew to have a diet of locusts. Remember, while John’s ministry lasted only about six months, he was in the desert eating this diet from the time he was a child (Luke 1:80), so about thirty years! He had a thirty-year track-record though obscured from the public eye. What was visible to the public (last six months) was only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. So it should be with every servant of God. That which is public should be backed up by a steady course of devotion, prayer, and self-denial.
 5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the country round the Jordan, 6 and were baptised by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. vv.5-6 His ministry. It isn’t that every last person in Judea was converted though John’s preaching (c.p. v.7) but that a general movement had begun, and a remnant was formed. The Jordan River is a landmark of the nation of Israel. John’s baptism had to do with separating a person outwardly from the nation, which was coming under judgment.

John’s Baptism and the Baptism of Jesus on earth can be viewed as “Kingdom baptism” as opposed to “Christian Baptism”. Kingdom baptism is what disconnected the faithful Jews from the guilt of apostate Israel, while Christian baptism bring us into the Christian testimony. The Jewish remnant testimony was waiting for the King to come, and the Kingdom to be established on the earth. The Christian testimony is looking for the Kingdom as well, but first and foremost for the rapture!

Read more…

John the Baptist’s Warning the Pharisees (3:7-12)

Five Points Concerning False Religion and God’s Wrath (vv.7-12)

 7 But seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, Offspring of vipers, who has forewarned you to flee from the coming wrath? v.7 Point #1: Wrath is Coming on the Nation of Israel. John knew exactly who these bystanders were; mere professors. In Luke 7:29-30 we read that they rejected the message and baptism of John. In this verse, John is plainly calling them a bunch of snakes. They bore the character of their father, the Devil. Years of God’s patience and mercy they had despised. Years of the prophets’ warnings they had not heeded. This “generation” of fleshly, apostate religion had treasured up wrath to itself against the day of wrath (Rom. 2:5). 
8 Produce therefore fruit worthy of repentance. v.8 Point #2: God is Looking for True Repentance, to be Accompanied by Fruits. The Pharisees had plenty of works, but they were nothing more than an outward show of ceremonialism. If a person is truly repentant – has begun to think God’s thoughts about themselves – there will be fruits that reflect a change of heart. It is true for individuals, and also for assemblies (2 Cor. 7:11).
9 And do not think to say within yourselves, We have Abraham for our father; for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham. v.9 Point #3: God Will Not Make an Exception for Natural Jewish Ancestry. The Jewish mind was prone to think that they could not come under judgment because it would make God unfaithful to His promises. This is a grave miscalculation (see Rom. 2:17 – 3:8). The Jews thought that their natural, genealogical link with Abraham would guarantee them exemption from God’s judgment. God’s sovereign grace, through Christ, would raise up from “these stones” (the Gentiles) children to Abraham, those who had Abraham’s faith (Rom. 4:16).
10 And already the axe is applied to the root of the trees; every tree therefore not producing good fruit is cut down and cast into the fire. v.10 Point #4: Judgment is Imminent; Urgent Action is Required by Individuals. The blow was not yet struck, but the axe was already at the root of the trees. Notice that “the trees” is plural… the trees refer to individuals. The people could not enter the kingdom en masse. Those without fruits of repentance would come under judgment. He is not explaining here how sinners are saved, but the practical holiness which is required for the presence of the Lord (Heb. 12:14).
11 “I” indeed baptise you with water to repentance, but he that comes after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not fit to bear; “he” shall baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire; 12 whose winnowing fan is in his hand, and he shall thoroughly purge his threshing-floor, and shall gather his wheat into the garner, but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable. vv.11-12 Point #5: Christ Will Personally Separate the Real & Judge the False. John had a deep reverence for this coming Person. John’s mission was to create a moral state of repentance in the hearts of the people, but he did not have the authority to judge. He could only baptize with water; i.e. to make an outward, temporal distinction. The one who followed after was far greater, and would make an inward, eternal distinction. Read more… It would occur in two phases:
  1. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is something that would be done from heaven (John 7:39, John 15:26, Acts 2:33). It is what formed the link between Christ in heaven and His members on earth… “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13). But, the aspect in view here is the Holy Ghost as the power of God’s grace for blessing in the kingdom now. Read more…
  2. The baptism with fire is what Christ will do with the Christian testimony at the harvest judgment. They will be taken by the angels and cast into the lake of fire (Mat. 13:41-42). The Spirit of God had revealed to John that the Messiah would be marked out by the Spirit, and that the Messiah would be one that baptized with the Holy Spirit… but this revelation said nothing about baptism with fire (John 1:33 tells us exactly what was revealed to John). It seems that John read about the baptism with fire in Mal. 3:2-3, speaking of the Messiah, and he includes it here by Divine inspiration! Some want to argue that the baptism with fire refers to the likeness of “cloven tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3) that sat upon each one on the Day of Pentecost. But Matt. 3 is clearly referring to the execution of righteous judgment when Christ comes again! This is very clear from what follows (v.12). Once the wheat has been gathered into the garner (at the rapture) He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire (at the appearing). The better contrast is between the tongues of fire (power) and a dove (harmless purity). The character of the Messiah’s baptism with fire is unfolded in v.12. He was ready to do it at a moment’s notice; “whose winnowing fan is in his hand”. He won’t make any mistakes, but He will discriminatingly and thoroughly purge His threshing-floor. Not one person of faith will be lost. Not one of the false will escape eternal judgment. This will occur at the appearing of Christ.
The two baptisms that Christ undertakes are spoken of by John in the same sentence. The first baptism (with the Holy Spirit) is connected with Christ’s first coming, and the other (with fire) is connected with His second coming. John perhaps never dreamed that a space of 2000 years would come between these two events! There was no hint in the Old Testament of two parts to the coming of the Messiah.

John’s Baptism of Jesus, a Voice From Heaven (3:13-17)

Jesus Joins the Remnant. Those who were baptized of John, confessing their sins, were the true remnant of the Jews. They had separated – by John’s baptism – from the mass who were ripening for judgment. This faithful remnant didn’t have great outward strength. Repentance was all they had. They owned that judgment was the righteous consequence of Israel’s sin, but they humbled themselves before God. Now Jesus presents Himself in their midst, taking His place among the faithful remnant as one of them in their true position before God. He comes to encourage them, and to partake in their rejection. This was orderly, because the Good Shepherd “entereth in by the door” (John 10:2) to take His place with the sheep. This remnant was what Zechariah called “the poor of the flock”.  The statement in Zech. 11:7 could be translated, “So I pastured the flock marked out for slaughter, particularly the poor of the flock”. The Lord’s whole three and a half years of public ministry was a witness to the apostate nation (“the flock of slaughter”)… but particularly, He had on His heart the faithful remnant gathered around Him (“the poor of the flock”), and ministered accordingly for their blessing.

John’s Opposition to the Baptism of Jesus (vv.13-15)

 13 Then comes Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptised of him; v.13 John was preaching repentance and remission of sins. What could bring the Lord Jesus there? He had no sins to confess. But He had come forth to take His place with the remnant. It was grace that brought Him… because the Lord had no need in Himself to be baptized.
14 but John urgently forbad him, saying, “I” have need to be baptised of thee; and comest “thou” to me? 15 But Jesus answering said to him, Suffer it now; for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffers him. vv.14-15 The lesser is blessed of the greater (Heb. 7:7), and so in John’s mind it seemed backwards for Jesus to be coming to him to be baptized. John protested, saying that their roles should be reversed, by his reasoning. What grace in the Lord’s response! He links Himself with John; “It becometh us.” Not only was it grace on Jesus’ part to take His place among the remnant, but it was righteousness which brought Him there, not any sin on His part. “All righteousness” perhaps refers to the righteousness of acknowledging the true state of Israel, and in taking the first steps to put it all right for “the ages” (Dan. 9:24). John’s ministry was of God. God was gathering out a witness to Israel’s true state. To “fulfill” this righteous witness, the Messiah Himself took His place with the remnant through baptism. The work that God began through John was about to be fulfilled in the baptism of Christ.

Immediate Results: Three Testimonies to the Perfection of Christ (vv.16-17)

16 And Jesus, having been baptised, went up straightway from the water, and lo, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him: 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight. vv.16-17 Immediately following His baptism, three testimonies were rendered to the perfection of Christ:
  1. Heaven opened. Never before had the heavens opened upon anyone on earth, except in a vision as a sign of judgment (Ezek. 1). Here it is a sign of unprecedented and unqualified approval (see note below). Heaven was bursting forth, that all present might know that this Man was different, that the very object of the Father’s delight was among them. Heaven could not be silent!
  2. The Descent of the Spirit. In form as a dove, the Spirit descended upon the One who was to baptize others with that same Spirit (v.11). This is the same incident that is recorded in John 1:32. It says in John 6:27, “for him hath God the Father sealed.” The dove a symbol of the spotless purity of Christ. He was the only man sealed (or indwelt) before the Cross. The Son received the Spirit twice… once to seal Him, and a second time in heaven to baptize believers on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:33). Both are alluded to in this chapter (v.11, v.16). 
  3. The Father’s Voice. Jesus as a man on earth, in taking His place with the poor of the flock, was acknowledged publicly by the Father as the Son of God. God would not permit any suspicion to rest on His Son at this most gracious and lowly event. What an encouragement to the disciples! It is not that the Father was declaring that Jesus had a divine nature… but that “Jesus” – a man on earth – was the eternal Son of God, and that He – a humble man – was the object of the Father’s full delight!
The Trinity. We have the truth of the Trinity proved over and over in the New Testament. This is the first great manifestation of the Trinity. (1) God the Son is identified as the man “Jesus”. (2) God the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of God descending”. (3) God the Father is the “voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son”. Read more… 
A Man on Earth was the Object of the Father’s Delight. It was the Son of God on earth in the position of a man (“Jesus”) – as a righteous, obedient, and humble servant, devoted to the will of God – that God His Father fully acknowledged Him, sealed Him, and declared Him on earth to be His well-beloved Son. He is the object over whom the heavens open; c.p. with Stephen, who saw a transforming object above.
Four Times the Heavens Open: Jesus the Object. There are four occasions in scripture on which the heavens literally open.1 Jesus – as a man – is the object of each of these revelations; although each has its special character.
  1. His baptism. The heavens opened upon Jesus, the Son of God on earth, as the object of heaven’s delight, and He was sealed with the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:16).
  2. His lifetime. The heavens continually opened upon Jesus, the Son of man on earth, as the object of heaven’s ministry, the angels as His servants (John 1:51). This scripture is also prophetic of the Millennium, when Christ as Son of Man on earth will be the restorer of all things, of the communication between heaven and earth, and the blessing that will result!
  3. Stephen. The heavens opened to reveal Jesus, the Son of man in the glory, as on high at the right hand of God, the object of the believer who is full of the Spirit, even in suffering here for His sake (Acts 7:56). Stephen was transformed by that vision!
  4. The Appearing. The heavens will once again open to reveal Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, as coming forth to judge and make war against all that dispute His authority and oppress the earth (Rev. 19:11).
To us who believe, the heavens are opened now. We know the Father, we know His heart of love. The entire book of Hebrews in a sense gives us a sight into the opened heavens, where our Forerunner and High Priest has passed, and there is sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. But still the object of the opened heavens remains the same, God’s beloved Son!
  1. Note: in Acts 10:11 Peter sees the heavens opened, although in a vision, but there Christ is not the object.

Matthew 4:1-11

The Temptation of Christ in the Wilderness
Matthew 4:1-11
Sinless perfection of the Messiah. The moral fitness of the Messiah for the throne of Israel was something that all orthodox Jews knew would be a requirement for the true Christ. Prophecies such as Zeph. 3:5 required it; “the righteous lord is in the midst thereof, and he will not do iniquity.” We know that “sin is lawlessness [or, self-will]” (1 John 3:4), and therefore the Messiah would have no other will than that of His Father, and would fulfill it regardless of the consequences to Himself! The Devil tempted Jesus in the three great areas of the flesh’s weakness, striving to lead Jesus to do His own will, rather than God’s.
He could not sin. One great reason why our Lord was tested in the wilderness was to prove that He could not sin! Sadly, some take it the opposite way and say that Jesus must have been able to sin otherwise He would not have been tempted. Our Lord did not have a sin-nature. Rather, He had a holy nature. He was incapable of sin. The three temptations of the Devil attested to this truth, but we also have the Lord’s words: “the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me (John 14:30). There was nothing in the Lord for Satan to work on. Note that holiness is not the same as innocence. Adam was innocent in the garden, meaning that he was sinless but still capable of sin. The Lord Jesus was holy from His birth, meaning that He was not only sinless but incapable of sin. “Holiness” is an active power that rejects evil, and clings to good.
Overcoming the Wicked One. In the temptation of Christ we have a profound lesson in the way Christ overcame the Devil, and thus “bound the strong man” (Matt. 12:29). The Lord did not overcome Satan with an act of Divine power, but rather by submission and obedience to the Word of God. This becomes a great pattern for the believer in the face of temptation. We have no such power, but we can obey the Word of God, and that is our strength. “I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:14). But having overcome the wicked one and thus bound the strong man, the Lord proceeds in v.12 and on to “spoil his house”.
Summary and order of the temptations. The three temptations follow the elements of the world that the Apostle John speaks of (1 John 2:16).
  1. The Lust of the Flesh – stones turned into bread
  2. The Pride of Life – the intervention of angels
  3. The Lust of the Eyes – the kingdoms of the world
These three things are the devices through which the first Adam fell. In Luke the temptations are recorded in their moral order, following 1 John 2:16. But in Matthew the offer of the kingdom comes in last because Matthew gives the chronological order. They came to him in different ways:

The Sinless Perfection of Christ Manifested (4:1-11)

The Forty Days (vv.1-2)

 Then Jesus was carried up into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted of the devil: 2 and having fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he hungered. vv.1-2 The Spirit led Jesus (the design was Divine), but is was Satan that tempted Him. It is always that way with the activity of Satan. All his actions are allowed by God, and used by Him to accomplish a Divine design. The old English word ‘tempt’ simply means ‘test’ (Gen. 22:1). Jesus could not be tempted in the way James speaks of it in James 1:13-14. The first man met the Devil with a full stomach, having tasted the bounty of Eden. But the second man meets the Devil with the cards stacked against Him… and still Satan found no point of attack. “Forty days and forty nights” speak of a time of testing (Gen. 7:4; Exo. 24:18; Num. 13:25; 1 Sam. 17:16; Acts 1:3).

1st Temptation: Self-provision vs. Perfect Dependence (vv.3-4)

3 And the tempter coming up to him said, If thou be Son of God, speak, that these stones may become loaves of bread. v.3 Jesus is first tested as “Son of God” on earth. At the baptism, Christ’s relationship with God was first fully settled before men. Then, as One in that place, the conflict with Satan begins. In a sense the same is true with us. It is once we see our place “in Christ” and our status as “sons of God” that Satan appears to oppose our pathway. How beautiful to have the pattern of our Lord, that we might overcome, even as He also overcame, and is set down, etc. (Rev. 3:21). One of Satan’s favorite words is “if”… he always challenges what God says (e.g. Gen. 3:1); in this case Satan was challenging the Father’s declaration in Matt. 3:17. The circumstances looked right for the Son of God to make the stones bread. He was hungry, and He had the power to perform this miracle. But He did not have a word from His Father to do so. For Him to make the stones bread would have been independency (John 5:19).
4 But he answering said, It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which goes out through God’s mouth.” [Deut. 8:3] v.4 The Devil was addressing the issue of man’s need, and saying that need is license. But God created man in dependence on Him. To act in independence from God is sin! Satan was saying; “you can’t live without physical bread.” The Lord replies; “wrong, you can’t live without the Word of God.” Notice that the Lord quoted scripture in His response, and scripture was enough to settle the matter. He wouldn’t even answer with His own words… perfect dependence! The context of the quotation is beautiful as well. After wandering for forty years (parallel the forty days), when Israel was in the land, enjoying the bounty of Canaan, they were to remember that man lives by the Word of God.

2nd Temptation: Self-glorification vs. Quiet Confidence (vv.5-7)

 5 Then the devil takes him to the holy city, and sets him upon the edge of the temple, 6 and says to him, If thou be Son of God cast thyself down; for it is written, “He shall give charge to his angels concerning thee, and on their hands shall they bear thee, lest in anywise thou strike thy foot against a stone.” [Psa. 91:12] vv.5-6 The second temptation was intended by Satan to entice the Lord to display His power to glorify Himself. The Devil would twist the promises made to the Messiah, to get the Messiah to seek His own glory, instead of waiting on God’s time, and trusting God to glorify Him in due time. Satan is never more dangerous than when he is using the scriptures, although he takes them out of context, and twists them into a wrong use. He left out seven words of that verse; “to keep thee in all thy ways.” The context of the verse is that of a faithful man walking in God’s ways, who can have the assurance of God’s help. Satan’s direction of action is down. He has always moved “down“… read more. Earlier Satan tried to get the Lord to look down at the stones instead of up to God in dependence on the Word of God (vv.3-4). Here he tries to convince the Lord to “cast himself down“. In v.9 he tries to get Him to “fall down” and worship him. The direction is always down.
7 Jesus said to him, It is again written, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” [Deut. 6:16] v.7 Jesus answered “Again, it is written”. Just because Satan has grown more insidious, that should never deter us from the same method of defense, the Word of God. The response is an in-context quotation; a passage often quoted by the Jews as if it forbade excess in trusting God; whereas it really means that man should not distrust God, and thereby try whether God is faithful.

3rd Temptation: Self-aggrandizement vs. Righteous Devotion (vv.8-10)

Resisting the Devil. The two first temptations were the wiles of the Devil in which trickery was used. But the third temptation was open hostility to God. In each temptation, the Lord resisted the Devil. The believer too has the right to resist the Devil when he comes tempting (James 4:7); but we are never told to dialog with the Devil, or to haughtily scoff at him, or rebuke him. Even Michael would not bring against him [Satan] a railing accusation” (Jude 9), but said “The Lord rebuke thee“. Satan is the highest ranking angel in the creation of God, a higher authority than even an archangel. Our response to temptations should be to remain in simple obedience to the Word of God, even if our understanding is simple. If we do this, we will escape Satan’s wiles.
 8 Again the devil takes him to a very high mountain, and shews him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory, 9 and says to him, All these things will I give thee if, falling down, thou wilt do me homage. vv.8-9 Satan proposed that the Lord could have the kingdom (the inheritance) without having to go to the cross, to spare Himself all the sufferings that awaited Him there. The Son’s inheritance is a material one (Eph. 1) and Satan has usurped this inheritance through his subtilty. The path to take back the inheritance and glorify God as to the question of sin would take Jesus to the cross (Col 1:20). But if Jesus would deny His Father and acknowledge Satan (the god of this world) by worshiping him, Jesus could take the kingdoms of the world without paying the redemption price. Satan does have the power to do this, as we see in Revelation when the Devil gives His power to the beast (Rev. 13:2). This was a foolish yet dastardly proposal to present to the Son, the object of whose heart was God His Father, and whose sole mission was to glorify Him (Heb. 10:7). How little Satan understood of “the joy that was set before him”, the joy of doing the Father’s will.
A deal with the Devil. Satan does have control over this world, but ultimately he is just a pawn, being used by God. Satan, as the god of this world, has made similar offers before. The kings of the earth have fallen down to worship him for only a small portion of what he here offered our Lord. If Christ would capitulate, He could have it all. Far better for the Lord to look on to that day when God will say to him “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psa. 2:8).
10 Then says Jesus to him, Get thee away, Satan, for it is written, “Thou shalt do homage to the Lord thy God, and him alone shalt thou serve.” [Deut. 6:13] v.10 The Lord’s response to this third temptation is “Get thee away, Satan”. We know from Isa. 24:21-22 that the Messiah would have ultimate authority over the demonic hosts. The way the Lord speaks to Satan (v.10) is proof of this! Satan’s boldness in this third test called for a sharp rebuke. The verse our Lord quoted is Deut. 6:13, the thrust of which is that we would have devotion only to God. This is the believer’s safeguard against temptation! We should live with a single eye, seeking only the glory of God. With that attitude, Satan can do nothing… he is defeated!

The Angels Minister to Christ (v.11)

 11 Then the devil leaves him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him. v.11 The angels ministered to Jesus’ practical needs (John 1:51), supplying the very things Satan had attempted to get Jesus to take for Himself. What a reward for His faithfulness! The angels are ministering spirits for us also (Heb. 1:14).
Satan bound. The defeat of Satan in the wilderness was a tremendous step in mission of the Lord Jesus. While the positive work of redemption had not yet been accomplished, the strong man – Satan himself – had been bound by the Second Man, in perfect dependence on God. “How can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man?” (Matt. 12:29). After this, Christ came forth from the wilderness and departed into Galilee, where His public ministry properly began… spoiling Satan’s house!
Satan's Downward Progression. It is striking that we always see Satan moving down, down, down...
  1. Iniquity was found in him; "I will cast thee to the ground" (Ezek. 28:14-16)
  2. Cursed in the garden; "upon thy belly shalt thou go" (Genesis 3:14-15)
----- 4000 Years ------
  1. Bound in the wilderness; "first bind the strong man, and then spoil his house" (Matt. 12:29; Luke 4:13)
  2. Defeated at the cross; "through death he might annul him who has the power of death... the devil" (Heb. 2:14)
----- 2000 Years ------
  1. Cast down to the earth; "he was cast out into the earth" (Rev. 12:9)
  2. Cast into the abyss; "and cast him into the abyss, and shut it" (Rev. 20:3)
----- 1000 Years ------
  1. Cast into the lake of fire; "was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone" (Rev. 20:10)
Use of the Word of God. The Lord Jesus had a verse for every temptation, and He obeyed that verse. It isn’t that the Bible is a magic potion that scares Satan away… rather it is a solid foundation for our souls to rest on. “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). Remember to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” He knows he has met Christ in us; not the flesh. “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Common Fallacies. Aside from the direct teaching of this passage, we find practical instruction in it for our own lives. Firstly, we are given the perfect pattern of how to be victorious over the temptations of the Devil. The secret is full dependence on the Word of God. Secondly, we are warned of Satan’s frequently used strategies, which he uses to entice men to sin. These three temptations represent three common fallacies that many people sadly believe.
  1. The temptation of the stones represents that common fallacy that it is God’s will for us to meet our own needs. For example, if I am hungry while driving down the road, and I see a fast food restaurant to the side, is it necessarily God’s will to indulge myself? Jesus was hungry, and He had the ability to meet that need with food. But He would not act without direction from His Father.
  2. The temptation of the temple represents the common fallacy that God’s sovereignty in our lives relieves us of our responsibility. Many Christians think they can life their lives recklessly and selfishly, and that its okay because God will take care of everything in the end. That is tempting God, and it is a serious sin to live recklessly.
  3. The temptation of the kingdom represents the common fallacy that it is acceptable to make a moral compromise in order to achieve a good outcome. The kingdom rightfully belonged to Christ, but to take it from Satan would require a compromise. Very often well-meaning Christians will enter into arrangements that are compromised with the excuse that it is for a good cause.

Matthew 4:12-25

The Beginning of Christ’s Public Ministry
Matthew 4:12-25
Matthew 4:12-25. Two of the ten major tenets of Messianic prophecy are shown to be fulfilled by Jesus in this section. Read more… They are:
  1. His Appearance in the North of the Land for Blessing (ch.4)
  2. His Coming in Millennial Power for Blessing (ch.4)
Events between the Lord’s Baptism and Public Ministry. There are a number of events recorded in John 1-2 that take place between the baptism of Christ and the commencement of His public ministry that are only recorded in John’s gospel. Some of those events are: (1) the Lord’s introduction to Peter, Andrew, Philip and Nathanael, (2) His presence and miracle at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, and (3) His visit to Jerusalem for the Passover, first temple cleansing, miracles in Jerusalem, and dialogue with Nicodemus. The reason these are only found in John is that John presents the utter ruin of man, Israel, and the world from the very outset. The events of Luke 4:14-30 are left out too, which are morally important to Luke’s purpose… the man who came to do good was rejected, even in Nazareth!

John’s Imprisonment, Christ Ministers First in Galilee (4:12-17)

 12 But having heard that John was delivered up, he departed into Galilee: v.12 His ministry begins after the closing of John’s. John 3:23-24 shows us that John’s ministry overlapped with the Lord’s. However, the Lord’s public ministry did not properly begin until John was off the scene. The rejection of John the Baptist (the Messiah’s herald) was in a sense a rejection of the Messiah. This verse marks the beginning of the first of three phases in the Lord’s public ministry:
  • In Matt. 4:12 – 18:35 we have the Lord’s Galilean ministry. 
  • In Matt. 19:1 – 20:28 we have the Lord’s Perean ministry. 
  • In Matt. 20:29 – 27:66 we have the Lord’s Judean ministry.
13 and having left Nazareth, he went and dwelt at Capernaum, which is on the sea-side in the borders of Zabulon and Nepthalim, v.13 His “home base” in Capernaum fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. It simply says the Jesus “left Nazareth” – a very gracious way to put it considering Luke 4:29. Capernaum was the Lord’s hometown for the years of His public ministry. Jesus was raised in Nazareth, but when He turned 30 years of age He moved to Capernaum, which was 20 miles to the north in the borders of Zebulon and Naphtali. In doing so He fulfilled scripture (vv.14-15). Capernaum, Cana, and Nazareth were cities of the region of Galilee, which was beyond the conventional borders of the land of Israel, though Jewish, and was despised by the religious in Judea. In Matt. 11, we read that that Lord had done many “mighty works” in Capernaum.
14 that that might be fulfilled which was spoken through Esaias the prophet, saying, 15 “Land of Zabulon and land of Nepthalim, way of the sea beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations: 16 — the people sitting in darkness has seen a great light, and to those sitting in the country and shadow of death, to them has light sprung up.” [Isa. 9:1-2] vv.14-16 The expression “that might be fulfilled” tells us that the Lord’s coming in grace to the northern, despised regions of Israel was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. The prophetic scriptures referred to here (Isa. 9:1-2) speak of the coming of the Messiah to a poor and afflicted remnant. This scripture was fulfilled at Christ’s first coming, but there is a parallel to it at His second coming.
  • Isa. 5 & 6. Because of the rebelliousness of His people, the Lord’s hand was stretched out against them in judgment (Isa. 5:25), but in them the glory of the Lord is revealed (Isa. 6).
Fulfillment at His first coming:
  • Isa. 7. It is announced that there was to be a virgin birth, the King of glory, Jehovah of hosts, was to become a babe, born of a virgin.
  • Isa. 8. The nation rejects the Messiah, and a godly remnant “my disciples” appears, but they are more and more isolated in the midst of apostate Israel, who will be putting their trust in a confederacy with the Romans. But the promise of Millennial blessing is made, connected with the remnant who will be the nucleus of the nation, however small and despised they were in the beginning.
  • Isa. 9. In vv.1-2 the prophet declares that the Messiah would come to this poor and afflicted remnant, and while they had suffered the most under the oppression of the Romans and Pharisees, they would be the first ones to experience the power of His grace.
Fulfillment at His second coming:
  • Isa. 7. The “overflowing scourge” will pass through the land (the first attack of the Assyrian, Isa. 7:17-2) and go down into Egypt.
  • Isa. 8. The remnant will have to walk through a time of spiritual darkness in the Great Tribulation, under persecution from the apostate nation who will be trusting in a confederacy with Europe.
  • Isa. 9. The faithful remnant at the north of the land, which had been “degraded” by the Assyrian (first attack), will be honoured first by His glorious appearing at Megiddo (Rev. 19:19-20). They will see “a great light”, which is a reference to the brightness of the appearing of Christ (2 Thess. 2:8).
The appearing of the Lord to the north of the Land at His second coming will be an event in the same character as this event at His first coming. This is a requirement for the Messiah that all the rabbis knew and ought to have been expecting. This region was the remotest in the land… a place that was largely free from Phariseeism. It was somewhat defiled by mixture with the Gentiles, therefore it was called “Galilee of the Gentiles”. The “shadow of death” is sometimes what it takes to bring us to the place where we will hear the Lord.
17 From that time began Jesus to preach and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn nigh. v.17 His early ministry consisted of the gospel of the kingdom. Compare this with the Lord’s discourse with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. Jesus preached a more Christian gospel in John, compared to the kingdom-gospel in Matthew. He presents to the Jews the kingdom of heaven as that which was according to their prophets. It would be brought in, although after ch.12 it is never said to be “at hand”, because the manifestation phase was going to be postponed. Read more…

A Sample of the Messiah Calling out His Disciples (4:18-22)

The faithful remnant in the time of our Lord. These disciples of our Lord were a faithful Jewish remnant (Isa. 8:18). Had Israel received the Messiah, they would have gone into the kingdom as the nucleus of the restored Nation of Israel, just as a different remnant will, who will be gathered back into the land before the middle of Daniel’s seventieth week. Instead, Israel was set aside and a new dispensation was brought in. These same disciples were given an even greater privilege! They became the nucleus of the assembly, the Church of God! They were given the privilege to bring the gospel to the world. They were to be fishers of men: bringing the gospel to the whole world (Matt. 28)!
Three stages to the calling of the twelve:
  1. Call to discipleship (John 1:35-42), called to be “with Him”
  2. Call to service (Matt. 4:18-22), made fishers of men.
  3. Call to apostleship (Matt. 10:1), invested with authority and “sent” out.
As Christians we need this same moral order. First we need to give up everything, follow Christ, and then we can serve Him.

The Call of Andrew and Peter (vv.18-20)

 18 And walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishers; 19 and he says to them, Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men. vv.18-19 In John 1 we find that the Lord was not a complete stranger to these ones because He had already met at least some of them (John 1:35-42). A special kind of faith – involving understanding – is needed in service. They had been fishers of fish, but that would be no help in their spiritual “trade”. No school other than fellowship with Christ can prepare us for service. It is a process. Gift needs to be developed. Peter and Andrew both became fishers of men; but then there are different kinds of fishing. Peter is often seen preaching to multitudes (Acts 2, etc.), similar to net-fishing. Andrew is often seen working one-on-one (John 1:41; 6:8; 12:22) which is akin to pole-fishing.
20 And they, having left their trawl-nets, immediately followed him. v.20 If we are going to serve the Lord we need to give the Lord the first place over our occupation. Elsewhere we read that they left their nets at a time when the business was most prosperous (Luke 5:1-11). The Lord uses men and women of activity. He uses people that are prepared to work, and have already established that pattern in natural ways of life. Fishing was one of the hardest jobs; none of these men would have been lazy.

The Call of James and John (vv.21-22)

21 And going on thence he saw other two brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the ship with Zebedee their father, mending their trawl-nets, and he called them; v.21 James and John were found “mending the nets”. We find John in his ministry doing just that with regard to Christian doctrine… he is defending the doctrine of the Person of Christ against the gnostic heresy that was coming in during his later lifetime. James was martyred early in his lifetime, so we don’t know much about him. In Mark, where service is more in focus, we find another principle; they didn’t leave their father in a lurch. It says they left their father in the ship “with the hired servants” (Mark 1:20).
“Casting” and “mending” nets. Peter and Andrew were found casting their nets, which speaks of evangelism. This was the great object of the kingdom gospel as well as the gospel of the grace of God. James and John were found mending their nets, which speaks of teaching and reinforcing doctrine. If we never repair our nets, we will end up with holes, and our service will become ineffective. But at the same time, if we never cast our nets, we have missed the whole point.
22 and they, having left the ship and their father, immediately followed him. v.22 If we are going to serve the Lord we need to give the Lord the first place over our family relationships. Notice that Zebedee did not push his boys into service (c.p. his wife, Matt. 20:21), and he also did not stand in their way.

Concise Summary of Christ’s Ministry in Galilee (4:23-25)

 23 And Jesus went round the whole of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the glad tidings of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every bodily weakness among the people. v.23 He demonstrated that He had “the powers of the world to come”.  The whole ministry of the Lord is recounted in one verse! His ministry was threefold: (1) teaching, (2) preaching, and (3) healing. Note that He does not worship in their synagogues, but teaches. Christ proved that He had the powers of the world to come, by giving them a sample of what was promised! “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing” (Isa. 35:5-6). And yet they still rejected Him!
24 And his fame went out into the whole of Syria, and they brought to him all that were ill, suffering under various diseases and pains, and those possessed by demons, and lunatics, and paralytics; and he healed them. v.24 He spread blessing to the nations around. It is beautiful to see that the blessing was not limited to Israel. Surrounding nations heard about these miracles and brought their sick and possessed – not to Jerusalem – but to the most despised part of the Land, to the only One who could release them from the shadow of death. It reminds us of that double-river in Ezekiel 47 that will spring from under the threshold of the Millennial temple and flow out into the desert and into the sea; “and it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live, etc.” (Ezek. 47:9).
25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee, and Decapolis, and Jerusalem, and Judaea, and beyond the Jordan. v.25 He attracted universal attention. It was very important that not only the disciples, but the whole nation would understand the true character of the kingdom about to be introduced (Matt. 5 – 7), and of those who were to have part in it, namely the faithful remnant.
Signs of power to accompany the gospel of the kingdom. The Old Testament scriptures spoke of the Millennial blessing that would be ushered in by the Messiah. Physical handicaps will all be healed (Isa. 35:5-6), and there will be no more sickness or disease (Isa. 33:24; Psa. 103:3). The proclamation of the kingdom by Christ was accompanied by acts of power that would draw the attention of the whole country – the whole territory of ancient Israel. Jesus appeared before them invested with this power. The power proved that He was the Messiah, because He alone could bring in Millennial blessing. This is further developed in Matt. 8-9 This is what the writer of Hebrews referred to as “the powers of the world to come” (Heb. 6:5), or “so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him [the apostles]; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will” (Heb. 2:3-4).

Matthew 5:1-12

The Principles of the Kingdom: The Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 5 – 7
A helpful outline of the next portion of Matthew’s gospel:
  • Matt. 5 – 7 gives us the principles of the kingdom
  • Matt. 8 – 9 gives us the powers of the kingdom
  • Matt. 10 gives us the preaching of the kingdom
Chronology. The sermon on the mount did not take place chronologically at the beginning of the Lord’s ministry, nor was it all given at one time. This is clearly seen by the fact that it begins by Jesus speaking to the disciples (Matt. 5:1) and closes with Him addressing the multitude (Matt. 7:28-29). Matthew pieces the whole discourse together and gives it to us as a comprehensive declaration of the principles of the kingdom of heaven. The same method is used in Matt. 8-9. The sermon on the mount is not recorded in Mark or John. Only bits and pieces are given in Luke, where the Spirit of God takes the liberty, according to His sovereign wisdom, of keeping back certain portions, so that the order would be such as to make certain moral points.
The Beatitudes: The Blessedness of the Subjects of the Kingdom
Matthew 5:1-12
The rightful King unfolds the principles of His kingdom. It is right and proper that, after Jesus was proven to be the rightful Messiah (Matt. 1-4), that He would go up into the mountain and lay out the principles of His kingdom, which was near at hand. These principles give us an outline of proper Christian living. It is Christ that defines what a Christian is! Recall that the Queen of Sheba was impressed, not merely with the wealth of Solomon, but with the moral characteristics of his servants; “happy are these thy servants”, etc. That is a parallel with the beatitudes given in Matt. 5:1-12; “blessed are the…” What a privilege to be part of His kingdom!
Which aspect of the kingdom is in view? The kingdom at this point in Matthew is “at hand”, because the postponement was not yet official. However, the way the Lord speaks even in Matt. 5-7 shows that He was speaking of a time when the King was in rejection, because there would be “mourning”, and “persecution for righteousness’ sake”. It clearly speaks of a time when evil would be allowed to continue on earth. The time of all things being set right was still distant. However, these characteristics belong to subjects of the kingdom at all times. It certainly applies to Christians today.
Kingdom teaching is Christian conduct. In Acts 20 Paul said he preached three things: the gospel of the grace of God (v.24), the kingdom of God (v.25), and all the counsel of God (v.27). The first thing was the gospel, the second was the practical conduct of Christians who are part of the kingdom, and the third was the counsels of God concerning Christ and the Church. We need to take heed that we not neglect kingdom-teaching. While it is not the highest truth in the Word of God, it is very important.
Christian conduct, but not the substance of Christianity. Many believers think that the sermon on the mount is the apex of Christian teaching… it is not. We have to turn to the epistles where Paul unfolds the truth of the mystery, and the nature of the Church of God. The word “blessed” or “happy” is used over and over in vv.1-16. These blessings are for happiness on this earth. We are told in Eph. 1:3 that we have been blessed will “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places”! Our spiritual blessings are ours right now, but the rewards mentioned here will be fully realized in the Millennial kingdom!
Christian conduct, but not the Christian gospel. Another mistake would be to think that these characteristics of the subjects of the kingdom are requirements to be saved. Some have taken these descriptions in that way. It then becomes a gospel of works, much the way lordship salvation does.

The Setting (vv.1-2)

 But seeing the crowds, he went up into the mountain, and having sat down, his disciples came to him; 2 and, having opened his mouth, he taught them, saying, v.1 The setting. The circumstances at the end of ch.4 are arranged by the Holy Ghost to show that universal attention had been directed to the Lord, and to the coming kingdom. William Kelly said, “When all are on tip-toe to hear Him, then the Lord unfolds the character of the kingdom of heaven.” There are seven occasions in Matthew where we find the Lord on a mountain: Matt. 4:8; 5:1; 14:23; 15:29; 17:1; 24:3; 28:16. Here the mountain is compared to Sinai. We have the original Lawgiver come forth in manhood, having gone up another mountain, now revealing to His disciples His heart and mind. He has every right to enlarge or amend His own law!

The Nine Beatitudes: Seen Perfectly in the Life of Christ (vv.3-12)

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for “theirs” is the kingdom of the heavens. v.3 Beatitude #1: Poor in Spirit. “Poor in spirit” is the thought of a humble attitude (Isa. 57:15; 66:2). It is in contrast to someone who is forward and pushy. When a person is repentant, they become poor in spirit. The enjoyment of the “kingdom of heaven” is their reward!
4 Blessed they that mourn, for “they” shall be comforted. v.4 Beatitude #2: Mourning. “Mourning” here is not somebody that is very weepy or depressed. Rather, it is a mourning over the condition of things (Ezek. 9:4). They shall be “comforted” because the kingdom will be brought in, and things will be set right.
5 Blessed the meek, “for “they” shall inherit the earth.” [Psalm 37:11] v.5 Beatitude #3: Meekness. “Meekness” is not giving offense; lowliness is not taking offense (Matt. 11:29). Those who are “offensive” are willing to hurt others to get what they want. The reward to the meek is to “inherit the earth” in the Millennium. The expression “the earth,” could be translated “the land,” (v.5 and v.13). The “land” in scripture generally refers to the land of Israel, and often includes the entire possession of land promised to Abraham. Read more… Note that this is a reference by the Lord Himself to Psalm 37:11 in speaking to the disciples, who were themselves a faithful remnant. This help us to see the character of the disciples in the gospels, and why Jesus would address them as the Jewish remnant, rather than the Church.1
6 Blessed they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for “they” shall be filled. v.6 Beatitude #4: Hunger and Thirst After Righteousness. To “hunger and thirst after righteousness” is to have a desire for things to be in accordance with the mind of God. This is connected with suffering with Christ (Rom. 8:17)… to be grieved by man’s rebellion and the effects of sin on creation. The reward is to be “filled” or satisfied with righteousness in the kingdom (Dan. 9:24), when everything is set right (Acts 3:21). This verse doesn’t tell us to try to set the world right in our own strength.
7 Blessed the merciful, for “they” shall find mercy. v.7 Beatitude #5: Mercy. “Mercy” in this context is compassionate treatment of those in distress. This is uncommon in a world full of cold people. See Rom. 12:8; Jam. 2:13; Luke 10:30-34. The reward to the merciful is governmental mercy from God. This is not exemption from trials, but enjoyment of the sweetness of God’s mercy through their trials.
8 Blessed the pure in heart, for “they” shall see God. v.8 Beatitude #6: Purity. “Purity” is the thought of unmixed motives, cleanness of thought. Appreciating mercy (v.7) does not make us compromise holiness. William Kelly said, “The fuller your hold of grace is, the higher will be your maintenance of holiness”. To “see God” (Heb. 12:14) is the result of communion. It means to actually know God.
9 Blessed the peace-makers, for “they” shall be called sons of God. v.9 Beatitude #7: Peacemaking. “Peacemaking” is not the idea of passively trying to avoid sensitive issues. It is an active seeking to put issues right for the glory of God and for the blessing of our brethren (1 Sam. 25). The term “sons of God” in Matthew is not the Pauline truth of adoption. Sons of God in Matthew are those that bear the resemblance of God’s nature.
10 Blessed they who are persecuted on account of righteousness, for “theirs” is the kingdom of the heavens. v.10 Beatitude #8: Persecution for Righteousness’ Sake. “Persecution for righteousness’ sake” is to suffer for taking a stand on moral issues. A good example is John the Baptist (Matt. 14:3-4), although John wasn’t in the kingdom of heaven. How can we be “blessed” in such adverse conditions? There is a certain joy that comes from doing God’s will. The reward presented is a portion with the Messiah Himself in the kingdom of the heavens.
11 Blessed are ye when they may reproach and persecute you, and say every wicked thing against you, lying, for my sake. 12 Rejoice and exult, for your reward is great in the heavens; for thus have they persecuted the prophets who were before you. vv.11-12 Beatitude #9: Persecution for Christ’s Sake. “Persecution for Christ’s sake” goes beyond suffering for righteousness’ sake; compare 1 Pet. 3:14 and 1 Pet. 4:12-13. It means to suffer because of our association with Christ. This is a far greater privilege than suffering for moral issues. Notice this change from “they” to “ye“… it is exceedingly precious. The Lord is now getting very personal. Why? Perhaps it is because slander and false accusation are some of the hardest persecutions to take. The believer’s reward is “in heaven”. The Lord identifies these disciples with a higher place altogether than “the kingdom of heaven”, which is on the earth. Instead, God gives them a portion out of the earthly scene, with Himself above. It takes in the possibility that these disciples might be martyred. The rejoicing involved with persecution is a special kind (Acts 5:40-42). What an honor to join the Old Testament prophets in their portion of earthly rejection and scorn, but with the approval of God!.
The tenth beatitude. Nine beatitudes are listed here in Matthew 5, but Paul gives us another one in Acts 20:35; “…to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
  1. This psalm also helps to show the connection between the disciples and this remnant (see Matt. 5:5) – yet, to show the difference; the Son was there. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.

Matthew 5:13-16

Salt and Light: The Twofold Influence of Believers on the World
Matthew 5:13-16
Salt and Light. These two metaphors are used to summarize the twofold influence that the subjects of the kingdom can have in this world. They are also a summary of the effect of the beatitudes (vv.1-12).
  1. Salt – speaks of the preserving influence of a righteous life. Up until the 20th century and before the invention of refrigeration, salt was used as a preservative. It was useful in preserving the quality of stored food. In a similar way, the life and testimony (Col. 4:6) of believers in this world, ordering their lives consistent with God’s nature, is a moral preserver in the world (2 Thess. 2:7).
  2. Light – speaks of the incessant outflow of grace. While salt has its effect by staying true to what is inward, light has its effect by shining outward to provide illumination. The character of God revealed in Christ is to be reflected to the world around. This is done primarily through good works.
Light acting in two ways.

Light is shown in scripture to acts in two ways. Negatively, the light exposes man’s true condition (John 1:9; 3:20-21). This is what is meant in John 1:9, that He (the Son), "coming into the world, lightens" or illuminates "every man". His life of perfect righteousness and grace here is this world exposed the evil hearts of men. This is pictured in John 8, where Jesus declared "I am the light of the world", after He exposed the true moral state of the Jewish leaders who brought to Him the woman taken in adultery. But the light acts in another way too. Positively, the light gives us the knowledge of God’s character revealed in the Person of the Son (John 1:5; 2 Cor. 4:6). This is pictured in John 9, where Jesus again declared "I am the light of the world", and proceeded to open a man's physical and spiritual eyesight. It is a type of spiritual illumination through new birth. Unless a man is born again (John 3:5), he cannot see the kingdom of God. In that sense, the Divine life in Christ was "the light of men" (John 1:5). 

Our light will have this same dual effect on this world. Read more…

Ye are the Salt of the Earth: Inward Righteousness (v.13)

 13 “Ye” are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have become insipid, wherewith shall it be salted? It is no longer fit for anything but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot by men. v.13 Salt speaks of the preserving influence of a righteous life on this world. Salt is the only thing that cannot be salted, because it is the preservative principle itself. It is not just a substance… it is a quality! But if the quality of “saltiness” is gone, it cannot be replaced. Salt with no saltiness is nothing but gravel… therefore only fit to be “cast out and to be trodden under foot by men”. There is a danger that the salt could lose its savor. It is not a question of whether a saint can lose his or her salvation, but that they might lose their righteous moral testimony. If this occurs, a Christian could become the subject of men’s ridicule. In Mark 9:50 we are told “have salt in yourselves”. We must be determined to please the Lord no matter what the cost. Christ was the perfect example; “Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein” (2 Kings 2:20). He was filled with that inward, dogged determination to do the will of God, whatever the cost.

Ye are the Light of the World: Outward Grace (vv.14-16)

14 “Ye” are the light of the world: a city situated on the top of a mountain cannot be hid. v.14 Light speaks of the incessant outflow of grace. When our priorities are straight (like a brightly lit city placed high above), this light is something that cannot be hid. Grace in our walk and ways is the unconscious fruit of the new nature.
15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under the bushel, but upon the lamp-stand, and it shines for all who are in the house. v.15 There is a need to order our lives to allow the light to shine. If we put our light under the bushel – obscuring it by other pursuits, such as our education, business, pleasure, etc. – we are hindering its shining. (Compare)
16 Let your light thus shine before men, so that they may see your upright works, and glorify your Father who is in the heavens. v.16 The exhortation is to let your light so shine”. It is not something we have to try to do positively. Rather, we must clear away the obstacles and it will happen automatically. “Good works” are things that must accompany the Christian testimony. The out-shining of light will illuminate the world for what it is (Eph. 5:13)… a dark, cold, bitter place. It will lead souls to see the goodness of God (Rom. 2:4) and to turn in repentance to Him, “glorifying your Father who is in heaven”.

Matthew 5:17-48

The Principles of the Kingdom in Connection with the Law
Matthew 5:17-48
Fulfilling the Law. In this section (vv.17-48) the Lord Jesus establishes the authority of the law, which the Jews ought to have kept until the kingdom was introduced. They should have kept, not only the law, but also the words of the prophets given to stir up their consciences while they waited for the Messiah. In this chapter Christ speaks, not as in the kingdom, but as announcing it to be near at hand. His purpose was to explain the moral things that should characterize the remnant who would enter the kingdom, and mark out those who would be excluded. A mere outward conformance to the “letter” of the law will not do for the glorious kingdom, and it won’t do for Christians either. The righteousness that should be in His disciples must exceed that which was given by Moses in the law. Accordingly, the Lord gives six moral expansions of the law in vv.21-48. Each of these moral expansions takes something the law said man ought to do (actions), and the Lord expands it to tell man what he ought to be (character). The six expansions relate to:
  1. The sixth commandment (murder) – Exo. 20:13
  2. The seventh commandment (adultery) – Exo. 20:14
  3. The law as to divorce – Deut. 24:1
  4. The law as to oaths – Lev. 19:12
  5. The law as to retribution – Exo. 21:24
  6. The law as to hatred towards enemies – Deut. 23:6.

Introduction: Christ come to Fulfill the Law (5:17-20)

 17 Think not that I am come to make void the law or the prophets; I am not come to make void, but to fulfil. v.17 The Lord had not come “to destroy” the law. The kingdom would not set aside the righteous requirement of the law, in fact Christ was come “to fulfil” or, to illustrate the law practically to its fullest extent. He would accomplish this, whether in His righteous life, or in His death which was the most solemn sanction the law ever could receive. However, we Christians are not under the law (Rom. 6:14), but we should exceed the righteousness of the law, as the Lord desired.
18 For verily I say unto you, Until the heaven and the earth pass away, one iota or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all come to pass. v.18 Christ vindicates the law. A “jot” (iota) is the tenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet; it is the smallest letter. A “tittle” is not even a character, rather it is a tiny extension added to a letter in the Hebrew writing system, similar to the tail that distinguishes an English “Q” from an “O”. The point is, every minute detail of the law will be fulfilled. It will “all come to pass”, because it is the Word of God, and as such, it is surely to be fulfilled.
19 Whosoever then shall do away with one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of the heavens; but whosoever shall practise and teach them, “he” shall be called great in the kingdom of the heavens. v.19 The expression “these least commandments” is a reference to the second group of commandments. The first four commandments had to do with fidelity toward God, summarized by the Lord as “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy understanding” (Deut. 6:5). The last six have to do with conduct toward our fellow man, and the Lord summarized them as “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Lev. 19:18). Read Matt. 22:36-40; Rom. 13:8-10. Both these “summaries” are a form of love, so Paul says “therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10; Gal. 5:14). Man’s responsibility toward God is greater than his responsibility toward his fellow man (a principle often denied today), and therefore the second group of six commands was called “these least commandments”. Not only would the Lord not take away a commandment, He would demote and promote subjects of His kingdom based on their faithfulness in the smallest ones!
20 For I say unto you, that unless your righteousness surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of the heavens. v.20 The “righteousness” mentioned here has nothing to do with justification, but rather practical righteousness; walking consistently in relations toward God and men. But since fruit-bearing is the proof of divine life, those who have truly received the good seed will bear fruit. They will display deep, internal, practical righteousness according to the holy, loving nature of God… not like the showy pretended righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.
Making a law out of these moral extensions. One might try to legally imitate the outward acts described by the Lord and the result would be a more fiery law than was given from mount Sinai. Sadly, this is what many Christians do. We need to realize that these are the characteristics of the divine nature that the believer already has. They will be the automatic fruit of walking in the Spirit.

1st Moral Expansion of the Law: Regarding Hatred and Murder (5:21-26)

 21 Ye have heard that it was said to the ancients, “Thou shalt not kill;” [Exodus 20:13] but whosoever shall kill shall be subject to the judgment. v.21 “It was said to the ancients”, that is, the law said certain things to the Israelites. The law refuted murder, which is the most extreme form of violence. But the Lord gives added dimensions to it. You might not murder someone, but you might be full of hatred toward them in your heart. The Lord is concerned with what is inward.
22 But “I” say unto you, that every one that is lightly angry with his brother shall be subject to the judgment; but whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be subject to be called before the sanhedrim; but whosoever shall say, Fool, shall be subject to the penalty of the hell of fire. v.22 The Lord is now bringing hatred under the same category with murder. In the sight of God, every kind of violence, feeling of contempt, hatred, or any putting down of another it is all from the same source. The expression “lightly angry” is not so much the idea of “angry without a cause”. Rather it means “just a little bit angry.” There are three judgments here, all can be seen in the millennium:
  1. Capital Punishment (Psa. 101). The consequence for being “lightly angry”, is to be “subject to the judgment”.
  2. Corporal Punishment (Micah 5:5). The consequence for saying “Raca” is to be brought “before the sanhedrin”.
  3. Eternal Punishment (Matt. 25:46). The consequence for saying “Fool” is to be cast into “the hell of fire”.
“Raca” or “vain fellow” is an expression that encompasses malice and hatred. To call someone a “fool” is not the same as saying a person is acting foolish. It means to harbor such ill feelings toward a person that we consider them utterly worthless
Two Practical Exhortations. In vv.23-26 He gives two practical exhortations that show the importance of the principle just laid down.
23 If therefore thou shouldest offer thy gift at the altar, and there shouldest remember that thy brother has something against thee, 24 leave there thy gift before the altar, and first go, be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. vv.23-24 If you have offended your brother. When we realize that we have offended someone, we are responsible to try to make it right. If a disciple was going to offer some sacrifice to God on the altar in the temple, and they remembered an offense, they should immediately go and be reconciled to their brother. They should not give outward expression (by sacrifice) to pleasing God, while leaving their brother offended. Note that this “altar” is part of the Judaistic system of worship. The Lord isn’t bringing out the proper Christian position in this sermon on the mount, although the principles still apply to Christians. The altar has no reference to the Lord’s table. The point is that God is so opposed to hatred, malice, etc. that He would have us do everything in our power to resolve offenses with our brethren before we worship the Lord. We find from Matt. 18 that if someone has offended us we are to go to them. Here it is the other way around, but the instruction is the same; if we know they have something against us, again we are to go to them. The onus is always on us! The word “reconciled” in v.24 is a different word than is used for our reconciliation to God (Rom. 5:11). Here it has to do with a need on the part of both persons… but there is no need on God’s part. Read more…
25 Make friends with thine adverse party quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him; (1) lest some time the adverse party deliver thee to the judge, (2) and the judge deliver thee to the officer, (3) and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say to thee, (4) Thou shalt in no wise come out thence till thou hast paid the last farthing. vv.25-26 When you have committed a crime against someone. The Lord now deals with a stubborn spirit among the Pharisees. There was a murderous feeling in their heart against Jesus. The nation refused to befriend the Lord, and thus made the Lord their “adversary”. It provides a dispensational picture:
  1. adversary deliver thee to the judge – The rejected Messiah (“the adversary”) delivered Israel to the government of God (“the judge”), who in response to the cross disowned Israel as His people.
  2. the judge deliver thee to the officer – God gave up the Jewish people to be trodden down by the cruel Roman empire (“the officer”).
  3. thou be cast into prison – The Jews would go into a state of diaspora (“the prison”), like the manslayer in the city of refuge, and not be restored until…
  4. thou hast paid the last farthing – The Jews will remain in that condition until they suffer untold sorrows in the great tribulation (“the uttermost farthing”), and the fruits of repentance are manifest in a faithful remnant.
We can also see a gospel illustration in this verse. The sinner needs to realize that the time to come to God is limited. At any moment the adversary might find them, and the window of opportunity would be closed (Rev. 22:11).

2nd Moral Expansion of the Law: Regarding Lust and Adultery (5:27-30)

 27 Ye have heard that it has been said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” [Exodus 20:14] 28 But “I” say unto you, that every one who looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. vv.27-28 If the first expansion dealt with the violence of man’s heart, the second expansion deals with the corruption of his heart; i.e. lust. The law forbade the physical act of adultery. However, under the law a person could outwardly appear acceptable (not even touch a woman), but inwardly be full of corrupt thoughts. The law did not address the desires of the heart. Where we “look” is what our heart is occupied with. But here we find that the subjects of the kingdom need to have not only righteous acts, but righteous thoughts and motives (Psa. 51:6). To entertain sin in the heart (i.e. sexual fantasy, see Job 31:1) is the same as doing it in practice. Christ is not unfolding the subject of deliverance from sin, as in Romans 5 – 8. He is simply giving us what ought to characterize subjects of the kingdom.
29 But if thy right eye be a snare to thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members perish, and not thy whole body be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand be a snare to thee, cut it off and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members perish, and not thy whole body be cast into hell. vv.29-30 A practical exhortation showing the importance of the principle. The exhortation is to have an attitude of self-judgment. We are to “cut off” whatever might tend to entangle our hearts with lustful thoughts (1 Kings 8:38). The point is, no sacrifice is too great if it will lead to a deliverance from the “hell” that lies at the end. You think you can’t live without your right eye or right hand? It is a worthwhile sacrifice. We are to be ruthless against ourselves in the matter of practical holiness. What are we to “cut off” or judge:
  1. The right eye – our desires; the eye sees what it wants to see.
  2. The right hand – our habits; the hand does what it wants to do.
We are to mentally disown those corrupt desires and habits; “cast it from thee”. Who is to do the cutting? We are to judge ourselves. The Lord is not recommending corporal mortification as the radical Catholic sects do. He is describing the level of conviction required to truly judge these things. The book of Romans teaches us that fleshly energy will never succeed in repressing evil desires. When we think it hard to deny our fleshly lusts, we ought to consider how much harder it will be for those without faith who will lie for ever in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone; “cast into gehenna”.

3rd Moral Expansion of the Law: Regarding Divorce and Remarriage (5:31-32)

 31 It has been said too, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a letter of divorce.” [Deut. 24:1] 32 But “I” say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except for cause of fornication, makes her commit adultery, and whosoever marries one that is put away commits adultery. vv.31-32 This issue of divorce follows on the course of lust in v.28. The pharisees were known for putting away a wife for “every cause” (Matt. 19:3). In putting aside the license allowed under law, the Lord gives us God’s thoughts. It is important to understand that civil divorce does not break a marriage bond in the sight of God. The only two things that can break a marriage are fornication and death (Rom. 7:1-3). To divorce a wife without just cause is to make the woman (or set her up to) commit adultery if she ever remarries, and to make the one she marries to commit adultery also. In Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18 we find the same principle from the husband’s perspective; the man who puts away his wife and marries another commits adultery also. But we need to remember that in the case of adultery there is a higher road than divorce (although not the subject here)… forgiveness and redeeming love. Forgiveness is the “more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31). See notes on Matt. 19:1-12.

4th Moral Expansion of the Law: Regarding Honesty and Oaths (5:33-37)

 33 Again, ye have heard that it has been said to the ancients, “Thou shalt not forswear thyself” [Lev. 19:12], but “shalt render to the Lord what thou hast sworn.” [Psa. 50:14] v.33 The law did not forbid oaths, but only insisted that oaths be fulfilled. The moral expansion given by the Lord shows that, for a Christian, swearing is not a right practice at all.
34 But “I” say unto you, Do not swear at all; (1) neither by the heaven, because it is the throne of God; 35 (2) nor by the earth, because it is the footstool of his feet; (3) nor by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King. 36 (4) Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. vv.34-36 Four Examples of Common Oaths and Why They Shouldn’t Be Made. When a Jew’s word was questioned by his fellow-man, they had a habit of using oaths; such as we hear today, “I swear to God.” This practice is predicated on the fact that their ordinary word couldn’t be trusted. The New Testament expressly forbids common oaths (James 5:12). Some have taken these verses to mean that we should never take an oath administered by a magistrate such as “swearing on a bible” for court testimony. These verses do not absolve our obligation to take a judicial oath. The matter in context relates to communication man-to-man. Some examples of Jewish oaths are:
  1. Swearing by heaven – invoking the throne of God (the greatest authority) isn’t going to make your word any better than it is… it can only bring down the government of God on you when you renege on your vow (c.p. Heb. 5:15-16).
  2. Swearing by earth – even though the earth is less stable and solid than heaven, it is still far more consistent than your word.
  3. Swearing by Jerusalem – coming lower, an earthly city is still more consistent than the word of man, because it is owned by Messiah the King.
  4. Swearing by your head – coming even lower, our own body, which is still more consistent than man’s word…. because it is under the control of God, who makes “one hair white or black.”
See also Matt. 23:16; 18 where the Pharisees swore by the temple and the altar.
37 But let your word be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; but what is more than these is from evil. v.37 A man’s word should be unequivocal and binding (“Yea, yea; Nay, nay”), such that taking strong oaths, by this or that, is not needed. The man who backs nearly every statement with an oath is a man whose word cannot be trusted.

5th Moral Expansion of the Law: Regarding Rights and Retaliation (5:38-42)

A turning point. There is a turning with the fifth and sixth moral expansions. Up until v.38 the Lord has been digging into the issues of internal righteousness, which answer to the character of “salt”:
  • The 1st & 2nd expansions strengthen the righteousness of the law, demanding internal righteousness.
  • The 3rd and 4th expansions deal with the inward license that was allowed under the law.
But now the Lord goes deeper into the issue of grace, which answers to the character of “light”, and He presses this point, reaching the climax of this part of the discourse.
  • The 5th and 6th expansions reveal the need to be gracious when injured, and to show love toward your enemies. Grace is a principle of the kingdom that the Lord perfectly displayed in His own life, and one He requires of the Christian.
 38 Ye have heard that it has been said, “Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.” [Exodus 21:24] 39a But “I” say unto you, not to resist evil; vv.38-39a “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” is perfectly righteous, but the Lord explains that we ought to be much more than righteous… we ought to be gracious. This far exceeded the righteousness of the law! It is possible to cling to righteous retribution and totally miss the heart of God. We can outwardly cling to righteousness, but inwardly be harsh and churlish. It is clear that the exhortation “resist not evil” is not referring to moral temptation, but rather it is injuries done to us personally. We are to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21).
39b but (1) whoever shall strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other; 40 and (2) to him that would go to law with thee and take thy body coat, leave him thy cloak also. 41 And (3) whoever will compel thee to go one mile, go with him two. 42 (4) To him that asks of thee give, and from him that desires to borrow of thee turn not away. vv.39b-42 Four Exhortations Showing the Importance of the Principle. The Lord gives four examples of injuries that could be done to us, and how we should respond.
  1. Abuse of our body (violence against us). Under the law, Jews could seek retribution. But such a thing could never be done under grace (e.g. see Micah. 5:1, c.p. Acts 23:3-4).
  2. Abuse of our estate (claims against us in a court of law). Let’s say a man lays a claim, perhaps falsely, to something that we own, such as part of our clothing. They have no right to it according to the law, but according to the gospel we should yield our possessions freely (Heb. 10:34).
  3. Abuse of our hospitality (freeriding). In those days the Roman officials were known to require service by the Jews, and even the use of their beasts, to run errands of excessive lengths. We should not grudge at it, but go even farther, willing to be imposed upon.
  4. Abuse of our generosity (freeloading). If someone is imposing on our Christian kindness, we should still be willing to give. However, with all these exhortations we have other scriptures to give us direction about special cases, such as with those who are known to be busybodies (2 Thess. 3:10). v.42 is a summary of the previous three verses.

6th Moral Expansion of the Law: Regarding Love and Hatred (5:43-48)

 43 Ye have heard that it has been said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor” [Lev. 19:18] and hate thine enemy. v.43 The law called for one to love his neighbor, but it also permitted the hatred of an enemy. This commandment from Leviticus encompassed the whole manward side of the law (see Matt. 22:40). Therefore, the following principle is very broad in application.
44 But “I” say unto you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who insult you and persecute you, v.44 Four Exhortations that Illustrate the Principle. The Lord gives four examples of ill-treatment by our enemies, and how we ought to respond.
  1. Love your enemies – We are to love our enemies with the ‘agapo’ love of a settled disposition, or unconditional love. It is a selfless love; it gives and expects nothing in return.
  2. Bless them that curse you – We are to genuinely wish for the happiness of those who genuinely wish our hurt.
  3. Do good to them that hate you – We are to act benevolently toward those who act malevolently toward us.
  4. Pray for those who insult you and persecute you – If we can bring these thoughts of grace (1,2, and 3) before the Lord, the work is deep. Sometimes praying for an enemy is one of the hardest things to do… but it is what God expects of Christians.
45 that ye may be the sons of your Father who is in the heavens; for he makes his sun rise on evil and good, and sends rain on just and unjust. 46 For if ye should love those who love you, what reward have ye? Do not also the tax-gatherers the same? 47 And if ye should salute your brethren only, what do ye extraordinary? Do not also the Gentiles the same? 48 Be “ye” therefore perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. vv.45-48 The Father as the Example for Us to Follow. Our Father is the perfect pattern in His ways with His enemies now… He makes the sun to rise, etc. on those that insult Him, curse Him, and hate Him. If we want to be called “sons” of God, we need to have this same character. Note that the term “sons of God” in Matthew is not the Pauline truth of adoption. Sons of God in Matthew are those that bear the resemblance of God’s nature. The spirit of grace and love to our enemies is what will really set the disciples of Christ apart from the world. To love those who love you, where is the exercise of grace? To “salute” only those in our inner circle, where is the grace in that? It is only by reaching out to those who are our enemies that grace can be displayed, and the true character of the remnant shine forth (light) to the world around. Christ calls upon us to be “perfect” or thorough, consistent, and unbiased, with that same grace and love in which our Father deals.

Matthew 6:1-18

Having a Right Focus in Connection with Spiritual Things
Matthew 6:1-18
The Importance of Having a Right Spirit. Perhaps the overarching lesson in the sermon on the mount is that the Lord wants the subjects of the kingdom to be real. Many would focus on the outward appearance, but God insists that the heart be right. The Lord takes up this subject of a right spirit in regards to three spheres: (1) spiritual things, (2) material things, and (3) in social things.
Having a Right Focus in Connection with Spiritual Things. There is a great temptation to have a wrong spirit in Christian service and ministry by focusing on the outward appearance and that which can be seen by man. The Lord takes up three areas: alms (vv.1-4), prayer (vv.5-15), and fasting (vv.16-18). Those who live by faith live before the eye of God, not men. As Psalm 51:6 says “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts.”

Introduction: Righteousness Before God’s Eye, Not Man’s (6:1)

 Take heed not to do your alms [‘righteousnesses’] before men to be seen of them, otherwise ye have no reward with your Father who is in the heavens. v.1 The word “alms” in v.1 should be translated “righteousnesses” or “kindnesses” according to William Kelly.1 In that case, v.1 serves as a heading over the three areas that follow. The overarching exhortation is that Christian ministry should be done for the eye of God, otherwise, it has no value to God.

Almsgiving – A Heart of Mercy Toward Others (6:2-4)

2 When therefore thou doest alms, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may have glory from men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. v.2 In Palestine at this time “almsgiving” or “acts of compassion” would include giving money. Here it is in a religious context. The exhortation is to not do acts of kindness for the eye of man. We see this today, Christians everywhere walking in a vain show, engaged with philanthropy only if it can be recognized by others. We need to be careful of using the sphere of mercy as an opportunity to further our own glory. That is repulsive to God. If we do it, there will be no eternal, lasting reward from the Father. Our only reward will be the momentary reward of men’s praise. “Sounding a trumpet” is the opposite of secrecy.
3 But thou, when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand does; 4 so that thine alms may be in secret, and thy Father who sees in secret will render it to thee. vv.3-4 Alms are to be done without a consideration for the eye of man. There should not be any kind of calculation when it comes to showing mercy. It should be quiet, and spontaneous, from the heart. If you think about it too much, pride comes into play. The contrast is drawn between small temporal and no eternal reward (public alms), and no temporal and great eternal reward (secret alms). But even if we do manage to do something good or kind by the grace of God, we need to have the attitude that it was nothing (Luke 17:10). We must void ways of notoriety and self-commendation.

Prayer – A Heart of Communion with the Father (6:5-15)

Warnings Against the Abuse of Prayer (vv.5-8)

 5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets so that they should appear to men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. v.5 The Pharisees would arrange their day “accidentally – on purpose” to be in the marketplace at 3:00 PM, just in time for the hour of prayer (Acts 3:1). They would make a point, so great was their zeal, to interrupt their business activities and stand right there on the street corner for the hour of prayer. Of course, it was a self-glorifying sham. They would use the sphere of communion – a blessed privilege – to advance their own glory. A long, public prayer is often not a real prayer. A short, private prayer is real. Yet the Lord is not condemning public prayer, only the kind of prayer that should have been private, but was carried out publicly. There is a proper sphere for public prayer, and principles that accompany it (see 1 Cor. 14:15-16).
6 But “thou”, when thou prayest, enter into thy chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who sees in secret will render it to thee. v.6 Secrecy. We can see from this verse that the context of these exhortations is private prayer. Private prayer does not need to be polished! It does not need to be understood by others, because it is intended for the ears of the Father only. If it is done that way, there will be a reward from the Father.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as those who are of the nations: for they think they shall be heard through their much speaking. v.7 Brevity. As to prayer, Christ taught not only secrecy but brevity, which lies at the heart of reality. A person who asks with intense reality and earnestness, inevitably goes straight to the point with the fewest words. The Lord does not forbid all repetition (e.g. Matt. 26:44), but vain repetition. Vain repetition doesn’t add anything; e.g. saying “the Lord have mercy” over and over like the Catholics. The Gentiles were known for vain repetition in their idolatrous worship.
8 Be not ye therefore like them, for your Father knows of what things ye have need before ye beg anything of him. v.8 The cure for vain repetition is to realize that God knows what we need, and He will give it to us in His time.

The Model Prayer (vv.9-13)

The model prayer. The Lord gives a model prayer exactly suitable to the disciples as subjects of the kingdom. It doesn’t rise up to the prayer of one in the full Christian position (e.g. Eph. 1 and 3) but is very helpful in the subject of prayer. This is part of “the principles of the doctrine of Christ” (Heb. 6:1), which is “square one” of Christianity. There are six petitions in the model prayer. The first three have to do with God; His name, His kingdom, His will. The second three have to do with us; our bread, our debts, our deliverance. The heavenly Father and His claims must be first, and our needs second. The blessing of men on earth depends upon God’s will being done on earth, and that will only come to pass when His kingdom is established.
A few Features of the model prayer. There are a few things that we can learn from this prayer that can help us know how to pray. First, it is individual. Even though the Lord says “our Father”, it is still an individual prayer. William Kelly remarked; “a soul in his own closet still would say ‘Our Father,’ because he thinks of other disciples.”2 Secondly, this prayer is addressed to the Father, the source of all good. Thirdly, it puts God’s claims first, before our own needs. Fourthly, it is brief, in that it contains only six petitions.
9 Thus therefore pray “ye”: Our Father who art in the heavens, let thy name be sanctified, 10 let thy kingdom come, let thy will be done as in heaven so upon the earth; 11 give us to-day our needed bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors, 13 and lead us not into temptation, but save us from evil. vv.9-13 The prayer is addressed to “Our Father which art in heaven”. A distance implied by the expression “which art in heaven”. It isn’t the expression of someone in the full Christian position. As Christians, we are seated in heavenly places. You wouldn’t say “John in California” when you are in California speaking to John. It would imply a distance that didn’t really exist. Perhaps it is for this reason that we never hear of this prayer employed after the sending of the Spirit, whereby they could cry, “Abba, Father.” (Compare Gal. 3:23-26; Gal. 4:1-7.) This is why the term “Heavenly Father” is not really an intelligent expression for Christians who are indwelt with the Spirit of God.
  • 1st Petition: the Father’s Name (v.9). The petitions begin by expressing a desire that God be given His proper place; that His Name would be sanctified. 
  • 2nd Petition: the Father’s Kingdom (v.10a). Next the disciple confesses that he is waiting for the Father’s kingdom (Matt. 13:43) when the heavenly saints will be displayed in glory (the Millennium).
  • 3rd Petition: the Father’s Will (v.10b). Next, the desire and looking forward to universal subjection to God’s will on earth, even as it is done now in heaven; i.e. the eternal state.
  • 4th Petition: Our Daily Bread (v.11). Now the manward petitions begin. First, expressing full dependence on the Father for all our daily provisions, spiritual (John 6) and material.
  • 5th Petition: Our Debts (v.12). Next, the habit of self-searching and confessing our failures to our Father. Note that it is impossible to merit eternal forgiveness by works. This is governmental forgiveness (see vv.14-15). Read more…
  • 6th Petition: Our Deliverance (v.13). Finally, an expression of confidence in God in proportion as we have learned that in our flesh there dwells no good thing. We pray that the occasions for sin to act (temptation) would not arise, and that, if they do, that we may be delivered from evil (John 17:15).

The doxology given in the KJV and other translations (‘For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.’) is not supported in the best manuscripts, including the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus, which are among the most reliable.

The Connection between Personal and Governmental Forgiveness (vv.14-15)

14 For if ye forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father also will forgive you yours15 but if ye do not forgive men their offences, neither will your Father forgive your offences. vv.14-15 As we have already noted, it is impossible to merit eternal forgiveness by works. This is governmental forgiveness. We all have committed offenses against God, and those offenses have governmental consequences (Gal. 6:7; 1 Pet. 3:12). Most often, in His mercy, our Father forgives us in a governmental way so that we do not bear the consequences. He looks for two things: (1) a contrite spirit about our own failures, and (2) a forgiving spirit towards those who have offended us. This is because forgiveness is the foundation of our relationship with God. If we can’t “learn” that lesson, God will not let us “graduate”, so to speak. He will even deliver us up to a life of torment if we refuse to forgive others (Matt. 18:34).

Fasting – A Heart of Devotion to the Father (6:16-18)

 16 And when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, downcast in countenance; for they disfigure their faces, so that they may appear fasting to men: verily I say unto you, They have their reward. v.16 Fasting is one of those things in which the body shows its sympathy with what the spirit is passing through. When my spirit is fully devoted to a season of prayer, I may neglect the natural things of the body. We sometimes must set aside the claims of nature to be before the Lord about certain issues or matters. It is broader than abstaining from food. The thought is self-denial in every way. The hypocrites would put on the appearance of humility (intentional disfigurement) in order to glorify themselves. The Devil would cheat us into losing our reward.
17 But “thou”, when fasting, anoint thy head and wash thy face, 18 so that thou mayest not appear fasting unto men, but to thy Father who is in secret; and thy Father who sees in secret shall render it to thee. vv.17-18 To wash your face and anoint your head when fasting is to take special precautions, so no provisions are made for the flesh (Rom. 13:14). The flesh loves to take advantage of an outward show. We are to let our devotion to God remain between us and Him alone. Our Father who sees in secret will value our devotion, and one day there will be a reward for it all. It isn’t that we are to put on a false front if there is some deep trial going on in our lives. This is a warning against pretending to be more spiritual than we really are.
  1. Kelly, William. Lectures on the Gospel of Matthew. Loizeaux Brothers, 1943.
  2. Kelly, William. Lectures on the Gospel of Matthew. Loizeaux Brothers, 1943.

Matthew 6:19-34

Having a Right Focus in Connection with Material Things
Matthew 6:19-34
Having a Right Focus in Connection with Material Things. One of the most important things for a disciples to have is a correct view of material things. If we become overly occupied with material things, it can distract us from service, and change our whole outlook. This is especially applicable to those who live in wealthy countries, but materialism can really be a snare to anyone.

Having a Right Focus Will Cause Us to Avoid Avarice (vv.19-24)

Two Treasures: Our Focus Affects Our Future Gain / Loss (vv.19-21)

 19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust spoils, and where thieves dig through and steal; v.19 Treasure on Earth. If we have our focus on the earthly possessions, they become our treasures. Eventually, we will lose them to corruption (“moth and rust”) or violence (“thieves”), the two things that characterize the earth since sin’s invasion. Therefore, if our treasure is upon earth, we are bound to lose it. Another has said, moths destroy what women treasure, rust destroys what men treasure, and thieves take what both treasure.
20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust spoils, and where thieves do not dig through nor steal; v.20 Treasure in Heaven. If we have our focus on heavenly things (the interests of Christ), those things will become our treasure. They will become more and more precious to us. We will never lose them, because they are outside the reach of sin and death.
21 for where thy treasure is, there will be also thy heart. v.21 The Result. This is a principle that can be applied in both ways. Our hearts will go out to what we have invested in. If we invest in spiritual things, our thoughts will constantly be about things for profit, and the result will be happiness (Col. 3:1-4). The more things we have in this world, the more fear and anxiety we will have. If we have little, we can rest knowing our treasure is eternally secure.

Two Eyes: Our Focus Affects Our Moral Discernment (vv.22-23)

22 The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body will be light: v.22 We need to have a single or healthy eye… by having our focus on Christ. What are we taking in? What we are focused on will affect what is morally formed within us. If we focus on Christ, light will characterize our walk and ways, such that we will “glow”. Moses and Stephen are two examples of those who radiated the glory of God!
23 but if thine eye be wicked, thy whole body will be dark. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great the darkness! v.23 If our focus is divided (a wicked or unhealthy eye), not fixed solely on Christ, we will take in evil things, and then evil will be formed in us. The warning is, that if we have a wrong focus, “the light that is in thee” – or, the light that we think we have – will become “darkness”, because we are blocking the true light. The darkness will be “great” because we have become unmoored from the only absolute moral standard. This is the case whenever we reject the true light of God.1

Two Masters: Our Focus Affects Our Faithfulness to God (v.24)

24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and will love the other, or he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. v.24 Why does focus in connection with material things result in moral change? Because materialism has a spiritual root… it is covetousness. Serving two masters is a moral impossibility, because there are two roots (principles) that are mutually exclusive. Self-serving, and God-serving. “Mammon” is the name of a Canaanite god of materialism, which the disciples would have been very familiar with. All over the world today, people are still serving Mammon, in a certain sense.2

Having a Right Focus Will Cause Us to Avoid Anxiety (vv.25-34)

Examples from Nature showing that Anxiety is Pointless (vv.25-30)

25 For this cause I say unto you, Do not be careful about your life, what ye should eat and what ye should drink; nor for your body what ye should put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body than raiment? v.25 Having been told the spiritual dangers of being overly taken up with material things (a danger to the wealthy), we are now exhorted not to worry about our material needs (a danger to the poor). “Do not be careful [anxious] about your life [material living]. For the believer, our “life” is more than our material needs. Our priority in employment is not to provide for retirement, but to further God’s dispensation. We need to “roll” our burdens onto the Lord, so that we can share the burden together (Psa. 55:22). Following are instances from the natural world to illustrate this.
26 Look at the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, nor reap, nor gather into granaries, and your heavenly Father nourishes them. Are “ye” not much more excellent than they? v.26 Anxiety is a denial of the love of God. The birds of the air are not anxious about their provision. There is no obvious storing up of food for the winter, like the ants (Prov. 6:8). Yet somehow, beyond human understanding, God devises means that they can be fed. This is not an excuse to be lazy. The emphasis is on “your heavenly Father” who nourishes the birds. If He does so for them, how much more will He care for His own children! To deny that He will take care of us is to deny His love.
27 But which of you by carefulness can add to his growth one cubit? v.27 Anxiety is a denial of the power of God. We can’t help ourselves anyway. Anxiety doesn’t accomplish anything. All our strength is from God… to worry about it is to deny His power! Note: it is possible to read this verse as about extending our lifespan… “add to his growth [age] one cubit”. Either way, the meaning is the same.
28 And why are ye careful about clothing? Observe with attention the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin; 29 but I say unto you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed as one of these. 30 But if God so clothe the herbage of the field, which is to-day, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, will he not much rather you, O ye of little faith? vv.28-30 Anxiety is a denial of the wisdom of God. The beauty of the flowers is incredible. An artist would spend countless hours to create a painting that was only half as beautiful, but the flowers appear effortlessly. Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived, yet in all his glory, he was not arrayed like one of these simple flowers! How much greater the wisdom of God than man’s wisdom (1 Cor. 1:25). If God’s wisdom in provision for the temporary and transient foliage is so evident, how much more can we count on His provision for us, for whom He has paid such an infinite price! It all comes down to faith. Do we believe what God has said? Do we trust Him for these details?

The expression "O ye of little faith" is a gentle rebuke, repeated four times in Matthew: first in Matt. 6:30 in regard to care; second in Matt. 8:23 in regard to fear; third in Matt. 14:31 in regard to doubt; and fourth in Matt. 16:7-8 in regard to reasoning in divine things. All four instances have to do with failure in simple faith. And yet the Lord never says to His own "O ye of no faith".

Our Focus will Mark us as Either a Heathen, or a Christian! (vv.31-32)

31 Be not therefore careful, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we put on? v.31 This is a summarizing verse, saying essentially, ‘Don’t be anxious about material things’. Whether it be what we “eat” (sustenance), “drink” (refreshment), or “put on” (protection). He isn’t saying to be careless (reckless), but to bring those burdens to the Father, and not be anxious.
32 for all these things the nations seek after; for your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of all these things. v.32 This is what characterized the Gentile world: materialism. But a Christian has a conscious knowledge that God in heaven is his Father, and looks upon him with favor, knowing all his needs. God has abundant power and wisdom to “supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

The Proper Focus for Subjects in the Kingdom (vv.33-34)

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. v.33 Focus on the kingdom of God. This is perhaps one of the most practical verses in the Bible. It isn’t saying that we should put the kingdom first, then worry about material things. Rather, we should focus on the kingdom and God will take care of the rest! Live in today. What are we to seek? Rom. 14:17 explains what the kingdom of God is… “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost”. The righteousness of God in this context is practical conformity to the character of God.
34 Be not careful therefore for the morrow, for the morrow shall be careful about itself. Sufficient to the day is its own evil. v.34 Don’t be anxious for the future. Anxiety, which dreads an evil thing tomorrow, is nothing but unbelief. When tomorrow comes, the evil may not be there. But if it does come, God will be there. God will give us the grace to meet the evil we face each day. Therefore, to be anxious about evil is not faith.
  1. As Nietzsche put it: “What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God?” – Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Parable of the Madman. 1882.
  2. As Voltaire put it: “When it is a question of money, everybody is of the same religion.” – Voltaire, 1760

Matthew 7:1-6

Having a Right Focus in Connection with Social Things
Matthew 7:1-6

Abuse of Judgment in Connection with Fellow Believers (7:1-5)

Offenses and perceived sin in our brethren (vv.1-5). Previously, the Lord had addressed persecution and offenses from the world, and with our enemies. But this is another matter, and in many ways a more serious difficulty. What if the one that offends you is a Christian? How do we deal with them? There is a difference in the way we deal with a believer and with an unbeliever. But these verses take up a matter that we must take care of before we touch the question of another’s conduct. We must guard against two attitudes in ourselves: (1) a hypercritical (judging) spirit, and (2) a hypocritical spirit.
 Judge not, that ye may not be judged; v.1 Judging motives. A hypercritical spirit is the habit or tendency to impute evil motives in that which we do not know and which does not meet the eye. This perhaps the most well-known verse in the Bible by unbelievers. They misuse the scripture. This applies to judging what is concealed (1 Sam. 2:3). We have clear commands to judge what is open. We are to judge doctrine (1 Cor. 10:15), open sin (1 Cor. 5:12), disputes among brethren (1 Cor. 6:2), and the character of one’s ministry (1 Cor. 14:29). All these things are open. What do we not judge? We are not to judge the technicalities of a person’s actions merely by the appearance (John 7:24), someone’s personal convictions (Rom. 14:3), or someone’s service for the Lord (1 Cor. 4:3).
2 for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you. v.2 Result: we incur God’s governmental judgment in our lives. We must deal with others – even those who have offended us – in love, for that is the basis of our relationship with God. The result of judging motives it that God will judge us. This is part of His government in our lives, similar to governmental forgiveness. Read more…
Godly Discernment vs. judging motives. There is such a thing as godly moral discernment by which a Christian can determine the direction of a movement by its spirit. William Kelly said, “There is more discernment in some than in others, and such ought peculiarly to watch against it. It is not that they are to have their eyes shut to what is evil; but they are not to suspect what is not uncovered, nor to go beyond the evidence God gives.”1 However, sometimes a brother or sister might be held in high esteem on account of great “moral discernment” when in reality they are hypercritical of others, imputing evil motives where there are none. Often this is the case when one is yielding to personal or party feelings. We need to judge everything prima facia.
3 But why lookest thou on the mote that is in the eye of thy brother, but observest not the beam that is in thine eye? v.3 Hypocrisy. When someone has a hypercritical spirit (proneness to judge), often they have a more serious problem of a hypocritical spirit. When evil is habitually unjudged, it makes a person restless, and eager to find fault with others. A “mote” is a speck of dust. A “beam” is a massive log or timber used in the building of structures. We can be quick to point out some small flaw in our brother, perhaps an idiosyncrasy that is disrupting to the assembly, while ignoring a serious sin in our own life. Hypocrisy is perhaps the worst type of sin in Christendom, because it brings shame on the name of Christ. Even the natural man despises hypocrisy.
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Allow me, I will cast out the mote from thine eye; and behold, the beam is in thine eye? v.4 Result: we will dim our own spiritual eyesight. Our moral discernment is clouded when we have not been judging ourselves, and not walking with God. We cannot judge with God when we are not right with Him.
5 Hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine eye, and then thou wilt see clearly to cast out the mote out of the eye of thy brother. v.5 The cure for criticality: self-judgment. We need to pass judgment on ourselves first, before we can be a help to others. The Lord is not saying that we shouldn’t try to be a help to someone who has a problem. Rather, we should judge ourselves first, then be a help to others. Any effort to correct another person should be coupled with self-judgment (see Gal. 6:1). Often we find that when the beam is gone, the mote is nowhere to be seen, and we are sorry to find ourselves mistaken about our brother.

Abuse of Grace in Connection with Unbelievers (7:6) 

 6 Give not that which is holy to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before the swine, lest they trample them with their feet, and turning round rend you. v.6 Casting our pearls before swine. This refers to bringing unholy individuals into the most sacred things of Christianity under the banner of grace. “Your pearls” might speak of what is most precious to Christians… worship, service, comfort, etc.2 “Dogs” are unsaved, “swine” are morally degraded, usually false professors (2 Pet. 2:22). The “trampling of pearls” refers to the dishonor that is done to the Name of Christ. “Turning round and rending” refers to the confusion and corruption that has invaded the kingdom of heaven because we have not maintained the distinction between holy and unholy. Take, for example, service and worship (Phip. 3)… unsaved persons cannot worship, and God doesn’t want their service. Christendom has a system which unites believers and unbelievers in one common form. The point is, there must be a separation between believers and the world. If a person is still in their sins, they are standing on the “wrong side” of the cross, they are still crying “away with him, crucify him”. We cannot try to enjoy Christ with someone that is malicious or even indifferent toward Him. What they need is the gospel. An example of one who failed in this is Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:13), who displayed his precious things to the embassage from Babylon. However, this exhortation in Matthew does not prevent us from spreading the gospel to the lost. We were all at one time unholy like the “dogs” and “swine”, and would still be enemies if it weren’t for the grace of God (1 Cor. 6:11). So we have the commandment to preach the gospel of the grace of God to the lost. Here are a few examples of things to be careful of, (but not to make a law of of them):
  1. Joining together with false professors (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses) in outreach or prayer. Unity at the expense of holiness is nothing more than an unholy alliance.
  2. Comforting an unsaved co-worker that “all things work together for good”… that’s only true for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.
  3. Speaking about God’s sovereignty to the lost. We need to stick to man’s responsibility. God’s sovereignty is a family secret!
  1. Kelly, William. Lectures on the Gospel of Matthew. Loizeaux Brothers, 1943.
  2. William Kelly suggested that “the special affections of Christ to the Church, His loving care for His servants, the hope of His coming again, the glorious prospects of the Church as His bride, etc.” are the pearls that are reserved for Christian fellowship alone. – Kelly, William. Lectures on the Gospel of Matthew. Loizeaux Brothers, 1943.

Matthew 7:7-29

The Characteristic Virtues Needed for Subjects of the Kingdom
Matthew 7:7-29

Earnestness and Confidence in Prayer (7:7-11)

 7 Ask, and it shall be given to you. Seek, and ye shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened to you. v.7 The disciple of Christ ought to be characterized by earnestness in the things of God. Very often there is too much casualness in spiritual things. It is critical to speak with God in prayer, and to do so in earnest, for our material and spiritual needs. God will answer.
8 For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened. v.8 Notice the increasing measures of earnestness in pleading with God: asking, then seeking,  then knocking. To receive we must draw near to God… He wants to hear our heart speaking; asking, seeking, knocking. A response from our Father is certain… “it shall be opened”.
9 Or what man is there of you who, if his son shall ask of him a loaf of bread, will give him a stone; 10 and if he ask a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If therefore “ye”, being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much rather shall your Father who is in the heavens give good things to them that ask of him? vv.9-11 Next we have an argument to encourage our confidence in God’s desire to bless. Even natural fathers having natural affection for their children are willing to provide for their children’s needs when they earnestly ask. Notice a few things:
  1. Necessary things. First of all, notice that the man’s son is asking for necessary things; bread, or a fish. If we pray for frivolous things, we can’t expect it to be given, because it isn’t a prayer according to God’s will (1 John 5:14), or we may be asking amiss (James 4:3).
  2. Good gifts. The man doesn’t reward his own child with a worthless gift (a stone) or a harmful gift (a serpent). Neither will God, if we ask in faith. We can have confidence in prayer because God’s heart is good.
If natural men, being “evil” in comparison with the goodness of God, are willing to reward ernest requests with good gifts, how much more confident should a believer be to ask our Father for good things.
"Good things" in Matthew vs. the "Holy Spirit" in Luke. The same instruction is given in Matthew and Luke, with slight differences. In Matthew, the Lord says "how much rather shall your Father who is in the heavens give good things to them that ask of him?" In Luke He says, "how much rather shall the Father who is of heaven give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" Why the difference? In the Old Testament, those of faith were looking for the Holy Spirit to be given, as the characteristic of the power of God for the blessing of man (compare Joel 2:28 with Gal. 3:14). The Millennial day will be characterized by the Spirit being poured out for the blessing of the earth. It was right and proper for Old Testament saints (even the Lord’s disciples before Pentecost) to pray for the Spirit, because it had not been sent yet (John 7:39). But now that Jesus has been glorified and the Spirit has been sent, we have "received the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:14). It would not be intelligent for a Christian to pray for the giving or even the indwelling of the Spirit. However, it would be right to pray for more of the Spirit's working in us, and more of the Spirit's filling in our lives (Eph. 5:18). The prayer in Matthew 7 is a modified version of the prayer in Luke 11. It is "good gifts" in Matthew, the Jewish Gospel. But in Luke, which is addressed to the broader audience of Gentiles, the "best gift" is specified, the solution to the broader needs of the world; i.e. the Holy Spirit, which was about to be given.

Consistency in Display of Love to Others (the “Golden Rule”) (7:12)

12 Therefore all things whatever ye desire that men should do to you, thus do “ye” also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets. v.12 “Therefore”, knowing the Father’s fixed disposition of love, the Lord demands of His disciples a standard that is exceeding broad so as to encompass the whole “law and the prophets”. Love is really the fulfillment of the law; “for the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself'” (Gal. 5:14, quote Lev. 19:18, see Matt. 22:35-40). This exhortation has been called “the Golden Rule”. In context, it means that we are to treat others with love regardless of the harm they’ve caused us (as children of our Father), just as we would want them to treat us, repaying evil with good.

Energy and Reality are Required by God (7:13-14)

 13 Enter in through the narrow gate, for wide the gate and broad the way that leads to destruction, and many are they who enter in through it. 14 For narrow the gate and straitened the way that leads to life, and they are few who find it. vv.13-14 In these verses the Lord is evidently speaking beyond His disciples to the crowd.1 Recall that the Sermon on the Mount was not all given on one occasion. The Lord speaks of two gates and ways, which represent two paths which we can travel during the time when the King is absent:
  1. The broad way. This gate is “wide”, which admits subjects that have no faith in Christ, either by mere profession, or by baptism. Also, the way is “broad”, meaning it has no need to endure hardness, or exercise self-judgment. Finally, the end is “destruction”, because the angels will separate the tares from the wheat, and deliver them to destruction in the harvest judgment. Sadly, there are “many” that follow it.
  2. The straight way. This gate is “narrow”, meaning God has one way of entrance to the kingdom, which is through receiving the good seed by faith (Acts 4:12). The way is “straight”, meaning self-judgment and repentance are required. The end is “life” in the kingdom of our Father (the heavenly compartment of the Millennial kingdom). But there are only “few that find it”.

Discernment of False Prophets (7:15-20)

 15 But beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but within are ravening wolves. v.15 Another thing that should characterize the disciples of the kingdom is discernment about false prophets. They are likened to “ravening wolves” who come “in sheep’s clothing”. Outwardly they appear harmless, and even to belong among God’s people. But inwardly their desire is to scatter and kill the flock (John 10). There is a moral connection between the “broad road” and the false prophets. When the door is opened wide, it is easy for the wolves to come in.
16 By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather a bunch of grapes from thorns, or from thistles figs? v.16 There is one thing men cannot completely disguise… their fruits. Where grace has worked, a man’s fruits will bear the impress of God’s nature. An apple obviously comes from an apple tree. On the other hand, men do not expect to gather grapes from thorn-bushes or figs from thistles.
17 So every good tree produces good fruits, but the worthless tree produces bad fruits. v.17 Fruits are the outward display of the inward character. Wherever grace has truly worked in the heart of a believer, their fruits will match the character of God. As to light or holiness, a person will have a great care in what concerns God. As to love, a person will display great tenderness, forbearance, and longsuffering toward others.
18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruits, nor a worthless tree produce good fruits. v.18 It is a moral impossibility for a false prophet to produce good fruit. They may do good works outwardly, but it will lack reality. Their holiness will be hollow, or perhaps legal. Their love will be partial and merely human.
19 Every tree not producing good fruit is cut down and cast into the fire. v.19 God will deal with false teachers the way a farmer deals with a bad tree. God will do this beginning at the harvest judgment, and concluding with the great white throne. We need to be careful not to try to root out the tares ourselves (Matt. 13:28), but we do need to judge the prophets, and judge those who are “within” (1 Cor. 5:13).
20 By their fruits then surely ye shall know them. v.20 In conclusion, we have something concrete by which we can discern false prophets. Fruit reveals the character of the life that produces it. The false prophet has a false life, which must reveal itself in false fruit.

Discernment of False Disciples (7:21-23)

 21 Not every one who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but he that does the will of my Father who is in the heavens. v.21 Having dealt specifically with false prophets, now the Lord speaks of false disciples. There are many false disciples who loudly profess allegiance to the Lord, but the vital link of faith is lacking. Faith, as James tells us, will always manifest itself in works. One that is truly under the Lordship of Christ will do the will of the Father in heaven.
22 Many shall say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied through “thy” name, and through “thy” name cast out demons, and through “thy” name done many works of power? 23 and then will I avow unto them, I never knew you. “Depart from me, workers of lawlessness.” [Psalm 6:8] v.22 The professions of men in the kingdom of heaven on earth will be examined by the King Himself. Emphatic professions (“Lord, Lord”) and showy displays of power (“have we not…?”) mean nothing to Christ where there is neither faith nor submission to the will of the Father. To be a child of God, as born of Him, requires the vital work of God’s Spirit. God knows His children (and Christ knows all His sheep, John 10:27) personally. The eternal alternative is separation from God, the second death. This verse has been used by some to deny eternal security, but in fact it confirms it. Notice that the King will say “I never knew you”. None of these false disciples were ever known by the Lord.

The Wise and Foolish: Wisdom of Practical Obedience (7:24-27)

 24 Whoever therefore hears these my words and does them, I will liken him to a prudent man, who built his house upon the rock; 25 and the rain came down, and the streams came, and the winds blew and fell upon that house, and it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. vv.24-25 The Wise Man. In a world characterized by political change, unfulfilled hopes, and broken promises, the Word of God is something solid that we possess. If we choose to build our life upon it, we lay a solid foundation that will last for eternity. This is what the “wise man” does. If we build our life on the Word of God, when the trials of life come we will find that our faith is strong, and we can weather the trial. It is because of some internal strength? No. It is because we have founded our life on the principle of obedience to the Word of God(Compare)
26 And every one who hears these my words and does not do them, he shall be likened to a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand; 27 and the rain came down, and the streams came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell, and its fall was great. vv.26-27 The Foolish Man. To hear the Word of God, and to choose to disobey for whatever reason, is abject foolishness. We might think we know better, or that the Word of God is outdated, but it makes no difference. To disobey is to build on a poor and shifting foundation. There is nothing in the flesh, in the world, or in the Devil worthy of our trust. When the trials of life come, false foundations begin to erode, and finally our life can end in shipwreck. “How great is the fall” of a person who professed to believe that the Bible was the Word of God, and consistently refused to obey in favor of a human foundation. Some of these may have a saved soul, but a lost life (2 Tim. 1:19). 

Conclusion: Response of the Multitudes (7:28-29)

 28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his doctrine, 29 for he taught them as having authority, and not as their scribes. vv.28-29 Although the sermon began by the Lord speaking to His immediate disciples, now we find that the crowds had drawn near to listen. Remember that the sermon is a collection of speeches given at various times. Here, at the conclusion, they are amazed at the profundity of His teaching. Ordinarily the scribes based everything they taught on the authority of notable rabbis who had preceded them. But Jesus spoke directly as giving the final word on every subject He set forth, which astonished them.
  1. Kelly, William. Lectures on the Gospel of Matthew. Loizeaux Brothers, 1943.

Matthew 8 - 9

The Powers of the Kingdom: Demonstrated by Miracles
Matthew 8 – 9
The Powers of the Kingdom. The Lord has just explained the principles that would characterize His coming kingdom in Matt. 5-7. Those principles might present to us what sounds like a very idealistic vision; i.e. a kingdom characterized by righteousness, humility, love for enemies, etc. And there are so many obstacles to it coming to fruition. In Matt. 8-9 we get the powers of the kingdom displayed. Not only was Christ the great Teacher, but He had the power needed to make it happen and bring in the Millennium. This is outlined in Heb. 6:5. Israel had tasted (sampled):
  • the “good word of God” (corresponds to Matt. 5 – 7)
  • the “works of power of the age to come” (Matt. 8 – 9)
At the same time, these accounts are interspersed with sections that take up the subject of discipleship, and the proper spirit of those who will enter the kingdom. 
What kind of power? The miracles of Christ show not only power, but good power… or, power in grace. The power of God had been shown before in the Old Testament, but most often in judgment (the flood, fire from heaven, earth opening, etc.) but rarely in grace. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Christ’s power was always employed in grace, for the deliverance from the evil consequences of sin, with one exception; the judicial cursing of the fig tree, which is a picture of Israel who rejected grace, and never yielded fruit for God.
Chronology of this section. The Gospel of Mark proves that the order of events given in Matthew is not chronological. For example, the healing of the leper took place long before the sermon on the mount was given. In Mark 1 we have the Lord preaching in their synagogues through all Galilee, and casting out devils, and that is when the leper came to Him (Mark 1:40-45)! Then in Mark 2 the sick of the palsy that was borne of four is given, but in Matthew we don’t have the sick of the palsy until ch.9, after a storm and healing of a demoniac (end of Matt. 8), which Mark describes in Mark 4 and 5. Therefore, one of the two Evangelists must not be chronological. By Mark’s strict notes of time we know that it must be Matthew that isn’t chronological. In Mark 3 the Lord goes up into the mountain where the Sermon on the Mount would have begun. Thus, the healing of the leper was considerably earlier than the sermon on the mount, which Mark does not give us, because his viewpoint is the service of our Lord, not the great doctrinal expositions.
A composite picture is given to us of the powers of the world to come, but only a sample of it: (1) leprosy healed, (2) paralysis healed, (3) fevers healed, (4) natural disasters abated, (5) demonic possession cured, (6) governmental forgiveness of sins, and (7) blindness healed. All these will be characteristic of the coming Millennial kingdom. Could you find any better place to live than the Millennial earth, as we have seen all the powers of the world to come invested in the Messiah? Yes! The Fathers house is beyond compare! That is the eternal home of the heavenly saints, although we will reign with Christ over the Millennial kingdom.
Ten Signs to the Nation of Israel. Later in ch.12, the Jews ask for the Lord to do a sign before them. This was a deep insult, because they had no intention of believing on Him. In ch.8-9 we find they were given more than adequate proof of His messianic identity. Ten signs in total, five in each chapter.
  1. The Leprous Man Healed (Matt. 8:2-4)
  2. The Centurion’s Servant Healed (Matt. 8:5-13)
  3. Peter’s Sick Mother-in-law Healed (Matt. 8:14-15)
  4. The Storm Calmed (Matt. 8:23-27)
  5. Two Demoniacs Healed (Matt. 8:28-34)
  6. The Paralytic Healed (Matt. 9:1-8)
  7. The Woman with Bloody Flux Healed (Matt. 9:20-22)
  8. Raising the Ruler’s Daughter (Matt. 9:23-26)
  9. Two Blind Men Healed (Matt. 9:27-31)
  10. The Dumb Demoniac Healed (Matt. 9:32-34)

First Dispensational Outline: A Leper, Centurion, and Mother-in-law (8:1-17)

Descending the Mountain (v.1)

 And when he had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. v.1 The mountain is the place of communion, prayer, and of teaching. The valley is the place of business, ministry, and of action. But the Lord is God of the valleys as well as the God of the hills (c.p. 1 Kings 20:28). We have seen the Messiah as the One who possesses all wisdom (on the mountain), now we see him as one who possesses all power (in the valley).

The Leprous Man: The Remnant in the Lord’s Time (vv.2-4)

2 And behold, a leper came up to him and did him homage, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou art able to cleanse me. v.2 Mark seems to make it clear that the healing of the leper (compare) occurs before Jesus comes down from the mountain (see note above on Chronology). The expression “and behold” here in v.2 makes no reference to time, showing that the Spirit is collecting this story in the Divine compilation, while the order is not chronological. Leprosy speaks of the uncleanness and unpleasantness of sin. Palsy brings out more the thought of powerlessness (Rom. 5:6). Both are true of the sinner. Leprosy is a disease that is manifested in outward destruction and rotting of the body, which is but evidence of the disease that works within. The same is true of the disease of sin. It is a root within us that manifests itself in fruit (sins). A person is not a sinner because he sins; rather, he sins because he is a sinner (see notes on Rom. 5:12). The healing of the leper speaks of the Messiah’s offer of moral cleansing to the corrupted nation of Israel (who was sick, Isa. 1:6) if they would come to Him, which they will in a future day (Zech. 13:1). This leper did what all men (and Israel) need to do… come to the Lord and give Him His proper place.
3 And he stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, I will; be cleansed. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. v.3 He condescends to touch this unclean man. There was no danger that the Holy One could contract the disease. It shows that only a sinless Messiah could “save His people from their sins”. There are seven times in Matthew where the Lord touches someone, and every time it results in blessing; Matt. 8:3; 8:15; 9:20; 9:29; 14:36; 17:7; and 20:34. Here we have a hint as to the dispensational teaching of this passage. Healings that require a touch have to do with Israel. Healings that do not require the physical act have a higher character of faith, and thus have more to do with Gentiles. The leper was at first unsure of the Lord’s will, but Christ’s response shows His heart; “I will”.
4 And Jesus says to him, See thou tell no man, but go, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses ordained, for a testimony to them. v.4 He was to do “as Moses ordained” making it clear that it was not yet time for the law to be set aside, because the cross had to come in first. The very ones who had pronounced the leper “unclean” must be made to pronounce him “clean”. It was important that the man not publish it abroad, but go straight to the priest “for a testimony to them”. If he published it, the news would have come to the priests through the rumor mill, and may have been misinterpreted, or at least it could give the priests an excuse to discount it. But if he appeared directly in their presence, the evidence would have been irrefutable and damning to their conscience. What would it mean to the priests when the cleansed leper showed up before the priests for the ceremony? It would be like the sounding of trumpet, a loud and clear signal that the Messiah was here (Psa. 103:3)!

The Centurion’s Servant: Present Period of Gentile Blessing (vv.5-13)

A Dispensational Order. The account of the centurion (compare) is found in Matthew and Luke (7:1), but it is preceded by the healing of the leper only in Matthew. This is because Matthew is a dispensational book, and the order gives us a picture of God’s dispensational ways. In Luke you get added details, that the centurion sent the elders of the Jews to the Lord with his first message, who commended the centurion for his Zionism. Those details are left out in Matthew to give the account a strictly Gentile flavor though it be in a Jewish gospel! Matthew leaves out something that would puff up the Jew, and Luke includes something that would smite the conscience of a Gentile… namely, a godly Gentile “laying his hand on the skirt of a Jew”.
 5 And when he had entered into Capernaum, a centurion came to him, beseeching him,v.5 If the leper represents the faithful of Israel, this centurion represents the Gentiles. The healing of his servant does not require the physical touch of our Lord. It speaks of the Gentile’s relation to Christ, we “henceforth know no man after the flesh (physical, national, earthly connections), but if we have known Christ according to the flesh, henceforth know we Him no more” (2 Cor. 5:16). God was going to show that the natural children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were going to be cut off, and those less privileged – yet having faith – would be brought into blessing.
6 and saying, Lord, my servant lies paralytic in the house, suffering grievously.v.6 It was the centurion’s servant that was sick, but here we see the centurion’s own personal faith being brought forward in a beautiful way. The paralyzed man gives us a picture of the helplessness of the sinner. It was when we were “yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6).
7 And Jesus says to him, “I” will come and heal him. v.7 The Lord’s heart is seen, willing to come. In Luke 7 we see that He actually started toward the man’s house. The same expression is used with the leper and the centurion, with Jew and Gentile; “I will”. God’s sovereign grace is needed by all!
8 And the centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not fit that thou shouldest enter under my roof; but only speak a word, and my servant shall be healed. v.8 The people said in Luke 7:4 of the centurion, “He is worthy” but he said, “I am not worthy.” This is the general spirit that characterizes the sinner who come to Christ in this period of Gentile blessing. Not only were we afar from God, but we were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, etc. See this dual condition of misery in Eph. 2. He says “only speak a word”. This brings in the character of the Word of God, by which sinners are blessed in this 2000 years of grace while Jesus is absent.
9 For “I” also am a man under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say to this one, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my bondman, Do this, and he does it. v.9 The centurion recognized the principle of true authority, of the chain of command. This was an important part of the Roman military system. He was under authority from his master, and having authority over a hundred soldiers. The centurion knew that those under authority must obey their master, and he knew that Jesus was Lord of all, and had authority over all diseases. “In the word of a king there is power” (Ecc. 8:4). God’s anointed King was in the midst of Israel. See Matt. 28:18.
10 And when Jesus heard it, he wondered, and said to those who followed, Verily I say unto you, Not even in Israel have I found so great faith. v.10 The character of faith seen in this man is higher than that among the Jewish remnant, and it foreshadowed the great harvest of Gentiles: first in the 2000 years that have expired since, when the gospel of God’s grace is going out, and second in the millennium, after the gospel of the kingdom has gone out.
11 But I say unto you, that many shall come from the rising and setting sun, and shall lie down at table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens; v.11 In the kingdom of heaven in the manifestation phase, there will be a place for the blessing of Gentiles. The prophetic scriptures witness to this; Isa. 56:3-5, Zech. 2:10, Zech. 8:23, Psa. 47:9. Not revealed here is the special character of blessing unique to the Church, which is largely made up of those who have pre-trusted before the masses of the Gentiles (Eph. 1:13). They will “lie down at table”, enjoying fellowship of the saints during the thousand year reign of Christ. However, the Kingdom is not the same as the Church, and the Covenantal Theologians are wrong in claiming that this verse puts Abraham, etc. in the Church. Old Testament saints are part of the first resurrection, part of the heavenly saints who will reign with Christ over the earth in the kingdom of their Father.
12 but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. v.12 Those who should have enjoyed the blessing by natural birth will instead fall under the judgment of God.
13 And Jesus said to the centurion, Go, and as thou hast believed, be it to thee. And his servant was healed in that hour. v.13 The salvation which is by faith is immediate and effectual.

Peter’s Sick Mother-in-law: The Restoration of a Remnant (vv.14-15)

A Dispensational Order. This event (compare) happened earlier than the centurion, but Matthew places it here to complete a dispensational picture. Its shows that while the blessing of God would flow to the Gentiles, and the children of the Kingdom would be cast out, yet God’s heart is always toward His ancient people, and will not abandon the promises to Israel.
¶ 14 And when Jesus had come to Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law laid down and in a fever; v.14 The woman’s proper name is not given. Her relation to Peter (the apostle of the circumcision) is what is identified. If leprosy spoke of the defilement of sin, and palsy the helplessness of sin, then a fever speaks of the restlessness of sin, the result of a tremendous infection. This will be the case of Israel in a future day. They will have a “fever” in a national sense. The “king who shall do according to his own will” will be on the throne, and the faithful will be seized with violent persecution, and put under great pressure to apostatize.
15 and he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she arose and served him. v.15 Messiah will appear, and the remnant will be delivered from their tribulation. This is a lower class of faith then required at the present time, because the physical touch is involved. The effect for the remnant will be immediate. Naturally, when a person recovers from a fever there is great weakness that subsides only gradually. Peter’s mother-in-law was working again immediately, just as the Jews will once again be a fruitful vineyard for Jehovah (Song. 8:10-12).

Multitudes Healed: Millennial Blessing, the Curse Removed (vv.16-17)

 16 And when the evening was come, they brought to him many possessed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all that were ill; v.16 This was a new day, by Jewish reckoning. It speaks of that wonderful time when the Messiah will appear, the Devil will be banished, and the curse will be removed. Compared with vv.28-34, these verses emphasize the aspect of healing. At the end of the chapter it is power over the forces of Satan.
17 so that that should be fulfilled which was spoken through Esaias the prophet, saying, “Himself took our infirmities and bore our diseases.” [Isa. 53:4] v.17 The prophecy of Isaiah 53:4 was fulfilled by the Lord in His daily ministry. Note that this does NOT refer to His atoning work on the cross. When the Lord did a miracle, He did not heal merely like a rich man handing out dimes. Truly, the miracles brought out His divine power, but Jesus also entered into the circumstances of the suffering person in spirit, as this quotation reveals. In this way, His divine sympathy entered into the depth of the suffering He relieved. His name is Emmanuel, or “God with us”… God coming down into our place.

(The Cost of Discipleship) (8:18-22)

 18 And Jesus, seeing great crowds around him, commanded to depart to the other side. v.18 At the sight of great crowds, the Lord departs. Great popularity is not characteristic of those who will inherit the kingdom. From the Gospel of Luke, we know that the following conversations took place after the transfiguration, which Matthew does not record until chapter 17. But why? For this reason: while the Lord had unshakable love in His heart toward Israel in spite of their unbelief (Peter’s mother-in-law), yet there was no love for Him on Israel’s part. A nice way to remember these two men are:
  • Mr. Impetuous – One who volunteered quickly without counting the cost.
  • Mr. Procrastinator – One who delayed following Christ for personal reasons.

Rejection: Discipleship will Cost you Personal Comfort (vv.19-20)

19 And a scribe came up and said to him, Teacher, I will follow thee whithersoever thou mayest go. v.19 A certain scribe, who was moved by enthusiastic admiration of Jesus, volunteers to follow the Lord. However, he had no conception of the rejection associated with being a disciple. It is easy to make glib promises without counting the cost.
20 And Jesus says to him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven roosting-places; but the Son of man has not where he may lay his head. v.20 Jesus answers him by showing that true cost of discipleship… there was less natural comfort in the path of the rejected Son of man than the most unworthy animal. What a thing for the Messiah of Israel, the Creator of all things, to have to say! “Foxes” are sly, and undeserving, while “birds” are small, and common. This scribe was a carnal Jew, who saw the miracles and sought a place of prestige with the Messiah. But the Lord had not so much as a bed, let alone a place of eminence among men.
Son of Man. This is the first time the Lord uses the expression “Son of Man.”

"Son of man" is a title Christ has in special connection with mankind; as either the rejected sufferer at the hands of mankind and on behalf of mankind as the one who assumes the responsibilities of the whole human race, or as exalted heir and head of all that God has purposed for mankind. The Old Testament spoke of a coming "Son of Man" that would reign over all creation and have an everlasting kingdom (Psalm 8:4-8; Daniel 7:13-14). But "Son of man" is a title Christ took in rejection as well as in glorification. The connection between the suffering and glory of the Son of man is beautiful.

Read more…

Priorities: Discipleship will Cost you Natural Relationships (vv.21-22)

21 But another of his disciples said to him, Lord, suffer me first to go away and bury my father. v.21 There are two ways that this could be read. (1) This man could be saying that he couldn’t follow the Lord right then because of his love for his father. But once his father died, and all his obligations to him were cleared up, then he would be free to follow Christ. (2) This man’s father had just died, and the funeral was to follow shortly. His familial responsibility was thus urgent, naturally speaking. Once this most urgent natural business was cleared up, then he would be free to follow Christ. I am not sure which is right. It would seem a bit harsh if the Lord was telling this man to absent his father’s funeral… but then “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt. 11:12). On the other hand we have later scriptures that show us that Christians need to care for their own (see 1 Tim. 5:8). In either case, this man has a divided heart. The key words are “me first”. See Matt. 10:37. Expositor William Kelly feels the father had actually died. Based on the Lord’s response (v.22) I would tend to agree with Kelly. Also, burials in those days could take weeks, including the mourning period (Num. 20:29). This man wasn’t asking for just the morning off, but for a leave of absence.
22 But Jesus said to him, Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead. v.22  The transcendent call of Christ is “Follow me”. The claims of nature must give way to the claims of Christ. He must have the preeminent place (Col. 1:18). The Lord uses the word “dead” in two ways. We know this because the physically dead cannot take any action. He is saying, “Let the spiritually dead bury their physically dead.” The putting forward of natural and physical claims is a mark of those who are spiritually dead.

The Messiah’s Power Over Every Other Force (8:23 – 9:8)

Three Spheres of Power. We have seen the Lord’s power over sickness in vv.1-17 (leprosy, palsy, and fever). Then we have had some instruction on discipleship in vv.18-22. Now we are shown that the Messiah’s power is not limited to healing sickness. He is shown to have power:
  • Over the Forces of Nature: the Storm Calmed (8:23-27) 
  • Over the Forces of Satan: Two Demoniacs (8:28-34) 
  • To Governmentally Forgive sins: the Paralytic Healed (9:1-8)
Three spiritual impediments to the establishment of the kingdom. It is not only the results of sin in the body (leprosy, palsy, fever) that the Messiah will relieve. The establishment of the Kingdom requires spiritual power because there are great spiritual obstacles:
  1. The Storm: The masses whipped up into a state of turmoil (raging sea) by Satan during the tribulation period (Rev 13:1). 
  2. The Demoniacs: All the power of Satan employed to bind men to his will, “exceeding dangerous” (Rev. 16:13-14). 
  3. The Sick of the Palsy: The governmental results of Israel’s sin down through the centuries, resulting in hardship, loss, and sorrow (Isa. 1:4-7).

Power over the Forces of Nature: the Storm Calmed (vv.23-27)

Demonstration of power over the elements. The Lord is not merely a divine weatherman, with mere knowledge of the elements. Rather, He has control over the forces of nature, which He displayed in calming the storm (compare). The Old Testament clearly predicts that the Messiah would possess power to control the elements. See Psa. 65:7; Psa. 89:8-9; Psa. 107:25; and Psa. 148:7-8.
23 And he went on board ship and his disciples followed him; v.23 When does this event actually take place? Mark 4 tells us that it was on the evening of the day when the seven parables of Matthew 13 were uttered, long after the other events mentioned in this chapter. The Spirit includes it here in Matthew to give us a picture of the power of Christ on behalf of the faithful remnant during the tribulation, while separated from Christ so that they can learn His power on their behalf!
24 and behold, the water became very agitated on the sea, so that the ship was covered by the waves; but “he” slept. v.24 In the tribulation, Satan will stir up the sea, a picture of the masses of the Gentiles. The Great Red Dragon of Rev. 12, in his hatred for the man child, continues his proxy war with the saints. The little ship seems to be almost engulfed by the waves, and the Lord sleeps in perfect peace (Isa. 26:3)!
25 And the disciples came and awoke him, saying, Lord save: we perish.  v.25 It will take the pressures of the tribulation, when the remnant is almost overwhelmed by Satan, to draw out the voice of faith, appealing to the silent and slumbering Savior. With us too, there is no trial too great that we cannot cry out to Him, who responds with “grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
26 And he says to them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then, having arisen, he rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. v.26 We have a double rebuke. First, the Lord rebuked the disciples for their little faith.1 Had they remembered the Lord’s words in v.18 (Mark 4:36) when He “commanded” them to depart with Him, there was no need for fear. Second, He rebukes the wind and sea. Like a well-trained dog, they immediately obey His command! The Creator was on earth in the form of a man.
27 But the men were astonished, saying, What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him? v.27 Not only was this storm allowed by God to try their faith (v.26), but also to manifest the dignity of the Person of Christ (v.27)! How could a weary man asleep on a pillow the next minute command the forces of nature? It can only be explained by the Person of Christ. All the efforts of Satan succeed only in making the Lord display His glory.

Power over the Forces of Satan: Two Demoniacs (vv.28-34)

vv.28-34 At the start of the Millennial kingdom, Christ will demonstrate His power over Satan by binding him and banishing him to the “abyss” or the bottomless pit for the thousand years (Rev. 20:1). He will do the same to the whole demonic host (Isa. 24:21-22). The host of the high ones will be gathered in the pit. The Jews understood this, and so did the demons. Here Jesus shows that He had this very same power over Satan (compare).
28 And there met him, when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, two possessed by demons, coming out of the tombs, exceeding dangerous, so that no one was able to pass by that way. v.28 We are told elsewhere (Mark 5 and Luke 8) that one of these men was called by the name of Legion, because many devils were entered into him. It is the worst possible predicament to be in. Here in Matthew we find that there were actually two possessed; two is the number of testimony, and we often get pairs in Matthew’s gospel (e.g. two blind men, Matt. 9:27-31) for a witness to the nation of Israel.
29 And behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Son of God? hast thou come here before the time to torment us? v.29 The demons “believe and tremble” (James 2:19). They recognize what the Nation of Israel refused to recognize… Jesus as Son of God. They know that before the Kingdom is set up, the “host of the high ones” will be cast into the abyss. They are now worried that their time loose on earth will be cut short. It was not yet the time for that, but only to demonstrate that Christ had the power to do it.
30 Now there was, a great way off from them, a herd of many swine feeding; 31 and the demons besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, send us away into the herd of swine. vv.30-31 It seems from this request that demons seek embodiment in some way. About to be driven from men, they pleaded to be allowed to take possession of the bodies of the unclean swine. The number of the swine was about 2000 (Mark 5:13). From the following verses it would seem that humans have a higher capacity for possession than animals. Two thousand swine couldn’t survive what two men could suffer with for years. It is instructive that the demons do not even attempt to resist Him! His power is known to the angelic world.
32 And he said to them, Go. And they, going out, departed into the herd of swine; and lo, the whole herd of swine rushed down the steep slope into the sea, and died in the waters. v.32 Here we have the curtain pulled back to see the true character of Satan as the Destroyer. This is what his heart is like, but he appears as an Angel of Light (2 Cor. 11:14) and men are deceived. He is bent on destroying anything he can… how different than the heart of Christ! If these demons are forced to give up possession of the two men, they would try to spoil the Lord’s testimony in Gadara by drowning the swine.
33 But they that fed them fled, and went away into the city and related everything, and what had happened as to those possessed by demons. 34 And behold, the whole city went out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to go away out of their coasts. vv.33-34 What were Jews doing feeding swine? That was against the law, because swine were unclean animals. This is an example of the Jews’ inconsistency, which Paul addresses at the end of Romans 2. They wouldn’t eat pork, but would raise swine for a profit in selling to the Gentiles. The trans-Jordanic Jews were especially liberal. They “begged him to go away”, because they didn’t like having their unclean occupation exposed, nor the pecuniary loss of their herd. He had just healed the demoniacs…. but their swine were of far greater value to them than the souls of men. In this account we see two aspects of Satan’s power. The first aspect is blatant and loud… it is the bondage of the body, seen in the demon possessed man. The second aspect is subtle and quiet… it is the bondage of the heart, seen in the city’s desire to get rid of Jesus. Prophetically, these city dwellers represent the apostate nation of the Jews, and the two who are delivered represent the faithful remnant in the tribulation. The first time the Lord came across the sea to Gennesaret/Gadarenes He was rejected by Israel (Matt. 8:34). This represents the rejection of Christ at His first coming. But the second time He crossed the sea and entered that country He was received (Matt. 14:34)! This speaks of His reception by the faithful remnant at the 2nd coming of Christ! Mark and Luke give us the added details that “Legion”, one of these demoniacs who became a disciple of Jesus. He went abroad preaching the good news of the blessing Christ had brought to him. He carried the message throughout the whole district of Decapolis, and when Jesus returned some time later, He received a welcome in contrast to the opposition shown here (Mark 6:53-56)!
Matthew 9. In general, this chapter is a continuation of the subject in chapter 8, namely the demonstration of the powers of the kingdom. However, in chapter 9, the Spirit brings out the effect of the presence of Jesus upon the religious leaders of Israel. In chapter 8 it was more power because of His greatness, but in chapter 9 it is that power in grace toward others.

Power on Earth to Forgive sins: the Paralytic Healed (vv.1-8)

Power on earth to forgive sins. The third great impediment to the establishment of the Kingdom is the sin of Israel. This is the deepest issue. Old Testament scriptures spoke of the Messiah’s power to forgive sins; “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases” (Psa. 103:3). We see a strong connection being made between sins and sicknesses. Sickness is the governmental consequence of sin. The whole Kingdom of Christ will experience freedom from sickness as a result of sins being governmentally forgiven; “and the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity” (Isa. 33:24). See also Psa. 130:3-4; Mic. 7:18-19; Daniel 9:24; Jer. 31:34; especially Zech. 13:1. Before the cross, eternal forgiveness was not known. Old Testament saints never had the settled conscious knowledge of sins forgiven in the eternal sense (Eph. 1:7). After the cross, the eternal aspect of forgiveness was revealed. Read more… This is why the Lord emphasizes “power on earth”; because governmental forgiveness has to do with this life only. However, in the Millennium, both aspects of forgiveness will be offered (on earth, and for eternity) because they will have the cross to look back on.
 And going on board the ship, he passed over and came to his own city. v.1 Jesus gave the people of the Gergesenes what they wanted… He went away. “His own city” was Capernaum, where He had done His greatest miracles. In this chapter the true light is shining on those who were the more privileged, and the more responsible.
2 And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, laid upon a bed; and Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, Be of good courage, child; thy sins are forgiven. v.2 This is the same man which was borne of four, as we read elsewhere (compare). To be let down through a ceiling was an extraordinary way of bringing the man to Jesus, but those details are left out in Matthew. See note above on forgiveness of sins on earth. The Lord was revealing to this man that God had forgiven his sins, and this is reason to be of good courage. “Their faith” makes it clear that the palsied man as well as the friends who brought him had confidence in Jesus’ power and desire to help the paralytic.
3 And behold, certain of the scribes said to themselves, This man blasphemes. v.3 The Jewish leaders knew that only Jehovah could forgive sins, and anyone who could do so on earth must be God. In their view, Jesus was a blasphemer, claiming to be Jehovah. But in reality, this was Jehovah on earth, in the Person of Jesus!
4 And Jesus, seeing their thoughts, said, Why do “ye” think evil things in your hearts? v.4 The evil thing they thought was that Jesus was not really who He said He was (God).
5 For which is easier: to say, Thy sins are forgiven; or to say, Rise up and walk? v.5 It isn’t easier to actually forgive sins than to heal the palsy, but it is easier to say it. In truth, forgiving sins took the work of Calvary. But to say “thy sins are forgiven” did not necessitate any outward results for it to be real. However, to say “rise up and walk” required an outward physical change that defied the laws of physics and chemistry.
6 But that ye may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins, (then he says to the paralytic,) Rise up, take up thy bed and go to thy house. 7 And he rose up and went to his house. vv.6-7 To show that He could do what was easy to say but hard to perform (forgive sins on earth), Jesus now shows that He could do what was hard to say but easier to perform (healing the paralytic). We so often get the order backwards, focusing on what is outward and impressive. But Jesus met the deeper, less obvious need first, the forgiveness of sins. This was why He came (Matt. 1:21)! “Take up thy bed” is an action that shows complete deliverance from the condition of weakness. “Son of Man” is the Lord’s title in connection with all of mankind. It is a title He takes in rejection as well as in glorification. As Son of Man He deals with Man’s deepest need, and as Son of Man He will usher the Millennial earth into a scene of blessing. Read more…
A picture of millennial healing. This clearly speaks of a time when God will take the government of the world into His own hands, and when Christ will take His own throne. In the present dispensation the Lord does not necessarily heal our sicknesses in addition to forgiving our sins. But He will do that for Israel in a coming, final dispensation. To believing Gentiles in the Millennium, God will prove that He has forgiven Israel by healing all their sicknesses and restoring their place as head of all nations.
8 But the crowds seeing it, were in fear, and glorified God who gave such power to men. v.8 The sad result is that the scribes were not touched, only the people glorified God. And even the people did not give God what He was really looking for. They saw the power of God on earth given to men, but did not see that God Himself was on earth in the Person of Jesus!

(The Nature of Discipleship) (9:9-17)

Chronology of these events. By comparing with Mark and Luke we can see that healing the palsy and the calling of Levi took place long before the events of Matthew 8 (see Mark 2). But in Matthew the Spirit of God puts them here for special moral and dispensational purposes. Morally, this section establishes the nature of discipleship. Dispensationally, this section establishes the blindness of Israel, particularly of the religious leaders.

A Disciple is Characterized by Following Christ (v.9)

 9 And Jesus, passing on thence, saw a man sitting at the tax-office, called Matthew, and says to him, Follow me. And he rose up and followed him. v.9 Matthew does not seek out Jesus. In fact, there is no evidence of faith on his part before Jesus calls him. He responds immediately to the voice of the Messiah. Matthew, also called Levi (Mark 2:14), was the tax collector of the port of Capernaum. He became one of the twelve. Here we have the most basic description of a disciple: one who is called by and becomes a follower of Jesus. There was shame connected with publicans because of their reputation. Matthew is found at the tax office, and it is beautiful to see the call of discipleship displace the love of money! The Lord calls him during a work day! The call of discipleship is not at our convenience.

A Disciple is Characterized by Grace (vv.10-13)

10 And it came to pass, as he lay at table in the house, that behold, many tax-gatherers and sinners came and lay at table with Jesus and his disciples. v.10 The Lord was now making a public display of the grace of God by sitting down with those that were the despised of the people. Publicans had a bad reputation for embezzling money from the people. Sinners were a special class who had become identified with certain public sins; this is clear because all men are sinners, but these are distinguished. Note that it was a public place, and there was really no appearance of evil, only a connection with those who were despised by the religious class. Also, note from vv.12-13 that His purpose wasn’t to fellowship with evil, but to bring these sinners to repentance!
Note: as the sinless Son of God, the Lord Jesus had liberty to meet with sinners in a way that we ought to be careful of. For example, He met alone with a degraded gentile woman in John 4. Mere men (even Christian men) ought to avoid any situation like that. But the same grace that Jesus showed in these circumstances ought to characterize His disciples.
11 And the Pharisees seeing it, said to his disciples, Why does your teacher eat with tax-gatherers and sinners? v.11 The display of grace was completely incompatible with the religious mindset of the Pharisees. Notice that they go to His disciples. Often unbelievers will ask disciples questions as a way to insult the Master behind His back, without really wanting the answer.
12 But Jesus hearing it, said, They that are strong have not need of a physician, but those that are ill. v.12 The Lord uses a natural illustration to explain why He went to the sinners. Those who are healthy do not need a doctor, and those that think they are healthy do not seek one. But those who are sick need a doctor. These publicans and sinners were the ones the Great Physician came to save, because they would acknowledge their sinful condition.
13 But go and learn what that is — “I will have mercy and not sacrifice” [Hosea 6:6]; for I have not come to call righteous men but sinners. v.13 These Pharisees were going to need to think on that. Perhaps considering their own state in light of the Word of God would make them reevaluate their perceived spiritual “health”. The quotation from Hosea 6:6 is employed by the Lord to show that, even from the Old Testament, mercy shown to the needy meant more than sacrifices and offerings. The principle of the Lord’s ministry was that He was here for those (“sinners”) who could be honest with themselves and with God about their true moral condition.

A Disciple is Characterized by Understanding the Times (vv.14-17)

Two principles. We get two things that a disciple must know with regard to understanding the times (compare):
  1. The portion and behavior of the disciples has to do with Christ and the place that He fills (vv.14-15).
  2. It is impossible to carry forward old Jewish forms into a new dispensation of grace (vv.16-17).
 14 Then come to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees often fast, but thy disciples fast not? v.14 This is another group that approached the Lord at Levi’s table. These were disciples of John that were reticent to join the Lord. Fasting, which John taught, was approved by the Pharisees as well. These disciples were bothered by the fact that the Lord’s disciples did not carry on this sign of self-denial. They were focusing on the bad state of Israel so closely that they had not noticed the Messiah was present!
15 And Jesus said to them, Can the sons of the bridechamber mourn so long as the bridegroom is with them? But days will come when the bridegroom will have been taken away from them, and then they will fast. v.15 As long as the Messiah was present on earth, He was to be the source of all their joy. It would be absurd for them to fast while He was with them. The time would come when He would be absent, and then it would be proper to fast. At the present time, Christ has been rejected, and we mourn. But Christ is risen and glorified, and the Spirit is present… therefore joy is characteristic! During the tribulation period, fasting will be fitting for the remnant.
vv.16-17 A new dispensation was coming in! The old garment and the old bottles – although instituted by God Himself in the Old Testament – now must be set aside in Christianity.
16 But no one puts a patch of new cloth on an old garment, for its filling up takes from the garment and a worse rent takes place. v.16 The principles of grace (Christianity) are not “patches” for, or improvements to, the legal Jewish system. This has been the downfall of Christendom. A “Christianized” form of Judaism will never work! The system will soon unravel, and much injury will be done to the Name of Christ.
17 Nor do men put new wine into old skins, otherwise the skins burst and the wine is poured out, and the skins will be destroyed; but they put new wine into new skins, and both are preserved together. v.17 Now a stronger illustration: bursting bottles. The new wine of Christian grace is incompatible with the old skins of Judaism. The old bottles are rigid and brittle, like the law written in tables of stone. Grace stoops to bring the glad tidings to sinners; Judaism cannot tolerate such diffusion of grace. The result of the mixture will be (1) spilled wine, and (2) broken bottles. That has been the case in Christendom. By refusing to forsake the old religious forms, (1) grace has been spoiled (Rom. 11:6), and (2) the law has been denied its proper place. The law has its “lawful” application to the unbeliever, but is not useful to the Christian as a rule of life (1 Tim. 1:9). God has new bottles for the new wine! “The inner virtue and power of Christianity must clothe itself with its own proper forms”.2 We must hold Christian doctrine with a Christian attitude. It isn’t that fasting is wrong, but that we must do it with Christian intelligence.

Second Dispensational Outline: The Ruler’s Daughter & Infirm Woman (9:18-26)

A dispensational outline. If we can see that vv.18-26 is a dispensational outline, it explains why the interruption in v.20 occurs. God’s ways with the nation of Israel have been interrupted by a period of Gentile blessing. But at the close of this period, He will resume His dealings with the ancient people, and bring about Israel’s national resurrection.

The Faithful in Our Lord’s Day: The Ruler comes to Jesus (vv.18-19)

 18 As he spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler coming in did homage to him, saying, My daughter has by this died; but come and lay thy hand upon her and she shall live. v.18 The ruler’s maid (compare) is a picture of national Israel, who needs Christ. She has no life apart from Him. The ruler is a picture of the faithful remnant who owned Israel’s true condition, and longed for Christ to heal the nation (e.g. Nicodemus). Notice however, that this man longs for the physical touch, unlike the centurion in Matt. 8 who reckoned that a spoken word would be enough. The ruler is the Jewish remnant, and the natural thought of a Jew is to have the personal, visible presence of the Lord on earth (e.g. Thomas); whereas Gentiles are content to walk by faith, not by sight!
19 And Jesus rose up and followed him, and so did his disciples. v.19 The Lord immediately follows the ruler, showing that His errand was toward Israel at His first coming, and made every effort to restore them to Jehovah. Sadly, they stumbled at the stumbling stone (Rom. 9:31-32), and their fall opened the door of blessing to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:11-15).

A Period of Gentile Blessing: The Woman with Bloody Flux (vv.20-22)

20 And behold, a woman, who had had a bloody flux for twelve years, came behind and touched the hem of his garment; v.20 The woman (compare) simply touches the Lord’s garment on His journey to heal the ruler’s daughter. In the same way, the 2000-year period of Gentile blessing is a suspension in God’s dealings with Israel… a parenthesis! Her condition was an internal hemorrhage that was slowly draining her life away; a fitting picture of the Gentiles, though she may not have been one herself. She touched the border of the Lord’s robe, which would have been that blue fringe worn by every pious Israelite, according to the Mosaic Law (Num. 15:38-41; Deut. 22:12), and which marked Him out as the Heavenly Man.
21 for she said within herself, If I should only touch his garment I shall be healed. v.21 There is a commendable humility in what she was thinking. It was not a request – like the ruler – for Him to come to her house. Rather, just a passing touch would be enough to alter her life for now, and for eternity! This is how a Gentile sinner comes to the Savior today. What marks a Gentile of faith today is the realization that they are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and have no claim to blessing. But they have glimpsed the Savior’s heart, and faith rises up to lay hold of Christ!
22 But Jesus turning and seeing her, said, Be of good courage, daughter; thy faith has healed thee. And the woman was healed from that hour. v.22 A special emphasis is laid on salvation by faith alone. Notice that the Lord commented on the centurion’s faith as well in ch.8; but not so the ruler. The role of faith without sight is characteristic of Gentile blessing!

The Future Jewish Remnant: Raising the Ruler’s Daughter (vv.23-26)

 23 And when Jesus was come to the house of the ruler, and saw the flute-players and the crowd making a tumult, v.23 When the Lord resumes His dealings with Israel again, He will find in the “house” (Israel) a tumult being made. This noise of musical instruments, etc. speaks of the Jewish sacrifices being resumed in the first 3 1/2 years of Daniel’s 70th week. Under protection from the West, Israel will resume their sacrifices without repentance toward Jehovah.
24 he said, Withdraw, for the damsel is not dead, but sleeps. And they derided him. v.24 Israel today is not permanently dead (Rom. 11:1) but is merely sleeping. Read Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones to show that Jehovah is able to and will one day make them live again (Ezek. 37). They are dead in the sense that there is no power in themselves to rise. He says “withdraw” to the musicians, etc. Through the process of the Great Tribulation (last 3 1/2 years) God will, through persecution, separate the mass of apostate Jews from those who really have faith. He will not allow the restoration of Israel be connected in any way with the arm of the flesh (John 6:63).
25 But when the crowd had been put out, he went in and took her hand; and the damsel rose up. v.25 By Jehovah’s gentle leading of the remnant (taking her hand) the Nation of Israel will be revived! “After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight” (Hos. 6:2).
26 And the fame of it went out into all that land.  v.26 Just as the raising of the ruler’s daughter announced the Messiah at His first coming, so the restoration of Israel will witness to the whole world of the Messiah at His second coming!

The Messiah’s Power to Heal Israel’s Spiritual Condition (9:27-34)

Israel’s Spiritual Blindness Healed: Two Blind Men (vv.27-31)

 27 And as Jesus passed on thence, two blind men followed him, crying and saying, Have mercy on us, Son of David. v.27 The two blind men (compare) form an adequate testimony that Christ had the power to heal Israel’s spiritual condition of darkness. Their cry “Son of David” shows that they recognized Christ’s connection with Israel, and the Nation’s need of Him.
28 And when he was come to the house, the blind men came to him. And Jesus says to them, Do ye believe that I am able to do this? They say to him, Yea, Lord. 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, According to your faith, be it unto you. 30a And their eyes were opened; vv.28-30a Notice that the Lord doesn’t heal them in the street, like the woman with the issue of blood. He has a specific timetable for Israel, and will restore them when He comes to the house, shortly after His appearing. There will be a preceding period of “crying” on the part of the remnant which will be rewarded at that time. He pauses before healing them to question their faith, ensuring that the work was deep in their hearts. So with the remnant, there must be a deep work of faith before they are restored. Their eyes were opened, “nevertheless when it [Israel] shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away” (2 Cor. 3:16) and Israel will be given a new heart of flesh, and will finally see Christ!
30b and Jesus charged them sharply, saying, See, let no man know it. 31 But they, when they were gone out, spread his name abroad in all that land. vv.30b-31 The Lord did not want to be publicized as merely a wonder-worker. He desired people to be impressed by His message rather than His works. Faith in His person is what saved, not merely faith in His miracles. But they were so excited that they could not contain themselves, and so they published it abroad.

Israel’s Spiritual Bondage Healed: the Dumb Demoniac (vv.32-34)

 32 But as these were going out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed by a demon. v.32 A second type (compare) is presented, strengthening the encouragement that Israel will never be forgotten by God. Israel’s condition was not only one of spiritual blindness, but of bondage to Satan. The dumbness is a result of demonic possession. Israel has been unable to offer the praise that Jehovah wants because Satan has ensnared them in his traps.
33 And the demon having been cast out, the dumb spake. And the crowds were astonished, saying, It has never been seen thus in Israel. v.33 When the Beast and Antichrist are in the Lake of Fire, and Satan and his host of high ones are banished to the abyss, Israel will flourish again! The nations will look on throughout this saga with great interest and delight.
34 But the Pharisees said, He casts out the demons through the prince of the demons. v.34 The reaction of the religious leaders to the whole of Matt. 8-9 was to attribute all the Lord’s working in grace to the power of Satan. This is, in principle, blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, a sin from which there is no repenting (Matt. 12:31-32).
  1. The expression "O ye of little faith" is a gentle rebuke, repeated four times in Matthew: first in Matt. 6:30 in regard to care; second in Matt. 8:23 in regard to fear; third in Matt. 14:31 in regard to doubt; and fourth in Matt. 16:7-8 in regard to reasoning in divine things. All four instances have to do with failure in simple faith. And yet the Lord never says to His own "O ye of no faith".

  2. Kelly, William. Lectures on the Gospel of Matthew. Loizeaux Brothers, 1943.

Matthew 10

The Preaching of the Kingdom: Twelve Disciples Sent to Lost Sheep
Matthew 10
Matthew 10 gives us the sending forth of the heralds of the kingdom to announce that the King was present, and to demonstrate through signs that He possessed the power to bring about the long anticipated time of millennial blessing. In Matthew 8-9 we saw that the Lord Himself had the power to bring in the kingdom, but now He sends forth His heralds with delegated authority to announce the presence of the King in their midst. Anyone can do these miracles if they have received delegated authority; e.g. Judas Iscariot in this very chapter. But only God can give that authority, and Jesus here demonstrates His deity in that way. This preaching is not to be confused with the preaching of the gospel of the grace of God that goes out today, which is far higher in character. Here in Matt. 10 it is the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 10:7), which is much simpler. The gospel of the kingdom will be preached to the Jews first (vv.5-6) but later we see it will go out to the whole world (Psa. 96:3; Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8). Psa. 95 gives us the kingdom gospel going out to the nation of Israel, and Psa. 96 shows us the kingdom gospel going out to the world.

The Heart a Disciple must have to be Useful in Service (9:35-38)

vv.35-38 The chapter division should really be at the end of verse 35, because the last three verses properly form the introduction to chapter 10.

The Heart of Jesus Manifested in His Actions (vv.35-36)

 35 And Jesus went round all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the glad tidings of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every bodily weakness. v.35 His Actions. The cities and villages referred to here are those in Galilee. The three things He did were:
  1. Teaching (ch. 5 – 7) the principles of the kingdom. It is interesting that He is still teaching in the synagogues. Once we get to ch.12, we will see His rejection complete. Then He begins to teach from the sea side.
  2. Preaching (ch. 10) the gospel of the kingdom. The “gospel of the kingdom” is the good news that God was about to set up His kingdom in this world. After ch.12, we find that the setting up of the kingdom is postponed, but in the Tribulation period this “gospel of the kingdom” will go out again (Rev. 6:9).
  3. Healing (ch. 8 – 9) every sickness. These miracles showed the power of the kingdom, that He was able to bring in the Millennium.
36 But when he saw the crowds he was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed, and cast away as sheep not having a shepherd. v.36 His Heart. The leaders had rejected His grace in Matt. 9:34 by attributing His miracles to Satan, but this could not stop the movement of the Lord’s heart for the people. He saw them as they really were: sheep without a shepherd, having no moral guidance. He sees them too as “harassed”… manipulated by the religious leaders who should have been their shepherds.

His Disciples must have His Heart, and Dependence on Him (vv.37-38)

 37 Then saith he to his disciples, The harvest is great and the workmen are few; 38 supplicate therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth workmen unto his harvest. vv.37-38 The Lord views the people as a “harvest” of precious souls, as an open door for preaching, teaching, etc. The limiting factor isn’t the crop, but the workmen. The disciples were encouraged to pray to the Lord of the Harvest, acknowledging that the harvest of souls is His work, not man’s. According to His will, He sends workmen. In ch.10 the Lord manifests to the disciples that He is the Lord of the Harvest. But here His desire is to bring their hearts in tune with His… hearts of compassion for the nation of Israel. He is also emphasizing dependence. We need to remember that service in the kingdom is not out of our own volition… but as commissioned by the “Lord of the harvest”.
Sending of the Seventy vs. Twelve. This sending out of the twelve apostles is not to be confused with the sending out the seventy disciples in Luke 10:1. The seventy were sent out much later, as a final testimony to Israel, but are not mentioned in Matthew’s gospel.

The Delegation of Authority (10:1-4)

The first step before sending out laborers into the harvest is to call the workmen. The second step is to confer power on them. Thirdly, to give them special instructions for how they were to use that power, and what kind of treatment they should expect to receive.

The Nature of the Authority (v.1)

 And having called to him his twelve disciples, he gave them power over unclean spirits, so that they should cast them out, and heal every disease and every bodily weakness. v.1 What we see in ch.10 is the Lord sending workmen into His harvest. But before he sends them, He first invests His authority and power in them. Anyone can do these miracles if they have received delegated authority; e.g. Judas Iscariot, but only God can give that authority. Here we have an important principle for service in the kingdom. Christ will not call a disciple to do something without giving  the power to accomplish it. This power would be effective in two spheres: (1) the spiritual and (2) the physical. Another important point to note is that the call to service comes from the Lord, not from the need itself. The need was noticed in Matt. 9:37, but the apostles were not sent out until Matt. 10:1!

The Names of the Twelve Apostles (vv.2-4)

 2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the tax-gatherer; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, who was surnamed Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas the Iscariote, who also delivered him up. vv.2-4 Next we have the names of the twelve apostles. They were disciples before (v.1), but now they become apostles, or “sent ones”. Mark 3:14 gives us this order explicitly; “and he ordained twelve, that they should be (1) with him [i.e. discipleship], and that (2) he might send them forth to preach [apostleship].” This is a great lesson; we must follow Christ before we can serve Him! We must sit at Jesus’ feet before we go out in service in an official capacity; e.g. Paul, see Gal. 1:22-24. Before Pentecost there were only twelve, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel, who was being called at this time. But after the Church was called, God called a special vessel, a thirteenth apostle with a focus on the Gentiles. Paul became the characteristic minister to the Gentiles, and “Simon called Peter” (heading this list) became the characteristic minister to the house of Israel; see Gal. 2:7. In Mark 6:7 we read that Jesus “sent them forth by two and two“. It is wonderful that the Lord gave each disciple a companion in service! The moral pairing of these twelve are given in Luke 6:13-16. By comparing with Luke we see that “Lebbaeus, who was surnamed Thaddaeus” must be Judas the brother of James. See entries for the three Jameses and the three Judases.
Bartholomew. Bartholomew is probably identical with Nathanael (John 1:45; John 21:2) because in the Synoptic Gospels Philip and Bartholomew are mentioned together; in John’s Gospel, it is Philip and Nathanael, and John never otherwise mentions Bartholomew. 
Simon of Cana. The title “Simon the Canaanite” is misleading. That would make you think we was a Gentile. But it should really be “Simon the Cananaean”, a Jew from Cana of Galilee. He is also called Simon Zealotes.

The Sphere and Nature of their Work (10:5-8)

 5 These twelve Jesus sent out when he had charged them, saying, Go not off into the way of the nations, and into a city of Samaritans enter ye not; 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. vv.5-6 The Sphere. They were not told to go to the “dogs” of the Gentiles, but to the lost “sheep” of Israel. It is important to see that their mission is connected with the nation of Israel… quite different from the Church. The Lord is presenting Himself to Israel as their promised King. God was dealing with Israel as a nation, giving them opportunity to acknowledge His Son. The sheep are “lost”, that is, lost in a spiritual sense… but recovery was still held out as a possibility. Israel was scattered as well as lost, but while Christ was on earth His apostles were never commissioned to go outside the borders of Israel. But after the King is rejected they are given a new commission, which is much broader, encompassing “all nations” (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8).
7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of the heavens has drawn nigh. 8 Heal the infirm, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons: ye have received gratuitously, give gratuitously. vv.7-8 The Nature. Their mission had two parts: (1) preaching the gospel of the kingdom; and (2) works of power to relieve the effects of sin. These miracles that would be done by the twelve were proof that the Messiah was present on earth, and that He had the authority to confer His power on others. “Ye have received gratuitously, give gratuitously” – this is the spirit they were to have in their service. There was never to be an attitude of pride over the power invested in them, and never a spirit of tightfistedness.

Dependence for Their Needs, Acceptance or Rejection (10:9-15)

9 Do not provide yourselves with gold, or silver, or brass, for your belts, 10 nor scrip for the way, nor two body coats, nor sandals, nor a staff: for the workman is worthy of his nourishment. vv.9-10 These are things that would tend to encumber the servant of God, and allow them be less dependent on the Lord for their needs. By discarding the normal provisions of the traveler, they would manifest a their dependence on God in a special outward way to the nation of Israel. God would provide the necessary “nourishment” for His “workmen”. Now, we must remember that this was a strictly Jewish mission… we do not apply all these things literally today in the full light of Christianity. However, the principles are valid. A servant that goes out with the right spirit will have the conscious sense that they have been sent by Lord, and are here only as His instrument.
11 But into whatsoever city or village ye enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and there remain till ye go forth. 12 And as ye enter into a house salute it. 13 And if the house indeed be worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, as ye go forth out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. 15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in judgment-day than for that city. vv.11-15 Now He comes to the subject of lodging. They were to stay with those who were “worthy” and shun those who were “not worthy”. What marked a household as worthy? If they received the servant then they were as much as receiving the master (see Matt. 25:40). They would “salute” or show a sign of respect to those worthy homes. They were to “shake off the dust” or show a sign of warning to those who refused them. Those who rejected these messengers were more responsible than the cites of Sodom and Gomorrah, because they had been given more light! Clearly this is not speaking about the preachers of the gospel of God’s grace today. We seek the unworthy, not the worthy. We preach to those who are dead in sins, trusting that God will quicken the soul by the power of His word. We warn the ungodly, but we are never to invoke the judgment of God against them. But here, by contrast, God will bring the glad tidings of the Kingdom to those who are already longing for the Messiah.

Things for the Preachers of the Gospel of the Kingdom to Remember (10:16-42)

In this section the Lord brings before the apostles things they should remember while out in the Lord’s work. As we read down through these verses, it will become clear that these circumstances go far beyond what the twelve faced in their Galilean ministry. Clearly its primary interpretation is to the remnant of the Jews in the Tribulation primarily, and partially to the twelve apostles in our Lord’s time and after Pentecost. Yet we certainly can make application to disciples in the Kingdom today:
  1. How to Act in the face of Political & Religious Persecution (vv.16-20)
  2. There will be Hatred Against the Bearers of Christ’s Name (vv.21-22)
  3. The Master was Rejected (vv.23-26a)
  4. In a Coming Day Everything would be Made Clear (vv.26b-27)
  5. To Live in the Fear of God (v.28)
  6. They were Precious to their Father (vv.29-31)
  7. There is a Coming Day of Reward for the Lord’s Servants (vv.32-33)
  8. The Claims of Christ Dominate every other Claim (vv.34-39)
  9. There will be Rewards for those who show Hospitality (vv.40-42)

Remember: How to Act in the face of Political & Religious Persecution (vv.16-20)

 16 Behold, “I” send you as sheep in the midst of wolves; be therefore prudent as the serpents, and guileless as the doves. v.16 Sheep in the midst of wolves speaks of the danger these messengers would be in. The Lord would not have them go forth with false impressions about what they would face. The wolves might be the religious leaders who would hunt them down. “Prudent as serpents speaks of the wisdom that would be needed to navigate the difficulties. However, the crookedness and malevolence of the serpent was not to be found in them. That would ruin their testimony. Instead, they were to be honest and straightforward (“guileless as doves) in their thoughts and dealings.
17 But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to sanhedrims, and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the nations. vv.17-18 While they were not to worry about food, water, or shelter, the greatest danger to them was fellow human beings. Here were have the twofold danger that would face them:
  1. Religious persecution – delivered to the Sanhedrims, scourged in the synagogues, which are the very places the Word of God was to be taught. 
  2. Political persecution – brought before Gentile powers (usually by the Jews). “For my sake” is a blessed reminder that the persecuted servant suffers for the name of Christ.
19 But when they deliver you up, be not careful how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given to you in that hour what ye shall speak. 20 For “ye” are not the speakers, but the Spirit of your Father which speaks in you. vv.19-20 Clearly this is not speaking about Christian ministry. The Christian minister ought to be led by the Spirit of God (we can apply it that way), but he is not to stand up and just “wing it”. However, these messengers of the Kingdom will be making a special show of dependence. Also, this has to do with a defense or trial in court, not an assembly meeting. The “Spirit of their Father” (a more ambiguous expression than “Spirit of God” or “another Comforter”) would speak “in them” not in the sense of indwelling (John 7:39) by as in the Old Testament when the power of Spirit spoke and worked through men.

Remember: There will be Hatred Against the Bearers of Christ’s Name (vv.21-22)

 21 But brother shall deliver up brother to death, and father child; and children shall rise up against parents and shall put them to death; v.21 They were warned of betrayal by friends, family, etc. Although the principle began at this time, the danger will rise to its full height in the tribulation, when: “Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom, etc.” (Mic. 7:5-6). The hatred would come from even the closest quarters, from the ones that are loved most and best.
22 and ye shall be hated of all on account of my name. But he that has endured to the end, “he” shall be saved. v.22 Not only from the nearest family members, but hatred would come from even the common people on the street. Those who “endure” the persecution to “the end” of the Great Tribulation will be “saved” from death, because the Son of Man will come (v.23) in power and great glory, and the remnant will be delivered. See also Matt. 24:13-14.

Remember: The Master was Rejected (vv.23-26a)

 23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee to the other; for verily I say to you, Ye shall not have completed the cities of Israel until the Son of man be come. v.23 The disciples were not to court danger in a foolhardy manner; but rather keep moving. The persecution would actually aid in the spread of the kingdom gospel; spurring them on from one city to the next. The coming of the Son of Man (the appearing) was what this remnant was to labor toward. Clearly this passage cannot be limited to the twelve apostles in the first century! The Church exists in a parenthesis. The twelve apostles are representative of the faithful remnant of Jews, and their mission in this chapter was interrupted at the cross, terminated at the destruction of Jerusalem (70 A.D.) and will be resumed after the rapture. The whole Church period is passed over in silence. “Son of man” is the Lord’s title in both suffering and coming glory (Heb. 2:6-8; 1 Cor. 15:27), and if the apostles were to herald the coming kingdom, they must also expect rejection (v.24).
24 The disciple is not above his teacher, nor the bondman above his lord. 25 It is sufficient for the disciple that he should become as his teacher, and the bondman as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more those of his household? 26a Fear them not therefore; vv.24-26a The Lord was proving the rejection of Israel, and soon the apostles would feel it as well. As disciples, we are in a position of inferiority to our Master, and ought not to expect better treatment than He received. In fact, it is fitting that we feel the same rejection He felt… although sad to say the world is often more comfortable with Christians than they were with Christ. Beelzebub means “lord of the flies”. According to Jewish tradition, Beelzebub was the “prince of the demons” (Matt. 9:34). 

Remember: In a Coming Day Everything Would be Made Clear (vv.26b-27)

26b for there is nothing covered which shall not be revealed, and secret which shall not be known. v.26b In the path of service, the motives of those who do not believe the gospel are unclear. The servant of God does not need to know everything in order to serve. But in a coming day, all those hidden motives will be made plain, for God by Jesus Christ will judge the secrets of men (Rom. 2:16).
27 What I say to you in darkness speak in the light, and what ye hear in the ear preach upon the houses. v.27 In the meantime however, the servant of Christ should be occupied with what is true, and what is clear. They were to be open and bold in speaking the things they did know, the things they had learned “in the ear” at the feet of Jesus.

Remember: To Live in the Fear of God (v.28)

 28 And be not afraid of those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul; but fear rather him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. v.28 The persecution against these messengers of the gospel of the kingdom would be very intense. It would be easy to be influenced by the fear of man, because of the threat to life and limb. But in the grand scheme, what harm can men really do? They can kill the body, but God can kill both body and soul in hell. The Lord is not threatening His servants, but showing them that their persecutors would have to face One who had far more power than they did. The only thing the disciples really needed to be afraid of was of displeasing God.

Remember: They were Precious to their Father (vv.29-31)

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father; 30 but of you even the hairs of the head are all numbered. 31 Fear not therefore; “ye” are better than many sparrows. vv.29-31 The Father’s love for His children and the value He places on them is an encouragement. A sparrow has very little value in the sight of men. Two sparrows for one farthing was a price the poorest could afford. But even the most worthless of birds is cared for by the Father (Matt. 6:26). “Better than many sparrows” – of all God’s creatures, the human life is of the greatest value to God. The Father’s care for His children is also meticulous. He cares for “every hair of your head”! The smallest detail of our lives is important and noticed by Him.

Remember: There is a Coming Day of Reward for the Lord’s Servants (vv.32-33)

32 Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, “I” also will confess him before my Father who is in the heavens. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will “I” also deny before my Father who is in the heavens. vv.32-33 The day for confessing Christ is now. But the day for Christ’s confession of His servants is future, in heaven at the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10). If someone denies Christ in the sense of being their Lord and Savior, then they will be denied salvation in the day of judgment. However, there will be “loss” at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:15) even for believers if they deny Christ in their walk and ways. Notwithstanding, their eternal security is not in danger, for “he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” We have a similar expression in 2 Tim. 2:12-13.

Remember: The Claims of Christ Dominate every other Claim (vv.34-39)

 34 Do not think that I have come to send peace upon the earth: I have not come to send peace, but a sword. v.34 The Lord’s first coming created a disruption, or a division, just as a sword cuts something in two. There were those whose hearts had been touched, and they responded in faith. There were those who had merely outward, religious piety, but manifested their evil hearts in opposition to Christ and His servants. Does this contradict other scriptures that speak about Christ bringing peace to the earth; e.g. Luke 1:79; 2:14; and Acts 10:36? No. Christ came with the gospel of peace, but that message was rejected. The context of this chapter is the sending forth of the apostles in the midst of an apostate nation. One day, the sword will fall on the apostate nation of a later day, and “the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever” (Isa. 32:17). But truth is exclusive… we must understand that. Christ did not come to make a false peace at the expense of righteousness.
35 For I have come to “set a man at variance with his father, and the daughter with her mother, and the daughter-in-law with her mother-in-law; 36 and they of his household shall be a man’s enemies.” [ref. Micah 7:5-6] vv.35-36 The testimony of the apostles would have a striking impact on the communities they reached. Families would be thrown into confusion. The closest earthly relationships, those who were naturally on the same page would suddenly be at odds when some received Christ. Does this contradict the principle given in 1 Cor. 14:33; “for God is not the author of confusion, but of peace”? No. It is not that God desires division or confusion, but rather it is the natural result of the truth entering family circles where some of their members reject Him. See Micah 7:5-6.
37 He who loves father or mother above me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter above me is not worthy of me. 38 And he who does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. 39 He that finds his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for my sake shall find it. vv.37-39 The path for faith is not an easy one in a Christ-rejecting world. Sin has made this world a wilderness, with thorns and briers in abundance. Three areas are addressed:
  • Give Christ the Preeminence in our Affections (v.37) – It isn’t that the Lord would have His servants be “without natural affection” (Rom. 1:31; 2 Tim. 3:3), but that the claims of Christ must have the first place over every other claim.
  • Be Willing to Suffer Shame and Rejection (v.38) – A cross in scripture always speaks of shame. Before a criminal was crucified, they were forced to undergo a walk of shame, carrying their cross (John 19:17). A man carrying a cross was a man who had already been sentenced. Likewise, the servant of Christ must be determined to suffer shame and be rejected by this world without any thought of escaping it.
  • Abandon all our Personal Ambitions (v.39) – To live in pursuance of one’s own ambitions is the modus operandi of this world. To find one’s life is to live entirely for self, at the expense of the claims of Christ. Here Jesus teaches that such a life is really lost, according to God’s estimation. But on the other hand, when a person abandons every personal and professional ambition in devotion to Christ (“for my sake”), the world calls that a “lost life”. But in reality, it is only that person who “truly lives” according to God’s purpose. You get the same principle in John 12:24. If the corn of wheat had been “saved” there would have been no continuation of life and fruit-bearing. But in Jesus accepting suffering and death, the result has been life! 

Remember: There will be Rewards for those who show Hospitality (vv.40-42)

40 He that receives you receives me, and he that receives me receives him that sent me. v.40 The principle of delegated authority means that the sent ones come with the authority of the Sender. But it also means that the Sender will reward those who receive His messengers as if it were Himself! This is the positive side. There would be those who would receive these messengers, and such would be rewarded.
41 He that receives a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. vv.41-42 He gives three examples of this principle of reward. The point in all three examples is that our response to the messengers of Christ in the time of rejection will manifest our true state of soul.
  • Receiving a prophet (v.41a) – the nation might look with shame upon an Israelite receiving a servant of God with a message for the time. But in receiving the prophet, that hospitable person would join themselves in fellowship with that ministry, and so earn “a prophet’s reward”. 
  • Receiving a righteous man (v.41b) – again, the servants of God would be slandered, and called unrighteous by the leaders of apostate Israel. If one hospitable person welcomed a servant of God into their home with a welcome worthy of a righteous man, they would share his reward. 
  • Refreshing a disciple (v.42) – now we are shown that God takes note of the smallest deed. A simple cup of water, or service of refreshment, to a disciple in the time of Christ’s rejection, will secure for heaven a disciple’s reward.
Note: An important thing to see is that the expression “in the name of” does not have a religious connotation. In scripture, a “name” refers to a person in their revealed character. For example, we must believe in “the Name of the only-begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). We must believe on Christ in His identity as the eternal and only Son of God. In a similar way, “to receive a prophet in the name of a prophet” is to receive him as a true prophet of God, etc. These verses are not instructing us to think of a prominent disciple or prophet and do our deeds in that person’s name, which has been the practice in Christendom.

Conclusion of Commission, Continuation of Ministry (11:1)

 And it came to pass when Jesus had finished commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and preach in their cities. v.1 Now that the commission of the twelve was complete, the Lord turns to “their cities”, or the cities of Galilee. Aside from his yearly visits to Jerusalem (given in John’s gospel) Jesus did not bring His ministry to Judea until the end of His path. Instead He remained to the north of the land, laboring with the poor folks of Galilee. Yet we will find in ch.11-12 that His ministry is utterly rejected by all.

Matthew 11 - 12

The Prevention of the Kingdom: Christ Rejected by Israel
Matthew 11 – 12
Christ’s rejection by Israel. In Isa. 49:3-13 we find that all of the Lord’s efforts in sending out the messengers of the Kingdom was unsuccessful in turning Israel to the Lord; “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought”. As a result, Jehovah has replaced Israel with Christ, as the accomplisher of His purpose in the earth; “though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD.” He will eventually gather Israel through His shepherd-voice, but what we see in ch.11-12 is Israel refusing to be gathered. In ch.11 we see Him being rejected by the villagers to the north of the land, in ch.12 we see Him rejected by the rulers in Judea.

John’s Doubts: the Significance of the Coming Dispensational Change (11:2-19)

The significance of this section (vv.2-19) is that it marks the transition between what we have had up through ch.10, which is Messiah’s testimony to Israel, and what we will find presented in ch.13, a new dispensation. The greatness of the transition is shown by the deep angst felt by John, and expressed in his words. How could he – the herald – be in prison if the Messiah was here? That very question encapsulates the “mystery phase” of the Kingdom of Heaven. The day of “manifestation” has been postponed, and in the meantime the servants of God must suffer for righteousness’ sake.
The transfer of John’s disciples to the Lord is detailed in John’s gospel, chapter 1. John begins the “first day” with two disciples (John 1:35), and ends the day with none. He hands the two off to Jesus, and they are joined by a third! John performed this transition seamlessly… except for one time when he has a moment of weakness in prison (Matt. 11). But even here Jesus declares him to be greatest of the prophets, nay more, the greatest born to women, because he selflessly handed over the fruits of his labor to the Christ at His coming, and inaugurated the Christian dispensation. And yet, so great was the new dispensation that the least in the kingdom would be greater than John!

John’s Question of Doubt Asked, then Answered by Jesus (vv.2-6)

 2 But John, having heard in the prison the works of the Christ, sent by his disciples, 3 and said to him, Art “thou” the coming one? or are we to wait for another? vv.2-3 Now John was discouraged. He was set aside in prison, and yet heard news that the Lord’s ministry was flourishing. Turn to Matt. 14:3-4 to see why he was in prison. John knew the verse: “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple.” Malachi 3:1 (see v.10). What John didn’t realize is that there would be a parenthesis of 2000 years between these two events! God’s purposes are sure, but He has His own timetable. We might say, “How could John question the Lord’s Messiahship? He was the forerunner; He had seen all the evidence.” The answer is, his heart was not prepared for what was coming, and the result was that he was discouraged. His heart still clung to Jewish hopes.
Discouragement is Satan’s most effective weapon. It is the tool he uses when no other tool will work on a believer. Discouragement comes from the disappointment of misplaced hopes. The result of discouragement in a soul is the doubt of God’s goodness and desire to bless. Unbelief is the root of every failure, and so Satan can then come in with his other strategies of lust, corruption, and the busyness of life. The Lord Jesus was the only man that was never discouraged (Isa. 42:4). Discouragement can come in when we see failure around us that we didn’t expect, or failure in our own lives that we feel helpless to correct. After seeing Jesus at His baptism, and hearing the voice from heaven, how could there be any doubt in His mind as to the authenticity of Christ’s Person? Yet time had passed, and all the while Satan’s assaults wore away the temporary shield of excitement. Alas, in a moment of weakness, John questions whether Jesus was the Messiah. He had the theory, he had the Word of God, but as time wore on and his circumstances failed to change, he became offended at the one whose shoe’s latchet he was not worthy to unloose. John said, speaking of Christ, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” But John had no idea when he said this how far he was going to have to decrease… eventually, to the executioner’s block.
4 And Jesus answering said to them, Go, report to John what ye hear and see. 5 Blind men see and lame walk; lepers are cleansed, and deaf hear; and dead are raised, and poor have glad tidings preached to them: 6 and blessed is whosoever shall not be offended in me.  vv.4-6 The Lord’s answer is precious and gentle. In v.4 He gives two subjects for the messengers to take to John; (1) what they had heard, and (2) what they had seen. The first was most important, because it is the Word of God that addresses heart and conscience. The works are for an outward sign. The message had two parts:
  • For John’s head (v.5). He reminds John of the proofs of His identity. Blind men see (John 9:1; Matt. 9:27; 12:22; 20:30). In fact, we never read of any blind eyes being opened in the Old Testament; that power was reserved for the Son of David (Isa. 35:5). Lame walk (Matt. 8:5; 9:2; John 5). Lepers are cleansed (Matt. 8:2; Luke 17:11). Deaf hear (Matt. 9:32; Mark 17:11). Dead are raised (Matt. 9:23; Luke 7:11; John 11:43). Poor have glad tidings preached to them.
  • For John’s heart (v.6). He gently remind him (and us by extension) that in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, “don’t be offended in me”. If John could be offended, it should be a warning to us lest we should falter. The best of men is a man at best.

Jesus Commends John before the Multitudes (vv.7-15)

vv.7-15 The Lord is careful to give John the words needed for his restoration, but once the messengers depart, He defends the dignity of John in spite of his recent failure. What a gracious Master! Jesus would not allow John’s moment of weakness to spoil the work he had accomplished.
7 But as they went away, Jesus began to say to the crowds concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? a reed moved about by the wind? 8 But what went ye out to see? a man clothed in delicate raiment? behold, those who wear delicate things are in the houses of kings. 9 But what went ye out to see? a prophet? Yea, I say to you, and more than a prophet: 10 this is he of whom it is written, “Behold, “I” send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.” [Malachi 3:1] vv.7-10 The Lord addresses the wrong views that the crowds had of John. He address three levels of opinion, showing that each fell short of the true significance of John and his ministry:
  1. v.7A reed shaken by the wind” – John was not a mere tourist attraction, worthy of nothing more than passing interest or idle curiosity. A “reed” in scripture is a weak thing. John was not a coward, shaken by the changing winds of public opinion; he was a man of courage.
  2. v.8A man clothed in delicate raiment” – John was not a political or social figure, looking to gain a following. He clothing was rough (Matt. 3:4), not delicate. This wasn’t an easy lifestyle. He was marked by self-sacrifice; a man of consecration.
  3. vv.9-10A prophet” – even the loftiest of man’s opinions concerning John fell short. He was no ordinary prophet, he was “my messenger”. What a privilege! He had the unique role of forming a remnant, turning the hearts of the people to the Lord. He was a man of communication.
11 Verily I say to you, that there is not arisen among the born of women a greater than John the baptist. But he who is a little one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he. v.11 For this reason (see v.10), John was the greatest born of women, of course excepting the Lord Himself. But then, the least in the Kingdom of Heaven would be greater than John the Baptist! A new order was about to commence. The blessings of the new dispensation would far outweigh those of Israel under the law; and those who possessed them must walk by faith with no outward display of power. This is a great key to understanding the Kingdom of Heaven in mystery. It is a time when things look dark, by earthly standards, yet we are to walk as those under the authority of Heaven and lordship of Christ, looking back on the finished work of Calvary, yet having our hopes on a future day; we will not be disappointed. Note: this is not saying that the personal faith of the weakest Christian is greater than that of John. It is simply this: to enjoy a small part of the Kingdom is better that to give a full testimony of its coming. Also, the “least in the kingdom” does not refer to Jesus; He is the King!
12 But from the days of John the baptist until now, the kingdom of the heavens is taken by violence, and the violent seize on it. 13 For all the prophets and the law have prophesied unto John. vv.12-13 The Lord shows that there is an action of faith needed now; that the kingdom of heaven here presented demands the rupture of natural ties and the giving up of previous associations. “All the prophets and the law” (the Old Testament) predicted the coming of the kingdom, and that testimony would encourage the hearts of the remnant who waited for it by faith. But the patience of faith is an endurance test. What they needed now was energy! The period of “kingdom-prophecy” was now terminated, because the King was here. The remnant needed to energetically force their way through the opposition of the apostate nation of Israel and the spite of their religious leaders, to join ranks with the rejected King. It would take ruthless self-judgment (violence) to navigate that transition.
14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, who is to come. v.14 Elijah, which is to come. There might be difficulty in reconciling v.14 with John’s answer in John 1:21. When asked, “Art thou Elijah?” he says, “I am not.” How is this denial from John himself to be reconciled with what the Lord says here? The key is: “And if ye will receive it… this is Elijah which was [literally “is”] to come.” Such a statement needed “ears to hear”. Recall that the Lord’s first coming was one of shame and rejection, but His second coming will be in power and glory. The Jews naturally cared only for the latter, because they didn’t have faith. In the same way Elijah came to those of faith in the person of John the Baptist, who testified in humiliation, etc. The expression “if ye will receive it” means that John wasn’t literally Elijah, but it was the spirit and power of Elijah if you had the faith to see the moral connection. John was doing the moral work of Elijah’s mission, which was to prepare the way of the Lord. But Elijah will come again to the apostate nation of Israel in a manner in keeping with the time of the end. (Rev. 11:1-14). So in that sense, Elijah was not yet come. This is also the reason that John said he was not Elias (John 1:21), and never applied Malachi 4:5-6 to himself. In the wonderful dualism of prophecy, had the mystery not been unfolded, John would have been the apocalyptic Elijah. This of course was never to be, but we can see the beautiful symmetry between the circumstances just before and after the Church period.
15 He that has ears to hear, let him hear. v.15 This expression is always connected with special prophetic revelations of vital importance. For example, it is repeated seven times over in Rev. 2-3 where were have a prophetic outline of Church History. Notice however, here it is “ears” (plural), but by the time we get to Revelation is it “ear” (singular). It has to be received by the attentive ear of faith.

The Capriciousness of the Multitudes Exposed (vv.16-19)

16 But to whom shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the markets, which, calling to their companions, 17 say, We have piped to you, and ye have not danced: we have mourned to you, and ye have not wailed. 18 For John has come neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He has a demon. 19 The Son of man has come eating and drinking, and they say, Behold, a man that is eating and wine-drinking, a friend of tax-gatherers, and of sinners: — and wisdom has been justified by her children. vv.16-19 These verses show that both John’s ministry and His own ministry were rejected by the common people. He illustrates their evil attitude with bored children sitting in the marketplace. They would never be satisfied. John came with a certain character (ruthless self-judgment) and they dismissed him as having a demon. Jesus came with a different character (grace to sinners) and they dismissed Him as a drunkard and low-life. They received neither: John was too strict, and Jesus was too gracious. This dual presentation (John and Jesus) had served to manifest the capriciousness of their hearts. The natural man does not receive the testimony of God because he doesn’t want to hear it! No matter what excuse they might give, failure to receive God’s testimony proved where they really stood (shown in vv.20-24). But on the other hand, “wisdom is justified by her children”; that is, those who did receive God’s testimony (justify wisdom) made plain that they stood on Wisdom’s side (shown in vv.25-27). The Lord’s sheep will always hear His voice (John 10:27). This applies to the faithful remnant in any dispensation.

Judgment to fall on the Northern Towns because of Unbelief (11:20-24)

vv.21-24 These verses show that God holds people responsible for the degree of light that they have. See Luke 12:37, and Romans 2:5-6.
 20 Then began he to reproach the cities in which most of his works of power had taken place, because they had not repented. v.20 This is a pivotal “then”. It is after the capriciousness of the multitudes has been exposed that the Lord pronounces judgment. They had rejected heavenly wisdom, and the result would be judgment from heaven. “They repented not” – these were the cities that had been given the greatest privilege in having the Lord among them, doing His works of power. They refused to “repent” or “rethink” their evil path of unbelief.

Woe to Chorazin and Bethsaida (vv.21-22)

21 Woe to thee, Chorazin! woe to thee Bethsaida! for if the works of power which have taken place in you, had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they had long ago repented in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say to you, that it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in judgment-day than for you. vv.21-22 Chorazin and Bethsaida were situated near the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. They are compared with Tyre and Sidon, which were Phoenician merchant-cities particularly responsible for scattering the children of Israel and selling them into slavery for profit (see Joel 3:3-6). The overthrow of Tyre predicted in Isa. 23 and Ezek. 26 was only partially accomplished by Nebuchadnezzar in the Judean captivity. Later, Alexander the Great utterly destroyed them according to Ezek. 26:3, 4, and sold the remaining inhabitants into slavery. They had been destroyed by Alexander, but their inhabitants still await the great white throne. Yet the Lord says that they would have repented if given the same witness as presented to Chorazin and Bethsaida. Those who had the light of the Lord’s ministry will be “beaten with many stripes” (Luke 12:47) compared to the inhabitants of Phoenicia.

Woe to Capernaum (vv.23-24)

23 And “thou”, Capernaum, who hast been raised up to heaven, shalt be brought down even to hades. For if the works of power which have taken place in thee, had taken place in Sodom, it had remained until this day. 24 But I say to you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in judgment-day than for thee. vv.23-24 Capernaum is located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. “Exalted unto heaven” – Capernaum was blessed above all other cities of Galilee, because the Lord had chosen to reside there during the three years of His public ministry, calling it “his own city” (Matt. 9:1). He wrought more mighty works in Capernaum than in any other place. Sodom was one of five cities in the Vale of Siddim. They were especially marked for their sin of gross immorality. Their sudden and violent destruction is recorded in Genesis 19. And yet the Lord says that had they been given the privilege awarded to Capernaum, they would have evaded destruction. But the hearts of these Jews to the north of Israel were so cold that their final judgment in the Lake of Fire will be more severe than the immoral wretches of Sodom. Note: judgment day in vv.21-23 refers to the day of the Lord, which is 1000 years, from the appearing to the great white throne.
Objection. Does this conflict with the doctrine of election? Is the Lord here teaching that all man needs is more light, and the flesh will be convinced to follow God’s way? First, look at the Lord’s argument. It isn’t to vindicate the inhabitants of Sodom, etc. but rather to condemn the inhabitants of Capernaum, etc. In other words, these verses are taking up man’s responsibility. Secondly, we must understand that the city of Sodom continuing is not the same as escaping the “day of judgment” (Rom. 2:16). The inhabitants of Sodom knew something of God from creation, and they rejected that light. The presence of Jesus among them might have prevented their descent into gross immorality, but another avenue for the flesh would have opened up. By the same token, Capernaum was not guilty of moral debauchery, but that was not the test God had laid before them. Rather, it was a test as to the reception of His Son. God tests man in different ways.

A Faithful Remnant Preserved for the Father’s Delight (11:25-30)

Christ’s Prayer of Praise to His Father (vv.25-27)

25 At that time, Jesus answering said, I praise thee, Father, Lord of the heaven and of the earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes. 26 Yea, Father, for thus has it been well-pleasing in thy sight. vv.25-26 The Lord was in perfect harmony with His Father’s mind in blinding the apostate nation and revealing His truth to a poor remnant. This is the way of God; “that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; etc. … that no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Cor. 1:26-29). Notice that He refers to the Father as “Lord of the heaven” as well as “of the earth“. The rejection of Israel was about to open out to a wider sphere of blessing characterized by heaven, which this little remnant would be ushered into. The connection between v.26 and v.27 is beautiful. The Lord humbly submits to the Father’s will… that He be rejected by men. And there, stripped of every official glory that rightly belonged to Him, His personal glory shines out in all its fullness!
27 All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son but the Father, nor does any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom the Son may be pleased to reveal himv.27 On the backdrop of His utter rejection by man, the Father’s delight in His Son is declared. “All things have been delivered” to the Son of the Father’s love. Notice that in Psa. 2 it is the Father’s delight in His Son that moves Him to say; “ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thy inheritance.” What is His personal glory?… His being the Son of the Father; as He says “my Father“. It is as a man on earth that He declares His Sonship. But it is an exclusive, transcendent relationship. Notice that the Son may reveal the Father, whom He knows, to others, but it does not say that the Father reveals to the Son to any. The Person of the Son is inscrutable! Who could look upon that Blessed Person and scrutinize the mystery of two natures, one Person; fully God and fully man? No one but the Father! The truth that we have in Matt. 11:27 (and Luke 10:22) is that the Person of the Son in manhood is inscrutable! In the incarnation, the Son took manhood into His Person. Read more… The system of evil doctrine invented by F.E. Raven, J. Taylor, and C.A. Coates to deny the eternal sonship of Christ includes dividing the person of Christ. When they say “Person,” they restrict the word “Person” to what He is in Deity. The truth is that the Son took humanity into His Person. This verse refers to His Person as God and man united in one Person. The Son is the only way to know the Father. The Father could not be revealed until the Son came. It takes a Divine Person to reveal a Divine secret. The Person of the Son is the key to knowing the Father, for He alone declared the Father. By rejecting the Son, the Jews were rejecting the only way to know the Father! How sad.
Connection between Matthew, John, and Paul. Matthew documents the rejection of Jesus as the Christ, and John begins with His rejection as a forgone conclusion! In Matthew, man's rejection of the Christ is the cause of Him retreating into His eternal identity as the Son of God (Matt. 11:17, Matt. 16:16), but just mentioned in a kernel-form. Then in John, the glories of the Son of God and the revelation of the Father are fully treated of. In Paul's writings, we have the glories of the Son as a foregone conclusion, and the main subject is the unfolding of those blessings that are ours as associated with the Person of the Son! There is a doctrinal progression therefore from Matthew to John, and from John to Paul.
Foregone conclusion
Old Testament history of Israel
Main subject
Christ presented and
rejected by His people
Foregone conclusion
Christ presented and
rejected by His people
Main subject
The glories of the Son,
the Father revealed
Foregone conclusion
The glories of the Son,
the Father revealed
Main subject
Our blessings in
association with Christ

Invitation to the Weary Remnant to Find Rest (vv.28-30)

28 Come to me, all ye who labour and are burdened, and “I” will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest to your souls; 30 for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. vv.28-30 These verses set before us the grace that “came by Jesus Christ”. It doesn’t say “come unto me righteous” but “all ye who labor and are burdened.” The yoke here is the yoke of legal bondage, not specifically the burden of sin. This verse is often applied in the gospel, and rightly so; but the proper interpretation of it is to the remnant of the Jews. Yet there can be a broad application to any who are under legal bondage. Their tutelage under the Law was over (Gal. 3:24). “I will give you rest”… the rest of knowing the Father, and the peace it brings. “My yoke” is the yoke of perfect obedience to the Father’s will; it is an easy yoke, unlike the cruel yoke of the law. He says “learn from me“; not “learn from my words” but “learn from my example”; Christ was one that perfectly walked in submission to the Father’s will, and He was the happiest man on earth (Psa. 1:1). Jesus could have described Himself many ways, but He close to call Himself “meek and lowly in heart”. What an example to us! Man is an active creature, and once he has rest for his soul, God will fill his hands with service; hence “take My yoke“. But it will be a service that is “easy” and “light” to the new nature.
Matthew 12
 continues the transition we saw in ch.11. Previously we had seen the preponderance of John, and Christ’s rejection by the Northern townspeople. Now we get His rejection by the religious leaders, and by the nation as a whole. In Mark we learn that many of those he was speaking to in this chapter had come up from Judea and Jerusalem. We find that Israel had by this time committed the unpardonable sin, in that they attributed the ministry of the Spirit of God to Beelzebub. Their final state or moral and spiritual ruin is predicted under the figure of a possessed man. Finally, the Lord reveals that a new dispensation was dawning, in which natural relationships took a back seat to spiritual relationships, and that obedience to the Father’s will was paramount. Then in ch.13, He teaches that the Kingdom would take on a mysterious form, in which we are living today. The overarching theme of this chapter is that a break was being made symbolically between Christ and Israel. I say symbolically because we know that the actual break occurred later. The setting aside of Israel can be seen in four phases:
  1. Judicially at the Cross (Psa. 69) – They rejected the Messiah.
  2. Officially at the Stoning of Stephen (Acts 7) – They rejected the Spirit’s testimony.
  3. Evangelically at the end of Acts (Acts 28) – Jew/Gentile order was reversed.
  4. Literally at the Destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70, Luke 21:12-22) – the blow finally fell.
Chronology of this section. The expression in v.1 “at that time” has the thought of a general time in which connected events occurred, not referring to a precise moment. In Mark’s gospel we get things presented chronologically, and the expression  “immediately,” or “forthwith” is frequently found. From Mark 2 we learn that this scene in the cornfields occurred on the Sabbath following the call of Levi, and before the sending out of the disciples. The Spirit of God places these events here to support the theme of Christ’s rejection by the nation, and their consequent rejection by God.

Rejection Concerning Jesus’ Authority over the Sabbath (12:1-21)

Plucking Grain on the Sabbath: Christ is Lord of the Sabbath (vv.1-8)

 At that time Jesus went on the sabbath through the cornfields; and his disciples were hungry, and began to pluck the ears and to eat. 2 But the Pharisees, seeing it, said to him, Behold, thy disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on sabbath. vv.1-2 The King and His followers had been rejected. No one had offered them hospitality, and so Jesus led them through the cornfields where the disciples availed themselves of the wheat that was ripe. This was in keeping with the provision made in the law, “When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbour’s standing corn” (Deut. 23:25). But because they did this on the Sabbath day, the Pharisees called attention to what they considered a breaking of the Sabbath commandment. To the legal-minded, plucking the ears of corn was equivalent to reaping one’s field on the Sabbath.
The Sabbath is a vastly important subject, tying together Old and New Testaments. To understand its purpose, the Jews’ misconceptions about it, and the importance of these actions being carried out on the Sabbath day, we must understand God’s thoughts about the whole subject; see entry on the Sabbath. Exodus 31:13-17 shows that the Sabbath was the sign of Jehovah’s covenant with Israel. Neither of these two things that the Lord and His disciples did (plucking grain, then healing the withered hand) were prohibited by the Law, but these actions done specifically on the Sabbath showed that the covenant with Israel was being figuratively suspended. Israel was in a sad state. In bondage to the Romans, they were stripped of much of their identity as the people of Jehovah. But they still had the Sabbath, or so they thought, and over-stressed it as a way of reassuring themselves of their place among the nations. They hung, connected as it were, to Jehovah by a thin string. That string was the Sabbath; and the Lord was here with a pocket knife, slicing away thread by thread, until… SNAP; the connection is severed (ch.12). This is why the Pharisees pursued Him so doggedly on this issue.
vv.3-4 The Lord next gave two Old Testament examples that justified the actions of His disciples, but more importantly, that condemned the Jews. The first example is that of their most honored king of antiquity, and the second was of the priesthood all the way up to the present day. The unifying theme in these two examples is this: sin necessitates the setting aside of religious ceremony. In John 5 we have the same truth from God’s side; because while sin exists in the creation, Father and Son cannot rest.
3 But he said to them, Have ye not read what David did when he was hungry, and they that were with him? 4 How he entered into the house of God, and ate the shewbread, which it was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those with him, but for the priests only? vv.3-4 1st Example: King David and his followers (1 Sam. 21:4-6). David was no stranger to reproach, and suffering. Why was David hungry? It was because he was being hunted by Saul, a king after the people’s heart. The same was true in the time of our Lord. The true King after God’s heart had been rejected, and was being persecuted by the ruling class among His own people. Think of it, the Messiah left hungry on the Sabbath day? Did that shewbread, a symbol of God’s sustaining provision for Israel, hold any legal restriction in the sight of God when His own were in need? No… the ceremonial law was never intended to harm God’s people, but that is how the Pharisees were using it. In the giving of the Law, exceptions for cases of necessity (David’s hunger, etc.) were not expressed, and yet we can see that they were implied, not only with the Sabbath, but with all other ceremonies as well. Admittedly, it was disorderly for David to burst into the house of God and ask for bread; but it was indicative of Israel’s deplorable state! It wasn’t proud dignity that drove David to make his request (c.p. with Uzziah the king, who was struck with leprosy; 2 Chron. 26:16), but his hunger. Note: to be clear, the shewbread eaten by David and his men was from the prior week; the fresh batch was in the oven at the time of David’s request.
5 Or have ye not read in the law that on the sabbaths the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? 6 But I say unto you, that there is here what is greater than the temple. vv.5-6 2nd Example: the Priestly Duties must be carried out on the Sabbath. The Old Testament made it clear that the priests in the temple do not cease their work on the Sabbath day. In 2 Chron. 2:4 Solomon states that the Temple was intended “… for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts of the LORD our God. This is an ordinance for ever to Israel.” There was no provision for the priests to break the Sabbath! So what do we learn? That which is ceremonially right must give way to that which what is morally right. It was Israel’s sin that demanded the sacrifices. It is abundantly clear that the presence of sin in Israel demanded what was morally right, and what was normally right from a ceremonial standpoint must be set aside. Christ was far greater than David (vv.3-4) and also far greater than the temple (vv.5-6), insomuch as He was the bodily dwelling-place of the Godhead (Col. 2:9). Surely, it was morally right for the cornfields to yield their bounty to the rejected King; on the Sabbath day, or on any other day.
7 But if ye had known what is: “I will have mercy and not sacrifice” [Hosea 6:6], ye would not have condemned the guiltless. v.7 Now the Lord quotes plainly from Hosea 6:6, Jehovah states that He prefers right moral actions (loving-kindnesses) over ceremonial activity (sacrifice). If the Pharisees really knew the heart of Jehovah, they would have understood that scripture, and would not have condemned the disciples, who were in Jesus’ words, guiltless.
8 For the Son of man is Lord of the sabbath. v.8 Finally, to conclude the whole Sabbath controversy, Jesus declares that, as Son of Man, He is Lord of the Sabbath. His title of “Son of Man” is what Christ takes in special connection with all of mankind; as either the rejected Sufferer on behalf of man, rejected by all, or as exalted Heir of all that God destines for man (see Heb. 2:6-8, and 1 Cor. 15:27). When the Lord is rejected as Messiah, we see Him come forth as Son of Man effecting a wider sphere of blessing. As Son of Man, Jesus is the object of God’s purpose in creating mankind. In other words, God was thinking of Jesus when He created Adam. As such, the Sabbath had no binding power over Him. “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). As Son of Man, He was Master of the Sabbath, and could dispose of it as He saw fit. By taking up the title “Son of man” which embraces Gentiles as well as Jews, and by declaring His power over the Sabbath (the token of the covenant between Jehovah and Israel, Ezek. 20:12-20), the Lord showed that Israel was being set aside, and a new dispensation was coming in.

Doing Good on the Sabbath: Healing of the Withered Hand (vv.9-14)

This event (compare) happened most likely in the synagogue in Capernaum. The previous event (plucking ears of corn) did not involve the Lord personally working on the Sabbath, but His disciples only. In this event, the Lord does work Himself on the Sabbath day.
 9 And, going away from thence, he came into their synagogue. 10 And behold, there was a man having his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath? that they might accuse him. vv.9-10 We find the evil heart of the Pharisees manifested. They bait the Lord with one of their own sheep! Ever gracious, and without ignorance, the Lord takes the bait. But He first addresses the heart.
11 But he said to them, What man shall there be of you who has one sheep, and if this fall into a pit on the sabbath, will not lay hold of it and raise it up? 12 How much better then is a man than a sheep! So that it is lawful to do well on the sabbath. vv.11-12 If any one of these Pharisees had a sheep that was stuck in a pit on the Sabbath, they would not hesitate to do that servile work required to pull it out. Why? Because they view that sheep as their property, and it advantaged them to save its life. But they would not extend the same kindness to a fellow human being in a pit, because it was the Sabbath day. The Lord shrewdly exposes that it was not  “truthful righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24) in their hearts, but a manipulation of the law to serve self. “How much better then is a man than a sheep!” – a question we might well ask the liberals of today, who count the life of an unborn human less than that of an animal. The logic of His argument cannot be avoided. If you can unscrupulously help an animal on the Sabbath when the motive is wrong, then surely it is lawful to help a man on the Sabbath when the motive is right!
13 Then he says to the man, Stretch out thy hand. And he stretched it out, and it was restored sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees, having gone out, took counsel against him, how they might destroy him. vv.13-14 And so Christ proceeds to help a poor “sheep” on the Sabbath day. Notice how closely this man’s physical condition represented Israel’s spiritual condition. Hands in scripture speak of service; and Israel was powerless to do anything for God. Unlike this poor man, the Jews were unwilling to have Christ heal them. Instead, the Sanhedrin gather to plot His destruction. They felt that Christ had dealt a death-blow to their entire religious system… and they were correct. Jehovah was on earth, practically tearing up the seal of His covenant with Israel. They were feeling the pressure.

Rejected by His People, a Greater Circle of Blessing Opens (vv.15-21)

15 But Jesus knowing it, withdrew thence, and great crowds followed him; and he healed them all: v.15 Just as He had taken up the “mantle” of the Son of Man, now being plotted against by the religious elite, He “withdraws” – a symbolic action – withdrawing from the nation of Israel. Then He reaches out in blessing to the masses. He healed them “all” – without restriction on gender, race, or social class.
Symbolic Actions. The Lord takes a number of symbolic actions in Matt. 12-13 to demonstrate the break with Israel and the ushering in of a new dispensation.
  1. Healing on the Sabbath (12:1-14) – Jehovah terminating His covenant relationship 
  2. Withdrawing himself (12:15) – placing distance between Himself and Israel 
  3. No more lifting up His voice (vv.16-21) – signaling the suspension of the Kingdom in power
  4. No more signs to be given (12:38-42) – God had abandoned attempts to convert the nation 
  5. Breaks link with mother and brethren (12:46-50) – setting aside the natural order for the spiritual 
  6. Goes out of the house down to the sea (13:1-2) – Turning toward the Gentiles 
  7. Begins to speak in parables (13:10-17) – opening up the secrets of the Kingdom in mystery to the faithful remnant.
16 and charged them strictly that they should not make him publicly known: 17 that that might be fulfilled which was spoken through Esaias the prophet, saying, 18 “Behold my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, in whom my soul has found its delight. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall shew forth judgment to the nations. 19 He shall not strive or cry out, nor shall any one hear his voice in the streets; 20 a bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, until he bring forth judgment unto victory; 21 and on his name shall the nations hope.” [Isa. 42:1-4] vv.16-21 The Lord had not come to make a big flash, like the celebrities of this world. He “charged them strictly” that they should not publicize Him. How different from the spirit of this world! The Spirit of God quotes from Isa. 42 to illustrate the Messiah’s tone and attitude when He would appear.
  • Especially claimed by Jehovah – “my servant, my elect, my beloved, my delight” 
  • Acted in the power of the Spirit – “I will put my Spirit upon him” 
  • Exercised authority over the Gentiles (hinted at, but largely still future) – “he shall shew forth judgment to the nations” 
  • Would not publicize Himself (v.16) – “He shall not strive or cry out, etc.” This may also be connected with the cessation of the urgent Gospel of the Kingdom. From this point forward in Matthew, the Kingdom of heaven is no longer proclaimed as “at hand“.
  • Would not come as a judge at His first coming – “a bruised reed shall he not break, etc.” A “bruised reed” would be relative weakness. A “smoking flax” would be a repulsive smell. Things He could have easily rectified with divine power, instead He left them until the appearing. 
  • Reaching out with blessing to the Gentiles (hinted at, but largely still future) – “and on his name shall the nations hope.”

Rejection Concerning the Source of Jesus’ Power: the Unpardonable Sin (12:22-37)

The Final Testimony Rejected: Christ Heals the Possessed Man (vv.22-24)

This event (compare) is the final testimony to Israel, in this symbolic sequence. With the healing of this man a crisis is reached. The gracious power of the Spirit of God was on full display. What would the Jews do? They categorically condemn it as from Satan. This is a turning point. To speak injuriously against the Spirit of God is unpardonable sin. From this moment on, Israel is symbolically set aside in Matthew’s gospel.
 22 Then was brought to him one possessed by a demon, blind and dumb, and he healed him, so that the dumb man spake and saw. v.22 Here we have a man that is in the worst possible case. He is possessed by a demon, he is blind, and he is unable to speak. The Lord frankly heals him, and the healed man demonstrates that he is healed before the multitudes. This man is a picture of Israel in the natural state: (1) possessed – under Satan’s power, (2) blind – without spiritual perception, (3) dumb – unable to render the praise that is due to God. The healing offered to this man is what Christ could have done for Israel, if they had received Him. This was a final sign to Israel.
23 And all the crowds were amazed and said, Is this man the Son of David? 24 But the Pharisees, having heard it, said, This man does not cast out demons, but by Beelzebub, prince of demons. vv.23-24 The testimony is so clear and convincing that even the ignorant crowds raise the question of His being the Son of David. This momentum in the crowd produces a reaction from the Pharisees; “when they heard it.” They attribute the Lord’s miracle to Beelzebub (“Lord of the Flies”), or the Prince of the demons, who can be none other than Satan himself. In the same account in Mark they actually say that the Lord was demon-possessed. Think of it, the very one on whom the Spirit of Jehovah was placed upon for power in blessing (v.18) had worked in such grace… and they attribute it to Satan. In doing so, they manifest that they are the ones who are possessed, blind, and dumb. This was now the second time they had committed this blasphemy (see Matt. 9:34), and “in the mouth of two or three witnesses” their guilt was established.

A House or Kingdom Divided Cannot Stand (vv.25-28)

25 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not subsist. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then shall his kingdom subsist? vv.25-26 The Lord goes on to explain how their claims would be impossible; a kingdom divided or a house divided against itself cannot stand, etc. Satan has a kingdom, and He is the head of that kingdom. If some of his servants defeat others of his servants, his kingdom would fall. It wouldn’t make sense for Satan to be fighting against himself. 
27 And if “I” cast out demons by Beelzebub, your sons, by whom do they cast them out? For this reason “they” shall be your judges. v.27 Some of the younger generation, sons of the Pharisees, had become followers of our Lord, and had performed exorcisms. If Jesus was working by Beelzebub’s power, what did that say about their own children? The younger generation would be their judges. Just as in the early days of the Exodus, when the children inherited the blessing offered to and scorned by the parents (read Deut. 1:39).
28 But if “I” by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then indeed the kingdom of God is come upon you. v.28 He plainly says “I cast out devils by the Spirit of God.” In fact, the power by which God does everything is the Holy Ghost. What they were really saying is that the Holy Ghost’s power was Satanic! If it was Satan’s power behind Him, then He would be presenting Satan’s kingdom. But if it was God’s power behind Him, then He would be presenting God’s kingdom. The kingdom of God was come unto them, personified by our Lord Jesus Christ in the perfection of His walk and ways. “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17).

A Strong Man Bound (vv.29-30)

29 Or how can any one enter into the house of the strong man and plunder his goods, unless first he bind the strong man? and then he will plunder his house. v.29 He had broached the subject of Satan’s kingdom falling, and He picks up on that line. Satan’s kingdom would not fall due to “friendly fire”, or his servants fighting within themselves. No, Christ Himself was actively plundering Satan’s house; He was the Spoiler of Satan’s dark power! But in order to freely enter a strong man’s house, the strong man must be bound. A mere man could not spoil Satan’s house. It required one who could meet the enemy’s temptations, and overcome him. Jesus had met the strong man, Satan, in the wilderness (Matthew 3) and had overcome him! Ever since, He had gone about through the land of Israel spoiling his goods, in the power of the Spirit of God.
30 He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathers not with me scatters. v.30 A critical juncture had been reached. The proverbial line had now been drawn in the sand. The time had come for those who believed on Him to take a definite stand. There were only two classes: those who were for Him, and those who were against Him – neutrality was not an option. Those who were not with Him were really against Him; the tendency of their efforts was self-glorification, and not gathering to the Person of Christ. Such activity, regardless of zeal, was scattering abroad.

Blasphemy Against the Holy Ghost (vv.31-32)

31 For this reason I say unto you, Every sin and injurious speaking shall be forgiven to men, but speaking injuriously of the Spirit shall not be forgiven to men. v.31 The Lord is now connecting the Pharisees’ sin with a turning point in God’s governmental dealings with Israel. God had given them the greatest possible witness; His Spirit working in power and grace through His Son on earth. By attributing the action of the Holy Spirit through the Person of Christ to Satan, they had blasphemed (spoke injuriously against) the Holy Ghost. Israel was rapidly falling into this sin; a slide which would be complete in the stoning of Stephen, who remarked on their whole history, “Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51). It is a process, not a single act, because they had previously said these same words in Matt. 9:34. It isn’t something a person just slips up and says… it is a conscious state a person enters though a process of rejection. But finally, when the line is crossed, they have demonstrated a seared conscience, which is not capable of repentance, nor subject to forgiveness. It isn’t that there is some deficiency with the work of Christ; because “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Rather, by committing this blasphemy, these ones were manifesting that they were past the point of no return.
32 And whosoever shall have spoken a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this age nor in the coming onev.32 The Son of man is the Lord’s title in rejection. The Son of man came with the expectation of being rejected as a Person; for He “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). But the nation was so bold, they not only reject Him as a Person, but went beyond to insult the pure Spirit of grace which testified of Him. Neither in this age (the Mosaic age, of the Law) nor in the coming age (the Millennial Kingdom) will the governmental consequence of this sin ever be lifted from the apostate class (“this generation”). Even 2000 years later, when the nation is on the threshold of entering into the Millennium, the apostate class will be denied a place of blessing.
Who can commit blasphemy against the Holy Ghost? Strictly speaking, these verse apply to those to whom the Lord was speaking; the class of apostate Jewish leaders who had witnessed first-hand the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Lord is speaking to a class of persons, later called "this generation" (see note). However, He does say "whosoever" bringing forward the consequences for individuals who find themselves in that class. Hebrews makes it clear that the testimony of the Holy Spirit continued after the Lord was on earth; "so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will…" (Heb. 2:3-4). It is not even possible, technically speaking, to blaspheme the Holy Ghost today, as the Lord and His apostles are no longer here.
What about today? However, there is a solemn passage in Hebrews which applies this same principle to Christianity. "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God ...and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace" (Heb. 10:28, 29). In this sense, it is possible for a person today to commit despite to the Spirit of grace. Who can do that? Only an apostate. An apostate is one who once had a profession of Christianity and partook of its blessings, but then fell away from "the faith", never truly having possessed "saving faith". Merely rejecting the gospel does not constitute blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. There were those who "were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come" and yet remained unconverted. If they were to reject that testimony of the Spirit, "it is impossible… to renew them again unto repentance." Incorrect use has been made of this verse to teach that the believer's security is conditional, and that it is possible, once saved, to be lost again. This is false, for it denies many other scriptures, such as John 10:27-29. Only an unbeliever could really say with open-eyed, deliberate hatred toward God, that the Holy Spirit is demonic.
Governmental Forgiveness vs. Eternal Forgiveness. We must bear in mind that there are several aspects of forgiveness. Eternal forgiveness is not spoken of prior to the cross. It is most often governmental forgiveness that is taken up. Governmental forgiveness is divine exemption from the governmental consequences of our sins in this life. A person may remain under the government of God until death, perhaps due to an unforgiving spirit, but then go to heaven (Matthew 6:14-15). Here the Lord is speaking to the leaders of apostate Israel. Israel will never again be forgiven this blasphemy and restored to Jehovah en masse. To be clear, they will be nationally restored (Rom. 11:26), but it will be through a remnant. You can see that it is governmental forgiveness because the Lord jumps forward to the millennium; "neither in that age which is to come". Certainly, those who he was speaking to have long since died. But that same moral class will be present at the close of this epoch, and they will not be allowed to enjoy the blessings of the Spirit in the Millennium. They had "tasted" of the Spirit's grace, and rejected it. And while a remnant will be brought into the full enjoyment of the Spirit in the Kingdom, the apostate ruling class will be cut off in the Great Tribulation judgment. However, in that the individuals within the class of "blasphemers" are apostates, the consequences are eternal; for "it shall not be forgiven him".
Sin against the Holy Ghost. What about believers? What word does this subject have for our conscience? The Holy Ghost is on earth indwelling the House of God. We are exhorted to walk uprightly in light of this fact "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30).

One particular evil that has pervaded the Church is clericalism. The clerical principle is a special kind of sin against the Holy Spirit, because it denies the Spirit's place in the Church, and replaces Him with a false system. The clerical principle states that all true ministry flows from the clergy, and any lay preaching is from the Devil. You can see how this evil is of the same character as what the Jewish leaders were guilty of in Matthew 12:30-31. As Israel spoke injuriously against the Spirit in their dispensation, so Christendom has denied the Spirit in our dispensation. The Church has effectively denied the presence and power of the Holy Spirit on earth. Collectively, the Jewish system came into judgment in 70 A.D., and one day the clerical system of Christendom will come into judgment as well, at the middle of Daniel's seventieth week. While we wouldn’t call the clerical principle "blasphemy" against the Holy Spirit, we can see that it is "sin" against the Spirit, and certainly the dispensational counterpart to what Israel was guilty of.1

If a believer committed this sin, could they lose their salvation? No. None of the elect will ever commit this sin. We know based on the doctrine of election that every person is either a "vessel of wrath" or a "vessel of mercy". If you are a vessel of mercy, you were chosen in an eternity past and He gave you the faith to believe when the time came. You were elected. A vessel of wrath is a person that was not elected, but when given the opportunity, hardened their heart (like Pharaoh, read Romans 9:14-24) and thus fitted themselves for judgment, despite God's long-suffering. Later, God hardened Pharaoh's heart, hence the phrase "it is impossible." Since none of the redeemed can or will ever commit this sin, there is no contradiction with 1 John 1:7.
A couple helpful realizations that help with this type of question:
  • There are two aspects to the atonement of Christ. Propitiation is the aspect in which Christ died to perfectly satisfy God. In this aspect He died for the whole WORLD. Substitution is the aspect in which Christ died for ME. In this aspect He only paid for the individual sins of those who would be SAVED.
  • Whenever we come to two verses that seem to contradict each other, we need to accept both as true, even if we can't comprehend how they can both coexist. For example; "blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men" is 100% true and "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" is 100% true. What I have started to do is simply accept the Word of God, and then ask him to make it clear to me if it pleases Him. And He usually does.

Their Evil Heart was manifested by their Words (vv.33-37)

vv.33-37 The Lord now demands a clear distinction between black and white, evil and good. In this section He shows that the Jew’s actions demonstrated their evil heart. He gives four illustrations of “this generation”, each one showing that the evil heart was the cause of their evil actions. The four examples are: (1) a corrupt tree, (2) young snakelets, (3) a contaminated spring, and (4) an evil treasure house. These four can be roughly correlated to the four descriptions of the human mouth in Romans 3:13-14.

Example #1: A corrupt tree yields corrupt fruit (v.33)

33 Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt. For from the fruit the tree is known. v.33 The reason why the fruit was bad was that the tree was corrupt. In Matt. 7:15-20 the Lord used the same illustration of trees in application to false prophets (Matt. 7:17-18, 20). Here the fruit is specifically a person’s words. You can only identify a tree by its fruit. The essential nature of a tree is borne out in its fruit. Corrupt fruit has the thought of deceitful words; “with their tongues they have used deceit” (Rom. 3:13). On the other hand, the faithful remnant could speak good things, because they had been given a new nature.

Example #2: A young snakelet acts like a snake (v.34a)

34a Offspring of vipers! how can ye speak good things, being wicked? v.34a A viper is a small venomous snake. Serpents in scripture speak of Satan (Gen. 3:1). A “generation” of vipers is an expression that shows this class was composed of the Devil’s children (John 8:37-47), which are apostates who have hardened themselves against the truth, and thus given themselves up to the service of Satan. They manifested the same character as their father the Devil. This was the very condemnation John had given them in Matt. 3:7; nothing had changed. Snake poison especially has the thought of vindictive words; “the poison of asps is under their lips”(Rom. 3:13); as they had just spoken injuriously against the Holy Ghost.

Example #3: A contaminated spring yields a contaminated stream (v.34b)

34b For of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. v.34b The principle is given to us that the mouth is the barometer of the heart. The illustration is a fountain or spring. The “abundance” of water creates upward pressure, and a hole opens to allow the water out. Whatever condition the water is in underneath is what will be manifested on the surface. The fountain is the human heart, and the stream is the language that flows from the human mouth. See James 3:11. A contaminated stream might be bitter words; “whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness” (Rom. 3:14, see also Rev. 8:11).

Example #4: An evil treasure house yields evil treasure (v.35)

35 The good man out of the good treasure brings forth good things; and the wicked man out of the wicked treasure brings forth wicked things. v.35 If someone gives you a gift, you expect it to be good, or helpful. If you receive a wicked gift, you must realize that the source is wicked, and there is more where that gift came from. All that the sinful heart can produce in sinful talk. “Wicked things” might have the thought of vulgar words; “their throat is an open sepulcher” (Rom. 3:13). On the other hand, the faithful remnant could speak good things, because they had been given a new nature.

Summary: What we say is important (vv.36-37)

36 But I say unto you, that every idle word which men shall say, they shall render an account of it in judgment-day: 37 for by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. vv.36-37 The Pharisees might have argued that the blasphemy they had just uttered was unintentional, or idle words. The Lord summarizes the four preceding examples to show that even idle or flippant words are significant, because they manifest a person’s heart. It works both ways, not only to condemn the Christ-rejecter, but to save the believer; for “it is with the mouth that confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:10). The judgment day refers to the day of the Lord, which is the period of 1000 years in which Christ will reign and evil will be put down. It is referred to as “a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained” (Act 17:31). It includes the appearing, the millennial reign, and the great white throne where “God shall judge the secrets of men… by Jesus Christ” (Rom. 2:16). We might well make an application of this to believers, “for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10), where “every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12).

Israel’s Unbelief would Result in Solemn Judgment (12:38-45)

No more Signs to be Given, Except the Sign of the Prophet Jonas (vv.38-42)

 38 Then answered him some of the scribes and Pharisees, saying, Teacher, we desire to see a sign from thee. v.38 To think of requesting a sign after just condemning His miracles as by Beelzebub; it was a calculated and audacious insult. It was meant to doubt the credibility of Christ’s claims. They would sit in judgment on Him. The Lord has already performed many signs, and we have just seen ten signs to the nation in ch.8-9.
39 But he, answering, said to them, A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and a sign shall not be given to it save the sign of Jonas the prophet. 40 For even as Jonas was in the belly of the great fish three days and three nights, thus shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. vv.39-40 Only a wicked and wanton generation would ask for a sign with no intention of receiving it. The Son came to save, and not to judge; but He would not pander to the whims of that generation. And yet, He would give them a sign to look for – the sign of the Prophet Jonahwhich was a sign of God’s judgment on Israel. Due to Israel’s stubbornness, God has put them in the place of death, and meanwhile turned toward the Gentiles. In the death of Christ we see the end of all that man is in Adam, and in the resurrection of Christ we see the glorified Second Man as the Accomplisher of God’s purpose. But notice that the three days in view here are not inclusive of the resurrection. They specifically pertain to the grave of Christ. This was a sign, not only of the sureness of Christ’s claims, but of judgment on Israel. When the Son of man was laid in the grave, it was proof that Israel’s judgment was pending, and that God would take up with the Gentiles. It was the only sign left to give “this generation”.
Controversy over the three days and three nights in the “Sign of Jonas”. In recent years, there has been an increase in confusion about our Lord’s resurrection following the three days and three nights buried in the earth. See encyclopedia entry on the Grave of Christ.
This generation. Twelve times over in Matthew's gospel the term "this generation" is used.  Matt. 3:7; 11:16; 12:34, 39, 41, 42, 45; 16:4; 17:17; 23:33, 36; 24:34. Half of those are found in ch.11-12. It refers to the moral class of individuals among the nations of Israel that have been the rejecters of God's testimony throughout the nation's history. We have this pattern all though prophecy: judgment upon the mass, and the deliverance of a remnant. We know that this is a class of persons by the context in which the expression occurs. For example, in Matt. 23 it speaks of "this generation" saying; "That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar." It isn't that God will attribute the sins of some to others, but that judgment would finally fall on that class in light of their sins all down through the centuries. The Lord describes them vividly:
  • A generation of vipers (Matt. 3:7; 12:34)
  • A generation like unto children sitting in the markets (Matt. 11:16)
  • A wicked and adulterous generation (Matt. 12:39)
  • An unbelieving and perverted generation (Matt. 17:17)
Typically, a generation is a matter of years (20 yrs. or so), a lifetime at most. But the meaning of a "generation" in prophecy is moral rather than chronological. For example; in Psalm 12:7, "Thou shalt keep them, O Lord; Thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever." The term "this generation" is coupled with "for ever", which in the Old Testament does not denote eternity, but a great length of time. And so it is in the prophetic scriptures. This is important because Preterists will use verses like Matt. 24:34 to insist that the fulfillment of Daniel's seventieth week occurred within one literal generation.
vv.41-42 We get two elements that “this generation” was missing which could have altered their destiny. True repentance as shown by the Ninevites, and keen interest as shown the Queen of the South. Both Jonah and Solomon were servants of God in Israel, but signs to Gentiles. Jonah’s testimony bore fruit to the north in Nineveh, and Solomon’s to the south in Sheba. This shows that in the face of Israel’s rejection, God was going to occupy Himself with Gentiles, as we will see in the next chapter.
41 Ninevites shall stand up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and behold, more than Jonas is here. v.41 The people of Nineveh are commended for their repentance at Jonah’s preaching. They were especially characterized by violence (Jonah 3:8), and yet when the word reached the king of Nineveh, it says “he arose from his throne, and laid his robe from him, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes” and proclaimed a fast (Jonah 3:6-7). How different was the spirit of the Ninevites from these haughty Jews. One far greater than Jonah was here, but the only response was rejection.
42 A queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, more than Solomon is here. v.42 The Queen of Sheba displayed great earnestness in her coming to see King Solomon. She had a longing in her heart, for “she came to prove him with hard questions” and “she communed with him of all that was in her heart” (1 Kings 10:1-2). A 1000-mile journey to Jerusalem was to her a small price, to hear the wisdom of Solomon. The cold hearts of this wicked generation remained motionless in the presence of One far superior to Solomon.
Three Messianic Offices in which Christ is “greater than” the Jewish order.
  1. As Priest He is “greater than the temple” (v.6)
  2. As Prophet He is “greater than Jonas” (v.41)
  3. As King He is “greater than Solomon” (v.42)

Israel Like A Man Once Possessed, In Danger of Repossession (vv.43-45)

The Lord now moves on to speak prophetically of Israel’s future spiritual state. He compares three phases of Israel’s history:
  1. Their condition before captivity – a possessed man 
  2. Their condition after captivity – an empty man 
  3. Their condition in the Great Tribulation – an eightfold possessed man
To be clear, the Lord is not now talking about individuals being possessed by demons. As in the prior verses, the Lord is here speaking typically about Israel, and specifically “this generation” (v.45).
 43 But when the unclean spirit has gone out of the man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and does not find itv.43 Israel’s idolatrous state before captivity is pictured as a possessed man. The worship of idols is always connects with demons (1 Cor. 10:19-20), and as a result the “unclean spirit” is a symbol for idolatry. Israel was brought into captivity because of idolatry (2 Chron. 7:19-22). The Babylonian captivity lasted seventy years (Jer. 29:10; Dan. 9:2), and then a remnant was brought back. When they returned from the captivity, they were no longer characterized by idolatry, nor to this day (Hosea 3:4). This is pictured by the unclean spirit departing out of the man. But while the sentence of captivity was passed, the root problem had not been judged. The issue of idolatry is still lingering, like the unclean spirit vainly seeking rest in dry places.
44 Then he says, I will return to my house whence I came out; and having come, he finds it unoccupied, swept, and adorned. v.44 But there was no real deep work of national repentance. Without Jehovah in their hearts, Israel was like a house; empty, swept, and garnished. The idolatrous habit had been set aside, and a clean appearance put on. The Pharisees were exemplary of this. They would:
  • Keep clean the outside of the cup and of the platter (Matt. 23:25). 
  • Compass sea and land to make one proselyte (Matt. 23:15). 
  • Pay tithes of mint and anise and cummin (Matt. 23:23). 
  • Build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchers of the righteous (Matt. 23:29).
But it was all an outward show. Inside they were unchanged, and unrepentant. Outward cleanness is no substitute for spiritual fidelity, because the human heart needs an object to worship. Israel has remained in this “empty & clean” condition for 2000 years.
45 Then he goes and takes with himself seven other spirits worse than himself, and entering in, they dwell there; and the last condition of that man becomes worse than the first. Thus shall it be to this wicked generation also. v.45 The idolatrous spirit will one day return with a vengeance! The vacancy will be filled by the Antichrist who will enforce the worship of the Beast (Dan. 11:38-39; Rev. 13:14-15). This is a worse form of idolatry than they have ever been involved with previously; because it is the worship of a man, and a diabolical man at that. What is the time frame for this? “Their last state“. It will be in the time of the end, when Israel is in its final phase of wickedness. And still, it is the same moral class that will come under judgment; “this wicked generation“.
1 + 7 = 8
of the Beast
a new form of iniquity

The Lord Cuts His Ties with Nature (12:46-50)

 46 But while he was yet speaking to the crowds, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, seeking to speak to him. v.46 By comparing with Mark 3:21 and 31 we find that “his relatives” came up to seek Him in unbelief, and with a wrong attitude. They were trying to “rein in” the Lord as they felt He was going crazy. They tried to “lay hold on him, for they said, He is out of his mind.” The Lord takes this opportunity to set aside the claims of natural relationship, and to show that spiritual relationships were the only true ones.
47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren are standing without, seeking to speak to thee. 48 But he answering said to him that spoke to him, Who is my mother, and who are my brethren? 49 And, stretching out his hand to his disciples, he said, Behold my mother and my brethren; 50 for whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in the heavens, he is my brother, and sister, and mother. vv.47-50 Stretching forth His hands is a symbolic action. The Lord refuses to own the natural relationships with His own mother and half-siblings. It wasn’t a lack of natural affection, because we see Him even on the cross making arrangements for John to care for His earthly mother (John 19:26). As with His natural family, the Lord shared natural relationship with Israel; [Israel] of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came.” (Rom. 9:5). Symbolically, the Lord is setting aside His natural tie with Israel in favor of a spiritual tie with the faithful remnant. The only relationships the Lord would own were with those who did the will of His Father in heaven; by receiving God’s word into their hearts. This sphere, of those who do the will of the Father in heaven (or at least profess to) is called the Kingdom of Heaven. Receiving the word of God is precisely what He takes up in Matt. 13, where He presents Himself as “a sower gone forth to sow”. What a privilege, to walk by faith and not by sight, and thus to become the family of Christ in the time of His rejection!
  1. Darby, J. N. The Notion of a Clergyman: Dispensationally the Sin against the Holy Ghost. Bible Truth Publishers.

Matthew 13:1-52

The Postponement of the Kingdom: A Change in Dispensations 
Matthew 13 – 17
In this next section we get a great change in dispensations. In the end of Matt. 12, the Lord is shown to be rejected by the nation of Israel. The Lord next unfolds a number of truths that reveal a change in the ways of God consequent on the rejection of the King. There are two great turning points in these chapters:
  1. The Kingdom Postponed (ch.13). The Kingdom prophesied about in the Old Testament would still be ushered in, but the “manifestation” phase would be postponed, and a “mystery” phase brought in first. The Lord in Matthew gives ten “similitudes” that describe this phase of the Kingdom. By examining these similitudes (six of which are given in Matt. 13) we can see that they do NOT refer to the glorious phase of the Kingdom which is still future (the Millennium) but to the present state of mixture. We see not only Satan’s attempts to corrupt this kingdom, but also God’s sovereignty overruling, that He might bring out of it fruit for Himself.
  2. The Assembly to be Built (ch.16). Then in ch.14-15 we have Christ withdrawing from the Nation, while the Nation continues to reject Him. In ch.16 we get another turning point; not a negative turning point like ch.13 (the manifestation phase postponed) but a positive one! Christ was going to build something brand new and unpredicted; His assembly. This Assembly would represent Him on the earth, and carry the authority of heaven in its actions. The kingdom in mystery is a new dispensation unfolding on the earth, but the assembly is a heavenly parenthesis in that dispensation! And then He instructs His disciples to discontinue proclaiming His Jewish title of “Messiah” or “Christ”. Finally, in Matt. 17, the Lord gives His disciples a sample of the Kingdom in glory, which will be established after the Assembly’s time on earth expires.
In ch.13 the Lord goes out of the house and takes up the position of Son of Man, as rejected by Israel. But in ch.16 He accepts the positive witness that He is Son of GodIn John 9 this great transition is compared to the contrast between the day and the night. The departure of Christ out of this world is a governmental consequence of the earth’s rejection of God’s well beloved Son. However, God always preserves to Himself a witness. If the manifestation of kingdom glory must be postponed, then God will bring in something better (the Church) built upon something deeper (the Rock of His Person) than Israel ever was.
This section of Matthew is divided as follows:
– The Postponement of the Kingdom: A Change in Dispensations Matthew 13 – 17
– Parables of the Kingdom of Heaven Matthew 13:1-52
– The Parable of the Sower: Reception of the Word of God Matthew 13:1-23
– 1st, 2nd & 3rd Similitudes: Satan’s Work in the Kingdom Matthew 13:24-43
– 4th, 5th & 6th Similitudes: God’s Work in the Kingdom Matthew 13:44-50
– Conclusion Matthew 13:51-52
– The King in Withdrawal from the Nation of Israel Matthew 13:53 – 15:39
– Unbelief in Hometown of Nazareth Matthew 13:54-58
– Beheading of John the Baptist by Herod Matthew 14:1-12
– First Dispensational Outline: Miracles on the Sea of Galilee Matthew 14:13-36
– The Presentation of Christ to Israel: Feeding of the Five Thousand Matthew 14:13-21
– The Time of Christ’s Absence: A Storm on the Sea of Galilee Matthew 14:22-33
– The Millennium: The Lord’s Reception and Healings at Gennesaret Matthew 14:34-36
– Second Dispensational Outline: to Syro-Phoenicia and Back Again Matthew 15
– Religious Hypocrisy & the Evil Heart of Man Exposed Matthew 15:1-20
– Turning from Israel to the Gentiles: the Syro-Phoenician’s Daughter Matthew 15:21-28
– Millennial Blessing: Feeding of the Four Thousand Matthew 15:29-39
– Coming Changes: the Assembly and the Millennium Matthew 16 – 17
– The Wickedness of the Religious Leaders Matthew 16:1-12
– The Building of Christ’s Church & the Path for Disciples Matthew 16:13-28
– Events Connected with the Millennium Matthew 17:1-27
The Parables of the Kingdom of Heaven
Matthew 13:1-52
The Kingdom of Heaven is a dispensational term only found in Matthew’s gospel. It is a very important subject to grasp in order to understand Matthew, and the whole scope of God’s counsels. I recommend getting a solid grasp of this subject (see the encyclopedia entry for the Kingdom of Heaven) before proceeding. It is in this great transitional chapter that we have the Kingdom in Mystery unfolded.
Why seven parables? Seven is the number of spiritual completeness. These seven parables give us a complete account of the new dispensation which was about to begin. Some of these parables are found in Mark and Luke, but not all seven together. Why? It is fitting that the full seven are found in the dispensational Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus is presented as Messiah, rejected as such, and foretells a great dispensational change. It has been well said that if a person has a solid grasp of the Seven Feasts in Lev. 23, the Seven Parables in Matt. 13, and the Seven Letters in Rev. 2-3 they will have a good overall grasp of the purpose and ways of God.1 The seven parables can be divided as follows: the parable of the Sower, plus the first six similitudes of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Symbolical Outlines. When God brings in something new He gives an outline of it symbolically at the beginning:
  1. The Adamic Creation – the seven days of creation (Genesis 1)
  2. The Nation of Israel – the seven feasts of Jehovah (Leviticus 23)
  3. The Kingdom in Mystery – the seven parables of the kingdom (Matthew 13)
  4. The Church as a Candlestick – the seven letters to the churches (Revelation 2 – 3)
The Ten Similitudes of the Kingdom of Heaven. There are ten parables given in Matthew’s gospel where it is stated; “the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto” or some equivalent expression. These similes, or “similitudes” as they are often called, give us a comprehensive understanding of the “mystery” phase of the Kingdom of Heaven, through which we are currently passing. See encyclopedia entry.
Satan’s Work: The Corruption of the Kingdom
    1. Matthew 13:24 – The Wheat and the Tares
    2. Matthew 13:31 – The Mustard Seed
    3. Matthew 13:33 – The Leaven Hid in the Meal
God’s Work: Sovereign Grace in Spite of Evil
    4. Matthew 13:44 – The Treasure Hid in the Field
    5. Matthew 13:45 – The One Pearl of Great Price
    6. Matthew 13:47 – The Dragnet Cast into the Sea
Our Work: The Characteristics of the Servants of the Kingdom
    7. Matthew 18:23 – The Unforgiving Servant
    8. Matthew 20:1 – The Laborers of the Vineyard
    9. Matthew 22:2 – The Wedding Feast
  10. Matthew 25:1 – The Ten Virgins

Setting (13:1-3a)

 And that same day Jesus went out from the house and sat down by the sea. v.1 “Jesus went out from the house” making a formal break with the Nation of Israel. The “house” refers to the house of God, the dwelling place of God on earth (see v.36). Up until Christ, the presence of God on earth in a limited sense was in the Temple, in the land of Israel. When Christ came, He was the true Temple of God on earth (Matt. 12:6, John 2:19). The Jews rejected Him, and now the Lord creates a separation between “their house” (Matt. 23:38), which is a symbol of the nation of Israel (Matt. 10:6) apart from Christ, and Himself. He “sat down by the sea” taking a new position which prefigures the transition from occupation with the Jews to instead “visit the Gentiles” (Acts 15:14) through the call of the gospel. “Seas” in scripture are symbolic of the masses of the Gentiles; “The waters which thou sawest… are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues” (Rev. 17:15).
2 And great crowds were gathered together to him, so that going on board ship himself he sat down, and the whole crowd stood on the shore. v.2 “Great crowds gathered together” indicating that the Lord’s audience had widened out, following His rejection by the Nation of Israel. He was “apart from them”, showing that in the new dispensation, the King was going to be separated from them in Heaven, but still the King. Going “on board ship” would prevent the physical touch of the multitudes, as before. The mystery phase of the Kingdom is characterized by those who have faith without the natural, physical connection, like the centurion (Matt. 8:5). It says He “sat” because the seated position is the position of authority. Although the King would be absent, the disciples would still be subject to Him.
3a And he spoke to them many things in parables, saying, v.3a The Lord adopts a new method of teaching; using parables. We will find in vv.10-17 that this strange new method was in response to His rejection by Israel, and a governmental judgment on them.

Parable of the Sower: Reception of the Word of God (13:3b-9)

The Parable of the Sower does not describe the Kingdom, but gives an explanation for how the Kingdom was formed “in mystery”. The sower is the Lord, the seed is the Word, and those who receive and believe the Word are called the children of the Kingdom (v.38). In Mark’s gospel, we find that understanding the Parable of the Sower is the key to understanding “all parables” (Mark 4:13), because the only way fruit will be produced for God is by receiving His Word into a prepared heart. In each of the three gospels there is a different emphasis, seen in the open statement of our Lord’s explanation:
  • In Matt. 13, emphasis is put on the Ground. “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom…” (Matt. 13:19). Israel, being unrepentant, failed to receive the good word of the Kingdom. Instead it fell to the faithful remnant. The kingdom in man’s responsibility begins pristinely (an hundred-fold) but ends in failure (thirty-fold).
  • In Mark 4, emphasis is put on the Sower. “The sower soweth the word” (Mark 4:14). The Lord – ever the Perfect Servant – is the one sowing. Although the early crop was small (thirty-fold), there will be a full harvest to the glory of God (an hundred-fold).
  • In Luke 8, emphasis is put on the Seed. “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). The Word of God is made available to all mankind, but the question is; what will you do with the Word of God? The rate is “an hundred-fold” (Luke 8:8) across the board, because the seed of the Word will never return unto Him void.
In all three, this fundamental message must be understood: in order for there to be fruit for God, there must be (1) a repentant state of soul prepared by the Spirit (good ground), (2) the Word of God (the good seed), and (3) all under the direction of the Lord of the harvest (the Sower).

The Sower (v.3b)

3b Behold, the sower went out to sow: (compare) v.3b The statement, “a sower went out to sow” indicates a tremendous change. Christ is no longer seeking fruit from His vineyard (Isa. 5). The First Man, of whom Israel is but a sample, by rejecting Messiah (symbolically in ch.11-12, but judicially at the cross) proved himself to be an utter failure, beyond any hope of self-improvement. But now, Christ (the Sower) is bringing something, and starting something new. He is sowing His Word in the hearts of men. He is neither expecting fruits from Israel, nor is He looking to borrow (or graft) from the old plant; but instead, He begins afresh from seed – a new life! This sowing is guaranteed to produce fruit, if properly received. The Sower is no longer physically on earth, but He is still sowing in spirit, through His disciples down here. Christianity is not characterized by what it finds, but by what it brings!

Four Types of Ground, or Conditions of Soul (vv.4-8)

The problem presented in this parable is one of reception, not of presentation. The Lord Jesus cannot be faulted for His methods… nor should we change the gospel message because of the results we see in Christendom today. Modification of the good seed is precisely what Lordship Salvation does.
  1. Devil is active – wayside ground
  2. Flesh is active – stony ground
  3. World is active – thorny ground
  4. Spirit is active – good ground
The net result of the Sower’s labors is: meager results. The great point to take away is this: the human heart is unrepentant, capricious, fickle, and calloused. Out of four casts of the seed, only one falls into good ground. A seed rate of 25% is not very high. We are not to be surprised that the gospel is rarely received in the world today. Even in those that receive it, the results are spotty; some an hundred, some sixty, and some thirty-fold. We are to learn from this that while the gospel goes out broadly in Christendom, only a small remnant will receive it into good ground, and even then fruit-bearing will fluctuate with communion, godliness, diligence, etc. (John 15).

#1: Wayside Ground (v.4)

4 and as he sowed, some grains fell along the way, and the birds came and devoured them; v.4 The wayside ground represents someone who never really understands that the gospel is for them personally. The seed never even penetrates the surface, and they are easy pickings for the birds, a picture of Satanic power. We see a progression with the first three types of ground. With the first type, there is almost no hope. With the second, things are a little more hopeful. With the third, they were “so close”. 

#2: Stony Ground (vv.5-6)

5 and others fell upon the rocky places where they had not much earth, and immediately they sprang up out of the ground because of not having any depth of earth, 6 but when the sun rose they were burned up, and because of not having any root were dried up; vv.5-6 The stony ground (or, shallow ground) represents someone in whom the Word of God never penetrates their conscience. Here things initially appear more hopeful. The soul receives the word, and there is an emotional response… but the soul has never seen the awfulness of their own sins in the sight of God. Thus, the immediate response is one of joy, not of sorrow. The ground has not been properly broken up, and the good seed does not reach the conscience. At the first sign of hardship, the plant is dried up, proving that the outward show was not real. If it were a real work of God, the trials of life would only cause the divine life to flourish.

#3: Thorny Ground (v.7)

7 and others fell upon the thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them; v.7 Thorny ground – someone who acknowledges the coherence of the gospel message in an intellectual way, but never makes is a priority in their life. There appears to be hope for a time with this one, but at last it proves to be no better than the other types of ground. The anxieties of this life take up the person’s time and focus, and no room is made to invest in eternal matters.

#4: Good Ground (v.8)

8 and others fell upon the good ground, and produced fruit, one a hundred, one sixty, and one thirty. v.8 Good ground – someone who applies the Word of God to themselves, lets it affect their conscience, and gives it priority. The result is fruit in life (in various quantities, some 100, some 60, and some 30) but never zero-fold. The question might be asked; why are some Christians more fruitful than others? We may look no further than this parable. The same things that hindered the word in the sense of salvation can also hinder spiritual growth in the soul.
9 He that has ears, let him hear. v.9 the Lord calls our attention to the vast importance of this parable. What about you and me? Are we producing fruit for God as He desires?
Profession vs. Reality. How can the seed spring up if the person is not really saved? The Lord is not taking up the possession of divine life (John’s ministry). He is taking up man’s profession and testing the reality of it. “The seed is the word of God”, and the test is the effect of the Word of God on the hearts of men. The first three types of ground manifest mere profession, the fourth manifests reality. Those with a repentant heart (contrite spirit) receive the word into good ground.

The Reason for the Lord’s Use of Parables (13:10-17)

vv.10-17 In the first 12 chapters the Lord did not use any parables… instead He spoke directly. You may have heard some teach that the Lord began to use parables to make His teaching easier to understand. That is not absolutely true! These verses show that He began to speak in parables to conceal the meaning from unbelievers, meanwhile to reveal the meaning to believers. It was like speaking in colorful code. The unbelieving become more befuddled, but those with faith are greatly enlightened. It was like the pillar of cloud: full of light to Israel within, full of obscurity to the Egyptians without (Exodus 14:20). He begins to speak in enigmas in ch.13 because His rejection by the nation is proven in ch.11-12. The remnant would understand (in their measure), but the mass of the nation would stumble at it. This is the mind of God; when men reject the light they have, that rejection brings greater darkness.
 10 And the disciples came up and said to him, Why speakest thou to them in parables? 11 And he answering said to them, Because to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens, but to them it is not given; vv.10-11 Contrast the expressions “to them” and “to you” in vv.10-11. The full focus of our Lord’s teaching was now to the faithful remnant, because the mass had rejected the greatest Light of all. This v.11 is the key verse of the chapter. The remaining parables explain to faith the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven”… those perplexing questions about the time during which the rejected King is absent, evil continues, and yet the purpose of God is fulfilled in spite of it.
12 for whoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall be caused to be in abundance; but he who has not, even what he has shall be taken away from him. v.12 Those who “have” are the faithful remnant. What did they have? They had Christ. God would cause those faithful ones to receive an abundance of spiritual light as regards the kingdom of heaven. Those who “have not” are the unbelieving nation of Israel. From them the bodily presence of Christ and the outward signs of power (“that which they have”) would soon be taken away, leaving them in abject darkness. Light rejected brings greater darkness.
13 For this cause I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear nor understand; 14 and in them is filled up the prophecy of Esaias, which says, “Hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand, and beholding ye shall behold and not see; 15 for the heart of this people has grown fat, and they have heard heavily with their ears, and they have closed their eyes as asleep, lest they should see with the eyes, and hear with the ears, and understand with the heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.[Isa. 6:9,10]  vv.13-15 The Nation. The government of God on those who reject the light they have been given is blinding, deafening, and hardening. Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled in Israel’s rejection of Christ. It explains the working of the government of God. This same prophecy is quoted three times:
  1. By Christ (Matt. 13:14-15, Mark 4:12, Luke 8:10) upon His symbolic rejection
  2. By John (John 12:40) at the end of Christ’s public ministry
  3. By Paul (Acts 28:26,27) after the Jews had rejected the Christian gospel
16 But blessed are “your” eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear; 17 for verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see the things which ye behold and did not see them, and to hear the things which ye hear and did not hear themvv.16-17 The Remnant. The disciples are “the poor of the flock” (see Zech. 11:11) waiting upon Jehovah, who had given them a special knowledge. For believers the parables are very instructive, and they give to those of faith great detail concerning the ways of God with men. Many Old Testament prophets, etc. longed for the knowledge given to even the simplest child in the kingdom of heaven.

Explanation of the Parable of the Sower (13:18-23)

18 “Ye”, therefore, hear the parable of the sower. v.18 “Ye, therefore” – He is speaking directly to the disciples as He gives the meaning. This is very important. The parable of the Sower was spoken before the multitude, but the explanation is directed to those of faith. We find that the next three parables are also uttered before the crowd, but they are dismissed before the meaning of the 1st similitude is given (v.36). The point is, the Lord was concealing the meaning from those who stood in unbelief, and revealing it to those of faith.
19 From every one who hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the wicked one comes and catches away what was sown in his heart: this is he that is sown by the wayside. v.19 Wayside Ground. There are those who don’t understand, not because of the complexity of the message, but because of a self-righteous mindset. We now get the definition of “the birds” (v.4). We find that the birds are the agents of “the Wicked One”. This is important information for understanding the parable of the mustard seed. Satan “catches it away”. This is generally true of any truth that we do not immediately apply; Satan will take it away. This is why we need to put in the “girdle of truth” (Eph. 6:14).
The Sower in Matthew vs. Luke. Notice that in Luke, the seed is the “word of God” while here in Matthew it is the “word of the kingdom“. The Word of God is a very broad term, the Word of the Kingdom has more specifically to do with Christ’s teaching about the Kingdom (ch.5-7, 13, etc.). In Luke, the “wayside ground” are those who don’t believe, but in Matthew they are those who don’t understand. The reason is that Matthew is speaking more to the Jew, and Luke more to the Gentile. Gentiles who have never been exposed to the truth need to believe it. Those who have the knowledge of it (Jews) need to understand its implication for the hearer. By comparing the two gospels we learn something important: we can know some truth without having a spiritual understanding of it. What hinders spiritual understanding of the truth is religious prejudice (W. Kelly). A religious background tends to dull the conscience, because we think we are all set; “the Bible is for sinners, not me”. God says, “You need to understand that this applies to you.”
20 But he that is sown on the rocky places — this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 but has no root in himself, but is for a time only; and when tribulation or persecution happens on account of the word, he is immediately offended. vv.20-21 Stony Ground. There are those who have their affections touched by the gospel message, but it never gets down into their conscience – “no root in himself” – which results in a lack of endurance. Ultimately they defect from the faith. We need to be wary of “conversions” that are accompanied by exuberant joy, with no sorrow. When the word reaches the conscience, it produces sorrow first (with repentance), then joy.
22 And he that is sown among the thorns — this is he who hears the word, and the anxious care of this life, and the deceit of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. v.22 Thorny Ground. This case appears to be the most hopeful of all, because there is a temporary effect produced in the life. The thorny ground are those that recognized the truth of the gospel in an intellectual way, but never make it a priority. Two thorns are given:
  1. “The anxious care of this life” – The lie that occupation with natural things of this life is more important than eternity.
  2. “The deceit of riches” – The lie that more money will make you happy.
Luke adds a third ‘thorn’, the “pleasures of life” or immoral behaviors. That is added in Luke because that gospel is more concerned with the moral side of things.
23 But he that is sown upon the good ground — this is he who hears and understands the word, who bears fruit also, and produces, one a hundred, one sixty, and one thirty. v.23 Good Ground. There are those who “understand the word”, apply it to themselves, have their consciences exercised, and make it a priority in their lives. In short, their hearts are prepared by the Spirit of God who produces repentance. Production of fruit will always be the visible result of the Word of God received properly by the soul. However, even within the 25% that fell on good ground, the results were checkered. The hard heart of man, the influence of the world, and the lack of pastoral care for those who are truly saved all have an influence to stifle fruit-production. Notice that in Matthew (dispensational) the kingdom in man’s responsibility begins pristinely (an hundred-fold) but ends in decline (thirty-fold). In Mark, emphasis is put on the Perfect Servant, whose early crop was small (thirty-fold), but ends in a full harvest to the glory of God (an hundred-fold). In Luke emphasis is put on the Seed, and the rate is “an hundred-fold” across the board (Luke 8:8), because the seed of the Word will never return unto Him void.

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (13:24-30)

The Wheat and the Tares. This parable (compare) is only found is Matthew’s gospel. It is especially fitting that God’s patience with evil in the Kingdom of Heaven be understood in contrast with the sharpness of His judgment under Judaism. The parable itself is concerned with the present time, up until the rapture (vv.24-30). The explanation of the parable (vv.37-43) goes beyond into the setting up of the millennial kingdom.
The Problem of Evil. Why does God allow evil to go on in this world? It is because the wheat is growing. Souls are getting saved! It is His grace to the elect that He suffers long the mixture of evil in Christendom.

The Lord’s Work (v.24)

 24 Another parable set he before them, saying, The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man sowing good seed in his field; v.24 Notice that the kingdom “has become” – a process of time is involved. The field is the world, the Lord is the sower (v.37), but now, the seed are persons, the children of the kingdom.

Man’s Failure & Satan’s Work (v.25)

25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed darnel amongst the wheat, and went away. v.25 This is exactly what happened in Christendom. The mystery of iniquity (2 Thess. 2:7) began to work very early in the Church’s history, and when it is complete Satan will cease to work secretly, and the man of sin will emerge openly. But this is where it all begins.
  1. “Men slept” – a state of carelessness as to doctrine developed in Christianity.
  2. “His enemy came and sowed, etc.” – Satan convinces men to enter the Kingdom by making a false profession (v.38)
  3. “And went away” – Satan’s hand in the mischief is hidden.
As with every dispensation, man fails almost immediately. Darnel, or ryegrass, is almost indiscernible from wheat until the head (fruit) appears. The blade appears very similar, but the fruit that you would expect with wheat, never develops. It is a fitting type of false professors in Christendom. They make the same outward profession, but there is no life there. But ultimately, their fruits will manifest where they really are.

The Present State of Mixture (vv.26-30a)

26 But when the blade shot up and produced fruit, then appeared the darnel also. v.26 The tares did not evidence themselves immediately. It wasn’t until “the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit,” when Christianity began to make its effect on the earth, “then appeared the tares also.” Notice that the tares are never said to produce fruit, but they “appear”…  they have a profession. The first recorded “tare” was Simon the sorcerer in Acts 9. All tares can do is use up valuable resources, and choke out the real wheat.
27 And the bondmen of the householder came up and said to him, Sir, hast thou not sown good seed in thy field? whence then has it darnel? 28a And he said to them, A man that is an enemy has done this. vv.27-28a The existence of false professors in the Kingdom cannot be blamed on the Lord, but on the activity of Satan, through the failure of man.
28b And the bondmen said to him, Wilt thou then that we should go and gather it up29 But he said, No; lest in gathering the darnel ye should root up the wheat with it. vv.28b-29 To remove a plant from the field is to remove a person from the earth (through physical death or rapture, depending). Man’s wisdom in this regard led Rome to hunt and kill heretics in past centuries… this was folly because man doesn’t have the discernment to know with certainty who is real and who is false! Mistakes would be made. Rooting out tares is not the Church’s responsibility. Does that mean there is to be no Church discipline today? Far from it; we are to judge those that are “within” (1 Cor. 5:13). We can put wicked persons out of Church fellowship, but not out of the Kingdom of Heaven (the sphere of profession). Our responsibility is within, we can let God take care of those “without”.
30a Suffer both to grow together unto the harvest, v.30a At the present, there is a mixture of real and false subjects of the kingdom. From the Lord’s own mouth we learn that there is no possibility of disentangling the confusion we see around us before His coming. Such are God’s dispensational ways. Man fails at the beginning, and God will not pass lightly over that failure by allowing a wholesale restoration. The harvest is the completion of the age, the actual time of judgment at the Lord’s appearing (vv.40-43, Rev. 14:14-16, Matt. 24:30-31). We need to distinguish this from “the time of the harvest”.

How the Lord will Separate the Mixture (v.30b)

30b and in time of the harvest I will say to the harvestmen, (1) Gather first the darnel, and bind it into bundles to burn it; (2) but the wheat bring together into my granary. v.30b The “time of the harvest” is the general time of the end which is occupied with the various processes of ingathering… perhaps 1850 A.D. to the Appearing. Two great ingatherings will occur in that time:
  1. Tares bound – this is not the burning of the tares, but the present time in which the angels (v.39) are preliminarily grouping the tares into large organized systems (e.g. Jehovah’s witnesses, Christian Science, etc.)
  2. Wheat gathered – the taking of the wheat from the field is the removal of believers from the earth by the rapture. There is a second phase to this (Lev. 23:22) – the martyrs. Notice that no bundling is mentioned for the wheat. The rapture will take each real Christian where it finds them, in whatever ecclesiastical position, etc.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed (13:31-32)

 31 Another parable set he before them, saying, The kingdom of the heavens is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 which is less indeed than all seeds, but when it is grown is greater than herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of heaven come and roost in its branches. vv.31-32 In the second similitude (compare) we learn that the kingdom of heaven would begin very small and humble in the sight of men, but would soon grow into an institution of enormous proportions. The plant referred to here is generally considered to be black mustard, which grows in one annual cycle from a small seed (2 mm) into a large plant up to 9 feet tall! The Lord says “a tree”… perhaps even describing growth towering beyond what is normal for a mustard plant. In any case, the idea is of unnatural growth according to secular measures. Trees in scripture speak of men who are great in the sight of men (Dan. 4:20-22; Isa. 2:13). The thought of a shelter reminds us of how the Christian profession became a protective power, and a place where evil in the earth finds a home… how sad. The Lord had already explained that the birds are a figure of Satan’s emissaries, those who hinder the working of the good seed in the hearts of men. This might correspond to Pergamos and the era beginning with Constantine. We find the final state of the false church in Rev. 18:2, that she “is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird“. The growth of the great tree is analogous to the development of the great house (2 Tim. 2:20) and the great city Babylon (Rev. 17:18). Note that there is no fruit on this tree for God.

The Parable of the Leaven Hid in the Meal (13:33)

 33 He spoke another parable to them: The kingdom of the heavens is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal until it had been all leavened. v.33 In this third similitude (compare) we learn that evil doctrines would spread throughout Christendom, from one end to the other. It is closely connected with the mustard seed. When the Christian profession would become widely accepted in the world, it would of necessity require a corruption of its doctrine. We find a woman acting of her own accord in a sphere that was never given to her. Compare with Eve and Jezebel. Three measures of meal is a meal fit for God (Abraham). It speaks of the perfection of the Person of Christ (Lev. 6:14-17; 1 Cor. 5:8; John 6:32, 33). It was never to be eaten with leaven (Lev. 2:11). Leaven in scripture is always a picture of sin, and often of evil doctrine; e.g. “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6). Leaven is characterized by its corrupting and spreading character. The Church is warned twice that evil must be judged, or the whole will be corrupted; in 1 Cor. 5:6 in connection with moral evil, and again in Gal. 5:9 in connection with doctrinal evil. This “hidden” leaven is that which was purposefully and surreptitiously brought in to corrupt the Christian profession. It corresponds to the Thyatira period when many evil doctrines began to be propagated into the Christian profession following its growth into a global institution. Notice that in Thyatira we find a woman (Jezebel) teaching evil doctrine and practice. It says “the whole” was leavened; that includes us, for we are part of Christendom. There is no part of Christendom that is free from the danger of evil doctrine.
Misunderstandings about the Mustard Tree and the Leaven. Unfortunately, many commentators have erroneously interpreted the abnormal growth of the mustard plant as a positive working of God, and the spreading of the leaven as the gospel going out to subdue the whole world. These interpretations are closely tied to a Covenantal view of scripture, which has the blessing of man at the center of God’s purposes, rather than the glory of Christ. They do not see that this dispensation will end in failure (as all the others have) with the true being raptured out, and the false left to face the Tribulation judgments. Instead they believe that man by the grace of God will succeed in this epoch, and the gospel will reform the world and usher in an era of blessing. In order to do this they must twist a great number of scriptures, like these two similitudes of the Kingdom, and overlook other clear principles of the Word of God, such as Isa. 26:9-10 (adapted), “Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness… for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness”. God’s judgment on evil, not His gospel, is what will finally bring righteousness and peace to the earth.

Explanation of the Parable of the Tares (13:34-43)

A Change in Direction (vv.34-36)

 34 All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and without a parable he did not speak to them, 35 so that that should be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying, “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden from the world’s foundation.” [Psa. 78:2]   36 Then, having dismissed the crowds, he went into the house; and his disciples came to him, saying, Expound to us the parable of the darnel of the field. vv.34-36 The Lord had been speaking to the multitude up to this point, except for the explanation of the Sower. Now He sends the multitude away and goes into the house. This symbolic action forms a natural division between the first three similitudes and the next three. Just as in Leviticus 23, where a break between the first four and the last three feasts signified a change in subject, we get the same here. Going out of the house (v.1) symbolized a break with the Old Testament House of God. Going back into the house (v.36) symbolizes an association with the New Testament House of God, those who were His own. The first three similitudes have to do with the outward profession of Christianity as a result of man’s failure and Satan’s activity. The next set of three have to do with what is inwardly real as a result of God’s sovereign grace. The first three present mixture, the next three present discrimination according to God’s eye. The world can see the failures of Christianity; e.g. the Crusades. But God’s grace down through the centuries to accomplish His sovereign purpose is only known to faith; they are family secrets, and not fit for the ears of the unbelieving crowd.
vv.37-43 the Lord explains the parable, and in doing so adds more details than were given previously. This is generally true whenever prophecy is explained in scripture; e.g. Daniel 2, 7, 8. 

Explanation of Symbols Previously Used (vv.37-39)

37 But he answering said, He that sows the good seed is the Son of man, 38 and the field is the world; and the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom, but the darnel are the sons of the evil one39 and the enemy who has sowed it is the devil; and the harvest is the completion of the age, and the harvestmen are angels. vv.37-39 Notice that the seed in the 1st parable is the Word, in the 2nd parable is Christians, and in the 3rd parable is the Kingdom itself! The enemy of the Son of Man is the Devil. Make no mistake, Satan has waged war against all that professes the name of Christ in this world. The “end of this age” is strongly connected with the judgment of this world and the coming of the Lord. The harvestmen are the angels; Christians are to have no part with corporal judgment of the wicked.
Children of the Devil. It is very important to see that not every unsaved person is a child of the devil. All are children of Adam, in bondage to sin, children of disobedience, and children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), meaning that we are all born sinners, and heading down the road that leads to destruction. But a child of the devil is an apostate who has hardened himself against the truth, and thus given himself up to the service of Satan (John 8:37-47). While the tares generally speak of false profession, it is interesting that the Lord specifically identifies them as “sons of the evil one”. This would be in contrast to “sons of God” which in Matthew are those that reflect the character of God (Matt. 5:9). These “tares” reflect the character of the Evil One.

Details Surrounding The Appearing (vv.40-43)

40 As then the darnel is gathered and is burned in the fire, thus it shall be in the completion of the age. v.40 This goes beyond what we read in v.30 (“to be burned”); here they “are burned”. Also, it does not say “the time of the end”, but “the end” itself. The time of the end was more general, including the rapture. But the end itself is judgment. We are now talking about the appearing. More details follow concerning this judgment.
41 The Son of man shall send his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all offences, and those that practise lawlessness; v.41 This is the harvest judgment (Rev.14:14-16, Matt. 24:30-31, 40-41) in which the tares are rooted up (“taken”) and the righteous tribulation saints left for blessing. “His kingdom” is the kingdom of the Son of man (see Matt. 16:28, 24:30, 25:31), which is the earthly side of the glorious coming kingdom of Christ. (Contrast with “their father’s Kingdom” in v.43). The angels will not go out over the entire world, but over that sphere which has had the light of Christianity, i.e. the Western world.
42 and they shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. v.42 This is part of the judgment of the quick (see Rev. 14:14) – not to be confused with the judgment of the dead, or Great White Throne (see Rev. 20:12-15) – these are cast ‘alive’ by the angels directly into the Lake of fire. Profession without reality will not exempt men from the terrors of eternal damnation;“there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth”.
43 Then the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He that has ears, let him hear. v.43 The heavenly saints will shine as the sun, for they will display the glory of the Lord in the Millennium. It is a similar thought to what we get in Rev. 21:10-11; “… the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of the heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her shining was like a most precious stone, as a crystal-like jasper stone…”. The expression here; “the kingdom of their Father” refers to the heavenly compartment of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 8:11). It is the heavenly saints that make up this aspect of the Millennial kingdom. Who are they? The Church, Old Testament saints, children and babies that have died very young, etc. Later on, the Tribulation martyrs will join them as well (Rev. 20:4). It is true there will be some “wheat” on the earth that will continue into the Millennium (the remnant, Lev. 23:22) but the subject here is the heavenly saints.
Will there be “wheat” on earth in the Tribulation? Yes. There will be a faithful remnant of Jews as well as Gentiles who believe the gospel of the kingdom. Mr. Kelly said; “But the Lord will also have an earthly people. He waits till the heavenly saints are gathered to Him above, and then begins to sow, if I may thus speak, for earthly blessing, in which case His coming as Son of Man will be for the removal of the wicked, leaving the righteous undisturbed in peace.” See Matt. 24:40-41.

The Parable of the Treasure Hid in the Field (v.44) 

 44 The kingdom of the heavens is like a treasure hid in the field, which a man having found has hid, and for the joy of it goes and sells all whatever he has, and buys that field. v.44 Next we have the parable of the hid treasure (compare). We find that in the midst of the false profession, God has a treasure… individual believers whom He values greatly. The treasure is hidden to start with, then found and hidden again, until the field is purchased. He bought the world-field (purchase) that He might have the treasure (redemption). Man sees the field, but he doesn’t see the treasure, which is precious to the heart of God. Perhaps many men passed by that field (else, why would he re-hide it?) but only One saw the treasure that lay therein. “Hid in the field” – this cannot be talking about Israel… read Deut. 32:8, from the very beginning of the world God had Israel as His center of the earth; there is nothing “hidden” about Israel! But He also had a Gentile treasure that was hidden. Christ has hidden that treasure again, because the time of our public manifestation awaits the moment of His appearing (Col. 3:4). For “the joy of it” Christ sold all that He had (2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:5-8) to buy the field. There was no price that He was not willing to pay for our redemption! There was another “joy set before Him”, which is not mentioned here; the joy of perfectly accomplishing the Father’s will (Hebrews 12:2).
Misconceptions about the Parable of the Hid Treasure. This has been erroneously presented as the salvation of a person. It is taught that a person must “sell all” and give up everything in this world in order to be saved. This is “Lordship Salvation” doctrine, which is a form of salvation by works. Not so; a person must believe in order to be justified, but then is constrained by the love of Christ to give up all for Him!

The Parable of the One Pearl of Great Price (vv.45-46)

 45 Again, the kingdom of the heavens is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls; 46 and having found one pearl of great value, he went and sold all whatever he had and bought it. v.45 Next we get the parable of the pearl of great price (compare). God has a special object in view… the Church, viewed as one entity, for which He sold “all that He had” to buy it; “even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). A treasure can be composed of many parts, but a pearl is a unity, and so serves as an apt picture of the Church. He was looking for a “beautiful” pearl. What did He find? A Church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing… through the efficacy of His own blood. But also, He will find a Church that reflects His own character as a result of experience (see Rev. 21:19-20). A pearl is formed inside an oyster by continual suffering. Moreover, pearls come from the sea, and the Church is composed predominantly of Gentiles. As taken out of the sea, the pearl reminds us of how the Assembly is “called out” of the world, as a heavenly company. A pearl is formed additively over time, just like the Church “growing” into a Holy Temple (Eph. 2:21) as believers are added, one by one.
Not a mere repetition of the 4th similitude. The parable of the hid treasure conveyed the preciousness of the saints to Christ, but had no thought of the unity and heavenly beauty of the assembly. The pearl of great price sets forth the loveliness of the Church in the eyes of Christ!
Misconceptions about the Parable of the Pearl. Once again, commentators mis-apply this parable to a person finding salvation. They say that the merchant man is a sinner, looking in this world for satisfaction, who at last finds beauty in Christ. How backwards from the truth! Just as the Sower was the Son of Man, so the Treasure-seeker is Christ. Not only that, but also that interpretation suggests that men who are dead in trespasses and sins are really seeking Christ. This is NOT a biblical view of man before he is converted. Finally, this interpretation destroys the beautiful picture which glorifies Christ, and instead places man at the center.

The Parable of the Dragnet Cast into the Sea (vv.47-50)

 47 Again, the kingdom of the heavens is like a seine which has been cast into the sea, and which has gathered together of every kind, 48 which, when it has been filled, having drawn up on the shore and sat down, they gathered the good into vessels and cast the worthless out. vv.47-48 The parable of the dragnet (compare) foretells that the gospel will go out through the sea of Gentiles in this dispensation in a remarkable way, bringing in a great haul of souls. Satan is doing his best to assault the kingdom of heaven, but God has overruled, and billions have been saved. There are some (bad fish) who do not have genuine faith, and some (good fish) who believe the message. The bad fish do not ruin God’s purpose! God has workmen who are separating the good from the bad. Who are the “they” in v.48? It is the disciples of the kingdom that are the “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). Note that it is angels who gather the tares into bundles and cast the worthless fish out, but it is men that gather the good fish into vessels. This is the work of evangelism and shepherding that is being carried on now. We need to “separate the precious from the vile” (Jer. 15:19). As the gospel net goes out, many are brought in that are false. The good need to be separated from them. This is a blessed work. We get this principle with Jehonadab in the days of Jehu (2 Kings 10:25-31). Jehu couldn’t discern who was real in the house of Baal, but Jehonadab could. Jehonadab took no part in the slaughter, and neither should we. They are grouped into vessels, and so new converts need to have other “good fish” to walk collectively with. It is the pastors’ work to foster a healthy environment in the local assembly.
49 Thus shall it be in the completion of the age: the angels shall go forth and sever the wicked from the midst of the just, 50 and shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. vv.49-50 The bad fish aren’t thrown back into the sea, they are just left on the shore. They have joined the Christian profession, and they will remain in that responsible place until the time of judgment. The angels’ business is to deal with the wicked, but our business is with the good! What a wholesome service to occupy our time while we wait for our Lord from heaven! Notice one difference as compared with the parable of the wheat and the tares; the bad fish are never called “sons of the wicked ones”. These ones are not “sown by the enemy” but are rather dragged up by the gospel net. They are mere professors, but not apostates. Still, they are “the wicked”, and will be severed by the angels and cast into eternal punishment.
A dispensational outline. Some have wondered if we get a dispensational outline in these last three parables. F. W. Grant put forward a dispensational outline in his pamphlet titled “The Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven”. This outline has a number of problems, and I would hasten to add that, at best, this dispensational outline is a secondary application of these parables. 
  1. The “treasure hid in the field,” pictures Israel which is in a sense Jehovah’s “peculiar treasure” (Psa. 134:4). The Lord suffered and died to purchase the field, but now keeps the treasure hidden for a future day (Israel’s restoration).
  2. The “pearl of great price” pictures the Church which Christ loves and for whom He died, composed primarily of Gentiles.
  3. The “net cast into the sea” is the gospel of the Kingdom which will go out to the Gentiles after the Church is caught up at the rapture. A multitude will be gathered in during those seven years, but they will be sorted out at the sessional judgment (Matt. 25). 
This outline seems at first to fit, but on closer examination it has serious shortcomings. First, the kingdom of heaven did not exist during the Old Testament, so it could not say “the Kingdom of heaven is like unto” if it really meant Israel. If you say if refers to the Jewish election at the present time, you might be closer, but still it presents an unscriptural thought of a special time of manifestation for those Jews who have become part of the Church. In the Church those natural distinctions are erased! 
A historical outline. There might be a prophetic history of the Christian testimony seen in these similitudes. Adrian Roach proposed that the first six and the tenth can be joined together to give a composite picture:
  1. Parable of the Wheat and Tares – pictures the early church (Ephesus)
  2. Parable of the Mustard Seed – pictures the unnatural outward growth (Pergamos)
  3. Parable of the Hid Leaven – pictures the ingress of evil doctrine (Thyatira)
  4. Parable of the Treasure – pictures the reformation and recovery of individual truth (Luther)
  5. Parable of the One Pearl – pictures the recovery of Church truth (Darby)
  6. Parable of the Dragnet – pictures the evangelical outreach of the late 19th & early 20th centuries 
  7. Parable of the Ten Virgins – pictures the coming of Christ.

Conclusion (vv.51-52)

 51 Jesus says to them, Have ye understood all these things? They say to him, Yea, Lordv.51 Why would the Lord ask a question like this when He knew the answer? Perhaps later when they received the Spirit these disciples would look back an realize how little they really had understood.
52 And he said to them, For this reason every scribe discipled to the kingdom of the heavens is like a man that is a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old. v.52 Every intelligent disciple who has been properly instructed concerning the Kingdom of Heaven will be able to expound “things new and old”: (1) Old Testament prophecies, and (2) those principles connected with the 2000-year time span between the two comings of Christ. The “old things” are those that can be readily gleaned from Old Testament scriptures. The “new things” are those that began to be revealed by the Lord, and were further developed by His apostles. The existence of the kingdom of heaven might be called an “old thing”; because anyone familiar with Daniel’s prophecies would have been looking forward to it. But, the order of the development of the kingdom would be a “new thing”. The postponement of the “manifestation” phase because of the King’s rejection, and the interposition of a “mystery” phase were unknown in the Old Testament. The new is listed first. The New Testament will have its bright conclusion (the morning star) before the Old Testament (the Sun rising in its strength).
The remaining verses of this chapter really belong to the following section.
  1. C. E. Lunden

Matthew 13:53 - 15:39

The King in Withdrawal from the Nation of Israel
Matthew 13:53 – 15:39

Unbelief in His Hometown of Nazareth (13:53-58)

vv.53-58 These verses rightfully belong to the following chapter, because they show that Jesus was a rejected King, even in His hometown of Nazareth.
 53 And it came to pass when Jesus had finished these parables he withdrew thence. v.53 This verse is a prelude to the next section: the King in withdrawal from the nation of Israel.
54 And having come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, Whence has this man this wisdom and these works of power? v.54 Jesus returns to His own country; that is, as Luke tells us, the city of Nazareth (Luke 4:16-24). This is not the language of faith; it is said in a derogatory way. Notice that they do not deny the glorious works and wisdom of Jesus, but they stumble at the lowliness of His coming.
55 Is not this the son of the carpenter? Is not his mother called Mary, and his brethren James, and Joseph, and Simon, and Judas? 56 And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then has this man all these things? vv.55-56 They do not even give Him the full dignity of being a carpenter; they insinuate that He is a mere apprentice, not even a qualified craftsman. In reality He was the Messiah! They knew His mother, and His half brothers and sisters, that they were common people. They judged Him by sight, and not by faith (John 7:24). Side note: in Psa. 69:8 we learn that His own brethren reproached Him, for this was before they were converted. This is the only scripture that tells us our Lord had at least two sisters. The absence of Joseph’s name here when the rest of the family is enumerated would suggest that he had died by this time, perhaps being somewhat older than Mary.
57 And they were offended in him. And Jesus said to them, A prophet is not without honour, unless in his country and in his house. v.57 Their being offended in Him proved that there was no faith in them. Jesus refers to Himself as “a prophet”, and surely He is “the Prophet” (Deut. 18:15) – God’s mouthpiece to the Nation of Israel. And yet His own country and His own house rejected Him, and did not give Him the place of honor He was worthy of. This proverb uttered by our Lord gives us the principle that those closest to us are the hardest to win. Familiarity breeds contempt. It is easy to be a blessing to those who live far away from us, but much more difficult to be a blessing to those in our family or local assembly. For some reason, people tend to think of those they grew up with as common, and incapable of greatness. It is very difficult take a prophetic word or rebuke from someone you know. For us, our faults known to our brethren can contribute to that effect. But in the Lord’s case, He had no faults. It was pure envy behind their disdain for Him.
58 And he did not there many works of power, because of their unbelief. v.58 There is no limit to the grace of God, but unbelief on man’s part can limit His blessing.

Beheading of John the Baptist by Herod (14:1-12)

The rejection of the King’s Herald. While John had become popular as a prophet among the poorer element in Israel (v.5) yet he was still hated by the religious and political class that had not believed his message (Matt. 21:25). In Matt. 17:10-13 we read that Israel was held responsible for having “done unto him whatsoever they listed”, referring to John’s death. The rejection of the Messiah’s herald is but the harbinger of the Messiah’s own rejection; as the Lord went on to say, “Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.”
What controls men who reject the authority of the heavens? With the sad description of John’s death at the hands of Herod, we get a little picture of the darkness that controls the secular man in the time of Christ’s rejection. Men who reject the kingdom of heaven (ch.13) think they are free to make their own decisions, but really they are opening themselves up to an evil form of bondage:
  1. Controlled by superstitious fear (v.2)
  2. Controlled by anger (vv.3-4)
  3. Controlled by popular opinion (v.5)
  4. Controlled by their own lusts (vv.6-7)
  5. Controlled by Satan (vv.8-11)
 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus, v.1 Chronologically, the sending out of the twelve falls between the end of Ch.13 and beginning of Ch.14. This makes sense also because it was on account of their ministry that that fame of Jesus reached the ears of Herod.
2 and said to his servants, This is John the baptist: “he” is risen from the dead, and because of this these works of power display their force in him. v.2 Why would Herod think this about Jesus? Why connect Him with John? He had a bad conscience and he was afraid that judgment was coming on him. Herod could silence the voice of John, but he couldn’t silence his own conscience! He thought Jesus got his power from John… but the opposite was true. John was just a forerunner for this Great One. This gives occasion to recount how John had been martyred, and so we get it in the following verses. The Spirit places this account here to highlight the rejection of the King (by proxy) and the dark moral condition in Israel.
3 For Herod had seized John, and had bound him and put him in prison on account of Herodias the wife of Philip his brother. 4 For John said to him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. vv.3-4 An angry Herod put John in prison for telling the truth, and denouncing Herod’s adulterous marriage. This is an example of “suffering for righteousness’ sake” (Matt. 5:10, 1 Pet. 3:14). It brings up a good question: to what extent should Christians speak out against the evil seen around us in the world? Here are a few thoughts. We must stand for the truth at all costs. John is a bold example of this. Another example is Nathan (2 Samuel 12:7) when he drove home king David’s guilt at the risk of his own life, although the king did repent of his iniquity. However, John forfeited his life, because Herod refused to repent. John was an Israelite with earthly hopes. As Christians, we must learn the lessons of Matt. 13; this world will not be straightened out until the appearing of Christ, and it is not our place to try to do so now. Also, from Paul’s ministry we learn that we are a heavenly people, and the arena of politics does not belong to us. To speak the truth is one thing, to lobby for political change is another. Notice that John said “to him” that what Herod had done was wrong. He wasn’t trying to make a public splash. For instance, if someone tells us they are going to get an abortion, we must state the truth: abortion is murder. But to try as Christians to influence the governments of this world is another thing. John wasn’t trying to change Herod; he was merely speaking the truth.
5 And while desiring to kill him, he feared the crowd, because they held him for a prophet. v.5 Here we learn a little bit more about Herod’s character. His highest motivation was public approval. We will see how Satan uses that very knowledge to lead Herod to murder John.
6 But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod; 7 whereupon he promised with oath to give her whatsoever she should ask. vv.6-7 The daughter of the adulteress Herodias came in on the king’s birthday and pleased the king and his attendants by what was evidently a lascivious dance. Herod made a foolish mistake, which men are prone to do when consumed with their own lusts.
8 But she, being set on by her mother, says, Give me here upon a dish the head of John the baptist. v.8 Here we find that Herodias had an agenda. Both Herod and her daughter were pawns in her scheme, but they were all pawns in Satan’s scheme. From the moment John condemned her adultery, she was looking for revenge. It is possible that Herod had John put in prison to protect him from the pernicious hands of his wife.
9 And the king was grieved; but on account of the oaths, and those lying at table with him, he commanded it to be given. v.9 Herod was grieved, not because he wanted John to live, but because maintaining popularity with “those lying at table with him” would cost him popularity with the common people. That is what you call a catch-22. So he chose the option with the smallest consequences… or so he thought.
10 And he sent and beheaded John in the prison; 11 and his head was brought upon a dish, and was given to the damsel, and she carried it to her mother. v.11 Think of the indignity of this scene! A pretty girl dances one minute; the next minute she is carrying the severed head of the blessed forerunner of Christ back to her gloating mother on a platter. All because John had dared speak the truth about this incestuous and adulterous marriage.
Caught in a trap, or Satan’s Chess-piece? Herod was in an impossible position. To silence the grating of John’s voice on his conscience, he wanted to kill John. To please the people, he wanted to keep John alive. To please his wife and maintain his reputation before his colleagues, he wanted John dead. Herod must have felt like things were out of control, but it was really Satan pulling strings behind the curtain. He moved each game-piece in place until Herod had only one option: kill John. Satan hates God, and uses men as his slaves to fight against God. This is where men end up who reject the authority of the heavens.
12 And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and came and brought word to Jesus. v.12 The broken-hearted disciples of John reverently collect and bury the body of their master, and then turn to Jesus in their trouble and distress. This is a precious thing. They knew that Jesus sympathized with them in their loss, and in their deep sorrow.

First Dispensational Outline: Miracles on the Sea of Galilee (14:13-36)

vv.13-36 The events in these chapters are not arranged haphazardly. The Spirit of God gives them to us in a dispensational order, to picture the changes in the dispensational ways of God.

The Presentation of Christ to Israel: Feeding of the Five Thousand (14:13-21)

13 And Jesus, having heard it, went away thence by ship to a desert place apart.  And the crowds having heard of it followed him on foot from the cities. v.13 The Lord marks His feelings about the death of John by departing from the multitudes. Jesus deeply felt the grievous wrongs that were done, not only in the martyrdom of John the Baptist, but in the sorrow brought to the disciples, and the outrage of sin against God. Surely, the Messiah on earth felt the weight of the last prophet being killed by the usurping king of the Jews, and that the cross was now before Him. He departs into a desert place, a place of solitude. But also, the desert depicts the state of Israel at our Lord’s first coming; barren of any fruit for God (Isa. 53:2). This is the first of four symbolical withdrawals by our Lord.
14 And going out he saw a great crowd, and was moved with compassion about them, and healed their infirm. v.14 When Christ came to Israel, He demonstrated that He had the power necessary to bring in Millennial blessing. This is referred to in Hebrews 6:5 as “the powers of the world [or, age] to come”. The healing of diseases is one of the things that would characterize the Messiah in the Millennium (Isa. 33:24; Psa. 103:3).
15 But when even was come, his disciples came to him saying, The place is desert, and much of the day time already gone by; dismiss the crowds, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves. v.15 The second thing that was promised concerning the coming Messiah was that He would satisfy the hungry. In Psalms 132:1-5 we hear Messiah saying, “I will satisfy her poor with bread.” (see also Psa. 146:7). The way He will accomplish this in the Millennium is by causing the earth to produce abundantly (Psa. 72:16). The “evening” here might represent the end of the testing of the first man, when the Messiah came; “God… hath in the end of those days spoken to us in [the Person of the] Son” (Heb. 1:1-2). “Christ… was manifest in the end of times for you” (1 Pet. 1:19-20). The disciples come to the Lord and state the obvious facts; the conclusions about the situation apart from the grace of God. They acknowledged:
  • That the place Christ came to was a moral desert; no fruit for God. 
  • That time had run out; the day was far spent, and the trial of the first man was fast coming to a close.
They recommend that the Lord send the crowds away to fend for themselves. What a sad suggestion; send the crowds away from Jesus? When the situation is urgent, the first man resorts to human efforts, and tends to turn away from the only One who can satisfy their need.
16 But Jesus said to them, They have no need to go: give “ye” them to eat. 17 But they say to him, We have not here save five loaves and two fishes. vv.16-17 How slow we so often are to see the heart of God. The Lord’s desire was not that men should distance themselves from Him and seek their own means for satisfaction. But Jesus here wanted the disciples to search their own hearts, to see how deep their faith really was. Alas, they were so blind that, in their survey of all their resources, they overlook the Person of Christ in their midst. He put the question to them in order to lead them to see, not what they possessed, but who was in their midst. When man looks to human or material resources for satisfaction, the situation can only appear darker. It speaks too of how Jesus involved His disciples in the kingdom-miracles displayed to Israel (Matt. 10). The Lord delights to involve His servants in His work of blessing. The five loaves and two fishes were a little boy’s lunch (John 6:9), nothing compared to the greatness of the need. The same is true with any service for Christ. All of our resources amount to nothing apart from Christ!
18 And he said, Bring them here to me. 19 And having commanded the crowds to recline upon the grass, having taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed: and having broken the loaves, he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. vv.18-19 The loaves and fishes first had to be brought to the Lord. He did the miracle. The same is true of the few resources that we possess; they are nothing unless brought to Jesus. It was a desert place, but notice that there was grass! While the nation of Israel was a moral desert, the fellowship and company of Jesus was like a little green oasis in the desert; wherever He was there was grass. He alone is able to “spread a table in the wilderness” (Psa. 78:19); and it is far away from the religious center of Judaism. Ever the dependent man, Jesus looks “up to heaven” before breaking the loaves. He distributes to the disciples, involving them in the work. This is a lesson; if our resources are going to be used to feed God’s people, we must have a conscious sense that we have received them from the hands of Jesus, not as if they belong to us.
20 And all ate and were filled, and they took up what was over and above of fragments twelve hand-baskets full. 21 But those that had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children. vv.20-21 The miracle is performed! The broken loaves were passed from one to another and were not used up! Like the barrel of meal and the cruise of oil (1 Kings 17:16) that did not fail, Jesus’ power maintains the little fragments. There was nothing ostentatious or showy about it; Jesus did not create an enormous loaf of eighteen cubic yards of bread, or something like that. No, it was the same original loaves multiplied gradually by divine power. Furthermore, of the pieces left over, more remained than they started out with! So it is with the work of the Lord. The miracle is often imperceptible in the moment, but looking back over things we can see it! Twelve baskets are left, one for each of the disciples; “the workman is worthy of his hire” (1 Tim. 5:18). Perhaps the number twelve also denotes that this miracle was a sign to the nation of Israel. We don’t know how big the crowd exactly was, but if each of the five-thousand men had a wife and at least one child, then it would have been upwards of fifteen-thousand! Incredible power!
The Feeding of the Five-thousand. This is the only miracle of our Lord that is recounted in all four gospels, so it evidently has a special importance. See Matt. 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; and John 6:1-15 (compare). By contrast with the Synoptic gospels, John the Evangelist does not record the beheading of John the Baptist, nor the apostles’ return from their mission, nor their desire to send the multitude away because they needed rest. In John it is Jesus who takes the initiative, that the masses may be fed. Ultimately, spiritual food is the primary thought in each account, but a different emphasis in each.
Compare Feeding of the 5000 and 4000. In both the feeding of the five-thousand and four-thousand the men were numbered as even multiples of 1000. Both are connected with the Millennium; in ch.14 it is Christ on earth at His first coming displaying the “powers of the world to come”, showing that He could bring in Millennial blessing. In ch.15 it is the Millennium itself. Notice also that in ch.14 it is 5 x 1000, because Israel’s responsibility and failure to receive the Messiah is in view. In ch.15 it is 4 x 1000, because universal blessing is in view. Also, the baskets used to pick up the fragments are different. In ch.14 they are twelve hand-baskets; perhaps five liters each. In ch.15 they are seven market-baskets; perhaps thirty liters each! Even though the numeral ‘seven’ is smaller than ‘twelve’, the total amount was greater in the feeding of the four-thousand. Just so, the blessing dispensed by Jesus on earth was but a sample of the blessing to come!

The Time of Christ’s Absence: A Storm on the Sea of Galilee (14:22-33)

Two Great Transitional Changes (vv.22-23a)

22 And immediately he compelled the disciples to go on board ship, and to go on before him to the other side, until he should have dismissed the crowds. v.22 Change #1: The remnant enters a new phase while the nation is set aside. There is no mention of thanks from the multitude for the meal of loaves and fishes. In fact, from John 6 we learn that they were only interested in satisfying their lusts. Now the Lord dismisses them, a picture of the apostate nation of Israel being set aside. But before He sent the multitudes away, He constrained the faithful remnant to embark on a new phase, to enter a ship and go to the other side. This represents a new departure in the history of God’s people, which began on the Day of Pentecost. Really, the faithful remnant of Jews became the nucleus of the assembly.
23a And having dismissed the crowds, he went up into the mountain apart to pray. v.23a Change #2: Christ returns to the Father and begins His high priestly work. The Lord went up into a mountain, which is a picture of His return to the Father. As a consequence of His rejection, Christ as a man is “alone” in heaven, “apart” from His people in a physical sense; yet He is ever near them in a spiritual sense. Christ would not accept the kingdom from the hands of men (John 6:15); instead He waits in perfect dependence to receive it from His Father. It will be at that moment (Rev. 11:15) when the Father will have put all Christ’s enemies as a footstool under His feet (Heb. 1:13), at a time known only to the Father (Matt. 24:36). In the meantime, He began a new work; a high-priestly work on behalf of His people. It is from the mountain that Christ began to pray, no doubt in part for His disciples on the sea; “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). We cannot take one step in faith apart from the high-priestly grace of Christ. It is absolutely necessary for our continued salvation; “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10). Notice that Christ begins to pray before the storm begins… even so, Christ’s intercession begins long before a trial assails us.

The History of the Christian Testimony (vv.23b-31)

23b And when even was come, he was alone there, 24 but the ship was already in the middle of the sea tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. vv.23b-24 The dark ages. During the time of Christ’s rejection, while He is separated from His people, man’s day rolls on and becomes “evening” in the sense that moral darkness deepens. In conjunction with the moral darkness, a “contrary wind” of evil doctrine (Eph. 4:13) began to blow, and waves began to toss the Christian testimony up and down.
25 But in the fourth watch of the night he went off to them, walking on the sea. 26 And the disciples, seeing him walking on the sea, were troubled, saying, It is an apparition. And they cried out through fear. 27 But Jesus immediately spoke to them, saying, Take courage; it is “I”: be not afraid. vv.25-27 The reformation begins. Up to this point we have the history of the Christian testimony down through the dark ages. The disciples were in the boat, which is a picture of Jewish ground. The boat is a man-made structure to separate the sailors from the sea, just as Judaism is a natural religion that separated Israel from the nations. Through the dark ages, the Christian testimony remained on Jewish ground. They viewed themselves as the spiritual replacement of Israel, and adopted Jewish forms and rituals. The Church really failed to embrace Paul’s doctrine and therefore continued in a Jewish character for many centuries. But in the 1500s the Lord came to His disciples, to intercept them before the break of day. The fourth watch was the final watch of the night, from 3 AM to 6 AM. The first motions of recovery began three quarters of the way through Church history as well. But notice the reaction; they were “troubled” instead of relieved. The sight of a man walking on water was incredulous to them, and they could not believe. In a similar way, the Church was too deeply steeped in Judaism to be completely delivered in Martin Luther’s day. While many foundational truths were recovered, the Church remained in darkness as to her true nature and proper hopes. Yet the Lord did not give up on them, and He spoke encouragingly to them, until at last there was a response. Note: this event is recorded in three out of four gospels (compare).

 And Peter answering him said, Lord, if it be “thou”, command me to come to thee upon the waters. 29 And he said, Come. And Peter, having descended from the ship, walked upon the waters to go to Jesus. vv.28-29 The recovery of the truth. Finally, one of the twelve responds and leaves the Jewish ship to take the same ground as Christ; walking on water. Peter goes beyond the position of the remnant, forsaking all natural supports, and walking on the water with nothing but the truth of Christ’s Person before him! This is the quality of faith that ought to characterize the Church; “Lord, if it be thou, command me to come”. In other words, “Lord, if you are really there, no obstacle is so great that it cannot be overcome by Your command”. Sometimes we lose the practical significance of this miracle. Peter actually walked on the water! Water is the most unsteady of supports. There is no possibility of remaining upright if we lose sight of Christ. There is nothing is us that can keep us in that place, it is only enjoyed by faith in the Person of Christ. In the mid-1800s a small group of Christians got out of the boat and began to walk by faith as gathered to the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ alone. They let go of every human system and embraced Christ’s heavenly, sanctified position as the Church’s proper calling. They went walking out to meet the Lord, looking for His soon return. The hope of the Lord’s coming had been lost for centuries.
30 But seeing the wind strong he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, Lord, save me. 31 And immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught hold of him, and says to him, O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt? vv.30-31 Failure of the recovered testimony. Peter had begun so well in faith, but then he got his eyes off Christ, and onto the storm. The storm really makes no difference when it comes to such a feat as walking on water. One who sinks in the water will sink in the calm sea as well as in the rough sea. Sadly, the heavenly character that was restored in part to the Church in the 19th century has almost been totally lost again… Peter has begun to sink. His state without faith in water is worse than his state in the boat with the remnant. The Church having given up the recovered truth is in greater peril than before it was ever exposed to that light. But faith, ever so weak, cries out to the Lord for salvation. The response is immediate; Jesus reaches forward with His omnipotent hand to sustain His faltering servant. This is where we are today. The Church has largely rejected the heavenly calling, and even those who had separated from Christendom unto Christ have gotten their eyes on circumstances, and are sinking beneath the tide of worldly influences. Our place is that of Peter, to call upon the Lord to sustain our last few wavering steps before He comes to take us home. His coming is so near that He is within arm’s reach. Peter walked on water again, but now it was to his shame; “O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?”1

Christ Rejoins the Remnant (vv.32-33)

32 And when they had gone up into the ship, the wind fell. 33 But those in the ship came and did homage to him, saying, Truly thou art God’s Son. vv.32-33 When at last the Lord comes to the ship (the rapture and the appearing of Christ viewed together seamlessly) the winds of doctrine cease, and all is set right for the Jewish remnant. They see with amazement the efficacious influence of the presence of Christ on the earth… righteousness and peace. They recognize that the calming of the storm is due to the personal presence of the One who walks on water, and who alone is the object for faith of those who imitate Him. They own the truth concerning the Person of Christ; “Truly thou art God’s Son”. With Him in close proximity, the Jewish remnant will own what Peter laid hold of when Christ was at a distance: who Jesus really is. Today it is the Christian’s privilege to own what the Jews rejected; that Jesus is the Son of God. In a coming day, the Jews will own that truth, but the Church will be by His side, in closest association with the very Son of God.

The Millennium: The Lord’s Reception and Healings at Gennesaret (14:34-36)

34 And having crossed over they came to the land of Gennesaret. v.34 Having crossed a period of Gentile blessing (the sea), the Lord resumes His covenantal dealings with Israel again (reaches land). It was the very land of Gennesaret where He had been rejected at His first coming (Matt. 8:28-34) when “the whole city… begged him to go away out of their coasts”. This time He receives a very different welcome!
35 And when the men of that place recognised him, they sent to that whole country around, and they brought to him all that were ill, 36 and besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment; and as many as touched were made thoroughly well. vv.35-36 At His first coming to Israel (Matt. 8:28-34) only the demons would acknowledge the truth of His Person, and the people rejected Him. Now at His second coming they “recognize him” for who He is, and receive Him. What a change between the nation of Israel at His first coming and at His second coming! The difference? A great storm (the Tribulation) in which the remnant will learn their need of Him. Not only do the citizens of Gennesaret receive the Lord for themselves, but they send the good news out through the whole country – a picture of the Gentiles brought into blessing in connection with Israel. All the evil that has come in to corrupt the earth will then be removed by the Messiah when He is rightly received!
A practical note. The Lord did not give up on the people of Gennesaret. Often the first time we speak to someone about Christ they may reject both the message and the messenger. But the Lord may pass that person through some circumstances along with the passage of time to change their willingness to listen. If we have the grace to visit them again, as Christ did here, there may be a different reception!

Second Dispensational Outline: to Syro-Phoenicia and Back Again (Matt. 15)

Dispensational Outline. In a certain sense the whole of chapter 15 is a dispensational outline as follows:
  • vv.1-20 The unbelief of the Jew and exposure of man’s true spiritual condition.
  • vv.21-28 The belief of the Gentile and their blessing while Israel is set aside.
  • vv.29-39 Resumption of dealings with the Jew, and universal blessing in the Millennium.

Religious Hypocrisy & the Evil Heart of Man Exposed (15:1-20)

Hypocritical Accusation of the Pharisees: Disciples Eating Unwashed (15:1-2)

 Then the scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem come up to Jesus, saying, 2 Why do thy disciples transgress what has been delivered by the ancients? for they do not wash their hands when they eat bread. vv.1-2 The accusation from the Pharisees is a rude intrusion into the quasi-Millennial scene at the end of chapter 14. This religious class was the most favored in Israel, and they now reveal their utter hypocrisy in light of the grace and truth that came by Jesus Christ. The scribes and Pharisees make a journey from Judea to Galilee to question Jesus. They believed they had Him in a trap, not because of His own actions, but by those of His disciples. There is no Old Testament scripture requiring a person to wash their hands before eating. Certainly, it is a wise thing to do, but not required. Also, we must understand that hand-washing had evolved into an elaborate ceremonial procedure (Mark 7:3-4) delivered from “the ancients”, not the simple 20 seconds it takes to physically clean your hands. The Rabbis taught that hand-washing preserved a person from ceremonial defilement.

The Lord’s Condemnation of the Pharisees for Hypocrisy (15:3-9)

3 But he answering said to them, Why do “ye” also transgress the commandment of God on account of your traditional teaching? v.3 The Lord does not debate the details of the traditions and of the disciples’ actions. Such debating will never reach the conscience. As was His usual method, the Lord asks them a question of His own which does get to their conscience and the heart of the matter. They really had no concern for the claims of God, and they had an exalted view of tradition. They were zealous for the traditions of their fathers in direct opposition to the plain commandments of God! He gives them an example.

Any tradition formed on any other basis than the Word of God will sooner or later be found in contradiction to the plain commandments of God. We see this with the copious traditions developed in the Catholic Church down through the centuries. Holy candles, holy robes, holy incense, holy smoke, etc. all are in opposition to the principles of New Testament doctrine. Generally speaking, the traditions valued so greatly by the Church are deviations from the Word of God.

We are not saying that traditions in the sense of practical applications are bad, so long as they are formed on scripture and never elevated above (or even close to) scripture. For instance, we are told to go unto Jesus without the camp of Judaism; leaving all the elements of a natural religion behind (Heb. 13:13). One application of that is to omit instrumental music from assembly worship. That is a tradition or application based on a scriptural principle. However, we should be very careful not to "do things how we've always done them" without looking afresh to the Lord and His Word for direction. This is the religious tendency of the flesh, and it is the opposite of dependence on the Lord.

The word "traditions" is used several times in the New Testament, not only for the added sayings of men (Matt. 15:1-7), but for what the apostles exhorted the saints by inspiration, first orally, then in writing while the canon was in building and not yet complete (Rom. 6:17; 2 Thess. 2:15; 1 Cor. 11:2).The word could also be translated "directions" or "instructions". In either case, these "instructions" were commandments from the Lord; "if any man thinketh himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge the things that I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord" (1 Cor. 14:37). We have those same "instructions" with us today, in the completed canon of scripture. The idea that there is a separate set of "traditions" (man's word) that are to be valued equally or superior to God's Word is very dangerous.

Whether it be the Jewish Talmud or the Christian Catechism, the traditions of men always lead to transgressing the commandments of God! Why? It is looking to man rather than looking to God, and it is adding to scripture.

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4 For God commanded saying, “Honour father and mother[Exo. 20:12; Deut. 5:16]; and, “He that speaks ill of father or mother, let him die the death[Lev. 20:9]. 5 But “ye” say, Whosoever shall say to his father or mother, It is a gift, whatsoever it be by which received from me thou wouldest be profited: 6 and he shall in no wise honour his father or his mother; and ye have made void the commandment of God on account of your traditional teaching. vv.4-6 The Lord takes up a very personal example. The Law was clear on the issue of honoring one’s father and mother (fifth commandment, Exodus 20;12). It is clear that honoring one’s parents includes caring for them financially. Remember, there was no Social Security Administration back then. Not only was honor for parents rewarded; “the first commandment with promise” of long life (Eph. 6:2-3), but disrespect for parents was punishable by “the death” or execution by stoning (Exo. 21:15,17; Deut. 21:18-21). In order to escape the financial burden of caring for their parents, the Jews had used a tradition whereby all they had to do was pronounce the word “Corban” (or, “it is a gift”, Mark 7:11, also used in Lev. 1-3) and no one was allowed to ask questions about their money because it was marked as “for the service of the Lord”. By using this method they could forget about their poor parents and justify their actions based on tradition. But this “traditional teaching” made “void the commandment of God”.
7 Hypocrites! well has Esaias prophesied about you, saying, 8 This people honour me with the lips, but their heart is far away from me; 9 but in vain do they worship me, teaching as teachings commandments of men.[Isa. 29:13] vv.7-9 The Lord was here on earth exposing the inward fleshly motives in these outwardly upright Pharisees, and now He pronounces it on them. They were not merely following tradition, they were using tradition to indulge the flesh, which is ultimate hypocrisy. Traditions are nothing but religious habits to disguise a cold heart. The Lord quotes from Isaiah to show that these right-wing leaders were really no different than the nation of Israel in the time of the kings on whom judgment fell. They honored God with “the lips” (had a showy outward profession) but “the heart” was far from God (they had no real fear of God). Therefore, all their sacrifices of “worship” were disqualified before God, because they valued the “commandments of men” at the expense of the Word of God. The Lord will expand on the subject of man’s heart in the next section.

Teaching About True Defilement: Comes from Within Man’s Heart (15:10-20)

10 And having called to him the crowd, he said to them, Hear and understand: 11 Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man; but what goes forth out of the mouth, this defiles the man. vv.10-11 The Lord now calls the crowd which had been standing at a distance. The broader principle which he was about to unfold is important for everyone to “hear and understand”. However, we never read that they did understand. The religious leaders believed that tradition made them better, but the common people thought that culture made them better! The Lord now teaches that every effort of man to morally improve himself (eating right, etc.) is totally ineffectual at getting to the root of the problem. Fundamentally, a man does not sin because he is defiled by the evil in his environment, but rather evil comes out of a man’s heart and corrupts his environment. This is a message that man does not want to hear. His very nature is corrupt; therefore no good can come from it, and there is no use retraining the flesh through legal ordinances. Any effort to improve man in the flesh is a fundamental misunderstanding of the cross and God’s judgment on the flesh (Rom. 8:3).
12 Then his disciples, coming up, said to him, Dost thou know that the Pharisees, having heard this word, have been offended? v.12 The disciples sensed the magnitude of it, and the ramifications among the Sanhedrin. Also, naturally they did not like what the Lord was saying either, because it runs totally contrary every natural thought. They perhaps thought the Lord was being a bit too radical, and thought to reign the Savior in, and being sympathetic to those who were offended.
13 But he answering said, Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up. v.13 The Lord’s answer reveals a wonderful secret. The Pharisees did not have a new life from God. The only solution for man is that he be planted with a new life, from the Father in heaven. No earthly solution will work, it requires the action of the “heavenly Father”. For those who do not possess this new life, their plants will be rooted up for judgment (Matt. 13:41; Rev.14:14-16; Matt. 24:30-31, 40-41).
14 Leave them alone; they are blind leaders of blind: but if blind lead blind, both will fall into a ditch. v.14 They were to “leave them alone”, or don’t let the fear of them bring you under their legal control. Step away from the whole system of Judaism. What we have here is the true Shepherd leading His sheep out of the fold of Judaism (John 10:3). Void of divine life, the Pharisees exercised their leadership without any moral discernment, as a blind person (John 9:40-41). More than that, they were leading an apostate nation that was also blind. The danger is that “both will fall into the ditch”; both the religious leaders and the led are headed for judgment.
15 And Peter answering said to him, Expound to us this parable. v.15 Peter refers to the Lord’s statement in vv.10-11 as a parable that needed to be expounded. That is very telling. Peter could not understand the Lord’s plain assertion that man’s heart was the fountain-head of evil! The main reason we have difficulty with understanding scripture is that we don’t like what it says! Peter thought, “this has to be a parable about something”. But no, it is not a parable, rather it was a plain statement of fact.
16 But he said, Are “ye” also still without intelligence? 17 Do ye not yet apprehend, that everything that enters into the mouth finds its way into the belly, and is cast forth into the draught? vv.16-17 The Lord remarks on not only Peter’s intelligence, but all the disciples (“ye” is plural). Graciously, the Lord walks them through what He had previously said, but doesn’t soften the meaning of it at all. The physical food taken into the physical body works its way through and gets flushed down the toilet as physical waste. There is no possibility of contracting spiritual or moral defilement from eating with physically unwashed hands!
18 but the things which go forth out of the mouth come out of the heart, and those defile man. v.18 But while moral things don’t go into the mouth, certainly they can come out of the mouth in the form of words. Words really express what is in the heart; for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34) and “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). It is those evil thoughts and desires coming out of the heart through the mouth that morally defile a person.
19 For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnessings, blasphemies; 20 these are the things which defile man; but the eating with unwashen hands does not defile man. vv.19-20 The Lord lists seven things that come out of the evil heart of man. There is a moral progression to these things: (1) “thoughts” are where the evil is premeditated, (2) “murders”, (3) “adulteries”, (4) “fornications”, (5) “thefts”, (6) “false witnessings”, and (7) “blasphemies” are how those thoughts are worked out into actions. But nowhere in that list is eating with ceremonially unwashed hands. Man cannot escape his own defilement by ceremonial rites, he must receive a new heart by being “born of water and of the Spirit” (John 3:5)

Turning to the Gentiles: the Syro-Phoenician’s Daughter (15:21-28)

 21 And Jesus, going forth from thence, went away into the parts of Tyre and Sidon; v.21 Israel’s rejection again being manifested, Jesus withdraws Himself again and heads northwest. Tyre and Sidon are 125 miles from Jerusalem. It belonged to Syria at this time, and was well-known as a place that had come under the judgment of God (Matt. 11:21-22). The overthrow of Tyre predicted in Isa. 23 and Ezek. 26 was only partially accomplished by Nebuchadnezzar in the Judean captivity. Later, Alexander the Great utterly destroyed them according to Ezek. 26:3, 4, and sold the remaining inhabitants into slavery. They represent the Gentiles as a people-group.
22 and lo, a Canaanitish woman, coming out from those borders, cried to him saying, Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is miserably possessed by a demon. v.22 This Canaanitish woman illustrates the dispensational ways of God to turn to the Gentiles when Israel is set aside. Here she is called “Canaanitish” but called “Syro-Phoenician” in Mark 7:26 (compare). The emphasis is on her utter alienation from any claim to God, because she is connected with “cursed Canaan” (Gen. 9:25). Not only that, but her daughter had been possessed by a demon, and was fully under the control of Satan. You can’t get lower than this. We get this same double condition of misery in Ephesians 2; we Gentiles were slaves to Satan (vv.1-3) and strangers from the covenants of promise (v.12). Her first cry to the Lord is very interesting. She is a Gentile, but she addresses Him according to His relationship to the Jews. Perhaps because of the proximity to Israel she thought using His messianic title would have some influence over Him. She sought to lay hold of Jewish promises though a Gentile. The result is very interesting.
23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came to him and asked him, saying, Dismiss her, for she cries after us. v.23 The Lord doesn’t answer a word, as if ignoring her. Why? He knew all along that He would heal her daughter, but He desired to see something more. She had come to him on the wrong basis; a dishonest one. She had nothing to do with the Son of David, or the chosen people, the Jews. As Son of David, “Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers” (Rom. 15:8). She tried to claim promises that had not been given to her people. There are no promises of blessing for Canaanites. In fact, all we have in prophecy is the promise that Israel’s failed expulsion of the Canaanites will one day be accomplished by the Lord (Obad. 1:20; Zech. 14:21). Yet wonderfully, the Lord was not merely Son of David (as such He couldn’t help her) but he was also Son of God on earth to meet man’s need. The disciples don’t enter into the Lord’s heart for this woman, and reveal their own coldness by asking the Lord to dismiss her. They reveal the prejudice of the Jew who would kick away the grasping Gentiles from their coattails. Notice: she was not crying after them, as they wrongly assume, but Him.
Application to today. Sometimes sinners come to God in a similar way, claiming promises they have no right to. Promises in the Old Testament were to Israel, and promises in the New Testament are to Christians. For example, when someone gets sick they might pray the Lord’s prayer, or claim the promise that “all things work together for good”. What they must be told is that those promises are “to them the love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). Things don’t work together for good to the sinner. No, the sinner ends up in torment! The common expression “every human being is a child of God” is utter nonsense (unless it is in the sense of Acts 17:28). No, the sinner is not a child of God, and cannot come to God for blessing on that basis, unless he is willing to acknowledge his true moral condition. The sinner must approach God like the publican, who “standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner (Luke 18:13). Technically, a person who is quickened is a child of God, but he is not in that conscious relationship until he has humbly turned to Christ for salvation. It is only “as many as received him, to them gave he the right to be children of God, to those that believe on his name” (John 1:12).
24 But he answering said, I have not been sent save to the lost sheep of Israel’s house. v.24 The Lord states His proper mission as Son of David, that title in which she had approached unto Him. As if to say, “I can offer you no blessing on that ground, because your condition is worse than you know”. This woman had faith, and the Lord knew it was there, but was cultivating a state of soul that answered to the truth about her condition. He was giving her a hint, and she got it! Outwardly this would appear very harsh, but to faith (and this woman had it) this was an invitation to respond again, if she was willing to lower herself, and drop all claims to blessing by right
25 But she came and did him homage, saying, Lord, help me. v.25 And she does lower herself! She bows before Him in homage, all religious pretenses stripped away by the skill of this Divine Soul-worker. She simply acknowledges (1) His Lordship in a universal way, and (2) her need of His help. Notice how similar this cry “Lord, help me” is to Peter’s cry in ch.14, “Lord, save me.” It is that simple cry of faith so characteristic to these last 2,000 years of Gentile blessing.
26 But he answering said, It is not well to take the bread of the children and cast it to the dogs. 27 But she said, Yea, Lord; for even the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from the table of their masters. vv.26-27 There is one more step which the Lord wished to see this woman take in her faith. He wished her to rise up and acknowledge the heart of God. So the Lord calls her people “dogs” (or, “puppies”) to her face, because that is morally what the Gentiles were. He says “You are not a child, you are only a worthless dog, and it simply isn’t right to give the child’s portion to the dogs.” Her response is beautiful, and Jesus rejoiced to hear it. “Yea Lord” – that is, “Yes, I am a worthless creature, and have no claim to blessing… but I still appeal, not on the basis of my own merit, but on the basis of sovereign mercy”. She knew that if even a human heart could find mercy to let crumbs fall to the dogs, then God’s heart had sufficient mercy in it to bless the Gentiles in His sovereignty. God’s grace and power were so great that but one crumb of it was enough to deliver her daughter from her condition of misery.
28 Then Jesus answering said to her, O woman, thy faith is great. Be it to thee as thou desirest. And her daughter was healed from “that” hour. v.28 Immediately her daughter was healed from the demonic possession. Her faith rose up to the character of God, and it was not disappointed! By faith she enjoyed a taste of what happened after the cross, when God burst out of the bounds of Israel in sovereign blessing to the Gentiles! All this she enjoyed by simple faith. How different was her faith from the unbelief of the Jewish leaders in vv.1-20. They were offended when Jesus exposed the evil heart of man. This woman acknowledged that she was nothing but a worthless dog, and yet had appealed to the sovereign mercy of God… and she obtained mercy. Note: she was a blessing to her daughter. In ch.14 we had a woman (Herodias) that was a curse to her daughter.

Millennial Blessing: Feeding of the Four Thousand (15:29-39)

 29 And Jesus, going away from thence, came towards the sea of Galilee, and he went up into the mountain and sat down there; v.29 Once again Jesus departs, and we get another scene of blessing. He heads south toward the Sea of Galilee, which speaks of a resumption of God’s dealings with the remnant of Israel (see v.31). From Mark we learn that it was in Decapolis, on the eastern side of the Sea. He goes up into a mountain, which is a picture of priesthood (Matt. 14:23). It is as Priest after the order of Melchizedek that Christ will be the blesser of the Millennial earth, bringing forth bread and wine.
30 and great crowds came to him, having with them lame, blind, dumb, crippled, and many others, and they cast them at his feet, and he healed them: v.30 So it will be when the Lord appears, that Israel will come to Him out a sense of great need. He will make them feel their need through the tribulation time, and then He will meet those needs in His priestly grace.
31 so that the crowds wondered, seeing dumb speaking, crippled sound, lame walking, and blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel. v.31 The evidence was overwhelming that God was on earth visiting His people, and there was a response. So it will be in the Millennial day; the outpouring of blessing will lead all, Jew and Gentile, to glorify Jehovah – “the God of Israel”.
32 But Jesus, having called his disciples to him, said, I have compassion on the crowd, because they have stayed with me already three days and they have not anything they can eat, and I would not send them away fasting lest they should faint on the way. v.32 Not only were the medical needs met, but provision was made for their sustenance. In ch.14 we had the feeding of the five-thousand, and now we get a very similar miracle performed for four-thousand (compare). In ch.14 it pictured what Christ did on earth to demonstrate that He was the Messiah; here in ch.15 it is a picture of the “world to come”, the Millennium itself. There are a number of important differences between the two miracles. With the five-thousand it was the disciples weariness with the multitude that was the occasion of the feeding; here it is the Lord Himself who brings the subject up, and simply tells out His heart for them. “They have stayed with me already three days” – that is two days of Gentile blessing, and now the Millennial day; “After two days will He revive us; in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight” (Hosea 6:2).
33 And his disciples say to him, Whence should we have so many loaves in the wilderness as to satisfy so great a crowd? v.33 Once again, the disciples are slow to enter into the heart of Christ. Their failure was in looking to themselves for resources, instead of seeing the greatness of the Person in their midst.
34 And Jesus says to them, How many loaves have ye? But they said, Seven, and a few small fishes. v.34 When asked, the disciples find seven loaves and a few small fishes. With the five-thousand they had five loaves, because five is the number of human weakness (Israel at Christ’s first coming). But here there are seven loaves, because seven is the number of spiritual completeness (Christ at His second coming). Truly Israel will reflect on their history as one of human failure, but see fullness of provision in Christ! If we have Christ, we have everything (1 Cor. 1:30).
35 And he commanded the crowds to lie down on the ground; 36 and having taken the seven loaves and the fishes, having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples, and the disciples to the crowd. vv.35-36 Again the Lord feeds the multitude in an orderly way. Again He gives thanks for the food; ever the dependent man, even in the day of His glory. Again He employs the disciples to distribute the loaves and fishes. It is a beautiful picture of how Christ will use restored Israel in the government of the Millennial earth, as the head of every other nation. Blessing will flow from Christ, through the Church, through Israel, to the world.
37 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was over and above of the fragments seven baskets full; 38 but they that ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. vv.37-38 The miracle occurs; “they all ate and were filled”. What a day that will be when blessing flows unhindered and souls are filled! They started with seven loaves and ended with seven baskets! The all-sufficiency of Christ is the supply for present need (loaves) and for the future (baskets). The baskets used to pick up the fragments are different. In ch.14 they are twelve hand-baskets; perhaps five liters each. In ch.15 they are seven market-baskets; perhaps thirty liters each! Though the numeral seven is less than twelve, the Spirit is careful to show that the blessing in the Millennium will far exceed the works of power and grace shown at the Lord’s first coming. Notice also that in ch.14 the number of men was 5 x 1000, because Israel’s responsibility and failure to receive the Messiah was in view. In ch.15 the number of men is 4 x 1000, because universal blessing is in view.
39 And, having dismissed the crowds, he went on board ship and came to the borders of Magadan. v.39 Magadan was a small coastal town just south of Gennesaret. This marks a break in the narrative. In ch.16-27 we get a new withdrawal, and another dispensational outline. It is at the culmination of that fourth withdrawal that Jesus reveals His intention to build His Church, founded on the basis of who He is as Son of God!
The Four Withdrawals of Christ. In this portion of Our Lord’s journeys He withdraws from the crowds no less than four times; three in ch.14-15 and one in ch.16-17.
  • We find Jesus passing through Nazareth, where He is rejected for a second time (Matt. 13:54).
  • 1st Withdrawal. He continues through Galilee, and from Capernaum, they go off by boat with Jesus to a quiet place near Bethsaida (Luke 9:10). Here he feeds the 5,000 (Matt. 14:14).
  • The disciples return across the Sea of Galilee in a storm (Matt. 14:22), Jesus meets them walking on the water (Matt. 14:25). They land near the Plain of Gennesaret and Jesus heals many (Matt. 14:34).
  • From Gennesaret they make their way back to Capernaum (John 6:24).
  • 2nd Withdrawal. Jesus withdraws from Galilee to the region of Tyre and Sidon in Syrian-Phoenicia (Matt. 15:21) where he heals the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman (Matt. 15:22).
  • 3rd Withdrawal. He leaves Sidon and great crowds follow Him. He goes toward Galilee (Matt. 15:29) but travels through the Decapolis (Mark 7:31) where he heals the deaf and mute man (Mk 7:32) and feeds the 4,000 (Mt 15:32).
  • He comes to the Sea of Galilee, crosses by boat to Dalmanutha (Matt. 15:39). There the Pharisees and Sadducees ask for a sign from heaven (Matt. 16:1).
  • He continues on to Bethsaida where a blind man is healed (Mk 8:22).
  • 4th Withdrawal. Jesus then withdraws again, and travels from Galilee to Caesarea Philippi. This is the most remote of His withdrawals. It is there that Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God (Matt. 16:13).
  • He continued north from Caesarea Philippi towards Mount Hermon where Jesus is transfigured (Matt. 17:1).
  • Jesus return to Galilee (Matt. 17:22) where (in Capernaum) He pays the Temple Tax with the coin from the fish’s mouth (Matt. 17:24)!
  • Jesus leaves Capernaum and Galilee for the last earthly time (Matt 19:1) and heads for Jerusalem (John 7:10). 
  1. The expression "O ye of little faith" is a gentle rebuke, repeated four times in Matthew: first in Matt. 6:30 in regard to care; second in Matt. 8:23 in regard to fear; third in Matt. 14:31 in regard to doubt; and fourth in Matt. 16:7-8 in regard to reasoning in divine things. All four instances have to do with failure in simple faith. And yet the Lord never says to His own "O ye of no faith".

Matthew 16 - 17

Coming Changes: the Assembly and the Millennium
Matthew 16 – 17
Another Dispensational Outline. In ch.16-17 we have another dispensational outline.
  • Ch.16, vv.1-12 Israel’s Rejection of the Messiah, the Sign of the Prophet Jonas
  • Ch.16, vv.13-28 The Church to be built, the necessity of the death and resurrection of Christ
  • Ch.17, vv.1-27 A sample of the Millennial Kingdom on the Mount of Transfiguration
Another Turning Point. We get another great turning point in Matthew. The Lord had spoken of the kingdom of heaven “at hand” up through ch.10, but then He and His messengers were rejected in ch.11-12, and we have the first turning point in ch.13 with the Mystery phase of the kingdom brought in. Then in ch.14-15 we have Christ withdrawing from the Nation, while the Nation continues to reject Him. Now in ch.16 we get another turning point. Not a negative turning point like ch.13 (the manifestation phase postponed) but a positive one! Christ was going to build something brand new and unpredicted; His assembly. And then He instructs His disciples to discontinue proclaiming His Jewish title of “Messiah” or “Christ” (v.20). In ch.13 the Lord goes out of the house and takes up the position of Son of Man, as rejected by Israel. But in ch.16 He accepts the positive witness that He is Son of God!
Matthew 16 and 17 form the basis for Peter’s first and second epistles, respectively. In his first epistle, Peter brings out that we are living stones built upon Christ the cornerstone into a spiritual house, as we have been “begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3). This directly correlates to the Lord’s words in response to Peter’s confession in Matt. 16. In his second epistle, Peter recounts the kingdom glory of Christ on the mount of transfiguration (Matt. 17) as a proof that the outcome of prophecy is sure. Peter was given the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and so he is occupied in both epistles with government. In his first epistle he presents the government of God in the lives of believers, in his second epistle God’s government in the world. 

The Wickedness of the Religious Leaders (16:1-12)

The Pharisees’ and Sadducees’ Demand for a Sign (16:1-4)

 And the Pharisees and Sadducees, coming to him, asked him, tempting him, to shew them a sign out of heaven. v.1 The Lord had been travelling all over the countryside healing and feeding the multitudes, and these religious leaders had the audacity to come to Him asking for a sign! They were looking for a sign of the coming kingdom… that was exactly what Jesus had been doing in ch.8-9 and ch.14-15! Their temptation was a denial of the presence of Jehovah among His people. It was a slap in the face. This is worse than the disobedience of ch.15. This is unbelief, which is the root of disobedience. Also, this is the first time we see the Pharisees and Sadducees together. The Pharisees and Sadducees were completely opposed to one another in their doctrine, but they agreed on this: they wanted to get rid of Christ the rightful king. What greater sign could God give them than His own Son on earth in their midst? Mr. Kelly explained it this way; unbelief is like a man gazing into the sun at noonday, then asking God to give him a candle for light. What more do you need?
2 But he answering said to them, When evening is come, ye say, Fine weather, for the sky is red; 3 and in the morning, A storm to-day, for the sky is red and lowering; ye know how to discern the face of the sky, but ye cannot the signs of the times. vv.2-3 The Lord states a common axiom of meteorology among fishing villages that they knew well, and trusted. In English is goes; “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning!” They had no problem discerning the weather for the following day, but they were totally ignorant of signs of the times. They had already had their “red sky at night”, in the miracles done by Christ which were a taste of the powers of the world to come (fine weather). But they had rejected Him! Israel’s condition of unbelief was like a “red sky at morning”… it was a sure indication the judgment was coming. Next in v.4 He gives them a sign; but it is a sign of judgment not of blessing. Here the nation was in a state of moral blindness, and they missed the signs of the times. In Isaiah 53 we have the confession of the faithful remnant in a future day of the nation’s blindness at Christ’s first coming (e.g. Isa. 53:2).
4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and a sign shall not be given to it save the sign of Jonas. And he left them and went away. v.4 Only a wicked and wanton generation would ask for a sign with no intention of receiving it. The Son came to save, and not to judge; but He would not pander to the whims of that “generation”. And yet, He would give them a sign to look for – the sign of the Prophet Jonah– which was a sign of God’s judgment on Israel. It was the only sign left to give “this generation”. The Lord withdraws from them and goes away. This is now the fourth time we have seen Jesus withdrawing.

The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees Warned Against (16:5-12)

vv.5-12 As part of a dispensational outline, the unbelief of the leaders of Israel had been exposed in vv.1-4, and now a new thing was about to dawn (v.13). But first, the Lord warns those who would compose His Church that He didn’t want any carryover from apostate Judaism into Christianity.
 5 And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. v.5 This was a circumstance of the wilderness; human failure. These types of failure are bound to happen as long as we are in this scene, but the Lord is sufficient to supply all our need. They had forgotten physical bread, but a much more serious danger faced them, of a spiritual nature.
6 And Jesus said to them, See and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. v.6 In vv.1-4 we had the bold unbelief of the Pharisees and Sadducees exposed, and now we get a warning to remain separate from their evil doctrine. He had separated His disciples physically from them (v.5), but there was a need to be spiritually separate from them as well. The great danger facing the Jewish remnant was the insidious nature of the evil doctrine surrounding them. We too are surrounded by evil doctrine. They were to do two things: (1) “see” or identify the evil doctrine, and (2) “beware” of it or stand tenaciously on guard against it. If we only do one or the other we will be in trouble. How does this verse jive with Rom. 16:19, “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil”? We are to be well-acquainted with what is good, and know as little as necessary about what is evil. Occupation with evil is unhealthy for a Christian, and if we rely on human wisdom concerning evil, we are sure to fall. But simplicity isn’t ignorance. We don’t need to meditate for hours on evil doctrine, but we do need to be aware of what they are and where they exist.
7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, Because we have taken no bread. v.7 When a man, even a Christian, begins to reason apart from the revelation of God, his thoughts fall far short of God’s. This is what the disciples did here. They ignored the Lord, and began to reason among themselves. Their greatest concern was their unpreparedness with regard to physical food. They were totally missing the Lord’s point. This is always the outcome of human reasoning in the things of God; two things: (1) it reduces our thoughts down to what is natural and superficial (vv.7-8), and (2) it takes our eyes off of Christ (vv.9-10).
8 And Jesus knowing it, said, Why reason ye among yourselves, O ye of little faith, because ye have taken no bread? 9 Do ye not yet understand nor remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many hand-baskets ye took up10 nor the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up11 How do ye not understand that it was not concerning bread I said to you, Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees? vv.8-11 The Lord tenderly rebukes their smallness of faith.1 In reasoning on a human level they had lost sight of the person in their midst! The Lord graciously reminds them of His loving power in feeding the two multitudes with a few loaves, and yet how much was left over. Surely, the presence of the Lord is enough to settle every question about physical want… if we have faith and don’t get into reasoning! Had they been conscious of the greatness of the Lord’s Person they would not have jumped to that conclusion.
Practical Note. It’s always good for a teacher to make sure his audience is following along. Asking a question is a good way to do this. It is similar to a teacher giving a quiz or test. He reviews the material, and then they understand it! The Lord exemplifies this as the Perfect Teacher in these verses.
12 Then they comprehended that he did not speak of being beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. v.12 Finally they understand His meaning. He was not referring to leaven in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense. Leaven in scripture is always a type of evil. Sometimes it is moral evil (1 Cor. 5:9) and sometimes doctrinal evil (Gal. 5:9). Here it is the doctrinal evil of the Pharisees and Sadducees. What is the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees? As we saw in ch.15, the Pharisees were known for emphasizing the traditions of the elders, and they tended toward a legal attitude. They maintained a clean exterior but a filthy interior. The Sadducees denied the resurrection, the existence of angels, and the possibility of the spirit to subsist outside the body (Acts 23:8). These beliefs are in open contradiction to the Word of God. The Pharisees and Sadducees are not unique to the time period in which they lived. The class of Pharisees stood for the religious right; conservatism at the expense of truth. We can see today in Christendom a legal, ritualistic influence that adds to the Word of God. The class of Sadducees stood for the religious left; liberalism at the expense of truth. We can see a similar evil today in Christendom in the form of rationalistic theology. Both are dangerous, and we must be warned of them. The flesh in each of us is a little of the Pharisee, and a little of the Sadducee (see encyclopedia entry).

The Building of Christ’s Church & the Path for Disciples (16:13-28)

Peter’s Revelation and Confession of the Person of Christ (16:13-17)

 13 But when Jesus was come into the parts of Caesarea-Philippi, he demanded of his disciples, saying, Who do men say that I the Son of man am? v.13 Caesarea-Philippi is the farthest point from Jerusalem that is still in the land of Israel. It was a city within the bounds of Israel, but with a strong Pagan history. Ruins of the temple of Pan (the god of nature) can still be seen today. It is not to be confused with Caesarea-by-the-Sea, which was a Roman outpost, where families of soldiers would live. It is remarkable that the Lord chose this place as a backdrop, in the face of Israel’s rejection, to unfold the truth of the Church. He asks His disciples men’s opinions concerning who He, the Son of Man, was. He refers to Himself as the “Son of Man” not the Christ, or some other title. Matthew presents the Lord as the Christ, the Son of David and Son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1). But at this point the testimony to His being the Messiah had been fully rendered, and He had been utterly rejected as Messiah of Israel. In rejection by Israel He takes the broader title of Son of Man, in which He is in relation to all people, Jews and Gentiles. Read more… According to Daniel 7, the Son of Man will be given the universal reign over the whole earth, just as the stone grew into a great mountain. He queries His disciples to manifest the highest of man’s opinions as to who the Son of Man was.
14 And they said, Some, John the baptist; and others, Elias; and others again, Jeremias or one of the prophets. v.14 They give a number of responses, and the names include great men. John the Baptist was by the Lord’s own confession the greatest born of women. Elijah was the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, Jeremiah and others taking their places behind him. But these were all men. Yes, they were men with divine commissions; but still they were mere men.
15 He says to them, But “ye”, who do ye say that I am? v.15 Many opinions having been put forth, the Lord now wanted to hear the confession of His own in contrast with the opinions of men. He directs the question to His own disciples.
16 And Simon Peter answering said, “Thou” art the Christ, the Son of the living God. v.16 Simon Peter answers, always forward in his disposition, and gives the beautiful response; “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”. This is the response Jesus was seeking! There are two parts to Peter’s confession:
  1. Thou art the Christ. The title ‘Christ’ (synonymous with Messiah) means “the Anointed.” It was the title given in prophecy to the coming Deliverer of Israel. In the Old Testament, there were three offices that were anointed; prophets, priests, and kings. Jesus holds all three of those offices in perfection, and for those offices He was anointed by the Spirit of God (Acts 10:38). In His human nature, He is the Son of David, the Messiah. But He was far more than that, and so Peter goes on.
  2. The Son of the Living God. As a divine Person Jesus is the Son of the living God. The Sonship of our Lord is His eternal, intrinsic, ontological, intra-Trinitarian identity. He became the Christ as a man, but He never became the Son… He always was the Son of God! Moreover, He is the Son of the living God which brings out the truth that He has life in Himself, both in a past eternity as the Eternal Word (John 1:4) and as a dependent man on earth (John 5:26). It is a boundless, springing life; and it can never be held down. As the one who intrinsically had life in Himself, death could not hold Him! He arose from among the dead “…having loosed the pains of death, inasmuch as it was not possible that he should be held by its power” (Acts 2:24). Therefore it was in resurrection that “He was declared to be the Son of God with power” (Rom. 1:4) because that life sprouted up again in a new character that we call resurrection life. In resurrection life Jesus became the Head of a New Creation, and shared all His relationships with those in that New Creation. The resurrection proved that He was Son of the living God.
Both Mark and Luke record Peter saying “Thou are the Christ of God”, which was the Jewish confession only. But here in Matthew the Christian confession is added; “Thou art… the Son of the living God”. It was this Christian confession – Jesus is the Son of God – that would become the foundation for the Assembly, and so the assembly is mentioned here in Matthew but omitted in Mark and Luke.
17 And Jesus answering said to him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in the heavens. v.17 The Lord replies with the dignity of a king! He instantly confirms Peter’s confession with the authority that He could only have if it were true. He addresses Peter by his natural name “Simon Bar-jona” and tells him that he is “blessed”. That is, he had been given the happy and exalted privilege to utter the confession he had just made. But it didn’t come from Peter, or any other human means (“flesh and blood”). No, the truth of the Person of Christ – His being the Son of God – is a secret that can only be revealed to someone by the Father, for “no man knoweth the Son, but the Father” (Matt. 11:27). Man in the flesh will never rise up to honor the Son by recognizing the truth of His Person. It must be by revelation from the Father.

The Foundation and Building of Christ’s Assembly (16:18)

18a And “I” also, I say unto thee that “thou” art Peter [‘petros’]v.18a The Lord had told Simon on the day they first met (John 1:42) that he would be called Cephas (Peter), but at that time it was stated in a future tense because it was a prophecy. Now He gives Peter his new name officially because we are getting the meaning and significance of his name. The name for Peter is petros and it means, ‘a little stone’ and the word for rock is petra and it means ‘a large stone’. A ‘petros’ is just a part of a ‘petra’. There Lord was saying, “I am going to make you of the same substance as the rock.” This rock is not Peter as the Catholic Church teaches. Peter himself says who the stone is in 1 Pet. 2:4; Christ is the living stone, and we are lively stones built up into a temple to His praise! In order to be built into Christ’s assembly, Peter and all of us need to be given a new life and nature, the very same life and nature of Christ! Eve had to be “built” by God from a bone taken from Adam’s side in order to be of the same substance as him (Gen. 2:22). In the same way the Church is composed of many stones that are just like the Rock. As Paul could say “For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (Eph. 5:30).
18b and on this rock [‘petra’] I will build my assembly, v.18b This is the first time in the book, and in the New Testament, that the Lord uses the words “my assembly”. He introduces it in ch.16, then provides a few more details in ch.18, but the full declaration of the truth of the Church had to wait until the work of the cross was complete, the Holy Ghost sent down, the final offer given to and rejected by Israel, and for God to raise up a special vessel (Paul) to make it fully known. Before that time, the truth concerning the assembly was a Mystery, hid in God. The Church (or, assembly) did not exist in the Old Testament, although Covenant Theology teaches that error. Sometimes they will say the New Testament “assembly” is the same as the “congregation of Israel” and use Acts 7:38 which says “the church in the wilderness”, which is a reference to the congregation of Israel. Every time the word ‘assembly’ is used, the context must be examined to determine if it refers to “the assembly” or to some other assemblage (e.g. Psa. 22:16). The existence of the Church as totally distinct from Israel is undeniably proven in 1 Cor. 10:32. The Lord makes it clear by saying “I will build” in the future tense! It was something altogether new and different from what existed up until that time. The word “assembly” is ekklesia in Greek, and simply means ‘called out ones’. It is composed of Christians, former Jews and Gentiles called out of the world, united together by the Holy Ghost into one new thing. The Church is build upon the rock of Peter’s confession, which is the truth of the Person of Christ; that Jesus is the Son of God. He is the rock because of His strength, stability, durability, etc. before God in contrast to the weakness in inconsistency of the First Man. The Church is built upon the Rock; that order is important. Faith in the Person of Christ precedes a person being built into the Church of Christ. The foundation is likewise the logical target for Satan’s assaults. Satan has attacked the Church, and the very earliest and boldest attacks were on the foundation; heterodox teachings about the Person of Christ!
18c and hades’ gates shall not prevail against it. v.18c The “gates of hades” are symbolic of the power of death, which is the strength of Satan’s kingdom. Satan, up until the cross, wielded the weapon of death (‘hades’ is the state of the spirit and soul separate from the body). But because the Church is founded on Christ not merely as a man, but as Son of the Living God, the Church is invincible! All of Satan’s power has no jurisdiction over the Church of Christ, who is Son of the living God! Christ had broken “the power of death” (Heb. 2:14) and now He holds the “keys of death and hades” (Rev. 1:18). Israel was founded on earthly covenants, and they were coming under judgment. If the Lord had founded the Church merely on covenants connected with His Messianic offices of Prophet, Priest, or King, we would very quickly forfeit the place of privilege. But no, the Lord rolls back all the layers of office, covenant, and even humanity (i.e. the topsoil) to reveal the bedrock of His Person – His eternal relationship as the Son of the Living God. He points to that foundation – more stable than any principle or substance in the universe – and says to us, “My own Person will be your foundation, and therefore, the Church can never fail!” And then in a future eternity, when all distinctions of Jew and Gentile have disappeared, the Church will remain distinct forever, as the Bride of Christ (Rev. 21:1-2; Eph. 3:21)! 
God’s Building, or God’s House. The Assembly is brought before us in scripture in many figures and aspects. As the Body of Christ, the saints are responsible to work out in practice the thoughts and wishes of the Head, Christ Himself. As the House (or, Building) of God, the saints are responsible to conduct themselves in behavior and doctrine that is according to the mind and character of God. The idea of a house is the idea of a public testimony. A man’s house reflects on what sort of man he is. In the same way, the House of God ought to reflect the character of God, as a witness and support of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). Are we rendering a testimony worthy of God? The House of God is taken up in many different ways in scripture. Sometimes it is looked at as something God is building in His perfect sovereignty gradually over time, and it is not yet complete but will be complete one day. Other times it is looked at as something man is responsible to build (thus failure comes in) and it is complete at any one given time. Then again, sometimes the House of God is viewed as the universal assembly, the entire public testimony. Other times, the House of God is viewed in its local aspect, as a gathering of believers to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. The context of each occurrence determines which aspect is being referred to. Here in Matthew 16 the building is viewed in the universal, progressive, and sovereign aspect.

The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven & Authority to Bind and Loose Sin (16:19-20)

19 And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of the heavens; and whatsoever thou mayest bind upon the earth shall be bound in the heavens; and whatsoever thou mayest loose on the earth shall be loosed in the heavens. v.19 In addition to the privilege of confessing the truth of the Person of Christ, the Lord also promised to give Peter the control of the kingdom of heaven! Keys signify control, and especially control over access. The Lord was holding the keys to His kingdom, and He now promises to give them to Peter. There are two great administrative responsibilities in this verse. First of all, Peter would have the privilege of opening the door of the kingdom of heaven. It doesn’t say the keys of the Church, or the key of heaven, but the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The assembly and the kingdom are different. The kingdom of heaven is a new dispensation that was about to unfold on the earth, but the assembly is a heavenly parenthesis within that dispensation! Notice that the word ‘keys’ is plural, because there are two of them. Peter was given the privilege of opening the door of the Christian profession to the Jew (at Pentecost) and then wider to the Gentiles (at the house of Cornelius). Secondly, whatever binding actions Peter might take would carry the authority of heaven. He’s saying, “Peter, I’m going to give you the control of my kingdom; you can open the doors to Jew and Gentile, and I will ratify whatever actions you might take… heaven is going to back you up!” This is incredible! In ch.18 this authority (to bind and loose) is extended to the local assembly gathered to the Lord’s name. All of the Lord’s authority in the Kingdom of Heaven is funneled through the assembly on earth! Note: the keys of the kingdom were never given to the Church, but to Peter alone, because they were only used at the very beginning. However, the authority to bind and loose was given to the assembly. See an important translational note on this verse.
Binding and Loosing.

The local assembly has been invested with authority to "bind" or "loose" a person's sin (Matt. 18:18); which means to "retain" or "remit" their sin (John 20:23). Binding and loosing are two administrative actions that are done "in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ" and are backed by His authority (1 Cor. 5:4). The authority to "bind" and "loose" with heaven's ratification was given first to Peter (Matt. 16:19), then extended to the local assembly (Matt. 18:18). 

To "bind" a person's sin upon them is to associate them with that sin in an official sense. Morally, they were associated with it the moment the sin was committed, but this is a special association of an official character. Paul does this in 1 Cor. 5:4 with the words "being such"; that is, he formally connected that man with his sin. Excommunication of the wicked person follows binding of the sin (v.5). In 1 Cor. 5 we have an example of "binding", and in 2 Cor. 2 we have the "loosing". Once a person has turned from their sin, and their repentance is manifest, the assembly ought to "loose" the sin, or formally disassociate the person from it. The whole assembly, wherever it may be found "on earth" is required to acknowledge an administrative action once taken, because it is bound or loosed in heaven. To continue fellowship with a person that is put away is to ignore the action taken, and to rebel against the authority of heaven. The binding or loosing would occur in a solemn meeting for judicial action; "when ye are gathered together" (v.4). It is only when the assembly is formally gathered together that the presence and "power of our Lord Jesus Christ" is there to give weight to the action.

read more…
Summary: the Four great declarations made by our Lord.
  1. The revelation of the Person of Christ from the Father to Simon;
  2. The name of Peter bestowed upon Simon by Jesus;
  3. The assembly to be built by Christ Himself on the foundation of His Person;
  4. The keys of the kingdom promised to Peter, and authority to bind and loose. 
All this was connected with Peter personally, who was elected by the Father to have these “blessed” or happy privileges. The purposes of God now having been declared, the Lord now moves to close out His formal presentation to Israel.
20 Then he enjoined on his disciples that they should say to no man that he was the Christ. v.20 Here we have a very striking change: He commands the disciples to discontinue proclaiming Him as the Messiah. Why? He had already been rejected as Messiah, and He acknowledges that rejection. He drops the Jewish title now that the truth of His assembly has come out. This is a great transitional point in our Lord’s ministry.

The Cross is the Necessary Cost to Accomplish God’s Purpose (16:21-23)

 21 From that time Jesus began to shew to his disciples that he must go away to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised. v.21 Why does the death of Christ get mentioned after the building of the Church? It isn’t chronological, because the cross came before Pentecost, but it is a moral order. The cross is the necessary cost to form the assembly, and accomplish the purpose of God. That is why it says “he must, because it was not an option. Without the cross there would be no kingdom, and there would be no Church. Furthermore, there would be no Christians, because redemption would not be accomplished. He went on to the cross out of devotion to His Father’s will, and in love to those who would one day share the place He won for them. The cross is the measure of the depths of Christ’s love for His church; “even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). However, primarily it is man’s culpability in His death that is in view, because it says “be killed”. Man is responsible for His death, but at the same time He laid His life down, and no man took it from Him (John 10:18).
Prediction of the Lord’s Death
Predictions of the Lord’s Death. It says that from this point, Jesus began to shew to His disciples” that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer, die, and be raised again. This is the first of four predictions recorded in Matthew. The predictions are given as the Lord successively approaches Jerusalem, the final prediction being given in Jerusalem.
  1. Ch.16, v.21……….. First Prediction, in Caesarea-Philippi, concerning His death and resurrection.
  2. Ch.17, vv.22-23… Second Prediction, in Galilee, concerning His death and resurrection.
  3. Ch.20, vv.17-19…. Third Prediction, in Perea, concerning His death and resurrection.
  4. Ch.26, vv.1-2…….. Fourth Prediction, in Jerusalem, concerning His death only.
22 And Peter taking him to him began to rebuke him, saying, God be favourable to thee, Lord; this shall in no wise be unto thee. 23 But turning round, he said to Peter, Get away behind me, Satan; thou art an offence to me, for thy mind is not on the things that are of God, but on the things that are of men. vv.22-23 Peter’s forwardness is shocking. There is no doubt that he loved the Lord, but here he makes a dreadful mistake. The Lord had just called Peter “blessed” in v.17, and now He has to administer to Peter the severest rebuke that He ever gave to anyone. How quickly we can have the mind of God one minute, and miss it the next. Peter, speaking out of human love said, “Spare yourself” to the Lord. But it was really Satan prompting Peter in order to hinder the Lord going to the cross. Satan had made this very same temptation to the Lord in the forty days of temptation. In Matt. 4:8-9 Satan proposed that the Lord could have the kingdom, the inheritance, without having to go to the cross, to spare Himself all the sufferings that awaited Him. The Lord responded to the Devil then as He does to the Devil now; “Get thee away, Satan” (Matt. 4:10). To suggest that God might bend the rules even a little, that He might flex His righteousness in order to spare the Son of His love, is a wicked and evil thought. How far short we fall from the thoughts of God sometimes! Peter did not have a proper estimation of man’s sin, nor of God’s character; the combination of which necessitated the cross. The Lord reveals the root which resulted in such a terrible blunder. Peter’s mind was not on the things of God, but rather on the things of men. His heart was going out after an earthly kingdom, after earthly glory, and a place of prominence in it. Perhaps the great privileges he had just been promised had gotten to his head. In that state, Peter was an offense to the Lord. We too need to learn that the sufferings come first, and then the glory will follow.
Peter’s Failure. Never once, in all Peter’s sermons in Acts does he preach Jesus as the Son of God. He presents Him as the Messiah of Israel, the Son of David, or God’s Holy Servant, but never as Son of God. There are a few times in Acts where some translations have Peter saying “His son Jesus” but those are inaccuracies. Even in his two epistles, never once does he present Jesus as the Son of God. The expression only appears in his writings when he is quoting the voice from heaven in the holy mount of transfiguration; but it was the Father’s voice. Peter never rose up to his confession here in Matthew 16. The key as to why Peter failed in this is seen in vv.22-23; he savored the things of men more than the things of God. He would take the glorious vision of Christ and the church, but he was not willing to embrace the cross. Further in Acts, we have Stephen at his martyrdom using a new term. Stephen gave the final testimony to Israel, and bore witness to their final rejection of it as the stones began to fly. He looked up to heaven and said, “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.” He knew that it was really Christ, the Son of David they were rejecting, and he sees the glorified Lord in that different character as Son of Man. A chapter later, when Saul is converted, it says “And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God (Acts 9:20). He preached the same truth Peter had confessed by divine revelation; that Jesus is the Son of God. But moreover, Paul was willing to take up the cross that Peter shrunk from. He could say of himself, “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church” (Col. 1:24). God raised up a vessel to carry the torch that Peter was unwilling to carry, and to Paul was committed the truth of the Church of God. Peter was “a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed” (1 Pet. 5:1) but Paul was a partaker of the sufferings of Christ, and a witness of the glory.

The Path for the Lord’s Disciples in His Absence (16:24-28)

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, If any one desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. v.24 The Lord had just spoken of His own cross, and now we see that His followers have their own crosses as well. As disciples, we are never exhorted to bear the Lord’s cross… we could never do it. But he has given each of us something to bear, each in our own measure, a share in the fellowship of His sufferings. The cross is a symbol of shame and rejection. The Lord here gives the call of discipleship; “if any one desires to come after me. Earlier in the gospel the Lord gave the call “come unto me for salvation. This is a different thing. We can get into trouble soteriologically if we confuse discipleship with the Gospel of the grace of God. This is not the Gospel call, because it is voluntary. When it comes to the Gospel, it says God “now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). But we are not commanded to be disciples. You do not become a disciple by default; you have to “desire” it. The Lord doesn’t want robots; He wants devoted disciples. There is going to be a price to pay, and so you had better be ready. At the same time it is the only option if we want to save our lives (vv.25-26).
25 For whosoever shall desire to save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what does a man profit, if he should gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? vv.25-26 In just a few short words our Lord puts in a nutshell the whole of practical Christian life. The path of discipleship is the only way to really “save” our life. To live for our own interests will actually result in wasting or “losing” our life. Sometimes these verses are applied the eternal salvation of the soul, and there is nothing wrong with the application. Surely, many unbelievers have been close to believing the Gospel, but then suffered the loss of their eternal soul because they valued the world, its pleasures, etc. But that it NOT what these verses are speaking about. Salvation in the Bible is much broader than forgiveness of sins in the eternal sense. Sometimes it has to do with our being caught up to heaven at the rapture, and sometimes it has to do with being preserved as useful to the Lord in this life. Here the Lord is speaking to His own disciples, who were believers (except for Judas). He tells believers that they can lose their lives if they live for selfish interests now. A Christian might focus all his time and resources on making money or gaining political office… and it be all a waste in view of eternity! How sad. By contrast, the path of discipleship may mean suffering for Christ now, but it will yield the maximum fruit for God. It means we will have to miss out on “life”, but we will find our life again at the judgment seat of Christ when He accepts and rewards us for our sacrifice. However, if we confuse the tests and terms of discipleship with the means of justification we will fall into serious error. This is called Lordship Salvation doctrineThis saying (about losing or finding our life) occurs no less than six times in the gospels, twice in Matthew, twice in Luke, and once in both Mark and John. They were spoken on four different occasions. Clearly this is an important principle, central to the meaning of discipleship.
27 For the Son of man is about to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will render to each according to his doings. v.27 This is not talking exactly about the judgment seat of Christ, but of the time when rewards will be manifested or “rendered to each” in proportion to the measure of our faithfulness in this life. This day in not far off; the Son of Man “is about to come”. This is a word of encouragement. The day of reward is coming. Suffering is our portion now, but it won’t last forever. He will come as the Son of Man, once rejected and denied the glory so rightly deserved by Him. But it will not be in weakness then, for He will come in the full glory of His Father; i.e. as the Son of God, fully attended by the angelic hosts. There will be an answering glory for every mark of shame that blessed One suffered here as Son of Man. The world will then see that scene which is going on now in heaven. Man’s blind eyes cannot see it, but those of faith can.
The gates of heaven are opened wide, 
At His name all the angels bow; 
The Son of man who was crucified 
Is the King of glory now: 
He is given His rightful place now in heaven, but soon He will have it in this earth as well. And what an encouragement to the hearts of his disciples!
Worthy, O Son of man, art Thou 
Of every crown that decks Thy brow; 
Worthy art Thou to be adored, 
And owned as universal Lord; 
O, hasten that long-promised day, 
When all shall own Thy rightful sway!
28 Verily I say unto you, There are some of those standing here that shall not taste of death at all until they shall have seen the Son of man coming in his kingdom. v.28 Not only did He promise them that He would return in the glory of His Father, but that some of them would have the privilege of seeing Him come in His kingdom! This would be fulfilled in ch.17 on the mount of transfiguration. What grace, to give these disciples a visible miniature replica of the kingdom! Note: it is the kingdom of the Son of Man, which is the earthly compartment of the millennial kingdom. Every time the Lord’s coming is spoke of as the “coming of the Son of Man” it always refers to the appearing. Ch.17 is what follows the appearing, the Millennial reign of the Son of Man. Paul refers to it as the Day of the Lord and the Day of Christ. The Day of the Lord is the thought of the authority of the Lord being established on the earth though judgments. The Day of Christ is more the thought of the time of the display of Christ’s glory from the heavens.

Events Connected with the Millennium (Matt. 17)

vv.1-9 The Lord had just spoken of His coming in His Father’s glory in His own kingdom (the kingdom of the Son of Man), and now we get a sample of that kingdom and His glory. We can be confident in this interpretation of the transfiguration scene because the Lord explicitly tells us in Matt. 16:28!

The Mount of Transfiguration: a Sketch of the Kingdom in Glory (17:1-9)

 And after six days Jesus takes with him Peter, and James, and John his brother, and brings them up into a high mountain apart. v.1 This event occurred “after six days” which reminds us of the rest that God took after the six days of creating the heavens and earth. We think too of each day as a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8), and six-thousand years have almost expired; the “day after” is the thousand-year Millennium! He takes three disciples for an abundant witness; the favored trio who were specially permitted to witness; (1) the raising of Jairus’ daughter, (2) the Lord’s transfiguration, and (3) the Lord’s agony in Gethsemane. They represent the Jewish remnant on earth at the time of the appeari