Matthew 16:1-4 – Clemson Football & Jesus: Both Have Their Doubters

Posted: January 13, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew
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Matthew 16:1-4
Leaders Demand A Miraculous Sign

As many of you know, I am big fan of Clemson University. I have been a fan since I was old enough to watch a sporting event and understand what was going on. My oldest daughter is a graduate of the school. And, as you know, Clemson came up short two days ago in the national championship game for major college football. Prior to the game, it was an example of what my Tigers had experienced all season long. They were going up against the vaunted SEC power, Alabama, who had just crushed Michigan State in one of the semi-final games. Little old Clemson did not stand a chance against the big beefy boys of Alabama’s offensive and defensive lines. We are an ACC team so that means we are weak. We might as well have not even played the game. No one believed that the Tigers, though undefeated and ranked #1, would even be competitive against Bama. Before that Oklahoma was supposed to run roughshod all over the Tigers but the opposite happened. All season long we weren’t supposed to win the big games (Notre Dame, Florida State, North Carolina). Each of those games, everyone predicted losses. Even in the games where we were clearly the superior team, people still doubted the Tigers. Sure, there were games where they should have trounced people but only beat them by 15 or 20 points and maybe during the regular season they played only one game with complete precision on both sides of the ball (the 58-0 victory over Miami). However, they were like the Al Davis motto, “Just win, baby.”

They came into the Alabama game 14-0 having always found a way to win either through defensive domination or through simply outscoring their opponent. Some games the won with their ground game. Some games were won through the air. Others required the defense to be the stars of the game. They just won. Even in the championship game, though they lost, the forced Alabama to dig deep to win against them, and only lost the national championship game by 5 points and with the absence of one or two mistakes could have won the thing. Are there going to be doubters next year? Sure there will be. But, the team cannot control that. All they can do is what they do on the field. Sometimes, people already have their mind made up about you. In college football, there is this perception that since Clemson plays in the ACC that they are not championship caliber and they will doubt the Tigers every time they play a major game. OK, so you won this game but, man, you surely aren’t gonna win that game against X Team two weeks from now. They have their minds made up. All the Tigers can do is line up and play the games and let their work speak for itself.

In this passage, the lack of respect, the doubt and demands for signs of greatness from the Clemson team were constant this year. If you win this game, we’ll respect you…wait a minute, you gotta win this game for me to respect you….well, you won that but can you win this one. That was frustrating for the team and it had to be frustrating for Jesus in this passage to hear demands for another miracle. What more did he have to do prove that He was who He says He is. Let’s read the passage together:
16 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.

2 He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.[a] 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.
This is the question that plagues Jesus today. People are still doubting Him as the Son of God. There is no doubt that this man existed. It is commonly accepted that Jesus was an actual historical figure. Even many atheists will concede that Jesus existed. However, when it comes to making Him into the Son of God people still doubt Him today. We either reject the claim outright and make him into just a great historical figure and self-help guru or we may believe in Him but we do not fully trust that He really is the Son of God.

I say it plain and simple here. Anyone who does not believe Jesus is the Son of God is not a Christ follower and is not saved. We can say we love Jesus but not believe in Him. Many people today love a lot of what Jesus said but they do not believe IN HIM. To the non-believer, Jesus is a self-help guru with profound things to say about life and they use His Words often but yet they do not believe in Him as the Son of God. Man, that is just too far-fetched to believe in. Yet, these are the same people that accept on faith that there was no master designer for the universe. They think that the universe just spontaneously for no apparent reason created itself. They are willing to believe that but not that God would come to earth as a man. They throw out the very laws of physics that they hold in such high regard when it comes to creation. Everything in the physical universe is about action and reaction. Instigations of actions cause reactions in a chain of events that continues to this day. However, it all started by itself? No reaction to an action? If we remove God from creation then we can remove God from Jesus and make Him just a man. We can make Him a philosopher of great impact. We can make him a peace loving hippie who accepts all things. When we remove God as the ruler of all things and the creator of all things, we can make what Jesus says just one of many options that we can pick and choose to suit our lifestyle. If Jesus were here today and made claims to be the Son of God, these would be the people that would request miracles on demand. Prove yourself. Much like the football world was demanding proof from the Clemson Tigers, so would these people demand miraculous signs from Jesus. We would rather live life the way we have it than entertain the thought of their being a single way to heaven. We would rather live life the way we have it than there being moral absolutes and judgment for sin. We would rather control our own destiny than submit our will to that of God. These are the people that would demand signs from Jesus when He returns in the clouds to the sound of trumpets in the eastern sky. There will be no doubt then that Jesus is the Son of God, but there will be doubters then too.

For the Christ follower, we often times do not really take it in that Jesus is the Son of God. That Jesus was God in the flesh and walked among is, we do not truly take it in. Think about it. The God of the Universe. The Creator who set the universe in motion through his voice. He created the action that caused the reaction that set the laws of physics that we know into motion. He created the intricate world in which we live that is so completely detailed and full of interdependent working systems that work together to create life as we know it and yet this is just one planet in a vast universe and it is a vast universe that we are only scratching the surface of understanding. God made all that. He orchestrates all that. Yet, in his love for us, His created beings in His image, he broke into human history and became a man. Born as a mere babe. God humbled himself to go through all the things we do growing up and becoming a man. He then gave himself up on the cross for us as a completion of the sacrificial system established in the Old Testament to atone for sins. He is the once and final sacrifice. Through his perfect life, He is the completion and culmination of the sacrifices for the atonement of sin. He died that day at Calvary so that if we would only believe in Him and turn away from our life of unrepentant sinning, He would cover us before the Lord. That is love. That is the Son of God come down to earth. This is what we believe as Christians. We believe that God himself came to earth and walked among and gave Himself up for us. When you believe that, there is no other way to heaven. God only did that once. He could not come in various forms and offer contradictory truths. God is absolute. God is truth. There is only one God and thus one truth and one way. We believe that. We believe in this mighty God who created the universe. We believe that God came down to earth and lived among us. We believe in all this mighty power and displayed love, but yet we doubt still. Even as Christ followers, we sometimes doubt in this Jesus that we believe in. We doubt that He can change the foulest heart. We doubt He can change our husbands or our wives so we take it upon ourselves to do it rather than praying to our God and asking Him to change a person. We doubt that God can heal diseases. We doubt that God can change our situation. We doubt Him at every turn almost. We may be confident that God can change the small stuff but we do not trust Him sometimes with the big stuff like changing the hearts of a nation, repairing a marriage, redeeming a lost soul, and so on. We as Christ followers may even demand signs from the Lord. I will follow your calling if you miraculously pay off my mortgage. I will go in the ministry if you do x, y, and z. And when God makes it clear that he has done x, y, and z, then, you doubt Him still and say, well, Lord, I will do it if you go beyond the end of the alphabet and into the double alphabet. I see you have done X, Y, and Z but you must do AA now. Then, I will believe. Let us be Christ followers who trust and believe in the mighty God that we say we believe in. Let us believe in what we say we believe in and take it seriously that Jesus is who He says He is. No need for signs to remove doubt. Just full-on, all-in belief.

Amen and Amen.

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