Archive for March, 2016

Matthew 26:20-30 (Part 1)

Jesus and the Disciples Share the Last Supper

 

There was an episode of How I Met Your Mother when Marshall and Lilly were broken up and Barney was trying to get Marshall back out in the dating world. As you know, Barney was the ultimate ladies’ man and forever single. He lived for the hunt. So, in all his dating wisdom, he was going to show Marshall who had been dating Lilly for years since their freshman year in college how it was done. So, Barney was instructing him how to spy out the girls at a bar and which ones to go after. However, in this episode, every girl Barney would help Marshall get introduced to Barney ended up stealing the girl and leaving the bar with that girl. Marshall became so angry at Barney that he finally just left. He would get his revenge later but ruining Barney’s date with twins. Marshall felt betrayed and let down by what he thought was his friend in Barney. However, Barney was self-seeking and looking out for himself. Marshall should have known the outcome. Barney was always a self-centered character. He should’ve seen it coming. When we are self-centered, we often betray even those friends that we care about because ultimately it is all about us. Barney was that way and Judas was that way too:

 

20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

 

22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”

 

23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

 

25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”

 

Jesus answered, “You have said so.”

 

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

 

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

 

30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

 

 

Today, we will focus on vv. 20-25 on the conversation about betrayal between Jesus and the disciples and particularly that part of the conversation that was specifically between Jesus and Judas. Tomorrow, we will look at the last half of the passage, vv. 26-30, the Lord’s Supper itself. But for today, there are two three things that I want us to look at.

 

First, each of the disciples other than the one who would actually betray Jesus questioned Jesus, “Surely, you do not mean me, Lord?” It is puzzling that each one suspected that they were the one even though they each knew that they had done nothing, as far as they knew, to betray Jesus. I think that it is interesting to note that each of us are just an inch away from betraying Jesus each day. We are bone and flesh and we have a sin nature. We sometimes sin without even realizing it. The only difference between us and those who are not saved is grace and the Holy Spirit. We still sin daily. We still disappoint the Lord daily with our behaviors that we sometimes don’t even realize that we are engaging in. Sometimes, our sins are not sins to us until the Holy Spirit points them out. It was the same with the disciples who did not betray Jesus. They surely began examining themselves for ways that they possibly could have betrayed Jesus in some way. Let us examine our own hearts and ask for Holy Spirit guidance in seeing the ways that we grieve Jesus’ heart. Help us to see those sins that we are blind to right now. Help us to see how those unrecognized sins are hurting our Savior’s heart.

 

Second, did you catch the difference between how the other disciples addressed Jesus and how Judas addressed Him. The other disciples recognize Jesus as Lord whereas Judas addresses him only as Rabbi. That was the thing here. Judas did not see Jesus as his Lord, his Savior. He did not see Jesus as the Son of God. He saw him just as a man, a teacher, another influential rabbi. He was so wrapped up in his own ambitions that he let that fact blind him to the true nature of Jesus Christ. While Jesus was Lord to the others, Jesus was simply a teacher, a rabbi, to Judas. To him, Jesus was the the ticket to a new world order and he wanted to be at the center of it and have a new position within it. How often do we treat Jesus in this way when we are at church? How often do we use church to satisfy some need we have and do not go there to get to know Jesus. Some claim to be saved and walk among us believers but have had no heart change because they really don’t know Jesus at the soul level. They don’t see him as their Savior. They are just at church because that’s what you do. You go to church. Such people are there to be at the cool church. They are there to get their ego stroked by being in positions of power at church. They are there to make connections and satisfy political ambitions but have no clue as to the true nature of Jesus Christ. They do not grasp the fact that we are nothing in the absence of Jesus but sinners condemned to hell. They see Jesus as just part of the pantheon of self-help gurus. They see Jesus as our wing man like Marshall was to Barney. They see themselves as almost equal to Jesus. Jesus is their buddy not their Savior.

 

Finally, Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him. He knew that from time eternal that the Messiah would be betrayed. It was all part of God’s plan to make the cross happen. Yet, Jesus still loved Judas. He was not angry with Him like Marshall was with Barney in the episode I was talking about earlier. Marshalll was really pissed and got his revenge at the end of the episode. Jesus however had foreknowledge of Judas betrayal but was saddened and disappointed for He knew of the judgment that awaits those who betray Him. Jesus knew the eternal fate of Judas for his blindess. Jesus was saddened. He was disappointed. He knew that by rejecting Jesus without seeking forgiveness, reconciliation and acceptance of Christ as His Savior, Judas was condemning himself to hell. That was of greater concern to Jesus that what Judas was to do to betray, because that was part of the grand plan of God, but rather than Judas would never seek forgiveness. Jesus knew that there is indeed eternal judgment for each one of us and it saddens Him when we do not see that. It saddens Him when we perceive Him as having no judgment in Him. It saddens Him when we make Him just an option among many. It saddens Him when we make Him optional. It saddens Him when we make Him just a man. It saddens Him when we do not see Him as the Son of God and our Savior. He wants all to be saved. He doesn’t want any of us to sentence ourselves to hell. It saddens Him that we do not see or care that our judgment day is coming and that judgment is real. He is not angry but profoundly saddened. He is not going to get revenge on us but rather is saddened by our inability to see who He really is because our our pride. Are you making Him sad today? There is time as long as you are breathing to seek forgiveness from the One who can provide it, Jesus Christ, Son of God, and Savior. Are you saddening His heart? He is not angry at you but rather profoundly saddened! Come to him. Put a smile on His face for it is His desire to see you come to accept His saving grace.

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 26:17-19

The Disciples Prepare for the Passover Meal

 

Have you ever planned for the celebration of your wedding anniversary with your wife? Some guys think you can wait to the last minute and throw something together and think that it will be made special just by thinking about doing something or having shown the effort to do something. However, if you want to make it a special day and/or evening, some planning is required to make the event go off with the swagger that you want. For example, on Monday of last week, it was my and Elena’s sixth wedding anniversary. In year’s past, I have done some low key things, some special things and this year I wanted to be totally different. I wanted to make a day of it with things happening back to back to back where she would be entertained, made to feel special, and for her to have her main love language, quality time (with me). So, the planning had to begin – because this just couldn’t be a fly by the seat of your pants day. The first thing I had to do was to get the day off from work. That planning had to take place two weeks before the event because of our rules at my secular job about vacation notification. So, that was step 1 which had to take place no later than March 7th. After that tactical necessity was taken care of, I had some time to think about what I wanted to do.

 

The first thing I did was figure out where I wanted us to end the day and evening with a unique meal at a restaurant that we normally would not go to. Everything would have to hinge on that point. One thing that I had not counted on was how many nice restaurants in Greenville are closed on Mondays. My original plan was to end the evening in one of the chic restaurants in Greenville’s nationally known Main Street district, a collection of unique restaurants, shops and bars. However, most of the upscale restaurants that I wanted to go to are closed on Mondays. The shops and many other things at Main Street are open on Mondays but not the high end places where you would take your wife on your anniversary. So, I thought let’s expand our search around the Upstate (South Carolina). After much searching for just the right spot, I settled on a unique restaurant on the shores of Lake Keowee in Seneca, SC, called the Lighthouse. It is an upscale restaurant right on the lake. Lake Keowee is nestled in the mountains of South Carolina so the views from this restaurant are just really, really nice. I made the reservations for 6pm. I knew from mapquest.com that the restaurant is almost an hour and a half drive from our house, so that was a factor in the planning. I also wanted to celebrate my wife’s Cuban heritage that day by having lunch at a Cuban restaurant, of which there are very few in the Upstate. I found one in Simpsonville, SC, one of the southern suburbs of Greenville. Factor again travel time. It is about a half hour’s drive from our house. However, with lunch in Simpsonville and then dinner in Seneca, there was some dead time or down time to fill in between those two events. Since both the beginning and ending events were meals, I needed some kind of in between activity that did NOT involve food. So, what could I do? Yeah, a movie. That’s the ticket.

 

So, if we had to be in Seneca by 6pm. I needed a movie that would end by 4:30pm at the latest. A search was on. They key would be running time of the movie – that would begin not long after we finished lunch but would give enough space and time to get from Simpsonville to wherever we would see the movie, have enough time to see a movie, and then make the hour and half drive and be in Seneca for dinner by 6pm. After researching theatres and movie start times, I settled on Miracles from Heaven starting at 2:05pm at the Spartan Stadium 16 on the west side of Spartanburg not far from where we live. It had a running time of 1 hour 40 minutes making it end around 3:45pm. Beautiful. That would give enough time to get to Seneca to get the fancy restaurant on the lake. So, then I had to work on when to leave home, make the half hour drive to the Mad Cuban Café in Simpsonville, allow an hour for lunch, and then calculate the drive time from there back to Spartanburg for the movie. Based on the calculations, we needed to leave our house in Duncan, SC no later than 11am to make everything work. Plans made. Movie tickets purchased. Dinner reservations made. Research on opening time at the Mad Cuban for lunch complete. Now, it was anniversary day. Time for execution of the plan. Since these three spots were some distance apart in the Upstate of South Carolina, timing was everything. Nothing could throw off the plan because if it did, the whole plan would fall apart. But the day came and the plan went off literally like clockwork. It all went very smoothly and seamlessly. There was no awkward “killing time” or dead air as they would call it in radio. There was no rushing around just to make the next stop (like having to swallow the meal whole, leaving the movie early or being late to dinner). It was all smooth. My wife loved the day and felt very loved that I had gone to all that effort to make it appear like a seamless, effortless day, and most of all having a whole day together doing nothing but doing stuff together – which with our busy schedules we rarely have time to do. Sure, we get to spend time together but it we are often doing other things at the same time, never just being out and about and not caring about emails, chores, etc. That’s the quality time she loves and I gave it to her. She loved it. It took precision planning down to the minute, but it was fun for me personally to see all the behind the scenes work I had done play out as I had planned. It did take that much planning – down to the minute. But the planning, the original plan, the revisions, the final plan make it look effortless to my wife and that was the idea! It ended up being one of our best anniversary dates yet (well, we’ve only been married for 6 years so there not a great many previous ones to compare it too, but the bar has now been raised! LOL).

 

That idea of doing the unnoticed work, but necessary work, is what came to mind when I read this short passage that some might gloss over when writing on the various passages of Matthew. Most combine this passage with Matthew 26:20-30, but to me, Matthew 26:17-19 stands alone for it speaks to me. As my wife and I have been involved in planning and executing many major events for our church, LifeSong Church in Lyman, SC, I can so relate to this short passage. After my experience planning our anniversary date last week, it adds to my identifying with this passage. Let’s read these few short verses together:

 

 

17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

 

18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

 

 

What I see in this passage is that there is an unnamed man who loved Jesus. He was apparently one of Jesus’ larger group of followers-disciples. He probably didn’t care that Matthew or none of the other gospel writers knew him by name. To him, it was an honor to assist in preparing for the Passover meal for the man he believed to be the Son of God, the Messiah. He probably helped put together the tables and pillows and such in upper room of his house to accommodate Jesus and his crew of 12. A table for 13, please! At a restaurant, that’s an undertaking even today. At your house, even today, a party for 13 invited and confirmed guests is a big deal and a major undertaking. He helped plan, unknowingly, for the last meal that Jesus would eat until he ate with His disciples after His resurrection. It was an important meal. He helped plan it. But by the gospel writers did not name him. Maybe, he did not want the publicity. Maybe, he did not care for the publicity. He didn’t want to become famous for serving His Lord. He just probably loved the Lord and just wanted to serve Him in any way that he could. He didn’t do it for publicity or for fame. He just loved the Lord. He just wanted to serve in thanksgiving for what Jesus had done in his life.

 

That’s the thing that I take from this passage. Working in the background. Taking care of details. Serving the Lord when no one is looking. Serving the Lord when no one notices. Serving the Lord when no one pats you on the back or singles you out for the great sacrifice that you made. Just serving the Lord. Just being Jesus to other people whether anyone notices or not. That’s what a real Christ follower does. He doesn’t give abundantly financially to his church to get favors from the pastor. He does it to be obedient to the Lord. He doesn’t help his neighbor to gain advantage or get his name in the paper. He doesn’t feed the homeless man to make himself feel good. He doesn’t open his home to a friend down on his luck so that he can be a martyr with that person later to get what he wants. He doesn’t serve at church to get noticed or recognized. He may be serving at the church even when its not Sunday morning. He just loves the Lord. He lives a life of thanksgiving and that just pours out of him in service to his fellow man. Every time he serves his fellow man it is, to him, as if he were serving and thanking his Lord and Savior for what Jesus has done for him. He takes care of details so that others can enjoy worshiping the Lord without distraction. He makes plans and executes them so that others will see Jesus without having things that will get in the way of their worship of the Lord.

 

Are you willing to serve the Lord without being noticed for having done it? Are you serving the Lord so others will notice or are your serving the Lord because you love Him so much? Are you the unnamed? Are you a servant? Are you so in love with Jesus Christ that you don’t care whether anyone notices your service other than Jesus Himself? We should be living to please our audience of One, Jesus Christ, and not man. That is what I love about this unnamed host of the Last Supper.

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 26:14-16

Judas Plans to Betray Jesus

Have you ever left a church because you were angry with the pastor for something that he didn’t say or didn’t do or maybe it was something he said or something he did? Maybe he took a position on a social issue that you didn’t like or maybe he shot straight with you about something you were doing that was not biblical or maybe he didn’t support a cause that you thought was worthy and that you thought he wasn’t as fervent about it as you thought he should be. Maybe he discontinued a ministry that was your pet project. Maybe he didn’t think a project that you were interested in was in keeping with the particular mission of this church. Maybe he didn’t pick you to do something. Maybe you thought he should lead you by the hand but he was expecting you to grow in your walk. There are a million reasons why we leave churches that have nothing to do with doctrinal issues. Sure, it may be right for us to leave churches if the church has strayed off course from the Bible and the preacher is the cause of that. However, that seems never to be the reason that people leave churches. It is always over issues of ego or power or a perceived slight by the pastor or a difference of opinion over the color of the carpet or who should be in charge of something, a lack of shown favor by the pastor. It always seems that a pastor is going to make someone in the church angry over something at every turn. That is why many pastors will tell you that if you feel the call to ministry you better make sure that it is not your ego talking and rather the Holy Spirit making you so uneasy that you cannot do anything else because being a minister is often a thankless job. You are going to make someone unhappy no matter what you do.

 

It is that idea of trying to make church into something that suits my agenda that illustrates much of what I see in Judas. I think that there were things that Judas wanted from Jesus that were not in keeping with Jesus’ mission. He was trying to make Jesus into what he wanted Him to be and it led to a great sense of disillusionment on Judas’ part which leads us to today’s passage, Matthew 26:14-16:

 

14 Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15 and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. 16 From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

 

You notice in Matthew that this passage immediate proceeds after the anointing of Jesus with expensive oil or perfume by Lazarus’ sister, Mary.  We know from the Gospel of John that Judas was the most vociferous of Jesus’ disciples about this apparent waste of a valuable asset that could have been exchanged for money and that money could be used for helping the poor. There are many conjectured reasons as to why Judas betrayed Jesus. Scripture does not give us much help in this area as to political motivations but there are a few things that we do know from Scripture.

 

First, Judas was not saved. He did not believe Jesus to be God. While other disciples made professions of faith in Jesus as the Son of God, Judas never did (John 6:68, 11:16). In all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), Judas is always mentioned last. The lists were always made in relation to how close each disciples relationship with Jesus was. He was greedy (John 12:5-6). I think too, though not specifically stated in Scripture directly but given the general cluelessness of the disciples in most cases, he may have expected Jesus to be what many Israelites expected that the Messiah would be a conquering hero. All of these things combined to make Judas disillusioned enough to betray Jesus or maybe he felt the betrayal would force Jesus to bring about the revolution that Israelites wanted. Bottom line is that Judas was associated with Jesus for reasons different from the other disciples. The other disciples wanted to be associated with Jesus so that they could learn from Him whereas it seems that Judas was more associated with Jesus for political and economic reasons. Although he was part of Jesus’ public ministry from the beginning, he was there for personal reasons. Even though he was sent out with the disciples to preach the gospel, he was not there to see others saved. He was there because he probably saw this Jesus as an opportunity to be on the inside of a new wave of political and theological thought that would sweep the country and make Jesus a powerful man. He wanted to be on the inside of that. He wanted Jesus to be a political Messiah that would shake things up in Israel including getting rid of the Romans. He probably loved Jesus’ charisma and saw Him as a horse he could hitch his wagon to. Remember, the disciples at one time were arguing who would be greatest in Jesus’ new kingdom. Judas apparently took that more seriously than the others. It is my opinion that Judas saw Jesus as a way for him to be on the inside of a populist movement to overthrow the Jewish religious establishment and then lead a revolt against Rome that would have extreme popular support. However, Jesus was to have none of this temporal, political stuff. Jesus was there to bring the good news of reconciliation with God through His own death as the perfect sacrifice for sin. Jesus’ mission was different than Judas’ mission for Jesus. When he saw Jesus becoming a liability rather than an advantage to him, he was ready to jump ship in any way that he could. He was ready to hitch his wagon to the Jewish establishment when he saw that Jesus was flirting with political disaster by the things he was saying. Jesus was not satisfying his greed for money and power.

 

How many times do you see that in church today and throughout history? How many times have we used Jesus to get what we want and how many times do we abandon ship on Jesus when we don’t get what we want? How many times do we make church about what we want? Before we condemn Judas for revealing who he really was through his actions? We must examine ourselves. Are we really in love with Jesus or are we just at church to get what we want? Are we there to get our needs met? Are we ones who will betray Jesus just so we won’t be singled out for being a believer? Are we ones who will not witness to others, and betray Jesus, because we are fearful of being singled out as a Jesus freak? Do we sell Jesus down the river just so we will fit in with the culture around us? Do we keep quiet about Jesus just so we won’t be ridiculed? An outward show of loyalty to Jesus is meaningless unless we also follow Christ in our heart. Satan and the world will try to get us to betray Jesus, so we must ask the Holy Spirit for help in resisting them. How willing are you and I to follow Jesus when it may cost us reputation, comfort, and even our very lives? When the crunch is on will we follow Jesus? As well, do we make church about what church can do for us? Do we get mad and leave a church just because church is not doing things the way we want? Are we using church to get what we want? Are we at church to be on the inside of the newest thing? Are we at church because there we have power? What is our motivation for following Jesus Christ? Is it because we love Him and follow Him because in Him we have salvation and we live our lives as thanksgiving to Him? Are we there because of what we know He did for us? Are we there because He made us clean in the sight of God? Are we there to learn to live more like Him?

 

Why are you at church? Is it to be seen or is it to see Jesus?

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 26:6-13

Mary Anoints Jesus with Perfume

Do you remember when you met the woman of your dreams? That time when simply seeing that person changed your life and you had to meet them at all costs. You would give up anything to approach them and talk to them. My favorite story of this kind is from the movie, Good Will Hunting, when Robin Williams’ character explains to Matt Damon’s character how he met his wife. Both characters, being “Southies” (people from the southside of Boston in those working class neighborhoods), were passionate about the professional sports teams of Boston, particular the Red Sox. Robin Williams’ character was a good bit older than Matt Damon’s but both characters knew about the famous Game 6 of the World Series in Boston between the Mets and the Red Sox. Certainly, it was important game for Red Sox fans as would be any game 6 in the World Series regardless of who is playing. Robin Williams’ character see what would become his future wife come into the bar where he and his friends were having a few beers before big game. After he sees her (and this is shortly before the boys are about to leave for the game), he tosses his tickets on the table and says “Boys, go on to the game, I’ve got to see about a girl!” Who in their right mind would give up Game 6 World Series tickets to see about a girl? That’s nuts, right? I guess it’s not so crazy when you end up married to that person and you are together til your wife’s death as was the case with Robin William’s character in Good Will Hunting. Have you ever been that smitten with someone even before you introduced yourself to them that you would give up tickets to a World Series game 6? Have you gone all out to impress your girlfriend or wife? Have you ever done something for her that other people would consider incredibly and stupidly extravagant (it doesn’t have to be monetarily extravagant to be extravagant). We may do stupid stuff to get a girl’s attention or to show her that getting to know them is our highest priority.

 

That dedication, that singular focus, that kind of adoration where you are willing to risk anything, do anything, give up something valuable, is what I think of when I think of Mary, the sister of Lazarus, in this scene in Matthew 26:6-13, where we read

 

6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

 

8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

 

10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

 

Here, we see that Mary lavishes an expensive perfume on Jesus that served to anoint Jesus. It was her way of recognizing that it may be the last time she would see him. She may have known and heard of the rumblings about all the conflict that Jesus was causing with the establishment. Maybe, she did not know that and was just anointing Him as her king. But one thing is for sure that we know she loved Jesus. Remember, back when Jesus came to visit at their home. Her sister, Martha, became indignant with her because Mary was not helping her perform the women’s duties and sitting with the men listening to Jesus. Mary threw caution and custom to the wind when it came to Jesus. If Mary had tickets to Game 6 of the World Series and Jesus walked in, she would have tossed the tickets on the table and said, “you ladies go ahead, I have got to see about the Son of God.” I think that it is that passion we will talk about today and how others sometimes get so wrapped up in the work of the church that they forget the passion for it.

 

One of the misinterpretations of this passage is that we are not to help the poor. Jesus is not saying that at all. He is saying that no matter how hard we try there are going to be poor among us and we are called biblically in both the Old and New Testament to care for the poor. Jesus is simply saying that our busy-ness with the things that were are commanded to do by God’s Word should not become a burden to us. They should be done with joy and thanksgiving. We should not let church work become so the main focus that we forget why we are doing it. Yes, there will be poor that we always will have to reach as part of being a devoted follower of Christ. But meeting their needs should not become our god to the point that we forget to worship God. There are those who become so consumend with the work of the church that we forget to worship God. We get so engrossed, for whatever reason, with the work of the church that we forget why we are doing it. The work becomes the god. For some, it is simply to be seen doing the work of the church. For others, we just get so wrapped up in doing stuff that we get burned out on doing all the right things because we have lost our passion and our focus. We have lost the love reason that we do what we do as Christians, to give honor and glory and love to our Savior because of what He has done for us and in us. The disciples had become so engrossed in being part of this radical new ministry of Jesus Christ. The ministry became more important to them than the Jesus of the ministry. I am sure their motives were noble (well, maybe, except for Judas), and they truly felt that the money represented by the oil could have been better used helping the poor. Jesus recognized that Mary’s lavishing of oil upon Him was an act of love and worship.

 

It is often the same with us today in a couple of ways. First, we can get so busy with do our checklist of church to-do’s that we forget why we are doing what we are doing. We do stuff for the church because everybody else is doing it. We do stuff for the church because we want to be seen doing it. Sometimes, we forget that why we are running around helping out everywhere we can on Sunday is because we love our Savior Jesus Christ and we want those who come to our church to be able to do so without distraction or even noticing that there is hard work being done so that they can worship without distraction. It could be the difference in someone knowing Christ or not coming to know Christ. When our hard work is done to give glory to God then it is done with the right frame of mind and soul. When we do all this hard work so that people will notice or we can develop some martyr complex about not being recognized for our hard work, then we have got it all wrong. Let not the business of the church become our focus. Let the business of the church flow out of our love for Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.

 

Second, sometimes we get stingy with our money when it comes to our church. We hold back for the wrong reasons. The church is not doing enough for me. The church is not doing enough for my kids. I don’t agree with the church spending my money on that project or program. I am not giving because the preacher said something that I did not agree with. You know the drill! We all have heard it before. We want to use our money or the lack thereof to push the church in the direction that we personally want it to go. That’s so unbiblical it is scary. We are commanded by God to worship Him with the firstfruits of our labors. It has nothing to do with whether you like the preacher or not. It has nothing to do with whether you have a program to suit a need you have. It has nothing to do with whether your kids are being coddled or not. Our giving to the church is about worshiping God. It is about being obedient to the commands of God. It is about loving God. It is about entrusting God with the use of the money given. It is first and foremost about giving glory to God for the talents and resources that He has bestowed upon us. It is about worship.

 

Mary worshiped God with complete abandon. She bucked the tradition of the women being in the other room. She lavished praise on Jesus with abandon. She knew that Jesus was the Son of God and she was willing to risk it all to worship Him. How much do you throw caution to the wind when it comes to worshiping the Lord? Do you lavish Him with praise through making Him a part of everything you do and every thought you have? Do you make Jesus a priority in your life or is there a Game 6 in your life that is more important than meeting with Jesus? Do you arrange your financial life such that you can worship God with your firstfruits? Do you or are you following God’s calling on your life or is there a Game 6 that is more important than that? What is it that you are placing before worshiping God with abandon? Let us be like Mary! Let us worship Jesus like it is the most important thing in the world to us? Let us be about Jesus like Robin Williams’ character in Good Will Hunting was about meeting his future wife – where we would put Jesus as a priority over even the most satisfying of personal pursuits. Jesus comes first. You boys go ahead. I got to worship my Jesus.

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 26:1-5

Religious Leaders Plot to Kill Jesus

Have you ever watched the NCAA tournament? Well, duh! Most of have watched at least a couple of games this year? I love to watch the pre-game broadcasts where they do special features on certain players and/or coaches as the teams progress through the tournament. Not to make light of it, but most times, the networks will look for compelling or feel good stories or stories of living through tough times or tragedy. And then there are teams that are destined for greatness by the sheer volume of talent assembled on their teams. And, of course, everyone loves the Cindarella team that comes out of seemingly nowhere to make a splash in the tournament. You throw all these things together and it makes for great cinema. Plot lines running deep for the teams in their quest for the championship. Plot lines converging and exploding. Plot lines that make you feel happy for the victor and exceedingly sad for the loser. That’s what makes the NCAA basketball tournament so great. It’s survive and advance. It’s the sudden halt to a great season. It Cindarella vs. the established giant. It is tradition vs. upstart. It is a team with one great player vs. a team full of good players. It’s a kid from the inner city who grew up rough vs. the country kid who grew up dirt poor. It is multiple plot lines coming together to play themselves out.

 

It is that idea of various plot lines coming together that I think of when I read this passage for today, Matthew 26:1-5:

 

26 When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2 “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

 3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. 5 “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”

 

There are two stories, two plot lines coming together. I think that is why Matthew separates this passage into two parts on the page. There is God’s overarching plan in vv. 1-2 and then there is man’s plan in vv. 3-5. Today, we will look at those two plot lines converging together but we will do it in reverse of the way Matthew presents it on the page. First, we will look at man’s plan. We will look at why the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus dead (not just discredited but dead). Then, we will look at God’s plan for all of this that come together to make the plan that He had all along from the beginning of time.

 

 

First, when we look at this short passage, we need to consider the last three of the five verses first. There, you will find the the human story, the immediate plot line of this story. We see that the chief priests and the elders of the people gathering at what I would call the fancy parsonage of the high priest, the residence of the chief of all Judaism as it existed in the first century. Caiaphas was the ruling high priest during the time of Jesus’ ministry. He was the son-in-law of the previous high priest, Annas. The Roman government had taken over the process of appointing all political and religious leaders in Palestine. Caiaphas served for 18 years, longer than most high priests, which suggests that he was gifted at cooperating with and appeasing his Roman overlords. To Caiaphas and the establishment over which he was allowed to reign, Jesus was a threat.

 

But, why? Why was Jesus a threat to them to the point that they were willing to kill Him. One reason was that Jesus was a challenge to their authority. When Jesus claimed to be the Messiah it meant His authority outweighed their authority. The religious leaders did not believe His claims and were angry that some of the people did. When Jesus claimed to be the Messiah it meant His authority outweighed their authority. The religious leaders did not believe His claims and were angry that some of the people did. Another reason was that the deeds of Jesus also angered the religious leaders. After seeing Jesus heal a demon-possessed man some of the multitude questioned if Jesus could be the Messiah. The miracle was undeniable, for the man was blind and mute as well as demon-possessed. Rather than believe Jesus to be the Messiah, these religious rulers attributed Jesus’ power to the devil. Thus their “official” explanation was that Jesus’ power came from Satan. This was another cause for which they wanted Him dead. Jesus was also a threat to their religious system. He pointed out the hypocrisy that was connected with their practice. The Bible records that on two different occasions He came into the temple precincts and drove out the moneychangers. The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And he found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Jesus said this little economic system that they had set up had made the Temple a den of thieves and not the holy place that it was intended to be. Since the religious elite had condoned these practices, Jesus was indicting them publicly for hypocrisy. In a society built on people of God and the center of their life being Jerusalem and its temple, these things were a big deal and surely motivated them to discredit Jesus and they had tried as we have seen. They had failed and Jesus continued to make fools of them publicly in their confrontations in the Temple. Another reason that wanted Jesus gone was the fact that he socialized with the very people that they wanted nothing to do with. The religious leaders were filled with pride and arrogance. They were particularly proud that they did not socialize with “sinners.” They did not believe that the Messiah would socialize with such a crowd.

 

Sure, these were reasons to get rid of Jesus quickly and quietly but to kill him? The three most important reasons that they had to have Jesus killed had to do with position and power. Jesus had great disdain for the traditions established by the Jewish religious elite. As much as anything, the lack of respect that Jesus had for their religious traditions incensed the religious leaders. Jesus ignored these traditions, which they observed so minutely. He knew they were human-made rules that had not come from God. And it was Jesus’ disregard for their traditions concerning the Sabbath that caused the most outrage. God had commanded the Sabbath to be a day of rest from labors and a time to worship Him. The religious leaders added all types of restrictions to the Sabbath making it difficult, if not impossible to observe. Jesus was grieved and angry at the way they had perverted the Sabbath observance. Jesus then healed a man in their presence. This healing on the Sabbath was more than they could endure. They concluded that the genuine Messiah would not dare do such a thing. Again, these things were important to them and might have been enough for Jesus to be punished and jailed…but….killed? All of these things are big enough deals together to make these pious men feel threatened by Jesus’ “new ideas” and might have been enough for exile or jail or something like that to quiet this Jesus down. Killed? Was that necessary?

 

The next most important thing was that Jesus was a threat to their hold on political power. Jesus was becoming increasingly popular. He was preaching God’s love for all mankind and it was so completely opposite of the legalistic ways of Judaism at the time, all rules and no heart. Performance over grace. This was an immensely popular message in a society where people were so concerned about religious appearance that there was a great divide between those who maintained God’s house and most of the people. Many felt disenfranchised from their faith because of the legalism of the Jewish leaders. Jesus was calling for a complete overhaul in how people thought about the kingdom of God. He publicly charged the religious elite with hypocrisy. This was causing an uproar in Israel.

 

In the time of Christ, the social landscape included super-legalistic Pharisees, power-hungry Sadducees, favor-seeking Herodians, Jewish priests, and Roman rulers maintaining a precarious order. In all of their history together, these groups may have agreed on only one thing: Jesus had to die.

 

  • Jesus was a threat to the Pharisees’ beliefs, social position, and power—but they were unable to kill Him outright. Although the Jews could execute someone for religious reasons (see Stephen’s stoning in Acts 7), if the Pharisees had personally killed Jesus, they would have faced an angry populace and lost even more influence (Luke 20:19). Unable to get rid of Jesus themselves, the Pharisees had to find political justification for an execution. Then Rome could do the dirty work.

 

  • The middle men between the Jews and the Romans were the Sadducees. Sadducees were upper class. They held the majority of the positions in the Sanhedrin and the most political power. But because the Pharisees were so influential among the people, the Sadducees often had to bow to the will of the Pharisees in the Sanhedrin. It was simple for the Pharisees to convince the Sadducees that, if Jesus were allowed to live, He would inspire a revolt and bring the wrath of Rome on all of Israel. As much as the Sadducees longed for the day when they could rule without foreign interference, they knew that any revolt had to be absolutely successful or Israel would be destroyed. They, too, needed Jesus out of the way because they wanted to maintain their wealth and power and influence.

 

  • Meanwhile, the Roman rulers in Palestine were charged with keeping the peace. If violence erupted (which it did occasionally), Caesar would come down hard on both the Jews and the appointed Roman leaders. Pilate was an ambitious man from what we know from historical records. If he could not manage a “backwater district” of the empire, how could he expect to advance his way back to Rome through the ranks of Roman appointments. He needed a peaceful and orderly Israel. This Jesus was a wildly popular figure but was not necessarily a direct threat to Rome but any insurrection that could be an offshoot of Jesus’ public persona would make it difficult for Pilate to maintain order. It is easy to kill the leader of a potential revolution than to have to quell an entire nation in revolt.

 

As you can see there were a lot of reasons that Jesus was troubling not only to the Jews but to Roman rule. As you can see as we walk through this historical background, there were growing reasons for the Jews to want Him dead and for the Romans to keep an eye on Him. All of it was a threat to the status quo and the tentative and tenuous détente with the Romans. But none of it was good enough to fully discredit Jesus with the people, not make Him a martyr to inspire revolution, and not make him more popular in prison than out. They needed Him dead and discredited with the people at the same time. None of the building evidence was good enough to do all that. They needed Him to do one thing. They need Jesus to say out loud in front of them that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. That would be blasphemy to them! They longed for the Messiah but if anyone claimed to be the Messiah they would commit blasphemy (the ultimate no-win scenario). That would be what they would get, the evidence that they needed. Jesus gave it to them later at his trumped up trial. But as you can see there were building political, social, and economic reasons for Jesus to be taken out of the picture. Are there reasons that you do not want to deal with Jesus? Are you like the Pharisees and Sadducees and the Romans who had some reason they wanted Jesus out of the way? Why is it that you do not want Jesus to be the Son of God? Is there a reason that you have not accepted Jesus into your heart? Why is that you want Jesus to just be a choice of many choices? Why is it important to make Him less than He says He is? What is your reason for crucifying Jesus?

 

That’s the human plot line. Now let’s move to the heavenly plot line. But why did He die? We have learned about the historical circumstances arise at that time that came into confluence and led to His death. It was not some random killing of a prophet. It was a cool, cold, calculated execution of a political, social and economic threat. But there is a higher plot line. There is a higher plane on which this execution operates. God works in history. He works in the context of people and personalities and politics to teach us, correct us, and act on our behalf.

 

Jesus came to earth to make this happen. Why did he have to die? The death of Jesus and His subsequent resurrection are at the heart of the Bible’s message. The Bible describes these events as “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3). Without the death of Christ, there is no gospel; His cross truly is the crux of our faith. Jesus came to complete the Old Testament sacrificial system. In that system, imperfect animals born from imperfect parent animals were offered as temporary sacrifices to atone for the sins of their owners. Why? Because God said so. He said that this was the way to temporarily take care of our sin problems. But with imperfect animals, it was not a permanent solution. It was practice for the real deal.

 

Jesus came to earth, born of a woman not yet entered into by an imperfect man, born of a virgin and impregnated by the perfection of the Holy Spirit of God, to be born perfect without defilement and without being touched by impurity. He then grows up and during His life commits no sins. He is perfect and is of the same essence as God and who committed no sins ever. He was perfect. He was the perfect sacrifice. When he got nailed to the tree, it was to be the final sacrifice for all sin for all time. The sacrificial system finished with Jesus. Why? Because while on the cross, Jesus suffered the full wrath for all sin for all time, past, present and future of every man, woman and child ever. That is a lot of sin to take on. It was poured on Him by the Father. Since we are imperfect beings, we cannot be perfect and we need a substitute. We need a way to be made right with God. That is why Jesus’ death atones for our sins and reconciles us with God (Romans 5:10). And the Bible’s pretty clear why He had to die the way He did. He had to be whipped and remain silent and die on a cross (tree) in order to fulfill prophecy. He had to shed His blood because “it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (Leviticus 17:11 NIV). The cross fulfills the righteous requirement of the Law and establishes the New Covenant (Mark 14:24). It is all finished with Jesus. The redemptive plan is complete. All we have to do is believe in Jesus.

 

God used human history to bring Jesus to the cross to bring about the universally needed reconcilement. God uses our lives to bring us to our personal cross where we meet Jesus and become personally reconciled. The cosmic and the personal. The grand scale and the personal scale. Plot lines running together like two NCAA teams with their own stories of players and stories of those individual teams that crash together to create the mighty struggles that we call NCAA tournaments. The victory and the heartache of those games is greater when you know the stories and the plotlines behind the games. Plot lines that began in Eden when God began His redemptive plan for mankind crashing together with the immediate political, social and economic climate of human history in Palestine in the first century. God uses it all. He uses all our junk, all our experiences, all our mistakes, all our joys, all our sorrows, all our victories, all our defeats to be you and me individually to the cross just the same as He used the events of human history 2,000 years ago to bring about the pivotal moment in human history.

 

Ask the skeptic and the non-believer and they will say all these things that I recited in the first half of this blog which are all historically true and real. However, it takes faith to believe that God orchestrated this and that Jesus was God in the flesh. It takes faith to believe Jesus is who He blatantly tells us that He is. He is not just good prophet who died as a sacrifice to some political agenda. It was God orchestrating the events to bring about His solution to man’s sin problem – salvation through Jesus Christ. Do you have the faith to believe that today?

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 25:31-46

The Parable of the Sheep & Goats

In the state of South Carolina, there is one thing that, if you are born here or when you cross the state line when  you move here, you must make a choice on. You either have to choose burnt orange and northwest purple or you must choose garnet and black. What those color combinations represent are the Clemson University Tigers or the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. In South Carolina, you must choose one way or the other. There is no in-between. You are a Tiger or a Gamecock. As many of you know, I am a Clemson Tiger through and through. I love the school. I love those hills. I love everything about the university. Being a Gamecock fan is just not in my nature. I have friends who are Gamecock fans but we have to agree to disagree on that point. The division between the two schools runs deep and goes back hundreds of years and it is not sports that created the divide. Clemson was not established until 1889, some 88 years after University of South Carolina. The road was long and hard politically just to get Clemson opened because there was a fight, long and hard, to get a school for the common man opened. Although Clemson is one of the premier public universities in the nation in many areas and its cost is not so common man anymore, it does have the roots of being the college for the common man and USC was once considered the elitist school in the state. So, the division is more than just over sports. It’s about identity and who you identify with. When you are not from here, it is just a sports thing. But to us who were born and raised here, it is a defining characteristic of who you are. Gamecock or Tiger. Your choice reflects the type of person you are here in South Carolina. Many of us don’t know the history of getting Clemson opened but what most do know is that the passion runs deep either way. A chess match between the two schools would draw a crowd and there would be as much passion about gaining victory at that chess match as there is on that last Saturday in November in this football mad state. It is not just a football rivalry. It’s yes-no. It’s wine vs. beer. It’s margarine vs. butter. It’s white cowboy hat vs. black cowboy hat. It’s our state. You make a choice. It defines your future.

 

It is that idea of a choices that have long-range impact and the idea of, at some point, not being able to reverse that decision is what I see in this passage of Matthew 25:31-46. It is one of the more famous parables that Jesus gave us, the parable of the sheep and goats. Let’s read it now:

 

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

 

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

 

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

 

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

 

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

 

Jesus used sheep and goats to illustrate the division between believers and unbelievers. Sheep and goats often grazed together but were separated when it came time to sleep at night or when the sheep needed to be sheared. There will come a time of separation for the sheep and goats, the believers and unbelievers. It is guaranteed. It will come. This parable also depicts the difference between true believers and those who reject Jesus Christ. This parable describes acts that signify the nature of the true believer. These acts do not depend on wealth, ability or intelligence. They are simple acts freely given and freely received. We have no excuse to reject those who have deep needs and we cannot abdicate these responsibilities to the collective that we know as the church or to the government. Jesus demands our personal involvement in caring for the needs of others. The point of this parable is not the who but the what – the importance of serving where service is needed. The focus of this parable is that the believer in Jesus Christ by nature overflows with thanksgiving and sees the needs of the world around us and we serve because we do it to give Jesus glory. We have love for others in the way that Jesus loves us – a sacrificial love that does not demand repayment. Those who reject Jesus or have never heard of Jesus are the “what’s in it for me” people of the world. Those are the people who have no love for anyone other than themselves. All their acts of love in this world are done with an eye to satisfying their own needs. There will be judgment for each of us based on whether we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. We will be separated to heaven or hell.

 

I love the beauty of this parable. You see that it is split down the middle between the positive view of the believer and his actions in vv. 31-39 and the negative view of the unbeliever and his actions in vv. 40-46. The King’s positive declaration in vv. 34-36 is matched by its opposite at vv. 41-43. The righteous ones’ response to the King’s declaration at vv. 37-39 is matched by its opposite at vv. 44. The King’s explanation at v. 40 finds its opposite at v. 45. And the reward of the righteous found at vv. 34 finds its opposite in the   final verse of the passage at v. 46. There is one way or the other. Also, note, too, in v. 34, that the blessing precedes the reasons why the righteous were receiving their blessing whereas on the negative half of the passage the curse upon the unrighteous comes after the reasons why they are being cast out into the darkness. All these symmetries play into what Jesus is saying here. There is a choice that we make about Jesus. We see him as Lord and Savior and serve our fellow man as serving Jesus. We serve our fellow man as if we were serving Jesus. We are so thankful for our salvation, our service to our fellow man is simply our way of repaying Jesus Christ. We do not see it as earning anything but simply showing our love for Jesus by showing love to others so that they can see Jesus in us. It is through this humility we have to be reminded by Jesus of the good deeds that we did.

 

In opposition to that humility is the pride of those who reject Jesus. It is those who think that they have got it all figured out. Those that reject God and think that they control their own destiny and even that there is no eternity. They reject God and place themselves in His place. They make all roads leading to heaven their mantra so that they can pick and choose what works for their lifestyle. We make ourselves our own god. We make Jesus just one of the ways to get to heaven. We make the Bible an antiquated document that does not apply today. We make it just a good book instead of the Good Book. We become self-centered and self-seeking. We make it all about us and anything that is not about us, we toss aside. Everything is about how it affects us. When we are one of these people, we make God a myth and say there is no judgment. We say that all this judgment stuff is simply the archaic ways of the church to keep man in line and stifle his freedom of thought. When the end comes for them, they will find that there is a judgment but they will think that they were good enough and they will be reminded of how they trampled on Jesus by how they treated others and in so doing disrespected God. They will have to be shown the err of their ways because they will have no clue as to why they would be condemned. It will be then that they will be condemned. The difference between the righteous and the unrighteous is that the righteous know how desperately they need Jesus for they know that they are never going to be good enough on their own. The unrighteous fool themselves into thinking that they have got it covered. They will have to have their sins pointed out and how the first sin condemns us. They will not realize that they need Jesus until it is too late.

 

What does all this mean for you and me? How can we apply this to our lives? I think that as Christians this coming judgment is call for us to seek out the goats out there and help them see that they need Jesus. It is a tough job to witness to the proud but how much do we really have to hate that guy who thinks he doesn’t need Jesus not to fight that fight. Eternity is at stake. We were put here on earth with a mission. Every day that we take a breath means that we have work to do to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to a world that sometimes doesn’t even recognize its need for Jesus. With each one that we save from the precipice of hell through the changing power of the Holy Spirit that leads to salvation, there will be another that serves his fellow man in thanksgiving to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. There will be another who sees serving his fellow man as serving his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

May we be a generation that loves the goats so much that we lead them to the cross that makes them sheep. Amen and Amen.

Matthew 25:14-30
The Parable of the Three Servants

There was an old nursery rhyme, Rub-A-Dub-Dub, that had the line, “a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker…”, in it. It reminded us as children that we all have different talents. And so it is that thought that brings us here. This passage reminds me in one way about when I was for nine years the stepdad of three boys and the dad of my two girls and even now with my girls being grown. When I was married to my second wife, she had three boys and I had two girls. There was always conflict between my second wife and me over the kids. It was that conflict that ultimately unraveled our marriage where we both made enough mistakes to last a lifetime. What my second wife wanted was 100% the same treatment of the boys and the girls when it came to discipline and so on. It was an unrealistic view of life. Each of the children were different. Boys are different girls. And each boy was different from each other. Each girl was different for each other. I understand that each of us, my second wife and I, should treat the other’s kids with the same respect and love as we did with our own. However, when it came to discipline and parenting styles, you have to treat each child differently. For example, with my girls, I could just look at them real mean and they would get fearful. I could tell them not to do something once or twice and that would be the end of it. But with boys, boy, are they different. With boys, you have to tell them not to do something every day repeatedly. With boys, a father has to be more stern with them because the world is just different for boys when they grow up. Boys will become men and they will generally be the leaders of their families. Men have to suck it up and work the rest of their lives to keep food on the table for their families and they must sacrifice for the good of their wife and kids. It’s just the nature of being a man. You have to get them ready for that. With girls, they are to be the nurturers of children. They have to be taught about different things and about love and acceptance and about caring for people that they are close to. That is just the nature of being a woman. You cannot raise or discipline boys the same way as girls and vice versa. They are simply wired differently and will perform different functions in the world when they grow up. It’s just that simple.

Sure, boys are different from girls. But also each child is different and has different needs. My girls are all grown up now. One is 25 and the other is 30. They are as different as night and day. As the parent of adult children (just as when they were young and living at home), you have to parent each child differently. One may be more independent and the other more in need of direct assistance. One may be rebellious and the other compliant. One may be willing to stand up for themselves while the other may let other people’s needs take precedence over their own. One may be driven while the other has be prodded and poked. One may be outgoing and the other shy. One may live life with a 10-year plan of where they want to be and make decisions based on that while the other may not see past the end of the week. One may save while the other spends every dime. Kids are just different and it doesn’t end when they leave home. They are different to the day they die. You have to parent them differently. They may not see it as fair but as a parent you have to raise a child according to his or her abilities, tendencies, and emotional make-up.

I was the same way when I was growing up. I was jealous of the way that my parents, in my opinion, coddled my brother but were seemingly harder on me. It is only now that I see that my brother needed a different kind of parenting than I needed. I was a lone wolf and would be ok no matter what whereas my brother needed close attention. That was just the way we were individually wired. No judgments on that. Just it was the way it was. My brother needed a different kind of parenting than I needed. I used to hate my parents for that but now some 30 years later just say hey that was what was needed. I know it. You know it. Every kid is different. Parent them differently. That’s the most misunderstood part of parenting is knowing that and not caring about the calls for equality from your children. Each one getting the parenting that they need. That is true parenthood. But we as kids never see it that way. We want everyone to be equal in a Barry Sanders kind of way. But that is not the reality of life. Each child has different needs that need to be met differently by their parents.

That’s long-winded but I think getting you to see that idea is important as we approach today’s passage, Matthew 25:14-30, The parable of the three servants. Let’s read it now:

 

14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag,[a] each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

 
Let’s look at this in its immediate context. The master divided the money among his servants according to their abilities. None received more or less than they could handle. If they failed in their assignments, their excuse could not be that they were overwhelmed. Failure would indicate only laziness and hatred toward their master. The bags of silver represent any kind of resource we are given. God gives us time, talents, and resources according to the abilities that he pre-designed for each of us. He expects us to invest our resources (time, talent, resources) until He returns. It’s not so much what we are given but rather how we will use those resources.

What does this mean for you and for me in today’s world? I think the bottom line is that, whether you believe it or not, not making it any less true whether you do or not, Jesus is returning. Does this mean that we quit our jobs and start serving the Lord in some weird and different way? No. It means that we are to use our unique, individual time, talents, and resources diligently to serve God no matter what we do. For some of us that may mean a radical change in lifestyle (from being an accountant full-time to being a pastor full-time or whatever). For most of us, it means being a minister in your daily life. There are more people reached with the gospel by regular joes like you and me than could ever be imagined by any pastor. Each of us were given different talents so that we could be ministers in each of our areas of influence as only we can.

The last servant in this passage was only thinking of himself. He hoped to play it safe and protect himself from what he perceived as his hard master. He was judged for not investing, going beyond himself and seeing the gift of the silver as more of a burden than an opportunity. This is the crux of this passage. We are all called to be ministers of the gospel but we all have different, but equally important, ways of accomplishing the Great Commission.

What you and I do for the kingdom may, and should be, totally different ways of approaching the same issue – our need for Jesus Christ. Each of us has been wired to offer up unique gifts, talents, time and resources to the Lord. We each have a role to play. We don’t have to be full time ministers. We only have to be faithful in serving the Lord. We cannot compare ourselves to others. We all have different ways to serve the Lord. We cannot be jealous of the gifts that put some people on stage and others working the audio/visual boards to make the people on stage to look good. We need guys who have been gifted in traffic control to do just that as it may be the lack thereof that causes someone not to come back to our church or any church. We need those who are talented in administration and finance to make sure the funds of the church are protected and used in a wise manner so that no ill repute will be cast upon the body of Christ at our local church. It’s all about serving the Lord not about what you and I can get out of it. We serve to give him glory and in so doing He will honor that. When we come to terms that God has talented us differently than someone else and just use the talents that we have to our highest ability for His highest glory. Then, we have grown up and matured a little as a Christ follower. Not everybody is on stage. Not everybody is a preacher. Not everybody is a writer. Not everybody is a teacher. We all have been given different talents by our Creator to reach the widest possible audience. Through the talents that we have, it brings us into the spheres of influence that God has designed for each of us. We are uniquely talented by Him for our sphere of influence. We should never compare ourselves to others. We are unique and divinely planned.

Our Father in heaven created each of us differently and we all have different needs before Him and He will parent each of us in different ways. He gives us different talents, skills, mental and emotional capabilities and we should not worry that we are not the on-stage persona in serving Him but rather seek ways to serve that are specific to our own skills given from God. He gave us those skills for a reason. He gave us those skills to bring Him glory in the places that those skills take us.

Let us pray that we come to terms with who we are in Christ and take and use our talents to bring our Father in heaven all the glory that can be brought!

Amen and Amen.