Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Friday, October 7, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Oct 8, Mt 12, Mk 3, Lk 6

Today's readings are Mt 12, Mk 3, Lk 6. Tomorrow's are Mt 5-7.

Mt 12 should be read in the context it is written. Jesus is addressing the Pharisees and the self-righteousness.

In Mt 12:1-8, the Pharisees accuse Jesus' followers of sinning because they were plucking grain on the Sabbath. To paraphrase how Jesus responds, it would sound something like this, "You assume they sin. You revere the Temple and all its practices but I'm even more than that. You never stopped to consider that since I am the Son of God and Lord of the Sabbath and they are with Me, they are priests of My message, therefore qualified to eat the holy bread."

Jesus then heals a man with a withered hand. Notice His healings so far have been healings of cleansing and restoration. So it is with the man with the withered hand who is in the synagogue. The Jews would see the withered hand as a curse. Jesus sees it as an opportunity to demonstrate God's power to transform and regenerate. What the Pharisees totally miss is that the man with the handicap represents God’s people, the ones in the synagogue. Jesus has come to make them whole and has the power to do so. But they're so blind and so quick to judge others they don't know they are in need of healing.

These events lead to many accusations about Christ (MT 12:22-32.) Ultimately, the Pharisees claim that the work He does is done by the power of Beelzebul (Satan). This leads Jesus to teach them about the one sin that is unforgivable, the unpardonable sin. Many speculate upon what this might be, but its meaning is right there in the text. The Pharisees have denied that Christ is doing the work of God and are attributing the work of the Spirit to Satan. Of course, this is an absolute rejection of Christ as the Son of God. The sin is unforgivable because rejecting Christ, without repenting and turning back to God, means eternal damnation.

Jesus levels the accusation right back at the Pharisees by teaching that a tree can be known by the fruit it produces. Their fruit is bad. He calls the Pharisees a brood of vipers and warns them that judgment is coming.

Jesus cautions them to take Him seriously and prophesies that the sign of His authenticity will be the sign of Jonah. He will rise, like Jonah did, after three days. Those who repent and believe in Him will judge those who don't. 

In Mt 12:43-45 the warning about the unclean spirits applies to the Pharisees who become increasingly worse with each generation. With nothing holy indwelling them, they are subject to evil influences. The accusation is that, even though they think they are righteous and holy, they are filled with evil. 

Jesus ends with stating that those who follow Him and believe in Him are His true family (Mt 12:46-50.) This too is a rebuke to the Pharisees who claim to be God's people yet reject His Son.

BTW, again we see, in Mt 12:15 that all who followed Him were healed. This is a concise statement that all who followed Him, as He withdrew from that synagogue, were healed. There are folks that want this to mean that everyone who follows Jesus will be healed of their sicknesses. But "following" Jesus does not necessarily mean "believe in Him". The people who "followed" Him from the synagogue were "traveling along" with Him. They were clearly not true believers because they are the same people who will abandon Him in another few chapters. Our healing is not dependent upon how much faith we have. These people, like the man at the pool of Bethesda had none! As soon as the going got tough for them, they left. 

What do we make then of the healing? It is Jesus proving that He is the Son of God, Lord of the Sabbath, sovereign ruler over illness, sin and death. That's Matthew's point in these chapters. They are not a prescription for perfect health if we can conjure up enough sincerity.

In Mk 3, as Jesus chooses His disciples, He chooses twelve of them. Jacob had twelve sons whose descendants became the twelve tribes that occupied Canaan at the end of the wilderness wanderings. As a result of their unfaithfulness, they were taken captive and scattered. The twelves disciples are a sign that the twelve tribes are being reconstituted in Christ. Those who are in Him are God's chosen people. They, like the sons of Jacob, will multiply and be blessed by God. Notice, Jesus does not "invite" them. He calls and they altar calls, no sinner's prayer...nothing but radically changed lives based on the call of God. 

Lk 6 recounts some of the same scenarios. As a result of His teaching, Jesus begins to attract crowds. Many are healed, many demons cast out. Still, all those who were blessed by Him will ultimately desert Him. 

While He has the attention of the crowds, Jesus teaches the Beatitudes (Lk 6:20-38.) To sum them up, He tells them the Law pointed toward a far more holy life than anyone thought. Worldly ways lead to condemnation. In order to walk in His ways, they will have to behave in a manner that is opposite of how the world behaves. 

Jesus also warns that the Pharisees are spiritually blind and unable to lead them (Lk 6:39-42.) The people are in danger of making the mistake of listening to the Pharisees without comparing what they say against the word of God. Furthermore, it is becoming clear that the Pharisees, Sadducees and many others are saying/teaching one thing but living/doing another. 

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