Category Archives: Matthew

Sermon: Matthew 4:1-11; First Sunday in Lent: The Devil’s Game: Seizing Kingship without Cross

Sermon: People of God, in this gospel lesson we will see that Christ is victorious over Satan, and as a result, we are victorious over the tempter when we answer temptation as Christ answered. Let us pray.

Prayer: May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock, and our Kinsman. Amen.

As we enter into the Lenten Season we begin considering the temptation of our Lord Jesus Christ. In our study of the Beatitudes –some weeks ago– the eighth beatitude assured us that we will be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Jesus speaks with full authority because He himself was persecuted; He himself suffered the temptations of the evil one. Peter makes this quite clear when he says that “your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”[1] In the great temptation of Matthew four, we have the roar of the adversary versus the roar of the Messiah.[2] The Messiah roars words of truth; the adversary roars words of deception.

Our Lord became man, so that he might taste death for everyone[3], but before tasting death, He endured temptations and persecution, and scorn. All these things were necessary, so He might become the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.[4] Jesus was led into these temptations in order to be tested by the Father. But this is not just any testing; it is the very heart of the ministry of Jesus. The wilderness testing is a sign that if Jesus defeats the devil, then all other accusations and temptations in his earthly ministry will also be defeated.[5]

The passage begins by stating that Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit. What preceded this event in Matthew’s gospel was the baptism of Jesus.[6] I addressed Jesus’ baptism some weeks ago and I mentioned that Jesus’ baptism was the beginning of His priestly work. In baptism, the Spirit comes upon us and we are called to be priests to the world;[7] those who reconcile the world to Jesus Christ. Baptism is the beginning of our priestly work. But we need to remember that the Christian story is not “before Jesus I had problems, but now with Jesus I have no problems,” rather, the Christian message is “before Jesus you had problems, and after Jesus you may have greater problems.” What is crucial to understand is that problems or no problems, in Christ we are secured; united to Christ we are kept from falling. We need to grasp that though we are in Christ, united to him by faith through our baptisms, yet life is not going to be untouched by problems and temptations. The very first mission of the baptized Christ was to overcome temptation.[8] Continue reading Sermon: Matthew 4:1-11; First Sunday in Lent: The Devil’s Game: Seizing Kingship without Cross

The Temptation of Jesus

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

 

Stones and Bread

The devil is not just simply interested in Jesus doing a magic trick in his presence (Mat. 4:3), rather there is much significance in the language used in this passage. Stones are dead, unmovable. Jesus at one time used similar language when he said he would turn stones into children for Abraham (Mat. 3:9). There is a sharp contrast. Stones represent immaturity; a form of incomplete kingdom. If Jesus turns stones into bread, He will be inheriting an incomplete kingdom. But the Father wants Him to conquer a complete kingdom (Psalm 2); a kingdom conquered through death; the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8). Jesus will turn stones into bread, but the time for eating is not yet. As my good friend Bill Smith observes:

If Jesus turns stones to bread at this point in time, it will ultimately do no good. The Devil is tempting him to seize kingship without the cross. But it is only through the cross that the true Bread of Life can be given. Jesus will become that new bread through death and resurrection.


Transfiguration Sunday: Matthew 17:1-5; Transfiguration and Resurrection

Audio Sermon

Sermon: People of God, our gospel lesson shows us that the Transfiguration is that one great moment in history when Christ appeared in light to show us a preview of how we as a people of light are to live now and what we will be at the Day of Resurrection.

Let us pray.

Prayer: May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock, and our Kinsman. Amen.

You have probably been enticed as I have many times to see a movie based on its preview. The preview is a summary; a condensed version of the big picture. The preview needs to captivate your attention in about 30 seconds; if you are not captivated by the preview/movie trailer you won’t be captivated by the full story; the full picture. Continue reading Transfiguration Sunday: Matthew 17:1-5; Transfiguration and Resurrection

A Voice from the Clouds

Concerning the voice of the Father from the clouds in the Transfiguration, Rev. William Smith (PCA) writes:

This is God’s throne chariot. This is the place where he is surrounded by myriads of cherubim and seraphim. Once again we see heaven and earth intersecting. And from this cloud a voice speaks.

The cloud stands at the center of the narrative in Matthew 5. It is the dwelling place of Yahweh. Clouds are judgment (Isaiah 19) or they can be affirmations. Clearly, Yahweh is placing His approval upon the Son. The Son is the chosen One to take on the Mosaic and Elijahic mission to its full completion. The very Son is the One who will soon be murdered, raised, and taken to the clouds to sit at the Right Hand of the Father.

Suffering and Glory in Transfiguration

It is quite stunning that the Transfiguration of our Lord and the Crucifixion share so many parallels. In liturgical churches, Transfiguration Sunday is followed by the Lenten Season. Indeed, there is great beauty in the liturgical order of the Church: it reflects the liturgical order of Scriptures. David Garland summarizes these parallels:

“Jesus is surrounded by two celebrated saints of old; on the cross he will be surrounded by two criminals. . . . On the mount of transfiguration, Jesus’ garments glisten in his glory; at Golgotha, his garments have been taken from him in his humiliation. . . . In both scenes, there is mention of Elijah . . . and of great fear at divine manifestations. . . . In the first, Jesus is confessed as the son of God by a divine voice; in the second, by his executioners, Roman soldiers. . . . Both scenes are witnessed by his followers: the first by the inner circle of disciples; the second, by women from afar. These parallels reveal that, for Matthew, Jesus’ suffering and glory can be seen properly only as two sides of the same coin.”

Peacemakers…

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

To be a peacemaker is not about resolving conflicts. This is another illustration of how easily the beatitudes can be individualized. Is there an application here for us to pursue peace with others? Certainly. But primarily, Jesus is aiming at the cosmic restoration of the world to the Father. The kingdom of heaven is a kingdom of peace.

Jesus wants to reconcile man to God; bringing creation to reflect the world God envisions. And those kingdom disciples who abide by God’s law-word proclaimed by King Jesus are the ones who have been called to ensure that this reconciliation occur.

The promise is that those who live in a such a way– a way filled with shalom– are the true Israel of God; true heirs of the promise; adopted into a new humanity. They are the reconcilers. They are the imitators of Yahweh, who desire the world to be at peace with their Creator.

Believe in Yourself!

There really is something profoundly un-biblical about the oft repeated motto Believe in yourself. Generally, of course, it is mere sloganizing in sports with the intention of urging young athletes to be their best and produce fruits. Yet the language strikes me as highly Pelagian. In fact, when you hear statements like this ask yourself the question: Would Pelagius agree?

The reason this language is so common is because our culture has been delighted to exorcise itself from biblical paradigms. For instance, the beatitudes are commonly quoted everywhere, but it is always covered with a paradigm quite foreign to that of the kingdom of heaven. It becomes individualized; ultimately, it becomes a believe-in-yourself guide. In reality, the beatitudes are the divine instructions to an honored community. The biblical, beatific community does not believe in self nor does it rely on its own strength. She is quite peaceful and meek about the overwhelming strength brought by Another. She is poor in spirit which reflects her utter dependence on Yahweh in the flesh. Self believers contradict their existence. No wonder G.K. Chesterton wrote that “The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.”