Thursday, September 10, 2015

New Testament Lessons 131-140

New Testament- Lesson 131

Matthew Chapter 19- Part 3A

A rich young man, the rich and salvation, temporal and eternal rewards- Read (Matthew 19:16-29) (Mark 10:17-30) (Luke 18:18-30)

A young man (Luke writes a certain ruler) came to Jesus, kneeled and said, "Good teacher, what good thing must I do, that I may have eternal life?" Jesus said, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." He asked, "Which ones?" and Jesus said, "You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not offer false testimony. Honor your father and mother and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." The young man replied, "All these things I have observed from my youth. What do I still lack?" Jesus said to him (Mark writes Jesus looking at him loved him), "One thing you lack; If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross." But when the young man heard that, he went away sad, for he had great possessions.

Jesus said to his disciples, "Most assuredly I say to you, it is difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus answered again, "Children, how hard is it for those who trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God."When the disciples heard it, they were astonished and said, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus replied, "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."

Then Peter said, "We have left everything, and followed you. What then will we have?" Jesus said, "Most assuredly I tell you, that you who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on the throne of his glory, you also will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  Everyone who has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or land, for my sake, and for the gospel's sake, will receive one hundred times now in this time, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land, with persecutions; and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last ; and those that are last will be first.


New Testament- Lesson 132

Matthew Chapter 19- Part 3B

A rich young man, the rich and salvation, temporal and eternal rewards- Read (Matthew 19:16-29) (Mark 10:17-30) (Luke 18:18-30)

Jesus here tells the man who called him "Good teacher", that there is a great difference between man's standard of goodness and God's standard of goodness and from his view point when comparing humans with God, God alone is good, for all goodness flows from God to his creation. 
The rich man drew Jesus in to a conversation and Jesus told him what the Law required for one to gain eternal life and he answered that he had complied with all that since long. He persisted in questioning Jesus as to what he lacked even though he was keeping all the commandments, implying that he still did not believe that he would inherit eternal life because of all that he was doing. So Jesus told him what it was that hindered him from being sure of his salvation. It was his love for his riches. That exceeded his love for God and it had to be put away. Jesus said, "One thing you lack; If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross." But when the young man heard that, he went away sad, for he had great possessions. Sadly this is true in every generation; people love the one true God and desire to follow him, but cannot give up their love for riches and some hoard it to a great extent, living with fear and insecurity.

Jesus did not say that the rich would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven; what he said was, "It is hard for those who trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God." Jesus spoke a proverb here to express an impossibility. The Talmud (a central text of Rabbinic Judaism) gives the parallel phrase of an elephant passing through a needle’s eye. In some Syrian cities, the narrow gate for foot-passengers, at the side of the larger gate by which wagons, camels and other beasts of burden enter is known as the “needle’s eye,” and if a camel had to go through the needle's eye gate, it had to bend it's neck low and it's body as well, which would become a difficult and often impossible task for the animal.

When the disciples heard that it was hard for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God, they were astonished and said, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus replied, "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." Salvation is a gift of God. We can work towards the salvation of a person, but it's the work of the Holy Spirit of God that accomplishes the task.


New Testament- Lesson 133

Matthew Chapter 19- Part 3C

A rich young man, the rich and salvation, temporal and eternal rewards- Read (Matthew 19:16-29) (Mark 10:17-30) (Luke 18:18-30)

To Peter's question as to what would be their (disciples) gains for having left everything and followed him, Jesus spoke about eternal and temporal rewards. Jesus promised his disciples that when God restores the order of all things (as we read in Revelation 21), they would be given prominent positions; they would he highly honored and respected. The twelve tribes of Israel could mean "all of God's redeemed people." "Judging" would not mean literal judging, but being esteemed among the redeemed. The word "regeneration" here means "new birth" or "renewal" or "restoration". 
For those who have left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or land, for Jesus' sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will receive one hundred times (manifold) now in this time, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land, (Mark adds "with persecutions"). By this Jesus meant, that the loss of personal relationship with family members would be compensated by God giving the sacrificing believer many more spiritual relationships. In earthly terms, persecutions would not be counted as a reward, but Jesus said, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:10)

Finally, Jesus ended by saying, "But many who are first will be last ; and those that are last will be first." In this context, where Jesus is dealing with "the rich who trust in their riches", it means that the rich of the world, who are considered first by the world, had yet to get on the path to eternal life, because of their love for riches (they became last), while the disciples who are poor and considered of no worth or last by the world, had gained access to heaven and were well on their way to inherit eternal life (they became first). 

New Testament- Lesson 134

Matthew Chapter 20- Part 1

The parable of the laborers in the vineyard- Matthew Chapter 20:1-16

Jesus spoke a parable, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner, who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny/denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. He went out about the third hour (9 a.m.), and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them; You too go and work in my vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will pay you. They accepted and started working. Again he went out about the sixth (12 p.m.) and ninth hour (3 p.m.), and did likewise. About the eleventh hour (5 p.m.)he went out, and found others standing idle, and said to them, Why have you been standing here idle all day? They said, "Because no one hired us." He said to them, Go into my vineyard; and whatsoever is right, I will pay you. When it was evening, the Lord of the vineyard told his steward, "Call the laborers, and give them their pay, beginning from the last to the first." When those who were hired at the eleventh hour (5 p.m.) came, they received a penny/denarius. When those who were hired first in the morning came, they thought they would receive more; but each one was given a penny/denarius. When they had received it, they murmured against the landowner, saying, "These last have just worked one hour, and you have made them equal to us; we, who have borne the burden and heat of the day." But he answered one of them, and said, "Friend, I did you no wrong: did you not agree to work for me for a penny/denarius? Take that which is yours and go your way: I will give to this last, even as I have given you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own things? Is your eye evil, because I am good?"
Jesus ended the parable by saying, " So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen." 

The period of service in the vineyard was not considered important here by the landowner. He paid the laborers what he felt was right, because he was the owner of all. Only the laborers hired first were told that they would be given a penny; all the others were told that the landowner would give them what he felt was right. All the laborers received the same wages, a penny, though some came in late and worked for shorter durations. When called in to the service for God and his kingdom, some labor for longer durations and some shorter; the rewards may seem unjust because it is done with human calculations and often with jealousy and envy, but since God is the giver of grace to do anything that we do, it's finally up to him to decide whom to reward in what way. Having the mind of Christ, integrity and faithfulness are what God focuses upon more than the duration of service. The one who has worked for shorter duration may receive the same reward as the one who labored longer. The last becomes the first and the first last, so as to say.

The Jews (called first) had the covenant blessings of God, but most of them rejected Jesus through whom grace came. The Gentiles who were called eventually and they who accepted the offer of salvation through Jesus, were rewarded with the same promise of eternal life as was first presented to God's chosen people. They who were last became first, and the first became last. 
The Gospel call goes out to all who hear through all generations. Yet, the chosen ones are the ones who would accept the offer of eternal life by grace through faith and then live for their Lord and Savior and remain faithful to him, working diligently for him, till their call to go to their eternal home comes. Many are called, but few are chosen.


New Testament- Lesson 135

Matthew Chapter 20- Part 2

Jesus prophesies his death a third time- Read (Matthew 20:17-19) (Mark 10:32-34) (Luke 18:31-33)
The first time that Jesus prophesied about his death is read in Matthew 16:21-28, where Peter rebuked him for saying so. The second time Jesus prophesied about his death is read in Matthew Chapter 17:22, 23. Here, Jesus prophesies about his death a third time. 

Jesus while going to Jerusalem, walked ahead of them. Mark writes that the disciples were amazed and they were afraid. Twice he had told them about his death and they were grieved. They were amazed because he was walking boldly towards his death. They were afraid thinking of what harsh treatment awaited them. All 3 synoptic Gospel authors write about Jesus speaking to his disciples of betrayal, condemnation, spiteful treatment, death and resurrection. Matthew writes of Jesus speaking of his crucifixion.  

The betrayer walked with them; the disciples knew it not, but he knew it all. Yet, he walked towards what his Father had sent him to earth for, death on the cross. Not only that, he was  going to accomplish something that no one had ever accomplished. The writer of Hebrews, puts it in this manner......that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14, 15)


New Testament- Lesson 136

Matthew Chapter 20- Part 3

Zebedee's wife (mother of James & John) and her desire- Read (Matthew 20:20-28)(Mark 10:35-45)
Zebedee's wife (Salome)came to Jesus with her sons, James & John and worshiped him and told him that he should fulfill a desire of hers. Mark, the Gospel writer, writes that it was James and John who came to Jesus with the request. On inquiring of what the request was, she replied, "Grant that these two sons of mine, may sit, one on your right hand, and the other on the left, in your kingdom." Jesus answered, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink of the cup that I am going to drink, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am going to be baptized with?" They said to him, "We are able." He said, "You will indeed drink of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it is for them for whom it is prepared by my Father. When the ten disciples heard this, they were displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to him, and said, "You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great, exercise authority on them. But it shall not be so among you; whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant; for the Son of man came not to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." 

There's no doubt that James and John harbored ambitions of power and according to Matthew, they let their mother Salome approach Jesus with the matter (Mark differs in this). It's surprising that they could dwell on such a topic when Jesus had just spoken of what he was going to suffer shortly. Perhaps they had misinterpreted Jesus statement of "the twelve sitting on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel in the regeneration" and were still thinking of a temporal kingdom of Jesus and so the desire to occupy prominent positions.

The cup that Jesus was going to drink and the baptism that he was going to be baptized with were the brutal sufferings that he would endure before he gave up his life on the cross after crucifixion. On asking whether they would be able to follow in the same path, the brothers replied in the affirmative, perhaps not realizing what they were saying. On seeing that a rift was developing between his disciples regarding the matter of prominent positions, Jesus pointed out to them that power and authority were desired by them who lusted after worldly things, but he had called them to minister to others and be servants rather than masters and he ended by giving his own example: "...the Son of man came not to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
According to tradition, James was the first of the twelve apostles to be martyred for his faith. John, on the other hand, though he suffered much for his faith in Christ, including being exiled to the island of Patmos for a period of time, was the only one of the remaining disciples not to die a martyr's death. Judas, of course committed suicide.


New Testament- Lesson 137

Matthew Chapter 20- Part 4

2 Blind men healed by Jesus- Read (Matthew 20:29-34) (Mark 10:46-52) (Luke 18:35-43)

As Jesus and his disciples departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed. Two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out to him, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David." The multitude rebuked them and told them to keep quiet; but they cried all the more, saying, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David." When Jesus heard their cries, he stood still, and called them, and asked them, "What do you want me to do for you?" They said, "Lord, open our eyes." Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him. 

There are variations in the recording of this miracle by the 3 Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark and Luke; one of course is a gross variation in that Matthew mentions that there were 2 blind men who received healing and Mark and Luke write of only 1. The other variations being...
1) Matthew and Mark write that the miracle took place as Jesus departed from Jericho, while Luke says it was when Jesus came near Jericho. 
2) Only Matthew mentions that Jesus touched their eyes. 
3) Only Mark names the one healed as Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus.
4) Only Mark mentions that when Jesus called Bartimaeus, he threw away the garment that he used for begging.
5) Mark and Luke write that Jesus commended the man for his faith saying, "Your faith has made you whole/Your faith has saved you.
6) Luke writes that the healed man glorified God and the multitude praised God for the miracle.

Despite the variations, certain things stand out. One, that the blind men/man had only hear say evidence regarding the healing powers of Jesus, yet they/he believed. Secondly, they/he persisted in crying out to Jesus, despite the multitude trying to keep them quiet. Thirdly, the blind man cast away his garment (on which people threw alms) when Jesus called him, signifying that he was no longer going to sit there begging, as he believed that he was going to be healed in the next few moments. Bottom line....God honors faith and rewards them who persist in crying out to him despite hindrances.

New Testament- Lesson 138

Matthew Chapter 21- Part 1

The triumphal entry of Jesus in to Jerusalem- Read (Matthew 21:1-11)(Mark 11:1-10)(Luke 19:29-40)(John 12:12-16)

When Jesus and his disciples were nearing Jerusalem, and had reached Bethphage (house of figs) and Bethany (house of dates)(Bethany is mentioned by Mark and Luke, not Matthew) on the mount of Olives, he told two of his disciples, "Go into the village over against you, and immediately you will find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them to me." And if anyone asks you why you are doing so, tell him,"The Lord has need of them; and he will send them." 

Matthew writes, "All this was done, so that the prophecy of Zechariah be fulfilled....."Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King comes to you! He is righteous, and having salvation; lowly, and riding on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey."(Zechariah 9:9). John also mentions this prophecy fulfillment.

The disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them and brought the ass and the colt, and put their clothes on them, and they set him on the colt. A very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strew them in the way. The multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried out: "Hosanna to the Son of David, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest." According to Mark, the people also cried out, "Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest."
Matthew writes....When Jesus reached Jerusalem, all the city was moved (some with joy and adoration; others with envy), saying, "Who is this?" And the multitude said, "This is Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee." 

Mark and Luke don't mention the ass; only the colt, but the finding of the colt is as Matthew describes. John on the other hand writes "...when Jesus found an young ass, he sat on it." Mark and Luke write that the two disciples when the loosed the colt, they were asked by some standing there (Luke says the owners) why they were doing so and they replied as Jesus had told them to and they let them go with the colt.

Luke adds, "Some of the Pharisees (when they saw the multitudes rejoicing and praising God and Jesus, they were filled with envy) said to Jesus, "Master, rebuke your disciples. He answered, "I tell you that if they kept quiet, the stones would immediately cry out." 

John adds that the disciples did not understand what they were doing at that time, but after Jesus was glorified, they understood that all these things that happened were prophesied of him and them.
Hosanna is a word used to express praise and joy. The word "Hosanna" is from the Hebrew "Hoshiana" and it means save/rescue. It is a cry or plea for salvation.

Jesus is interested in details, that's for sure, and that is seen here in the manner in which he directs his disciples to find the right colt.


New Testament- Lesson 139

Matthew Chapter 21- Part 2

Jesus clears the temple- Read (Matthew 21:12, 13)(Mark 11:15-18)(Luke 19:45-48)(John 2:13-17)

Matthew, Mark & Luke, the authors of the Synoptic Gospels, write of this event towards the end of Jesus' ministry, while John writes of it after Jesus' first miracle at the wedding at Cana. Perhaps there were 2 events of clearing of the temple by Jesus, one at the beginning of Jesus' ministry and one towards the end or John must have thought it appropriate to include it in the earlier part of his ministry in his writings.

Jesus went to the temple at Jerusalem, and cast out all who sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, saying to them, "It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer ); but you have made it a den of thieves" quoting (Isaiah 56:7) & (Jeremiah 7:11). 

Mark and Luke add...The scribes and chief priests heard it, and thought how they might destroy him, for they feared him, because all the people were astonished and attentive to his doctrine. 
John's writes that it was oxen and sheep and doves that they sold. Jesus made a scourge of small cords and he drove them all out of the temple and poured out the changers money, and overthrew the tables and said to them that sold doves, "Take these things from here; do  not make my Father's house a house of merchandise." His disciples remembered that it was written, "The zeal of your house hath eaten me up." (....a fulfillment of Psalm 69:9)

Surely, this was no easy thing to do; Jesus was calling for trouble, meddling with the rulers and the religious figures who were in the corrupt business, yet love for his Father surpassed all things and as he always did, he chose to please his Father. Zeal for his Father's house consumed him and he would not stand as an idle bystander watching. He had told his disciples repeatedly that his time for being persecuted and killed was near, but he chose not to hide. His Father's house was to be a house of prayer and he set about cleaning it, infuriating the authorities who decided to do away with him, not realizing that only he had the right to give up his spirit, whatever they did with his body.


New Testament- Lesson 140

Matthew Chapter 21- Part 3A

Jesus curses a fruitless fig tree- Read (Matthew 21:18-22)(Mark 11:12-14, 20-24)

Matthew writes of the cursing of the fig tree after Jesus' cleansing of the temple, while Mark sandwiches the cleansing of the temple between the cursing and the withering of the fig tree.
After Jesus spent the night at Bethany, as he returned to the city in the morning, he was hungry. When he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found no fruits on it, but only leaves. He then said to it, "Let no fruit grow on you from now on forever." Immediately, the fig tree withered. When the disciples saw it, they marveled and said, "How did the fig tree wither away so fast?" Jesus answered, "Truly, I say to you, If you have faith, and do not doubt,  you shall not only do what has now been done to the fig tree, but also if you will say to this mountain, "Be removed, and be cast into the sea; it shall be done. All things, whatsoever you ask in prayer, believe, and you will receive it." 
Mark account goes like this.....Jesus saw a fig tree with leaves, in a distance and came to it, looking for fruits because he was hungry. It was not the season for figs. The disciples heard him cursing the tree on finding no fruit, that no one may ever eat any fruit from it from then on. Mark then goes on to write about the cleansing of the temple by Jesus. Next morning, as Jesus and his disciples passed by the same place they saw that the fig tree had dried up from its roots. Peter said to Jesus, "Master, the fig tree which you cursed has withered away." Jesus answered, "Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, "Whoever shall say to this mountain, "Be removed, and be cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he says shall come to pass; he shall have whatever he says. Whatever things you desire, when you pray, believe that you have received them, and you shall have them." 

The fig tree was regarded in the Old Testament as symbolic of the nation of Israel. The prophets Jeremiah, Hosea, Joel & Micah spoke of the fig tree in referring to Israel’s status before God. Thus here the cursing of the fig tree by Jesus and its withering had great significance regarding the spiritual condition of the nation and it's approaching judgment. Jesus was hungry so he approached a fig tree with leaves, to check for fruit. Mark writes, it was not the season for figs; yet a fig tree which had leaves gave hope to a traveler that some early fruit would be present with which he could satisfy his hunger. The question as to whether Jesus did not have foreknowledge regarding the absence of fruit on that particular tree can be answered in that he did not use his divinity at all times while living as a man on earth as is seen in several accounts in the Gospels. The spiritual apostasy of Israel with rulers and priests being hypocrites had compelled Jesus to cleanse the temple; here now he cursed the fig tree and it withered; this was symbolic that God was ready to cleanse the nation on his own terms. 

To be continued in next lesson......

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