In Jesus’ Words: Free Will and Hope – the Betrayal at Passover (Matthew 26:17-25)

People often ask, “Why does God allow evil?”  It could also be asked another way, “Why does God allow people to do evil when He knows ahead of time what people will choose and the outcome of their choices?”  And if a person says they do not believe God knows everything ahead of time, then they would be saying God is not all-knowing and not in control.  I don’t think any of us want to believe or follow a God who is not in control or who can be caught by surprise.  So then the question becomes “Why does an all-knowing and in-control God still allow us to do evil?

The standard answer is usually “free will”, but I believe it’s more than just that.  Free will by itself does not guarantee anything or carry any hope.  It just means you are free to make your own choices, but not necessarily that anyone cares about your choices.  But the all-knowing, in-control God is also a God of mercy, forgiveness, and grace.  God gives everyone a chance – many chances – to do the right thing, to change their hearts, sometimes even to their last dying breath, no matter what they have done in their past.

This is why God allows our actions and choices.  He never gives up hope on any of us that we can change and choose Him.  And that is why in this next story of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, even he was given a chance though Jesus knowingly could have prevented his actions.

~ Matthew 26:17-25  The Betrayal of Jesus at Passover ~

On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare the Passover so You may eat it?”

“Go into the city to a certain man,” He said, “and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time is near; I am celebrating the Passover at your place with My disciples.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. When evening came, He was reclining at the table with the Twelve. While they were eating, He said, “I assure you: One of you will betray Me.”

Deeply distressed, each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?”

He replied, “The one who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl—he will betray Me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

Then Judas, His betrayer, replied, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”

“You have said it,” He told him.

In Jesus’ Words: The Olivet Discourse (End Times Part 2) – Two different statements

 

“I assure you: I do not know you!”

“Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Which would you rather hear? 

 

 

Jesus tells us two parables about the end times in the second part of his speech known as the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24-25.  Jesus delivers this speech on the Mount of Olives at the end of his ministry, and it is considered to be some of the most prophetic messages of the entire Bible.  It is not from Revelations, which is controversial to some, but this comes directly from Jesus.  Two parables are told; both with very different statements on the outcomes.  There doesn’t seem to be any room in the middle.  God is not a grey area, and the Bible and Jesus give us all the information we need to know about Heaven and end times.

~ Matthew 25: 1-30  Part 2 of Olivet Discourse – Parables about End Times ~

The Parable of the 10 Virgins

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom.  Five of them were foolish and five were sensible.  When the foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take olive oil with them.  But the sensible ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps.  Since the groom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“In the middle of the night there was a shout: ‘Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him.’

“Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.  But the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’

“The sensible ones answered, ‘No, there won’t be enough for us and for you. Go instead to those who sell, and buy oil for yourselves.’

“When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived. Then those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut.

“Later the rest of the virgins also came and said, ‘Master, master, open up for us!’

“But he replied, ‘I assure you: I do not know you!’

“Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.

The Parable of the Talents

“For it is just like a man going on a journey. He called his own servants and turned over his possessions to them.  To one he gave five talents; to another, two; and to another, one—to each according to his own ability. Then he went on a journey. Immediately  the man who had received five talents went, put them to work, and earned five more.  In the same way the man with two earned two more. But the man who had received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five talents approached, presented five more talents, and said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. Look, I’ve earned five more talents.’

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!’

“Then the man with two talents also approached. He said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. Look, I’ve earned two more talents.’

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!’

“Then the man who had received one talent also approached and said, ‘Master, I know you. You’re a difficult man, reaping where you haven’t sown and gathering where you haven’t scattered seed. So I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground. Look, you have what is yours.’

“But his master replied to him, ‘You evil, lazy servant! If you knew that I reap where I haven’t sown and gather where I haven’t scattered, then you should have deposited my money with the bankers. And when I returned I would have received my money back with interest.

“‘So take the talent from him and give it to the one who has 10 talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. And throw this good-for-nothing servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

*If you are interested in knowing more about who Jesus really is, or how you can have Jesus as a personal friend and Savior for your life, check out the Jesus Booklet series from Godlife.com.

In Jesus’ Words: Do as they say, not as they do. (Matthew 23:1-36)

How many times have we heard the use of the words, “Do as I say, not as I do.”?  That expression actually came from one of Jesus’ speeches where he is talking about the Pharisees and scribes, the religious hypocrites of his day.

Where did these Pharisees and scribes come from and why was Jesus so against them? They are not mentioned as part of the religious order in the Old Testament.  These new groups came about during the 400 year period of silence between the last prophet of the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament.  The Old Testament tells about Levite Priests, Judges, Prophets and Kings, all appointed by God, but has no mention of the religious orders of Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, Sanhedrin, and many of these other groups.

These new groups produced so many restrictions and rules that made it almost impossible for anyone to come to God.  No wonder Jesus was angry.  In this speech, Jesus is talking to the crowds who are following him and to his disciples, not the Pharisees; and he is telling the crowds, “Do as they say but not as they do.”  Note that he is not rejecting what the scripture says, just how they are acting on it.  Jesus is coming to the end of his ministry here, and is starting to make his final and closing statements.  It’s a long speech, but worth the read.  Read it slowly, and let it sink in.  It is wise advice for all of us.

~ Matthew 23:1-36  Religious Hypocrites Denounced ~

Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples: “The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them. They do everything to be observed by others: They enlarge their phylacteries (small boxes containing Old Testament texts worn around their necks) and lengthen their tassels. They love the place of honor at banquets, the front seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by people.

“But as for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi,’ because you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is in heaven. And do not be called masters either, because you have one Master, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You lock up the kingdom of heaven from people. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.

[“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You devour widows’ houses and make long prayers just for show. This is why you will receive a harsher punishment.]

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one proselyte (convert to Jew), and when he becomes one, you make him twice as fit for hell as you are!

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever takes an oath by the sanctuary, it means nothing. But whoever takes an oath by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by his oath.’ Blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that sanctified the gold? Also, ‘Whoever takes an oath by the altar, it means nothing. But whoever takes an oath by the gift that is on it is bound by his oath.’ Blind people! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? Therefore, the one who takes an oath by the altar takes an oath by it and by everything on it. The one who takes an oath by the sanctuary takes an oath by it and by Him who dwells in it. And the one who takes an oath by heaven takes an oath by God’s throne and by Him who sits on it.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. These things should have been done without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, yet gulp down a camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence! Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so the outside of it may also become clean.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we wouldn’t have taken part with them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ You, therefore, testify against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ sins!

“Snakes! Brood of vipers! How can you escape being condemned to hell? This is why I am sending you prophets, sages, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will flog in your synagogues and hound from town to town. So all the righteous blood shed on the earth will be charged to you, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. I assure you: All these things will come on this generation!

In Jesus’ Words: Questions about the Messiah (Matthew 22:41-46)

If someone truly has ultimate authority, and they know without a doubt who they are, what their mission is, and what the outcome will be, then they do not need to “prove themselves” to anyone.  Politicians prove themselves.  Experts prove themselves.  Even false Messiahs have tried to prove themselves.  God does not need to prove Himself. But He is interested in what we think.

~ Matthew 22:41-46  The Messiah ~

While the Pharisees were together, Jesus questioned them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose Son is He?”

“David’s,” they told Him.

He asked them, “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls Him ‘Lord’:

The Lord declared to my Lord,
‘Sit at My right hand
until I put Your enemies under Your feet'”?

If David calls Him, ‘Lord’, how then can the Messiah be his Son?”

No one was able to answer Him at all, and from that day no one dared to question Him any more.

Most people will agree that a man named Jesus lived around the time of 30 AD.  And history tells us that the Pharisees did everything in their power to kill him.  After the stories of Jesus’ resurrection came to be known and belief in the Messiah was spreading quickly, it seems plausible that those same Pharisees would do everything in their power to find the dead body and shut this down.  After all, if it had been a hoax and Jesus was not the Messiah and Son of God, then there would have been a body. With all the publicity, the Roman guards and the heavy stone in the way, somebody would have seen something, said something, or produced some evidence.  It would have been too big of a story to hide. And eleven disciples would not spend the next 30 years being tortured and martyred for a hoax.

If God is unable to raise someone from the dead, then He is unable to give us eternal life after death.  What do you think?

In Jesus’ Words: The Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) –

Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?

Jesus answered the man, who was an expert in the law, by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and most important commandment.  The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:37-40)

This is one of the few questions Jesus answers directly and succinctly.  It’s pretty clear, and not many can argue with its validity.  Why then is it one of the hardest for us to follow?  We define many types and names for love, argue over it in our court systems, write endless poetry and songs about it, and divorce it when it is no longer convenient.

We don’t need more definitions and rules about love.  Instead, here are some beautiful thoughts on what it means to show God’s love and greatest commandment.  This is the one time I say we should not try to over-think it.

“Gift from the Sea”, Anne Morrow Lindbergh –
“How does one learn this technique of the dance, the joy of living in the moment?  Why is it so difficult?  What makes us hesitate and stumble?  It is fear, I think, that makes one cling to the last moment or clutch greedily to the next.  It can only be replaced by love.  When the heart is flooded with love, there is no room in it for fear, doubt, or hesitation.  Living in the present ebb and flow of the tides – not owning or possessing or demanding, but freely, not looking back or forward in dread, but the present.”

“Crazy Love”, Francis Chan –
“Love sets us free from hate, guilt and fear.  When we focus on Christ, this seems more natural.  Love is the only thing that can defeat all.”

St. Augustine of Hippo, Christian theologian and philosopher –
“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”

Love is the reason God created us, why God cares for us, why we are free to choose, why Christ died for us, and why we can receive eternal life.  Love explains everything.

Happy Easter!  It is the greatest love story of all time.