In Jesus’ Words: Two truths about heaven and hell (Matthew 21:33-22:14)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus continued his conversation with the Pharisees, “Listen to another parable..”, he replied.

Jesus had just finished telling the Pharisees the parable of the two sons, and how the tax collectors and prostitutes would enter the kingdom of heaven before them because they had believed and repented. Jesus kept trying to get the Pharisees to understand. Pleading with them. Jesus did not want to see His chosen people miss the point and miss heaven, just because they were trying to hold on to a very short timeline of earthly power.

Jesus tells the parable of a vineyard owner and the tenant farmers who take care of the vineyard (an image that would have been relevant to the Jews of that time). When the owner sends his slaves (representing Old Testament prophets) to gather the harvest, the farmers beat them and kill them. Finally the owner sends his son (Messiah) and they reject him and kill him also. Jesus ends the parable by saying, “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit.”

Still, the Pharisees must have stood there with blank looks on their faces because the next verse says, “Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables..”  Or in other words, “Ok, I’m going to try this one more time…”  The next parable Jesus tells is about the wedding banquet. The invited guests (chosen people) paid no attention to the invite and went about their own business. So the king went out into the streets and invited others – both good and evil – to come in, and they accepted the invite. Jesus tells us that those who did not originally accept “will be thrown into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The two truths we can know from these parables taught by Jesus are:

1. The kingdom of heaven is not determined by how good or evil you are.  
It is by accepting God’s invitation to believe and repent. Our righteousness for heaven is granted to us through Jesus Christ, the prophesied Messiah. There is no way any of us could ever tally up a system (or religion) to count our rights or wrongs and make a case for heaven based solely on that. It wouldn’t be fair to anyone – to the person who has tried all their life to be good, or the person who was dealt a bad lot in life and didn’t have a fair chance, or even the person who was not fairly informed. It can only be by grace through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for us.

2. Jesus tells us there is a hell and those who do not believe and repent will be sent there. (thrown into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth).  It is not a comfy subject to talk about and many people try to water it down in today’s Christianity. But Jesus spoke about it often, and the truth does not change based on how we feel. Each of us will meet God someday, and the only thing that will matter at that time is God’s truth.

Today as Christians we get caught up in so many other obstacles, whether it is gay marriage, abortion rights, or a certain political party. But what really matters in the end are the two truths mentioned above. Everything else is secondary.

~ Matthew 21:33-22:14  Jesus’ two parables about heaven and hell ~

The Parable of the Vineyard Owner

“Listen to another parable: There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a watchtower. He leased it to tenant farmers and went away. When the grape harvest drew near, he sent his slaves to the farmers to collect his fruit. But the farmers took his slaves, beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Again, he sent other slaves, more than the first group, and they did the same to them. Finally, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

“But when the tenant farmers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance!’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those farmers?”

“He will completely destroy those terrible men,” they told Him, “and lease his vineyard to other farmers who will give him his produce at the harvest.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
This came from the Lord
and is wonderful in our eyes?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit. [Whoever falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whoever it falls, it will grind him to powder!]”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they knew He was speaking about them. Although they were looking for a way to arrest Him, they feared the crowds, because they regarded Him as a prophet.

The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent out his slaves to summon those invited to the banquet, but they didn’t want to come. Again, he sent out other slaves, and said, ‘Tell those who are invited: Look, I’ve prepared my dinner; my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

“But they paid no attention and went away, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the others seized his slaves, treated them outrageously and killed them. The king was enraged, so he sent out his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned down their city.

“Then he told his slaves, ‘The banquet is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go to where the roads exit the city and invite everyone you find to the banquet.’ So those slaves went out on the roads and gathered everyone they found, both evil and good. The wedding banquet was filled with guests. But when the king came in to view the guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed for a wedding. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.

“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

 

In Jesus Words: Who is this? (Matthew 20:29-21:10)

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So many times in this life we want to be right more than anything else. We know best. We want to prove our point is the correct one. (the prideful righteous)

or

Too often we get caught up in dwelling on our past mistakes. We failed. We’ll never be good enough so why try. (the unredeemable sinner)

Neither of these positions is how Jesus wants us to be.

It can be hard to change our habits sometimes based on how we grew up. Some of us grew up in the church. Others of us far from it. The basics of Christianity do not change either way – we must be repentful and believe in Jesus as the one God sent as the Savior for our sins. But other than that, our life and purpose on this earth has more to do with our relationship with others, showing God’s love, and forgiving others. It is in those things that we are most like Jesus, the one we follow and believe.

The problem with the first position (the prideful righteous) is that we put “our” being right above the relationship with others. We might think we’re helping, but we fail to trust God in His ultimate plan, timing and direction. And if we choose not to fully forgive someone in the process of being right (not just forgive on the surface but also in our hearts and actions), then anger and bitterness can spread to others like a wildfire out of control. Our kids see it, other family members are affected, and on and on.

The problem with the second position (the unredeemable sinner) is that we are not fully believing in who God really is. God does not condemn us the way society does. God is ready to offer mercy and grace to anyone who asks for it in their heart. Anyone. No matter what. Good or Bad. “Whosoever believes.” It seems ultimately fair, and yet a little unfair when viewed through the eyes of our world. We think those of us that are “good” have a better standing with God. After all, we’ve tried all our life. We resisted sin. Well, at least the big ones anyway.  But God is fair to all.  Anyone can be saved.  We are all equally valuable and wonderfully made by God.

~ Matthew 20:29-21:10  Who is Jesus ~

Two blind men were sitting by the road. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd told them to keep quiet, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” Jesus stopped, called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  “Lord,” they said to Him, “open our eyes!” Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they could see, and they followed Him.

Jesus came into Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two disciples telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you should say that the Lord needs them, and immediately he will send them.”
This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:
Tell Daughter Zion,
“Look, your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”
The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt; then they laid their robes on them, and He sat on them. A very large crowd spread their robes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road.
Shouting: Hosanna to the Son of David! He who comes in the name of the Lord is the blessed One!
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken, saying, “Who is this?”

The chief priests and Pharisees asked the temple police, “Why haven’t you brought Him?” The police answered, “No man ever spoke like this!” – (John 7:45-46)

Jesus upset both positions – the righteous and the sinner.  Jesus changes lives.  The crowds may say keep quiet, stay in your place, but Jesus says differently.  Let Jesus take the burden and then let Him work out the rest.  All He asks you in return is to have faith in Him to works things out, to love others and to forgive.  Oh, and don’t forget to forgive yourself too – Jesus already has.feet with waves cropped

 

In Jesus’ Words: The story that explains everything (Matthew 20:1-16)

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The following is one of the most important stories Jesus told in the Bible.  It explains our world.  It explains God.  It explains what Grace really is.  And it explains Heaven.  It is what differentiates the Christian faith from every other religion and philosophy in the world.

How many times have we wondered about the wretched person who repents at the very end of their life and gets right with God?  They lived their life carelessly, causing harm to others along the way, while we tried to follow God’s teachings all our lives.  Is that fair?

How many times do people condemn a God they don’t understand because they think that all God wants to do is send people to hell if they mess up?

How many times have we messed up?

And what about all the starving and abused children that God seemingly ignores?  Where is their justice?

Jesus had a good way of explaining things.  We should all read or think about this story from Jesus every day and apply its wisdom to every circumstance we encounter.  Maybe then we will not be so surprised when we get to eternity.

~ Matthew 20:1-16  Parable of the Vineyard Workers ~

Jesus said, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the workers on one denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine in the morning, he saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. To those men he said, ‘You also go to my vineyard, and I’ll give you whatever is right.’ So off they went. About noon and at three, he went out again and did the same thing. Then about five he went and found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one hired us,’ they said to him.

“‘You also go to my vineyard,’ he told them. When evening came, the owner of the vineyard told his foreman, ‘Call the workers and give them their pay, starting with the last and ending with the first.’

“When those who were hired about five came, they each received one denarius. So when the first ones came, they assumed they would get more, but they also received a denarius each. When they received it, they began to complain to the landowner: ‘These last men put in one hour, and you made them equal to us who bore the burden of the day and the burning heat!’

“He replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I’m doing you no wrong. Didn’t you agree with me on a denarius. Take what’s yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my business? Are you jealous because I’m generous?’”

“So the last will be first, and the first last.”

In Jesus’ Words: Parable of the Lost Sheep (Matthew 18:10-14)

10115486-yellow-taxi-sign-at-night“All humanity winds up in a taxi at one point or another.” – Dorothea Benton Frank, American author

I just love that line from one of her novels.  All of us, at least once in our life, have gotten lost.  We took a wrong turn, or we weren’t paying attention, or we just didn’t know where to go next.  Maybe we were running away, or perhaps we were returning home – anxious, excited, scared, alone.  We’ve all sat in the back seat of that taxi, in an unfamiliar place, dependent on a driver who probably doesn’t speak our language very well, waiting to be taken somewhere.  Suddenly our status, our money, our past – none of that seems to matter sitting in the back seat of a taxi.  We are all the same, wanting to belong, wanting to go somewhere, trying to figure out the secret, or if there really is one.

Jesus said his parables contain “the secret of the kingdom of God”. (Mark 4:11)
And the parable he told about the lost sheep touches us all.  It describes God’s greatest desire and love for us.  It is a child who returns, a heart that repents, a voice crying out to God, and someone to lead us safely home.

~ Matthew 18:10-14  The Parable of the Lost Sheep ~

Jesus said, “See that you don’t look down on one of these little ones, because I tell you that in heaven their angels continually view the face of My Father in heaven. [For the Son of Man has come to save the lost.]
What do you think? If a man has 100 sheep, and one of them goes astray, won’t he leave the 99 on the hillside and go and search for the stray? And if he finds it, I assure you: He rejoices over that sheep more than over the 99 that did not go astray. In the same way, it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones perish.”

The overall theme throughout the entire Bible shows God seeking out his children and bringing them back to him.  When Jesus came, he continued that same theme of His Father.  Jesus did not make it difficult with a long list of rules to follow, or require that we have everything figured out first or make sure our house was all in order.  Jesus simply said, “Follow Me.”  Accept My Grace.  And I will show you the way.

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  (Romans 10:13)

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I have many people in this city. – God

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“Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent.  For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” – The Lord said to Paul in a night vision. (Acts 18:9-10)
What if Paul had not listened, or had not traveled as much as he did?

God’s people are everywhere.  His angels are everywhere.  Jesus is not limited to our earthly space or rules.  Jesus is living, always with us in our hearts and souls, and he extends his Saving Grace to everyone who sincerely asks.

Tomorrow I will be boarding a plane to Asia.  I am excited to get to see some of God’s people from the other side of the world.  Although it’s a business trip, I am sure I will come back with a new appreciation for God, for all of His people, and for God’s plan for the world to know Him and His Son.  And I’m sure I’ll have a few more stories to tell too.

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