In Jesus’ Words: “You have said it.” (Matthew 26-27)

A common discrepancy I hear a lot is that Jesus never said he was the Son of God, the Messiah, and that this claim only came from what others said about him.  Yet, when looking through Jesus’ words in the New Testament, he did in fact make this claim several times.  Why else would they be trying to kill him?

~ Jesus faces the Sanhedrin and Governor ~
Matthew 26:62-65, 27:11

The high priest then stood up and said to Jesus, “Don’t You have an answer to what these men are testifying against You?” But Jesus kept silent. Then the high priest said to Him, “By the living God I place you under oath: tell us if You are the Messiah, the Son of God!”

“You have said it,” Jesus told him. “But I tell you, in the future you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Look, now you’ve heard the blasphemy!

Now Jesus stood before the governor. “Are You the King of the Jews?” the governor asked Him.

Jesus answered, “You have said it.”

The phrase “You have said it.” is an affirmation of oath, meaning “That is true.”

I have heard two testimonies this week from ordinary people – one local and one from the other side of the world. Both witnessed seeing Jesus in a dream or vision confirming to them that He is the Messiah, the Son of God. “You have said it,” they said.

In Jesus’ Words: Heaven and Good Deeds (final part of Olivet Discourse on End Times)-Matthew 25

I read a statistic recently that said about 75% of Americans think “being good” will get them to heaven. That must include a lot of church-going people in that statistic! In response, my analytical mind always wants to ask, “How good do you have to be?”  Is one really good heroic deed enough?  Or does the good have to outnumber the bad – and if so, what is considered bad, because that is equally important to the equation. And do little white lies count as bad?  You get the idea.

Ironically, the statistics on charitable giving and doing is far less than the 75% who think being good will get them to heaven.  Do most people generally think they are a good person, and that in itself will be enough?  If people truly believed good deeds are the way to heaven, then there would be a lot more of it in the world.  I think most people intrinsically know there is something more than just that.

In Jesus’ message below, we should definitely take to heart what He says about caring for the hungry and the sick, but it is to be done as an outcome of our belief and love in Jesus Christ – the One who saves us and genuinely cares for all – and not as a means get to heaven.

Every word and statement in the Bible has meaning, and not a single world is carelessly placed. Right before Jesus’ tells his example about caring for the less-fortunate, He makes this statement in Matthew 25:34: “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  The kingdom of heaven is a gift from the beginning (salvation), and not based on anything we do ourselves.

~ Matthew 25:31-46  Final part of Olivet Discourse (End Times) preached by Jesus ~

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’

“And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!

For I was hungry
and you gave Me nothing to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me nothing to drink;
I was a stranger
and you didn’t take Me in;
I was naked
and you didn’t clothe Me,
sick and in prison
and you didn’t take care of Me.’

“Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?’

“Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’

“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

*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: The story that explains everything (Matthew 20:1-16)

silhouettes-of-people-standing-780x312

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: Transfiguration and Unbelief (Matthew 17:1-13)

transfiguration_of_Jesus

The Transfiguration of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 17 is one of the hardest things for many people to grasp.  Even for myself growing up church, it was never mentioned a lot.  People like to hear about Jesus for his Sermon on the Mount, his miracles and healings, and his teachings about love… but transfiguration?  This is where you have to step out of your comfort zone, go beyond the fair-weather Christianity, and say: Jesus was not just a man, or a baby in a manger at Christmastime, but was God in human form, standing next to the great prophets Moses and Elijah who had lived over a thousand years before.

No one can completely prove or disprove details that happened over two thousand years ago, but human nature can give us a lot of clues.  What would make the disciples of Jesus continue to do all the things they did after Jesus’ crucifixion?  They traveled the world telling about Jesus, to the extent of being jailed, tortured, penniless, and all of them having died a horrific death for their beliefs, but never once recanting their story.  It would have to be something supernatural that could not be explained any other way.  There are only two events that could satisfy their actions: the Transfiguration and the Resurrection.

~ The Transfiguration  Matthew 17:1-13 ~

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. He was transformed in front of them, and His face shone like the sun. Even His clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.

While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud and said:
This is My beloved Son.
I take delight in Him.
Listen to Him!

When the disciples heard it, they fell facedown and were terrified.

Then Jesus came up, touched them, and said, “Get up; don’t be afraid.”
When they looked up they saw no one except Him—Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone about the vision until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”

So the disciples questioned Him, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”

“Elijah is coming and will restore everything,” He replied. “But I tell you: Elijah has already come, and they didn’t recognize him. On the contrary, they did whatever they pleased to him. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them about John the Baptist.

During the immediate years after Jesus’ crucifixion, the Jews became scattered when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD along with the fall of Rome.  There were two main groups of Jews during this time: Sadducees and Pharisees.  The Sadducees eventually gave up their Jewish religion all-together after Rome was destroyed, and the Pharisees began to follow only the first five Hebrew books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch.  They abandoned all of the later historical Old Testament books that were written in Greek, including many of the Old Testament prophets.  Some Jews did become followers of Jesus, as can be found in the New Testament letters which discuss the need for continuing Jewish rituals among the new believers.  And the disciples went on to teach the ways of Jesus, spreading it to the rest of the world.

From the Old Testament prophets, written hundreds of years before Jesus:

Micah 5:2 – Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; One will come from you to be ruler over Israel for Me. His origin is from antiquity, from eternity.

Malachi 3:1-2 – See, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. (John the Baptist)  Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to His temple, the Messenger of the covenant you desire – see, He is coming.

Zechariah 9:9 – Shout in triumph, Daughter Jerusalem! Look, your King is coming to you; He is righteous and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey.