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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jesus Calls Us to Come to Him


Jesus Calls Us to Come to Him

Matthew 11



The main theme of the eleventh chapter of Matthew I believe is simple –that there are two kinds of cities – two kinds of people.  Those who accept God and those who don’t.  Jesus is comparing the cities that accepted God’s Word in this chapter with the cities that didn’t.  When a prophet would come to a city proclaiming God’s Word, some cities would turn from their sins and come to God – like Nineveh did when the prophet Jonah came to them with God’s warning- while other cities would not turn from their sins and would reject God and the prophet too.  Often prophets were stoned for bringing God’s message.   


 I think Jesus was broken hearted because even though He has healed so many, cast out demons, raised the dead, caused the lame to walk and the blind to see as he has traveled around Israel, these same people who wanted his healings don’t want Him or his message! The religious leaders are influencing them, but still it hurts.  Jesus has come to his own and his own are not receiving Him. 


Jesus says that John the Baptist “came neither eating or drinking, and the people said, ‘He has a demon.’  And then the Son of Man (Jesus) came eating and drinking, and the people said, ‘Look a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’  (Matthew 11:18-19a)  Jesus seems to be saying that the people He loves – the Jewish people of that day - are critical and rejecting no matter how the gospel is presented to them. 


 Jesus goes on to say that the city of Capernaum (His city) rejected God even after Jesus had done many mighty works there.  Jesus preached and healed many people and performed many miracles in Capernaum.  Capernaum was given so much light and still refused to see!  And Jesus added that if the city of Sodom had experienced the mighty works that Capernaum had experienced that Sodom would still be close to God.  He explained that each city will be judged by the light that they are given.  And there will be a Judgment Day when judgment will come down for all the cities and all the people of the world!   


Jesus continues telling his disciples that if a person or a city rejects Him they are rejecting God and if they reject God they are rejecting Him.  And of course if a person accepts Jesus they are accepting the Father as well.  We read: “All things have been delivered to Me (Jesus) by My Father and no one knows the Son except the Father.  Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”  (Matthew 11:25)  At another time Jesus also said: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No person comes to the Father but by Me.”  (John 14:6)  When Jesus said that He and the Father were one it drove the religious establishment mad! 


Matthew chapter 11 begins with John the Baptist sending his friends to Jesus to ask Him if He really is the Messiah or should they look for another.  Poor John is languishing in a dark prison and he probably is depressed knowing that he will be put to death soon.  Bible scholars believe that John the Baptist was expecting Jesus to usher in the great judgment of sin (Matthew 3:10-12) and instead Jesus had been loving the people and healing and preaching.  It seems that physical healing and spiritual healing go together. 


 Prophecies say that Jesus will come again and usher in this great judgment at the end of the age.  But John the Baptist had expected the judgment to come when Jesus came to earth that first time.  So when Jesus came and did not bring judgment with Him at that time, John the Baptist wondered if Jesus was the real Messiah. 


It is easy for us to make the same mistake John the Baptist made and decide what we think God must do on our schedule.  And then we get confused when God doesn’t do what we feel He should in our time frame.  Of course God’s time frame is different than ours.  We need to trust God because He sees the whole picture and of course we don’t.


Jesus sent an answer back to John the Baptist concerning whether He was the Messiah or not.  This is His answer: “The blind see and the lame walk: the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear: the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”  (Matthew 11:5-6)  Jesus answered John the Baptist by calling attention to his healings and miracles which John the Baptist would recognize as something that only God could perform.  (Isaiah 29:18-19: 35:5-6: 61:1) 


And then Jesus reminds John the Baptist: “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”  (Matt.11:6)  This would encourage John the Baptist but it will also encourage all of us who are not offended by Jesus – all of us who believe in Him.  Jesus is saying that the people who are not offended by Him – who believe in Him - are spiritually blessed.  “by believing we have life in His Name.”  (Jn. 20:31b)


We wonder what makes people accept or reject Jesus and his message and while Jesus was talking about this subject He made this comment:  “the kingdom suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”  (Matthew 11:12b)    I do not know what Jesus means here, but Bible scholars suggest that the upheaval or violence caused by the expansion of the kingdom of God into a life or a city is not caused by political forces or armed advance.  But this violence is the result of God’s order shaking relationships and households and cities and nations by the entry of the Holy Spirit’s power working in people. 


The Holy Spirit comes into the hearts of those that open to Him and He often leads these ones to do things differently than the world around them.  They may even do things differently than the churches they are part of.  Let us remember that it was the religious establishment that insisted that pilot the Roman governor, put Jesus to death.  The Jewish people looked to their Pharisees and Saducees – their priests and those who studied God’s Word to lead them to God.  But now these “godly” leaders who should have recognized Jesus as the Messiah that God’s Word had promised  - these religious leaders were the ones who were influencing the people that Jesus was not of God!  Some of the violence was coming from the very establishment that claimed to be on God’s side.  And perhaps things haven’t changed that much today.   


I was watching television last night and two political advertisements were shown within a few minutes of one another.. One ad was showing a candidate who is running for a political office here in Texas.  First the ad showed the candidate praying with his family while holding hands around the dinner table.  Then the ad informs us that this political candidate is a “Values” voter!  (Does that imply that the person running against him isn’t?)  Next this candidate comes on the screen seething with hate and tells us that he not only hates President Obama but he has sued Obama.  Then he shows a dark unflattering picture of the candidate who he is running against and tells us that this awful man allowed the little children of illegal immigrants here in Texas to go to public schools!  How awful of him!  And his opponent won’t work as hard to stop affordable healthcare for folks who are hurting and without it as he will. The ad closes reminding us that he is a churchgoing man.  He believes in God and guns!    


Within five minutes a second political ad was shown on television.  This time a woman with long flowing hair walks to a blackboard and begins drawing a tree with different colors of chalk.  I suppose the tree symbolizes all the people in our country with each branch a different group of people all building a community together and all being nourished by the same roots of democracy that run so deeply. Soft music plays in the background as the woman talks about the dream of everyone making a better life together and everyone respecting each another.  A civilized  caring community with a safety net so no one will fall through the cracks.  Affordable health care, people compromising with one another.  There was no mention anywhere in this ad about God or the value of praying or going to church.  But somehow I felt like this ad was more “Christian” than the other one where the candidate in between all of his hating was shown praying and going to church!


The crowds in Jesus’ day loved Him and followed Him for His healings.  But eventually the crowds turned on Him because the religious leaders told the people that God was on their side and that Jesus should be killed.  The religious establishment just kept on spreading hate talk and more hate talk about Jesus. Finally the crowds thought they were doing God’s will when they agreed with their religious leaders to crucify Him.  Reminds me a little of what is going on today in the U.S.A.  So much political hate is constantly being spread around today in the name of Christianity!  It scares me.  Wouldn’t real Christianity be more about spreading love?       


The eleventh chapter of Matthew ends with Jesus talking about those persons who do not reject Him.  Jesus thanks God that the “babes” accept Him but often the learned and the wise do not accept Him because the spiritual fact that He is the Son of God is hidden from their eyes.   Spiritual awareness of Jesus and his Kingdom is not arrived at through intellect or common sense.  One may need to be humble to recognize their own spiritual helplessness in order to receive His spiritual teaching.  The glory of the Gospel is that both the learned and the ignorant may become babes.


Jesus calls out again for people to accept Him.  He tells us what it will be like if we do.  Here’s what He says:  “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-29) 

Jesus’ words make it sound like his follower’s lives will be filled with such good things!  And they are, it’s true!  Everyone who follows Jesus finds rest and joy in their soul.  Nothing else can even begin to compare with it!

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