Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Matthew Series, Week 9 - Jesus Identifies Us

  If you take any type of combat training, whether it be in firearms, or some sort of hand-to-hand engagement, you have probably run into a diagram referred to as the “Level’s of Awareness’ or being “Situational Aware.” Situational awareness is simply being alert to what is going on around you. 

These levels usually come in four colors to help a person remember them more easily. The “White” level is what most of us live our lives in without knowing it. This usually occurs when we’re at home, lounging about. Or those moments in our lives where we’ve been caught off guard, by a car not there one moment and then somehow, is there the next. Or when someone jumps out at you as you’re walking down a hallway. That’s living in white, being relaxed and completely unaware of the world around us.

The next level is “Yellow.” Being in a state of yellow means that you are relaxed, but you are scanning the room noticing your surroundings. You might get out of your car at the gas station and do a quick look around to see if there’s something amiss. You might sit, looking towards the door, as to be able to see who enters and exits. Basically your paying attention so you’re not caught off guard.

The “Orange” level follows, and at this level you have noticed something that could be a threat, or at the very least is out of place. You notice two people arguing, you notice it’s a 115 degrees out but that person is wherein a sweatshirt with the hood over their head, or maybe there’s simply a knock at your door at 1am in the morning. Being in orange, means you have identified the potential threatening situation, therefore you are seeking more information, and are preparing a plan to mitigate the potential of harm towards you or others.

The final level that is “Red.” Being at the red level means that the threat is real, and you must do something in response to that threat. Whether that be purposeful fight or purposeful retreat.

Being aware of our surroundings is a good skill to have in order to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. To be able to identify a situation, whether good or bad, helps us be prepared while others are not. 

And it’s this idea of identifying something that brings us back into our sermon series on Matthew, where we’ll be picking it back up in chapter 5, starting in verse 1. And as we open up to Matthew chapter 5, verse 1, let’s recap where we are so far. 

In the first eight weeks of our series, we saw that the identity of Jesus was front and center. We read through the genealogies, the proclamations from the angel, the wise men, John the Baptist, and God the Father as to who others say Jesus is. In these proclamations, we saw that there were several parts to Jesus’ identity. Jesus is the King like David, he is the prophet like Moses, he is the foretold Messiah of Old Testament, and he is the unique Son of God. We then saw this identity challenged by the devil, who was trying to change Jesus’ identity and mission so that he would be subjugated to the devil’s rule. Jesus rejects the devil’s temptation and moves on to share with us who he claims to be.

From Jesus’ own words, he is the one who is bringing the kingdom of heaven. He is restoring God’s intended creative order, and he is calling all the people of the world to repentance. This is who Jesus sees himself as, and from here on out, we will see how this call to repentance and to enter the kingdom of heaven works itself out.

So let’s read together Matthew chapter 5, starting in verse 1.

“1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.

He said: 3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13 “‘You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

17 “‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.’”

Now in the passage I just read, there’s a lot for us to cover. In fact, entire teachings could be given on each one of these sections. But our goal here in these summer series is to see the overarching connections with the Scripture. So, we are going to break these three sections, into four parts, and show how they connect with each other.

Out first part encompasses just the first 2 verses, and continues briefly with the identity of Jesus. Coming out of the first four chapters which focus on Jesus’ identity, we are immediately taken into one of Jesus’ five sermons, that Matthew shares with us throughout the Gospel. These opening verses are very important because it connects back into two aspects of Jesus’ identity. We’re told that, “he went up on a mountainside…and he began to teach them.”

An Old Testament staple of encountering God was on a mountain top: Abraham on Mt. Moriah, the nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai, Elijah on Mt. Carmel to name a few. The mountain top was a symbol of getting close to God. And so where does Jesus go? He goes to a mountain and we get his first sermon. This is interesting because it speaks to two aspects of Jesus’ identity. The first is the one we’ve been talking about for a while, Jesus is paralleled as a Prophet like Moses. From Mt. Sinai, Moses shared the commandments given by God to the people. And so, in keeping with being a Prophet like Moses, Jesus also goes to a mountain and shares the commandments of God. 

But there is a difference here. When Moses was on Mt. Sinai, he was there 40 days being instructed by God with the commandments. We saw previously that Jesus also spent 40 days, but in wasn’t for instruction, but rather to reinforce his identity. So when Moses speaks from the mountain, he uses phrases like “Thus saith the Lord.” Yet, when Jesus speaks from the mountain he uses the phrase, “But I say to you.”

The aspect of Jesus paralleled with Moses is seen clearly in the mountainside proclamation of the Word of God, yet, Jesus is greater than Moses, because Moses relays God’s Word, whereas Jesus’ words are from the mouth of God himself. 

And how does Jesus begin his teaching? By calling out the identity of those who would follow him.

This bring us into our second part of the passage, where Jesus identifies what his disciples would look like. Instead of going straight into teaching the commands of God, Jesus’ gives us a brief look at the person who would be his disciple. 

We get what are called the Beatitudes, which means the greatly blessed. In other words, those that have these qualities are the ones who are truly the blessed of God. Their identity is one of whom God approves.

And so we have the blessed being poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek or humble, those that thirst for the righteousness of God, those who are merciful, those who are pure of heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted like the prophets of old.

These traits identify the disciples of Jesus. These are the ones that will enter the kingdom of heaven, and be called the sons of God. And if you are this, if you have this identity as Jesus’ disciple, then you will be what we find in our third part of the passage.

In this third part, Jesus talks about salt and light, which describes the mission of his disciples. A disciple of Jesus, who is the greatly blessed, will be salt. Not salt that is only good for footpaths, like the salt from the Dead Sea, which was contaminated with impurities, but pure salt. Salt without the impurities, which is flavorful and can preserve the sustenance of life.

In the same vain, Jesus’ disciples, who are greatly blessed, will be light. Not light that is kept to one’s self, but light like a lamp or city on a hill. A light that cannot be hidden, but is on display for all to see. The blessed ones of God, will then live lives that are distinguishable in the world, and will effect it. They will be flavorful and on full display for the world to see.

This brings us to our final part of our passage. From the identity of Jesus, to the identity of his disciples, to the mission these disciples are to carry out, we are again brought back to Jesus’ identity. This shows us that the identity of a disciple is surrounded by who Jesus is. 

Referring to this identify, Jesus states, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

Jesus is claiming to be the fulfillment of all that has come before; all that was spoken of by the prophets of God. He is the climax of all the word and works that have been planned throughout the nation of Israel’s history. From the moment God creates, to the moment Jesus sits on this mountain, all things have been leading to this one moment. Abraham’s call, Israel’s formation, the first temple’s establishment and destruction, the exile of the Jewish people, their return to the land and the rebuilding of the temple, is all being fulfilled in Jesus, because Jesus is the point of it all. He is God’s end game.

And so, Jesus shares that what he is about to say isn’t to abolish, but to bring about a true understanding of what it all meant. And it will be through Jesus’ words, that the identity of the blessed of God will come to pass. This recognition of Jesus’ words being of vitally important is emphasized at the end of his sermon in chapter 7.

The question then for us is, do you want to be the blessed of God? The one that can enter the kingdom of heaven and be called a son of God? Do you want to be identified with Jesus as his disciple? Who will be the salt and light of the world? If so, how are we then to be identified as Jesus’ disciples?

There are three steps to being identified. Everything that we need to know is within the passage. We start at the end with Jesus’ words in verse 20, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

To be identified as the blessed, to be the salt and light of the world, to enter the kingdom of heaven and be called sons of God, our righteousness, our goodness, must be greater than the ones who are seen as the most righteous of the people, or we will cannot hope to gain all that Jesus just talked about. Our goodness must be greater in our thoughts and actions, than the most spiritual among us.

But if you hear that and instantly realize that it’s impossible, then you have made it to step two. We cannot do that. We cannot be the most righteous, or out do another’s goodness. So there must be no hope. Except, if we were paying attention from the start of Jesus’ sermon, we would have already realized that Jesus told us what we must truly do. The opening of Jesus sermon begins with, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Everything that followed this first statement hinged on understanding those first words. This is a common Hebrew teaching method, where the first words set the tone for what is to follow.

To be poor in spirit is to recognize that I can never be as righteous as the Pharisees, and I can never hope to surpass them. Why, because no matter what I do, my righteousness is tainted by my own sin. Jesus says that he has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, and it’s in the those teachings that we get things like Isaiah 64:6, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”

Or what God says through the prophet Jeremiah in the 22nd verse of the 2nd chapter, “Although you wash yourself with soap and use an abundance of cleansing powder, the stain of your guilt is still before me…”

Those who read the words of the Law and the Prophets, that Jesus has come to fulfill, recognize that they are bankrupt of righteousness. This means they realize that they cannot help to be good enough; to keep the commands as great as the greatest among them. 

And when we come to that realization, we have reached step three, there’s only one thing to do, we mourn. We mourn over our sin, because we are lost in sin without any hope of fixing it ourselves. This mourning should then lead us to be meek, humble before God, a person who is thirsting after his righteousness because there is no other place to turn. It is here that we must do as the Psalmist says in the opening to the 143rd Psalm, “Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.”

And it’s because of the mercy of God to us, that we are merciful towards others. Our hearts are then purified, not in our righteousness but in God’s. And we seek to make peace, because God has made peace with us through Jesus.

When we come to the realization that our righteousness is nothing, we are right where we need to be. When there is nothing to turn to in us, we must turn and rely solely on God’s mercy.

If our desire is to be identified as a disciple of Jesus, we must come to the realization that there is nothing we bring to the table. We have no good deeds, no good works. Even when we do what the world calls good, it’s still not to the standard of God and falls far short. And if we haven’t realized it yet, Jesus is going to spend the next two and half chapters giving us a glimpse of the impossible standard of God.  

But there’s hope. There’s blessing for those who are poor in spirit. There’s comfort for the mourner, an inheritance for the meek, a filling for the thirsty, mercy for the merciful, there’s sight to be given, there’s adoption to be brought into, and a kingdom to be gained.

And what does it take? To trust in the person, the identity of Jesus. The God who came down, to bring us out of our sin and to himself, not by anything we can do, but by everything that he has done through his work on the cross. Each of us must walk through those steps in our our lives to come to a point where we can accept the salvation that God offers.

This week I want to challenge you to walk through the sections on the Beatitudes, and the salt and light. As you read through it, seek God to make you poor in spirit, to be a mourner over sin and death. To be meek, thirsty, and pure in heart. To be a peacemaker, and one who would be strong in persecution. And then seek God to use this identity he has given you to be salt who flavors those around you and light that points others to him.

Let us be who God has called us to be, his disciples, who find their identity in Jesus and no where else. Amen. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Matthew Series, Week 8 - Kingdom Stones

  Back when I worked construction, one of the most annoying thing I would encounter were plans that told you what the end result looked like, without any direction on how things were to be done. I’ve shared the story of the dome my dad and I spent an entire job figuring out. But there are other time just like that. One of the best stories is one that happened right after I moved down here. 

The crew I was building out an office space on the third story of a building.  The job was typical with simple straight walls for offices spaces. In fact throughout the entire job, there was only one rounded area. It was a large semicircle round wall that was about 20 feet in length. Now, the fact that it was a semicircle wasn’t the problem, in fact there were times when we made curved walls by starting at the ends and eyeballing the curve. But this semicircle had to be a certain round. I was told that no matter how they did it, the curve never turned out the way it was supposed to. Finally the crew got frustrated and called the architect to find out how he had gotten the curve. The architect told them that they needed to go back 100 feet to get the center point and then make the curve off of that. Well, there was a problem. They were on the third story of a building, and the curved wall was about 20 feet from the windows. 

It’s easy to draw something on a sheet of paper, it’s a whole other thing stop build it. What need up happening, was that the crew had to wait until everyone left the parking lot, find a place big enough to make the semicircle, then build their track on pavement, and then carry it up to the their floor. The actual work wasn’t hard, but getting it to where it would work the way it was supposed to took time and effort. 

And it’s this idea of building something into exactly what it is supposed to be that brings us back into our Matthew series where we’re going to cover the rest of chapter 4 this week beginning in verse 12. And as we open to Matthew 4:12, let’s look back on what we’ve covered so far. 

In our first seven weeks of our series, we have really been looking at the identity of Jesus. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Matthew has walked us through who this Jesus really is. Through the genealogies, the parallels, the prophecies, and the proclamations, we have seen who everyone says Jesus is: He is the prophesied Messiah, a King like David, a prophet like Moses, and he is the God come down to his creation. This identity is then challenged by the devil with the temptation to get Jesus to choose a different path as his Messiahship. Jesus rejects the temptation of the devil and as we move into the final verses of chapter 4, we’ll see an overarching understanding of what Jesus’ Messiahship truly is.

Let’s begin reading in Matthew chapter 4, verses 12, where we’ll read through the rest of the chapter.

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

Now the reason why we’re reading through the whole chapter, is so we can hear the whole passage together. It’s important that we hear sections of Scripture read together so that we can hear the connections between the verses. The New Testament style of writing is meant to be heard and not just read. And as we hear the whole section, we can hear that it all builds upon itself. And by hearing the passage together, we can here how Jesus himself sees what his Messianic work is.

Let’s break this passage down into two parts. The first part of the passage is Jesus’ message. In verses 12-17, we see Jesus’ purposeful movement and declaration. Let’s move backwards from verses 17 so we can better understand this part. 

In verse 17, we’re told that, “Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

Just in this one verse we get the foundation for the rest of what Matthew is trying to let us know about Jesus. First, this is word-for-word the same call that John the Baptist proclaimed in chapter 3 verse 2. So what does it mean? The Greek word for repent (metanoeĆ³ [met-an-o-eh’-o]) means to change one’s mind or purpose. It literally carries with it the idea that when we turn to God, we are to think and act completely differently. The way in which we view the world, and the way we are to respond to it, is to be completely different than the way in which the world calls us to think and act.

So how are we to think and act differently? The answer to that question comes in chapters 5 and and throughout the rest of Matthew. But for now we just need to know that Jesus is calling people to completely remove themselves from what their doing and thinking, and follow what he is going to be teaching. 

Second, Jesus gives the reason that a person must repent, which is that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew being a good Jew here is using heaven instead of God, which Mark uses, this is simply a sign of respect towards God’s name. This is because the Jewish people are very cautions in using the name of God, even up to today where many stay away from God’s name entirely simply saying “the Name” when referring to him. But we must understand why Jesus uses kingdom terminology here.

If you did the homework last week and dove into the temptations of Jesus and the temptation in the Garden, you would have seen some parallels there. Where Adam and Eve fell to the temptation and all creation is cursed because of it, Jesus overcame the temptation, not once but three times, which means the restoration of the creation can occur. If we go back to the beginning of the Bible, we’ll see that within the creation chapters of Genesis, a kingdom subtext can be seen. God is the Creator, he is the one who decrees what is brought into existence, in other words, what can be a part of his kingdom. God then creates administrators to carry out his will within this newly establish kingdom. But the administrators fail, and a civl war ensues. Jesus is now proclaiming that he is the one who will bring about the end of the civil war, and bring the kingdom back under the rulership of its rightful King.

Finally the terminology of “at hand,” points us to the reality that what follows are the beginning stages of that restored Kingdom. It will not be fully restored, but the restoration has begun. 

By understanding what Jesus’ message is, we can understand why he then went where he did. This is our second part of the passage, Jesus’ call. Capernaum was a cross roads of trade. Jews and Gentiles alike used the city for commerce. It was the perfect place to begin Jesus’ ministry because at the crossroads of Capernaum, the world came together. The people of God, the Jews, and the nations of the world, the Gentiles, met in one place, just as it would be in the restored Kingdom of heaven. 

This is why Matthew draws our attention to a prophecy by Isaiah. That from this point light breaks into the darkness that surrounds the people in death.

By understanding that Jesus is being very intentional in where he is going and what he is saying, we can then understand the who of the kingdom that are being called.

We’re told that as Jesus walks along the Sea of Galilee, he calls four men into his kingdom. Now we usually tend focus on the “fishers of men” statement by Jesus, but we’re looking at the overarching theme here, so this time we’re going focus on the word “immediately.” This word (Greek eutheĆ³s [yoo-theh’-oce]) carries with it the understanding that there was no hesitation involved on the part of the men called. The command is given and the men followed. 

We see here a reenacting of the salvation history of Genesis. The basic story of the first twelve chapters of Genesis is that, God created, but was rebelled against; so God works to restore the creation, by calling a group to himself through which he would save the world through Jesus. This group of people are called Israel. 

Here, we see Jesus overcoming the rebellion, and then calling to himself a new group through which he will send out his message of restoration among the nations.


This leads us into what were told Jesus does next, “he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.”

In Genesis, before the fall of Adam and Eve, creation was perfectly good. As Paul tells us, death hadn’t entered into the world after Adam. And we see several times, that God calls the creation good. But after the fall, the creation is horrifically marred. Sin happens and brings about death, and disease and all the rest of the suffering we see today.

But with Jesus, we see the beginnings of a creation returned to its perfect goodness. Yet, though Jesus is showing us these beginnings, the real cure comes through repentance. Turning away from our own thoughts and actions, that are contrary to God’s, which is what the Bible calls sin, is what is needed by humanity. And that repentance and turning must be directed at Jesus, through which the forgiveness of sin can only be found (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). 

And where are the people coming from to receive Jesus’ healing, “from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.” All places where both Jew and Gentile are from. Jesus’ kingdom is a cross national, racial, gender, sexual, ethnic, and every other boundary that is humanly made. And all people are called to the same proclamation, repent; turn from what you think is right, to what God calls right. Why? Because the kingdom of God is at hand, and the civil war will be done away with. This is your opportunity to come into the kingdom while there is time.

Because when we get to the end of Matthew, we’ll see how there will come a day, when the kingdom will no longer be accepting entry, and so as long as the kingdom has not been fully realized, as long as it is “at hand,” there is still time to repent.

How do we do that? Well, we seek forgiveness for being in rebellion against God. We ask God to forgive us our sins of thinking and acting like we are gods unto ourselves. We repent of what we think is greater than what God thinks. We must come to that point were we accept God’s rule over us as better than our own rule. Then we accept the free gift of forgiveness that is only given through Jesus. At the end of Matthew, we learned about the cross, and how it is the payment for our sin. Our sin was paid for on the cross by Jesus. Our rebellion crushed through the crushing of him. His blood was spilt so that ours wouldn’t have to be. And then, we must follow immediately. No hesitation, no holding onto our own, but following wherever Jesus leads, because he is the King and everything we need is only found in him.

But it’s more than just an individual thing. Jesus’ message includes my individual salvation, and more. As we’ve walked through this passage I hope you’ve noticed one thing: Jesus’ message is a total restoration message. It’s a restoring of God’s created order from the opening pages of the Bible. It’s his kingdom restored. It’s the world made right. And as we follow, we are called to that restorative process. Not in the sense that our actions bring salvation, but that our actions point people to the salvation that is found in Jesus alone. Jesus uses building illustrations throughout his teaching. And throughout the rest of the Scriptures we are see as part of what Jesus builds. In fact we are called stones.

Peter, that first man called by Jesus in this passage, wrote these words in his first letter to the church, “As you come to him, the living Stone (Jesus)—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

We are stones being used by the Greater Builder to construct his kingdom. This is done when we live in accordance with the call of God on our lives to be witnesses to the full restoration of the kingdom that is ahead. And if the world continues to move at the break neck speed its on, that full restoration is right around the corner. 

So this week I want to challenge you with this one thought, “How are you doing as a stone in the kingdom?” Are you doing your job? Are you making the kingdom strong? Are you supporting the other stones, your brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you showing the world the work that God has done in you to build his kingdom?

This week I want to challenge you to wrestle with this idea, of being a stone placed in the kingdom for God’s glory, seeking God to fit you better into your place, so that your brothers and sisters would be strengthen and that the world will see that the kingdom is at hand, so that they might repent and be saved.

Let us each see Jesus’ kingdom and long for that day, but as we live here, let us be about our Father’s business pointing others to the eternal life that is only found in Jesus. Amen.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Matthew Series, Week 7 - Defining Messiah

  For my birthday three years ago, my dad and I were in Pahrump, Nevada at a week long gun course.  While we were there my dad bought me a blue polo shirt with the logo of the facility we were at. It’s a pretty good shirt, light weight and durable. One day while I was over in Phoenix I was wearing the shirt when I was in Best Buy, and an older lady came up behind me and started asking me questions about some electronic product that she was interested in. When I turned around, she saw the logo on the shirt and apologized, because she thought I worked there. Obviously I didn’t, but we found her an actual employee to help her with her questions.

She thought I worked there because of the blue shirt, which all the workers wear. Have you ever had that happen? Been taken for someone else?

Or maybe something like this. Several months ago I had a man come into my office and ask me if the church could participate in something. I told him that I would take it under consideration and talk with my elders about it. He then said something to me that is the mentality of a lot of people. He said, “Well aren’t you the pastor?” The implication was that since I was the pastor of the church, I should be able to just make decisions and others are supposed to accept them. But I don’t believe that. I believe that, yes, there are decisions that I need to make in the moment, but I try really hard to not always make those decisions without at least the counsel of the elders. I am not God and my word is not law. Rather we are the church, and as God leads, we must follow together and I believe it’s my role to facilitate that movement.

But either by accident or by purpose, people can get mixed up about the roles, jobs, positions, and even identities of people. And it’s this reality of misidentifying who a person is that brings us back into our Matthew series, where we’ll be looking at the first 11 verses of chapter four.

And as we open up to Matthew chapter 4 starting in verse 1, I know it’s been a few weeks since I was last with you, so let’s do a little recap. 

In our first six weeks we walked through a lot of information. From understanding the genealogies, to realizing the connections of Jesus to being a successor to Moses, and a King in the line of David. In those weeks we saw the overarching theme of these opening chapters was to help us realize who Jesus was, the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament. But throughout these chapters we have seen hints that Jesus is more than that. That Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, that he is the unique Son of God the Father, and that Jesus is the eternal God who has come.

This theme of identity continues into chapter 4, where the proclamation of Jesus being the unique Son of God and his Messiahship in the last 3 chapters is called into question. Let’s pick up reading in Matthew chapter 4, starting in verse 1.

“1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’

“4 Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’

“5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”’

“7 Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’

“8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’

“10 Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”’

“11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”

Now we could spend four weeks or more  in these 11 verses, but we’re already going to be in Matthew for two years and our goal is not to mine the Scriptures for every nugget in these summer series, but rather to see the overarching themes of the book we’re studying. And to see how each passage builds on those themes. 

So with this passage, to placate my own need to dive deep yet still keep us following the overarching themes, I want to give you four aspects of this passage. Two for you to dive deeper into on your own, one that we’ll come back to in a few weeks, and then the overarching theme where we’ll spend most of our time today.

The first two aspects of this passage parallel events in the Old Testament. The fact that Jesus is fasting for forty days, is another one of those connection moments in Jesus’ life that shows him to be a prophet like Moses. These forty days are like the 40 years that the nation of Israel spent in the wilderness during the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. It is also a connection to Moses' own 40 days on Mount Sinai in Exodus 34.

The second of these two aspects is a parallel between Jesus’ temptation by the devil and Eve’s temptation by this same spiritual being. Where Adam and Eve are tempted and sinned, we see Jesus overcome the temptation and show himself righteous. This idea of Jesus being the second Adam is what Paul talks about in Romans.

Paul uses this idea of Jesus being a second and righteous Adam. Listen to what Paul states in Romans 5, “14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. 15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” 

Dropping down to verse 18 we get, “18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

This moment of temptation, is where Adam failed, yet Jesus succeeds leading the first to bring death into the world, and proving the second’s ability to crush it.

That’s as far as we’ll take these two aspects of the passage, and I would encourage you to take a deeper dive into these aspects on your own this week.

The  third aspect is the one that we’ll revisit in a few weeks when we get to chapter 5. This aspect is Jesus’ use of “it is written.” This phrase speaks to the need to combat anti-God, both physical and spiritual, forces, with the Word of God. This is both an example for us, in that we need to use the Word of God in our own encounters with anti-God forces, and also speaks to the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5-7 where Jesus changes “it is written” to “I say”.

We’ll get deeper into this in a few weeks when we start covering chapters 5-7, so I’m going to leave that right there and move onto the big overall theme.

So far in Matthew, the main thrust of the first three chapters is to identify who Jesus is. We are given a lot of parts to that identify. Again, Jesus as a King like David, he’s a prophet like Moses, he’s the unique Son of God, and more if you follow the layers that we talked about before.

But in this passage, we see two of the major identities of Jesus being challenged: his Messiahship and his deity.

In the three temptations that Matthew gives us we see three forms of Messiahship. First there’s the Messiah of Material Supply. This Messiah would come and supply the physical needs of the people. Need food, there’s Jesus over there. Need clothes, go to Jesus. Need help with your rent, there’s Jesus. 

But this isn’t the Messiah that Jesus came to be. Does he take care of needs? Yes, we’ll see that several times in places like the feeding of the five and four thousand. Do we see Jesus tell his disciples to take care of others? Yes, we see that in some of the final words Jesus leaves with his disciples in chapter 26. But this Messiah of Material Supply is not Jesus’ primary, nor his most important identity.

In fact, this carries into the disciples ministry where Peter has this encounter with a handicapped beggar in Acts 3:3-8. The passage reads, “3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. 6 Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.”

In our own ministry as a church we must be careful to think that our primary work is to make people comfortable in this life; to help with the material needs. But it’s not, our primary work is to point people back to the salvation that is only found in Jesus. Can Jesus supply material needs? Yes, but that’s not the primary function of his Messiahship and therefore the devil’s temptation to become that type of Messiah is rejected by Jesus, and we should reject it as well, though we are to take care of these needs when they arise and if God leads. There’s more here with its connections to the Old Testament use of manna and Jesus’ own teaching in John 6, but let’s move on.

The second temptation sees the devil get Jesus to become a fully Glorified Messiah. One of the key things we’ll see throughout the Gospels is the secrecy of who Jesus is. Though Jesus is out in the public teaching, healing, and doing all sorts of other miracles, he is very secretive of who he is. 

In fact, at the center point in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 8 verse 27, Jesus has this interaction with the disciples. The passage reads, “27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’ 28 They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ 29 ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah.’ 30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.”

Why does Jesus warn them not to tell anyone? Well out of the many reasons why, one reason is this that the term Messiah was seen by many Jews as being a political conquer. But the Messiahship that Jesus was fulfilling was that of the suffering servant. Things had to work themselves out the way that God had intended without the hoopla of what people assumed it to be. And if a person realized that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, which some did, then they would see that Jesus was a different kind of Messiah. The Glorified Messiah is the conquering king Messiah at which every knee will bow (Phil 2:10-11).

Jesus rejects the temptation of being the Glorified Messiah, because Jesus’ purpose was to be the humble Messiah who dies for the sins of the world, and who will eventually return as the Glorified Messiah.

The final temptation seeks to get Jesus into the position of a Subservient Messiah. In the book of Revelation we get a glimpse at what the devil desires. In Revelation, the devil is called the dragon, and listen to what happens because of the dragon in chapter 13 starting in verse 4. “People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?’”

This continues in verse 8, “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.”

And keeps going in verse 12, “It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.”

The goal of the devil is to move worship away from its rightful place, God, and onto himself. The devil is trying to get Jesus, God come down, to be a servant under him and give the worship that Jesus is deserving to the one who is least deserving of it. This is the devils desire, that he would be as God is. That he would usurp the position of God. Of course Jesus rejects this, because even though he will go through many trials, the most of which is the brutality of the cross, we find out at the end that Jesus reveals, he has all authority in heaven and on earth. And in the final chapters of both Matthew and Revelation, we see Jesus receiving the worship that he is due.

But the devil isn’t the only one who tries to manipulate the Messiahship of Jesus. If we’re honest with ourselves, there are times when we do this as well. Societally, there’s the idea that Jesus is pure love with no judgment. That Jesus would be fine with the sexual promiscuity, the hyper-violent mediums, the vitriol-filled social media, and the injustice that has engulfed our culture. And so there are people who are trying to change Jesus’ Messiahship in our culture into something that would be okay with things that God’s Word says are not. But it’s not just out there in the society, personally, there are times when we ask for things from Jesus and get angry because he doesn’t deliver. Financial, physical, relational desires we have, that we assume God is in agreement with, and when they don’t come about the way we want them to, we get upset. Why? Because Jesus isn’t fulfilling the Messiahship we want him to do. 

Yet God wants us to understand his purposes. That, as God states in Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…”   

We must come to the point where we accept Jesus as he is, not the way we desire him to be. 

C.S. Lewis has this great quote from the book Mere Christianity in which he states, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him (Jesus): I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Jesus rejects any idea that makes him not who he is: the prophesied Messiah who takes away the sins of the world, and the God of Creation come down to do it.

My challenge for you this week, is to walk back through this passage of the temptations of Jesus and for each temptation, ask yourself, “Do I try to make Jesus like that?” Do I try to make Jesus a Messiah who supplies my physical needs? Do I try to make Jesus a Glorified Messiah so I can puff myself up as better than others, instead follow his lead as being a humble servant? Do I try and make Jesus a subservient Messiah who worships me, rather than I who worship him?

It’s easy to fall into these temptations to make Jesus someone other than who he is, because of this we must seek Jesus to be who he says he is. We must read again and again his words, and see who he reveals himself, and then worship him in the truth that he reveals. Let us be a people who’s Jesus is the true Messiah, not the Jesus who the world wants him to be. Amen.