Matthew 22:34-40 The Great Commandment

Matthew 22:34-40      The Great Commandment                                         WC McCarter
In chapter twenty-two of Matthew, Jesus is questioned three times. He is first challenged politically on the subject of paying taxes. Secondly, He is challenged theologically on the subject of the resurrection. Lastly, He is challenged legally on the subject of the greatest commandment to be found in the law. These attacks from Christ’s opponents are not surprising for Psalm 2:1-2 says, “Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed. . . .”
The challenges that Jesus faced from the supposed religious leaders actually afforded Jesus brilliant opportunities to teach us. Today, we will look at that last challenge. We will find that Christ gives us a Great Commandment to live by. This will be the first of a two sermon series: The Great Commandment and The Great Commission (Matthew 22 and 28) as we move closer to Easter Sunday. The resurrection is the proof of His authority. We must follow all of His commands including The Great Commandment and The Great Commission.
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The Test (34-36)
Jesus has just silenced the Sadducees after they had tested Him about the resurrection. So, the Pharisees decide that it is their turn to try to make Christ stumble. This is their second stab at it recently because Jesus squashed the attacks of their disciples in verses 15-22 when they questioned Him about paying taxes to Caesar.
The Pharisees decide to test Him about the law. They use a lawyer to do so! This man would have been an expert in the law of the Old Testament.
Which is the great commandment in the law? How will Jesus respond? Will they have finally defeated Him? Will they be able to twist His response so that Christ is shamed? They must have expected some wild, unorthodox answer from Jesus.
The Great Commandment in Two Parts (37-39)
Loving the Lord your God is a quote from Deut 6:5. To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind is to love Him completely. It is a way of saying that you are to love God with all of yourself (all of who you are and all of what you have). The heart is the core of one’s being. The soul is the seat of emotion. The mind refers to willingness and intellectual vigor. Remember, God is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. He does not want empty words or empty rituals. The Scripture teaches that we love God because He first loved us. We can love God because He loved us. We can have a relationship with Him because He first sought us. The other thing that is clear in Scripture is that the one who loves God obeys God. There is no wavering on this point. It is straightforward. The Apostle John teaches in 1 John 2:3-4, “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.” The person who belongs to God, loves Him and obeys Him. The Bible also shows that a person either loves God or hates Him, no in between.
Loving your neighbor is a quote from Lev 19:18. What Christ means is that this is equally important. It is as if Christ says there is one great commandment, that is, 1a and 1b. This love is measured by the love you have for yourself. If you are hungry, you feed yourself. If you are cold, you cover yourself. If you are sick, you get medicine for yourself. It is a known fact, people love themselves. We are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. The Apostle Paul said in Eph 5:29, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it. . . .” The Apostle John is even more blunt about this vital doctrine of the Christian faith. He asks in 1 John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”
All the Law and the Prophets (40)
The rest of the commandments “flow” from these two. If all we are to do is merely and outwardly obey commands, we will simply sink into legalism. What Christ commands and requires is that our heart be right. Our attitude must reflect the love of God.
There is a great balance in the great commandment of Christ. We cannot love God to the point that we neglect others. On the other hand, we cannot love others to the point that we neglect God. We can see how the Law (the five books of Moses) may be summed up this way, but how are the prophets? They taught religion of the heart.
Conclusion and Application
Let me tell you something church: love is The Great Commandment. Rom 13:10 reads, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” 1 John 4:7 reads, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” If we can grasp this, we are not far from the kingdom. God wills to perfect His love in us; not simply as individuals, but as a church.
1. Allow this great commandment to renew your priorities in life.
2. Deal with this great commandment by talking with God.
3. Determine to learn more about love from God.
            1 Thess 4:9 says, “. . . for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. . . ."
4. Explore new ways of loving others.

Matthew 11:20-30 Unrest and Rest

Matthew 11:20-30      Unrest and Rest                                                         WC McCarter
Maybe you remember us talking about John the Baptizer predicting that Jesus would bring great judgment on the people, but He hadn’t fulfilled that part of His ministry. Part of the reason John was having some doubts was because he had preached judgment and repentance with such vigor and predicted that the Christ would after him, but to that point Christ had not. He had said,
“And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat   into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matt 3)
Although Christ had not fulfilled the words of the prophet as quickly as he may have envisioned, today judgment will be called down by Christ on the generation and cities of that time. We will do well to heed the Lord’s warnings. We will also see that there is rest to be found in Christ if true repentance takes place in our hearts.
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Because They Did Not Repent (20-24)
What began in verse sixteen as a question of character for that generation now develops into full-blown rebuke for the lack of repentance. What cities did He rebuke? The cities in which most of His mighty works had been done were rebuked. One reason and one reason only is given for the judgment that is placed on them: they did not repent. What we quickly learn is that when Christ performed the many mighty miracles that He did, He was not looking for fame and prestige. His miracles were meant to cause repentance in the heart of the beholder. He was looking for repentance. Do you remember the main line of His preaching from the very beginning of His ministry? “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
***You cannot come into contact with the presence and power of the Lord Jesus Christ and continue on with life the way you always have thinking that there will be no consequence for your lack of response through repentance.
Repentance means to turn. That is, people are to turn away from their life of sin and rebellion while turning to the God who is willing to forgive them for all their unrighteousness. Repentance is forsaking all that this world has to offer as not enough to satisfy God or oneself. You see, do not think that God is a selfish divine being who is only out for Himself. Yes, He will receive all the glory, but He wants you to be happy and satisfied as well. That is why we can affirm something to the effect of a statement such as, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” (Piper). Christ has come to give life and life more abundantly. In the next few verses we will see that Christ must bring judgment on the unrepentant. Yet, He does not do so with joy. He came to seek and save the lost. John 3:17 says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
There are two groups of three cities in this passage of woes. Christ had done many mighty miracles in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, but they did not repent. Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom were all Gentile cities of old that were destroyed by God. Chief among the most corrupt of cities was Sodom which was known for its immorality and God rained down fire and brimstone on them. Christ affirms a few things in verse twenty through twenty-four: first, the three cities which were destroyed would have repented in sackcloth and ashes (a sign of true repentance in the Orient) and would have lasted until that day had they experienced the presence and power of Christ in their midst; second, there are degrees of punishment in eternity which is seen in the “more tolerable” phrase; third, Christ had made Capernaum His hometown and had done numerous mighty things, but the people did not repent. Therefore, they were far worse than the city of Sodom!
You Have Hidden These Things (25-27)
Next, we read a short prayer of Christ. Jesus is first thankful that His ministry is not only for the privileged. Can the wealthy be saved? Yes. Can the well-educated be saved? Yes. Second, He reflects on His relationship with the Father. Third, while talking about that relationship He states God’s sovereignty in our relation to Him. We do not have time to discuss this paragraph much today, but let us be satisfied in this: no one knows the Son unless the Father beckons you unto Him. No one knows the Father unless the Son reveals Him to you. Today is the day of salvation. God is calling you with His mighty word of power today to know Him, to come unto Him and be saved.
I Will Give You Rest (28-30)
The last paragraph is most famous. The teachers of the Law had started a tradition that likened the Law of Moses (the Old Testament) to a yoke. Now, I didn't grow up on a farm, maybe some of you did, but we all know what a yoke is. You place it on the animals necks to bind them together for work. The people heard the scribes and Pharisees talk about the yoke of the Law time and again. They knew that the yoke of the Pharisees was heavy and burdensome. It was too much to bear. Jesus comes along and says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. There is still work to be done as a Christian, but it is much easier than what the teachers of the first-century burdened the people with. We are to follow the law of Christ, the royal law which is mainly to love God and others. We are empowered to do so by the Holy Spirit of promise. We may rest in faith knowing that Christ has done all of the work for salvation and the Spirit has come to dwell within us to do the work of sanctification.
Conclusion and Application
When the Lord comes to the end of the Sermon on the Mount, He gives an illustration of building a house. He says:
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Matt 7)
1. In the words of John the Baptizer, bear fruits worthy of repentance.
2. There is no rest apart from repentance and life in Christ.
3. Jesus does not promise that we will escape a hard life on this side of heaven, but He does promise that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
4. Christ does not point us to the Law, but to Himself.

Matthew 11:7-19 Wisdom is Justified by Her Children

Matthew 11:7-19        Wisdom is Justified by Her Children                        WC McCarter
Do you remember the earthquake that hit in the summer of 2011? I remember sitting there and feeling a trimmer thinking that it was one of those jets that flied over fairly often. I even noticed that when transfer trucks pass by down on the highway, the house trembles a little. Anyway, I didn’t think anything of it and continued on with my day. Then Bridget called from work and asked if I had felt it. Of course I had, but didn’t pay much attention to it. I decided to turn on the TV to find out what was going on and quickly saw that an earthquake had hit near Mineral, Virginia that was the largest on the east coast since the late 1800’s. I soon started getting phone calls from the family down in North Carolina wanting to make sure that everything was alright. I thought it was laughable because it sounded much worse than it was, especially in our area. We know that there was some damage to some buildings in some places. Now I say all of this to point out our reactions. Life is made up of reactions, isn’t it? We react to natural events, to people’s words and deeds, to our own mistakes, and the list goes on. Why didn’t I react any differently than I did to the earthquake? 1. I was not expecting it. 2. I had little to know knowledge of those things. 3. It did not seem to affect much.
In today’s passage of Scripture, we will once again be talking about John the Baptizer. He spent his ministry pointing to Christ, yet today Jesus will point back to him and validate his prophetic ministry. We will talk about the people’s reaction, and, in the end, we will discuss the lifestyles of those two as well as ourselves.
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Concerning John (7-10)
The disciples of John, who had come to seek reaffirmation from Jesus concerning His identity and ministry, left to return to John with the answer. Apparently, they had asked Jesus this question in a public setting. Now, Jesus must look out at the crowd and give an explanation of who John is and his ministry. If people were having doubts about Jesus (even John the Baptizer did), then they may begin to have doubts about John. Thus, Jesus affirms John’s unique ministry that took place out in the wilderness by the Jordan River.
The Lord first throws out a few rhetorical questions. He possibly even waited for a response from the crowd that had gathered. Was John a reed shaken in the wind? Did he have no strong convictions? No, of course not. He was fiery and brave. He declared the truth bluntly, without holding anything back. Was he a push-over, fragile, or weak? No, he was rugged and strong, a man who grew up in the desert. Was he a man clothed in soft/luxurious garments? Of course not. Matthew told us in (3:4) that, “John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.” If you wanted to see someone dressed in soft, luxurious clothes, you didn’t go to the desert. You would go to a king’s house.
Jesus is ruling out those things that John was not. So, we are getting closer to the truth. Finally, he asks, did you go out to see a prophet? And the answer is, “Yes.” Christ goes farther than that description by saying, “I say to you, more than a prophet.” To be exact, John the Baptizer was the forerunner for the Christ; the fulfillment of certain Scriptures; the last of the great Old Testament prophets. He was the one who prepared the way of the Lord, the messenger who went before Christ. His lifestyle was rugged and harsh, and so was his message.
The Kingdom of Heaven (11-15)
John was the end of an era. His life and ministry marked the end of the Old Covenant. From the beginning of time until the advent of the New Covenant, there was not one person born that was greater than John the Baptizer. Yet, even the least is the kingdom of heaven (the kingdom that was established on the basis of a New Covenant), will be greater than John. How is that? The New Covenant is so much better than the Old that even the least of the followers of Christ are greater than any heroes of the Old Testament. After all, we have access to the once-for-all forgiveness of sins and we have the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

At this point in history, when John’s ministry and Christ’s ministry somewhat overlapped (John must decrease, Christ must increase), there was a transitional period. Yet, we come to realize that John would not live to see the inauguration of the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, with this greater/lesser language Jesus is not talking about eternal salvation or degrees of reward in heaven as if John will not enjoy the glory at the end of the age. What He is referring to is the benefits of the kingdom in this life. John did not experience and enjoy all the things that we do.
As great as the New Covenant is, as excellent as the new era is that John was paving the way for, as amazing as the kingdom of heaven is that Jesus was establishing – it has constantly suffered violence. From the early days of John’s ministry until this time in Jesus’ ministry, the kingdom of heaven had been subjected to violence and violent people had been attacking it. God’s plan of redemption was increasingly gaining more and more opposition. John had been arrested by Herod; Jesus was being resisted by the leaders/teachers; and the people were growing more impatient waiting for the reforms that the Messiah was supposed to bring.
Verse thirteen reminds us again that John is the end of an era. He was the tip of the arrow that was pointing to Christ. All the Old Testament, the prophets and the law, were pointing to Christ. All of God’s promises are made “yes” in Him. How is John Elijah? He is not the Elijah of old who has come down from heaven. No, he is the one who came in the spirit and power of Elijah.
Wisdom is Justified by Her Children (16-19)
In our last paragraph today, Jesus begins to sum up His teaching on this subject. The people were beginning to doubt Jesus’ Messiahship and probably even began to question John’s reputation as a great prophet. So, Jesus wants to make sure that the people understand that if they reject both Him and John, they are rejecting the truth and the plan of God. It wants to show them their inconsistency in thinking.
First, He compares the generation to children in the marketplace (the equivalent of a playground) who refuse to play the wedding and funeral games their friends propose (Blomberg, 189). Second, He gives an example of the generation’s faulty thinking by way of their reactions to John’s starkness and Jesus’ sincerity. The proverb at the end of our passage refers to the lifestyles of both John and Jesus. Wisdom is justified in their lifestyles and in their deeds.
Conclusion and Application
The people saw John the Baptizer out in the wilderness, dressed like a rugged loner, eating locusts and wild honey. They saw and heard his fiery preaching of repentance and judgment. And eventually many of them began to say that he was demon-possessed. Yet, they did not grasp the righteousness of his person. They saw Jesus befriending and eating with tax collectors and sinners and they said he was a drunkard and glutton. Yet, next week we will see that He judged the multitudes righteously. Both of these conclusions were far from the truth.
We, too, react to the lifestyles of people like John and Jesus with doubts. Yet, their lives exemplified a great balance of Christian liberty and responsibility. Some in the first century and many today are either hardcore moralists who do not understand Christian liberty or they prefer grace without any kind of responsibility.
            1. Are you so willy-nilly in your morals and ethics that outsiders wouldn’t have a clue as             to the holiness of God based on your life?
2. Or are you so legalistic that outsiders could never get a sense of the grace and love of God based on your life?
3. Lastly, let me say, you cannot make Jesus out to be whoever you want Him to be.