Matthew chapter 13:53-58 (continued)
“Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables that He departed from there. When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, ‘Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary?
And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?’ So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.’ Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.”
As we come to end of this chapter it has been a bit of journey to get through it. I remember as a kid when I first got into preaching that some of these passages would be covered in one sermon. But now as the Lord expands my view of life and the world I find that there is so much information in one small passage as opposed to an entire chapter that it is impossible to cover very large portions of the Bible in sermons or lessons.
We have to take little bits and chew on them for a while. We learn to savor the scripture, get the full taste of the lesson and apply it to our lives. Of course the application is what matters, it does not matter how much of the Bible we know, what is important is how much do we apply and allow the Holy Spirit to add to our person.
We are called to be more like Christ, thus we have to be less like us. This is hard for us; we live in a world, even amongst churches, that glorifies the flesh and tells us that we are good. All too often it is made out to be like Jesus came to top up our goodness as opposed to the fact that we are totally depraved and lack any goodness at all. Thus the idea of the transformation we see in Romans 12:1-2 is that we simply stop being caterpillars and begin to be butterflies.
I will admit, my caterpillar is not dying well, it fights and squirms to the top and tries to stifle the butterfly in me. It is a tiresome battle with the flesh, one must be constantly vigilant and I will confess that I envy, yes even in this I am failing, those who make the Christian walk look so easy and seem to have no trouble mirroring Jesus. They always have a great spirits, full of grace and the right words. In the meantime I fight to make sure my mind is on good things, I bite my tongue to not say the wrong thing and I find that grace and graciousness is far from me.
Jesus has just spent a long time teaching through parables and He has imparted to these 12 men and a few ladies who traveled with them the deepest riches of the kingdom of heaven. They are in awe of Him and now they have to be tempered. They have to understand that rejection is a harsh reality of this Christian life and the ministry. Those of us who are Bible students are in awe of the Bible as we begin to see things when we study them.
We get this idea that everyone will be just as awed as we are and we try to teach them and find that they either don’t get it or worse they don’t care. Those who know us best are often the first to reject us and as we can see from this lesson our families are the ones that are the hardest to win. But don’t give up on them there is some good news at the end of this lesson; see you there in a few minutes…
Jesus Came to Teach in a Local Synagogue, Verse 54
Last year the folks from our church and I had the privilege of serving as counselors at the Billy Graham Festival of Hope here in Toronto. Over 40,000 people showed up to hear the gospel and that reflects the kind of response that happens all across the world as they travel. This past weekend they were in Japan for a huge festival with thousands hearing the gospel. But in our text, Jesus shows up in Nazareth— in his home town, and He attends the local synagogue where He teaches the Old Testament Scriptures to the people present and they are astonished. They are at a loss to explain the wonders of His teaching and the power with which He does these mighty works.
They are blown away that He could have this kind of knowledge and command of the Scriptures. They knew him as a carpenter. He was not one of the learned classes. And in those days, heredity was important to your future; the carpenter’s son became a carpenter, the blacksmith’s son a blacksmith, and so on. Jesus was not supposed to be a teacher of the Law, he was just a commoner.
Well this is our first lesson from Jesus for today. No matter what your heritage as far as pedigree and beginning, with the power of God you, too, can become an accomplished Bible teacher. In fact contrary to the spiritual leaders of the time that used biblical knowledge to keep the people down, Jesus used His knowledge to free people. He explained the Bible to them so that they could understand it and apply it to themselves independent of the priest.
The entire goal of the New Testament church and the Bible is to encourage people to be “self-feeders” in the Scriptures. Read and study on your own. God is able to open your eyes and your hearts if it is your desire for Him to do so. In Acts 17:11 we find that the Berean church were diligent students of the Old Testament—they searched the Scriptures.
As a pastor my goal would be to equip the people I serve to ready and study the Bible for them. They should be so familiar with the Bible that it is as important to them as life and blood. They should crave it and need it like water or food.
The problem is that these folks that Jesus taught that day still did not believe that He is who He said He is. They could not wrap their head and hearts around the fact that He is God in the flesh, Jesus the Christ—the Saviour of the world and their rightful King. Thus all they saw was a man who was out of His “element” as a teacher and they just wanted Him to be a carpenter.
Sadly this is how the world today still sees Jesus. They accept Him as a good man, a good teacher, a good example, a good legend and on and on they go. But they simply won’t accept Him as God. And here is that line in the sand that God draws, Jesus must be accepted as God, no lesser acceptance will be allowed by His Father. Once you accept that He is God then all other supernatural possibilities become possible and we are no longer surprised at His wisdom and power; we stand in reverent awe of them.
Jesus Was Not an Only Child, Verse 55
There is teaching in one of the major religions of the world that teaches that Mary remained a virgin for the rest of her life. Well this verse makes it clear that Mary had at least 4 other sons and 2 daughters. The sons are listed here and we are told He had sisters. Thus this myth of Mary’s perpetual virginity is shot to pieces. Now let us move on from here and consider the idea of the perfect sibling.
Could you imagine living in a household where one of the siblings are perfect, literally? Well it is no secret in the Bible that Jesus’ own brother hated him and would rather he be dead; we find them in John 7 encouraging Him to go to Jerusalem even though they knew that the Jews wanted Him dead. Jesus did not have a healthy home life yet He did okay.
Jesus’ own family did not accept Him as Lord. We know of two of His brothers that came to salvation, James (Galatians 1:19) and Jude; Jude was also an author in the New Testament. James, Jesus’ brother was a leader in the church at Jerusalem. So we know for sure that some of Jesus’ earthly family came to salvation and since the records of women were not often recorded we can hope that his sisters saw the light as well as seeing that Mary was an adamant follower of her Son.
The lesson here is that most, if not all prophets, are despised by their families; the reason being is that they are acquainted with all of your flaws and failures. But often strangers give you more respect than your own people. Most pastors have a hard time serving in their home church, the one they grew up in—as sometimes a lot of harbored feelings, just like those that were held against Jesus can simply be walls to ministry work.
But if you live for the Lord and serve Him faithfully God will allow some of your family to grow to love and respect you. The whole goal being of course is to point them to Jesus for salvation.
Unbelief, Verse 58
This is the biggest hindrance to the work that God does in and through us. We find a father struggling with his unbelief in Mark 9:23-24:
“And Jesus said to him, ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
This is a real struggle for all of us in this life. We believe that Jesus is God. I do, we know that. I have trusted Him as my Savior and I am sure that He can do all things. My questions and the question that many have is this: “Will He do them for me?’
In Luke 17:5 the apostles begged Jesus to “increase their faith.” They understood that they could not do it on their own, so they needed a supernatural infusion of God’s faith to build them. How does God increase our faith? By putting us in positions where we have no choice but to trust Him. We are put in places where we simply have to be “still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10).
God put Israel between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army so that they could see the salvation of the Lord. He sold Joseph into slavery and put him in prison unjustly so that one day he could rule Egypt and deliver Israel from a famine. On and on we can go in the Bible with examples of what God does to increase faith, expand belief and grow our dependence on Him and Him only.
This is my cry and I hope that it is yours as well:
“I do believe; help my unbelief.”
If you truly cry this out brace yourself, God will show up and put you to task. Hold on my dear friends, God will not fail you nor abandon you; He simply cannot.
“For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, ‘Fear not; I will help thee.’ (Isaiah 41:13).