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Teachings of Jesus:

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Children: example of greatness (Mat 18:1-5)

"Who is greater in the kingdom of Heaven? And Jesus called a little child to Him and set him in their midst, and said, Truly I say to you, Unless you are converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven...whoever shall humble himself...this one is greater in the kingdom of Heaven." (~vs1-4)

It would seem that the disciples had a real problem with pride. This was not the only time they were thinking of greatness. It seems that James and John (yes, the "beloved") hoped they could have seats of honor with Jesus. (Mt20:20-21) In Mk9:34 they were discussing amongst themselves as to who (amongst themselves) was "greatest". In that case, Jesus knew their thoughts, and used a -child-, again, to illustrate the point He makes in -this- instance.

Do we see this kind of thing today? In visiting a pastor recently, "How many are on the VW mailing list?" A lot. "How many?" A lot. I won't answer such questions with 'numbers'. (The website hit-counter is also 'hidden' from public view.) But pastors often have this "jockeying" game they play; sorta like kids playing in the school yard, bragging-up something to their friends. I've got XXX. Well, I did KKK. Oh, but my dad does AAA! Oh, that's nothing, I...??? And pastors will boast of their church membership size. "Soul winners" will proclaim 'how-many' people have prayed -the- 'prayer' at THEIR guidance.

All this is a desire for GREATNESS. Usually...to be seen -by-men- to be great. To be admired. To -feel- the 'power'. One preacher I knew years ago used to talk about "doing exploits". Doing the -big- and great things. I've heard of short-term missionaries working in a summer camp, and when the duties were passed out and they got "toilet" duty, would balk, saying that they came to win young people to the Lord, not to clean latrines.

"Unless you are converted and become as little children..." (vs3)

The word "convert" means a "change". From "one use to another." In actuality, it is the very definition of "repent." Change from one mentality/heart to another. From one usefulness to another.

Everybody wants to be the gold vase sitting on the mantle, or the crystal glass set. They don't want to be a cutting board or shovel. The potter takes that lump of clay and fashions it into the form He desires. (Rom9:21) He finds an imperfection, cuts it out, and forms the clay into a vessel to "honor". (2Tm2:20-21) In our "youthful lusts" we clamor to be sitting on the mantle; but have not learned of "righteousness, faith, love, peace...call[ing] on the Lord out of a pure heart." (vs22)

But you see...if we are 'already' sitting on that mantle, we cannot experience Jesus' molding and cleansing. He says, "unless I wash you, you have no part with Me." (Jn13:8b) Since He didn't come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Mt9:13) What would you guess that the "little child" He called to Himself was not wearing designer sneakers, and color-matched clothes. His hair was probably dirty and his nose needed blowing. Not a pretty sight. Eeeewwoo, Gross!! But you see, what we -think- is a pretty gold vase is actually 'fools gold'. It's tarnished and crumbling. Whatever we consider to be so beautiful and 'worth' SO MUCH to God, thus making us of great importance, is like a "menstruous cloth." (Is64:6 -mkjv/litv) "filthy rags" (nkjv/kjv)

If we really want to gain entrance into the kingdom of Heaven, we must come to Jesus like that 'snot-nosed kid'.

In addition, we come to Jesus as a child "in intellect." We are told, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory." (Phil2:3) When people compete for prominence, what happens to the "lesser" individual/s? They are often 'hurt' emotionally. And for sure, they are put "down" aren't they. "Do not let each man look upon his own things, but each man also on the things of others." (vs4) We are not busy, busy, busy...doing the 'important' hosting, like Martha, because we are entertaining -the- important Guest. Guess 'who' was at MY HOUSE for dinner!! But as a young child, full of innocence and wide-eyed expectation of what the Lord wants to impart to us, Mary sat at Jesus' feet to learn of Him, Who is the way the truth and the life. (Lk10:42) And later, when she annointed Jesus' feet with costly ointment (Jn12:7) Jesus promised her a place of 'prominence' in the annals of history as people would remember her annointing Him for His burial. (Mt26:13) The 'important' people were reclining at the meal, and Mary annointed His feet, and yet we don't have a roster specifically listing -who- was around that table. But we have Mary's -name-.

And, more -directly- considering "intellect" of a small child; how much does a child understand complex issues, philosophy and theology? Not much. And yet, for all the sophistication and education of the adult intellect, Jesus says it requires the intellect of a child to come to Him. And, truly, after the Holy Spirit came to the early church and these same disciples were proclaiming salvation through Christ and were brought before the scholars, it says that the counsel "perceiving that they were unlearned and uneducated men, they marveled. And they recognized them, that they had been with Jesus." (Acts4:13) This is where the expression "child-like Faith" comes from.

So... is the act of picketting and protesting for the sake of the unborn an act that will get us to heaven? Is participating in ???-a-thons to raise money for "the children" going to win us brownie points? Surely, if we sponsor an orphanage for some poor starving children in whatever-the-country, that will help, right? After all, didn't Jesus say, "whoever shall receive one such little child in My name receives Me."?? (vs5) ..and also, that such not only receives Him, but also God. (Mk9:37)

Notice again: "unless you...become -AS- little children" (vs3) "whoever shall humble himself -LIKE- this little child.." (vs4) And notice the quality of the little ones He's referencing.. "little ones who -BELIEVES-IN-ME.." (vs6)

In other words, for the sake of His illustration the "little child" was the -embodiment- of Humility, Simplicity and Faith. An example of such. When you think of a "child" you think of "simplicity". A child readily "believes" what is told to him. In similar fashion, a person coming to God in Christ must do so with these same qualities and mind-sets that characterize a "little child".

This kind of "foolishness" of the "preaching of the cross" is what keeps the educated mind from God. (1Cor1:18) We often think of "foolishness" being bound up in a child (Pr22:15), and the more sophisticated a person is, the less tolerance they have for the little "urchins". But in God's wisdom, He devised a scheme that intelligentsia would disdain, but which would "save those who believe" (1Cor1:21)

How "great" will a sophisticate be as he is rotting in the Lake of Fire for eternity? ..being "an object of disgust to all flesh"? (Isa66:24b) What kind of "admiration" and "respect"? Even among the early church there were those who had the appearance of being "pillars" amongst the rest. (Gal2:2,6) But one who comes in Saving Faith is the one who is "Great" because he "overcomes". Simple 'Salvation'. Therefore, Jesus promises to make such an one "a pillar in the temple of My God."(Rev3:12)

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Children: offenses - (Mat 18:6-10)

"But whoever shall offend one of these little ones who believes in Me, it would be better for him that an ass's millstone were hung around his neck, and he be sunk in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For it is necessary that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!" (vs6-7)

I am one of these people whose emotions and thoughts are (what's the expression?) 'worn on the sleeve'. What's on my mind comes out my mouth. Sometimes I'm like Peter in that regard, speaking (writing) before thinking. I've been that way since a child. But what's on my mind is what is spoken. There are no hidden agendas 'behind' my spoken words. I am "honest" in that regard. Many people say what they think the hearer wants to hear; and the way society is, the hearer will take the spoken words and -interpret- them through mental 'filters' to come up with "what did he -really-mean- by that comment?" Not me. What I said was what I was -REALLY- thinking. "What you see (hear) is what you get."

But you see...I am almost POSITIVE that in being this way, I sometimes -offend- people. Something said in 'innocence' on my part, once run through the hearer's 'filters', becomes a point over which they are either hurt, become angry, or..."offended" and have feelings of animosity or 'reserve' where I'm concerned. When, perhaps, I did not intend for the person to take the comment/s 'personally'. In some cases, perhaps, the hearer simply has 'thin skin'.

Is -this- what Jesus is talking about? Or if I 'yell at' the children getting into things around my store's complex, and they become 'unhappy' over being told "no", and to ride their bikes/skate boards someplace else ...is -that- the "offense" Jesus is talking about? If you 'slipped' and made some wise-crack about -her- make-up or weight, or something about her house's decor...which -she- took 'personally' and became 'offended', are you in a condition of "woe"?

"Whoever shall OFFEND one of these little ones..." (vs6)

This word "offend" means: "to put a stumbling block in the path of someone; to cause to fall; to entice to sin." Our word "scandalize" comes from the same word.

With this understanding, what are some of the ways in which children are -offended-? Modern psychology tells us that "abuse" consists of excessive beatings, being too strict and not letting the child 'discover' himself, forcing them to read the Bible. Not being allowed to develope self-esteem. But "self" is the starting point for sin, isn't it. What is the result of sin? Death. (Rom6:23) So, in the most simplistic terms, we could say that psychology, itself, offers children a path to offense!

Fathers are exhorted "..bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." (Eph6:4) How many fathers neglect their children in this regard? They 'abandon' their children's daily upbringing (Deut6:7-9) to the day-cares and public school system. When Scriptures say "train up a child in the way he should go.." (Pr22:6) modern parents have become persuaded to let them "do their own thing" and "let them decide for themselves when they get older" where that verse continues, if you've raised your child properly "..when he is old, he will not depart from [the right way]." How many adults have 'faint memories' of childhood, occasionally going to Sunday School, VBS or CEF's "backyard Bible clubs". How many of those young children were -eager- to know more of Jesus and -enjoyed- singing the songs of God? These were "little ones who believ[ed] in Jesus" (vs6) to whatever degree a little child does. But because dad was more interested in going fishing, or running the boat, the "seed" once sprouted withered up and died or got choked out? (Mt13) And because the little sprout wasn't nurtured, when he grows up, he has no "pleasure" in his "Creator" (Ecc12:1) How many of these ever come (return) to the Lord, once an adult?

An even worse offense is one we have addressed in the past. (July,97 Commentaries: "Abortion: What's Really at Stake") In this case, a baby of non-believers is killed, even before it has a chance to "refuse the evil and choose the good". (Is7:16a) And not having that "umbrella of protection" the believing parents provide (1Cor7:14), the child is damned to hell before it ever sees the light of day!

These are but two situations of "offense" to "little ones." But what does Jesus say about the one responsible? It would be better that a large stone be tied around his neck, and he be sunk. The expression "ass's millstone" indicates a -large- stone. The grinding stone used to convert wheat into flower. So big it required a donkey to turn it. In other words...something so big (and heavy) the person cannot -swim- and get to the surface. No...to be sunk...for good!

Parents, -YOU- have a grave responsibility where your children are concerned, to train them up in the "fear of the Lord." (Ps34:11) Woman, if you have an 'unwanted pregnancy', you must not abort (kill) the child! If you don't want the baby, at least carry it to term and give it up for adoption...then, at least, he/she might have the possibility of hearing of God.

What if you've messed up in these areas? Are you damed eternally? Well, notice Jesus said "it would be -better- for him" to be sunk in the ocean. But He does not say such a person cannot come in repentance and receive forgiveness. These are not the "unpardonable sin". But, let's see some of the results to the perpetrator...

Notice, Jesus says, "..it is necessary that offenses come.." (vs7) As long as this world is in its sinful state, there WILL BE offenses. We cannot get rid of disease. There will always be 'the poor' who need welfare. (Jn12:8) As long as "the heart is deceitful above all things and desparately wicked" (Jer17:9) there will be "offenses". Crime, prostitution, drugs, gangs, thugs, etc. Things which will lead others astray to sin and death. That's satan's whole purpose as he "walks about like a roaring lion, seeking someone he may devour." (1Pt5:8)

But what is the result to perpetrators? They tend to reap the results of their actions. What is the expression? "They that live by the sword, die by the sword."

Often God's wisdom sees to it that a person will end up flat on his back. Perhaps the person needs "slowing down" so a diving accident will create a quadriplegic. They might lose limbs or other body parts. How many times hasn't God used such events, like the shepherd's crook breaks the lamb's leg, to slow a person down, and put them in a position to -hear- His voice. Or, such a thing will provide a 'permanent' reminder of what they did...so that they might mend their ways in the future.

Oh...but God is so "cruel"! Or...Jesus -surely- didn't -really-mean- to cut your own hand off. Next chapter Jesus is going to say, "..and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven's sake. He who is able to receive it, let him receive it." (19:12b) Such action would certainly help a person beset by 'uncontrollable' lust, wouldn't it. Paul does say, "each one has his proper gift from God.." (1Cor7:7)

While this is as far as I'm going to take this subject, notice Jesus' words, "It is better for you to enter into life" minus a body part, than to be physically "whole" and to be "cast into the hell of fire." (vs8-9) for having "offended" another...having led them into error and damnation. Yes, they may "die in their [iniquity]", but their blood is "required" at the offender's hand. (Ez33:8)

The most vulnerable to such offense is the young, 'innocent', easily-moldable -child-. Jesus gives another caution. "Take heed..." (vs10) Watch it! Be CAREFUL what you do! God knows each sparrow that falls, and each hair of one's head. The little ones have representatives standing before God constantly. God knows what goes on with each one of them...and -who- did it to them. These messengers are always keeping Him apprised as to their situation...and carrying out God's will on their behalf. (Heb1:7,14) Is this perhaps where the term "guardian angel" comes from? Won't it be fascinating to eventually understand who/what these angels have been all these years! Do they continue serving on our 'individual' behalf throughout life? So, even though satan comes against us, we have the Holy Spirit residing within (Rom8:9) and even as Jesus had angels come to "minister" to Him (Mt4:11) and helped Him in His hour of anguish (Lk22:43), apparently they do this for His Believers, too..?

So, to sum up... Jesus speaks of children, of offenses and of the ones who bring about the offenses. That the term "offense" here is related to causing a child or young Believer to be turned away from God. And, because children are small and helpless does not excuse an adult taking advantage of them. To count them as nothing. Abortion calls them "fetuses". But they are "people" with souls! Dirty-old-men teach them sick little sexual "games" which scar them for life. Others 'use' their children to aid in their own advantage to gain sympathy for themselves. Jesus says, "Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones." (vs10a) ...like the disciples did. (19:13)

So, whether we speak of children, or offenses in general, as Believers (the primary 'audience' of these studies) it behoves us to..

"Therefore whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1Cor10:31) and furthermore one of Paul's goals was... "We are in nothing giving cause of stumbling, in no way, so that the ministry may not be blamed." (2Cor6:3)

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Children:: saving the lost - (Mat 18:11-14)

"For the Son of man has come to save that which was lost.." (vs11)

With the little "snot-nosed kid" (vs2) still on His lap, Jesus tells a story. It is the familiar one that teachers tell to children in Sunday school, or Bible club. So we won't re-tell it here. Let's find some things from today's society to illustrate the same point...

Recently I saw a few seconds of a 60-Minutes or 20/20 rerun I had seen before, of some people's (young adult) child who had been taken in by a cult. The story documented the parents' search for the child. The time and money they spent, the queries of other cult members as they engaged in clandestine activities to try to find them. For everything else that these people's lives consisted of, they were dedicating 100% of themselves to find their child, to rescue them.

When a pilot was shot down in connection with the Kosovo bombings, a complete rescue team was used, putting all those personnel at risk, to rescue the one, lone, pilot.

When the child or pilot are finally rescued, there are tears of joy and high-fives of exuberation over the success at having found the 'lone' individual, safe and sound. A few years ago Scott O'Grady became a national 'hero' after he had been shot down over Serbia and was rescued safely.

How many millions of children exist? How many thousands of military personnel? The media takes no note of all their masses. But the single 'lone' one in peril, being rescued, results in GREAT joy. And they take no note of the patrols on regular duty. But when three are captured, they become a focus of the evening news.

Just as parents will not abandon a child to a cult, even though millions of 'others' exist; just as the military would not shrug their shoulders over a 'single' downed pilot...after all, we can train more; so, too, God does not abandon little children. (vs14) ...or, for that matter, a 'single' sinner. God is not willing that -ANY- should perish, (even one of these little ones -vs14) but that all should come to repentance. (2Pt3:9)

And just as comrades give each other 'high-fives' when the rescued pilot is lifted into the safety of the chopper, even moreso...

"I say to you that likewise joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner who repents, more than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance (Lk15:7,10,32)

Related Topic: "Let the Little Children Come..."

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Forgiveness: on NOT forgiving - (Mat 18:15-20)

"..if your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear you, take one or two more with you... and if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he neglects to hear the church, let him be to you as a heathen and a tax-collector." (vs15-17)

A while back the "Christian News & Views" mailing list sent out a Reader's Digest article accompanied by editorial remarks, "When Forgiveness Is a Sin" This mailing pretty well summed up what I've been coming to understand.

There is a modern malady where everybody is luuuuving and simply "forgives and forgets". It is so pervasive that even at the highest levels of government, a man is found to be utterly corrupt, and yet, even though he continues on in his sins, 'everybody' is "forgiving" him. An adult finally comes to a point of confronting childhood issues of parental sexual abuse, or finds that relatives are doing the same things to their children, the psychological approach is to teach the offended and abused individual to "forgive" the perpetrator in order to achieve self-wellness.

There is even a blasphemous angle to this, too, led by the likes of James Dobson; to the effect that, once we get all our hurts and dysfunctions all sorted out, and we are experiencing forgiveness for all these people who have hurt us, we also need to "forgive God"..!!

Typically the "christian" (small "c") support for this ideology is Jesus' words as He was being crucified, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." (Lk23:34) [VW: words which weren't actually in the Scriptures, but were added by copyists later. [link] :]

OK... so let's start picking away at these various matters, and see them with Scriptural understanding.

Jesus taught, "..love your enemies, and do good..be merciful [to them]." (Lk6:35-36) "when He was reviled did not revile in return" (1Pt2:23) Notice, He did not teach 'forgive your enemies'. There is a difference between loving, being merciful to; and forgiving. Love and mercy are qualities extended to another -in-spite-of- 'their' qualities. Remember that God "so loved the world" (Jn3:16) when the verdict was that "there is none righteous, no not one." (Rom3:10) And where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. (5:20) Love and mercy exist even when the recipient of it is a worthless scoundrel.

But forgiveness is a different concept. Love and mercy indicate one's 'attitude' towards another. Forgiveness is an 'accounting' term. Jesus -needed- to die for all of humanity.

But regarding sin... sin does not get swept under the rug. For instance, God does not hold a person "guiltless" who takes His name in vain. (Ex20:7) Through centuries of rebellion and idolatry, God held Israel accountable for their sin, and scattered them throughout the remotest parts of the world. Let us not forget that, if it were not for God's 'mercies' we would all be consumed/destroyed. (Lam3:22) But the sin must be paid for. It must be accounted for. And this is why Jesus died on the cross...to 'pay' for the sin of the world.

So, now that we've been forgiven of our sin when we Repent and come to Faith in Christ, we are also to forgive others in the same way we have been forgiven. (Mt6:12,14-15)

But let's not forget one very important key to this understanding. We were forgiven BECAUSE we 'repented.' Always, always, always remember the order of things. 1) repentance, and -THEN- 2) remission of sins. (Mk1:4,Lk3:3;24:47,Acts5:31) God does not go around handing out remission of sins, Salvation, eternal life...willy nilly..to any ol' sinner. Only to those who have repented of sin.

Thus, we come to Jesus' teaching in this passage. The same principle of Salvation also applies to inter-personal relationships. If there is sin, sin creates a separation between the person and God. (Is59:2) In the same fashion, a human 'trespass' puts a wedge in human relationships.

The person commits a "trespass against you". Whatever the nature of it; Jesus doesn't specify. You go to him. You take others (witnesses) to make the point. Even after coming before the church (1Cor6:1-5) the person who has committed the act refuses to recognize or repent of his deed/s. Jesus does NOT say to "forgive" him. In fact, He says to treat him as an outcast. Don't tolerate evil. Don't have fellowship with the works of darkness but "rather REPROVE them" (Eph5:11)

So, a father molests you as a child. As an adult you confront him and he refuses to admit any wrong-doing. Do you "forgive" him? You cannot! To forgive the -deed- says, in effect, that it's OK. Well, it's -NOT- "OK"!! ...what he did. Do you love him? Sure! But in what he did, he made himself your "enemy" ...and Jesus teaches, "love your enemies". He didn't say "forgive" your enemies. He said 'love'. There's a difference. "Forgiveness" is what you attribute to them. If they haven't repented, recognized their wrong, they cannot be forgiven. But 'love' is your own heart's attitude toward them.

It seems like the biggest 'abuse' that's coming out of the closet in recent years is sexual molestation of children. Such despicable acts!! Usually perpetrated by close relatives. The "offending [of] one of these little ones.." (vs6)

If you were the victim, do you forgive the perpetrator? If they refuse to admit their wrong-doing...NO. You cannot. If you forgive what hasn't been repented of; you, in effect, are saying that something is "OK" which God calls evil and sin. Making yourself a higher authority than God. "Who can forgive sins, except God alone?" (Lk5:21)

Lest the reader think we are all "negative" the next lesson speaks of "forgiving". For those occasions where the guilty one "hears" (vs15b) when you confront him and/or when he comes asking for forgiveness.

Oh...one last thing we mentioned above. About "forgiving God"?? What evil did God do? If bad things happened to you, it was not God's "fault"! It came about because of sin. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights.." (Jas1:17a) We should not say, "I am tempted from God. For God is not tempted by evils, and He tempts no one." (Jas1:13) ...but the evil comes about when a person is "tempted by his lusts, being drawn away and seduced by them, and when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin. And sin, when it is fully formed, brings forth death." (vs14-15)

Remember, Jesus said that "offenses" exist in the world. (vs7) We are not to forgive them. (vs17) ..because they are deserving of "woe" (vs7b) "For you know this, that no fornicator, or unclean person, or covetous one (who is an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers [or fellowship] with them." (Eph5:5-7)

Q/A -Church Discipline - Already Forgiven?

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Forgiveness: on Forgiving - (Mat 18:21-35)

"..how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Until seven times? Jesus said to him, I do not say to you, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven." (vs21-22)

"Take heed to yourselves. If your brother trespasses against you, rebuke him. And if he repents, forgive him. And if he trespasses against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turns again to you, saying, I repent, you shall forgive him." (Lk17:3-4)

Here we see what true forgiveness entails. There are several things that society engages in, which do not fit Jesus' description. The first one is, "Time heals all wounds." This is the case where someone has injured another ("injure" meaning 'to hurt' them in some manner). Perhaps there is an argument over the matter. Perhaps not. But the incident is never resolved...and 'time' passes. After many months or years, the parties "evolve into" fellowship. But the one who did wrong never repented. And everybody acts like the matter is now OK as everybody 'luuuvs' one another. As the offended party 'receives' the perpetrator, the perpetrator might even suggest that the offended one has "forgiven" them because of this new-found 'civility' which is occuring. But the perpetrator has never repented, and admitted to having done wrong. Any imagined 'forgiveness' is a farce.

Another is today's malady. A youth takes some guns to school and kills teachers and students. The survivors, while learning how to cope with the trauma, collectively communicate to the perpetrator, "We forgive you. We love you." ..when the guilty one emotes no remorse.

Or, the case where someone continually offends another. The person who has been hurt, or is the object of the offense, as a result keeps a certain 'distance', which, in turn 'offends' the original perpetrator. And the original wrong-doer, with no intention of changing their ways, whines, "Can't you just 'forgive and forget'?" when there is no remorse, nor sense that they have committed any wrong.

Jesus describes 'forgiveness' with another story. 'Not going to repeat it all here. It is suggested that the reader read the rest of the chapter. But essentially, forgiveness is described in terms of "debt". A debt has accrued. The creditor wants to be paid, the debt is now due and the debtor is unable to pay. Punishment is due in lieu of payment. The debtor pleads for mercy. And the creditor 'forgives' the debt. Making it so the debtor no longer 'owes' anything.

This is God's forgiveness of sin. Sin exists. The debt for sin is death. Death, being the 'extension' of God's "Wrath" (punishment). The debtor (sinner) comes and pleads for mercy (repents). And God forgives, based on Jesus' payment through His own shed blood and death. The person is now "justified". His account is "paid in full". He no longer owes for the sin.

Now, the story takes a turn. The debtor has someone who owes him. Thus, the former debtor, in his own rights, is now a creditor; and someone is in debt to him. The same scenario transpires. The debtor is unable to pay, but the creditor (just having been forgiven his debt) refuses to extend mercy and punishes the one owing to him. He was forgiven such a big debt...but is refusing to forgive a little "trespass" against him.

You see, the heart of a Christian is to be one where bitterness and wrath have been put away. We are to be "kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you." (Eph4:31-32) We are not to hold grudges. As we learned in the previous lesson, we are to hold people accountable for their deeds. And yes, perhaps, because of the nature of the deed, we will become "angry". (Eph4:26) But we do not harbor resentment against them and "let the sun go down upon your wrath." (vs26b)

But notice: we are to forgive one another in the same way that God forgave us. (vs32) Not like the debtor turned creditor who refuse to extend mercy. We received forgiveness when we came to God in repentance.

Jesus makes a point of the relationship between repentance and forgiveness. If the person sins, yes, "rebuke" him. (Lk17:3) But you notice the 'forgiveness' doesn't come until -after- the one rebuked 'repents'. And to stress the point, Jesus repeats the pattern. If the wrongdoer -repents- 'seven times a day', THEN -forgiveness- is to be extended as many times as there is repentance. Remember: this is how "God..has forgiven you". Notice: "if My people, who are called by My name shall humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways [by definition: REPENT] ..THEN.. I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin..." (2Chr7:14)

On the other hand, if we continue in sin, as Joshua spoke to Israel, "He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins." (Josh24:19) ...as was the case with Israel when they hardened their hearts... As Jeremiah prayed to God because of their rebellion, "Do not forgive their iniquity, nor blot out their sin from Your sight.." (Jer18:23) As Israel would say, "we will come no more to You" (Jer2:31) "we will not walk in [the ways of the Lord]" (6:16) "we will not listen" (6:17) "we will walk after our own ways.." (18:12) "we will certainly do [the various forms of idolatry]" (44:17) When there is such refusal to repent, there is also no forgiveness.

Just as God forgives us... or doesn't...

Someone might say, "Well...if he REALLY 'meant it' when he repented, he wouldn't keep doing it over and over! ...fold the arms and... Hmph!!" Well...let us not get too hoity-toity with this. If we look into our own hearts honestly, we see -just- how many times the Lord forgives us over and over. We are to forgive "just as God...has forgiven you" when you repented. (Eph4:32b)

Let us not forget that God knows our hearts. This forgiving we do must be from our hearts. (Mt18:35) If we don't forgive one who pleads with us, we cannot expect anything from God, either.

What of those who do not repent..? As we "have the mind of Christ" (1Cor2:16b) with which He went to the cross (Phil2:5-8), as God "forgave you" (Eph4:32) our kind and tender hearts will be "ready to forgive" those who don't repent...

"For You, Lord, are good and -READY- to forgive, and rich in mercy to all those who call on You." (Ps86:5)

You may never get a chance to extend forgiveness to that person before they die, because they may take their rebellion with them to the grave. That is not your problem; although you may have sorrow because of it. (Remember: God has promised to wipe away all tears and to remove remembrances of the "former things" -Rev21:4,Is65:17) God knows their heart and also sees yours. Are (were) you -willing- to forgive them? That is the basis upon which God will also forgive you.

Q/A -Repentance & Forgiveness Issues

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Divorce: not God's design - (Mat 19:3-12)

And the Pharisees came to [Jesus], tempting Him and saying to Him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? (vs3)

Notice, the legalists are confronting Jesus again. Picking a fight. Taunting Him. They were always out to try to find fault with His teaching. They were standing firmly on their tradition and Law. But rejecting the Son of God, Himself.

Jesus knows 'what' they are after. To see if He will parrot back their 'precious' law to them, like a "good Jew" should. 'See if He will quote back the party-line like a good "church member". If He would just do this, concede to their tradition, they would 'accept' Him... Right?

But notice what Jesus does. "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning "made them male and female" and quotes Genesis 2:24 "for this cause a man shall leave father and mother and shall cling to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh." He then reasons with them; if they are "one flesh" and this is what God ordained, "THEREFORE what God has joined together, let not man separate." (vs6)

First of all, notice that Jesus takes them to the Scriptures; not tradition. And as He had proclaimed previously, He came to "fulfill" the Law. (Mt5:17) That means, understanding "why" the Law was given in the first place. The Law shows the sinfulness of sin. (Rom3:20) And so Jesus goes back -prior-to- the Law. Prior to sin. What was God's ORIGINAL intent? God made -a- man, and then brought -a- woman to the man, to be his suitable helper. (Gen2:20) This was the creation which God proclaimed as "Very Good!" (Gen1:31)

OK...so, if God created things that way, why did He command how to get a divorce? (vs7) Can't God make up His mind? You see, the liberals are right after all, the Bible -DOES- have "contradictions"!! OK, Jesus, what are you gonna say to that? Huh?!? We gotcha! I betcha can't r'iggle Your way out of -that- one! Har, har!!

"Because of your hard-heartedness [sin] Moses -allowed- you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so." (vs8) "Jehovah, the God of Israel, says He hates divorce.." (Mal2:16)

Oh, Jesus, let me share something with You that somebody e-mailed me; Your teaching is just great. If You'd just have a little "compassion" you'd 'have it made'. Do You always have to be so bull-headed; ATTACKING them so? All this 'name-calling'!! It's not very loving...

A step further here... "I say to you, whoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is put away commits adultery." (vs9)

Considering present society, how many people do you know, based on this Word, that are living in adultery!! Are you, perhaps? No, it's NOT "alright" to marry a divorced person. Divorce does not change the fact that the "two -BECAME- one".

The only case where divorce is 'right' is where infidelity is involved. Remember Joseph, "being a -just- man" (Mt1:19) assuming that Mary had been unfaithful to their betrothal, was considering "putting her away". And God intervenes, informs him that her pregnancy is of the Holy Spirit, in order to fulfill prophecy and bring forth Jesus "virgin" born. So he takes her immediately to be his wife, and keeps her a virgin until Jesus is born. But that was a very special circumstance.

What if there is a divorce? Either REMAIN UNMARRIED, or be reconciled. (1Cor7:11) What if there was a divorce; and then you remarried; and then got divorced from -that- person? According to "Law" you can then no longer be reconciled to your 'first' spouse. (Jer3:1,Deu24:1-4) You've been "defiled" regarding that first marriage, by the second one. Paul uses the expression "first faith" (1Tm5:12) ...that first pledge to fidelity.

And then, there is also the case of the unequal yoke. Paul was given liberty to give his view. (1Cor7:12) If the unbeliever is pleased to live with the Believer; Believer, don't divorce your [unbelieving] spouse. But if the unbeliever wants to leave, or sends you away; live with their decision. "A brother or sister is not in bondage in such cases, but God has called us in [to] peace." (vs15)

What if your life was all messed up -BEFORE- you came to Faith in Christ; and you've been married and divorced so many times you can't count them all? Or, your life was one of promiscuity before you came to Christ? Technically, marriage joins two to become "one -FLESH-". (Gen2:24, 1Cor6:16) When the two are joined, the result is -a- human life in the womb. The two cells, egg and sperm, join to form -one- new cell, the zygote. Whether a person was a Christian or not is not really part of this equation of God's -physical- creative design. While there are certainly 'spiritual' parameters to marriage and Believers should only marry Believers (1Cor7:39), this is a -physical- union. It has nothing to do with a 'certificate' or 'words' spoken by a preacher, priest or justice of the peace. It has to do with the "marriage bed". You may not have that 'piece of paper' saying you are "married", but if you're living together, sharing the bed, you are -married-. "Two become one -flesh-."

"Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled, but fornicators and adulterers God will judge." (Heb13:4) The "first faith" is blessed by God. More than that comes under judgment. However, when a person comes to Faith in Christ, Jesus says, "Neither do I give judgment. Go, and sin no more". (Jn8:11) Remember, Jesus had several -former- prostitutes who followed Him during his ministry, and helped with the feeding of the group. (Mt27:55, Lk8:2-3) And He made a special point to seek one out in Samaria, who came to Faith in Him. (Jn4) It doesn't matter "how bad" or "how many" the sins were, when a person comes in repentance to Christ, they are forgiven. When the woman "a sinner" came and wept over Jesus' feet, and anointed them, He pronounced to/about her, "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven.." as He then says to her directly, "Your sins are forgiven." (Lk7:37-48)

So, if you were divorced before you became a Christian, your sin is certainly forgiven. But becoming a Christian does not now entitle you to a "clean slate" regarding the marriage bed. Remember, they become "one -FLESH-". This is similar to, for instance, a person who got a tattoo, or was scarred in a fire or accident due to some sin. Becoming a Christian does not erase that -physical- tattoo or scar, although the -sin- is certainly "forgiven".

So, a person has this "colorful" past; and is now a Christian. What does one do? After all, there are -urges-. "Needs". Paul exhorts, "I would that all men were even as I myself am." (1Cor7:7) I don't know that we are told whether or not he had been married at one time. But when he wrote this, he was "single". But he goes on to say, "but each has his proper gift from God, one according to this manner and another according to that." Let us not forget that part of God's creation design was that it "be fruitful". In order to assure 'fruitfulness' God made these urges strong. In 1Cor7 Paul seems to be of the mind that, if this drive is too strong, and a person has problem with "self-control" (vs9) that it's better to get married, than to "burn" with lust or to commit "fornication". (vs2)

Are there any other options? The disciples react to Jesus' words by suggesting that there are cases where it's "not good to marry" (Mt19:10) And Jesus goes into some thoughts about what Paul called "gifts". Not everyone is able to be single. (vs11) And then addresses "eunuchs".(vs12) Some are born that way; their "gift from God". In many cultures it was done -to- them. In other cases, a person initiated the matter for himself. And Jesus says that they did it "for the kingdom of Heaven's sake." To keep themselves pure unto God. Remember in the previous chapter He was saying it's better to be minus a body part and "to enter into life" than to be physically whole and "to be cast into everlasting fire." (18:8-9) And one of the areas receiving condemnation is adultery and fornication. (Rev21:8, Gal5:19,21b) Thus, a Believer, although securely saved, should be keeping himself pure in these things.

[Ed: Don't anybody accuse me of teaching something radical here, nor of necessarily condoning, or even -suggesting- that anybody go and do something hasty and rash. I'm not. We're just observing what Scripture teaches. I know of a fellow years ago who, in a desire to be "pure" before God decided to take matters into his own hands. Ended up in the hospital by ambulance, and then, I'm sure, counseling. At the time I felt "sorry" for him; he was such a "nice" person and a sweet Christian. (Being rather young and naive at the time, I thought that what he had done was rather bizarre.) I never saw him after that; but have often wondered how things turned out for him. These are serious matters! Don't ever enter into anything like this lightly. And if you do, -BE SURE- you are being obedient to the Lord! And if you REALLY MUST do something, see a physician.]

So again, He makes it clear that it's an 'individual' gift. "He who is able to receive it, let him receive it." (vs12b)

"..this is the will of God, your santification, for you to abstain from fornication, each one of you to know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor (not in the passion of lust, even as the nations who do not know God).. God has not called us to uncleanness, but in sanctification."(1Th4:3-7)

Q/A -Holy Matrimony and Fornication?
Q/A -Divorce and Remarriage?
Editorial: Stay Put

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Riches & Eternal Life: some good thing? - (Mat 19:16-26)

"..one came and said to Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" (vs16)

Isn't this the eternal question! Practically every religion in the world functions on this basis. And even those who don't make any claim to religion. DOING some -good- "thing".

Typically, these good "things" traditionally have taken the form of a "pilgrimage" to some holy place. Doing so in some torturous fashion, such as travelling hundreds of miles on one's knees, till they become raw and bleeding. Some flagellate their backs till they bleed. In our more "enlightened" affluent societies, someone will donate millions of dollars to erect some hospital, or other public-works project to "benefit humanity". The matter will then be on the evening news, and a plaque at the facility with the donor's name will indicate and 'document' his "goodness". Others, not as affluent, will participate in "walk-a-thons" for some cause, or help build a house with "habitat-for-humanity".

Surely, God will see all this "goodness" that I have "done" and I will be received with favor!! Now, let me get back to -my- life!!

This person has come to Jesus. "Why do you call Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God." (vs17) Well, this person is, at least, starting on the right footing. If he is calling Jesus "good", and only God is "good", the person is obviously recognizing Jesus' Deity. That Jesus is "God". Now, -this- is more than the pharisees are willing to do. He's starting in the right direction. But let's not forget, recognizing Jesus' Deity, by itself, is not enough. "..even the demons believe and tremble." (Jas2:19)

So, in answering the question as asked... "If you want to enter into life [by -doing- something], keep the commandments." (vs17) Before anybody gets too 'excited' prematurely here, let us not forget the Word, "And you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live in them. I am the LORD." (Lev18:5) Paul, in correcting the errors of legalism even quotes this passage, which by the way, is quoted numerous times as the prophets pleaded with Israel, from God, to forsake their rebellion and return to Him. While Paul proclaimed "Faith" he says, "But the Law is not of faith; but, "The man who does these things shall live in them." (Gal3:12) In other words, if you [can] keep the Law, you will live.

But now the man's true colors begin to show. He's not 100%. "Which?" Jesus says, 'keep the Law' and the man asks, 'which ones?' So Jesus obliges and lists off a few: matters of murder, adultery, stealing, false witness, honor your parents, love your neighbor as yourself. And the man says, I've kept all -these- things. What am I yet lacking?(vs20)

If you want to be 100%, sell everything you have, give the proceeds to the poor, and come, follow Me. (vs21)

Oh dear! He had kept all "these" but notice Jesus hadn't listed: you shall have no other gods before Me, you shall not covet. The man went away "sorrowful" because he had -great- possessions. (vs22)

"For whoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." (Jas2:10)

If a person never commits murder, nor theft, nor assault... all these "bad" things; but crosses an intersection against a red light and is ticketed for J-walking, he has broken -THE- LAW.

Yes, keep God's Law, and live. But man is not capable of keeping it. That's why the Law was given, to show the "sinfulness of sin".(Rom7:13) The law shows what is already in the heart. (Rom2:15) Notice: while this young man was claiming to have kept the law, his -heart- told him that something was yet "lacking". (vs20)

So... let's talk about wealth, a minute. Complete industries exist for those who want to "get rich quick". People spend in hopes of winning the lottery, jackpot, etc. They think that if they have all that money, their lives will become better. That they will be happy. When they win prizes on game shows, they are happy and applaud the "things". Cars, exotic vacation trips, appliances.

When a person is looking to possessions as a measure of happiness, they are not looking to God. They are not "waiting upon the Lord" (Isa40:31, Jer14:22) A person with wealth deals with everything by spending money to buy it or fix it. And they also often tromple upon the poor and despised. (Jas2:6,5:1-6) 'Why do I need to trust God? I have every -thing- I need or want.'

But when a person is in need, what do they do? They "pray". They seek God, "Oh, God, help me!" And we learned earlier in the series, "..your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you." (Mt6:32-33) "Godliness with contentment is great gain." (1Tm6:6) When a person is following Christ, they share Paul's heart, "I have learned to be content in whatever state I am." (Phil4:11) "Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and it is clear that we can carry nothing out. But having food and clothing, we will be content." (1Tm6:6-8)

And so Jesus says, essentially; while it's not impossible, it is next-to-impossible for a rich person to get to heaven. (vs23-24) Yes, there are those whom God has blessed with wealth, and they know how to handle it, and use it for His glory. So, wealth is not the problem. "The -LOVE- of money.." (1Tm6:10) is. The young man loved his wealth so much that when he was given a choice; his wealth, or God? ...he chose his wealth. "..but they who will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts which plunge men into death and destruction." (1Tm6:9)

The disciples, mostly from 'poor' backgrounds, are amazed. (vs25) After all, isn't he the one who chairs the board of elders, supplies 80% of the church's operating expenses through his giving, and you see him on the platform frequently, and is quite eloquent when he speaks. He is always so self-assured. He makes such a wonderful leader, he always gets "voted" to positions of leadership in the church.

Lord, You mean he's NOT going to heaven? Well, if someone [so wonderful] like him can't make it, who can?? (vs25) This seems like an impossibility, doesn't. But not with God. (vs26)

Man looks at the 'impressive' exterior, "but God looks on the heart". (1Sam16:7) Man looks to his own power and riches, but "you see your calling, brothers, that not many wise according to the flesh are called, not many mighty, not many noble. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise...the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty...the base things of the world, and things which are despised, and thing which are not, in order to bring to nothing things that are; that no flesh should glory in His presence...He who glories, let him glory in the Lord." (~1Cor1:26-31)

"Charge the rich in this world that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God.." (1Tm6:17)

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We Left All: what do we get? - (Mat 19:27-30)

"Behold, we have forsaken all and have followed You. Therefore what shall we have?" (vs27)

Good ol' Peter! Always right there with a come-back or question. So, if it is nearly impossible for the rich to make it to heaven; well, look at us, Lord. We've left all and are following You. If the rich DON'T make it because they don't follow You, and we ARE following You, it must mean we DO get something...?

Jesus makes a two-pronged promise. One to the twelve. And another to Believers in general.

The disciples don't know it yet, but they are about to undergo many things for Jesus' sake. Right -now- they 'think' they have left all. Actually, all they left was -merely- their fishing boats. But they will also be giving their lives. On another occasion Jesus assures them "You shall indeed drink of My cup and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with..." (Mt20:23) They haven't a clue 'now' yet, however.

But yes, "in the regeneration" the apostles were promised the responsibility of judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (vs28) Positions of honor.

For other believers, those who leave all to follow Christ will have their needs met. And will inherit everlasting life." (vs29) Some will have material blessings. But if we read the latter part of Hebrews 11, we understand that most will endure many trials. There have been many martyrs. We are promised "tribulation". (Jn16:33) If we are following Christ, and are like Him, then we are to expect to be hated because we are no longer "of the world" (Jn15:19) Never forget that they crucified Jesus. And the "servant is not greater than his master" (vs20) And those who perpetrate the persecution do not know God. (vs21) If they persecute the Believer, they are -actually- persecuting Christ. And if they, in that manner hate Christ, they show their hatred of God. (vs23)

Notice the nature of the "loss" one will experience to "gain" Christ: houses, siblings, parents, spouse, children, wealth. (vs29) Things that are earthly dearest to us. Periodically someone will write, expressing how their new life in Christ has seemingly drawn this "line" between them and their family and aquaintances. They are now viewed with contempt and ridicule. Even by someone as close as a spouse. Pardon the personal example again: Those of you who know a little about my life know that I've experienced what I preach here. If I hadn't finally come to a place where years of wishy-washing around, being willingly led and advised against directions of service to God, were at an end; and it was firmly established that I was serving the Lord; I would guess I'd still be married. But when it became obvious that I was serving the Lord, NOTHING BUT, the predeparture announcement was made, "Your God and mine are different." My marriage had been the most precious thing to me. Service for God meant losing it; accompanied by the taunts of the pretend 'christian' relatives. When you -truly- decide to follow the Lord, don't be surprised when it happens to you. Remember Peter's words, "Beloved, do not be astonished at the fiery trial which is to try you, as though a strange thing happened to you" (1Pt4:12)

And a lot of it will come from sources claiming to be "Christian". For the apostles initially it was the Jewish -religious- leaders who brought them to trial, imprisoned and beat them. It was they who had incited Jesus' crucifixion.

Today for the Church, generically, it is primarily "christian" (small "c") leaders who persecute -TRUE- Believers. It shocks and mystifies the Believer who is under attack, because, "how can -this- person be doing/saying these things?" ..when you -know- in your heart that you have the "mind of Christ" (1Cor2:16) regarding whatever matter you are under attack about. When that happens...and -happen-, it will...never forget Jesus' word, "I have spoken these things to you so that you should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogue [church]. But an hour is coming that everyone who -KILLS-YOU- will think that he bears God service." (Jn16:1-2) This will be coming from something called the "church". "Christian".

History bears this out. Most persecutions throughout history, the most numerous, most hideous and torturous, were carried out by -The- Church which calls itself "christian". The present pope in various sayings and writings has said he expects the same to happen again in the future. And there are militant "kingdom" factions from the protestant side of the aisle that say the same things from time to time. ...for the future. And remember, they are all "united." They are called "the church" ... "Christian"

A few years ago Pat Robertson was saying he would be at the Mt. of Olives with TV cameras to document the return of Jesus. But you know; if Jesus were actually to appear as He did 2000 years ago, all the current "great men of God" would be 'united in diversity' to crucify Him again...!

Jesus says of them, "..they will do these things to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But I have told you these things so that when the hour shall come you may remember that I told you of them." (Jn16:3)

There are many who -appear- to be Christians. Some are elevated to status as "great men of God". But these who appear to be foremost (first), in that Day will be last. Jesus will say to them, "I never knew you. Depart from Me!" (Mt7:23) But those who are esteemed as "insignificant" because they don't hold great honorable positions in a mega-church, and actually in many cases don't even 'belong' to any -organized- "church", they are not -known- by those in-the-know, and thus -appear- to be "last" ...will hear Christ's "well done...enter into the joy of your Lord" (Mt25:21) as the Lord of the banquet Who "invited you" says, "friend, go up higher" (Lk14:10)

"The last shall be first." (Mt19:30)

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First -or- Last: chosen - (Mat 20:1-16)

A while back someone e-mailed a question about the topic of this passage. At the time, the answer was used as the basis for a "Portion". It seems appropriate to insert that study at this point in the series.

The question was: "I do not know what verse it is, but the one that says "Many are called, but few are chosen." Does this mean among the ones that are already saved? Or does it mean among all of men?"

"Many are called, but few chosen" is found in both (Mt20:16 & 22:14) The context of 20:16 is the parable of the land-owner who hired people to work for him. Some were hired in the morning and worked all day. Others at noon. And some, even barely worked an hour, as they were hired at the end of the day. The ones hired in the morning received a "full day's" wage. As did the ones hired at the end of the day. And if you look at the passage, you will see the exchange and grumbling from the ones who had been working since morning...thinking they ought to get more, since he had paid the one-hour people the same "full-day's" wage. An illustration of God's grace and gift of salvation (Eph2:8-9) which is not based on "what" or "how much" man does. The gift of Eternal Life (day's wage) is the same to all who come...because of the beneficence of God's grace. It is God's "choice" to give salvation to whom He wishes. (vs15) Now, if the grumblers were unhappy enough, they could go off in a huff, and not take the wage...out of spite. Only thing is, they are the loser. The ones who "receive Him" (Jn1:12) are the ones who are "chosen and faithful."(Rev17:14)

This word "chosen" means "picked out, appointed." It's kind of like the schoolyard choosing up sides for the game of softball or soccer. The captains each take turns "picking" the ones they want on their team. They pick, from the group, according to the ones they think will help their team be victorious. They "know" the people (as God "foreknew" -Rom8:29). They "choose" (predestine/appoint/elect -Eph1:11) the ones who are "qualified." ("..the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. -Col1:12) This may seem like a bit simplistic example. But God chooses His own based on His knowledge of their heart/s. "Many are called" (He is not willing that any should perish -2Pt3:9) But only a few are chosen. (find it -Mt7:14)

Also, Jesus was speaking to Jews...the sons of Israel. They had been given God's promises. They had had the Truth for 1500 years; before Gentiles heard the gospel. They were "first."(Mt20:16) Gentiles came along later..."last." (Rom11) But Israel rejected God's Holy Spirit, so the gospel went to the Gentiles. (Acts28:28) Thus, those who had been "last" (outcasts to the Jews) became "first" as the Church progressed, and Believers are saved by Faith "without the works of the law."(Rom3:28) And Israel, who thought they had it all, became "last" and were scattered amongst the nations in AD70.

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Heading to the Cross: final week - (Mat 20:17-19)

And going up to Jerusalem, Jesus took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said to them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem. And the Son of man shall be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death. And they shall deliver Him to the nations to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He shall rise again. (Mt20:17-19)

Earlier (ch16) in the midst of various situations and teachings, where Jesus is being scrutinized and defined to the people, He tells His disciples that, while they are learning all these -things- about Him, and have just come to understand that He is the "Son of God", His purpose is to die on the cross. And remember the exchange with Peter, discussing the -need- for such a thing, and the nature of the life (and death) of following Christ.

Now, it's "time" for all this to come to pass. This represents a division in the Gospel of Matthew; if you will, a new section heading. Up until now we have had teaching, description and defense of who Jesus is, and how to be obedient to God. Now, we are into that final -week-, including triumphal entry, Last Supper, crucifixion, resurrection. And this -week- is going to be jam-packed with teaching on some critical issues. Jesus' "final words" to the people before He is to give His life.

It will further cauterize, harden and anger the religious leaders against Him. But He is going to be laying it all out in no uncertain terms, so they know precisely what/Who it is they are rejecting and crucifying. And they will know why their judgment is just. "But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they did not believe on Him..."Lord, who has believed our report? ..He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they should not see with their eyes nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them." (Jn12:37,38,40)

While the Gospel of John documents Jesus' final authenticities and proofs of His Deity to the people [especially the Scribes and Pharisees; the religious leaders who will be condemning Him to crucifixion] during this week; in Matthew He will be explaining the "Kingdom of Heaven" in clear terms; and the nature of the heart that has access to Heaven, and of those who don't. He will explain the duty and mission of Believers as faithful servants after He ascends to the Father, until He returns to appear. And will prophesy the future; His return, and the nature of the events leading up to His return.

He has just raised Lazarus from the dead (Jn11) and as this has proved to show His Deity to give life and His coming resurrection, the leaders are also considering killing Lazarus, because many are believing on Jesus because of it. (Jn12:10-11) And they have convened a council to figure out how to do away with Him, and have announced a command for anybody to let them know how to find Him. (Jn11:53,57) So He's been "hiding out" a little. (vs54) It wasn't yet -quite- time. He had to die at Passover.

But -now- His time has come. It's "time" to go to Jerusalem and fulfill the eternal plan of Salvation. When they went to Bethany to raise Lazarus, things were already rather tense as there had been threats to stone Him, and Thomas had said to the rest of the disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him." (Jn11:16) But now, this is -it-.

So He briefly explains what is about to happen, in terms of His betrayal, condemnation, crucifixion and death. And as all is fulfilled, He will be vindicated as being Deity; since one of God's defining characteristics is that of declaring "the end from the beginning." (Is46:10) But also notice that, while all these "terrible" things are about to happen, He also promises:

"And the third day He shall rise again." (vs19)

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Positions of honor: servanthood - (Mat 20:20-28)

Then the mother of Zebedee's children [James and John] came to Him with her sons, worshiping..desiring.. "Grant that these my two sons may sit in Your kingdom, the one on Your right hand and the other on the left." (vs20-21)

To understand the 10's "indignation" (vs24) against the two, Mk10:35 indicates that James and John, themselves, came to Jesus with this request. Perhaps this was a 'family' request? Whatever the case, the two are desiring positions of special honor alongside Jesus in His kingdom, when He is ruling. Let us remember 'who' these two are. they are part of the three-some along with Peter. (Lk5:10) They seem to have special attention from Jesus periodically. The "inner circle". They were introduced to Jesus in the "Mount of transfiguration". (Mt17) And when He was in agony just prior to capture, trial and crucifixion, it was these three He took along closer with Him as He prayed in the garden. (26:37) Furthermore, John is the "disciple whom Jesus loved". (Jn21:20,24)

Does honor come "just because"? Or is it earned? What kind of position will Jesus be having 'in His kingdom'?

He "made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant...He humbled Himself and became -obedient- (Heb5:8) unto death..of the cross." (Phil2:6-8) The honor Jesus receives is because He first humbled Himself. And then God "lifted Him up" (Jas4:10) and "has highly exalted Him..given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.."(Phil2:9-11) This is not an honor Jesus takes unto Himself. (Heb5:4a) It is -given- to Him, since He "drank the cup" and was "baptized with the baptizm". (Mt20:22) Therefore, He sits at God's right hand as His enemies are made His footstool. (Heb1:13) This place is the very throne-room of God Himself.

Jesus asks the two, "Are you able to undergo what I am about to?" (vs22) Well, it is obvious that they haven't a clue as to what He is talking about, because they say, "We are able." He says, "You shall indeed drink of My cup and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with..." (vs23) While Stephen was the first martyr (Acts7) James is the next martyr whose name is recorded. (Acts12:2) And tradition tells us that John was dropped into boiling oil, but God performed a miracle on his behalf and he shot back out, unhurt. But was exiled to Patmos, where he wrote "The Revelation".

But, to appoint their position in heaven "is not Mine to give, but to those for whom it has been prepard by My Father." (vs23) You see, if God was exalting Jesus, Jesus was in no position to make other appointments. The Heavenly Father prepares the awards and places of honor. Remember, it is the Father Who "draws" (Jn6:44) the Believer to Himself, to Jesus. It is also the Father Who makes the banquet for His Son and His Bride, Who places the guests at the table according to their rank. (Mt22:2,Lk14:10,16)

So, the "sons of thunder" are thundering a bit much, eh! And the rest were "indignant" against them. (vs24) Does Jesus criticize their request? No. But we've got some animosities going on here, so He gathers them around.

This request is the way the world operates. (vs25) People strive to achieve positions of prominance, authority, importance and leadership. The highest position in a country is that of president or king. And so, people aspire to these places of honor: to be called "your honor", or "the honorable senator", or "Mr. President".

"However, it shall not be so among you. But whoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant." (vs26) And He goes on to explain His own position; although being the Son of God Most High, He came to "serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (vs28) In a few days He will illustrate this when He "rose up from supper and laid aside His garments...took a towel...poured water in a basin.." and proceeded to wash His disciples feet. (Jn13:4-5) The task a lowly servant should have done, and when there was no servant, nobody took it upon themselves to do it, either. A service of 'basic' hospitality. None of them did it. Jesus, their Lord, did it.

If you want to be "great" then be a "servant". (vs27) Don't desire to be on top, bossing everybody around, and telling others 'how to do it'. Get in there, yourself, and -do- it. Then, leave the matter of rewards to the Father.

Jesus' ultimate example of His servanthood and love would be to "give His life..." (vs28) because, "no one has greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (Jn15:13)

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Blind eyes opened: by the "Son of David" - (Mat 20:30-34)

"Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened..." (Is35:5) "..I have sworn to David My servant, Your seed will I establish forever, and build up your throne to all generations." (Ps89:3-4) "There is no end of the increase of His government and peace on the throne of David, and on His kingdom, to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice from now on, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this." (Is9:7)

Jesus is being authenticated to the people. The prophecy of the Messiah was that He would be opening the eyes of the blind. Recall when John, imprisoned and despondent, sent his disciples to ask Jesus, "Are You He Who should come, or do we look for another?" (Mt11:3) Jesus replied, "Go tell John what you see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, etc." (vs5) The miracles would authenticate Him.

Now, His title is being attached to Him publicly, too. "Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!" (vs30)

Oh, Shhh!! Be quiet! You don't want to disturb the "teacher". What's this? "Son of David"?? Well, they're a couple of "crazy" blind men, anyway. They don't know what they're talking about. They've been blind so long, they're probably a "brick shy of a full load".

But they yell out louder, so everybody can hear, "HAVE MERCY ON US, O LORD, SON OF DAVID!" (vs31)

Ok, the attention of the crowd is now achieved. Jesus stops and calls them to Him. "What do you want?" (vs32) "Please open our eyes."

The "Son of David" does not deny the -title- they attribute to Him. They call out to the prophesied "Son of David" and He responds; in essence saying, "Yes, I'm the 'Son of David'." And then, He authenticates His title by fulfilling the Messianic prophecy and "opening their eyes." If anyone had doubts as to "Who" He is, this miracle authenticated His claim to be their "Messiah". Their "Son of David."

Also, notice a little picture of the Salvation 'process'. Joel had proclaimed, "..whoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be saved." (2:32) Paul affirms this in Romans 10:13. These two blind individuals called out to Jesus. But notice He doesn't just wave His hand over them and "zap!!" ...they're healed.

No. "What do you want from Me?" "We want to be healed." There are some who teach that Jesus' death automatically saves everyone in the world, and there is no need for repentance or Faith. And since Jesus died, there is now "no more sin" in the world, because He came to "take away the sin of the world." (Jn1:29) And that repentance is a "work". Well, notice, the two had to "come" to Jesus. Was that a "work"? No more so than breathing 'in -n- out' to sustain one's life is a work. Jesus' power could have zapped them to sight. But He required an acknowledgment of their condition...that they were "blind". So, they -ask- to be healed. Was -asking- a "work"? No more so than their act of -standing- before Him. But when they asked, then He willingly healed them. Their asking to be healed implied a desire to "change" (repent) from their 'present' condition of "being blind" to one of "having sight".

Receiving their site was something they could not -do- for themselves. They could not "help Jesus out" in the task. All they could do was to -stand- (or kneel/bow) there, and Jesus -did- the work for them. To "receive" it from Him. (Jn1:12) That is how we receive Salvation.

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Royal Entry: Hosanna to the "Son of David" - (Mat 21:1-22)

Of the three 'synoptic' Gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke), Matthew likely represents the most accurate 'chronology' of the Passover/Crucifixion week events. Mark ("Servant") records miscellaneous events in a more random order. Luke ("Son of man"), by admission, compiled what he gleaned from various sources (Lk1:1-3), not necessarily having been an eyewitness to it all, himself. (Acts1:1-4) Matthew ("King") is a 'chronicle'. Royal Court Records, beginning with Christ's genealogy in ch1. Done by a former tax collector (Mt9:9,10:3) who was accustomed to meticulous detailed record-keeping for the government.

Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem; which we will discuss shortly. He spends the evening in Bethany and Monday comes back into Jerusalem early to continue displaying Himself for observation for any "blemishes" (Ex12:3-6,Lev23:12,Jn12:1a,12a) as the "lamb without blemish and without spot." (1Pt1:19) It is said that the -selected- Passover lamb was tied to the altar for four days prior to being killed. Jesus spends these same four days in the temple area.

While He is on display as the "Lamb of God" (Jn1:29) He also comes, symbolically looking for fruit in Israel (vs19,Mk11:13), as He said on another occasion, "Yet when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Lk18:8) Many Believers who anticipate His imminent 'Glorious Appearing', look at the apostasy today, and think of this verse, because it often seems like there is "nobody left" who believes. But while Jesus was on display to see if He was "without blemish", God was also observing His people. Is there anyone righteous? Or are they "-all- gone out of the way"?(Rom3:12) The fig tree withers away, not having fruit on it. In "preparing the way" (3:3) for Christ's introduction, John spoke of bringing forth "fruits worthy of repentance." (3:8) And those who did not measure up, "the axe is laid to the root of the trees." (3:10) The ones not bearing fruit are to be burned up. And so, while Jesus was physically hungry, and it wasn't the season for figs to even be on the tree (Mk11:13), He provides an object lesson. This curse He pronounced upon the tree would also be symbolic of what would happen to Israel, as the Gospel went to the Gentiles (Acts28:28) as Israel would be "broken off" for a season. (Rom11)

He already -knows- the answer to the question. The day before, after He had come in amidst the shouts of "Hosanna...!" He "beheld the city and WEPT over it, saying, If you had known, even you, even at least in this day of yours, the things for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes." (Lk19:41-42) As He then prophesies its overthrow. (vs44)

He progresses to the temple where He is 1) questioned and interrogated by the religious leaders (21:23-22:46) Then, He 2) talks to the crowd and disciples -about- the religious leaders (23:1-12), and 3) proclaims condemnation upon religious leaders (23:13-39)

And closes the day (Monday) when He leaves the temple and 4) talks with the disciples about the future, and duties of faithful servants while He's gone, until He returns. (24:1-25:46) This teaching is intended for -Believers- to understand. The unregenerate will die in their sin (Ez18:24) as judgment will overtake them like a thief. (1Th5:3-4) Those who are not Believers, but pretending to be "Stewards" will spend their time twisting the Scriptures "to their own destruction" (2Pt3:16b), claiming the Scriptures say things different than what God said, and rather than feeding His "household"(24:45) will be disseminating all the demonic filth of the enemy (1Tm4:1), often claiming it to be information for "discernment", and will be "cut apart and [appointed a] portion with the hypocrites." Where there "shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (24:51)

All these things (ch21-25) occur on Sunday and Monday. (26:1-2a)

So, on Sunday Jesus enters Jerusalem. And He does it in a most interesting way. He sends a couple disciples to go "steal" a donkey. (vs2) That, and the reaction of those who owned the donkey... what may have been going on in their minds and hearts? Did they have a dream telling them this would happen, and to trust these "thieves" when they say, "The Lord has need of them"? (vs3) What was the nature of their 'faith'? That is not recorded for us.

But what -is- recorded is that it fulfilled prophecy. (Zech9:9) The Jewish scholars did not understand prophecies like Is61:2, where the Messiah was One Who was to heal and bind the broken, and to bring peace; but -also- to bring vengeance... That these would be two -different- advents, which we now know are separated by 2000 years. [Just as many today don't seem to understand -two- events for the future return of Christ: 1) appearing & 2) coming, separated by 7 years.] There were many prophecies where Messiah would bring relief from oppression of their enemies, and be victorious in battle; which is what the Jews were looking for, to free them from Roman occupation and domination. But Jesus, Himself, had proclaimed that -this- coming was with regards to Isa61:1-2a. (Lk4:19) Preaching the Gospel, healing the broken-hearted, proclaiming liberty to those held captive to sin, to proclaim "Behold, now is the accepted time. Behold, now is the day of salvation." (2Cor6:2) He came to take on the "form of a servant" (Phil2:7) Thus, His entry and announcement to Jerusalem was "meek and lowly".(11:29,21:5)

He speaks of the "grain of wheat" that falls into the ground and dies, and then brings forth fruit. (Jn12:24) As a -man- He is troubled over the death He is about to undergo and reasons, "Should I say, Father, save Me from this hour?" Well, no, this was the whole purpose for His coming! (vs27) No, rather, "Father, glorify Your name!" And God thunders from heaven, "I have both glorified it and will glorify it again." (vs28) And Jesus informs the hearers that the voice was for -their- benefit. (vs30)

The people don't understand what He is saying. He is speaking of dying. So they respond, "We have heard that Christ lives forever. How do You say, The Son of Man must be lifted up?" (Jn12:34) All they understood, and knew, was His second coming as military-political deliverer, to sit upon David's -everlasting- throne.

Who is this One coming into Jerusalem? "Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna in the highest!" (vs9) Who is this? "Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth of Galilee." (vs10-11) This is what the angels had proclaimed, "a -SAVIOR-, who is Christ the Lord...Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Lk2:11,14)

Let's look at the title again, "Son of David!" Remember our last lesson. The blind men called out to the "Son of David" and Jesus responds, essentially, 'I AM that One.' "Tomorrow" (Monday) He is going to be confronted by, and confronting, the religious leaders. So -all- of Jerusalem is shouting out, welcoming the "Son of David" and giving glory to God "in the highest". "Tomorrow" the rulers are going to ask for His 'credentials'. Under "what authority" are You doing this? (vs23) He will have already authenticated it.

After He tosses out the "den of thieves" (vs13) He is in the temple. Right in the middle of the rulers' 'turf'. His raising of Lazarus from the dead a few days prior is very much on their minds. (Jn12:17) And so now the "blind and lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them." (vs14) If you will, an "in-your-face" demonstration to the rulers; as if to say, 'You hypocrites, are you watching?' You claim to believe the prophets. How well do you remember Isaiah 35:5-6? I'm healing these blind people. "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened..." They just called me "Son of David", and you whined, 'don't You hear what they're calling You?' It's blaspheme! (Jn10:32-36) Can't you make them stop?(vs16) You're worried that everybody is following Me, and you are losing your prestige before Rome. (Jn11:48,12:19) Do you need some more -authentication-? Here... watch while "the lame...leap like a deer..."

"But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they did not believe on Him..." (Jn12:37)

Were you watching? "He who believes on Me does not believe on Me but on Him who sent Me. And He who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. I have come as a Light into the world, so that whoever believes on Me should not remain in darkness...He who rejects Me and does not receive My words has one who judges him; the Word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day...whatever I speak, even as the Father said to Me, so I speak." (~Jn12:44-50)

I'll be back tomorrow and we'll talk...

"And leaving them, He went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there." (vs17)

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Credentials please: refused - (Mat 21:23-27)

Jesus has spent the night at Bethany. It is now early Monday morning. Jesus has just cursed the fig tree on His way, arrives at the temple to start teaching, and the "priests and the elders of the people came to Him...and said, By what authority do you do these things? And who gave you this authority?" (vs23)

Yesterday You let them call You "Son of David". On other occasions You have called Yourself, "I AM" (Jn8:58) while claiming to be someone greater than Abraham. But... who are You...really? You're obviously a man. We know You can't be of God, because You don't keep the Sabbath. (Jn9:16) Just who do You think You are??

So, Jesus turns the tables a bit. John's baptism; was it from heaven or from men? If you will answer this, then I will tell you. (vs24)

Remember what we said about Him cursing the fig tree in the last lesson? While it was true that Jesus was on "display" as the Passover Lamb, God is also scrutinizing Israel. Is there any fruit there? And as we continue this chapter, we are going to see Jesus spelling it all out in terms they can understand. (vs45) And so, as Jesus deftly turns the tables, He is in effect letting them know Who's -really- "in charge" of these discussions that are going to progress through the morning. As though to say, 'the question at hand is not -My- credentials, but -your- condition. I am not answerable to you, but you are truly on trial, and under scrutiny.'

The question of the source of John's baptism, and Jesus' "authority" are actually one and the same. The answer to the one, is also the answer to the other. John had retorted, "O generation of vipers.." what are -you- doing here?? "bring forth fruits worthy of repentance." (3:7-8) Now, Jesus is querying about their fruit.

They are stuck between a rock and hard place with this one. They -really- know the answer. But as ever, they are reasoning with their legalistic minds. When they reason as to it being "from heaven" they already feel the guilt of His condemnation, "Why then did you not believe him?" (vs25) And if they proclaim the party-line, having condemned John already...well, this is Feast time, and there are lots of people. They know they are presently, politically, in the minority because "the [whole] world has gone after Him." (Jn12:19)

The politically -expedient- answer: "we -cannot- tell". There! That's nice and "safe" straddling the fence. Plead -ignorance-. Just like modern-day politicians caught in scandals: "I don't remember. I don't know. Not to my knowledge. etc."

Jesus, Who "knows the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb4:12b) responds with -truth- to their question: "Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things." (vs27)

No, it's not a matter of you "not knowing". You are resisting the Truth you already know. You are refusing to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence and fulfillment of prophecy. Therefore, 'I also -refuse- to tell you. I will not play your little games...'

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Rulers scrutinized: true nature exposed - (Mat 21:28-46)

OK, now it's My turn, and you answer Me....

A man has two sons, and gives them both the same command, "Go to work." The one says "no, I won't" but later regrets his attitude, repents and obeys. The other says, "sure, I'll do it" but doesn't. At the end of the day, which one was obedient? Obvious answer! The one who repented and did the work. Not the one who was all -talk- and no action. You can -see- the results of the obedient one, because you can go to the vineyard and see the -work- he did. (Eph2:10) The one with the cheery disposition and 'promises', makes a good initial impression, comes up empty. No substance.

It's not enough to -talk- about "love and grace", if the life is still indulging in sin. Being legalistic about the "Sabbath" and "KJV" does not cut it either, while condemning those who don't "measure up", if one is not obedient to God from the heart, themselves.

The rulers give Him the correct response. (vs31) Does He complement them on their correct answer? No. "The tax-collectors and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." So harsh He is!!

You didn't want to answer about John's authority. Sinners repented at his preaching. But you didn't. When you saw all this going on, you remained aloof, condemning. You -refused- to believe. And so it is now. e.g. You maintained your 'righteousness' based on KJV-only, and when someone with NKJV or MKJV came along and pointed out that you don't believe in nor preach "repentance", you huffed & puffed, and refused...

Here's another parable....

A certain Master planted a vineyard, got things all set up so it was a successful operation, and left certain ones in charge. Being the "Owner" of the operation, He expected fruit from the harvests. And even though He kept sending His servants, "rising early and sending them" (Jer25:4) the ones 'in charge' kept killing and abusing them. So, finally He sends His Son, the very Representative of His essence. (Heb1:3) And rather than respecting the Son, they contrive to kill Him, not wanting to lose "both -OUR- place and nation." (Jn11:48) You see; they were guilty of the same presumption that many "leaders" are guilty of today. "My" church, "my" ministry, "my" organization, all these under "me", "my" rule and authority. And the "messianists" claim that it -belongs- to 'their' Israel; that Israel is the root, into which everyone must be grafted. Not remembering that -God- is the "Owner" of the vineyard. That Jesus is the "vine" into which the branches are grafted and "abide". (Jn15)

What is the verdict for such rulers? Jesus suckered them right into this one, as they answer, Bad men! He will miserably destroy them, and hand over the property to others. (vs41)

Right on!! "The kingdom of God shall be taken from -you- and given to a nation bringing out its fruits." (vs43)

And this is exactly what happened. After Jesus has been crucified, risen and ascended back into Heaven, these same rulers will persecute the fledgling Church. They will martyr Stephen, after he pronounces judgment on them, "O stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so you do. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you have now been the betrayers and murderers; who received the Law...and did not keep it." (Acts7:51-53) And so, with Israel's rejection of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, God's "vineyard" was taken from them, and given to the gentiles. (Acts28:28,Rom11)

There was NO DOUBT -who- Jesus was speaking of. (vs45) But right at the moment, they didn't have any political clout, because of the crowd of people. The same ones who had called Him "Son of David", which label He authenticated by healing all the blind and lame, and thus demonstrated the "authority" they clamored authentication for, but were too blind to believe. (Jn12:37-40)

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