The Kingdom Closed Up

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.                             Matthew 23:13

Jesus gave many words of rebuke to the religious leaders. They were leaders who were not entering the kingdom, and they were working in preventing others from entering it.

We could ask, “How were these men preventing others from entering the kingdom?” and that is a good question.

One of the most notable ways was they were making doctrines of the traditions of men. They were really the one’s profaning the Sabbath day by not allowing healing of another member of Adam’s race; or simply by walking through a wheat field and with their hands plucking the grain, blowing the chaff away, and eating it.

I pray that I do not mess with the word of God, and make it a document of condemnation; but will rather declare and show the goodness, grace, mercy, peace, and justice of a holy, righteous and just God.

Yes! The Bible shows us our heart, our condemnation, our sentence in eternity as being the eternal fires of Hell. The Bible also shows us the way of deliverance from such an eternity.

That deliverance is through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ; the One who spoke those words of rebuke. Will you repent of your sins today, and call on the name of Jesus Christ as Your Lord and Savior?

Inside to Outside

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.   Matthew 23:25-26

Working to keep the outside of your life clean without the inside cleaned by the power of the Spirit of Christ in us, is nothing but hypocrisy; and will always lead to condemning and judging others unjustly.

Only Sinners Can Be Saved

Many religions place importance on doing something to gain God’s favor. Let me at the beginning just say; there is nothing you or I can do to gain God’s favor. There is no sacrifice, there is no sacrament, there is no good deed to your neighbor or the world which will gain you or me eternal life and/or the favor of Holy God.

This very mentality is what Jesus is addressing in the following verses:

“And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto His disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, He said unto them,
They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ ” Matthew 9:10-13 (KJV)

When Jesus was ministering to the publicans (tax collectors) and sinners the religious leaders began questioning Jesus’s purpose, power, and ministry. “What kind of man would sit with tax collectors and sinners?” they were asking themselves, and the disciples.

There is only one sacrifice which God the Father accepts; and that is the sacrifice, the death of His only begotten Son. Still the religious; the self-righteous try to gain the favor; the grace; of God through sacrifice and sacrament.

God shows grace and mercy to the sinner who will come to Him through the cross of His Son Jesus with a repentant heart. Through the act of repentance on the part of the sinner, trusting Christ Jesus, God clothes the sinner in the righteousness of God the Son.

You may be a righteous person today. You cannot be saved. Until you see yourself as the sinner your really are you will remain lost, condemned, dying, guilty, and spiritually dead.

Come to the Father through the cross of Jesus. Sinner hear Him and be saved. He came to save the sinner.

Know the Signs; No Signs

“And straightway He entered into a ship with His disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha. And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with Him, seeking of Him a sign from heaven, tempting Him. And He sighed deeply in His spirit, and saith,
‘Why doth this generation seek after a sign? Verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.’
And He left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.”  Mark 8:10-13

Words of Jesus; Son of God, God the Son – 090820

“And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided Him. And He said unto them,
‘Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
The Law and the Prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the Law to fail.’
”  Luke 16:14-17  (KJB)

Words of Jesus; Son of God, God the Son – 090420

“In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, He began to say unto His disciples first of all,
‘Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.
Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. And I say unto you My friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear Him, which after He hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear Him.
Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.’
”  Luke 12:1-7  (KJB)

Words of Jesus; Son of God, God the Son – 081620

“And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with Him, seeking of Him a sign from heaven, tempting Him. And He sighed deeply in His spirit, and saith,
‘Why doth this generation seek after a sign? Verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.’
And He left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.”  Mark 8:11-13  (KJB)

Words of Jesus; Son of God, God the Son – 081520

“Then came together unto Him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.
For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.
Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, ‘Why walk not Thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?’ He answered and said unto them,
‘Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. Howbeit in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.’
For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.’

And He said unto them,
‘Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:’ but ye say, ‘If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.’ And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.’ ” Mark 7:1-13  (KJB)

Words of Jesus; Son of God, God the Son – 081120

“And He entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched Him, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath day; that they might accuse Him. And He saith unto the man which had the withered hand,
‘Stand forth.’
And He saith unto them,
‘Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life, or to kill?’
But they held their peace. And when He had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He saith unto the man,
‘Stretch forth thine hand.’
And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.”  Mark 3:1-6

Words of Jesus; Son of God, God the Son – 081020

“And He went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto Him, and He taught them. And as He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him,
‘Follow Me.’
And he arose and followed Him. And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and His disciples: for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto His disciples, ‘How is it that He eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?’
When Jesus heard it, He saith unto them,
‘They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ ”  Mark 2:13-17  (KJB)

Words Of Jesus; Son Of God, God The Son -072920

“And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, He departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan; and great multitudes followed Him; and He healed them there.
The Pharisees also came unto Him, tempting Him, and saying unto Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?’ And He answered and said unto them,
‘Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?’ Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’
They say unto Him, ‘Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?’
He saith unto them,
‘Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.’
His disciples say unto Him, ‘If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.’ But He said unto them,
‘All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.’ ”  Matthew 19:1-12

Words Of Jesus; Son Of God, God The Son – 072620

“The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired Him that He would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them,
‘When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.’

And He left them, and departed.” Matthew 16:1-4

Words Of Jesus; Son Of God, God The Son – 072220

“At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn; and His disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto Him, ‘Behold, Thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day.’ But He said unto them,
‘Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?
Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is One greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
For the Son of Man is Lord even of the sabbath day.’
”  Matthew 12:1-8  (KJB)

When Stones Would Cry Out

“And He answered and said unto them, ‘I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.’ ” Luke 19:40 (KJB)

Jesus had come into Jerusalem fulfilling Scripture riding on a donkey. This was a presentation of the humble King, not a conquering king, but a servant King (Zechariah 9:9). The people who had some wisdom, recognized the Scriptural significance, laid palm branches down as a coronation and worshiped Him, saying,

“Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.” v. 38

The response Jesus gives to the spiritually blind Pharisees is one that sounds quite odd, and we might think and say, “Well, that would be impossible”. We need to remember that nothing is impossible with God.

If people will not recognize the King of kings, then the rocks of God’s creation can and will.

Let me leave you today with thoughts from teachers from the more recent past:

From John Gill –

“And he answered and said unto them, I tell you,…. As a truth, which may be depended on, and you may be assured of; this he spake with great earnestness, fervour, and courage:
that if these should hold their peace; be silent, and not sing the praises of God, and ascribe glory to him, and profess the Messiah, and make this public acknowledgment of him:
the stones would immediately cry out; either against them, or in a declaration of the Messiah: by which expression our Lord means, that it was impossible it should be otherwise; it would be intolerable if it was not; and rather than it should not be, God, who is able out of stones to raise up children to Abraham, would make the stones speak, or turn stones into men, who should rise up and praise the Lord, and confess the Messiah; hereby commending his disciples, and tacitly reflecting upon the Pharisees, for their stupidity; and also giving a hint of the conversion of the Gentiles, who might be compared to stones, especially in the opinion of the Jews.” From John Gill’s EXPOSITION OF THE BIBLE

From John Wesley –

“If these should hold their peace, the stones, which lie before you, would cry out – That is, God would raise up some still more unlikely instruments to declare his praise. For the power of God will not return empty.” From John Wesley’s NOTES ON THE BIBLE

Have you cried out to the Lord for His mercy and grace in salvation? His presentation that day was as the Servant King to serve as a sacrifice for the sins of Adam’s race. He died, was buried, and He rose again.  Call on His name. He will hear. He will save.

The Kingdom of God

“And when He was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, ‘Lo here!’ or, ‘Lo there!’ for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.’ ” Luke 17:20-21 (KJB)

Please note who is asking this of Jesus. The Pharisees, a sect of religious leaders who did not even see the signs of the coming of the Messiah. The one’s who should have not missed the obvious.

They were more concerned with rituals, and religious observances, etc. than they were with the presence of God, or the kingdom of God.

To their question Jesus answers. His answer is probably not what the Pharisees wanted to hear. He is basically telling them, “It is here, near you, and you are missing it”. They missed all the Scriptural signs of Jesus’s birth. They are missing the signs they have actually heard and seen Him do.

The kingdom of God is not announced like a business advertisement. It is not brought in by demonstration and fanfare. God is present all around; within His people, and within creation. It is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.

If you refuse and reject Jesus Christ for who He is you miss the kingdom of God. He died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and He rose from that grave and forever lives within the hearts and lives of those who love Him, and is seated at the right hand of  the Father.

The Enemy Murmurs

And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.  Luke 15:2

Commentary from Matthew Henry…

The offence which the scribes and Pharisees took at this. They murmured, and turned it to the reproach of our Lord Jesus: This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them, Luk_15:2. 1. They were angry that publicans and heathens had the means of grace allowed them, were called to repent, and encouraged to hope for pardon upon repentance; for they looked upon their case as desperate, and thought that none but Jews had the privilege of repenting and being pardoned, though the prophets preached repentance to the nations, and Daniel particularly to Nebuchadnezzar. 2. They thought it a disparagement to Christ, and inconsistent with the dignity of his character, to make himself familiar with such sort of people, to admit them into his company and to eat with them. They could not, for shame, condemn him for preaching to them, though that was the thing they were most enraged at; and therefore they reproached him for eating with them, which was more expressly contrary to the tradition of the elders. Censure will fall, not only upon the most innocent and the most excellent persons, but upon the most innocent and most excellent actions, and we must not think it strange.

III. Christ’s justifying himself in it, by showing that the worse these people were, to whom he preached, the more glory would redound to God, and the more joy there would be in heaven, if by his preaching they were brought to repentance. It would be a more pleasing sight in heaven to see Gentiles brought to the worship of the true God than to see Jews go on in it, and to see publicans and sinners live an orderly sort of life than to see scribes and Pharisees go on in living such a life. This he here illustrates by two parables, the explication of both of which is the same.

The Old Fox

“The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, ‘Get Thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill Thee.  And He said unto them,

‘Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third I shall be perfected.’” Luke 13:31-32  (KJB)

It seems to me from the history which Jesus has had with these Pharisees, that they are only, themselves doing the real tempter’s work (that is the devil’s); trying to get Jesus out of Jerusalem before He was to die, and run from the work He came to do.

Jesus’s response was to respond without evil intent but to really assure His tempter’s help that He was aware of Herod’s  and of their feeble attempts.

Jesus was going to continue His work of healing and ministry right on up to the time of His death on the cross.  He would continue to heal, to cast out demons; and when He died on the third day He would be  perfected – He would rise from the grave in His glory.

That is the response every man and woman of God should do.  Let us continue being faithful to God’s will and glory until our  time of death, then He will raise us up with perfect bodies.

Come to  Jesus.  He died for you.  He carried away the guilt and condemnation of your sin in His burial. He arose from the grave conquering death and the grave, and He will raise you up alive too.

Leaven and Bread

“Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf.  And He charged them, saying, ‘Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and the leaven of Herod.’ And they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ And when Jesus knew it, He saith unto them, ‘Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? Perceive ye not yet, neither understand? Have ye your heart yet hardened?  Having eyes, see ye not?, and having ears, hear ye not?, and do ye not remember?
When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up?’
They say unto Him, ‘Twelve.’  ‘And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up?’ And they said, ‘Seven.’  And He said unto them, ‘How is it that ye do not understand?’” Mark 8:14-21  (KJB)

Leaven is an ingredient which causes bread to rise giving the appearance of being more than what it is.  It is puffed up.  It is often used in Scripture as representative of evil and its influence in people, and doctrines of religion and men.

The leaven of the Pharisees, Sadducees, the Herodians which the Sadducees were part of and was more political than religious.  The Pharisees were always twisting Scripture to fit their own understanding to keep the people in bondage to them, and their understanding of Scripture.  They put burdens on others that they would not do themselves.

I realize there is more to understand in the above verses than of leaven, but it was the words of Jesus ‘Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and the leaven of Herod.’ which aroused my attention this morning.

Using Scripture to control others as did the Pharisees, and they tried to control Jesus too but could not; is an evil beyond description.  The preacher, the messenger of the word of God is to proclaim the truth of the word of God [Scripture] with clarity, understanding, and love letting the word and the Holy Spirit convict, comfort, encourage, and draw the lost, condemned soul to God.

Having a “Must do” list in order to be saved is leaven to the Scripture.  Salvation, sanctification, and glorification is solely the work of God.  Let us leave it there.

The Plants Our Father Has Not Planted

“Then came His disciples, and said unto Him, ‘Knowest Thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?’  But He answered and said,
‘Every plant, which My heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.  Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.’” Matthew 15:12-14  (KJB)

From the Matthew Henry Commentary…

The rooting out of them and their traditions (Mat_15:13); Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Not only the corrupt opinions and superstitious practices of the Pharisees, but their sect, and way, and constitution, were plants not of God’s planting. The rules of their profession were no institutions of his, but owed their origin to pride and formality. The people of the Jews were planted a noble vine; but now that they are become the degenerate plant of a strange vine, God disowned them, as not of his planting. Note, (1.) In the visible church, it is no strange thing to find plants that our heavenly Father has not planted. It is implied, that whatever is good in the church is of God’s planting, Isa_41:19. But let the husbandman be ever so careful, his ground will cast forth weeds of itself, more or less, and there is an enemy busy sowing tares. What is corrupt, though of God’s permitting, is not of his planting; he sows nothing but good seed in his field. Let us not therefore be deceived, as if all must needs be right that we find in the church, and all those persons and things our Father’s plants that we find in our Father’s garden. Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits; see Jer_19:5; Jer_23:31, Jer_23:32. (2.) Those that are of the spirit of the Pharisees, proud, formal, and imposing, what figure soever they make, and of what denomination soever they be, God will not own them as of his planting. By their fruit you shall know them. (3.) Those plants that are not of God’s planting, shall not be of his protecting, but shall undoubtedly be rooted up. What is not of God shall not stand, Act_5:38. What things are unscriptural, will wither and die of themselves, or be justly exploded by the churches; however in the great day these tares that offend will be bundled for the fire. What is become of the Pharisees and their traditions? They are long since abandoned; but the gospel of truth is great, and will remain. It cannot be rooted up.

Follow the One who gave His life on the cross for our sins, was buried, and bodily arose and came out of that grave.  He forever lives making intercession for sin.

Division

“Therefore said some of the Pharisees, ‘This Man is not of God, because He keepeth not the sabbath day.’ Others said, ‘How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?’ And there was a division among them.”  John 9:16  (KJB)

This division started over Jesus giving sight to a blind man on the sabbath day.  Once again the Pharisees accuse Jesus of breaking the sabbath law.  Jesus has addressed this foolish accusation several times before, but these accusers refuse to listen.

When we do not hear what our Lord says, and choose to believe wrongly there will continue to be division and discord.  This is so in groups, churches, and the individual’s own personal life.

The answer to that?  Hear what Jesus says, believe Him and do it.

When the New Comes

“And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto Him, ‘Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Thy disciples fast not?’ And Jesus said unto them, ‘Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.’
” Mark 2:18-22  (KJB)

The religious leaders of Jerusalem, of Israel, had made traditions laws; and those traditions were in many cases loopholes around the law of Moses.  Of course the Pharisees held the law of Moses in high esteem, but then violated it; and that is what Jesus is confronting.

The question was asked about fasting. From the previous verses we see that it was the scribes and Pharisees who were asking Jesus this question.  They needed the confrontation.  O, if only they would have heard.

There are two New things which Jesus mentions; the first is a “New cloth”.  The old garment was the old religion of the Hebrews which had been tainted by their traditions which provided loopholes; which was mostly for those in the know about the loopholes which would have been the priests and the scribes and Pharisees.  Jesus confronted their sin.  You cannot sew a new piece of cloth onto a old piece of clothing with a good outcome.  When you wash the garment the new piece will shrink, and tear the old garment, because the old does not shrink.  Jesus brought in, brought us the new way of faith and life, fulfilling the law to the max.

The second New thing is “New wine”.  Old wine skins have reached their max with the fermentation process, so new wine skins would be needed for new wine.  The Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) is given to all who are born again in Christ Jesus and His finished work on Calvary. The New wine is a picture of that work of the Spirit of God making us new in Him.  He is not available for those who refuse to repent of their sins, and refuse to trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Like the New wine needs in a new wine skin, so too does the Spirit of God work in a new heart given to Christ.

Missing The Sign

“The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired Him that He would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.” Matthew 16:1-4

The Sign of all signs was standing in front of them. The Sign was the One whom they was challenging, confronting; and so rudely. These were men who should have known – the Pharisees and Sadducees; men of the Bible, the Law and the Prophets, and they could quote it. That only proves that being able to quote the Bible does not guarantee you a spot in heaven.

These were men who had seen Jesus do many mighty things.  He had made the lame to walk, opened the eyes of the blind, and raised a dead girl to life; just to name a few.  Yet they wanted a sign from heaven.

Would they have believed if He had given them one?  NO!  Jesus knew that.  They would not believe even though one would rise from the dead (Luke 16:31).

What about you?  What will it take to convince you that Jesus Himself is the Sign sent from God; that He is the gift of God for eternal life?  The sign is that He went to the cross to die for the sins of the world, made atonement for us; He was buried, and He arose from that grave, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father.

Do not Miss The Sign.

Blessings Under the Table

“And from thence He arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid. For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of Him, and came and fell at His feet: the woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought Him that He would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.
But Jesus said unto her, ‘Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.’ And she answered and said unto Him, ‘Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs.’ And He said unto her, ‘For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter.’
And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.” Mark 7:24-30  (KJB)

For the commentary today I turn to Alexander MacLaren’s Expositions of Holy Scripture…

“CHILDREN AND LITTLE DOGS
Our Lord desired to withdraw from the excited crowds who were flocking after Him as a mere miracle-worker and from the hostile espionage of emissaries of the Pharisees, ‘which had come from Jerusalem.’ Therefore He sought seclusion in heathen territory. He, too, knew the need of quiet, and felt the longing to plunge into privacy, to escape for a time from the pressure of admirers and of foes, and to go where no man knew Him. How near to us that brings Him! And how the remembrance of it helps to explain His demeanour to the Syrophcenician woman, so unlike His usual tone! Naturally the presence of Jesus leaked out, and perhaps the very effort to avoid notice attracted it. Rumour would have carried His name across the border, and the tidings of His being among them would stir hope in some hearts that felt the need of His help. Of such was this woman, whom Mark describes first, generally, as a ‘Greek’ (that is, a Gentile), and then particularly as ‘a Syrophcenician by race’; that is, one of that branch of the Phoenician race who inhabited maritime Syria, in contradistinction from the other branch inhabiting North-eastern Africa, Carthage, and its neighbourhood. Her deep need made her bold and persistent, as we learn in detail from Matthew, who is in this narrative more graphic than Mark. He tells us that she attacked Jesus in the way, and followed Him, pouring out her loud petitions, to the annoyance of the disciples. They thought that they were carrying out His wish for privacy in suggesting that it would be best to ‘send her away’ with her prayer granted, and so stop her ‘crying after us,’ which might raise a crowd, and defeat the wish. We owe to Matthew the further facts of the woman’s recognition of Jesus as ‘the Son of David,’ and of the strange ignoring of her cries, and of His answer to the disciples’ suggestion, in which He limited His mission to Israel, and so explained to them His silence to her. Mark omits all these points, and focuses all the light on the two things-Christ’s strange and apparently harsh refusal, and the woman’s answer, which won her cause.
Certainly our Lord’s words are startlingly unlike Him, and as startlingly like the Jewish pride of race and contempt for Gentiles. But that the woman did not take them so is clear; and that was not due only to her faith, but to something in Him which gave her faith a foothold. We are surely not to suppose that she drew from His words an inference which He did not perceive in them, and that He was, as some commentators put it, ‘caught in His own words.’ Mark alone gives us the first clause of Christ’s answer to the woman’s petition: ‘Let the children first be filled.’ And that ‘first’ distinctly says that their prerogative is priority, not monopoly. If there is a ‘first,’ there will follow a second. The very image of the great house in which the children sit at the table, and the ‘little dogs’ are in the room, implies that children and dogs are part of one household; and Jesus meant by it just what the woman found in it,-the assurance that the meal-time for the dogs would come when the children had done. That is but a picturesque way of stating the method of divine revelation through the medium of the chosen people, and the objections to Christ’s words come at last to be objections to the ‘committing’ of the ‘oracles of God’ to the Jewish race; that is to say, objections to the only possible way by which a historical revelation could be given. It must have personal mediums, a place and a sequence. It must prepare fit vehicles for itself and gradually grow in clearness and contents. And all this is just to say that revelation for the world must be first the possession of a race. The fire must have a hearth on which it can be kindled and burn, till it is sufficient to bear being carried thence.
Universalism was the goal of the necessary restriction. Pharisaism sought to make the restriction permanent. Jesus really threw open the gates to all in this very saying, which at first sounds so harsh. ‘First’ implies second, children and little dogs are all parts of the one household. Christ’s personal ministry was confined to Israel for obvious and weighty reasons. He felt, as Matthew tells us, that He said in this incident that He was not sent but to the lost sheep of that nation. But His world-wide mission was as clear to Him as its temporary limit, and in His first discourse in the synagogue at Nazareth He proclaimed it to a scowling crowd. We cannot doubt that His sympathetic heart yearned over this poor woman, and His seemingly rough speech was meant partly to honour the law which ruled His mission even in the act of making an exception to it, and partly to test, and so to increase, her faith.
Her swift laying of her finger on the vulnerable point in the apparent refusal of her prayer may have been due to a woman’s quick wit, but it was much more due to a mother’s misery and to a suppliant’s faith. There must have been something in Christ’s look, or in the cadence of His voice, which helped to soften the surface harshness of His words, and emboldened her to confront Him with the plain implications of His own words. What a constellation of graces sparkles in her ready reply! There is humility in accepting the place He gives her; insight in seeing at once a new plea in what might have sent her away despairing; persistence in pleading; confidence that He can grant her request and that He would gladly do so. Our Lord’s treatment of her was amply justified by its effects. His words were like the hard steel that strikes the flint and brings out a shower of sparks. Faith makes obstacles into helps, and stones of stumbling into ‘stepping-stones to higher things.’ If we will take the place which He gives us, and hold fast our trust in Him even when He seems silent to us, and will so far penetrate His designs as to find the hidden purpose of good in apparent repulses, the honey secreted deep in the flower, we shall share in this woman’s blessing in the measure in which we share in her faith.
Jesus obviously delighted in being at liberty to stretch His commission so as to include her in its scope. Joyful recognition of the ingenuity of her pleading, and of her faith’s bringing her within the circle of the ‘children,’ are apparent in His word, ‘For this saying go thy way.’ He ever looks for the disposition in us which will let Him, in accordance with His great purpose, pour on us His full-flowing tide of blessing, and nothing gladdens Him more than that, by humble acceptance of our assigned place, and persistent pleading, and trust that will not be shaken, we should make it possible for Him to see in us recipients of His mercy and healing grace.” EXPOSITIONS OF HOLY SCRIPTURE Alexander MacLaren

Not the End; The Fulfillment

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
  Matthew 5:17-20  (KJB)

Remember this you who make an end of the Law and the Prophets.  These are the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount

Jesus Speaks – Christmas Day One Hundred Eighty and Eight

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-20 (KJV)

It would appear that the fulfilling of the “Law and the prophets” is the ultimate fulfillment of Righteousness; according to the words of Jesus.  We see that Jesus is the fulfillment, because we have no Righteousness except through Him.

What do I want for Christmas?

I want the righteousness of Christ to reign in my life, so that others might see Him in me, be convicted of sin, turn from their sin to Christ, calling on His name for salvation.

There is no righteousness which exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, except that of Jesus.