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Current study: Spiritual Warfare

18 October 2012

Week 42 Review - Wednesday and Thursday October 17 and 18

     Matthew 15-16
     Mark 7:1-9:1
     Luke 9:18-27

For the last two days, Jesus has focused on legalism and a right heart. Of course we’ve seen healings, too, but it’s now that the Pharisees and Sadducees really begin to campaign against Jesus.

The Pharisees were among the most knowledgeable men of their day. It was a calling: the men had to agree to study and apply all the regulations regarding Jewish worship. These were the men who decided what “work” meant when it applied to the Sabbath. The rules could become very detailed. There was even one rule that gave the maximum weight for a dining implement before it was deemed “work” to pick it up.

These guys knew the Scripture. They lived the regulations, but they didn’t have a heart relationship with God. They considered their extrabiblical laws as higher than (or at least on par with) scripture. So when Jesus’ disciples sat to eat and didn’t do the ritualistic hand-washing, the Pharisees pounced and accused Jesus of being a tradition breaker.

How their words must have torn at His heart! They were dining with the One that the Scriptures had prophesied, yet they were worried about whether or not the water ran from the fingertips to the hand! (Only priests were required to wash ritually before eating, and then only before they ate holy offerings – Leviticus 22:6-7). Jesus was far more harsh with this “inner circle” of rulemakers than He was with others, calling them hypocrites. He reminded them that their “laws” broke God’s commandments of honoring father and mother. Some Pharisees, not caring much for their parents and not wanting to support them as they were required, declared all their possessions “dedicated to God”, which supposedly relieved them of responsibility. Jesus told them that this was exactly what Isaiah had foretold:

So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. 7  You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8  “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” Matt 15:6-9 (ESV)

How that must have stung! Publicly berated by this young man, their hearts were further hardened and they plotted more and more against our Savior.

The Pharisees and Sadducees, usually at odds with one another, banded together to attack Jesus and demand a sing from heaven. They didn’t want to count Jesus’ miracles as proof of his Messiahship. Jesus wasn’t buying into it. He had “proven” to those who were willing to see, but the rulers didn’t want to see what was right in front of them. The only sign He would give them was the sign of Jonah. Like Jonah, Jesus would be in the ground for three days.

We’ve seen people confess that Jesus is the Messiah, and we’ve seen Jesus tell demons to not confess His lordship. But now we see Jesus with His disciples, asking who the people thought He was. They told Him that some thought He was John the Baptist, or Elijah, or one of the prophets. Jesus asked them directly – who do you think I am? Peter, whose eyes were opened by God, said:

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matt 16:16 (ESV)

Jesus was pleased with Peter’s insight and replied:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matt 16:18 (ESV)

Some denominations use this text to say that Peter is the head of the church. Peter himself later defined this moment.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5  you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and
“A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
1 Peter 2:4-8 (ESV)

Jesus was the living stone rejected by men. We are the stones that build up the church; a holy priesthood. Jesus is the cornerstone of the church. If the church were to be headed by a man (any man), why would Jesus have had to lay down His life?

Jesus told His disciples plainly that He was going to be killed soon. Peter, who had just told Jesus that He was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, didn’t want to hear Jesus would die. “NO!”, Peter said. Jesus knew that Peter was looking at the situation from a human and not a heavenly perspective and said, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” Ouch. That was a very sharp rebuke. We know that Jesus HAD to die as part of God’s sovereign plan.

This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. Acts 2:23 (ESV)

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Isaiah 53:10 (ESV)

When Jesus came to earth, He knew that the point was to die as atonement for sin.

Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. John 12:27 (ESV)

Jesus was on a mission. Peter’s statement conflicted with that mission. Anything that conflicts with God’s mission is of Satan.

Although the Disciples knew Who Jesus was, they weren’t supposed to say anything! If they had done so at this point, it would have furthered the thought that Jesus had come to be a political and military deliverer. People already wanted to make Jesus king by force (John 6:15). Jesus didn’t come to be a political ruler, and He needed the disciples to remain quiet for a short time so that God’s plan could be accomplished.

Finally – the story of the Cannanite (Gentile) woman who came to Jesus for healing of her daughter.

Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone. Mark 7:26-30 (ESV)

I love this story! The word that Jesus used for “dogs” was the word for family pet. Jesus was saying that His mission was primarily about the children’s bread (God’s blessings to the Jews). She told Him that she was aware of that, but that even the crumbs could feed the dogs (the Gentiles who have a place in God’s house, but not the prominent place). Jesus healed her daughter because she believed that Jesus was on earth not only for the Jews, but for her as well!

Throughout these stories we see a reoccurring theme of faith. The Pharisees had faith in their traditions and manmade laws. Simon Peter had faith that Jesus was the Christ. The people had faith that Jesus had come as a military and political ruler. The Gentile woman had faith that Jesus could remove her daughter’s unclean spirits. Some faith was properly placed; some improperly. Jesus answered them all – at the place of their faith – sometimes with tenderness and compassion and sometimes with harshness.

Jesus came to die first for Israel, God’s chosen race. But Jesus came to die for each of us as well.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16 (KJV)

Have you accepted the free gift of salvation? Or, like the Pharisees, are you relying on ritual, manmade laws, and being a “good person” to get into heaven? If you haven’t asked Jesus into your heart, do it today! Assure your place in heaven. Don’t be the chaff that Jesus separates on the day of judgment. Don’t be the one to whom Jesus says, “I never knew you.”

All you need to do to become a Christian is to tell Jesus that you know you’re a sinner; that you make mistakes all the time and go against God’s will. Tell Him you’re sorry, that you want Him to help you be a more godly person, and that you are going to repent (turn away from) your sins. Ask Him to become the Lord of your life and to help you to live like He wants. Thank Him for dying on the cross for your sins.

There’s no magic set of words. A preacher can’t make you “more saved”. This is between you and God. Say it the way you feel it. Jesus will understand and if you are truly repentant, He will forgive you.

If you have asked Jesus into your life, please let me know! I would be thrilled to know that you are part of the family.

See you Saturday with the final installment of this week’s readings. May the Lord bless your efforts to complete the Read Through The Bible Challenge.

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