Jesus: Prophet, Priest, & King (Revisited) – Matthew 20:29-21:22

In seeking to understand the work of Christ on earth, one of the most helpful concepts is that of “munus triplex,” or the ’threefold office of Christ,’ first described by Eusebius and more fully developed later by John Calvin.Munus triplex” summarizes how, during His life and ministry on earth, Jesus performed all three of those functions reserved in the Old Testament for separate parties – namely those of prophet, priest, and king. We see Jesus functioning in these three occupations from the very onset of His ministry in Matthew chapter 4, all the way until the end, described here in Matthew chapters 20 and 21.

Just as we saw this illustrated in Jesus’ ministry back in Matthew chapter 4, now, near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we once again find Him ministering among the people as prophet, priest, and king. First, in verses 29-34 of chapter 20, Jesus acts as the merciful priest as he heals two blind men. This will be the last public healing that Matthew reports in His gospel.  In the beginning of chapter 21, Matthew reports the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem on a donkey, highlighting His kingly ministry on earth which ordered the adoration of His people. Thirdly, in verses 12-22 of the same chapter, Jesus exercises his authority as a mighty prophet, cleansing the temple by overturning the tables of the corrupt money changers and cursing an unfruitful fig tree.

As Jesus did not refuse to heal anyone who asked Him, no less does he turn away even the vilest of sinners; so today, as sinners bruised and broken by the fall, we have Jesus’ blood to heal us and make us whole. Even now, He is our faithful high priest, whose blood pleads before the throne, making intercession for us.  As Jesus entered Jerusalem as a humble king, receiving the praises of His people, so today we as His people gather to worship Him as our great king. And just as Jesus acted as a prophet 2000 years ago in the temple courts, even today, His words continue to purify and speak authoritatively into our lives.

Jesus Christ is the only person who ever walked the earth and functioned in all three capacities of prophet, priest, and king; He could do so, because He was God incarnate. And He continues to minister to the church in these very same capacities to this very day as our mighty prophet, high priest, and great king.

Advertisements

The Book of the Covenant – Exodus 21:1-11

In Exodus so far, we’ve seen Israel in bondage under Egypt. We’ve seen Moses raised up by the Lord to be His mediator between Himself and the people. The Lord rescued Israel from their bondage and brought them to Mt. Sinai, where He spoke with them audibly and gave His Law to the nation as a whole in preparation for moving into the promised land. In our text this Sunday the Lord expands His Law to their everyday lives. In this section, and on to Exodus 23:33, the Lord explains how the Ten Commandments are to be applied in a case-by-case manner. Some refer to this section as “case laws.” In the first, the Lord addresses how Israelites are to treat their slaves or servants.

Today when we hear the word slave we immediately think of the early days of the USA. Slavery was wicked and cruel in our history as a nation. But that’s not how the word is used in our text. Israel has just come out of bondage, being slaves in the cruelest sense, but this is not what the Lord is speaking of here at all. During this time in Israel’s history and as they enter the land, some Israelites didn’t have enough to survive on their own. Others may have been in debt and in need of money to pay the debt off. And so, Israelites under monetary burdens like these would sell their services to another. They would live with the one who helped them and serve him until their service was paid off. In our text, the Lord sets standards on how to treat those that sell their services to another.

Today this may be equivalent to a live-in servant who serves for room and board plus a small payment. Or it may possibly be similar to one who joins the military for a four-year enlistment. The Army agrees to house, train, and care for you with pay. For all intents and purposes, for those years you belong to the Army until your contract is finished!

The Lord tells Israel they are to treat their fellow Israelites with kindness. Also, they are to be set free after six years of service.

The Lord has treated Israel well and they are to treat their neighbors well, as we’ll see in our text. Jesus summed up the commandments in Mark 12:30-31: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.

The LORD Stirs – Ezra 1

“ . . the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia . . .”; “. . . everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord . . .” (Ezra 1:1c; 1:5b)

Next Sunday we begin a new sermon series entitled “Return and Remember: Ezra-Nehemiah.” We will journey through the books of Ezra and Nehemiah together, considering them as one whole unit. While we will consider many truths about God, his people, history, and applications to life, one theme that will glow throughout the series is God’s unstoppable, covenant-keeping nature.

The Book of Ezra records the return of the Jewish people to Judah after about fifty years of Babylonian captivity. They were granted permission to return and rebuild their temple and their culture after King Cyrus and the Persians took over the Babylonian Empire. This grant came in the form a a decree given by Cyrus, but scripture also reveals that this was truly a decree from God, based on his promises: “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing.” (Ezra 1:1)

The unstoppable nature of God is evident in this first verse. Cyrus was anointed by God according to the prophet Isaiah and was given his authority and rule by God alone, at a time appointed by God alone. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied that God’s people would return to the land (Jer 29:10) after their Babylonian captivity. In our text, God’s chosen ruler (Cyrus) frees God’s chosen people (the Jews) based on promises made by God’s chosen prophets (Isaiah and Jeremiah) for the precise moment in history of which we read. God is in control of rulers, history, and prophecy. He is truly unstoppable!

Yes, we confess on paper that “God is in control.” But do we believe this? We are so often bogged down with our society downgrade, our political climate, our tense work atmosphere, our familial issues, or other personal problems. But the same God who used a pagan king to accomplish his purposes decreed from eternity past is the God we serve here and now! As the scripture says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” (Prov 21:1). Believer, take heart – nothing can stop the purposes of God! May the God who stirred up Cyrus stir our hearts to burn more deeply about God’s generous sovereignty.

The Church’s Call to Serve – Matthew 20:1-28

Whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:27-28

In Matthew chapter 19, after encountering a rich young man, Jesus proceeded to teach his disciples about the danger of pursuing riches and the blessing of surrendering all to follow Him. He concluded this teaching in verse 30 by saying, “but many who are first will be last, and the last first.” This statement summarizes the teaching that those who pursue financial gain may be counted first in this world, but they are last in the kingdom of God; while those who, like the disciples, surrender their lives for the name of Christ, are counted first.

There is a close connection between the stories of chapter 20 and those of chapter 19. This is clear as Jesus repeats the same phrase in verse 16: “the last will be first, and the first last.” Chapter 20 also begins with the Greek conjunction gar, which emphasizes the continuity. Just how the parable of the hired workers in the vineyard (chapter 20) is related to the teaching on riches (chapter 19) is not immediately clear, but what is clear is that Matthew uses this illustration as a segue to the events he reports later in verses 20-28, where he teaches about the value of being a servant.

 “The last will be first, and the first last,” is a summary of the counter-cultural way the entire Gospel of Matthew calls the Christian disciple to live. In this present order, those who are first are the rich and famous; as Jesus puts it in verse 25, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.” In our society, “the first” are served; “the last” are the servants. But Jesus calls us to a different life, saying in verse 26, “It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” Jesus demonstrated this as He who is “the king of the universe” turned the world on its head, by coming “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Christ’s servant’s nature is most demonstrable on the cross where He gave His life to save others. In preparation for Sunday read and pray through Philippians 2:3-11.

The Necessity of Holiness – Isaiah 6:1-8

Any of us who have been in the faith for some time know that we are called to a life of holiness.  However, living at a time when the culture is becoming increasingly ungodly, and while the church continues to lower the standard of holiness in order to accommodate the culture, we tend to lose sight of God’s standards of holiness.  It is helpful from time to time to reflect on God’s holiness so we can refocus our goal.

We read in 1 John 1:3-5 that God is Light (absolutely holy), and if we are to have fellowship with him, we too must walk in the light.  There were many who claimed to know God in John’s day, as in our day, but were walking in darkness.

So in our study on the necessity of holiness in a believer’s life, we need to start where John starts, and that is by establishing the standard of holiness that God calls us to in 1 Peter 1:15.

RC Sproul in his classic book on The Holiness of God describes God’s holiness in this way:

“When the Bible calls God holy it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate. He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be ‘other,’ to be different in a special way…. when the word holy is applied to God, it does not signify one single attribute. On the contrary, God is called holy in a general sense. The word is used as a synonym for his deity. That is, the word holy calls attention to all that God is. It reminds us that His love is holy love, his justice is holy justice, his mercy is holy mercy, his knowledge is holy knowledge, his spirit is holy spirit.”

As Hannah said in 1 Samuel 2:2, “No one is holy like the Lord, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.”

There is nothing that will abase man more than beholding the holiness of God . It is only when we see ourselves in light of God’s holiness, as did Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5), that we will truly see our need for Christ’s perfect righteousness; and with that sense of humility and gratitude for the cleansing mercy of Christ’s blood, we go forward to preach and live out the glorious gospel (Isaiah 6:6-8).

 

The Church’s Call to Give All – Matthew 19:16-30

We concluded last time in Matthew 19 verses 13-15, with Jesus receiving the little children unto himself, surprisingly announcing in verse 14, “to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” In stark contrast to the poor and weak nature of these children, Jesus was approached next by a rich young ruler who seemed to be living quite a good moral life. Perhaps more surprising than the nearness of the children to the kingdom of heaven, is the shocking discovery that this moral nobleman would find himself outside of the kingdom of heaven.

What is it about this rich ruler that is separating him from eternal life? After all, in his own estimation, he has kept the commandments well for his whole life. As a rich man, he probably gave a lot of money to charities and religious causes. He is even kneeling before the good Rabbi Jesus, in order to pursue what he must do to gain eternal life. If this man were to enter our church today, we would most assuredly embrace him, perhaps lead him in a prayer, pat him on the back, and assure him that he was on the right track to gain eternal life. But we learn in the text that both this man, and Jesus, knew that there was something he lacked.

What was it that he lacked? First, he had a poor understanding of his own sinful nature, particularly when contrasted to the One God, who alone is good. Many today fail to understand that goodness lies outside of themselves, and any goodness within is only the result of God’s gift. Second, his approach to gain eternal life was wrong; he saw it as something he could get by doing. Many evangelicals hold this view, thinking about eternal life as something that they attain by doing something themselves, for example, by praying a sinner’s prayer. Thirdly the young man asked about “eternal life,” whereas Jesus referred simply to “life,” demonstrating that following Jesus is not merely about the future, but is living life now. Again many fail to realize this, making the Christian faith all about a future heaven and nothing about life on earth today. This man was hoping to work his way into heaven by doing something, but what was needed was for him to become child-like and abandon all to follow Jesus. The sad conclusion is: When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions (Mt. 19:22).

The Implications of the Resurrection – (Acts 2:22-26)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and the subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the most significant event in the history of the human race. Its implications were not only felt in the first century, but continue to be felt today, as the resurrected Christ continues to spread His reign and rule in the hearts of men everywhere.

Let us look at some of those implications.  First of all for the apostles: prior to seeing the risen Lord, they were all huddled in an upper room with the doors locked for fear of the Jews. After the resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, they are in the middle of Jerusalem proclaiming that Jesus is the promised Messiah and that He rose from the dead and everyone who believes on Him will be saved.  Peter, who once denied his Lord for fear of being arrested, is now fearlessly and boldly proclaiming to the world that Jesus is the Christ. All of the apostles, except for John, went on to seal their testimony with their blood.

Skeptics have tried to come up with theories regarding the empty tomb and resurrection appearances of Christ, but none of these theories even comes close to explaining the transformed lives of the apostles and hundreds of millions of people since then, who bear testimony to the work of the risen Christ in their lives. In fact the scripture tells us that there will be “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” standing before the throne and worshiping God and the Lamb.

Secondly we’ll look at the implications of the resurrection to the world.  The resurrection validates all of Christ’s claims to be the Son of God and Savior of the world.  It testifies to the world that the Word of God is true.  As Paul states in citing an early Christian creed (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), everything about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was done in accordance with scripture.

Finally, the implications of the resurrection to us believers: We have the joy of knowing that God has accepted Christ’s payment on the cross for our sins; we have access to the throne of God through our advocate; we no longer fear death, because to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord; and we can live victorious Christian lives through the power of the risen Christ. Amen!