Whose Son Is He?

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
October 26, 2014, Pentecost XX – Reformation Sunday

Deuteronomy 34:1-12, Psalm 1, 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8, Matthew 22:34-46

From the book of Deuteronomy:
And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt.

From St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians:
For you yourselves know, brethren, that our visit to you was not in vain; but though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the face of great opposition.

And from the Gospel of St. Matthew:
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation!

What would you say was the most significant question ever asked in the history of the world? I will give you a hint: it had to do with the events that occurred in the Jewish temple, just a few days before our Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross for us.

While teaching in the temple, He was confronted by the Pharisees and Sadducees and scribes – the religious leaders of the people. They pressed Him with questions that were designed to trap Him and discredit Him before the people. But Jesus answered each question with great wisdom; and He exposed the hard-hearted unbelief of His opponents in the process. In the end, all they succeeded in doing was discrediting themselves.

So, after Jesus answered all of their questions – it’s then that we find our Lord asking them a question. But before we get to that, let me suggest to you that the greatest question you could ask would have to be one that deals with the greatest theme ever proposed. And there is no greater theme in the universe, than the one we find in the Gospel of John.
John 1:1-5 says,
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

And this affirmation continues at verse 14, where is says,
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The Gospel of John presents Jesus Christ to us as this divine Person; and the greatest proposition ever made is this; that the second Person of the divine Godhead, who is the Son of the Father, has become “flesh” and walked among men; that He has revealed Himself to men as “full of grace and truth,” and has so communed with men as to enable them to report to the world that they behold His glory “as of the only begotten of the Father.”

What a great thing to propose to the world! – that the Son of God, in a point of time, has become a man like us; that He has lived in the midst of sinful humanity; and that He has revealed the grace of His Father toward those who believe on Him! Can there be a greater thing to consider than that? If it is a proposition that is true, then great hope has been introduced into this dark and fallen world! If it is true, then people such as you and me – broken and wounded as we are by sin – can be forgiven, washed clean, and restored to a relationship with the One who made us for Himself! If it is true, then there really isn’t anything else that matters by comparison!

And if that great theme is true, then the greatest question that can possibly be asked – the one question that most reveals what is in the human heart, and that most determines one’s eternal destiny – would have to be this: “What do you think about Jesus Christ?”

Jesus had already asked His disciples a similar question earlier, “who do you say that I am?” and Peter answered Him, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). And now, as we come to our passage this morning, we find that Jesus asks this ‘great question’ again, only this time to His opponents.

Jesus asks the question of the religious leaders: “What do you think of the Christ? Whose Son is He?”

Now to understand this question, you have to put yourself, as it were, in the ‘sandals’ or shoes of the ones who heard it. We have the advantage; we know that Jesus is the Christ. But when Jesus asks the religious leaders about “the Christ,” they understood Him to be asking about the great expectation of the Messiah, promised in the Old Testament Scriptures. They would have answered: “The Son of David.”

Did you notice that Jesus didn’t debate that answer? It was the right answer (as far as it goes); because, in terms of His earthly lineage, that’s what Jesus was: the biological offspring of King David.

But then, Jesus goes on to show that that answer alone was only half-correct. A half-correct answer to the most important question of all is not an answer that will lead to salvation.

Jesus follows up with another question: “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I put thy enemies under thy feet.” This is a quote from the first verse of Psalm 110 – a psalm that all Jewish leaders would have recognized as referring to the Messiah. This psalm was written by King David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In it, David looks ahead and expresses worship toward God for the promise of the Messiah that would one day be born from him.

If King David is speaking of his promised Offspring, how can he also refer to him as Lord? Jesus was presenting His opponents with a puzzle. But it wasn’t intended to trap them and confuse them – as they had been trying to do to Him. He was trying to help them to realize that He was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament Scriptures.

You see, these religious leaders expected a strictly human Messiah. They expected someone to arise from the lineage of King David; and to, like David, be a mighty, conquering king in their own day. They expected a conquering Messiah – but a Messiah that was only a mere man.

But Jesus, though fully human, had been presenting Himself to the people as more than a mere man. He had healed the sick, the lame and the blind. He had cleansed the lepers, and had cast out demons. He had demonstrated that He had authority to command the wind and the sea waves. He had raised people from the dead. He had fed the multitudes with a few loaves of bread and a few fish. He had taught and spoken to the people as no man had ever taught and spoken before. He had proved to them – over the three and a half years of His earthly ministry that He was more than mere man alone.

The words of King David, requires that the Messiah be understood as a divine Person. Here, we see God speaking to another Person in a way that He spoke to no mere man: “Sit at My right hand…” To sit at the right hand of a mighty ruler was to sit in the position of greatest possible honor and exaltation, and to share in that king’s glory. God would never speak in this way to a mere created being. But before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed, “And now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made” (John 17:5).

And finally, these words also require that the Messiah be recognized as God’s appointed judge. In them, God says to David’s Son, “Sit at My right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.”
And again, didn’t Jesus once say of Himself, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him; then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:31-32).

If we were to take David’s words and the miracles that Jesus performed, there should be only one conclusion. The only way that David could speak to his own human offspring and call Him “Lord” would be if his offspring was more than a mere man. He would have to be both human and divine. He would have to be the God-Man; the Son of God, sent to this earth to be born into the human family to be our Savior.

In just a few short days after this encounter, Jesus would be proven to be the Messiah. He would be proven to be, as Paul the apostle said in the very first few words of the Book of Romans, “born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:3-4).

Matthew writes that, after Jesus finished asking His question, “no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare to question Him anymore” (v. 46). They found that they could not answer Him. All that they could do was put Him to death.

And they did. And then, He rose from the dead.

The great question that the Lord Jesus asked of those unbelieving religious rulers back then is still the greatest question of all today: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” It’s a question that puts each of us on the crossroads of a decision. What will we do with Him? What conclusion will we come to about Him? And the only conclusion that the testimony of the Scriptures allows us to come to is that He is both fully God and fully man; with both natures together – unmixed and unmingled – in one Person.

And what should we do with this? Let me suggest that, in proper response, we should first worship and adore Him. What a wonder He is! He is the eternal Son of God; the second Person of the triune Godhead; the very King of Heaven! And yet, in loving obedience to the Father, and in mercy to us in our sins, He set His heavenly glory aside for a season, was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and was born into the human family. He didn’t at any time cease to be the holy Son of God; but rather humbled Himself, forever took the nature of true humanity to Himself, tasted death in our place on the cursed cross, and rose from the dead in power and glory. He did this for us! How we should love Him in return!

Another proper way to respond would be to believe on Him. The testimony that Jesus has both a fully human nature and a fully divine nature in His one, single person is not a trivial detail of faith. You and I cannot be saved unless that is true, and unless we put our faith in it! You see, we are sinners – fallen because of the sin of Adam, and guilty because of our own personal sins.
And unless the Son of God had truly taken full humanity to Himself, He could not rescue us from our sins. And if it were a mere man that had volunteered to take our sins upon himself and die in our place on a cursed cross, being only a man, he couldn’t do us any good. As a member of the human race – cursed by the sin of Adam as much as the rest of us – he’d have his own sins to pay for. The only way that we can be saved is by the righteous, sinless Son of God taking full humanity to His Person and dying as a sinless substitute in our place. He who knew no sin must become ‘sin’ for us as one of us; or else we cannot become ‘righteous’ before God by faith in Him. But Praise God; He has! And the only right response on our part is to believe on Him as both fully human and fully divine; and trust that His righteous sacrifice on the cross is the payment for our sins.

One more thing; we should respond by having hope in Him. Because the Son of God took full humanity to His own Person forever, and because He partook of death for sins in our place as one of us, and because He rose from the dead in glory as the great Conqueror over death on our behalf, then we can be assured that we will rise in glory with Him. The Son of God didn’t become one of us and die for us, only then to leave us in the condition that He found us. Rather, He condescended to come down to where we are, in order to raise us up to where He is – so that where He now is, we who trust in Him will one day be also! The promise of the Bible is that, if we have been united to the likeness of His death, we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.

The testimony of the Bible is that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God who – without ever ceasing to be God – took full humanity to Himself, became one of us, and died on the cross in our place. Have you placed your trust in Him as “the Christ, the Son of the living God?” Have you responded to Him accordingly? Do you express your love and worship for Him? Do you declare Him to be the One you trust in for salvation before God? Do you affirm Him to be your hope for future glory?

What do you say about Christ? Whose Son is He?

Let us pray:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives, and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
Amen. †

God’s Image – God’s Treasure

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
October 19, 2014, Pentecost XIX

Exodus 33:12-23, Psalm 99:1-5, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, Matthew 22:15-22

From the book of Exodus:
And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”

From St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians:
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit; so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

And from the Gospel of St. Matthew:
“Tell us then, is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the money for the tax.” And they brought him a coin. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

Before the Civil War, about 15% of the US money in circulation was fake. At that time there were approximately 10,000 different currencies. One expert said, “People had a hard enough time remembering what the different currencies were supposed to look like, let alone recognizing counterfeits.”

Today only a tiny fraction of our currency is counterfeit, but our Government is constantly trying to stop criminals from passing off phony money. For example, a few years ago the US Treasury department redesigned the $5 bill because counterfeiters loved the $5 bill. They could bleach it and then reprint it as a $100 bill because it shared the same security marks as $100 bills.

So, how did the Treasury change their design of the $5 bill? They changed the IMAGES on the bills. Things like watermarks, micro-printing and changing Lincoln’s image on the front to be larger. It’s those IMAGES on our bills that guarantee that your money is legitimate.

Now let’s look at our Gospel reading this morning. Jesus has been preaching, teaching and healing for about 3 years now. Large crowds have gathered to listen to Him and there was beginning to be talk about making Him the new king of Israel. Look at His qualifications:
1) He could inspire huge crowds with His words.
2) He could feed thousands with very little food.
3) He could heal the sick, the lame and the insane.
4) He even had the power to raise people from the dead.

If Jesus was their King, there’d be no power on earth that could stand against Israel. Not even the hated Romans could hold them back. Israel would once again be a great nation!

There’s one small problem. Judea already has a king by the name of Herod. He’s the one who beheaded John the Baptist. Herod’s followers were called Herodians, and they were quite happy with their king; they were not interested in Jesus or anyone else taking his place.

The Pharisees and the Herodians were enemies; but their common foe, Jesus, brought them together. The Pharisees opposed the Roman poll tax for several reasons: 1) They did not want to submit to a Gentile power; 2) Caesar was revered as a god; and 3) they had better uses for the money than to give it to Rome. Since Herodians were the party supporting Herod, they were in favor of the tax. After all, Herod’s authority was given to him by Caesar; and Herod would have had a difficult time staying in power without Rome’s support.

Palestine was an occupied nation, and the Jews had no special love for their conquerors.
Every tax the poor people had to pay was another reminder that they were not free. The Zealots, an “underground” organization of Jews, often staged protests against Rome. They would oppose any Roman tax.

Think of our American revolution. In the beginning, the colonies were proud to be British. There were small instances of Parliament’s control that bothered the colonists, the Currency Acts of 1751 and 1764. But when the French and Indian War took place (1754-1763), King George III lost a great deal of money due to buying expensive supplies for his army and the colonies. In order to pay off his debt, he imposed taxes on the colonies without their consent.

It is easy to see why the Pharisees and Herodians chose the poll tax as the bait for their trap. It appeared that no matter which side Jesus took, He would create problems for Himself and His ministry. If He opposed the tax, He would be in trouble with Rome. If He approved the tax, He would be in trouble with the Jews.
Jesus immediately saw through their scheme. He knew that their real purpose was not to get an answer to a question, but to try to trap Him. They were only acting a part, and this made them hypocrites. On this basis alone, He could have refused to answer them. But He knew the people around Him would not understand. Here was an opportunity for Him to silence His enemies and, at the same time, teach the people an important spiritual truth.

Each ruler minted his own coins and put his own image on them. The “penny” (denarius) had Caesar’s image on it, so it belonged to Caesar. “Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,” was His reply. “And give back to God what belongs to God.” In this simple, but profound reply, Jesus taught several important truths.

The image on our money declares WHO those bills belong to. Look at any bill you have and you’ll see these words: “Federal Reserve Note. The United States of America” Those words on those bills declare WHO those bills belong to.

So, then, what do I give to God? Where do I find God’s image? Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.’” We were made in God’s image and likeness. You and I need to give what belongs to Him – back to Him. I need to give ME to God.

Now how do I do that? How do I give myself to God?

First, I need to BELONG to Him, which means I need to believe in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:13 tells us, “Having believed (in Jesus), you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” He puts His image inside us that says we belong to Him.

So, when our faith in Jesus leads us to belong to Him, God expects us to repent and be baptized. Some people think that this faith/repentance/baptism thing is like car insurance.
They make their monthly payments and they think they will be protected against an accident.

Let’s say you go to an insurance agent to buy some car insurance or homeowners insurance. You sign some papers, pay a deposit and set up an automatic withdrawal from your checking account to pay the bill. You might go back to your insurance agent maybe twice a year on Christmas and Easter (oh, that’s church). Actually, you may never need to back to your agent and they know that.

There are people who treat salvation in Jesus that way. They sign up (join a church), pay their bills (pledge) and then show up only once in a while, if that. But Jesus said: Give to God that which belongs to Him. So, do you really belong to Him, or are you only “pretending” to be His?

A hypocrite is someone who “pretends” to be something they’re not. They’re counterfeiters. A hypocrite tries to look like the real thing, but they had no intention of actually BEING the real thing.

There is an expression: “you can tell what a person’s priorities are by looking at their checkbook.” Jesus said: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21)

Some people say they have a personal relationship with God. Jesus says your relationship with God is not just “personal”…it’s “purse and all.”

Here’s an illustration: Not everyone plans ahead when they come to church. We come to the part in the worship service when the offering plate is being passed. So, you take out your wallet and discover you have two $20s and a $5 bill. Now you’re faced with a split second decision: “Do I give the $5, one of the$20, the $20 and the $5, both $20s…or ALL of it. Gee, I wanted to go out to dinner after church. And so you do the math and you give God $5.

Do you know what you’ve done? You’ve given God your leftovers because your heart isn’t focused on God…it’s focused on your treasure. Proverbs 3:5-10 tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight…Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”

So everyone take out your wallet, or at least imagine in your mind. When you made Jesus the Lord of your life, you died to your old life and now you live for Jesus Christ. Everything belongs to Him. So, look in your wallet. Do you see money in there? If you’re a Christian, whose money is it? That’s right, it belongs to God. Isn’t it appropriate, that our money has the words printed on it: “In God We Trust.” In a few short moments, you will be putting a portion of your money in the offering plate; a portion of your money to God… but it is ALL His. Every bill, every coin; It’s all God’s. Whatever you spend your money on, you’re spending God’s money. Everything about us, belongs to Him.

There was a man by the name of Emil Mettler. He owned a restaurant in London and was a close friend of Albert Schweitzer. Mettler was known for the fact that he would never allow a Christian worker to pay for a meal. One day he was opening his cash register in the presence of the Secretary of the London Missionary Society. As Mettler was making change for another customer, the Secretary happened to notice a six-inch nail among the bills and coins. “What is this nail for?” he asked. Mettler explained, “I keep this nail with my money to remind me of the price that Christ paid for my salvation and of what I owe Him in return.”

We were created in the image of God. We are His special treasure. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not parish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). May we so live our lives that we reflect the image of God through His Son, Jesus Christ; that our witness brings others to Him; that through faith, repentance and baptism we may claim heaven’s guaranteed reward.

Let us pray:

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations; Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives, and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
Amen. †

They Rejected the Holy Spirit

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
October 12, 2014, Pentecost XVIII

Exodus 32:1-14, Psalm 106:1-6 Philippians 4:1-9, Matthew 22:1-14

From the book of Exodus:
And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down; for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves; they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them; they have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt!’”

From The Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians:
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.

And from the Gospel of St. Matthew:
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast; but they would not come.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

I’d like you to think for a moment about the most special invitation you ever received. Has anyone been invited to a reception at the White House? I am sure all of us have been invited to a wedding or to a wedding anniversary party.

So how did you feel when you received that invitation? Did you feel honored, proud, or maybe a little bit nervous? Or did you simply say, “I really don’t want to go that party, so I’ll make up some excuse.” Of course not. You wrote down the date in your appointment book; made an appointment with the hairdresser or barber, and most importantly, you responded that you were coming. From that point on, you spent the next few months looking forward to that event, planning, preparing, and even dreaming of what the event was going to be like.
I want you to think about this whole theme of invitation as we come to our reading from Matthew’s gospel this morning. It is the story of a king who, as we read in verse 1, has prepared a wedding banquet for his son. Who is this king? On one level the king is the sort of political leader the crowds hearing this story would have been very familiar with – petty tyrants who get upset and are quite happy to burn down cities when their will is refused. That was what politicians were like in those days.

But on another level the king in the story stands for none other than God Himself. We know this because on many occasions Jesus talked about life in God’s kingdom as a feast, a banquet, a party. Indeed Jesus Himself often spent time in people’s home sharing food and drink, talking and laughing and telling those stories that would later be written down as great pearls of wisdom called parables.

This parable in our Gospel reading must not be confused with the Parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:16-24) even though they have elements in common. Again we meet the Father and the Son is alive and has a bride. The suggestion is that the Lord Jesus and His church are depicted (Eph. 5:22-33). The period described in this parable must be after His resurrection and ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Throughout the Old Testament, we read countless stories of the Jews and their relationship with God; a relationship that wasn’t always smooth. We look at the time of Moses and his delight in God on the mountaintop, which was interrupted by deep disappointment with his people. It was one of the most heartbreaking experiences in his entire career, and yet it brought out the best in him, which is what always happens when we love God and live by faith.

At least three times during the months at Sinai, the Jewish people had promised to obey whatever God told them to do. The Lord knew that it wasn’t in their hearts to keep their promises (Deut. 5:28-29), and the tragedy of the golden calf proved Him right.

Moses called what they did “a great sin” and his assessment was accurate. It was a great sin because of who committed it: the nation of Israel, the chosen people of God; His special treasure. They had promised to obey God’s law, but in making a golden calf and indulging in a sensual celebration, the nation broke the first, second, and seventh commandments. It was a great sin because of what they had already experienced of the power and mercy of God: the judgments against Egypt, the deliverance at the Red Sea, the provision of food and water, and the gracious leading of God by the pillar of cloud and fire. What they did was rebel against the goodness of the Lord. It’s no wonder their sin provoked God to anger (Deut. 9:7).

Israel’s lust for idols was born in Egypt and still worked in their hearts (Josh. 24:14). Aaron fed that appetite by giving the people what they wanted. They thought they needed an idol, but what they really needed was faith in their great God who had revealed Himself so powerfully to them. Israel exchanged the glory of the true and living God for the image of an animal (Ps. 106:19-23).

In spite of their bumpy history, in spite of what they did to His Son, the Father is still inviting the people of Israel to come. When we study the first eleven chapters of Acts, we discover that the message is still going to the Jews (Acts 2:5, 10, 14, 22, 36). “To the Jew first” was God’s plan (Acts 3:26; Rom. 1:16). How did the nation’s leaders respond to the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles? They rejected the Word and persecuted the church. The same rulers who permitted John the Baptist to be killed, and who asked for Jesus to be killed, and Stephen to be killed! Later, Herod killed James (Acts 12:1ff).

How did the king in the parable respond to the way the people treated his servants? He became angry and sent his armies to destroy them and their city. He then turned to other people and invited them to come to the feast. This is a picture of God’s dealing with Israel. They rejected the Father when they refused to obey John the Baptist’s preaching. Israel rejected the Son when they arrested Him and crucified Him. In His grace and patience, God sent other witnesses. The Holy Spirit came on the early believers and they witnessed with great power that Jesus was alive and the nation could be saved (Acts 2:32-36; 3:19-26). The miracles they did were proof that God was at work in and through them.

But Israel also rejected the Holy Spirit! This was Stephen’s indictment against the nation: “You do always resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51). With the stoning of Stephen, God’s patience with Israel began to end, though He delayed the judgment for almost forty years. In Acts 8 we read that the message went to the Samaritans, and in Acts 10 we read that it even went to the Gentiles.

This final rejection, some say is the awful “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 12:31-32: “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” This was a national sin, committed by Israel. When they rejected John, they rejected the Father who sent him; but there remained the ministry of the Son. When they rejected the Son, they were forgiven because of their ignorance (Luke 23:34; Acts 3:17). No sinner today can be forgiven for rejecting Christ, for this rejection is what condemns the soul (John 3:16-22).

But there remained the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit came on the church at Pentecost, and the Apostles performed great signs and wonders (Acts 2:43; Heb. 2:1-4). The rulers rejected the witness of the Spirit, and this brought final judgment. They had rejected the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, and there were no more opportunities left.

This “sin against the Holy Spirit” cannot be committed today in the same way as Israel committed it, because the situation is different. The Spirit of God is bearing witness through the Word to the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is the Spirit who convinces the world of sin (John 16:7-11). The Spirit can be resisted by unbelievers (Acts 7:51), but nobody knows that crisis hour (if there is one) when the Spirit stops dealing with a lost sinner.

The king welcomed everyone in both good and bad. And that’s what God still does today. He doesn’t care whether you think of yourself as good or bad. His generous invitation to life with Him still stands and it really is for everyone. How many times do I hear things like: “I’m not worthy enough to receive God’s love” I’m not good enough” “I’ve done too many bad things”.

None of us are good enough for God. God is totally pure, totally true, and totally honest. None of us can match us to His standards. There are no VIP tickets into His party for the good, the famous or the wealthy. All anyone of us can do is say: “Yes, Lord, I’ve messed up. I don’t understand why you love me. But I thank you that you love me anyway, and have sent your only Son, Jesus to die in my place for my sins.” And when we do that, whoever we are, whatever we have done, God our Heavenly Father comes to meet us and says: “Welcome home. I’m so glad you’ve come back to me.”

That, simply put, is the heart of the Christian faith. Whether you think of yourself as good or bad, whether you are young or old, whether you are male or female, whether you have lots of qualifications or none at all, God is still out there looking for you. Because how God sees you is as one of His precious creatures who needs to come back to Him. And the way back to Him is open because this Jesus not only told about God’s great love for us, but showed it by dying for each and every one of us upon the cross and conquering the forces of sin and death and evil.

So, yes, there is bad news in this story for those who ignore or reject God’s invitation. But there is also very, very good news for those who have the faith to respond, to say “Yes.”

Matthew 22:11-14 states: “But the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” This seems like an appendix to the parable, but it is vitally important. The wedding garment was provided by the host so that everybody was properly attired and the poor did not feel conspicuous. Salvation is personal and individual. We must accept what God gives to us – the righteousness of Christ – and not try to make it on our own.

We know that this man had responded to the invitation and come in, indeed the king calls him His friend. But this invitation had made no impression on this man’s life. It wasn’t simply the fact He hadn’t changed his clothes. He hadn’t changed his attitudes or his behavior.

The point Jesus is making here is that saying “Yes” to God’s invitation must be more than saying the right words, or maybe coming to church service. We have to let Jesus be our King, to take control of the way we think and act and do. With the help of His Holy Spirit we have to get rid of our old habits, our old ways of doing things, and become the person that Jesus wants us to be.
So what is your response? A shrug of the shoulders? Walking off in the other direction? Or is it a “Yes” that’s more than just words, but a new attitude of heart and mind and will as you give your life to Him? That is the question each one of us needs to know how to answer. Not later, when it may be too late; But now.

I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty (John 6:35). Say “YES.”

Let us pray:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
Amen. †

They Rejected the Son

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
October 5, 2014, Pentecost XVII
The Sacrament of Holy Communion

Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-15 Philippians 3:8-14, Matthew 21:33-46

From the book of the Prophet Isaiah:
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry!

From The Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians:
Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

And from the Gospel of St. Luke:
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

We now enter the fourth major section of Matthew’s Gospel, “The Rejection of the King.” In this section, the Lord Jesus revealed the sins of Israel and explained why the religious leaders rejected Him and His message.

In our Gospel reading this morning, the parable takes us once again to the vineyard. This parable is based on our Old Testament reading Isaiah 5:1-7. Jesus tells this very interesting and provocative story about a landowner and some farmers to whom he rented his land. In Jesus’ story, the landowner does all the work in the beginning. The land is his, and he plants a vineyard. He digs a winepress where the grapes can be trampled and the juice extracted. He builds a wall and a watchtower so the crop will be protected and guarded. Everything is in order for a great crop of grapes. The twist in the story is that the landowner then leases the vineyard out to a group of tenant farmers and goes away.
The landowner does not leave because of a lack of interest, for the tenants understand that he will return. However, he gives them a great deal of freedom and will not be there to watch over their every move. The farmers are simply to tend to the crop and the land, and when it is time, gives him his share of the harvest. It is a simple plan and everyone wins. The landowner gets what belongs to him, and the tenants are provided for and get what they have earned.

But the problem arises when there is a rebellion among the farmers against the landowner. There is no mention that he has treated them unfairly or has wronged them in any way. That is not the issue. The problem is that they get greedy. They no longer want to be tenants of the vineyard, they want to own it. They want it all – all the crop and all the land as well. So when the landowner sends his servants to collect his rightful share of the fruit, the tenants mistreat and beat the servants, even killing some of them. This happens several times until the landowner finally sends his son, expecting that they will respect him and give the landowner what is his due. But the farmers conspire even against the son. They say to each other, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance. The land and the crops and everything else will be ours.” Then they took him outside the vineyard and killed him.

Let’s look at the parable piece by piece. What Jesus is doing is telling the world’s story and predicting His own death due to the rebellion of God’s creation. God is the landowner. He has made the world and everything in it. He planted all the trees and plants that give us food. He gives the world to us, and makes us His tenants. We are renters, stewards, not owners. However, we are provided for very well. But the landowner seems to be away on a journey somewhere. That is to say, God is out of sight. He is still the owner, even though it seems like He is not visibly present. We have been given a good world and a great deal of freedom. The land is fruitful and we are blessed to have been given the privilege of being tenants here. God has been good to us. But a problem has arisen.

A rebellion is fomenting among the tenants. We, first of all, want to claim the Master’s land and everything on it as our own, and want him to stay out of it. We abuse those who come and remind us that this world is not our own. We refuse to recognize God’s ownership of the world. Since the time that He appears to have gone on a journey, we have forgotten Him and gotten used to the idea that all of this is ours. And, secondly, we do not want to give to God what rightfully belongs to Him. So when God sent the prophets to call the people of the world to recognize God’s ownership and to give Him what He is due, we not only became hostile to God, we killed His messengers. As they say, “If you don’t like the message, kill the messenger.” This has happened throughout the history of the world, and is still happening now. In many places of the world today (especially the Middle East), to preach the good news of Jesus openly is to face the possibility of imprisonment or even death.

But God was serious about having His ownership recognized and acknowledged. In the end, He sent His Son to call the world to acknowledge the kingdom of God and recognize that God is the King of that kingdom. But we rejected God, and we rejected God’s Son. We treated Him worse than the prophets who went before him. We took Him outside of the gates of Jerusalem and killed Him. We do not want to be held accountable to anyone but ourselves. We don’t want someone telling us what to do, or what kind of people we ought to be, even if that someone is God. As far as we are concerned the world belongs to us, and we convince ourselves that He may not exist after all. Our lives belong to us. We want to be free. In our thinking, to be free means to be free from God and free from any rules. We say “it is my body and my choice. It doesn’t matter if the baby within me wants to live.” We want sex as recreation, instead of creation and commitment. We forget that the Bible says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world, and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1).

This is a story of our Christ-rejecting world. It is how we treat the Landowner. And the interesting thing is that, it is the religious folk who reject Jesus, and the people, follow like sheep. The Bible says that the Pharisees knew that He was talking about them. Even in the arena of religion God is not welcome. He is too radical. He is too awesome. His person and power are overwhelming. We prefer a god we can understand, control, and even manipulate.

This is a story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The parable of Jesus begins here where they are the tenants of the world God has made. They live in a wonderful garden paradise. But He goes away for awhile and they are easily convinced that is not enough to be a tenant. It is not enough to be a friend of God, they want to be God. Like them, we begin to question the goodness of God, and we want to taste our independence. We begin to look around us and we decide we want to be in control. We throw off the control of God and cast aside restraint. We stop worshiping the Creator and begin worshiping creation. We kill the Giver and take His gifts. We claim the vineyard as our own.

One of the interesting things about the parable is that the landowner does not demand everything, He only asks His share. He would have treated the tenants fairly, more than fairly, but they did not want equity, they wanted it all. God has been rejected and His Son has been killed. They have been thrown out. But Jesus quoted the scripture that said, “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:22-23); Matthew 21:42). So Jesus gives us the real end of the story. It does not end in defeat, but victory. The very stone, this One who has been rejected and killed outside the city, will return and become the foundation of a new kingdom. The end of the story is found in the book of Revelation: “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever’” (Revelation 11:15).

And this cornerstone, this Rock of Ages, there are only two ways of approaching it – falling on it, or having it fall on you. Jesus said, “He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed” (Matthew 21:44). Fall on it and you will be broken to pieces. Have it fall on you and you will be crushed. Fall on it and your pride, your stubbornness, your self-will shall be broken to pieces.
You will have to come in humility and submission, recognizing that the world and everything in it, including your personal life, are the property of God. You will have to acknowledge His ownership and give Him what He is due. That is one approach. The only other approach is to resist and ultimately have the rock fall on you and crush you – that is what it will be like at the judgment.

The Pharisees told Jesus what they thought the landowner in the parable would do to those who refused to recognize his leadership and kill his son: “He will put those wretches to a miserable death” (Matthew 21:41). They felt he would kill them as they had killed his son. But God, the real Landowner, would do the exact opposite. He would use the death of His Son as an atoning sacrifice so that He might forgive the rebels and ultimately give them a land that was beyond anything they had ever known. The Bible says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” (Romans 8:32).

This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

Let us pray:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one
God, forever and ever. Amen. †

The Kingdom of Heaven

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
July 27, 2014, Pentecost VII

Genesis 29:15-28, Psalm 105:1-11, Romans 8:26-39, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

From the Book of Genesis:
Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing?

From St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

And from the Gospel of St. Matthew:
Jesus said to His disciples: “Have you understood all this?” They said to him, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

The thirteenth chapter of Matthew records the events of a crisis day in the ministry of Jesus Christ. He knew that the growing opposition of the religious leaders would lead to His crucifixion. This fact He had to explain to His disciples. But their logical question would be, “What will happen to the kingdom about which we have been preaching?” That question is answered in this series of parables. So, He first explained the truth concerning the kingdom, and then later explained to them the facts about the Cross.

In this series of parables, Jesus explained the course of the Gospel in the world. If Israel had received Him as King, the blessings would have flowed out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. But the nation rejected Him, and God had to institute a new program on earth. During this present age, “the kingdom of heaven” is a mixture of true and false, good and bad, as pictured in these parables. It is “Christendom,” professing allegiance to the King, and yet containing much that is contrary to the principles of the King.

The seven parables describe for us the spiritual course of “the kingdom of heaven” in this present age. The first two were covered in the last two Sunday sermons: The Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Wheat and Tares.
The first parable in our Gospel reading today states: “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in this field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

The mustard plant of Palestine was very different from the mustard plant which we know in this country. In the East, the mustard seed symbolizes something small and insignificant. It produces a large plant, but not a “tree” in the strictest sense. However, the plant is large enough for birds to sit in the branches.

Since Jesus did not explain this parable, we must use what He did explain in the other parables to find its meaning. The birds in the Parable of the Sower represented Satan (Matt. 13:19). Passages like Daniel 4:11-12 and Ezekiel 17:23 indicate that a tree is a symbol of a world power. These facts suggest that the parable teaches an abnormal growth of the kingdom of heaven, one that makes it possible for Satan to work in it. Certainly “Christendom” has become a worldwide power with a complex organization of many branches. What started in a humble manner today boasts of material possessions and political influences. The New Testament warns us of a growing decline in the ministry of the Gospel as the end of the age draws near.

The second parable states: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

The mustard seed illustrates the false outward expansion of the kingdom, while the leaven illustrates the inward development of false doctrine and false living. Throughout the Bible, leaven is a symbol of evil. It had to be removed from the Jewish homes during Passover (Ex. 12:15-19; 13:7). It was excluded from sacrifices (Ex. 34:35), with the exception of the loaves used at the Feast of Pentecost (Lev. 23:15-21). But there the loaves symbolized Jews and Gentiles in the church, and there is sin in the church.

The kingdom of heaven began with the sowing of the Word of God in the hearts of men. Much of the seed did not bear fruit; but some was fruitful. Satan opposed the work of God by sowing counterfeit Christians, by encouraging a false growth, and by introducing false doctrine. It would seem that Satan is winning, at least in New England. But the test is at the end of the age, not during the age.

The next parable in our Gospel reading states: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

At the close of this age, God will have three groups of people: the Jews (the hidden treasure), the church (the pearl of great price), and the saved Gentile nations who will enter into the kingdom (the dragnet).

Once again, we need to look to the Old Testament to help us understand the symbolism in this parable. The treasure is the nation of Israel (Ex. 19:5; Ps. 135:4). That nation was placed in the world to bring glory to God, but it failed. It became a nation hidden, a treasure not being invested to produce dividends for God. Jesus Christ gave His all to purchase the whole world in order to save the nation (John 11:51). On the cross, Jesus died for the whole world; but in a special way. He died for Israel (Isa. 53:8). The nation suffered judgment and seeming destruction, but in God’s sight it is “hidden” and will be revealed again in glory.

There is, then, a future for Israel. Politically, the nation was reborn on May 14, 1948. But the nation is far from what it ought to be spiritually. God sees Israel as His treasure, and one day He will establish her in His glorious kingdom.

The next parable is known as the pearl of great price. It reads, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

The pearl represents the church. The Bible makes a distinction between Jews, Gentiles, and the church (1 Cor. 10:32). Today, the church, the body of Christ, is composed of believing Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:11ff). Unlike most other gems, the pearl is a unity – it cannot be carved like a diamond or emerald. The church is a unity (Eph. 4:4-6), even though the professing church on earth is divided. Like a pearl, the church is the product of suffering. Christ died for the church (Eph. 5:25) and His suffering on the cross made possible her birth.

A pearl grows gradually, and the church grows gradually as the Spirit convicts and converts sinners. No one can see the making of the pearl, for it is hidden in the shell of the oyster under the waters. No one can see the growth of His church in the world. The church is among the nations today, and one day will be revealed in its beauty.

So, in spite of Satan’s subtle working in this world, Christ is forming His church. He sold all that He had to purchase His church, and nothing Satan can do will cause Him to fail. There is but one true church, a pearl of great price, though there are many local churches. Not everyone who is a member of a local church belongs to the one church, the body of Christ. It is only through repentance and faith in Christ that we become a part of His church.

The next parable in this series states: “the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.”

The preaching of the Gospel in the world does not convert the world. It is like a huge dragnet that gathers all kinds of fish, some good and some bad. The professing church today has in it both true and false believers; good and bad.
Remember last week’s parable about the wheat and tares. At the end of the age, God will separate the true believers from the false and the good from the bad. When Jesus Christ returns to earth, to fight the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 19:11ff), He will separate believers and unbelievers already on the earth. These are living people who are not a part of the church (which was already in heaven) or Israel. These Gentiles will be dealt with in righteousness: the saved will enter into the kingdom, but the unsaved will be cast into the furnace of fire.

When Jesus had completed this series of parables, He asked His disciples if they understood them, and they confidently replied, “Yes, Lord.” Understanding involves responsibility. To explain this, the Lord added a final parable (Matt. 13:51-52) to remind them of their responsibilities.

Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

The scribes began as a noble group under the leadership of Ezra. Their purpose was to preserve the Law, study it, and apply its truths to daily life. Over the years, their noble cause degenerated into a routine task of preserving traditions and man-made interpretations, and adding burdens to the lives of the people (Luke 11:46-52). They were so wrapped up in the past that they ignored the present! Instead of sharing living truth from God’s Word, they merchandised dead doctrines and “embalmed” traditions that could not help the people.

As believers, we do not search after truth, because we have truth in God’s Son (John 14:6) and God’s Word (John 17:17). We are taught by the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13) who is truth (1 John 5:6). We search into truth that we might discover more truth. We are scribes – students – who sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His words (like Mary, sister of Martha). One joy of the Christian life is the privilege of learning God’s truth from God’s Word. But we must not stop there.

The scribe emphasizes learning, but the disciple emphasizes living. Disciples are doers of the Word (James 1:22ff), and they learn by doing.

It is difficult to keep our lives balanced. We often emphasize learning at the expense of living. Or, we may get so busy serving God that we do not take time to listen to His Word. Every scribe must be a disciple, and every disciple must be a scribe.

The scribes preserved the Law but did not invest it in the lives of the people. The treasure of the Law was encrusted by man’s traditions. The seed was not planted so it could bear fruit. The “spiritual gold and silver” was not put to work so it could produce dividends. As Christians we should be conservative but not preservative.

The steward guards the treasure, but he also dispenses it as it is needed. He dispenses both the old and the new. New principles and insights are based on old truths. The new cannot contradict the old because the old comes out of the new (Lev. 26:10).
The new without the old is mere novelty and will not last. But the old does no good unless it is given new applications in life today. We need both.

The Lord over and over again is showing us what the kingdom of heaven is like and those who will attain it. Imagine what could happen in people’s lives if they first sought the kingdom of God. Imagine what would happen in marriages, workplaces, and people’s lives, if they first sought the kingdom of God. Oh yes, it’ll start small (like the mustard seed) as we’ve learned, but grow into something magnificent and it’ll impact others.

He gives us victory and more victory! We need not fear life or death, things present or things to come, because Jesus Christ loves us and gives us the victory. This is not a promise with conditions attached. This security in Christ is an established fact, and we claim it for ourselves because we are in love! Believe it – and rejoice in it!

We are free from judgment because Christ died for us and we have His righteousness. We are free from defeat because Christ lives in us by His Spirit and we shall share His life. We are free from discouragement because Christ is coming for us and we shall share His glory. We are free from fear because Christ intercedes for us and we cannot be separated from His love.

No condemnation! No obligation! No frustration! No separation!
Only eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven!

Let us pray:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

Amen. †