Sermon on Matthew 20:1-16
Text: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
We all know the saying, “You don’t get something for nothing.” In other words, if something is valuable, you must work to earn it. If you get it for free, it probably is not worth anything. Think of the free prizes that come in the cereal box. If it is free, there probably is a catch. You have to buy so many of them, or you have to do something in order to get the “free” item. This morning, as we study God’s Word, we see the principle, “You don’t get something for nothing,” turned upside down. This is true as we labor for the Lord. We want to remember that AS YOU DO GOD’S WORK, THINK GOD’S WAY. 1. We May Think We Are Earning God’s Blessings. Yet, 2. God Wants To Give Us What We Have Not Earned.
Jesus again shares a parable with his disciples and us. A parable, as you recall, is a story in which Jesus used everyday events to teach a spiritual truth. They were usually told in response to a question or an event. In this case, Jesus had been speaking with a rich man, who wanted to know what he had to do to enter heaven. After Jesus showed him that he had a greater love for his possessions than for God by telling him to go and sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor, the rich man went away sad. Jesus remarked, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 15:23&24) The disciples wondered who could possibly be saved. Jesus answered, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 15:26) This prompted a response from Peter, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” (Matthew 15:27) In other words, Peter was saying, ‘Look at all we have given up for you. What will be the benefit to us?’ To this, Jesus told this parable.
It was harvest time and a man who owned a vineyard went into the marketplace to hire some day laborers. This was not an extraordinary thing. We still see this happening today in parts of our country. After Herod the Great had completed his work of restoring the temple, there were many displaced workers in the city of Jerusalem.
The owner of the vineyard went out and offered to pay the standard wage for a day’s labor to these workers. He did this, first, at 6:00 a.m. He repeated this at 9:00 and then at noon. He went out at 3:00 and hired more workers. Finally, at 5:00, he went out and hired more workers. At the end of the day, the owner told his manager to pay the workers, as was prescribed in the law. We note the order in which they were to be paid, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.” (Verse 8) When those who were hired last came to get their pay, they each received a denarius. Now, imagine you were one of those workers who was hired at 6:00 and you saw that these people were each receiving a denarius. Wouldn’t you assume that you would get more? When you got your pay and you saw that you also received a denarius, wouldn’t you have the same complaint that we read, “These who were hired last worked only one hour and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.” (Verse 12) I believe that we would not think that this was fair.
Then we read the owner’s reaction, “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” (Verses 13-15) When the owner uses the word “friend,” he did not mean it in a “pal” or buddy” sense. It is more of an accusatory way, like when Jesus told Judas before he betrayed him, “Do what you came for, friend.” (Matthew 26:50) The owner reminds the worker that this was the agreed upon wage. There should have been no surprises or disappointments. He, then, tells him, “Take your pay and go.” He was to go out of the owner’s sight. The owner chides the worker, saying that he had no right to be upset that the owner was being generous. Finally, Jesus concludes with the words, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Verse 16) Everything is turned upside down, at least according to the eyes of the world.
What is the point of Jesus’ parable? Again, we need to remember that it was prompted by Peter’s question, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” ‘What do we get because we have done this for you?’ As we look at this parable, the owner of the vineyard is God. Just as the owner of the vineyard went out to seek the workers, the same is true in our relationship with God. He came and sought us. We were not looking for him. We would never have looked for him because we are born the enemies of God. We would have been lost forever, outside of the kingdom of God, because of the sin with which we are born and the sins that we commit every day. However, Jesus, as he said, came to seek and to save those who were lost. He came to this earth on a rescue mission. He saved us by living a perfect life for us. He gladly served his Father. He then offered his life as the payment price for our sins. He paid the entire debt of sin that we owed. Yet, we would never have known about what he had done for us, unless he sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts to create faith. Now, we are the beneficiaries of all that he has done for us.
We are his servants, and he gives us work to do in his vineyard, in his kingdom. The jobs vary from person to person. You might serve him as a pastor, a teacher, a member of the church council. You may serve him by helping to keep the grounds looking nice. You might serve as an organist or a member of the choir. You may serve as a faithful supporter of the programs at church or our high school or synod. We have opportunities to serve in a variety of ways.
Unfortunately, the devil likes to fool us when we are serving the Lord. He likes to get us to think that, somehow, we are owed something for our service. When we feel that are not being given what we deserve because of our service, we are like those servants, who grumbled about their pay at the end of the day. The fact is that sometimes, we serve for the wrong reasons. We serve because we want people to notice what we are doing and to give us credit for our hard work. We serve because our parents always did. We serve because no one else will. If these or other reasons like them are the reasons, we are serving, Jesus would say to us, “Take your pay and go.” You already have your reward. Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 6. He was talking about people who were doing things mostly for the approval of men. They liked the limelight. To this, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” (Matthew 6:2) If all they were looking for was a pat on the back by others, because they were so religious and so zealous, they got what they wanted. However, this sort of service does not give glory to the Lord. If we think that we serve to get something from the Lord, we miss out on what he wants to give us. We miss out on the joy of serving our Lord. We miss out on the joy of serving one another. The feeling that we gain something for our service is especially dangerous when it comes to our salvation. If we think that we contribute even an iota, we lose everything.
We need to remember that our salvation comes to us without our doing a single thing. Jesus did everything necessary for our salvation. All who believe are equally saved. We praise God for his grace, his “generosity,” in saving us. Now, as we serve in his kingdom, we do so to thank God for all that he has done for us. We are not out to get praise from others or notice from others. If that happens, fine. If it does not happen, it makes no difference, because we are thankful for the opportunity to serve our God. This is how we want to live our lives. We call these our fruits of faith. This is similar to Matthew 25, where Jesus in speaking to the believers on the Last Day, spoke of feeding him when he was hungry, giving him something to drink when he was thirsty, and so forth. The believers respond, ‘When did we do this for you?’. They did not even realize that they were doing this for the Lord. It was just a part of their life of thanksgiving. We do not serve to get something. We serve to thank God for all that he has done for us. We have not earned a single thing from God, yet he gives us everything, including salvation and eternal life.
God gives us opportunities to work for him every day. As we do so, may we think God’s way. May it be that we do not serve him, looking for either rewards from God or recognition from others. Rather, may we serve him in response to all that he has given to us. This is a God-pleasing motivation for our service to him. This is where we will find joy in our service for, as Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23&24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” There is our joy in our service. Amen.
Sermon on Matthew 18:21-35
Text: Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
“How can I ever forgive you?” Have you ever felt that way when someone has hurt you or sinned against you? We may not express it exactly that way, but we have all probably felt that way at one time or another. This morning, as we study God’s Word, we are going to talk about something that is easy to talk about. It is something that we want to have happen to us. However, it is, at times, difficult to put into practice with others in our lives. We are going to look at forgiveness and are reminded that THE FORGIVEN FORGIVE. 1. They Recognize God’s Love For Them. 2. They Reflect That Love By Forgiving Others.
Peter came to Jesus with a question, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Verse 21) Jesus had just taught them about the keys. Peter had a question about the loosening key, the forgiving key. He wanted to know how often he should be willing to forgive someone who sinned against him repeatedly. Perhaps, Peter’s question was motivated by a legalistic view of forgiveness. He wanted to find a point at which forgiveness ceased. He was being generous by going all the way up to seven times. It may also have been that Peter was concerned that people would take advantage of this practice of forgiving. Whatever the motivation, Peter came to Jesus with a dilemma. It is also one that we face in our day-to-day lives.
In response, Jesus said, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Verse 22) Note that Jesus was not giving an exact number, as though when you hit seventy-eight times, you have reached the limit. It has nothing to do with keeping score. As Christians, we have a continuing and constant obligation of love to be ready to forgive and forgive, with no limits at all.
To illustrate this point, Jesus told a parable. He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.” (Verses 23-27)
A king was settling accounts and he came across the account of a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold. Today that would be the equivalent of 12-20 million dollars. How that servant could ever have racked up that kind of debt is immaterial. The fact is that he had and now he was being called to account for it. Obviously, the servant had no way to repay that debt, so the king, acting within his rights, ordered that the servant, his family, and all that he had be sold to recoup at least a portion of the debt. The servant fell on his knees, pleading for mercy from that king. He even promised that he would eventually repay the debt that he owed, which would have been impossible for him to do. Yet, the king, in his mercy, chose to cancel the entire debt of this servant. We can hardly believe our ears! What sort of a king would do this? We marvel at the mercy that he showed to that servant.
The meaning of this portion of the parable is quite clear. The king is God, himself. The accounts that he is settling are the debts of sin. You and I are the servant. Think for a moment of the debt of sin that we would owe to our God. How many times in the last twenty-four hours have you sinned against God? Care to take a guess? Multiply that by how many days you have been alive. All those sins of greed, anger, lying, lust and all the rest add to your debt to God. Now you are called on the carpet before God. He settles accounts with you. What can we say? We might beg for God’s mercy, promising to repay everything. However, just like that servant, it would be impossible for us to do so. Just as the king in Jesus’ story had the right to sell the man and his family and everything he owned to recoup part of the debt, God would well be within his rights to send us away from him for all eternity in the fires of hell. This is the cold, hard truth about our sins.
However, just as the king chose to have mercy on this servant, so our God chose to have mercy on us. He did not just say, “Your debt is cancelled.” He took the steps necessary for the payment of our debt. He chose to show mercy to us by sending his Son to be our Savior. He lived a perfect life for us. Never once in all the days of his life, did he sin. There were no sinful thoughts or words or actions. Since God, being a just God, cannot just forget about the debt, Jesus stepped in and paid our debt by suffering and dying on the cross. Jesus’ death was the only acceptable payment for our debt. Then, showing us that his Father accepted this payment, Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning. Now, when God sees you and me, he sees us as debt-free. We have been completely and totally forgiven.
Jesus continues the parable by saying, “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.” (Verses 28-30)
This servant went out and found a fellow servant who owed him some money. While it was not the amount that the first servant owed the king, it was still substantial, since a silver coin, a denarius was what was paid for a day’s work. When the servant found this fellow servant, he grabbed him and began to choke him, demanding repayment. The fellow servant fell to his knees pleading for mercy, but none would be shown. He was thrown into prison for not paying his debt. We are shocked to read this. How could he treat his fellow servant in this way, considering the fact that he had just been forgiven a debt that was 600,000 times larger?
This also shocked the other servants, who told the king what had happened. At this, the king had the servant brought before him and said, “You wicked servant, I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” (Verse 32) Then, we are told, the servant was thrown into prison, until he should pay back all that he owed the king. Just in case, we did not get the point of Jesus’ parable, he concludes by saying, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Verse 35) Jesus could not be any clearer, could he?
This parable gives you and me an opportunity to look at how we react when someone sins against us. It happens all the time because we live in a world of sinners. It might be your spouse, someone in your family, a fellow congregation member, a friend, a co-worker, someone you have never met before and probably will never see again. How do we react when someone sins against us?
Our sinful nature wants us to limit forgiveness. We will only forgive so many times before we have forgiven too much. Others will encourage us to limit our forgiveness. They tell us that we dare not let someone take advantage of our willingness to forgive. ‘Enough is enough,’ they say. This is the work of the devil. He wants us to believe that we have the right to refuse to forgive someone who deliberately harms us, especially if that harm is repeated and the offender shows no repentance and does not seem to care if we forgive them. The devil wants us to derive a certain satisfaction from holding a grudge or even trying to take revenge. Such an unforgiving spirit is poison which harms us most of all and threatens to destroy us.
Dear friends, this morning we have an opportunity to examine our hearts and see if there is someone that we are holding a grudge against. Is there someone that you cannot seem to forgive because of something that they said or did? Maybe, it happened long ago, and you think that you are over it. However, when you think about it now, you get upset all over again. It is probable that they do not even give the incident a second thought. However, you are carrying it with you. Is there someone you have trouble forgiving? Is there someone, you say, that you cannot forgive?
When we come to the realization that there are people that we have not forgiven or have troubles forgiving, we come to our heavenly Father, and ask his forgiveness for our unforgiving heart. Having been assured that this is also forgiven for the sake of Jesus Christ, we also ask God for the strength and the willingness to forgive as we have been forgiven. This is really the essence of the Fifth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer. There we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Forgiveness is not always an easy thing to give. It will require effort. It will mean forgiving the same people over and over again. It will mean forgiving people who do not seem to be sorry enough, in our estimation. Yet, when we look at the effort God put into forgiving our sins, we find our motivation for forgiving others. We reflect the love that God has shown to us when we forgive others.
Peter asked Jesus how many times he was to forgive someone who sinned against him. He wanted to know the limits of forgiveness. This morning, I tell you that forgiveness does have its limits. They are: 1. Forgive only with the love that God has for you. 2. Forgive only as often as God has forgiven you. 3. Forgive only as completely as God has forgiven you. May God help us to fully appreciate the forgiveness that he has shown to us. May he help us to reflect that love as we forgive others. Amen.
Sermon on Matthew 18:15-20
Text: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Keys play an important part in our lives. We use them for many things. We need them to start our cars or trucks. We need them to get into our houses. We may need them to get our mail. We often do not realize how important they are until we misplace them. This morning, we are going to look at A SPECIAL SET OF KEYS that have been given to us by God. One key is used to bind people to their sins. The second key is used to free people from their sins.
First, we will consider the binding key. What is meant by this key? The binding key is the refusal of forgiveness to a person as long as they refuse to repent. Jesus said, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” (Verse 18) This key and the loosening key are usually used in connection with church discipline.
In our text, Jesus tells us to whom these keys are given, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Verses 19&20) When we get together as a church, Jesus tells us that he will be with us. Whatever they ask for, Jesus tells us, his Father will do. Since Jesus is with us when we ask, we are acting with his blessing. So, when we use the binding key, we are doing so with his blessing.
Note that these keys are not just given to the pastor or elected representatives in the church. These keys are given to the entire congregation. The congregation has been given the responsibility of using them. We read in 1 Peter 2:9, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” We are all a part of this priesthood, with the responsibility to see that God’s will is done and that the keys are used.
In our text, Jesus outlines the steps that are followed in church discipline. He starts out the scenario, “If your brother or sister sins.” (Verse 15) A fellow member has committed a sin and you know about it. What do you do next? Do you ignore it and pretend it did not happen? That’s a very easy thing to do. No one wants to get involved, if they do not have to (although, they already are, when they see or hear it). This is one thing that we could do. Another thing that we could go and do is to tell everyone else about it. After all, who can resist a juicy bit of gossip? We justify it by saying that it is not gossip, because what we are saying is true. A third thing that we could do is to run and tell the pastor. After all, that’s their job, isn’t it? They are the ones who work with people’s spiritual lives. ‘I’ll tell him, and then I’ve done my duty.’
Jesus, however, does not want us to do any of these things. He tells us, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.” (Verse 15) You, the person who knows about the sin, are to go to that person and show him his fault, just between the two of you.
When you point out the sin, it would be easy to just let them have it. In doing so, we could do a great amount of harm. We could drive a wedge in between them and us, with the result that they will not listen to what we have to say. Rather, as Paul writes in Galatians 6:1, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” We are to speak to them in Christian love.
If the person we are talking to should tell us that they have not done anything wrong, Jesus tells us about the next stage in church discipline, “If they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’” (Verse 16) You are to choose one or two others from the congregation and have them come with you. It is very important whom you choose. They should be people that the person we are talking to will respect. They, too, must be gentle when they speak with that person. Those who accompany you can serve two purposes. First, they can give you support. Perhaps, you are at a loss as to what to say. Let one of the others speak. If you are uneasy about what you are doing, the others can help calm your worries. They also act as witnesses. They can observe what is going on. It is no longer one person’s word against another’s. Rather, when asked by the church, they can support what has been going on.
If this person should refuse to repent after being confronted by these two or three, then the matter should be taken before the church. Jesus said, “If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church.” (Verse 17) Here the case is told to the assembly, complete with the witness of the others. Then, it becomes a matter for the church to deal with. Out of love for that person, they are seeking repentance from him.
If he still refuses to repent, even after the church has spoken to him, Jesus says, “Treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Verse 17) The “pagan” is a Gentile and, according to Jewish ceremonial law, was unclean and excluded from the assembly. Because the tax collector associated with the Gentiles, they were also considered unclean. You did not associate with these people, and they could not go to the temple to sacrifice.
When a person reaches this stage, they are said to be excommunicated. We are telling them that they are going to hell because of their unrepented sins. This is the sternest preaching of the law. This is the binding key. Some might think that this is a cruel key to use and, perhaps, should not be used. Who are we to tell someone that they will go to hell? Yet, this is the very purpose of the binding key. We want that person to see the seriousness of their sin, so that they will repent. It is like telling someone that they have a fatal illness. We would think it foolish not to tell that person, lest we hurt their feelings. We tell them so that they might receive the cure for their illness. We use the binding key out of love for these people, with the hope that they will repent of their sins.
We have also been given another key, the loosening key. With this key, we comfort the penitent sinner by announcing the forgiveness that Jesus won for them. With this key, we, acting in Christ’s place, forgive them their sins. As Jesus tells us, “Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Verse 18)
Again, this key is not just given to the pastor. It is true that he publicly uses it every Sunday, after we confess our sins. However, we can forgive one another’s sins. When we sin against each other, we can go to each other and confess that sin, asking for forgiveness. When someone does that, coming to us, saying they are sorry, do not just say, “Don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal.” It was important enough for them to confess that sin to us and ask for forgiveness. Assure them that this sin was also forgiven by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
This is always our hope as we go through the stages of church discipline. We pray that they might see their sins for what they are and be sorry for them. Then, we have the privilege of using the loosening key. Then that person can be sure that they are a member of God’s family and can look forward to spending their eternity in heaven. Obviously, the loosening key is a much happier key to use than the binding key. This key promises eternal life and joy beyond all measure. The other promises an eternity of separation from God’s love and feeling the full force of God’s anger against sin. However, we must sometimes use the binding key, so that we can use the loosening key.
This is the ultimate purpose of church discipline. Our text tells us, “If they listen to you, you have won them over.” (Verse 15) If they listen to you, you have gained him back from hell. This may seem to be a lot of hard work. It will take some time to carry out because it is not a 1-2-3 process. You do not just go through the steps once. You may end up working at it for some time. However, if that person repents and changes their life, wasn’t it worth it?
When we study the keys, we must confess that we have not always used them as we should. We do not always use the binding key when we should. We have remained silent, instead of speaking to our brother or sister about their sin. It may be that we did not want to get involved. It may be that we did not want to hurt their feelings. We may also misuse the loosening key. We have refused to forgive those who have sinned against us. We have nursed our grudges. For all the times, we have misused these precious gifts from God, we must plead guilty. How we thank God that, in his love, he sent his Son to pay for these sins, as well. Through his life, death, and resurrection, he paid for our sins. He brings us into his kingdom and gives us this privilege of the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Many of us can remember the thrill of the first time our parents gave us the keys to the car. We knew that there was a great deal of responsibility that went with this. This morning, we have talked about the keys that Jesus has given us. May we not be afraid to use the binding key, when necessary. May we gladly and quickly use the loosening key at the proper time. Remember that, with these keys, comes great responsibility. May God help us to use these keys as we should. Amen.
Sermon on Matthew 16:21-26
Text: From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”
Millions of dollars are spent every year on security systems. We get them for our homes and businesses, making sure that no intruders get in and take what is valuable to us or destroy our property. A big thing right now is internet security. We put up firewalls and encrypt our messages. We make sure that our passwords are tough to figure out, so that no one will get in and get a hold of our finances. It is a never-ending struggle to keep out those who do not belong there. This morning, we will learn from our Savior HOW TO KEEP THE DEVIL OUT OF OUR LIVES. We do so by 1. Being On The Lookout For Him, 2. Dealing Decisively With Temptation and 3. Following Faithfully After Jesus.
In our sermon last week, we had the beautiful confession that Peter made, that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is on the heels of that confession of faith that Jesus told his disciples what would happen to him when they reached Jerusalem. It says that “Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Verse 21) There was no mistaking what was going to happen. Jesus made it very clear where his path would lead.
At this, we read, “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’” (Verse 22) Peter took Jesus off to the side and began to set Jesus straight. This was not how it was supposed to be. ‘Jesus, you are the Savior. This idea that you are going to die does not fit in with the way it is supposed to be!’ Peter and the other disciples were laboring under the misconception that Jesus had come to be a physical King and that could not happen if Jesus died. We see the love that Peter had for Jesus. He came to him with the best of intentions. However, his love was misguided and very much in need of correction.
Jesus saw right through these words and heard the voice of Satan in them. That is why he spoke as he did to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Verse 23) Satan was using this dear friend to Jesus to try to get him to veer from the path that Jesus’ Father wanted him to follow. Satan knew that if Jesus followed the path that the Father had set before him, it would mean that he would be defeated. He knew that Jesus was the one who was prophesied to crush his head. So, Satan tries to get Jesus to follow what would seem to be an easier path. Remember, when Satan was tempting Jesus during those forty days in the wilderness? Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and all their splendor and told Jesus that he could have all of them, if only Jesus would bow down and worship him. Here’s the easy way out. When Jesus rebuffed that attack, it did not mean that the devil had stopped trying. So, he chose to use the well-meaning, misguided words of a dear friend to tempt Jesus to sin.
Note that the devil has not changed his tactics. Rarely will he come to us with an out and out temptation to sin that can be seen miles away. More often, he will come to us in a subtle way. He will come in the form of a friend who tells us that there is no reason for us to be suffering the way that we are. There must be an easier way out of this. Surely, God wants you to be happy! He comes to us as we are part of the crowd and something that is sinful is going on. Perhaps the gossip is flying fast and free. Perhaps it is complaining about someone or something. Satan tells us that we don’t want to stick out. He comes to us when we see a family member sinning. He tempts us to keep quiet because we don’t want to have an unhappy family life. We want our spouse, our children, our parents to love us. These temptations are so dangerous because we can so easily justify them. We think that this will make our lives better or happier. However, these temptations can easily lead us to sin, especially because we don’t want to follow the path that God has laid out for us. We want to take the easy path. Brothers and sisters, keep an eye out for the devil and his many temptations.
Note how Jesus dealt with the temptation that was presented to him. He said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Verse 23) He did not come to Peter and say, ‘Let’s talk about this. I really want to know where you are coming from and we can work on this together.’ He acted decisively when the temptation came his way. He cut it off right there and then. There is little doubt that it might have shocked Peter and may have even hurt his feelings. Yet, when it came to the temptation to veer from the path that his Father had set before him, Jesus would not allow anything around him that would make it more difficult to say, ‘No.’
Here is the next lesson that we can learn to keep the devil out of our lives. How do we react when the devil puts a temptation in our lives? Are we as decisive as Jesus was? Do we tell Satan to go away, that we do not want to hear what he has to say? Unfortunately, all too often we are like Eve in the Garden of Eden when the devil came with his temptations. Remember how, instead of telling Satan to go away, she engaged him in conversation. She continued to look at the forbidden fruit. The more she thought about it, the more attractive that fruit became. Soon, it was all that she wanted. She could not think of anything else, so she took some of the fruit and ate it.
How often we follow that example. A temptation comes our way and we sit and look at it and think about it. We try to excuse it, saying that it isn’t really that big of a deal if we do it. It will be enjoyable. It will be easier. Everyone else is doing it. The more we look at a temptation, the easier it is for us to fall into that trap.
May God help us to act as decisively as Jesus did. When that temptation comes, act decisively and get away from it. Leave the place where you are at. Turn off the television or the computer. Say to the person that you are with that what is going on is wrong. May our attitude be that of Joseph when he was tempted to go to bed with Potiphar’s wife. He said, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9) He then turned around and ran out of the house. He got as far away from that temptation as he could, even though he knew it probably would not go well for him, as a result. Act decisively when the devil comes around with his temptations.
The next way that we keep the devil out of our lives is by following Jesus. That sounds simple enough, until we remind ourselves what following Jesus means. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Verse 24) Following Jesus means taking up a cross. That is what it meant for Jesus to follow his Father’s will. It meant that he did not always have an easy road. There were the many temptations to follow the easy path, which would have meant no suffering for him. He chose to struggle against and defeat all the temptations that the devil put in front of him. It also meant taking up a cross, literally. He carried a cross from Jerusalem to the hill called Golgotha. On that cross, he suffered and died to pay for all those times you and I have succumbed to the devil’s temptations, sometimes without much of a struggle. Jesus took the load of sins that we have committed and paid for every one of them. He died, taking our place in hell, so that we would never have to suffer there. He rose from the dead. As a result, we know that our sins have been forgiven and that the devil has been defeated, once and for all.
Now, in thankfulness for all that Jesus has done for us, we want to follow him. This means, as Jesus said, that we deny ourselves. It means that we say ‘No’ to our sinful nature that is still a part of us. It means taking up our crosses. We may have to suffer for following Jesus. It may mean that some will not like us. It may mean that we will not have all the things or the experiences that the world says we need to have. Being a disciple of Jesus means that we keep on following Jesus. It is not an on-again-off-again affair, something that we do in a moment of enthusiasm or only when we feel like it. We follow his example as he dealt with temptation.
Is it worth it? Is it worth all the difficulty that comes with being a disciple of Jesus? Listen to what Jesus says in verses 25&26, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Suppose for a moment that you were able to acquire everything your heart ever wanted. You had all the wealth and property and things you ever wanted. You had the opportunity to experience all the pleasures that this life has to offer. The world would say that you had it made. However, if you did not have a relationship with Jesus, you would have nothing. What good would your life of leisure do you when this life came to an end? All the wealth in the world could not buy your entrance into heaven. My dear friends, may God help us to take a good, hard look at our lives. What is there in my life that I am putting in the place that God deserves, that God demands? May he help me to see its true worth. May he help us to treasure what is truly important. May he help us to put our greatest efforts into holding on to them. We realize that the things of the world can only last so long. Our relationship with God and all of the blessings that come with it last forever.
What if your home security system failed you and intruders got in? What is the worst that could happen? You would lose some things that may be valuable or have an emotional attachment. What if someone was able to hack into your account and get at your finances? What is the worst that could happen? You would be flat broke. Those are horrible things that could happen to us. However, what if we allow the devil to come into our lives and set up residence there? We could easily lose our faith, and with that lose the eternal home that Jesus has won for us. May our Savior keep us ever vigilant against the devil’s attacks and temptations. May he help us to decisively tell him to go away. May he help us to follow his example, by denying ourselves and taking up our crosses. Then, we will be safe and secure with him forever. Amen.
Sermon on Matthew 16:13-20
Text: When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
With many events in history, you will find discrepancies in the accounts of what happened. For example, when you talk about the assassination of President Kennedy, you will find some people claim that it was a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald. Others argue that there must have been at least two, if not three, gunmen. Who was behind it? There are theories about that, too. Some people think one thing. Others have another theory. It’s hard to know who’s right. Thankfully, this is not the case when it comes to speaking about whom Jesus Christ is. This morning, we are going to talk about CONFESSING CHRIST, first of all, by looking at 1. What The World Says About Christ. Then, we will study 2. What Our Faith Teaches.
Jesus, as he was teaching his disciples, began with a question, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Verse 13) When Jesus uses the term “Son of Man,” he is referring to himself. Jesus did not ask this question because he needed his disciples to bring him up to date. He used this question to set up the truth that he wanted to teach them.
His disciples answered, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Verse 14) These were some of the prevailing opinions about Jesus in his day. We have heard some of them expressed elsewhere in Scriptures. For example, King Herod said that Jesus was John the Baptist, raised from the dead. This must have caused great fear for Herod because he had John put to death. Apparently, some picked up on Herod’s idea and spread it. Some people thought that Jesus was Elijah. This is due to a misinterpretation of a prophecy found in Malachi 4:5, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.” In reality, that prophecy pointed to the work of John the Baptist, as he got the people ready for the coming of Jesus. Jesus shows us this in Matthew 11:13&14, “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.” Still, others thought that Jesus was Jeremiah. It is difficult to say where people might have gotten this notion. It could be that they were influenced by the apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees, which speaks of Jeremiah concealing the ark of the covenant in a cave until the Lord would return to Israel. Finally, there were others who said that Jesus was one of the Old Testament prophets, who had come back from the dead. There were many different opinions about whom Jesus was in his day.
In this respect, today’s world is little different from the world of Jesus’ day. People still have many different opinions as to whom Jesus is. The Muslims teach that Jesus was a great prophet, on the level with Moses, but inferior to the greatest prophet of all, Mohammed. If you were to ask a Mormon, who Jesus is, they would tell you that Jesus is one of many sons and daughters of God. However, Jesus is no more divine than any other person here on the earth. Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you that Jesus is only a human being. He was perfect, but still only a human.
The list could go on and on. There are many people out there who think of Jesus as a good man. He gave us a good example as to how we should live our lives. He spoke of loving your neighbor. He spoke about peace. He was a nice man. There are still others who try to deny Christ’s existence entirely. They say that Jesus is merely a name given to a fictional character, who provided the backdrop for some stories that had some moral meanings behind them.
We are surrounded by many ideas as to whom Jesus was. Every place we look, we find someone trying to tell us who Jesus is. Thankfully, we do not have to depend on shifting public opinion to find out the answer. Instead, we have a faith that has been worked in our hearts and the pages of Holy Scriptures, which tell us exactly who Jesus is.
Jesus shows us the reason he asked this initial question from his disciples, by asking a follow-up question: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (Verse 15) Jesus shifts the focus from public opinion to an opportunity for the disciples to examine what they believed. He invites them to examine their hearts and confess their faith concerning him.
Peter, as he often did, spoke up for the group. In doing so, he expressed one of the most beautiful confessions about Jesus ever recorded. Peter said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Verse 16) With this simple statement, Peter confessed many of the truths about whom Jesus is.
First, Peter called Jesus, “The Messiah.” In doing so, he was confessing that Jesus was the one who had been promised to the Old Testament believers as the one who would come and pay for their sins. This Messiah was first promised as soon as the first sin was committed. Remember the words that God spoke to the devil in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” God made many similar promises regarding the one who would come and save the world from its sins. Peter confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ.
Peter continues by saying that Jesus is “The Son of the living God.” Jesus was the Son of God from all eternity. He was fully divine. Peter confessed that Jesus was the Son of God who had taken on human nature. Jesus was fully God and human at the same time. No one else can make that claim about themselves.
Peter called him “The Son of the living God.” He compares Jesus to all the idols that were worshiped. His God was a living God. All the idols were lifeless pieces of wood, stone or metal. Jesus, he confessed, was the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Jesus praised Peter for his faith. He said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” (Verse 17) Jesus begins by pointing out the fact that this faith, this confession, was a blessing that came from God. It was not something that he came up with on his own. It was revealed to him by God the Father. Elsewhere, we read that it is the Holy Spirit, who creates faith in the heart. This faith is a gift, a blessing that is not earned. The only way that it can be given is through the work of God.
Jesus continues, “I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Verse 18) Jesus called him “Peter.” In doing so, Jesus is making a play on words in the Greek. The words “Peter” and “rock” both come from the same root. Jesus called Peter a rock on which he would build his church. This is not to say that Peter was to be the head of the church. Rather, Jesus is pointing to the faith that Peter had expressed and said that that faith is the rock, the foundation, on which the Church is built. Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Church. He is the sure foundation stone. Jesus tells Peter that his confession of Christ is the foundation on which the Church is built.
Jesus promises that the gates of Hades will not overcome his Church. When Jesus uses the word “Hades,” he is referring to hell. Jesus assures us that all the forces of hell, no matter how hard they fight, will never overcome his Church. This overcoming is not just a defensive word, as if the Christian is locked inside of a fortress, that is under siege. The word also has an offensive meaning. Not only can all the forces of hell not defeat us, but also the forces of hell are as good as defeated when Christ’s Church makes a stand against them. All of the forces of hell are no match for the Church of Christ, because he has won the victory through his perfect life, his innocent suffering and death, and his glorious resurrection. God promises great blessings to the believers, those who confess Jesus Christ as their Savior.
We, also, have been brought to faith. We did not choose to accept Christ. Rather, it was the Holy Spirit who created that faith. It was a gift that came from him. We, too, have the blessings that Peter received. The greatest blessing that comes to us through our faith is the sure knowledge that Jesus paid for all of the sins that we have ever committed. There is no way that we could have paid the debt that was owed. It is only through believing in Jesus as our Savior that our sins are paid for. We thank our God that he created this faith in our hearts. We, too, confess that Jesus is “The Christ, the Son of the living God.”
God has created this faith in our hearts. He also wants us to confess Christ before others. This is not only done by telling unbelievers about Jesus, though that is an important thing that we have the privilege to do. It can be done as we teach the children in Sunday School. It can be done by going and visiting those members who can no longer attend services to let them know that they are still a part of the congregation. We can confess our faith when we visit with those who have not attended services for a while to let them know that we are concerned about them and invite them to rejoin us. There are many ways that we can confess our faith in Christ before others.
As we said earlier, controversy surrounds many people in history. There is much debate about what was done or why it was done. As we have seen, the unbelieving world even debates as to whom Jesus is. We thank God that he has created a faith in our hearts that leads us to know that Jesus is the Christ. He is our Savior. We know, by faith, that he is the Son of God. May God continue to strengthen our faith, so that we may always know, beyond a shadow of a doubt who Jesus is. May God help us to confess Christ before others to his glory. Amen.
Sermon on Matthew 14:22-33
Text: Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
A father and his son were out walking on a wintery evening. The sidewalk had become icy, so the father said to his son, ‘You’d better take hold of my hand.’ The little boy refused, keeping his hands in his pockets. I’m sure you guessed that it was not too long before the boy slipped on the ice and fell. He got up and said, ‘I’ll hold your hand, Daddy,’ and he grasped one of his father’s fingers. They came to another slippery spot and down the boy went again. This time when he got up, he said, ‘You hold my hand, Daddy.’ With the father holding and steadying his son, they made it home, without the boy falling again. What a valuable lesson that little boy learned that day. If he trusted in himself, he would soon fall. If his father held his hand and steadied him, he was able to go. Today in our sermon, we see Jesus holding the hand of Peter as he sank into the waters of the Sea of Galilee. We learn from this portion of God’s Word, JESUS WON’T LET GO OF YOUR HAND. 1. He Upholds You In Prayer. 2. He Saves You From Death.
Just prior to our text, Jesus had performed the miracle of feeding the 5,000 men plus women and children with two small fish and five loaves of bread. The people ate until they were satisfied, and the disciples collected twelve baskets full of leftovers. Now it was evening and time for the crowd to go home. While Jesus was dispersing the crowds, he had his disciples get into a boat to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. After the disciples were gone and the crowds were dispersed, we read in verse 23, “He went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.”
How often in the pages of the Gospels don’t we read these words, “He went by himself to pray.” Jesus took time out of his busy schedule every day to spend time with his Father in prayer. What a beautiful example for us to follow. No matter how busy we are, we are never too busy to pray. It, like all other habits, takes a little work, at first, but soon it becomes a natural part of our days.
No doubt, while Jesus was up on that mountain, he prayed for himself. There was still a long way to go before he finished the work the Father sent him to do. Satan still had many temptations to place before Jesus, hoping to get him to stray from his appointed path. Very likely, Jesus was also praying for his disciples. We read in verse 24, “The boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.” The topography of the Sea of Galilee lent itself to very sudden, violent storms. Apparently, the disciples found themselves in quite a storm. The wind was against them as they tried to reach the other side. The danger was very real that the boat would capsize, and the disciples drown.
Jesus, very likely, prayed for the disciples’ safety during the storm. However, a larger danger was likely threatening the disciples. They, along with the crowd, saw that Jesus was able to provide all that food. The crowd wanted to make Jesus their king. They wanted Jesus to rule over them, but not because he was the Son of God and their Savior. They wanted him to be their king, so that he would be able to provide food for them. Jesus prayed for the crowd that they would be able to overcome this temptation and that they would see why he had come to the earth.
Jesus continues to pray for us before his Father’s throne in heaven. We read in Romans 8:34, “[Christ is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Interceding means to speak to someone on another’s behalf. Jesus intercedes for us for many different things. The most important, by far, is the forgiveness of sins. John writes in his first epistle, “If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1) Jesus pleads our case before God, asking him to be merciful to us and forgive us, because he suffered, died, and rose again to pay for the sins that we commit every day. Jesus prays for us that our sins are forgiven.
He also prays that we do not fall victim to the devil’s temptations, that we would be given the strength to say ‘No.’ We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation.” Jesus takes these prayers before the heavenly Father and pleads for us. Jesus takes hold of our hands and upholds us, lifts us up, through these prayers to the Father. He loves us so much that he prays for us. May we be moved, in like love, to pray for others.
Jesus prayed for his disciples. He further demonstrated his love for them in the rest of the account before us. The disciples were frantically rowing and bailing, just to try and stay afloat. They may have been in the middle of this storm for nine hours. Suddenly, they looked and coming toward them, on the water, was a figure. In their fatigue and fear, we hear them cry out, “It’s a ghost.” All the things that they were experiencing combined to raise this superstitious fear in their hearts. They probably thought that this was the last straw, and they were about to die.
Jesus realized their fears and, in great love for them, wanted to comfort and calm them. He said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Verse 27) Jesus came to them in their hour of need and comforted them. All he had to do was say the words and the disciples’ fears were calmed. Note that Jesus does not even identify himself. He simply says, “It is I,” and the disciple knew who it was, and their hopes were revived. We would do well to follow the disciples’ example here. So many times, when we face a crisis, we wish God would do something spectacular to assure us that he is there. All we really need to do is to listen to his voice as he speaks to us in his Word. In his Word, we find the comfort that we are looking for.
Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” (Verse 28) Jesus said to him, “Come.” (Verse 29) It seems unlikely that Peter asked for this motivated by pride or an inflated ego. If he had done so, it is unlikely that Jesus would have invited him to come to him on that water. It also does not appear that Peter was asking, because he really doubted that it was Jesus. We see this in the fact that he immediately climbed overboard. By the power of God, he was able to walk on the water toward Jesus.
However, as he walked, he started to look around. We read in verse 30, “When he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” Peter became distracted and, when he saw the waves and felt the wind whip around him, he began to sink. However, note that Jesus does not just let Peter sink to learn his lesson. In his love, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. Jesus could have, in his almighty power, commanded Peter to rise. He chose, instead, to reach out his hand, showing his love for Peter. He lifted Peter to the surface of the water and, together, they walked back to the boat. We are told that, “When they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.” (Verse 32) The storm that they had been battling for nine hours stopped immediately and it was calm. Jesus not only saved the life of Peter, but also the lives of the other disciples. Jesus saved them from what appeared to be certain death.
When we think of this account, we often point out Peter’s weakness of faith, because he began to sink in the water. Let us not judge Peter too harshly! Let us look at our own faith lives. We start by asking, “When was the last time that I walked on water?” I believe it would be safe to say that none of us has ever done so. Yet, Peter believed Jesus’ invitation to come to him on the water. He did walk on the water, if only for a moment. Jesus tells us that, if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we could tell a mountain to throw itself into the sea and it would do so. In this point, we must admire Peter and pray that God would give us such a faith as this.
Unfortunately, there is a point of comparison with Peter’s actions that we are all too familiar with. We often start out the day with the best of intentions, with the strongest of faith. Then, however, we become distracted by the things around us. There are the fears and troubles that we face. There are the cares and concerns of this life. It is not just the bad things that distract us in our faith. The devil puts temptations in front of each of us. There are those things that we know God does not want us to do. We fool ourselves into thinking that if we have them or do them, just a little bit, it will not matter. As soon as we begin to think that way, we begin to sink. How thankful we are that we, too, can cry out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus comes with his loving hand and pulls us up to safety in the forgiveness of sins. We also pray that God would give us a faith that trusts solely on Jesus and will not be distracted by everything around us. Jesus saves us from death by lifting us up with his loving hand.
Jesus did not just take care of our spiritual needs. He also helps us with our physical needs. He protects us with his loving hand. He keeps danger and harm from us. We learn from Psalm 91:11, “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” He promises to send his angels to keep us. He also promises us in Psalm 50:15, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” We can go through the storms of life confident in the Lord’s help. He prays for us. He saves us from death. May we be comforted by this thought as we walk through this life – Jesus won’t let go of your hand. Amen.
Sermon on Matthew 13: 44-46
Text: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
What is your most treasured possession? Have you ever thought about that question? Sometimes the answer to that question will depend on the age of the person. A child’s most treasured possession may be a blanket or a stuffed animal. They cannot go to sleep without it. The teenager may think that their cell phone is their most treasured possession. How else can you keep up with what’s going on with your friends, if you can’t text them or talk to them? A treasured possession might be a house or a vehicle. It might be an heirloom that was passed down to us. You could make a case for many of these things. This morning our Savior reminds us that THE GOSPEL IS YOUR GREATEST POSSESSION. With that in mind, may we always 1. Recognize Its Value and 2. Treasure Its Worth.
Jesus concludes his day of teaching with these parables. First, he says, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Verse 44) It was not uncommon for the wealthy in Jesus’ day to divide their wealth into thirds. One third they would keep in money for carrying out business transactions. Another third they would invest in precious stones and jewels, which could easily be carried in the event of an advancing enemy army. The third part he would bury in the ground, hoping that one day he would come back and reclaim their property. Of course, such a person did not always come home, and his wealth would lie buried. Evidently, the person in our parable came upon such a treasure. He very likely was not even looking for it. However, when he stumbled across it, he immediately recognized its value.
We read a second scenario in verses 45&46, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” This merchant was a wholesaler who dealt in pearls. He was used to seeing pearls, some of greater value than others. However, when he came upon this particular pearl, he realized that it was something special. Recognizing how precious and valuable and unique this pearl was, he gave up his search and gave up everything for this pearl. He recognized its great value.
In both cases, we have someone recognizing the value of something and realizing that this was what they wanted. What is this one thing that is so valuable? What is the meaning of the picture that Jesus is using? Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like” in both cases. This is the great treasure that belongs to the Christian. It only becomes ours through faith in Jesus Christ. People stumble across this treasure in several different ways. For some, it is like the one who found the treasure in the field. They were not necessarily looking for it. God put it right in front of them. I would suppose this could describe many of us. We were infants when we were brought to faith through the washing of Baptism. This is something, by God’s grace, we have always known.
For others, there has been a searching. Since the Fall into sin, there has been an emptiness in all people, a spiritual vacuum. Mankind tries different things to try to fill the void. This is seen in the fact that there are all the religions that exist in the world. People are searching for something of great worth. The fact is that all these other ways all teach that you have to do something or be a certain way if you want to be accepted by your God. The more people try this path, the further they fall into despair, because they know they cannot live up to these expectations. Others try to fill the void by trying to ignore it and putting their energies into living life in the here and now. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” becomes their motto in life. This way of life ends up nowhere, at all. It leaves that person looking for something new.
How wonderful it is for this type of person, when they are brought to believe in Jesus as their Savior. All that they have been searching for is right there in front of them. The emptiness in their life is filled. Their life has meaning and a purpose and a goal. Once the gospel has been shown, there is no need to look elsewhere. That’s because the gospel offers what cannot be found elsewhere. Everything else pales in comparison.
May God help us always to recognize the value of this most precious possession he has given to us. Sometimes, we take this gift for granted. It has always been there. So, let us, for a few moments, remind ourselves of the value of this possession. It must start with taking an honest assessment of our lives. There are many places in the Scriptures where the mirror of God’s law stands, pointing out where we have failed to live as God demands we live. For example, we read in Ephesians 5:3&4, “Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” When you take stock of your life and compare what is said here, how do you fare? There must not even be a hint of sexual immorality. What about that lustful thought that we had? There must not be a hint of greed. Am I always content with what God has given me? There must not be obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking. Does my language always give glory to God? Have I been known to tell an off-color joke or story? When we hear these things, we might be tempted to dismiss them as just little imperfections. They really are not that serious, are they? Yet, listen to what it says after the list that we have been discussing: “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person — such a person is an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (Ephesians 5:5) Is God serious about these things too? We would all have to answer that he is serious and that none of us has lived up to his standard of perfection. Because of this, we do not have any inheritance in the kingdom of God. We would be lost forever.
It is only after we have come to this realization that we can truly value the treasure that has been placed in front of us. It is only after we have been nailed to the wall by the law that we can see the beauty of the gospel message. Then, when we hear the story of what God, in his love, did for us, we rejoice. When we hear that Jesus left his throne in heaven and became a human being to live a perfect life in our place, we rejoice. When we hear that he went to the cross, where he suffered and died to pay for all our sins, our mouths stand open in awe. What amazing love Jesus showed in being willing to suffer for our sins and pay our debt! Who can imagine anything so spectacular? Then, we hear the message of Easter and the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, showing that he had won the victory. How can we keep from crying out in joy? Jesus lives! Jesus is my Savior! May God help us to always recognize the immeasurable value of this possession that he gives to us through the faith that he has created in our hearts!
The two men in the parables did the same thing when they found their treasures. Both sold all that they had so that they could have them. Because they saw the worth of them, they were willing to give up everything they had.
Are we willing to do the same? Are we willing to give up everything for the gospel message? I am not speaking of giving up our lives for the gospel. That is not something that has been asked of us in our country and we pray that the Lord would allow his gospel to continue to be freely proclaimed here. Yet am I willing to give my life to Jesus for all that he has done for me? It is so very tempting to put our Christianity on the back burner when it seems to be inconvenient. We want to blend in with the rest of the world. We want to have the fun that the rest of the world is having. The devil tricks us into thinking that our Christian faith is not so very valuable, but rather a hindrance to what we really would like to do.
Are we willing to give our lives for the gospel? Are we willing to use the time that God has given us to glorify him? Do we take the opportunities that God gives us to study his Word in church, in class and in the home? The devil tries to trick us into thinking that we are too busy. We need time for ourselves to do what we want to do. We are so busy during the week that we have no time to read and study God’s Word. Sundays are the only day when we can spend time with the family. I’m so tired when I come home from work that I just don’t have the energy to go to Bible Class.
The two men in the stories Jesus told saw the worth of the treasures that had been placed in front of them. They gave up everything they had to get them and held on to them. When we are reminded of what God has given to us, we must realize that there is nothing of greater value than our salvation. This most precious gift is given to us through faith. May God continue to strengthen our faith so that we might hold on to this most valuable gift.
When we began our sermon this morning, we talked about our most precious possessions. I would like to note something about those possessions. The objects changed. This is not the case with the most precious possession that you have been given. The gospel message does not change. Jesus Christ, who loved you yesterday, loves you today and will love you forever. We also note that what was most valuable to us as children does not have the same value to us as adults. This is not the case with this greatest possession that God has given us. Its value does not change over the years. The gift of salvation is just as priceless at whatever age we are, though our appreciation of the gift will grow as we look at it more and more. May God help us every day to go and take a long look at this most precious gift that he has given to us. May he help us to continue to recognize its value and treasure its worth. This is God coming to us in love and telling us that heaven in ours through Jesus Christ. It is yours through faith. This is your greatest possession. Amen.
Sermon on Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Text: Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
In our sermon text for this morning, Jesus again uses a parable to teach. As we were reminded last week, a parable is a teaching device that Jesus used in which he took events from everyday life to teach a spiritual truth. Last week, Jesus spoke of a sower and four types of ground that received the seed that was sown. We saw that these four types of ground represented different reactions when the Word of God is taught. This morning, Jesus again takes us out to the farm and has us focus on THE WEEDS AMONG THE WHEAT. We will look at 1. The Sowing, 2. The Growing and 3. The Mowing.
Jesus begins in verse 24, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.” The farmer, we are told, made sure that the seed that he sowed was good seed. He took care in what was sown. However, we continue in verse 25, “25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.” This farmer had an enemy. Without the least bit of concern for all the labor that had been done, the expenses incurred, and the hope of a good harvest, to spite him, the enemy oversowed weeds into the farmer’s field. The weeds that he sowed are particularly nasty. They look like wheat plants when they are young. So, they are hard to distinguish from the wheat plants. However, when they mature, they have a black head and play host to a fungus, which if eaten, is poisonous to animals and people.
Later, when the disciples asked for an explanation of the parable, Jesus told them, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil.” (Verses 37-39) Jesus is the sower. He makes sure that his Word is broadcast throughout the world. Just as the farmer was careful to select the good seed and make sure that it was properly sown, so Jesus took great care to make sure that his Word has been kept in its truth and purity and that this is spread throughout the world. Through preaching and teaching, reading, and studying, the Holy Spirit takes the seed of the Word and creates faith in the heart. Those who believe are the wheat.
Jesus also tells us about the enemy. The one who sows the bad seed, the weeds, is the devil. He has been God’s enemy, ever since he rebelled against God. Because he was defeated in the battle in heaven, he has done everything he possibly can to ruin what God has created. That is why he came into the Garden of Eden and tempted Adam and Eve to sin. He could not get back at God, so he tried to destroy the crown of his creation, mankind. The devil, like the enemy of the farmer, does his work at night. His deeds of darkness cannot stand the light of day, the light of God’s Word, for then his lies would be exposed for what they are. The weeds are, Jesus says, “The people of the evil one.” (Verse 38) Jesus uses a Hebrew expression when he said this. To be a “people of” something, meant that this was your character. These weeds are characterized by being of the devil. They follow in his footsteps. Jesus, in speaking to a group of Jewish religious leaders, who refused to believe in him said, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.” (John 8:44)
We are also told what the field is: “The field is the world.” (Verse 38) The people of the kingdom, the wheat, the believers share the field with the people of the evil one, the weeds, the unbelievers. Both have been sown here on this earth and, like the plants in the parable, at first may be difficult to distinguish one from the other. They may have the same jobs, customs, political goals. On the outside, they may look just the same. The weeds may even appear to be righteous. They may be upright citizens, charitable givers, the good neighbor next door. However, make no mistake about it. They are weeds.
Jesus continues the story by saying, “When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.” (Verse 26) Now the plants have matured a bit further. They have begun to form heads. Now it is easier to see the difference between the wheat and the weeds. When the farmer’s servants looked at the field and saw the weeds, they realized that these were not stray or volunteer weeds. Something was wrong. So, they came to their master and asked, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?” (Verse 27) It may also be shocking to us that there are weeds, when the truth of the Gospel has been proclaimed. However, the farmer knew what had happened. He said, “An enemy did this.” (Verse 28) This is why there is still unbelief in the world. The devil works tirelessly, trying to get people to refuse to believe in the truth of the Gospel.
The servants have a plan. “Do you want us to go and pull them up?” (Verse 28) Get rid of the weeds. Pull them up by their roots. However, the owner says, “No, because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.” (Verse 29) He realized that, in pulling up the weeds, you would also likely pull up the wheat, as well, since their roots would be entangled. So, he says, “Let both grow together until the harvest.” (Verse 30)
The suggestion of the servants to pull up the weeds makes sense to our human reason. Just as the weeds hinder the growth of the wheat, so the unbelieving world hinders the growth and flowering of the Christian church. So, why not get rid of the unbelievers? However, the Lord would not have his church engaged in physically ridding the world of weeds. To the church’s shame, she has, at times, tried to do this. We might think of the Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition. We think of how the church treated the early reformers like John Huss in Bohemia or Savonarola in Italy. We remember how the church branded Martin Luther a heretic and tried to have him killed. The church perverts justice when it, in Christ’s name, has presumed to torture and execute those whom it regards as heretics.
However, the owner says that they were to leave them until the harvest. The reason is that some of the wheat might be pulled up, as well. If you do this, you end up with a total loss. We have the reminder that God does not want to cut short anyone’s time of grace. Who of us can properly distinguish between the unbelievers who will remain unbelievers and those who will be brought to faith? For that reason, we do not look at people and say that they are not our type of people, or they are not church people. As we are reminded in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Please note the master’s command to “Let both grow together until the harvest.” (Verse 30) In saying this, Jesus is not saying that we are to go along with the unbelieving world in its ideas and ways. He is not minimizing the differences between the wheat and the weeds. We are still to stand up and proclaim the truths of God’s Word, in the hopes that the people we are speaking to might see that they have sinned and that in Jesus Christ there is forgiveness. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:11, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Jesus reminds us that we are in the world, not of the world. (John 17)
This coexistence will not last forever. Just as the growing season comes to an end and then there is harvest, so also here. The owner said, “At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.” (Verse 30) At the harvest, the weeds are easily detected and are taken out of the field and burned up, while the wheat is harvested and brought into the barn. Jesus explains, “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Verses 40-43)
The weeds, the unbelievers, will be harvested and thrown into the fires of hell. It is described as a place of weeping – weeping over lost chances, weeping in sorrow – and gnashing of teeth. The teeth are ground together in pain. They are also ground together in hatred toward those around them, as a dog bares his teeth at an enemy. There is a very real place called hell and, despite what so many will tell you, God will send the unbeliever here.
The wheat, the believers, however, will be harvested and placed in heaven. Here all that causes sin and all that makes life so difficult on earth will be gone. It says that “The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Verse 43) We will be free from sin and will live in the glory that has been given to us through the work of Jesus Christ. If he had not come to the earth to pay for our sins, we would also have spent our eternity in the fires of hell. We would have been lost forever. However, Jesus came and took our place. He lived a life that followed his Father’s will. He suffered the torments of hell and died to pay the debt that we owed to our God. He rose on Easter morning so that the gates of heaven would be wide open for us. Heaven waits for the believer. It is ours because of what Jesus has done for us.
As we study this parable, we pause and thank God that he has planted in us his Holy Word, so that faith has been created and we have heaven to look forward to. We know that it was nothing on our part that made us attractive to him. He chose us. In addition, when we read about hell and the fact that those who do not believe will spend their eternity there, it causes us to pause. Are there people that I know that do not believe? What can I do to share the Gospel message with them? May God help us all to recognize the urgency in doing this. As we watch the fields around us grow and mature, telling us that in the future, there will be a harvest time, may it remind us to share what we know with others so that they may also, at the last, spend their eternity in glory. We pray, “Even so, Lord, quickly come To your final harvest-home; Gather all your people in, Free from sorrow, free from sin, There, forever purified, In your garner to abide. Come with all your angels, come; Raise the glorious harvest-home.” (Christian Worship #613 v.4) Amen.
Sermon on Matthew 13:1-9,18-23
Text: That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop — a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
There are many times in our life when we are told to listen. It might be a parent, telling us to listen to the instructions that they are giving. It might be a teacher who wants to make sure we got the directions correct. It might be a coach who wants to get our attention, because he wants to be sure you get the play right. It might be a boss, who does not want to have to explain things over again. They may say things like, “Listen up.” Usually, when we are told to listen up, that means something important is going to be told to us. This morning, our Savior says, in essence, “Listen up,” when we read verse 9, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” May we, with the help of the Holy Spirit, do just that. LET’S USE OUR EARS 1. To Listen Prayerfully, 2. To Listen Persistently, and 3. To Listen Attentively.
In our text for this morning, Jesus uses a figure of speech called a parable. The parable was Christ’s foremost figure of speech and teaching tool. By means of this figure of speech, Jesus would take everyday occurrences and use them to teach a spiritual truth. In this instance, he uses a farmer going out into his field to sow some seed. Though he uses the same seed, he gets different results. The reason for this is that, in spite of his best efforts and skills, not all of the seed ended up in a prime spot.
The first place that Jesus mentions is a path. “As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.” (Verse 4) Since the dirt on the path had been packed down by travelers, the seed couldn’t penetrate and so the birds came and ate the seed. Jesus explains what he means in verse 19, “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.” These are people who have hardened their hearts, so that when the message about Jesus is proclaimed to them, it falls on deaf ears.
We have seen many instances of this as Jesus dealt with the people of his day. They saw the miracles that Jesus did but could see nothing beyond the display of power. They heard the words, but refused to accept that he had the authority to speak as he did. They heard the words but refused to believe. It was these people, Jesus said, who were fulfilling the words of the prophet Isaiah, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” Because they refused to believe, the devil came and took away what they heard.
We see the same thing happening in our world today when people hear the message about Jesus Christ. Many look at it as so much foolishness. All this talk about God and his Son is not what intelligent people can believe. The fact that someone had to die for sins, which really are not more than human flaws, is not something that they can ascribe to. As far as a resurrection from the dead, that is just ridiculous. Everyone knows that when you die, that is the end. Besides all of this, I want to be my own person and make up my own rules. I don’t want someone to tell me what I can and cannot do. They refuse to believe, and Satan comes and snatches away the word from them.
These words also serve as a warning for us. You might ask how that can be since we are believers? We need to remember that, even in the believer, there are remnants of a rock-hard heart. Recall the disciples on the way to Emmaus, as Jesus chided them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25) They had their moment of doubt. Believers are not above the problems of terrible soil conditions – sin, doubts, and unbelief itself trample our hearts and threaten to prevent the plant of faith from growing. May our prayer echo that of a father, who asked for Jesus’ help in healing his son, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
The second type of ground upon which the seed fell is described in verses 5&6, “Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.” A layer of rock lay just below the surface. Topsoil covers the rock and offers a warm and fertile place for the seed to germinate and sprout. However, since the growing plant cannot sink its roots deep into the soil, it is doomed when the heat of the sun blazes down on it.
Jesus explains this section: “The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” (Verses 20&21) This is a person who is brought to faith and is overjoyed to hear the word. However, they never get beyond a superficial knowledge of God and his love. When the heat of persecution or peer pressure or disappointment or disillusionment gets turned up, they fall away. They stop hearing the Word and that fledgling faith dies.
Jesus’ warning again is clear. Plants of faith lacking roots will not survive. A shallow, short-lived reception of faith will not do in the long run. We need this warning, because there is a temptation for us to listen to God’s Word in a shallow way, not really letting it touch us down deep. We know all the facts, but they don’t affect our lives. May we, rather, with the help of the Holy Spirit, sink those roots down deep in the soil and become vibrant, fruitful plants. May we heed Peter’s encouragement to “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)
The third type of soil is mentioned in verse 7, “Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.” Any farmer or gardener knows that it is a constant battle to get out and keep out the weeds. Weeds drain strength from the good plants and can eventually choke them out. Jesus explains this picture in verse 22, “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” While these “weeds” may not actually kill the plant, they, at the very least, keep the plants from being as productive as they might be.
Jesus would also call on us to search the garden of our hearts for weeds, as well. He speaks of the “deceitfulness of wealth.” Wealth, in and of itself, is not bad. It is a blessing from God. The trouble arises when we put getting the things of this world ahead of our relationship with God. We think that no one is really hurt if we cheat just a little bit on things. We think that if we have this or that we will be really happy. We are willing to lay aside our principles if it means we can get ahead. Jesus asks two very searching questions about wealth in Mark 8, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Mark 8:36&37) What good is it to have everything in this world, but it interferes with my relationship with God? May we heed Paul’s warning in 1 Timothy 6, “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:10)
Then, there is the thriving, fast spreading “worry thorn.” Like the deceitfulness of wealth, the worry thorn robs the faith plant of vital nutrients of God’s Word. The typical believer can be reading their Bible or listening to God’s Word yet have their mind on an ailment or a financial dilemma or a multitude of other worries. The thing about these worry thorns is that they seem to spread and multiply quickly. We worry about this, which leads us to worry about that, and so forth. We are distracted from the nutrition that God wants to give us in his Word. We get so bound up in these weeds, that we are unfruitful plants in God’s garden. May the Lord help us to daily go in and look for those weeds, and trusting in him, pull them out at the roots.
Finally, we get to the fourth type of soil, “Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop — a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Verse 8) Here the soil produced a crop – some places better than others – but a crop was still there. Jesus explains in verse 23, “the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” The Word of God, planted in the heart of the believer, has produced a crop. This crop is the fruits of faith that flourish in the heart of the believer, as they live their lives in such a way as to thank God for all that he has done. In addition, the believer is like seed corn, in that he has seed that he can share with others. In this way, the crops multiply, as the Holy Spirit blesses the hearts of others with a saving faith.
As we look at this final type of ground, we must be careful to remember that we cannot take credit for this, at all. It is not as if we are, by nature, better ground than others are. We are, by nature, just as rock-hard as everyone else is. It is only when the Holy Spirit prepares our hearts by, first, breaking up the stony heart with his Law. Then, as the Word is planted in our hearts, the showers of the Gospel rain down upon us and faith is created and grows.
The parable that Jesus told is all about the hearing of his Word. As we hear this, we must all confess that we have not always heard God’s Word as we should or given it the proper attention in our lives. Other things crowd it out. We confess this sin to our God, as well as the host of other sins that we commit every day. We know that we are guilty. Yet, we also have the assurance that God, for the sake of Jesus Christ, has forgiven our sins. Jesus paid for all our sins by the perfect life he lived in our place, by the innocent suffering and death on the cross, and by his glorious resurrection. Because of his work, we have been forgiven of this sin. Now, may the Lord help us to listen to his Word with attentive ears. May the Lord help us to get rid of whatever might impede his Word from taking root in our hearts. May he help us to produce bountiful harvests, all which glorify him. To this end, may we heed Jesus’ words, when he says to all, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Amen.
Sermon on Matthew 11:28-30
Text: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Do you need a break? Are things just seeming to pile up one on top of the other, so that you are just weary? Many families at this time of year take a vacation to just get away from it all. They want to leave everything behind and take a break. What you do on your vacation may vary from person to person. Whatever the vacation plans, it is good to get a break. This morning, we are going to talk about a vacation, but it’s not a vacation to the mountains, or the beach, or wherever you might like to go on vacation. This morning, we see that JESUS OFFERS A PERFECT, NEVER-ENDING VACATION. 1. His Outstretched Arms Invite You To Come. 2. Take His Hand And Go With Him.
Just before Jesus spoke the words of our text, he had sent his disciples to speak the good news to several cities in the area. They had just returned, but not with the success that they had hoped for. Many people rejected the message that they had to offer. Many people had also refused to hear Jesus as he went among the people, preaching and teaching. As a matter of fact, he listed three different cities that had rejected him and spoke of the woe that would befall them.
The fact that these people had rejected Jesus and his disciples saddened him. However, Jesus did not turn his back on them. He didn’t just leave them to their own devices. Instead, he offered an invitation to them. He said in verse 28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” He makes an invitation with outstretched arms, ready to receive all who have been invited. Those who invited are the weary and the burdened.
We all know what it is like to carry something heavy. If we have to do it for a long time, we get tired and we need rest. Jesus’ invitation is for us, who are weary and burdened, as well. ‘What am I burdened with?’ you might ask. What we are burdened with is our many sins. Sometimes, we fail to realize just how heavy a burden of sin we try to carry. For that reason, we continually search God’s Word to find out what is pleasing to God and what is not. We find passages like Colossians 3:8, which speaks of “Anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language.” In verse five of that same chapter, we find listed, “Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” It doesn’t take us long, when we read God’s Word, to find the many ways in which we sin against our God. We also realize that the number of them is many, and no matter how hard we try, we cannot get rid of this load of sin on our own. The more we look, the heavier the load becomes. If we were to try and carry it on our own, we would surely be crushed under its weight.
It is to us that Jesus extends the invitation to come to him and he will give us rest. He offers rest from the heavy load of sin that is ours. Relief from those sins that torment us is available to us from Jesus. His arms are outstretched in invitation, inviting us to come to him for rest from our sins. As we look at those outstretched arms, we notice something about the hands. There we find reminders of another time when those arms were outstretched and nailed to the cross. It is because of that time that Jesus can offer rest from our load of sin. Jesus took all our sins upon himself and suffered for every one of them. Jesus paid the debt of sin we owed to God. He underwent the punishment that we deserved for our sins. All our sins were taken care of on the cross. The load of sin is gone.
That is why Jesus can invite us to come to him for relief from our sins. He has earned it. It is his and it is his to give away. Sometimes, when we look at our lives, we almost get overwhelmed with our sins. We echo the words of Paul in Romans 7:19, “I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.” We may even be tempted to despair and think that God cannot possibly forgive us. We say, ‘I’ve sinned too much and too greatly.’ It is then especially that we need to hear Jesus’ words of invitation, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Believe in Jesus and receive the forgiveness of sins. May that sure knowledge bring you needed rest from the burden of your sins. May you enjoy the needed vacation from your load of sins for Jesus’ sake.
When we normally think of a vacation, we often think of doing nothing at all, just resting and relaxing. However, this is not the type of vacation that Jesus has to offer. His vacation has work involved with it. We know this from words in our text like “burden” and “yoke.” Jesus says in verse 29, “Take my yoke upon you.” Now, a yoke, as you know, is something that was used to harness animals to do some work. It could be plowing, pulling a wagon, or other such work. That hardly sounds like a vacation, or something we want to do to ourselves. Yet, Jesus tells us in verse 30, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” In what way is Jesus’ yoke easy? What makes the burden we carry for Jesus light? There are two reasons why Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden light.
The first is that we are working for the Lord. We are doing things for him who loved us. As the passage goes, “We love, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) We are committed to him, because he was first committed to us. He paid for our sins, to set us free. He lifted from us the burden of our sin. Not only that, but he continues to be with us. In addition to lifting the burden of sins from us, he also eases the worries and troubles of this life by promising to care for all our needs. We do not need to be weighed down by the worries of this life. Jesus knows all our needs and promises to take care of them all. Jesus gives and gives and gives to us. How can our response be anything less than, ‘Lord, what can I do to thank you?’ Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you.”
The second reason why Jesus’ yoke is easy, and his burden is light is that we are working with the Lord. Remember a yoke was used to hitch two animals to the load. We are yoked together with the Lord. He gives us the strength to carry the load that he gives to us. We are not pulling alone. We don’t handle the burden all on our own. Jesus is right beside us helping us in our task.
Jesus gives us both the motivation and the ability to bear the yoke that he has for us. Yet, what is the yoke that Jesus wants us to put on? What is the burden that Jesus has for each of us? Jesus tells us to live a life that is pleasing to him. That is the yoke that Jesus asks us to bear. Bearing the yoke of Jesus will not always make us popular. It may mean saying “No!” to something that we think we might like to have, but it would be wrong. It might mean saying something to a friend or a family member that they might not like to hear, but they need to be told that they are doing something sinful. Remember, though, we are talking about a yoke! A yoke means work. However, it is a work that we gladly do because Jesus gives us the motivation and the ability to bear that yoke. May the Lord lead each of us to put on that yoke and wear it during our vacation.
The problem with vacations is that they seem to be over far too quickly. It seems as though you just get started, when your week or two weeks or whatever comes to an end, and it’s back to the old routine again. The same is not true of Jesus’ vacation that he offers. Jesus offers a perfect, non-ending vacation. May we rest in the sure knowledge of sins forgiven. May we also rest assured that all our earthly problems are in his hands. May we also work hard during our vacation. This hard work will not come to an end. We will bear the yoke of Christ for all eternity. However, it will get easier when we enter heaven, because we won’t be dragging against the world and all its impediments. My friends, enjoy your Christian vacation! Amen.
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