It’s kind of crazy to me. The amount of tools available to us to explore, learn and discover. If we think just about the bible there are thousands of resources available to help us decifer and build deeper understanding. Yet, it seems like biblical literacy is at an all time low. I know personally having tools and actually using them are two very different things. Think about it, there is no longer ever a need to to say, “I think it says in the Bible somewhere.” We have the ability to check instantly with the unlock of our phones or a couple words typed into google.
For the majority of humanity the ability to touch, see or hold a bible was reserved to a small select group. The bible was written by hand, one at a time, in an era where the majority of people where not just biblaically illiterate, but just plain illiterate. The early Church tried to get over this hurdle with stained glass that told stories and public readings. I often wonder if this is the reason for the norm of Church gatherings on Sunday mornings. I wonder what the Church would look like if everyone in the early Church could read… Another contemplation for another day I guess…
Our church has slowly been working through the gospel of Matthew. Slowly taking piece by peice and analyzing, discussing, and hopefully drawing conclusions and applications from what we are reading together. Matthew’s writing builds a lot of intentionality and understanding who Christ is. Jesus is identified as the Messiah, as someone who is set a part. Matthew really draws out the reality that following Christ is more than just changing our actions, more than just external changes, but true following is deeper. Following Christ requires change deep inside, a change that is internal.
Information is cheap. Application is a thing of true value. Application requires choice. We have unlimited access to the bible and commentaries and tools, but without application what good are they? To help with this application process at Corner Church we invite people to dialogue about what we are talking about. This build connection with one another, and also deeper connection with our topics.
So to start our discussion today, we start with a complicated question. Think about words like: good, pure, holy, righteous. Think about the differing world views related to these words. What about these things from different perspective? Come at this question from as many different angles as you are able to.
What makes someone a good person?
What differeing views do people have?
Let me add a little bit and allow you to dig in a little more. What if what a person views as making them good or holy or pure, is wrong? What if their view point, or understanding is wrong? This is an uncomfortable questions. It’s not an easy question. Questions like this are often ones that we try to avoid. Unfortunately, this is a reoccuring theme in scripture. Just google something like “misguided view of righteousness, bible.” So, take a minute and dive into the complexity of this next question. Can someone be wrong? Who decides that? What if they don’t know they are wrong? What if you are wrong?
What happens if someone is wrong in what they think makes a good person?
In Matthew 13 Jesus starts off with a parable of a person throwing seeds on the ground. Jesus talks about the landing places of these seeds and their impact. Some land on a hard path. They can’t penetrate, germinate, or grow. There is no hope for these seeds. They just sit there until the birds come and consume the seeds. They are simply wasted.
1 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.”
Jesus sums up this part of the parable like this:
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.
Now, it’s easy to equate understanding with insight, training or intellegence. That’s what we are taught in school with algebra, chemestry, rocket science, right? But over and over again in scripture we see that the ones that get it, the ones that understand are the simple, uneducated, outisders. Those that are desperate, needy, and hopless have an uncanny ability to recognize who Jesus is.
In Matthew 12 Jesus is interacting with a group that had an incredibly negative response to Him. The Pharisees had experiences that led them to a point of denying who Jesus was. They knew that if someone claimed to be revolutionary messiah that they where expecting and where wrong, it would mean trouble for their nation, their community. In Matthew 12:22–29 Jesus healed a demon possessed man that was brought to him. He was blind, mute, then healed miraculously by Jesus.
23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”
All the people but…
All the people but the Pharisees. They responded by saying that Jesus must be a devil to drive out devils.
24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
“Really?” Jesus must have been thinking.
“That is your response to the miracles you see me do”
A moment that feels like sorrowful surprise. A moment when Jesus again saw what was really going on in the hearts of the Pharisees. Jesus’ response in this moment draws a line.
Matthew 12:30 MSG
30 “This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you’re not on my side, you’re the enemy; if you’re not helping, you’re making things worse.
Jesus was challenging the Pharisees self righouesness. These where the most religious people in all of Israel. They where the ones who where supposed to have “it” all figured out. The “it” being right relationship with God. And because of their expertise in the matter, they missed it. They where like the hard packed path. There was no way the seed was going to penetrate. There was no way they where going to understand. It hit, bounced and all hope was lost.
Jesus then uses a term I never really understood but was always terrified of…
Blaspheming the Holy Spirit…
Sounds scary right? My current understanding of this in this moment is continual, chosen, rejection, of what God is doing in and around you. The exact thing that Pharisees where doing.
Matthew 12:32 MSG
when you reject the Holy Spirit, you’re sawing off the branch on which you’re sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives.
The megaphone is blaring, God is calling, the Holy Spirit is guiding, and the Pharisees rejected it.
34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
Jesus was responding to people who thought they had their relationship with God all figured out. Their ignorant resolve made them impenetrable to the good Jesus was doing. Let’s not be like that. I don’t want my igotant resolve to make me impenetrable to what God is doing.
What set the Pharisees up to say no to Jesus?
How did they become the “path?”
As a Church we have looked at Matthew for the past year. There have been repeatedly people that where radically changed by Jesus.
In Matthew 4:
- The crowds of sick and hurting people
In Matthew 8
- Man with Leprosy
- Centurion with the dieing servant
- Peter’s mother-in-law
- Many sick and demon possessed
- The formerly Demon-Possessed man who had lived amongst the tombs
In Matthew 9
- Paralyzed man and his friends who brought him to Jesus
- Matthew the tax collector
- Synagogue leader whose daughter died
- Woman with the issue of blood for 12 years
- Two blind men
- Mute man who was demon possessed
- The Disciples
In Matthew 12
- Man with the Shriveled hand
- Blind and mute demon-possessed man
- The crowd of marginalized and ignorant
These people recognized Jesus. They understood, believed, trusted and had amazing faith. There where the poeple listed above and then there where the pharisees. Two groups with very different responses to who Jesus was. There was nothing that could be said the Pharisees to get them to respond correctly. There was nothing that was going to change them. Like the seed landing on the path, they where hopeless. They had it all figured out and that made them impenetrable.
What differences do you see between the people who recognize Jesus and those that don’t?
Now take a minute and make it personal…
How are you recognizing Jesus?
How can you become more like the people that responded with “yes” to Jesus’ message?
How can you help people that are currently impenetrable?Take It Deeper Questions
- Read Matthew 12:22–37
- If had to lose two senses, what would they be? Why? Sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, balance
- Why did the crowd and the pharisees respond so differently to Jesus healing the man?
- Is neutrality to Jesus possible? Why or why not?
- What is meant by “blasphemy against the Spirit?”
- Why is it so bad?
- How does a “tree” become good or bad? How can we work on being “good?”
- What real difference does Jesus’ power make in your daily struggles against evil?