Title: Follow the [Right] Leader Part 1
Text: Matthew 22:23-33
FCF: We often struggle placing our hope in various things that cannot help us.
Prop: Because Natural man needs divine intervention and Christ is divine, we must depend on Jesus.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew 22. It serves us better to do a bit of a review at the end of the sermon today, but lest we forget where we’ve been, briefly, we must remember the context that we are flowing out of. Matthew has shown us repeatedly since chapter 19 that Israel has had the word of God for centuries but has misinterpreted and misapplied it and ultimately disobeyed God. But Jesus is the interpretive authority of the Word of God and its perfect keeper as well. For the last several episodes we have seen Jesus showing the religious elite and the people of Israel their failure to be what God purposed them to be. To be fruit bearers of His Kingdom. And the reason he is justified to expect such profitable people for His Kingdom, as we saw last week, is because He owns us. We are His creation and the Pot cannot tell the potter what its purpose is or what the acceptable standard for a pot would be. That is the Potter’s prerogative. But now in Matthew we will see a clear transition. We will step away from the concept of fruit bearing, to focus on Jesus’ authority and obedience. In fact, for the next three episodes we’ll see the same exact message repeated. However, it is far too much for us to try to cover in one sermon. So as a time concession, I have broken up what could have been a 2 and a half hour sermon into three manageable pieces. You’re welcome!
I’ll start reading in verse 23 from the NET but follow along in the version you prefer. If you don’t have a bible, don’t leave without one.
Now in these last three episodes of the narrative, as it was in the episode from last week, it is incredibly easy for us to get sidetracked by the content of Jesus’ teaching, rather than the point of Jesus’ and Matthew’s teaching. As such, there is truth we must see based on the actual things Jesus teaches, but we must understand that there is a greater purpose behind the teaching of the truth. As Jesus said with the poll tax – certainly we could focus on paying our taxes, but ultimately, Matthew did not put that episode in his gospel to teach on taxes, nor did Jesus comment that way to teach on taxes. There was something greater going on there.
This is really the nature of biblical interpretation, especially in regard to narrative.
Jesus answers the poll tax question, teaching something that is true, but that truth leads to something bigger that they did not anticipate. Matthew shows his readers this episode to show the grander point Jesus made, which fits into his grander point he is making for his gospel.
So to be blunt – we are going to talk about the resurrection today and our new bodies in the Kingdom – but we will go past that to see what Jesus actually wants the Sadducees and the crowd to learn. In so doing, we will go also to the point Matthew wants 1st Century Jews to learn. And in so doing, hopefully we will travel through time to finally arrive at what the Spirit of God wants us to learn. Are you ready?
I.) Natural Man does not understand the scriptures or the power of God, so we must depend on Jesus. (23-29)
a. [Slide 2] 23 – The same day Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to him and asked him
i. Matthew helps to remind his readers that the Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection. They believed that once dead, you were dead. That the body and soul died and the only judgment and reward from God would ultimately be in this life.
ii. Now why would Matthew have to remind us of this? If this was one of the key teachings of the Sadducees, wouldn’t people know it?
iii. Actually it probably wasn’t a key teaching of the Sadducees at all. It was just something they believed.
iv. It would be like our perspective on drunkenness. We follow scripture and know that drunkenness is a sin. But would that be something we are known for? Well I’d like to think we were known for a little more than just that.
v. The Sadducees were educated, wealthy and affluent people, with layers upon layers to their collective personality and theology. To boil all they were down to 1 belief would be silly.
vi. So Matthew reminds his readers that this was a teaching the Sadducees had that separated them from the Pharisees.
vii. Why would he remind them? Well, because this subject was going to be brought up.
b. [Slide 3] 24 – “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and father children for his brother.’
i. [Slide 4-6] This is a quotation form Deuteronomy 25:5-10. Let’s read that now.
ii. In a honor/shame culture, and with a strong patriarchal infrastructure, such actions by the brother in law and consequences rendered to him would have been devestating.
iii. He literally has the choice of
1. Allow your dead brother’s name and honor to continue in Israel at your expense or…
2. Inherit shame upon you and your family’s name forever.
iv. So we know that the teaching the Sadducees are basing their test on is at least true.
c. [Slide 7] 25 – Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children he left his wife to his brother.
i. So far the situation they are raising is entirely plausible.
ii. We’ve actually seen it happen with Ruth and Boaz.
iii. Saying among us may be trying to prove it was a real situation, or it may be trying to prove it was real even though it was made up. I think the latter is more probable.
d. [Slide 8] 26 – The second did the same, and the third, down to the seventh.
i. Although it is possible that such an event could occur, especially with war and exile, it seems that this situation is filled with exaggeration.
ii. It certainly would be an unlucky family to have had so many brothers die, and each of them marrying this woman only to die before they are able to produce a son to carry on the name.
iii. Nevertheless, it is easy to see that this was a hypothetical and somewhat ridiculous example that was supposed to prove that the teaching of the resurrection and life after death was equally as silly.
e. [Slide 9] 27 – Last of all, the woman died.
i. Finally this poor woman in the story is released of her misery
ii. 7 times a widow with no sons. YIKES.
iii. So what is their question from this silly story?
f. [Slide 10] 28 – In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all married her.”
i. There are two suppositions that the Sadducees make.
1. That first there was no resurrection.
2. And second, if there was a resurrection, life would pick up where the other life had left off. Perhaps they saw it more like a reincarnation than they did a resurrection.
ii. This question is designed to reinforce the ridiculousness of the idea of a resurrection. That it would only lead to chaos.
iii. Who would inherit the wife? And who would make sure they get the right husband?
iv. An interesting question. Perhaps one that the Pharisees were never really able to answer for the Sadducees.
v. But Jesus doesn’t fail. Although, His answer… is somewhat, shall we say, outside the box.
g. [Slide 11] 29 – Jesus answered them, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the scriptures or the power of God.
i. Here Jesus says that they have been hoodwinked. Much like Eve in the garden.
iii. Because they didn’t know the scriptures which obviously precipitated the fact that they did not know the power of God.
iv. How specifically we’ll have to wait
v. [Slide 12 (blank)] Because before we move on we need to understand something about the Sadducees, Pharisees, Jews, and generally about all natural men. Something that Jesus alludes to here.
vi. You see the Sadducees and Pharisees represent the theological giants of their day. They were great thinkers, and they knew the scriptures well. So well that in a few verses, Jesus is going to tell the crowds to continue to listen to what the Pharisees teach.
vii. But the problem was, that the way they applied the scriptures, and how they lived personally, seemed to always be wrong.
viii. How is it that they know the truth, but are so far from living it?
h. This leads us to the first truth of this passage, and interestingly enough, this truth will be one of two that carries on through the remainder of this chapter. Matthew finishes out this section of narrative with three episodes that have the same two teachings. The first is simply this…
i. That Natural men, even the most religious do not understand the scriptures or the power of God.,
j. This is a truth that is obvious throughout the scripture and specifically pointed out to us in I Corinthians 2. God’s word, and even God Himself, is enigma to natural man, and worse than that, the bible reveals that God and His word are not just misunderstood, but are hated by natural man. We find that particularly true of the Pharisees and Sadducees, because to a very real degree they did understand the truth in their heads – but not in their hearts. We’ll get to much of this when we start the next discourse in chapter 23, but the Sadducees did not simply misunderstand – they understood enough and rejected the truth.
k. All men are this way. Understanding, simply knowing the truth is not enough to lead them back to repentance and faith. It requires divine intervention to change the heart of a man.
l. Paris Reidhead in a sermon 10 shekels and a shirt based on Judges 17, relays a particular story about going to Africa. He had been convinced by humanistic Christianity that all mankind needed was to hear the truth of the gospel and to know how to go to heaven, and when they realized that God had loved them so much to provide a way to heaven, that they would turn to him. So he went to Africa to save the poor heathen with the truth. But when he got there he found people who didn’t want to hear anything about God or Christ or heaven. Why? Because they knew it already. They loved their sin. They wanted to keep their sin. And they didn’t care if it cost them their eternity, they did not wish to change and be what God desired them to be. It shattered Paris’ world. So much so that he began to question the truth of Christianity as a whole. But it was there in Africa that God revealed to Him the true nature of man, and also the true nature of God. Men are wicked to their core – but God is yet merciful. Understanding the truth is only the beginning. The rest is up to the drawing and changing power of God’s Holy Spirit.
m. If you get a chance – you should look up that sermon. Although preached in 1960s, you can find an audio version of it still today. And it is powerful.
n. Natural man does not understand God or His word – nor do they want to.
But this is not the only truth we must see in this text today. Because there is something far more encouraging to see here…
II.) Jesus has understanding beyond a natural man, so we must depend on Jesus. (30-33)
a. [Slide 13] 30 – For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
i. Ok first let’s deal with the teaching, then we’ll deal with the teacher.
ii. First let me dismiss quickly the notion that we all become angels when we die. Notice that Jesus said we will be like angels – specifically our bodies. Angels have a physical form, a body. But their body is not the same as ours. So we will not become angels, but our bodies will be like angels. Although I have guesses at what that may be, the bible does not elaborate, so neither will I.
iii. Why does Jesus bring up angels at all then? Certainly to draw the comparison between our bodily forms and theirs… but also because… the Sadducees do not believe in angels.
v. From a New Testament perspective, we know that the resurrection of the saints occurs prior to the Millennial Kingdom and the eternal state. We also know that at that resurrection we are given new and what the bible calls, glorified bodies. We know that these bodies are not like our current ones in that they are eternal, and immortal. But Christ reveals something else about them.
vi. We will not marry nor be given in marriage. What does that mean? Remember back when we were talking about divorce and remarriage before? It was in Chapter 19. It was there that we pointed out that in 1st Century Middle Eastern culture, sexual intercourse and marriage were the same thing. Paul proves this in I Corinthians 7 where he says that if you have sexual relations with a prostitute you are bound to that prostitute. They did not see sex as a component of marriage but as identical to marriage.
vii. Looking at that the other way for this context, we can conclude that whatever our bodies are going to be like, sexuality and even, perhaps, procreation, are all not going to function the same way, or at all, in the New Kingdom.
viii. Some are probably saddened by this, since they wish they would be married to their spouse in the New Kingdom too. But might I suggest that God, being the God He is, probably has something far better planned for us relationally than marriage. And it probably is not designed for one person to one person but for all people to all people. And especially for all people, to Him.
ix. So what is Jesus teaching? Relationships will fundamentally change in the Kingdom. And we can reasonably assume that they will change to be infinitely better. That sexuality and procreation will not be necessary, nor will they be missed.
x. All things in this world… EVEN THE GOOD THINGS – are mere shadows of what is to come.
xi. So young person – if you are obsessed with sexual things, listen to me… There is something far greater that awaits you if you are in Christ. You do not need to panic, that if you never have sex you are missing out. Listen to me… there is much greater things that await those who are in Christ, than the physical pleasures of our current bodies.
xii. For those who are married, hearing this truth may tempt us to excuse our lack of intimacy with our spouse. After all, far better things await us. We only have this life to be intimate in this body with our spouse. And even though we have something better that awaits us – we are instructed to enjoy each other and never be separated physically unless it is for spiritual growth and then to come back together quickly.
xiii. This teaching should not be used in either extreme but simply drive us to marvel at the secret plans God has for those who will be in His kingdom.
xiv. Now the last thing I want to point out before we move on is this… Where did Jesus get this teaching from? Not the new bodies, or even specifically being like angels… but where did Jesus pull this particular notion that there would be no marriage or procreation? To my knowledge – which is not perfect, but to my knowledge in the entire cannon of scripture, there was no such teaching.
xv. What does that mean? It means that of the power of God specifically, Jesus lays claim to intimate knowledge of the smallest of details about the physical composition of our bodies in the New Kingdom. Friends, such detailed knowledge of God’s plan and power to implement such a plan, is beyond that of a natural man. The bible may indicate that we will be like angels and that we will have new bodies – but nowhere that I have found, does it hint at the non sexual nature of those bodies. Jesus has knowledge beyond the scriptures.
xvi. What does that mean?
xvii. It either means He is a blasphemer, a lunatic, or He is God.
xviii. But His knowledge is not done…
b. [Slide 14] 31 – Now as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God,
i. To suggest that they did not know God said something, is to suggest that they knew the words but rejected the meaning.
ii. They, only considering the Pentateuch to be scripture, would have known it backward and forward. It is not the words that Christ says they miss, but the teaching.
c. [Slide 15] 32 – ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?
i. His quote is from Exodus 3:6, the second book of the Pentateuch and a passage of scripture they would have known well.
ii. Now what is true of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the time of God’s words in Exodus 3:6?
iii. They are all dead. Every single one of them. And some of them have been for a while.
nbsp; iv. But God, speaking to Moses, tells him “I AM the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. “
v. Now when we see I AM in English we may think that this is the proper name of God, Yahweh. However, this predates God telling the Israelites His name, that will be later in Exodus.
vi. So what significance does it have that God is currently the God of dead men? The emphasis is that the covenant relationship with these men, had not ended simply because they were physically dead.
vii. What does that mean?
viii. Jesus explains.
d. [Slide 16] He is not the God of the dead but of the living!”
i. God is claiming to still be the God of those men. His Covenant with them endures.
iii. Because although dead… they were not annihilated. They did not cease to exist.
iv. There would be a resurrection because their soul persisted.
v. Check… Mate. 1 verse. 1 verse undoes this teaching. 1. WOW!
e. [Slide 17] 33 – When the crowds heard this, they were amazing at his teaching.
i. We may be tempted to gloss over this verse because we’ve seen it so many times before.
ii. Perhaps we are even experiencing a little bit of awe at Jesus’ clever response.
iii. But listen, this verse communicates a profound truth. A truth that even the common crowd in the temple that day, could not help but seeing.
iv. Jesus’ teaching was teaching that they had never seen the likes of before.
v. Jesus taught, by his own authority, deep truths that were both on the surface of scripture, easy to find, and not in scripture, mysteries and secrets of God.
vi. What does that mean?
f. [Slide 18 (blank)(end)] Before we learned that natural man does not understand the scripture and the power of God, nor do they want to. But in stark contrast to that, we see here that Jesus has understanding of the scriptures and of God’s power, beyond any man that had ever walked the earth. Such knowledge, such intimacy, could not be possible by a natural man. There is something more to this Jesus fellow.
g. Something… Divine.
So natural man cannot and won’t understand – and Jesus, proving not to be a natural man, has understanding that can only be explained by Him being God. These two truths for us today will be repeated in the last two episodes of the narrative, as Matthew drives home his point. But what is his point? What does he want his readers to see? What is he preparing his readers for?
Here is what we know. We know that Matthew is writing primarily to Jews, both saved and unsaved alike. His primary point, is to show all Jews everywhere that Jesus is the promised Messiah and King of Israel. Of course He is more than that, as Matthew also explores.
In his first narrative and Discourse combo, Matthew explains who Jesus is, and what His Kingdom citizens will look like.
In the second narrative and discourse cycle, Matthew presents the power and authority of Jesus. Which can only be described as, Kingly.
In the third cycle, Matthew shows us the initial rejection of the religious elite and all Israel of Jesus, primarily because His message is one they did not like. That God desires his people to be different, to be holy.
In the fourth cycle, Matthew shows various people interacting with Jesus, and most of them coming to false conclusions about His identity, yet it is humility that produces the greatest in the Kingdom.
And now in the fifth cycle, Matthew reveals that although Israel had had the very Word of God for centuries, they misunderstood it, misapplied it, and ultimately did not obey it. But, Jesus is revealed to be the final interpretive authority of the Word of God, as well as the perfect follower of the Word of God.
What you may not see is that Matthew’s gospel is entering its climax. He is climbing a mountain and what he has been revealing are the final steps to the top.
In the discourse to follow Matthew will reveal two things to Jews that they don’t want to hear. 1 That their entire generation will held responsible for their killing of the Messiah of God and His followers. And 2 that they will not see Christ again until a later time. Meaning that God, as He did for 400 years, will now stop working primarily through the people of Israel. And it has been 2000 years. About a third of recorded human history, God has not spoken or worked in the collective hearts of Israel, his own chosen portion among the nations. Certainly He has called many Jews to repentance and faith, but His primary activity has not been through them. And of course now, those who are called Jews, are godless people serving a pagan god that they think is Yahweh.
Everything we have been studying in chapters 19-22 has been building to where we are going next. How appropriate then, that right before Jesus reveals this shocking message, Matthew paints this picture for his readers… three times.
Natural man does not understand the scriptures or the power of God, nor does he want to, but Jesus is not a natural man, and possess such intimate understanding of God and the scriptures that He must be God.
How then shall the Sadducees live? How then shall the crowd live? How then shall 1st Century saved and unsaved Jews live? How then shall we live? What impact on our lives do these two truths have?
Matthew’s message is quite simple, but what it lacks in complexity it makes up for in gravity.
Follow Jesus! Listen to Jesus. Obey Jesus. For He is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, The Lion of Judah, The Great I AM!
We must desperately cling to Jesus. His teaching. His example. His propitiation. His substitution. Because in Christ, His faithfulness, His Obedience, His submission, His sacrifice, In Him we find freedom. Freedom from what?
Freedom from the death sentence of the natural man. Freedom to understand and obey the scriptures. Freedom to know the power of God. Paul calls the gospel the power of God unto salvation. All in Christ, know intimately that changing power.
Our hope is not in the law, it is not in religious leaders, it is not in device nor creed. Our hope is in Christ alone. There is no hope apart from God’s redemptive work through His Son. He is the instrument used to secure again forever God’s claim on His own creation.
We become ambassadors OF Christ, raised into the full stature OF Christ to the point that we observe all things taught BY Christ. And we have that blessed hope that He is always with us.
Although it lacks complexity, this is the application for us from this text. Christ is everything and without Christ we are nothing.
So much so, that what a person, what a church, what a nation does with Jesus, defines that nation, that church, and that person.
What friend, have you done with Jesus? Is He… Everything?
Or is He only a means to something you want?
This gospel is not some humanistic babble where Jesus simply purchased your ticket out of hell and to happiness in heaven. No!
This gospel is that Jesus has become the pivot point in the whole of created history whereby God reclaims what is rightfully His from the clutches of darkness and remakes it to what He intended it to be either by destroying it or by restoring it.
The world, heaven, angels and humans, punished or purified, Separated or made new. Dead or Living. God will divide the goats and the sheep. And Jesus is the shepherd. He knows His sheep.
Do not be deceived by the simplicity of this application… because there is no application greater.
What is Christ to you?
Do you see Him as His Father sees Him? Is He everything? Because if He isn’t everything, then he might as well be nothing.
What friend, have you done with Jesus? What will you do, with Jesus?