W W W W World Wide Web Witness Inc. Home Page Contents Page for Volume What is New
Some things of course are like that. The beauty of an Easter lily, for example. An Easter message sent to us from a friend in the USA was covered with these lovely creations, like Autumn leaves in the realm of the Maple, but now in white, and here preaching life, rather than death, for both are vital: the one an avenue to the other, when you come to Christ.
cannot escape it. It is there.
HIS life, for example -It invaded the senses, assailed the mind, drew the personality, elevated thought, caressed in comfort, challenged presumption, exuded tenderness to the lost, the sick and the suffering, but without concession of any kind to accompanying or even causative sin. His words and His life were a song that entreated to goodness, showed it in the process, and made the way available at the end, which was then the beginning, for the defeat of death in the very body, this not merely showed who He was, confirming His words, but where He would lead.
with His voice and His power, and His grace:
and His complete lack of that odious 'charm' with which the opposing professor in My Fair Lady "oiled his way across the floor";
or of that abrasiveness which confronts for confrontation's sake;
and without the elevation of that accursed substitute for faith, 'self-esteem', the ego-exercise;
but rather, in the very aura of truth, proclamatory,
as a word that ruled and the Ruler who spoke,
intimating, as the matter required:
this was more than eloquent.
Eternal life is not a mere phrase or maze, as some might seek it: it is a fact. It continues. It is then presented with a body at His return. Life is a pilgrimage, but not without power. It is only when the switch is TURNED OFF, that this is so. The power is merely that of an erodable surface, the superficial personality, going its way to deserved doom, because of deliberate unbelief. THIS IS THE CONDEMNATION, says John 3:18-19, that LIGHT has come into the world, and men have preferred darkness. That too, it is authentic. It is just the case.
We have seen in the preceding chapter this thing: that this enlivening passion, if you will, or compassion if you won't, this entrusting of the spirit to the Lord, this delivery of the fragile life that inhabits but is not comprised by the dust, this heart and soul, mind and strength love of God, is not the only thing that is total in this sphere. There is also available without pass required, hatred with all the heart and soul, mind and strength.
This at the spiritual level does not necessarily have to be odious in conception, merely in execution. As love is not always stated, so is hate; and as love is not always realised at first, neither is hate. Actions which 'suddenly arise' are often the deep product of much that was not investigated in the mind, or considered in the life. That is one reason only why man should not live by his own thoughts, for they are not so constructed, like a computer read-out, as to be precisely what you may think, or consciously act on. They can be possessed of various intrusions, from the devil, desire and culture, custom and self-will, self-preservation and other things potential in folly, or actual, or both. They need examination : EXAMINE YOURSELF to see whether you are in the faith, or to confirm it, is advice from Paul to the Corinthians.
It is necessary to ASK the Lord to inspect, to seek and SEE if there is any evil way in us, for - like dirt on clothes seen by the mother of the child, but not noticed by the youngster, it is not just the case, DO I REALISE IT, but rather, IS IT THERE ? If you love, then a clean heart is the thing you need.
That, by the way, is the counsel of David as notable in Psalm 17 and more especially in Psalm 139:23.
Now, however, it is time to ponder the life of the Lord from the report in Matthew 12, because just as one single example, this shows such an authority, such an assurance, such a series of answers, the overturning of so many obstacles, the redress to so much, so shortly, and with such dynamic wonder and light, like shafts of sunlight in the darkened wood, that there is simply nothing like it. It is not only in "a class of its own", but it even invents the class.
is the performance of that ultimate authority who,
with power of speech and deed, without limit or constraint to stop,
and though in humbled form prepared for sacrifice for man as man
so that those who believe might receive of His life spiritually,
BEFORE ABRAHAM WAS, I AM, is merely the time relationship. It is also an ontological glory.
LIFE was the exemplar in heartiness, the criterion of spirituality, the
promenade of integrity, for He gave Himself, a ransom that was sinless,
neither deficient in acute sensibility, nor in sacrifice, and even in the
sordid and the squalid occasions, He delighted to do His Father's will,
for which He came saying, "A body You have
prepared for Me... In the volume of the Book it is written of Me -
To do your will, O God" (Hebrews 10:7). So did His take-off from heaven to this jungle, become actual, and His mission complete, wholeheartedly, with all the mind and will attuned (Philippians 2).
Now in Matthew we find a series of events, any one of which could be staggering, alone. Jointly, they paint a portrait that has the simplicity of realism and the individuality that is stark, conjoining a sovereignty and a vulnerability, a plan and a purpose, a power and a peace which like a lightning solidifying into flesh, dazzled the earth. Yet the shining was so moving that the eye could adjust ...
FIRST, let us look at two related episodes in Matthew 12:1-14. They both involve opposition from and confrontation by religious people, to the work of Jesus Christ.
12:1-8, and 12:9-14, He as God, not flesh, merely inscribed in flesh, makes
As to that great institution, the Sabbath, that day of rest, that covenant bond and symbol, as we find so clearly in Ezekiel 20:12: "Moreover, I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them..." : it is lawful to do good on it, and HE is LORD of it!
Part of the almost compulsive Sabbath breaking (in the sense of day of rest, now Sunday cf. Biblical Blessings Appendix I, II, III) that now occupies South Australia (and very doubtless, most other places) is of course precisely to show that the LORD IS NOT accepted or acceptable. It is not always with this conscious purpose; but the ease with which foolish and obsequious substitutions come is a standing testimony to the import, if not the intent.
It is the need for EMPLOYMENT or that for MONEY or that for having a day for fun on Saturday, before getting down to the serious business of professional people in sport on Sunday, or some other idolatrous departure from what matters, to what matters not. It is rather like someone with diabetes INSISTING on eating sweets at will, in the interests of the sacred personality, which MUST be served.
It is rather like the QC drama, Rumpole, who had a rather domineering (or frustrated ? ) wife depicted by her husband, playfully in part, as "she who must be obeyed", in just that riotous seeming reversal of roles which is so amusing when it is not happening in fact. Here however it is not the gender matter, but the God issue. MAN becomes HE WHO MUST BE SERVED in his comfort, desire, impulse, preference, priority and so on, and no one MUST interfere for THIS is life and GET A LIFE! as the Premier astonishingly proclaimed to some who wanted parklands kept more peaceful than the violence of V-8 motor racing permitted. What he would have proclaimed to those who, unlike the author, find traffic tangles costing perhaps up to one hour per day, during the intrusion, is not known. What the 'life' is which is to be 'got', is not specified, but it appears most sacred.
WHAT then would Christ do when religious people, who did not want the Sabbath day to be violated, and this quite rightly in terms of the contract as in the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20) met with the Son of God who at His own say so, HEALED someone on the Sabbath! They could do one of several things. They could impotently fume, because they thought it wrong, without thought. They could serenely bless, because someone was healed and it was obviously not a planned proceeding but a meeting of want in distress, that came to attention. They could hold their peace and wonder and research the matter ... and so on.
The religious ones in view did the first. However, first they had to be sure whether their fuming WOULD be impotent. They put things to the test. Let us look at the second case first, in Matthew 12:9-14.
was a man with a withered hand. Some asked Christ, Is it lawful to heal
on the Sabbath ?
to try him out with words. Christ however did not irrationally INSIST, but rationally persisted. Which of them did not draw out an animal from a pit on the Sabbath. Why ? Obviously it was a combination of clemency and care. You could not with heartless indifference and casual insouciance ignore one of your cattle which fell into a pit on the day. Why then, how much LESS could you ignore someone whose sickness obtruded on the Sabbath, and came to attention just like the ox in a pit! There could only be silence to the Saviour's words of remonstration.
Are people then to be less than animals, and that in the interests of 'religion'!
But that was not all. Far from it. Christ with the robustness of actual majesty proceeded to GIVE the principle, as well as the illustration and the practice, in that, yes, He DID heal the man. He brought to light the word from Hosea, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice", in the context of the resurrection prediction*1 (cf. Hosea 6:1-3, Isaiah 26:19, Psalm 16). On that they all would have to rest, if rest at all, and ever.
This tendency to an almost litigious insistence on the law, rather than a hearty compliance in spirit and truth, was long a danger to Israel, as it has been to many another people; and as with Israel, others have likewise mixed this superficial pedanticism with severe pollution, with the readiest of freedoms. Here the Christ they tried to 'catch out', to entangle with inadequate words before their sophistries, or inadequate deeds because of hope or fear, and He met them squarely. He indicated from the very words which the Spirit of Christ had long given (as in I Peter 1:11), that their need was MERCY. It was in MERCY that God HIMSELF would pay the price (as in Hosea 13:14), Himself doing the redemption through that body prepared for His eternal Word, the incarnate Christ. It was all mercy; without it there was only the fog of confusion and the fate of hell.
Certainly there was also obedience. He did not say, I require mercy and not obedience! Obedience was scarce enough! Sacrifice in the end, is OUT OF MERCY, out of love, and it should not in its very performance, deny it! That was the point. Mercy and not sacrifice is not a war on sacrifice, but a war on the spirit which merely uses it blindly, offering it dully, as if it were some ex opere operandum mass.
In Matthew 12:1-8, we can see how stirred the unrepentant religious heart would be, so that their rush to ambush Him with their words, as we have just seen from 12:9ff., could readily be comprehended.
Let us then look at this, and see the supreme authority, to them blatant audacity, in terms of which He dealt with their earlier ambush, from the record this time, at the beginning of Matthew 12. In this case, they sought to correct Him and so tarnish Him as truth, as to make it impossible for Him to declare what they did not wish to hear, so leaving themselves lords of the sabbaths. In what way ? why it would then have been the word of God together with their own added commands and constrictions. On this, as on many things by their "traditions" as Christ was to call them (Mark 7:7), they served their own selves.
Let us then examine the case, the attack, and see how it was regarded and in what way treated by Jesus Christ.
Here His disciples were simply plucking odd ears of corn as they passed through the fields. It was the Sabbath. Ah! here they could reach Him, and show Him up. So the religious battle commenced its firing.
"Look!" they exclaimed, "Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!" Now Deuteronomy 23:25 did give them liberty to pluck ears in this way, provided they were not reaped with a sickle. Why then was their complaint at this pleasant graciousness of ambience for the disciples in their own land ? It was because of the Sabbath. But is it to be called labour, work, the sweat of the brow to do this casual thing in a restful way as they travelled ? Of course not. Christ could have argued this, and they might have answered in their narrowness; but He chose not to do so, at least as far as our information goes. Certainly, what He THEN said was amazing.
He stressed the fact that the LAW is SPIRITUAL. This does not at all mean that you need not obey it, but it does imply that you need to understand what it is about, and see its purpose and meat, as well as its formula. It is like the case mentioned by Dr Gitt in his work on astronomy. A physicist might mention in a report the wave length and other data and details regarding a radio communication observed from some point; but someone who interpreted things as they came, in terms of purpose, would be more likely to mention the message.
Again, this is not to put 'message' as a liberation from meaning; it is to extend the meaning, not restrict it, so that this gives the wave length, if you will, the perspective in which it is to be read. Thus similarly, this time in interpretation of HIS OWN WORDS, Christ Himself in John 6 had indicated "The words that I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life!" He had spoken of eating His flesh, and then made it apparent that as He was going back to His Father, meat eating was not really the meaning... It was the reception of His sacrifice! Where He would carry His body, it would not even be available, by divine decree (Acts 3:19-21). "What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before!"
This restricted data, so precluding misinterpretation. Similarly, in Matthew 12, Christ expands data, amplifying interpretation. He cited the case of David who ate the show bread, which represented the tribes of Israel before the solicitude of God, in the Temple. It was to be eaten by priests only by decree! How then could the priest give it to David and his men, when, persecuted and pursued by the deranged King Saul, fretful in jealousy and inhabited by an evil spirit, he was in real need ? HOW HOW HOW!
Why of course, the reason is not hard to find. If the symbol is to be used as the symbol MEANS, then surely the symbol is available to ACT OUT its meaning, if necessary. It was deemed necessary, and part of the priestly office and function being to hold communion with God (the urim and thummim objectified this), the one to whom the duty of the bread officially appertained could in emergency, act in spirit as he found fitting. He could do this as he did his duty of presenting symbols to God, and even direct their replaceable substance to man, in the very terms of meeting need which the symbol in its appeal to God in the sanctuary, bespoke.
But Christ pushed it further. What about priests ? Is the Sabbath so inveterate a principle that the priests can break it then ? Are they to be idle on that day ? Are there no exceptions ? Is the meaning and purpose to be forgotten in shibboleths and entrapments, not fulfilled in the very beauty of the peace of a day off from the restless workings of labour in a cursed world! Is not the Sabbath, the rest day with special reference to one’s Maker, in fact a lavish provision for the richness of life before God ? Does it not strengthen the heart, make steel the nerve, clear the vision, deeper the devotion to God, and may it not then be used in the love of that God, of course NOT to earn one's keep, but to do good voluntarily with the things which arise to meet the eye!
Is not one to be merciful ? Is this to cease on one day ? Is this so, even if the event is unplanned! However Christ with that mastery of the brief, that brief for the compressed, in word and deed rebuked them so far that their passion to overcome Him rose, and as we have seen them in the case of the withered hand, above, they were drooling for His defeat.
BUT this is not all.
He went further.
the authority which is not abrasive, but is wholly unfettered, He add this:
"The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath!" That word 'even' would surely gall some. To be "Lord of the Sabbath" would entirely upset the traditionalists, who blind in word, saw nothing of the meat and meaning of the thing. But to face it directly with the addition "even", making it clear that He not only realised but relished the point, that the VERY Sabbath, that mighty SIGN between man and God of the covenant as Ezekiel expressly put it, crucial and an index to the heart, that EVEN this was something OVER which HE was LORD: this was too much!
There was no limiting Him. He acted precisely as if the very covenant of grace which had been sharpened by the Law (as in Romans 4, Galatians 4), but not rescinded, that from Abraham on, which was to reach even to the Gentiles (Genesis 12,15) was UNDER His protective care. He could even INITIATE a NEW principle (yet only as predicted - Deuteronomy 18:15ff.), that HE was LORD over this.
It was not just that He had urged this point on them, in answer to their criticism, about the particular matter, plucking ears of corn (and HOW they might wish that they had never EVEN mentioned it!). He went on with the fluency of assurance that to them was so baffling, and even articulated the proposition, as if their enmity was of no consequence whatever, that He was LORD over the whole thing, the Sabbath itself. WHO could possibly be that, but God!
Precisely, but this point is made routinely, one could almost say. Thus in Mark 2, you see the same desire to restrict mercy on Sabbaths, when such antagonists as this challenged Christ about His possible healing ministry to a man paralysed. DARE HE ? THAT YOU MAY KNOW, He said, that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sin, He asked the palsied man to arise and take up his bed and walk. After all, as He pointed out Himself, WHICH is easier, to SAY, Sins forgiven! or to have this happen, that the paralysed at a word of command, should actually do it, arise physically and walk, carrying his bed with him! The power to do such a thing, this was precisely the counter expression of his long smiting sickness, the act of the Lord Himself in His Messianic role (Isaiah 35)!
The man arose. God only can forgive sin! Yes. But when Christ is there, God is the One in action as in Isaiah 48:16. He is sent, from above. He comes by ordination. He is at work.
Again in John 8:58, He is challenged about saying that Abraham rejoiced to see His day, implying pre-existence, knowledge of Abraham intimately, and that He was greater than Abraham. Endeavouring to corner Him, they rebuked Him for such a statement. Instead of being careful, with witty words and adroit footwork, He simply stated, "Before Abraham was, I am."
in this instance, was far from all. Not only is
"I am" a signification in this setting, that
time is beneath Him, not controlling Him, but it is the very word, phrase,
which was used directly, decisively, covenantally and crucially, definitively
indeed, for Moses to convey to the Jewish elders when he would come to
seek their extraction from the back-breaking servitude under Pharaoh!
It was "I am" whom he would say, had sent him.
What then ? He was quite simply announcing who He was, and is, from the depths of their covenant itself. Nothing could irk or prevent Him in such matters. When He also raised Lazarus from the dead, no wonder the priestly farce of authoritarian pretentiousness reacted as was its wont, by seeking His extradition from this world, in murder. "You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people and not that the whole nation should perish" (from John 11:49-50), said Caiaphas, with specious tenderness.
"If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him," was the initial complaint to which this rude and rough answer from Caiaphas came out of a deadened heart. "What shall we do, for this Man works many signs!" was their agitated complaint! That religious bureaucrat did the 'right thing' by tradition, that added in foolishness and presumption. It could even add the subtraction of the Messiah by death! It is some tradition that can do this, but these things rarely stop before any assignable limit.
Kill Him, quite obvious, he opined, like a Mafia exemplar, and how often, with Jew as with Gentile, has the action of authority resembled it, and not least, when it comes to this, the Christ, and their money or employment competes!
Thus after these two episodes noted in Matthew 12:1-14, we read: "Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him." Unfortunately for them, they COULD not destroy Him, and as to their nation, the best thing they could conceivably have done for it, was to be honest, as so many are not in these things, whether in evolutionary myth-making, or addition of traditions to the text of the word of God, erring downwards or upwards, but rarely on the level. If they had been honest, and stayed with that joint and adequate evidence, the word of God in the presence of history, they could not have erred. Then, seeing the Messiah fulfil the very prophecies of identification so graciously given from God, as we have seen in the preceding chapters, they would have believed, and He would have proceeded to show His intentions, as He did so categorically at His mock trial, that Pilate could only declare Him innocent while weakly committing Him to the hands of the inflamed crowd.
"My kingdom is NOT of this world!" He declared.
If it were, then His servants would fight. Indeed, had He not declined when they pressed Him to be King after the feeding of the 5000! They did not fight when He was captured, because as we saw with Peter and his sword play, He would not let them. THAT is not what is wanted, 'holy wars' to force the 'faith' on the unwilling. His kingdom is a voluntary affair (Psalm 110); but when you are in it, it is structured in spirituality. God does not cease to be Lord when you are in His kingdom, but neither does He cease to be love (I John 4:7ff.).
is painfully amusing that neither Pilate (sacrificing Christ for his own
private self-interest and career futures), nor the priestly party were
successful. Christ was not destroyed, the whole of Jerusalem was, and Pilate
died in grievous exile. The word of the Lord went from Christ as it was:
SECONDLY, we see His strategy in Matthew 12:15-21.
Thus, learning that the Pharisees were determined to destroy Him, He withdrew, though many followed Him, in fact, "great multitudes", and as to the sick, He healed ALL OF THEM.
The power and precision necessary for that would be prodigious. Not a case would fail. The sort of troubles would tend to be chronic, severe. It reminds one of Elsie Salmon (SMR p. 339), whose cases of cancer and even a distorted or on occasion missing bodily member, and various amazing troubles, were met in South Africa with almost total healing power (cf. John 14;12). The healing gift, though often faked, is not absent. Christ had it in full measure (John 3:34), being fully conformable to the pageant of the only Son of the Father (John 1:14ff.).
Thus in answer to evil, He did good; in answer to plotting, He withdrew. In answer to verbal challenge, He enunciated principles, deep and abiding in understanding, ones which endure to this day. In answer to threats, He destroyed their rational and pseudo-revelatory basis, and went on with His work. None drew near to Him in antagonism and victory; their triumphs were nil. Only murder worked; and even that was accordingly to pre-announced divine plan from 1000 years earlier.
Thus He fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, as it were with effortless ease, in so responding in this situation of challenge and piquancy, threat and danger of premature murder. Matthew draws attention to this fact in Matthew 12:18-21, where he cites Isaiah 42. To meet death threats by fulfilling a prophecy was just the sort of regality which is innate; and to heal omnipotently, totally and miraculously in the process, is the work of God. He simply continued with His way. As to God, "Indeed, before the day was, I am He, and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand. I work, and who will reverse it ?"
Thus this Son of Man on earth acted as became the Almighty, though clad with the fleshly clothing of humility. It was a combination superb and unique: God in glory divested, but still Himself, as man with humility of style, but regality of reality, at work!
In what way did He fulfil prophecy here ? IN WARNING THEM NOT to make Him known (Matthew 12:16). Not a provocateur, He continued with the needy "smoking flax" and "bruised reed", as prescribed for Him in the prophecy of Isaiah, avoided mere confrontationism, and meeting challenge as required. Of course, He also was fulfilling the healing ministry which is part, but by no means all, of His task as in Isaiah 53. From that base, He could remove any of the results of sin, while bearing its cause, the sin itself.
THIRDLY, we find His REBUKE and WARNING in Matthew 12:22-30, and His principle in Matthew 12:333-37. A triple case was brought to Him. We must realise that His 'withdrawing' was not from work, but from the toils of the merely obstructive. To Him came one not merely blind and mute, but possessed by an evil spirit. He simply healed him. The many asked themselves, COULD THIS BE the one to come, the Messiah, Son of David ? The Pharisees were most sensitive to this unrestrainable, indefeasible, unquenchable and wholly Biblical attestation, like someone examining a testimony in court and finding its fit miraculous in every point, but the direction of the finding not what is desired.
Hence they attacked again. "This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons." This, like the healing itself which brought on the action, was multi-pronged. It did not, because it could not, deny the power. There are some things which to deny is mere failure. Hence they attributed it to an undesirable source; more, to the devil. Christ again met them with simple, unanswerable logic. A HOUSE DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF CANNOT STAND, He indicated. If Satan casts out Satan, how does he stand ? But this was not all. If I DO IT by Satan, then when your children do the same, cast out devils, by whom do THEY DO IT ? "Therefore they shall be your judges!" He declared.
Then as before, He went on, He proceeded unchecked, uncheckable, with authority in word and in deed. He did not say, "You blaspheme! by so attributing My work to the devil!" Rather He acted not as protester, but as judge. There are forgivable and unforgivable sins. The blasphemy against the HOLY SPIRIT, He indicated, is in the latter class. No forgiveness either in this Age or in the Age to come, would be available. Hence He acts as spokesman for and authority on present and future, as God. He also warned them, for there is a blasphemy which surly and unruly, WILL not take what is present, WILL not observe the spirit, the love, the grace, the compassion, the power and the glory, the wonder and the way, the Biblical basis and the whole conspectus of a thing, but wilfully and wickedly tosses what is not desired to the devil. There are limits. This is reaching them.
It is not just a matter of judgment, though it certainly is that. It is a question of having a conscience burnt as with a hot iron (I Timothy 4:2), "speaking lies in hypocrisy". There is a trampling underfoot of the very blood of Christ, like a broken antibiotic capsule, the only one, the only antibiotic, and miring it in the clay. There is a ruin of remedy which leaves none (cf. Hebrew 6 and 10).
Christ warned His opposition in terms of PRINCIPLES and JUDGMENTS TO COME, but avoided mere noisy confrontation (as in the prophecy from Isaiah 42:1ff, cited by Matthew), so fulfilling all with precision as was both His wont and desire. This was a pair not separable in Him. If it was good, it was to be done; if it was done it would not be broken; and if it was good it was His desire. Desire, duty and power were mixed, indivisible.
His purity was that of the Lord as in Isaiah 6! HE however needed no purging, but acted as Saviour who announced not the less, His judgments to come (Matthew 7:21).
He went on to indicate a relevant productive principle, with just that sweep of sovereign wit and depth of understanding which enabled not merely rebuttal, but instruction with it, at any level. Nothing was too much, and nothing could not be comprehended and conceived, yes and expressed.
"EITHER make the tree good and its fruit good," He declared, "or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad!" (12:33). "Brood of vipers!" He continued, "how can you being evil, speak good things!"
OF EVERY WORD you will give account ... this was His warning ... at the judgment. Where mercy is exempted from the life, then so is it not found. If HIS mercy is rejected, then without limit, justice will exhume everything. Their words would be their judges! (12:37). This fits with the judgment scene in Matthew 25: the evil is remembered ONLY against the refusniks of repentance and redemption in Christ by faith; the good is remembered and blessed, and this only is mentioned, for the pardoned whose covenant is in Christ's blood (Matthew 26:28).
The chronically disabled witness of their corrupted hearts, calling evil good and good evil, ignoring the realities of the words and works spoken and performed, would meet its day. That day would come, though it seemed far off with the murder of Christ Himself - as He repeatedly predicted and Isaiah 52-53 abundantly required like Psalm 22, 40 - in the foreground of the thoughts of the scheming religionists. (Cf. Joyful Jottings 21-25).
What answer could be given when GOOD was what He did and EVIL was what they said! He silenced them as always. Only the grumbling, muttering, mumbling murderous contrivances remained for their activation in due course, and naturally, at the date required from 600 years before, by God in Daniel 9 (cf. SMR pp. 886ff.).
in Matthew 12:38-42, we come to the question of a sign to impress His persecutors
and to help the doubtful. Would He provide it ? They ASKED Him for such
We remember when the unbelieving and mocking King Herod later took Him to His 'court' for appraisal, at the time of His impending judgment by Pilate, that Christ would not even answer him. He knew the difference between the plea of faith and hope, and the bemused amusement of the self-trusting and the guileful. God is not "on show" but for service spiritually, on His merciful and gracious terms, when He is sought with all the heart. It is, as always with the Lord, a matter of HEART AND SOUL, MIND AND STRENGTH (Jeremiah 29:13).
said the Pharisees, mixed for this 'show' with the scribes, "we want to
see a sign from You."
In fact, this was not authentic. Their predisposition for argument without
base, for calling evil good and good evil, for mischievous misconstruction
did not make them suitable teaching material, by THAT method. True a great
body of priests would later believe, at the onset of the ultimate in 'signs',
the resurrected body of the murdered man going about His business before
the ascension; but for our present episode with the Pharisees, this was
a time to come.
In the meantime, NO SIGN, Christ declared, would be given.
Now we come to a principle which the Lord enunciated in Matthew 13, namely this, that because as prophesied in Isaiah 6 (cf. Isaiah 30:8ff.), they had grown fat in heart, and shut their eyes to spiritual reality, it was fitting to speak to them in parables. In this way, naturally, the direct confrontationism of belligerent and unreasoned unbelief would be penetrated long enough, for the story to sink in, the implication to flower in due course. So here. No action would come for fun, as a mere test; it would come when the TEST REQUIRED IT, as in the healings and the direct verbal confrontations. God does not play with unbelief, but rather heals it. It is a pathological condition. It needs treatment with care.
the 'sign' of the prophet Jonah alone would be given to His generation,
He then declared. Three days and nights He would be "in
the heart of the earth". This sort
of phrase of course, as in the Old Testament can be used to indicate a
state of undress, if you will, as in Psalm 139:15.
It refers in such symbolism to the unformed, or to the deformed, the judged or the absent without the norms of life. Thus on the Thursday Christ, in the power of the evil forces, justice despised, expediency riding hard from its lordly saddle, truth in divorce from the proceedings, was judged guilty and worthy of death (Matthew 26:64ff.). This occurred in a specially convened NIGHT COURT, without any sign of finding WHY they rejected His claim to be the Son of the Highest. The claim meant death.
Truth did not noticeably enter in at all.
But how did the prophet Jonah and his experience in the midst of the piscine wonder of the deep, possibly a whale shark, called a 'great fish', with its extensive shunting area, equipped with air and refuse: how did this relate to His own forthcoming death and resurrection; and in what way would this former event be illustrated as a sign in Christ's own day ? It meant of course that with the Thursday's affairs lifeless, disadorned, unjust, as it were, judicially illiterate and a dismantling of life, with the added actual days in the tomb, He would experience 3 nights (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) and three days (part of Friday, Saturday and part of Sunday in the inclusive counting method relevant in the culture of the day), in physical death, or its intimate correlative.
THAT would be the sign, because as Jonah escaped after his watery burial, though indeed he did not die, merely feeling in hell, so Christ would escape not from the spewing of the fish, but from the womb of death, the first-begotten of the dead, and walk off with His own body, the only grave-breaker ever to do so, as a civilian with His own 'rights' perfectly empowered to rise from any state that He might wish. He took but His own, and left with it: His body. It did not belong to someone else on earth! Finders keepers!
Again, however, He turned the matter not only into instruction, but into warning of vast judgments, such as was and is fashionable to ignore, like sun bathing in the presence (soon often to come) of melanomas.
NINEVEH, with perfect poise and appositeness, He continued, would have its men rise in judgment on His own generation in Jerusalem. Why ? THEY repented at a (mere, if substantially significant and indeed remarkable prophet) Jonah. The men of Christ's own day did not repent in the case of these grievous players and murderers, contenders and prevaricators, at HIS presence, who surely did works to make those of Jonah seem ALMOST trivial by comparison, GREAT as they undoubtedly were on any more normal scale. It is as if to say this: I am a quadrillionaire, and by comparison, a man with only 10 billion is on a very small financial scale!
THIS was the Son of God and is, for He is resurrected as we have repeatedly seen. That is the point. Jonah was not, but a prophet. A foreign land repented in the presence of a Jewish prophet; but these of Israel did not repent though the very Son of God were present - and the parable in Mark 12:1ff. makes just this point.
Further, the Queen of Sheba was most admiring with a Solomon, who, when all is said, was no match for Christ; and she would come in judgment against the unbelievers of Christ's Jerusalem in His own day, for if she were not moved by Solomon's wisdom and actions, THEY were not even moved by a greater than Solomon, whose words and actions are without anything even approximating a parallel (as in John 15:21-23).
So by these partial parallels to the unparallelable, Christ presented the judgments which they must face, except they should repent.
Bedraggled and impotent, the impostors of religion were so exposed that exposure of Christ on the cross was the only, and the actual, redress chosen.
There was no other way to silence such power, end such teaching on earth, overcome such plenary magnificence in all points, without weakness. DURESS by blood, the only way ? It was so easy, and has cost the nation incalculably ever since. How apt the word of the Lord, that wide is the way and easy that leads to destruction, that narrow and strait is that to life. Unwise indeed have been those who have persecuted it; it is enough that it is at war with God. (Cf. Genesis 12:3).
in Matthew 12:46-50 we find a deep and moving event. Here the drawing of
one's own mother is put in the midst of His work. Would He just down tools
and go to His mother and
brothers ? He is, incidentally, of course not looking at Mary as though she were the mother of God, a blasphemy unforgettable, unwarrantable and puerile. God is for ever, without beginning or end. You cannot have a mother for the unbegun! She was the mother of the man, in the Son of Man, the giver of the fleshly format, which was quite real. Nothing more. Of course she was blessed to have such a Son. This gave her no power whatsoever over His adult life!
Thus, despite the follies and fallacies of Rome in this regard, and a marvellous indeed prophetic antidote to the whole delusion, Christ would not even come to His waiting mother, though He specifically knew she was there wanting to see Him, by direct report. Instead, He again made a principle. He asked this question: WHO IS MY MOTHER ... ? EVERYONE WHO DOES THE WILL OF GOD ... is My mother and brother and sister! How many queens are there in heaven ? Billions ? That is no queen which is one of such a multitude without distinction but as one of the many. Christ kept her waiting while He dealt with other things. There is no favouritism whatever, no croneyism in the kingdom of heaven. EVERYONE who does the will of God is Christ's brother, or mother, or sister, and hence there is an open door for each. It is not as often in politics, jobs for the boys or girls!
The purity of the concept, however, is not a testimony to a lack of gratitude, grace or tenderness, as we see on the Cross, when, despite His intense and profuse suffering, even of the soul, even of His spirit, He could and did look on John and Mary, and introduce them to each other with a new functionality ordained between them. JOHN would be as he son; and Mary would be as his mother. Thus He cared; but His care was not an intrusion into the purity of charity or the holiness of life that is God's.
find thus that Christ was strident in apprehension to the lost, loveless,
ponderous, pompous powers that strutted, for such authority they were not
either accustomed or willing to receive. He was however irrepressible in
realism, piercing in truth, implacable in exposure of those who assailed
His work, protective of life, compassionate and undeterrable in it.
He was striking to those healed - "all" - 12:15Such is the testimony available for inspection, and we could relate to various other similar attributions (cf. Repent or Perish Ch. 2, Biblical Blessings AppendixIV ).
Unanswerable in interchange - 12:29
Unexceptionable in performance - 12:22
Whether with word matches, deed needs,
All being met with a fluency that was indeed divine.
He is like a soldier in no man's land,
the subject of astute fire, but never hit,
until the planned time arrived, after 3 full years.
Judicial with no apology - 12:32,34,
Limiting with sure hand, to the need of the case - 12:39,
a teacher with plenary authority continually:
He is imaginative yet with dignity robed -12:45
therapeutic yet clear on the accompanying principles as well -12:38-45
decisive on the kingdom - 12:38-45:
anti-Rome before Rome was
dismissive of Mariolatry before it began.
He declared religion without pretence,
a kingdom with one King,
brothers with one Lord,
spirituality with dynamism,
understanding with depth,
grace with truth -
neither in the least compromised,
both always present,
even when surgery of the soul alone remained,
sternest of warnings still given with wisdom,
lest any mercy should be found for more... and more.
Such is the sovereign in word and deed, the prophet who predicted, the servant who performed prophetically with precision, the king who ruled events and consummated His plans as He purposed, whom none could answer then, whom none can answer now, except in the same way. Then it was murder, and now it is simply to tread under foot His blood. He has done all. The negative option is not removed in the hearts of those for whom His image is a datum, mankind. However He knows His own, and without in the least compromising His direct statement that He WOULD have (has an attitude towards it) all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, He by no means commandeers by mere force.
With His foreknowledge, not another name for merit (Romans 9:9-11, Ephesians 2:1-12), He knows His own, and He has predestined them (Romans 8:29ff.). God is still God. But as to man ? It is time for all to repent and to acknowledge Him, the Son of God, the redemption sacrifice, the ransom payer, the crucified Saviour, the risen Christ, death's overcomer, as God said,
But someone will say, I would that I were one of His people. Marvellous, you would not so say if He had not stirred you. Then come, simply come and accept what HE has completed so gloriously, and rejoice. You do not want Him ? Then live without, as far as life divorced from its source and sour to its judge may be said to live. However NEVER, NEVER do one thing... that ? Do not say, I was not called. If you want Him, come. If you do not, what is this resistance ? Are you speaking too loudly to hear ... as in Matthew 11:28-30, just before our Chapter 12 on which we have just spent quite a time.
Do you notice the word "ALL" attached to that invitation in 11:28-30 ? Then come.
A reference to SMR Ch. 6 helps here.
In view of all this, it is clear the prophecy is from the identity kit of prophecy concerning the Messiah in the Old Testament. In fact, there is reference to Hosea 6:1-3 (cf. Chapter 9, Section 1C infra). This is the book which in 13:14 speaks of God redeeming His people from death, by becoming the plagues of death, and becoming likewise the destruction of the grave. In Chapter 6, then, we see an exhortation to return to the Lord, in tender tones. It speaks of being stricken and raised up on the third day. Isaiah 26:19 also speaks of the people being raised, but in these terms: my dead body, shall they arise. In full:
"Your dead shall live. My dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing you who dwell in the dust."
In Isaiah therefore, we find a resurrection (cf. Daniel 12:1 ff.), in which the resurrection of the children of God is tied to, incorporated in and effected through the resurrection of the speaker. In this passage, that is the one who refers to them as "My people", and being the One with omnipotent power over death, He is God.
God then (as in Psalm 49:7,15), who alone can redeem from death, and who will do so, will execute this phase of the mission by raising His own dead body, and this will imply the resurrection guarantee of His people.
Now on the third day, God will raise up His people, says Hosea, so that they may escape the corruption otherwise their lot. Thus in Psalm 16 we similarly find that the Messiah will have a body not to be corrupted (*7) (vv. 9-10). The implications of His resurrection are to carry over to His people, guaranteeing theirs, and the third day is absolutely crucial to the (necessarily) stringent constraints on the prophets. (They were to ensure their prophesies were genuinely of God, and hence worked, were fulfilled, if prediction was made: or die - effectively blasphemers - Deuteronomy 18:20-22.)
No other day is in view for this epochal resurrection, guaranteeing action whereby God will act to ensure the resurrection of His people: that is, in the body He has prepared for Himself (Psalm 40:1-6).