Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ written by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses seven through twenty-nine of the seventh chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find the Lord Jesus Christ shifting gears once more within this famous sermon on the mount. I have to admit that the more I read this message, the more I am increasingly convinced that it would not hold up within many of our Christian and Pentecostal circles today. There is not a doubt in my mind that when I read the words which Jesus spoke in this sermon that if He stood in the midst of many of our pulpits today, His words would be well received. What amazes me about this particular message is not necessarily that which is contained within it, but that which is written concerning the response of those who say and stood listening to Him speak. If you direct your attention to the twenty-ninth and final verse of the seventh chapter you will find the apostle Matthew describing how those who listened to and those who heard Him speak marveled at His teaching and marveled at His doctrine, for He taught as one who had authority. What’s more, is that as you read this verse you will find it written that they marveled at such doctrine and teaching, for He taught as one who had authority and not as the scribes. Please don’t miss the significance and importance of these words, for undoubtedly those living in Judaea and the surrounding regions during this time were used to hearing and listening to the teaching of the scribes. When Jesus emerged and when Jesus stepped on to the scene, however, He did so with an authority that was completely unlike that which the scribes has when they taught. In all reality, I would dare say that when the scribes taught during those days, there was very little, of any authority in the words they speak when standing before the people to teach them.
When I read the words which the apostle Matthew presented at the opening of the fifth chapter, as well as that which he wrote at the end of the seventh chapter, I am absolutely and completely gripped with and by the fact that what began with the crowds and multitude sitting down before Jesus would eventually culminate with them leaving astonished and marveling at His doctrine and teaching. What’s more, is that there were undoubtedly a great many of those who sat before Jesus to hear and listen to Him speak who had experienced His power and authority within their physical bodies. If you read the end of the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find Matthew describing how Jesus went out and healed all manners of diseases and all manner of infirmity, as well as casting out demons and evil spirits. Mark this and mark it well, for there was a great deliverance and freedom that took place prior to Jesus standing before them and teaching the principles and nature of the kingdom. What began with countless men and women coming out to John the Baptist to give themselves to a baptism unto the remission of sins through repentance would eventually reach the point where Jesus would emerge on to the scene and would heal all manner of infirmities and diseases. What’s more, is that Jesus would also bring an even greater level and measure of deliverance and freedom when He cast out demonic and evil spirits which oppressed and tormented countless men and women. When the fourth chapter concludes and the fifth chapter begins and opens up, it does so with Matthew describing how a great crowd and multitude grew around Jesus as a great many of those who had been touched, affected and impacted by His ministry began to follow Him where He went. We dare not miss the tremendous importance and significance of this reality, for to do so would be to miss out on what actually happened during this time. That which prepared all those who gathered before Jesus Christ to hear and listen to Him speak were those who had experienced the deliverance and freedom He had provided for and afforded them through the direct manifestation of the Holy Spirit and kingdom of heaven upon the earth.
I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with and by the fact that in this passage of scripture we find and see a great deliverance and freedom that preceded the teaching which is found in chapters five through seven of this gospel concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. That which we must recognize and understand is that there were countless men and women who were positioned to sit and to listen to and to hear Jesus speak unto them because they had already and previously experienced a wonderful and mighty deliverance within their lives. Oh I can’t help but wonder how many men and women sitting among the great crowd and multitude had personally been healed of their infirmity and disease by the power and authority of the kingdom of God. I can’t help but wonder how many present within this crowd and multitude had experienced a great deliverance and freedom within their hearts and lives, as Jesus delivered them from the oppression and torment of evil spirits and demonic forces. I can’t help but wonder how many sitting within that crowd were there because of the report they heard regarding Jesus the Christ, and how He was going about healing all manner of infirmity and disease, and how He was casting out demons and evil spirits. There were those present within this crowd who perhaps had not experienced a personal touch from Jesus Christ within their lives, and yet they gathered together before Jesus in order that they might hear and listen to Him speak. There is not a doubt in my mind that there were those present in this crowd who were merely curious, and had gathered themselves simply as spectators rather than actual participants. In fact, if there is one thing the kingdom of heaven has always and will always reveal, it’s the vast and fundamental difference between spectators and participants. The kingdom of heaven has always been able to distinguish and discern and reveal the spectators, and separate them from the actual participants which actively seek to experience all the kingdom has to offer. In fact, I am convinced that more often than not what separates, distinguishes, and discerns the spectators from the active participants is the teaching which Jesus Christ came to bring to the earth. The more I read and the more I study the four gospels which are found in the New Testament, the more I am convinced that woven throughout the thread and fabric of the gospels is a powerful reality that Jesus’ teaching more often than not separated those who merely came to be spectators because they were curious, and those who actually came to participate in that which Jesus came to bring to the earth.
As I sit and consider that which is found in the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, I can’t help but be absolutely and wonderfully captivated and gripped by the fact that Jesus’ teaching seems to always draw a dividing line between those who gathered before and around Him simply because they were curious rather than those who gathered before, those who gathered around Him, and those who chose to follow Him because they sought to be actively involved as participants in the reality and manifestation of the kingdom of heaven. In fact, I can’t help but be reminded of a specific instance which took place in the gospel of John found in the sixth chapter of the book. Consider if you will the words which are found in this particular chapter within the New Testament gospel of John beginning with the twenty-second verse:
“The day following, when the disciples which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto His disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples were gone away alone; (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks) When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither His disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus. And when they had found Him on the other side of the sea, they said unto Him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for Him hath God the Father sealed” (John 6:22-27).
Within this passage of Scripture we find men and women seeking to find Jesus, and when they had finally found Jesus, Jesus answered their question by declaring unto them that they sought Him—not because they saw the miracles, but because they did eat of the loaves and were filled. Those who were partakers of the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand sought out Jesus—not because they saw the miracles, but because they ate of the loaves and were filled. In other words, their physical, their earthly, and their natural appetite was filled and satisfied, and as a result of that satisfaction, they sought in order that they might find and come unto Jesus the Christ. As you continue reading this particular passage of Scripture, you will find that it transitions from Jesus declaring unto them their intent and desire to seek Him because their physical needs were met and satisfied, to a great many turning their backs on Jesus and no longer walking with and following Him. If you begin reading with and from the twenty-eighth verse of the sixth chapter you will find Jesus beginning to teach them even further after they had made the journey in order that they might seek Him out. Consider if you will that which is found beginning with the twenty-eighth verse of the sixth chapter:
“Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom he hath sent. They said therefore unto Him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? What dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you. Not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto Him, Lord evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which He hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of Him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise Him up at the last day. The Jews them murmured at Him, because He said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we knoweth? How is it then he saith, I came down from heaven? Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. NO man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He which is of God, He hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say not you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life.k Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, He shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us His flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh,a nd drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise Him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. These things said He in the synagogue, as He taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of His disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray Him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto Him of my Father. From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray Him, being one of the twelve” (John 6:28-71).
I believe this passage found in the New Testament gospel of John is absolutely critical and necessary for our understand of what is recorded in the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, for it brings us face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that time and time again it is the teaching of the kingdom—it is the teaching of Jesus Christ—that draws a dividing line between the spectators, and those who are merely curious from those who are actively seeking to participate and partake in the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven. In fact, if you read the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John you will find those who were present on that day—those who sought in order that they might find Jesus—not only ask him what they ought to do that they might work the works of God, but what sign he would show them in order that they might see and believe. Oh, please don’t miss the incredible significance and importance of that which the the people asked of Jesus in this particular passage, for there were countless who sought out, and countless who followed Jesus who sought for a sign in order that they might believe as a direct result of the sign. I am utterly and completely convinced that those who sought a sign from Jesus were those who walked with and followed Him as nothing more than a spectator, and those who were merely curious. Those who sought for a sign from Jesus the Christ were those who walked with and followed Jesus for what they could receive of Him, and not to actually be an active participant in the kingdom of heaven. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this particular reality and principle, for there are countless men and women among us who would seek after Jesus in order that they might receive from Him as spectators rather than active participants. A spectator within the kingdom fo heaven merely seeks Jesus based on what they can get and receive from Him, whereas an active participant is one who focuses on what they can offer the Son of God, and how they can partner with and partake in the direct manifestation of the kingdom of heaven. More often than not in the four gospels found within the New Testament you will find countless men and women who followed Jesus and gathered before Him—not because they earnestly and eagerly sought after Him, but because they were merely curious as spectators to the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the first chapter of the first epistle which was written unto the saints which were in Corinth beginning with the seventeenth verse:
“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the p;owner of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputed of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Breeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:17-25).
It is within this particular passage within the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints and congregation that we find the apostle Paul emphatically declaring how the Jews demanded a sign or signs, while the Greeks themselves sought after wisdom. Both the Jews who sought after a sign, and the Greeks who sought after wisdom found themselves experiencing a stumblingblock, as the preaching of the cross, and the preaching of the kingdom is utter and complete foolishness before them. When the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew draws to a close, it does so with Jesus going about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. Matthew would go on to write and record how his fame went throughout all Syria, and so much so that they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy, and He haled them. IN the final verse of the fourth chapter we find the following words: “And there followed Him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem,a nd from. Judaea, and from beyond Jordan” (Matthew 4:25). The fourth chapter boncludes with a great multitude of people following Him, and so much so that when the fifth chapter of the gospel opens up, it does so with Matthew recording how upon seeing the multitudes, Jesus went up into a mountain in order that He might teach the great multitude which had followed Him. It is at this juncture where we must pay close attention, for I am convinced that while it was true Jesus healed all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among those that followed Him, the teaching which we find in the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of the gospel reveal the dividing line between those who came unto and before Him as spectators, and those who came unto and before Him as active participants—those who would commit and devote their entire lives before and unto Him. I am utterly and completely convinced that the teaching we find in chapters five through seven of the New Testament gospel of Matthew is a wonderful and powerful picture of the teaching of the kingdom, and how the kingdom of God has always and will always draw a dividing line between mere spectators and those who are merely curious concerning the kingdom of heaven, and those who are active participants in the kingdom of heaven. IN fact, the opening set of verses within this Sermon on the Mount brought all those who gathered before Jesus face to face with “the attitudes of the kingdom”—that which is the very core and foundation of the kingdom of heaven.
We cannot, we dare not, we must not consider the reality of the kingdom of heaven without first considering the attitudes of the kingdom, and that which is at the very core and foundation of the kingdom of heaven. What’s more, is that immediately following the presentation of the attitudes of the kingdom of heaven, Jesus would transition to speaking concerning the righteousness of the kingdom, as was directly set against the righteousness of men which is according to the law of Moses. Jesus who is the Christ presented those who gathered before Him on this day to hear and listen to Him speak with the reality of a righteousness which comes according to the law of Moses, as directly set against the righteousness which comes according to the kingdom of heaven. That which Jesus sought to accomplish within this teaching was to first present the attitudes of the kingdom, and then to present those who gathered before Him with the righteousness of the kingdom which was vastly different than that which they were used to and accustomed to. For centuries they had believed one way concerning a righteousness which pleased the living God, and yet Jesus came to introduce an entirely new righteousness that was not according to the law of Moses, but an inner righteousness which was according to the kingdom of heaven. I would dare say that the law of Moses was a school master and teacher that prepared men and women for the arrival and manifestation of the kingdom of heaven, and when the kingdom of heaven would be manifested in the earth, it would not only challenge the old righteousness, but it would also introduce an entirely new righteousness—one that countless men and women could not deal with and handle. The righteousness of the kingdom declared that adultery was committed in the heart before it is every committed in the bed, and that murder is committed in the heart of a man before it is ever acted out on the face of the earth. The righteousness of the kingdom of heaven declares that there is no dividing line between our neighbour and our enemy, for we are commanded and instructed not only to love both, but also to pray for and bless those who persecute and despitefully use us. What’s more, the righteousness of the kingdom brings us face to face with the fact that rather than exacting vengeance and revenge on those who have wronged and mistreated us, we are to instead be wiling to allow ourselves to be mistreated, wronged and despitefully used, and to not quarrel with those who have somehow wronged and mistreated us. The righteousness of the kingdom takes that which was written in the law and completely turns it on its head in order that we might no longer look at external realities, but might from now on look inwardly to the very heart of the matter. The righteousness of the kingdom has never and will never focus on external manifestations and external appearances, but will focus entirely on the inner depths and inward parts of a man, and thereby calling him to an entirely different place of righteousness and pleasing the living God on the earth.
As you read the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, you will find that Jesus shifts gears and transitions to further manifestations of the kingdom of heaven, and begins with words concerning judgment and judging others. In the first five verses of the seventh chapter we find Jesus emphatically declaring unto those who gathered unto Him to hear and listen to Him speak that they ought not to judge in order that they might not be judged. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to declare that with what judgment they judged, so also according to that same degree and measure would they be judged. Taking this a step further, Jesus asked those gathered before Him why they would behold the mote or speck in their brother’s eye, and yet cannot see, nor perhaps are even concerned with the log, or plank, or beam that is found in their own eye. Even more than this, Jesus goes on to declare unto them that until they first remove the log and plank that is in their own eye, they cannot even see clearly enough to point out the mote in the eye of another—much less actually remove it. That which Jesus was seeking to convey unto His audience and those who gathered to hear and listen to Him teach was that they ought to keep themselves from judging and casting judgment on others, and to instead give themselves to self-examination. In all reality, I would dare say that those who continually give themselves to judging others are those who care absolutely nothing for, and are completely unwilling to give themselves to self-examination. Those who continually judge and pass judgment on others are those who are completely unwilling to look at themselves in the mirror and see what needs to change within their own hearts and lives. The apostle Paul had a great deal to say about judging others in the second chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Romans, and it would be prudent and wise of us to examine the words which the beloved apostle proclaimed and wrote in this epistle in order to further add to that which Jesus the Christ declared. Undoubtedly the apostle was directly impacted and affected by the teaching of Jesus, for the gospel which he preached, and the gospel which He wrote came not from men, but came directly from Christ as He was in fact taught of Christ for three years while He was in the desert of Arabia. The apostle Paul—one who was taught according to the customs, the doctrines and principles of the Pharisees and scribes—was undoubtedly aware of those around him who continually judged others. What’s more, is that the apostle Paul himself judged others, and actually believed himself to be justified in passing judgment on others. All that changed, however, when he came to Christ, and Christ completely and radically changed and transformed His entire life, as well as His entire perspective of a righteousness that comes according to the of Moses, and a righteousness which is of the kingdom of heaven, and a righteousness which is of Jesus Christ.
Moving along in the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find Jesus instructing His audience to refrain from giving that which is holy unto the dogs, and not to cast their pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and again and rend them. Jesus would then go on to speak and declare words which we have all grown accustomed to reading and even memorizing, for Jesus emphatically instructed us to ask, and to seek, and to knock. Jesus would declare concerning those who asked that it would be given unto them, and unto those who sought they would find, and to those who knocked it would be opened unto them. Jesus then goes on to declare unto His audience how there was no man among them whom if their son or daughter asked for bread would instead give them a stone, or if they asked for a fish would give him a serpent. Jesus took this a step further and declared unto them how if they being evil know how to give good gifts, how much more shall and how much more would their Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him. What Jesus then speaks and declares next is perhaps one of the most fundamental principles in the entire Sermon on the Mount, and even in loving our neighbours, and loving our enemies, for Jesus would declare that “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” Jesus would then declare that the law and the prophets hinged upon the reality and principle of doing unto others that which we would have them do unto us. The truth of the matter is that this principle doesn’t merely apply to our neighbours, but it also extends unto our enemies, and unto those who have hurt, betrayed, wounded, and mistreated us. The entire law and all the prophets hinged on a fundamental and core principle that we ought to do unto others that which we would have them do unto us. In other words, we are not to treat those around us any differently than we would want them to treat us. If we desire respect from those around us, then we ought to give respect unto those around us. If we desire love from those around us, we ought to love those around us. If we want forgiveness from those around us, then we ought to in turn forgive those around us. Oh, how many of us live our lives in order that we might treat others the way we want to be treated, and doing unto others that which we would want them to do unto us? How many of us truly understand the reality of the kingdom of heaven, and that the kingdom of heaven demands and requires that we show no partiality in how we treat those before and around us. The righteousness of the kingdom of heaven demands that we love our neighbour as ourselves, and that we love our enemies and pray for those who despitefully use us, and bless those who curse us—realities which more often than not we tend to forget and completely ignore.
Continuing on in this passage of Scripture we find Jesus declaring and instructing those who gathered before Him to enter in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. What’s more, Jesus would go on to declare that strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it. Immediately after speaking concerning the strait gate and the broad way, Jesus warns them to beware of false prophets which come to them in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. Jesus would then make one of the must fundamental and core principles of the kingdom of heaven, for Jesus would declare that every good true brings forth good fruit, but every bad tree brings forth bad fruit. What’s more, is that Jesus declared how we shall know others by the fruits which their lives produce and bring forth within the earth. This would be a principle that would be later emphasized and expressed in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John, for Jesus would go on to declare that unless we abide in Him, we we cannot expect to produce and bring forth fruit within our lives. Taking this a step further, Jesus goes on to make one of the most powerful statements in the entire Sermon on the Mount, and one that has always struck fear within my heart. Beginning with the twenty-first verse of the seventh chapter Jesus declared that not every one that says unto Him, Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of his Father in who is in heaven. What’s more, is that Jesus goes on to speak of those who prophesied in His name, those who cast out devils in His name, and those who did many wonderful works in His name, and yet how those who did such great feats and exploits in the earth, and even do so in His name may hear the frightening words “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Despite the fact that these individuals engaged themselves in many good works, and despite the fact that these individuals gave themselves to prophesying in the name of the Lord, casting out devils in the name of the Lord, and doing many wonderful works in His name, they could possibly hear “Depart from me, ye worker of iniquity, for I never knew you.” Oh please don’t miss the importance of this, for I am convinced that within this part of the Sermon we again find the dividing line which the kingdom of heaven draws among men, for only those who do the will of the Father in heaven will enter into the kingdom of heaven. The single greatest question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are in fact doing the will of the Father who is in heaven, or whether we are merely doing works in His name for the sake of doing the works themselves. Oh that we would allow ourselves to be brought face to face with the righteousness which the kingdom of heaven demands and requires of us in order that we might be those who please the true and living God in this generation.