A Religion of Temptation and Accusation

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first twelve verses of the nineteenth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find the apostle Matthew transitioning once more to writing concerning Jesus speaking on divorce. It’s interesting and worth noting when reading this particular passage of scripture that it begins and opens up with Jesus departing from where He was, and His disciples following Him where He was going. Perhaps one of the realities I love the most about Jesus’ relationship with the disciples is that wherever He went, they were sure to walk with and follow Him. I absolutely love that when you read the gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, you will find three different and three distinct groups of people walking with, following and searching for Him. As you read the four gospels which were written concerning the life and ministry of Jesus you will find that Jesus initially began to be followed by the disciples. In the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you lol find Jesus coming unto Simon who is called Peter and his brother Andrew by the sea. It was there by the sea Jesus called these two brothers to follow Him and Hd would make them fishers of men. Immediately after reading about Jesus calling Simon called Peter and His neither Andrew, you will find Jesus coming unto another set of brothers there by the sea—James and John the sons of Zebedee—and calling them to follow Him. There by the sea Jesus would call His first four disciples, and would call them to follow Him. What’s more, is that Jesus didn’t merely call the disciples to follow Him, but what He did was actually call them to walk with Him. That which Jesus called and invited the disciples to do was to spend a a period of time—not only walking with Him, but also follow Him wherever He would go.

The more I read the four gospels of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ the more I am truck by the awesome and tremendous reality of those who followed Him. Thus far within the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find and read the disciples walking with Jesus, but it’s important and imperative that we recognize and understand that it wasn’t merely the disciples who walked with and followed Jesus. If you read and study the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find that in addition to the disciples following Jesus Christ, there were great crowds of people who followed Jesus. As you read the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find the phrase “great multitudes” used by Matthew time and time again—a term and phrase he used to describe the sheer magnitude and force of those who followed Jesus from one place to the next. In fact, on two separate occasions we learn that the size of this great crowd and multitude was five thousand men, which didn’t include women and children. There was another occasion when we read that the size of the crowd which followed Jesus was in fact four thousand men which didn’t include women and children. This brings us face to face with the great reality of just how many men and women followed Jesus wherever He went. What’s more, is that we not only read that great crowds followed Jesus wherever He went, but we also read how great crowds of men and women searched diligently for Jesus in order that they might find Him. More often than not, when the great crowds sought after and searched for Jesus the Christ, they sought Him because of the needs that were present within their physical bodies, and within the lives of those closest to them. Time and time again within this New Testament epistle we find and read of great crowds and great multitudes of people seeking out Jesus in order that they might find Him that He might heal their diseases and infirmities. More often than not the apostle Matthew references great crowds of people who sought out Jesus because of the desperate needs and desperate condition that was present within their physical bodies and lives. We dare not miss the tremendous importance of this reality, for it brings us face to face with a second group of people who not only sought out Jesus, but who also followed Him where He went.

If you continue reading this New Testament gospel of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew you will find a third group of people seeking and searching out Jesus who was the Christ. It was true that the twelve disciples walked with and followed Jesus Christ wherever He went, and it is also true that great multitudes of people sought after and followed Jesus in hopes and expectation that He would heal their sicknesses, would heal their infirmities, and would heal their diseases. Time and time again we read of the great crowds and great multitudes of people seeking and searching for Jesus in order that they might bring unto Him those who were sick and those who were in a desperate need of healing and deliverance within their lives. If you study the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will not only find the need for physical healing, but you will also read of the need for deliverance from evil spirits and demonic forces which tormented and oppressed men, women, and even children. More often than not there were great crowds of people who searched for and walked with Jesus in order that they might receive some type of healing and miracle from His hand. Please don’t miss the awesome reality of what takes place within the gospels, for there were great multitudes or people who continually and consistently sought after and sought out Jesus Christ in order that He might touch them, heal them, and deliver them from that which plagued and ailed them within their physical bodies. Jesus the Christ wasn’t merely followed by His disciples, but He was also sought after and followed by those who desperately needed a physical touch within their lives. Such crowds would search for Jesus in one place, hear He was in other place, and would travel to that place in order that their needs might be met and that which plagued their physical bodies might be healed. The life and ministry of Jesus the Christ was never without large crowds and great multitudes of men and women who would walk with Him and search Him out wherever He was in order that they might find healing and deliverance within their own lives, and even within the lives of those closest to them—their loved ones, their servants, and perhaps even their friends and close acquaintances. Time and time again within and throughout the account of the life and ministry of Jesus as recorded by the apostle Matthew we find and read of great multitudes of people not only seeking and searching out Jesus who was the Christ, but also learning where He was going to be, and after experiencing Him in one place, they would journey to where He would be afterward, and go and find Him there.

Within the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will not only find, and you will not only read of the disciples walking with and following Jesus, and you will not only find and read of the great crowds and multitudes of people walking with and following Jesus, but you will also read of the Pharisees, the scribes and the Sadducees following Him. Please note and please understand that what I am referencing when I speak of the Pharisees seeking after, searching for, and finding Jesus, I am not speaking of that which the crowds and great multitudes of people did when they sought out the Lord Jesus Christ. When I write and when I speak of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the religious community seeking out and searching for the Lord Jesus Christ, what I am referencing is those times within and during the life and ministry of Jesus when the religious system of that day would hear where Jesus was, and would hear that He was in a specific place, and as a direct result of hearing where He was, they would send a small contingent of men unto Jesus in order that they might find Him. What’s more, is that in sending this small contingent and this small envy of men who would come unto Jesus, there would be an envoy that would be sent unto Jesus with and for a specific purpose. If you read the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find that the Pharisees, the scribes and the religious community never came unto Jesus without a specific purpose, and without a specific reason in mind. We never read of the Pharisees, the scribes, the Sadducees and the religious community and system of that day sending a small envoy of men unto Jesus in order that they might accomplish some agenda, some hidden purpose, some method and means of engaging Jesus on various issues that pertained to the law of Moses. What’s more, is that more often than not, when you read of the envoys and the contingents which came unto Jesus within, during and throughout His life and ministry, you will find that they always had an agenda, they always had a purpose, they also had something up their sleeve which they sought to accomplish in His presence. Please note, and please understand that whenever we find and whenever we read of the religious community sending an envoy unto Jesus the Christ, it was more often than not with a specific agenda and a specific purpose in mind. The religious community never sent an envoy unto Jesus without having some ulterior motive in mind in order that they might confront Jesus with various issues—not only issues concerning Himself, but also concerning His disciples. If you study the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew, you will find multiple references to the Pharisees and their engagement with Jesus, as well as their agenda which always manifested when they finally did enter into His presence. Consider the specific references found within this New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ concerning the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the religious community sending their envoys and contingents unto Jesus the Christ:

“And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto His disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, He said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:9-13).

“Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved” (Matthew 9:14-17).

“At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and His disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto them, have ye not read what david did, when he was an hungered, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even over the sabbath day” (Matthew 12:1-8).

“And when He was departed thence, He went into their synagogue: and, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? That they might accuse Him. And He said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other” (Matthew 12:9-13).

“Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him. But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew Himself from thence; and great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all; and charged them that they should not make Him known” (Matthew 12:14-16).

“Then was brought unto Him one possessed with a devil, blind, and numb: and He healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the Son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the princes of the devils. And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city of house divided against itself shall not stand: and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, but whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you” (Matthew 12:22-28).

“Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But He answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came form the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:38-42).

“Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the traditions of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But He answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth night unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:1-9).

“The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting, desired Him that He would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sight be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed” (Matthew 16:1-4).

“And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevent3ed him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? Of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? Of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee” (Matthew 17:24-27).

Thus far all of these passages point to the specific occurrences when the Pharisees, and when the religious community came unto Jesus in order that they might tempt Him. One of the most intriguing realities concerning the New Testament gospel of Matthew is that when the Pharisees, when the Sadducees heard that Jesus was in a certain and specific place, they would send an envoy unto Him. In order that they might trap Him, in order that they might tempt Him, and in order that they might accuse Him. If we are being truthful when reading the four gospels of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, we must acknowledge and admit that when the Pharisees and the religious community came unto Jesus wherever He was—more often than not they came unto Him in order that they might trap Him in His words so they could find reason to accuse Him before men. The Pharisees were known for their desire to enter into the presence of Jesus—not only to trap Him in and with His words, but also to accuse Him before His disciples, and to accuse His disciples before Him. If there is one thing the New Testament gospel of Matthew reveals thus far, it’s that the religious community always sought to find fault with Jesus, as well as finding fault with His disciples in order that they might accuse one before the other. The Pharisees and religious community continually looked for fault within the lives of the disciples, and upon finding fault they would accuse the disciples before and in the presence of Jesus. Please don’t miss the tremendous significance of this reality, for not only did the Pharisees seek to trap Jesus with His words according to their tradition and the law of Moses, but they also sought to find grounds and reason to accuse both Jesus and His disciples. There were times when the Pharisees would observe actions committed and performed by the disciples—actions that somehow violated their traditions, their rules and their regulations—and upon observing such actions, they would accuse the disciples before and in the presence of Jesus. Please note that it has always been one of the greatest tactics and strategies of religion to find fault within the hearts and lives of men and women in order that it might accuse them before the living God. It’s important for us to recognize and understand that the Pharisees continually sought to find fault—not only with Jesus, but also with His disciples—in order that they might unravel that which Jesus was seeking to accomplish and establish within the earth. Jesus came to establish the kingdom of heaven upon the earth—a kingdom within a kingdom if you will—and it was the sole purpose and mission of the religious spirit which was present during that day to completely unravel the kingdom which was being established.

TEMPTING AND ACCUSING! As I continue to read the New Testament gospel of Matthew, I can’t help but be drawn into the reality that not only did the religious community seek to tempt Jesus, but they also sought to trap Him with and by His words. The New Testament gospel of Matthew is replete with examples of how the religious system and community sought to tempt Jesus with observance of the law, as well as showing and demonstrating His power, His authority, His dominion within the earth. If you read the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find that the Pharisees sought to tempt Jesus by asking and demanding a sign from heaven—a temptation which I am convinced is but a continuation of the temptation which Jesus first experienced in the wilderness. As a side note, it’s worth noting and pointing out that although Jesus overcame the temptation of the devil in the wilderness to turn and transform stones into bread, thus demonstrating His power and authority to serve His own purposes and satisfy His own needs, that didn’t mean that the tempter would not continue to tempt Jesus to use His divine power and authority within the earth. I am convinced that the temptation which the Pharisees issued before and in the presence of Jesus to shew them a sign from heaven was nothing more than a continuation of the temptation in the wilderness to show forth and demonstrate His authority and power by turning stones into bread. Please don’t miss this awesome and incredible reality, for the temptation did not stop in the wilderness, nor would it end simply because Jesus overcame the tempter there in the wilderness. In fact, Scripture points that when the temptation in the wilderness ended, the tempter would leave him for a season, but would return at a more opportune time. One of the greatest realities found within the religious community during the days of the life and ministry of Jesus, is not only that we would find the voice of the dragon and accusation within the religious community, but we would also find within the religious community the temptation of the dragon, as he would continue to move and operate behind the scenes within the religious system. If we are going to understand the religious system and community that existed within and during the days of Jesus’ life and ministry, it is imperative that we recognize that it not only existed to find fault with Jesus and His disciples in order that it might accuse them, but also to tempt Jesus according to the law, according to tradition, as well as in a display and show of His authority, power and dominion. There is not a doubt in my mind that behind the scenes of the religious system and community that existed during Jesus’ days the ancient serpent in the garden, who is the Devil and Satan, was working in order that he might somehow accuse and find fault with Jesus, as well as tempting Him. In fact, there are specific instances and occurrences within the New Testament gospel of Matthew when the religious community and system would tempt Jesus in order that they might somehow find fault with Him to accuse Him, or to trap Him with His words. Consider if you will the various references within this New Testament gospel concerning the religious system’s temptations of Jesus within and during His life and ministry:

“The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired Him that He would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red, and lowring. O ye hhyprocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And He left them, and departed” (Matthew 16:1-4).

“And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, He departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan; and great multitudes followed Him; and He healed them there. The Pharisees also came unto Him, tempting Him, and saying unto Him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And He answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto Him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matthew 19:1-9).

“Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent out unto Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, We know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardless not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto Him a penny. And He saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto Him, Caesar’s. Then saith He unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him. And when their way” (Matthew 22:15-22).

“But when the Pharisees had heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked Him a question, tempting Him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto Him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. One these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:34-40).

That which we find within the New Testament gospel of Matthew is a powerful picture of the religious community and system working diligently in order that they might tempt Jesus, so that by tempting Him, they might find grounds and reason to accuse Him before others. The New Testament gospel of Matthew contains specific examples of the religious system and community coming unto Jesus in order that they might tempt Him with their traditions, in order that they might tempt Him with the law of Moses, and even according to the authority, the power, and the dominion of God. In the nineteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find the Pharisees coming unto Jesus tempting Him according to the matter of divorce, in order that they might trap and entangle Him in His words. The Pharisees would bring the law of Moses before Jesus, and would use the Law to tempt Jesus in order that they might entangle Him with his words concerning the law. The Pharisees attempted to use the law of Moses in order to trap Jesus concerning His interpretation of the law, as well as His understanding of the law of Moses. The Pharisees and Sadducees sought to tempt Jesus with and according to His words, and according to the law of Moses, in order that somehow they might accuse and find fault with Him. Oh that we would recognize and understand that which we find and that which we read in the New Testament gospel of Matthew concerning the religious system and religious community during that day, for it is a tremendous and powerful picture of a system that seeks to find fault—not only with Jesus, but also with His disciples—in order that it might accuse both before God and men. The nineteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew brings us face to face with yet another attempt of the Pharisees and religious system seeking to find fault with Jesus according to His words, and according to His interpretation of the law of Moses, in order that by finding fault with Him, they might accuse them according to the law of Moses. It’s absolutely incredible that the religious system and community sought to entangle and trap Jesus according to the Law of Moses in order that they might not only find reason to accuse Him, but also destroy Him. Oh that we would recognize the presence and voice of the religious spirit within the church, and that we would discern its desire to not only entangle and ensnare us in our words, but also accuse and find fault with us according to the law of Moses. Oh that we would discern the face, the presence, and the voice of the religious spirit among us within the house of the Lord, in order that we might understand it’s operation among us to resist it.

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