Now at the same time there came disciples to Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? (18:1)
Oh, boy how they longed for this. You're talking about motivation, and the disciples were not pure in their motivations. They were always wrangling about well, I am going to be bigger than you. I'll be better then you. I have a better place than you, and their motivations were not always the purest. And they, many times, were arguing about these things, the greatest. In fact, even the mothers of the disciples sometimes got in on this. They said, "Lord when you come into your kingdom, would you let one of my sons be on your right hand?”(20:21). Little Jewish mothers wanting to set up their boys. And that's very typical. God bless them.
And so the disciples came and said, "Who is going to be the greatest in the kingdom?"
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and he sat the child in the middle of them, and he said, Verily I say unto you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not even enter the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (18:2-4).
The true path to greatness is always the path of humility. “He that exalteth himself shall be abased. He that humbles himself shall be exalted”(Luke 14:11). Humble thyself in the eyes of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.
And Jesus takes a child and says, "look, you've got to become like a little child, even you, even going to enter the kingdom of heaven. And so if you humble yourself as a little child, that person will be the greatest”. The path to greatness is the path of servanthood. How important that we learn to serve, that we not be looking for ourselves, but we only be looking for our Lord and to exalt Him.
And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receives me (18:5).
Oh how the Lord loves the little children. How he loves their beautiful little faces. How He loves that simple faith and trust that is in the heart of a child. There is something about their innocence and simplicity that is absolutely glorious. I love it.
But He said,
Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea (18:6).
I love Jesus; He is a man's man. Sounds like the Mafia here, but I am all for it. I mean, He is straight. I think that the most heinous sin anyone can commit is to seek to destroy the faith of a child in God. That is one of the worst sins that anyone could ever commit. To take this pure little child with his simplicity and trust in God, and deliberately seek to destroy that child's faith in God, in Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, "look, it'd be better for a man if he just took a millstone”, and these millstones weigh about three to four hundred pounds, “tie it around his neck, and toss him into the sea. Better that that happen to him than he offend, destroy the faith of one of these little ones who believe in Me”.
Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! (18:7)
Be careful, offenses are going to come. But be careful that you're not the cause of the offenses.
Wherefore if your hand offends you, then cut it off, cast it from you: it is better for you to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet and to be cast into the everlasting fire. If thy eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. So take heed that you despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven [and I love this] their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven (18:8-10).
The angels that have been given charge over us to keep us in all of our ways. The angels, who are watching over our little children, their faces are before the Father continually there in heaven, beseeching the Father for these precious little ones.
This business of, if thy hand offend thee and all, is something that Jesus meant to be repugnant. He means it to be shocking. To maim my own body, to me is a very repugnant idea. To lose a hand, to lose an eye by my own doing is just a horribly repugnant thought. And Jesus wanted it to be. He did not literally mean that we are to cut off our hand or to pluck out our eye, but He is only illustrating how vital it is that we enter the kingdom of heaven. It is worth more than having a whole body.
As we were talking to you last Sunday about the trapping of muskrats, how that if you catch them by their paws, they turn around and gnaw their leg off and leave the paw in the trap. Again, that's a thought that gives us a -- we react mentally to that, as uh, horrible, but yet how wise as far as the muskrat is concerned. For he figures it's better to be a free muskrat with three paws, than having four paws be tacked on a fur board.
So Jesus is saying much the same thing here. If there is something in your life that is causing you to stumble, if there is something in your life that is creating an offense, cut it out, get rid of it.
Sometimes when a person comes into the office and sits down and begins to pour out their story, and they say, "Well, Chuck I am really in a mess. I never thought it would happen to me. I can't understand it, but, man I am involved in an affair, and I don't know what to do. It's just ripping me apart; it's tearing me up. My wife doesn't know it, and I just don't know what to do about it, and all." I say to them point blank, "cut it off, not tomorrow, right now, cut it off, "Oh, but I”- don't, cut it off.
I said, "If I were a surgeon and you came to me, and you said, "Oh, I am having these lumps under my arm, and they are sore, and they really bother me." If I didn't bother to take the biopsies and determine whether or not you had cancer of the lymph nodes, but I just said, "Oh, probably you've got cancer in your lymph nodes. You --that's a painful operation. We don't want to go through the pain of it. Why don't we just sort of take aspirin, so you won’t feel the pain and forget about it." Well you file a malpractice suit against me for quackery for saying, "We’ll, just let it go and see what happens".
And I said, "You're coming to me with a spiritual malady that is more deadly then cancer. I am the surgeon and I am telling you, we've got to operate immediately. Your life depends on it, you got to cut it out." And if there is some sin that you are tolerating, allowing, playing with, and messing around with, you cannot do it. Jesus is saying, " cut it off. Better to go through life maimed, than into hell whole."
Then Jesus in verse eleven says so beautifully,
For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost (18:11).
I love that. We get to that when we get to Luke's gospel. It amplifies it a little further.
Now Jesus said,
What do you think? if a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine and go into the mountains, and seek the one which has gone astray? And if it so happens that he finds it, verily I say unto you, he rejoices more for the one sheep, than for the ninety-nine which never went astray. Even so it is not the will of the Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish (18:12-14).
Your Father is watching over them. Their angels hold their faces before the Father continually, and He isn't willing that any perish. Be careful that you do not offend one of those little ones, who believes and trusts in Him.
Moreover [Jesus said] if your brother trespasses against you, go and tell him the fault between you and him alone: and if he hears you, then you've gained your brother (18:15).
This is the way differences are to be resolved and settled within the church.
Now if he does not hear you, then take with you one or two witnesses, so that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established (18:16).
Take another person with you or another two people with you, and face him with the issue again.
And if he neglects to hear them, then take him before the church: but if he neglects to hear the church, then let him be as a heathen, a publican [a sinner, a rank sinner]. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing, that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven (18:17-19).
So here Jesus is speaking about loosening and binding, loosening the work of God, binding the work of Satan, and then declaring that if two of us agree, so the value of prayer together, in agreement in prayer. Now most of our prayer is done in private, but there are times when agreement in prayer is extremely valuable. And I encourage every one of you to have a prayer partner. Someone that when something really is troubling you, you have someone who can pray with you, and bear that burden with you. “For if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it will be done for them by my Father which is in heaven.” The power of agreement in prayer.
Then Jesus goes on with His two or three concepts. He said,
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them (18:20).
So the simplest form of the church is just two or three people getting together to worship the Lord, to pray together. And whenever there are two, there are always three, wherever there are three visibly present, there is always four. Jesus said, "I am in the midst of them”. I think that it is important that we have, and somehow can conceptionalize this. Jesus isn't like some today who say, "Well, the crowd’s too small. I am not going to go out tonight." He said, "if two or three are gathered, I'll be there." Now what you need to conceptionalize and to realize is the fact that Jesus is here tonight.
Now if you have a real need and you knew Jesus was there, what would you do? You say," Lord, problems." And don't you know that if you could see Him, if He actually stood here visible, if you could reach out and touch Him, you know that the problems would all go away. He could do it, you know He can do it. So many times you probably wish, “Oh, if I could only be at Capernaum, and Jesus was there, and if I could only have Him lay His hands on me."
Hey, He is here. The fact that you cannot see Him is of no import at all. Because He said He would be here in the midst of us, and you can reach out by faith and touch Him tonight. And He will reach out and touch you. All you have to do is to make that contact of faith with Him. He is here. Realize that; bring before Him your needs. Believe Him and trust Him and He will work in you.
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Seven times? (18:21)
Now I imagine that Peter at this point thought I am really setting a great example here. I am sure that he was stretching in his own mind his knowledge of his own ability to forgive. I am sure when he said “seven times”, he was going far beyond what he knew he could do. I am sure Peter was thinking, "Well, I might be able to forgive a guy a couple of times, but it sounds good to the other disciples if I say ‘seven’”. And Jesus will probably say, "Look, here is a guy that's really getting a lesson. Listen to it, fellows. Peter has really got it here: “Lord how often shall I forgive my brother the very same offense, he is doing the very same thing seven times?"
Jesus said unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven (18:22).
Now what Jesus is pointing out basically is that forgiveness is not a matter of mathematics, it's a matter of spirit, that you should have the spirit of forgiveness. And I am certain that He is certain that if you take the four hundred and ninety, that you'll lose count before you'll ever get there. And you'll just realize, hey, it isn't a matter of numbers, it's a matter of spirit. I am to have the spirit of forgiveness.
And then Jesus went on to illustrate it. He said,
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take a count of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents [about sixteen million dollars]. But inasmuch as he did not have any money to pay, his Lord commanded him to be sold, his wife, and his children, and all that he had, in order that a partial payment might be made. And the servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, O Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you all. Then the Lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and he freed him, and he forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence [about three thousand dollars]: and he laid his hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, You pay me what you owe me. And the fellowservant fell down at his feet, and he begged him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything. But he would not: he had him cast into the debtors’ prison, until he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very grieved, and they came and told their lord all that he did. Then his lord, after he had called him, said unto him, O you wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you desired me to: Should you not also have had compassion on your fellowservant, even as I had pity on you? And his lord was angry, and delivered him over to the tormentors, until he should pay all that was due from him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if you [careful note] if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses (18:23-35).
Heavy duty, lesson on forgiveness.
Now the analogy is very clear and obvious. God has forgiven you so very much, all of your past sins. Who are you to hold a little crutch or a grievance against your brother, not forgive him, because of some slight, or some mean thing that he has said about you, or some dirty thing that he has done to you. Who are you to hold this bitterness and unforgiving spirit? Jesus said, "Look, if you don't forgive them from your heart, your Father won’t forgive you your debt."
Now that is heavy. You say, "Well, explain it to us." I can't. If you want me to explain it away, I can't. You say, "Well, isn't that works then, forgiveness on works?" I don't know what it is, but it's the word of Jesus, and you better take heed.
Now the Lord has never commanded us to do anything, but what He will give us is the capacity to do it, if we are willing. The problem is, we are not often willing to forgive. The Lord is saying it's got to be more than just a forgiving of words. "Oh, I forgive you, but you do that again, you're going to get it. I forgive you, but I won’t forget. I'll bury the hatchet, but I leave the handle showing so I can grab it whenever I need it." The forgiveness is from the heart. Forgiveness is a matter of heart. It's a matter of spirit. And inasmuch as God has commanded it, God will give me the capacity if I am willing, but I've got to be willing.
And so I have to pray, "Oh, God give to me that spirit of forgiveness. God I am bitter. God I am angry with what they've done. Lord I am upset over this thing, and I don't want to forgive. I want vengeance, God, but I know that that is not of you. Father give to me the spirit of forgiveness. Give to me forgiveness in my heart. God take away this bitterness. Take away this unforgiving spirit that I have." And I will receive God's help, if I am willing. But I must be willing, but I must do it. That is a must.
Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and he came to the coast of Judea (19:1);
Now that is the border of Judea, so He is moving south towards Jerusalem, for Jerusalem lies in the area of Judea, which is in the southern kingdom. So He has left the area of Naphtali and Psycar in the north, and has come down now to the area of Judea, there beyond Jordan.
And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there. Then the Pharisees came unto him, [and notice this] they were tempting him (19:2-3),
This is a test question; it is a leading question. It is a question of entrapment. They are trying to trap Jesus in His words. And it is important that you realize that this is a trap question by the Pharisees. So they came unto Him, tempting Him, or trapping Him,
and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? (19:3)
Now under the Mosaic law it says, if a man finds an uncleanness in his wife, and he is not content to remain with her, let him give her a writing of a bill of divorcement.
Now what is meant by finding an “uncleanness” in her? According to the liberal theologians of those days, an uncleanness could be her not fixing the kind of breakfast you enjoy. So if she boiled the egg too long, and the yoke was to hard, you could say, "That's it, I've had it. I divorce you”. And you could hand her the paper and she had to leave. I mean she had no recourse. She was just out. And so they had applied a very liberal interpretation to this finding an uncleanness in her.
Other of the rabbis said that the uncleanness was a moral uncleanness. You discovered she was not a virgin when you married her, or if she would break the marriage vow, it was a moral uncleanness. And so there was the division among the Scribes and Pharisees, to which of the two schools they subscribed, whether Hallel, who took the very, narrow, moral uncleanness, or the other school that took a very much broader view.
So they were questioning Jesus, "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?"
And he answered and said unto them, Have you not read, that he which made them in the beginning [now notice, Jesus is going back not to the law, but He is going back to the beginning] he who made them in the beginning made them male and female (19:4),
Now there is quite a move on foot today to change what God has done. They'll never be successful. God help poor, sick humanity. I don't know if there is any transvestites here, but I cannot for the life of me understand that kind of a sickness, really.
God 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 two shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more two, but they are one (19:5-6).
There is a unity that is brought about by marriage where the two become one flesh. Of course, that is literally true in your offspring. The two of you have become one flesh in your offspring. There is twenty-three of the chromosomes that come from each of you to begin that new life. How beautiful! You dads can't say, "That 's your kid, take care of him," because he is half yours too, twenty-three chromosomes from you. And so it is a perfect combination, the two shall become one flesh.
Wherefore they are no more two, but they are one. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man [by writing of divorcement or whatever] put asunder (19:6).
Now in those days women didn't have the power of divorce. And that's why God said, don't let man put it asunder, don't let man break it. God has made the two of you one, now don't let a man break that by writing out a divorcement for his wife.
They said unto Him (19:7),
Now picture the trap closing, ha, ha. He's fallen into it, because it was a trap question and He fell right into it. All right we've got Him now. And they said unto Him,
Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? (19:7)
Now all of them recognized that the law that Moses gave came from God. If anything was inspired in the Bible, it was the law of Moses. And there were many of them that only believed that that part, and today still many only believe that the first five books of the Bible are inspired, but they all hold that that is the inspired Word. God gave us the law by Moses.
Now you are contradicting God. You see, this is the whole idea to put Him in contradicting what God said, and God said, "let him put her away." And you're saying, "you can't, you shouldn't if God has joined you together, you shouldn't break it by writing out an divorcement”. So you're against God is the whole idea.
And Jesus said unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts allowed you to put away your wives: [but again he is going back before Moses ever came on the scene] from the beginning it was not so (19:8).
You noticed in the first part He said, "in the beginning God made male and female." Now He is saying, "in the beginning it wasn't so. Moses, because of the hardness of your heart, gave the law for divorcing, but in the beginning this was not God's intention”. In the beginning this is not what God desired or planned.
And I say unto you, [not Moses said, but I say] Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, [and notice He does make the exception] and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoso marries her which is put away does commit adultery. His disciples said, Lord if that's the case, better that a guy not marry (19:9-10).
Now Jesus is being very straight. He is telling you what is God's original plan for man, one marriage of life. In the beginning this is what God intended when He made them male and female, that the two become one; so that the children will always have both parents and the security of a home, and a home environment in which to grow up. And wherever that breaks down, we find its effects throughout our entire social structure. And we see it today, the tremendous breakdown in our society, and the social order, because of the divided families and the children are always hurt, as a byproduct of this division.
Now Jesus did give the one cause, and that one cause is fornication. And in that case, the innocent party would be free to remarry, very plainly declares that if they put away their wife, except for fornication, and marry another, but the exception is there.
Now Jesus said unto His disciples when they were shocked at the straightness of His declaration.
All men cannot receive this saying, except to those to whom it is given (19:11).
Now this is the next saying that He is talking about.
For there are some who are eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: there are others who are eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be some eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. If you're able to receive it, let him receive it (19:12).
Am not able, so I just let it go. I am not an eunuch, nor do I desire to be.
Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray for them: and his disciples rebuked them. [That is the parents that were bringing them.] But Jesus said, Allow the little children, don't forbid them to come to me: for as such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them, and he departed from there (19:13-15).
Oh, I can get just such a beautiful picture of Jesus and the little children thronging around Him, and the love and the interest that He had in these little ones. And here the disciples thinking they were protecting Him, said, "Oh, don't bother the Lord with your little kids." Jesus said, “Wait a minute. Get out of the way, Peter, let that little one come to me. Don't forbid him, of such is the kingdom of heaven." He laid His hands on them and blessed them. Oh, I love it.
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? (19:16)
Well, here is the moralist; we see them today, people who are looking for some work whereby they might obtain the gift of eternal life. There are always those who are wanting to work their way into God's favor, work their way into God's blessings. If you'll just pray, then God will bless you. If you'll just fast, then God will bless you. If you'll just give, then God will bless you.
How many want a blessing? Then dig deep and give tonight, you know. And there are always those who want to do some work to obtain God's blessing upon their lives. What good work must I do that I may inherit eternal life? There is not a single work that you can do. Jesus later said, "With man it's impossible, there is no way that you can do any kind of a work that will save you. Salvation, eternal life is the gift of God, and it's not of works, lest any man should boast. We are His workmanship”(Ephesians 2:8-10).
And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, and that is God (19:17):
Now here he said, "good master," Jesus said, "Why did you call me good? There is only one that is good, and that is God”. Now obviously Jesus is saying one of two things. He is saying, "I am no good, or He is saying, I am God." Which do you think He is saying? What He is doing is trying to awaken the consciousness of this man to the fact that he has received a divine revelation. He is getting close. “Why did you call me good?” The reason why you called me good, is because you, though you don't realize it, have recognized something about me. “Why did you call me good?”
You remember when Peter said, "Thou art the Christ the son of the living God". Jesus said, "Blessed art you Simon Barjona. Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you"(16:16-17). Jesus is saying much the same, "Hey, why did you call me good? Flesh and blood did not reveal this”. There is a divine revelation here. “You called me good, but there is only one that is good, and that is God. You called me good, because I am God. You have recognized something here”. “What must I do to have this eternal life, this age-abiding life, this quality of life that you have, this quality that I am observing and I am drawn to?" And Jesus is beginning to point out the way. First of all, the recognition of “who I am. Why did you call me good? There is none good but God”.
And Jesus said,
But if you will enter into life, keep the commandments. And he said unto him, Which? and Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, honor thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself (19:17-19).
Notice now, nothing is said of the first table of the law. Nothing is said of man's relationship to God. He did not give him the first four commandments: Thou shalt have no other God's before me. Thou shalt not make any graven images, to bow down to them, to worship them. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. And remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. He didn't bring out any of the first four, man's relationship with God. He only dealt with man's relationship with man because this man was a moralist. He was that typical man, who was looking for a good work that he might do in order to inherit eternal life. He was used to doing good works. His life was spent in doing good works. And so Jesus gave to him those commandments that dealt with his relationship with fellow man.
And as Jesus flashed these before his eyes,
He answered and said unto him, All of these have I kept from my youth: but what lack I yet? (19:20)
Now here is a man who is rich, he is a moralist. He's kept his relationship with his fellow men all that it should be. Throughout his life he's tried to do the good thing, the right thing to his fellow man. And yet he is conscious that there is a lack in his life. “I don't yet have what you have. What lack I yet?” He was conscious that there was still a lack in his own life, that there must be something more than just living a good life and being wealthy.
"What lack I yet?"
And Jesus said unto him, If you will be complete [totally complete, perfect], then go and sell what you have, and give it to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me (19:21).
Now I'd like to read to you what Jesus is essentially saying to him." If you will be perfect, or complete, come follow me. The rest is only incidental.” With the rest there is no universal application. That was the individual commandment to that man. It is not a universal application. This was not a requirement to any person who is going to be complete, or to have eternal life. It doesn't mean that you've got to sell everything you have and distribute it to the poor.
Now in the early church there was a movement of this sort. It ended in financial disaster; it also ended in some personal calamities. When the church first started, people were very excited about what was happening. And they were anticipating the Lord to return immediately, and a lot of them began to sell their properties and bring the price and lay it at the apostles’ feet.
And there was one couple Ananias and Sapphira, who sold their property and they brought in part of the money and put it at Peter's feet. And Peter said, "Hey, wait a minute. Why have you conspired in your heart to lie against the Holy Spirit? You've not lied against men, you've lied against God. As long as the property was yours, did anyone require you to sell it? And even after you sold it, no one required that you bring everything in. But yet, you are making this pretense of bringing everything. You're trying to deceive God"(Acts 5:1-4)
And there was swift judgment upon Ananias and his wife Sapphira, not because they didn't bring everything, but Peter makes it very clear, that they weren't required to sell their possessions. They weren't required to bring the money in. It was something that people did out of their own volition and free will.
And so Jesus when He says, "Go and sell what you have and distribute to the poor”, is not a making a universal demand for those who would have eternal life. What the universal demand is, “come and follow me”. You cannot have eternal life apart from following Jesus Christ, but He will always put the finger on whatever it is in your life that's keeping you from following Him. And with the case of this rich young ruler, the thing that was keeping him from following Jesus Christ was his riches. That was his god.
Jesus said, "You cannot serve God and mammon, you can't have two masters”(6:24). If you have a false god that is controlling your life, then you've got to go and get rid of it, whatever it be. And you've got to have the true God on the throne of your life. Jesus said, "Come follow me. Why did you call me good? There is only one good, that's God. You called me good because you recognized that I am God. Now follow me; get rid of the false gods. Get rid of the empty gods; follow me, the true and living God."
And it's important that you observe this, because a lot of people make a big deal over, well, you got to go and sell everything you have and distribute it to the poor and all; not so. That is not a universal application. The universal application is, “Come follow me”. He is the way to completeness. He is the way to eternal life; there is not any real life apart from Him.
Now when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. [Sorry, because he was so rich.] Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say, It is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And when his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? And Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men it's impossible; but with God all things are possible (19:22-26).
Now when you go over to Israel today, the guides when you get to the Church of the Nativity, they will show you a little sub-gate under the gate into the church. And they tell you that that little sub-gate was called the eye of the needle, and that in the gates of the cities they always had this little sub-gate, which was called the eye of the needle. And in order to get the camel through it, they had to take all of the burden of the camel’s back, and it had to get down on the ground. And a couple guys behind him pushing, and one guy in front of it pulling, to get it to squeeze through this eye of the needle in the gate. And they say that's what Jesus was talking about.
Isn't that interesting? They make it a possibility if you struggle hard enough, and if you grunt and groan enough you can actually save yourself. A lot of people would like to have you think that. But Jesus points out that that is entirely false. He is talking not about some little gate that you can, by a lot of effort, and grunts and groans squeeze and get through. He is talking about an eye of a needle, that a woman is sewing with, and you trying to get a camel through that? And that's why the disciples said, "Lord, who then can be saved?" and note, Jesus said what, "With man it is impossible." Remember that.
He didn't say, "You got to strain. You got to struggle. You got to grunt and groan, give it your best." He is saying, "It's impossible." Man cannot save himself. The moralist cannot save himself. No man by good works can save himself. No man by a good work can inherit age-abiding, eternal life. It is a gift of God, and it is only wrought by a miracle of God in our hearts and lives. For though it is impossible with men, with God all things are possible. It's even possible to save you.
And God has done the impossible in saving us tonight. And remember that. With man it is impossible. That eliminates the moralist completely. You cannot by your good works obtain for yourself a place in the kingdom of God. You've got to come as a little child and be converted and just simply trust in Jesus.
Then answered Peter and said unto him, Lord, we've forsaken all, and followed you; what are we going to have therefore? (19:27)
Always looking for that, what do I got coming Lord? Am I going to be the greatest?
And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That you which have followed me, in the regeneration [the re-creation, in making this new order] when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon the twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (19:28).
Now in heaven John saw the throne of God, and there were twenty-four thrones around the throne of God, upon which were seated twenty-four elders. There are many who believe that those twenty-four elders are actually representative of the church. And of course if so, then twelve of them would be the apostles. There are some problems with that interpretation, but it is one of the interpretations that has been suggested for those twenty-four thrones, lesser thrones, about the throne of God. But nonetheless, Jesus said, "that they will be sitting upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel”.
And everyone that hath forsaken, [now you've said you've forsaken all to follow me, but everyone who has forsaken,] his house, or his brothers, or sisters, or his father, or his mother, or his wife, or his children, or lands, for my name’s sake (19:29),
If you have done it for His name’s sake, that is, your wife will not follow you in your total commitment to Jesus Christ. And as Paul said, “if the unbelieving husband is not content to remain, let him depart”(1 Corinthians 7:14). No one has left these things, forsaken these things for my sake,
but what he shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life (19:29).
So not only does He give you a hundredfold now, but then eternal life.
But many that are first, shall be last (19:30);
I think that He is here referring actually to the Jewish nation to whom the gospel was to be preached first. Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, upon our God of Salvation, to all that believe, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek"(Romans 1:16). But it was to go to the Jew first, and then to the Gentiles. Now they are going to be judging the twelve tribes. Why? Because the twelve tribes basically rejected the Messiah. “So those that were first shall be last.”
and they that are last [that is the Gentiles] shall be first (19:30).
So in that kingdom that Jesus establishes, we shall be one with Him, joint heirs with the Son of the glorious kingdom of God throughout eternity. The gospel came to us last, but we have the first privileges in His glorious kingdom, who have believed on Jesus Christ. Were we who believe in Jesus Christ, are neither Jews nor Greeks, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free, but Christ is everything.
We are a whole new nationality. We are new creatures in Christ Jesus. We are a new creation, a new race of people. So you really can't say, "Well, I am an Irishman, or an Englishman, or a Scotchman." You must say, "I am a Christian." You are a new race, you see, we're not related anymore to the whatever ethnic group we came from. We are all one in Jesus Christ. We now relate to a new source. "Well, that's my old Irish temper." Oh, no, no, that old Irish temper died when the old man died and you became a Christian. You can't pass it off now on the old Irish temper anymore. You're a new creature in Christ. You are a new creation. You are a new race of people in our Lord Jesus Christ. And so the last, “Many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first”.
Next week we'll continue in the next three chapters of Matthew's gospel. Shall we pray? Father, again we thank you for your Word. Truly it is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. May we walk in its light, be obedient unto its truth that we, Lord, would not seek to mold and shape your Word to our concepts but that we would have our concepts molded and shaped by Your Word. Help us, Father, that we might bend out necks to the authority of your truth rather than trying to bend the truth to fit our lose lifestyles. Jesus, let thy Word penetrate our hearts and give us O God a spirit of obedience and a spirit of forgiveness. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.