New Testament in 6 months – day 19

19 Apr

Matthew 23:23-24:28
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers! You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel–let the reader understand–then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.”

These verses offer quite the contrast to each other. First we have the continuation of Jesus railing against the Pharisees and teachers of the law, along with a lament for Jerusalem, before speaking about the signs for the end of the world.

In His volleys against the Pharisees we continue to see the threads from yesterday, that they are obsessed with the outside appearances but not of the heart. I think the best comment He gives is about straining out a gnat but swallowing a camel. It is akin to the comment about the need to remove the log from your own eye to see the speck in your brother’s eye in that Jesus is saying that it is like looking in a drink of water and removing the bits floating on the top when the water is black with sediment on the bottom. If you remove the little, insignificant things but leave the big things then what is the point of removing anything? It would be like being a doctor at a hospital, a victim of a drive by shooting comes in and all the doctor does is wash the victim’s hands and face with soap. How is that going to help the lead the body has been riddled with?! And this example I give is doubly pertinent, because if we do not sort out our inside then we are just as dead as the body left with open bullet wounds.
If we get our heart right with God then the outside should start to look after itself. If we get the outside right with God we will keep on needing to fix it because the route cause of the problem remains.

We then see a change in speaking style as Jesus leaves Jerusalem for the Mount of Olives and talks to His disciples about the signs of the end of the world, in response to a question from them. Jesus gives many vague examples of things that will happen, because as He says only the Father knows the hour, but He also points out that many will declare that they are the Christ but will be false. And He finishes with a great line “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” In this we see very clearly that there will be no question about His return. All will know that it is happening and be in no doubt as to the meaning of the event. And, as we approach the anniversary of a Baptist preacher in America declaring that the end of the world was happening last May, we can all rest easy in the knowledge that it doesn’t matter that we cannot know the time it is coming, because we will know when it does and not miss it.

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Archbishop Cranmer

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