Matthew 19-20

Kingdom   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:34
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Let the Little Children Come to Me

Matthew 19:1–3 NET 2nd ed.
Now when Jesus finished these sayings, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan River. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. Then some Pharisees came to him in order to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful to divorce a wife for any cause?”
Understanding the Context:
Any time we get into difficult teachings like this, our instinct is to immediately talk about how we apply this to our lives. And that’s not a bad thing. We as Christians here at ACC have a very simple two-step process for what we believe it means to be a Christian
Read this book,
Do what this book says
And I want to say from the start that this might be a difficult message.
My goal is to approach this topic from a place of love, from a place of grace. The last thing I want to do is minimize the pain that comes from divorce. Whether you’ve had a divorce or you grew up in a divorced household. If you’ve struggled with marriage you understand just how difficult and painful it can be. And I see that.
Matthew 12:31 NET 2nd ed.
For this reason I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
Which is just a fancy way of saying the only way your sins won’t be forgiven is if you refuse to accept Jesus and allow him to forgive your sins.
If you walk in the light, if you are in christ
1 John 1:7 NET 2nd ed.
But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
And my guess is that when it comes to issues about marriage and gender and sexuality that you exist somewhere between two camps. you either are on this side where you wish I would just skip the parts of the bible that make you uncomfortable, or the parts of the bible that apply to your life. you’re looking ahead at today’s text and just dreading it
or you’re on the other side and you wish I would talk about it every single day. why aren’t we talking about men and women, why aren’t we talking about the bible’s definition of marriage, why aren’t we talking about the sanctity of marriage more often.
And no matter which side of that equation you’re on, you’re going to be disappointing. Because my philosophy in preaching is that when a topic comes up in the bible we’ll talk about it, and when it doesn’t we don’t.
There’s a reason why I don’t do holiday themed sermons. I didn’t do anything special for the fourth of July, Fathers day, mother’s day, new years.
I’d rather let the bible decide what we’re going to talk about. We’ll pick a book of the bible and work our way through it, start to finish. and whatever passage happens to come up on that day, that’s what we’re going to talk about.
And today this is what we’re going to talk about.
But before we can even start to talk about what it means for us, we absolutely have to understand what it meant for them.
I want to break down exactly what’s going on here with jesus and the Pharisees.
First and foremost you need to understand that the Pharisees are not asking Jesus this question in good faith.
In verse 3 it says they came “in order to test him” Which by the way is the exact same greek word used to describe what satan did to Jesus in the desert.
So the’re not actually interested in the lives of people and their marriages. Their sole purpose is to get Jesus to say something unpopular.
And they specifically chose this topic because they knew that it was something that effected a lot of people
We get this idea that Divorce is just so common today, but back in bible times they didn’t do that. Which is just not the case.
In fact by some measures divorce in the first century roman empire was more prevalent than it is today.
In first century rome, you were’nt even required to notify your spouse that you wanted a divorce. There’s an ancient court case law about a man who sailed from rome to spain. While he was in spain, he met another woman, declared that he was now divorced, didn’t bother to let his wife and child back at home know, and then married this new woman in spain and had a child.
And in the case, the original wife and child filed for inheritence, and the roman courts decided that the new wife and child had rights to the inheritance, not the old wife, because he declared a divorce while he was in spain, even though his original wife had no idea.
That’s roman culture.
When we zoom in on Jewish culture in the roman empire, the only difference was the fact that only a man could declare divorce. and he could do so for whatever reason.
So at the time Jesus is asked this question, the Jewish rabbis were trying to reform divorce law, and there were two popular political opinions on the matter. Not because they cared about what he said, because they knew that anytime you ask someone a hot-button issue question, and force them to pick a side, you are guaranteed to alienate at least half of your followers.
So that’s what’s going on here. It’s all political manuvering.
And here’s the other thing they were trying to do. This is the part that’s really skeevy.
Verse one says that Jesus left Galilee and when to the region of Judea that is “beyond the Jordan river”
Remember when we talked about herod. Judea was under the control of the romans, pontius pilate was governor. Except the small portion of Judea that was on the other side of the Jordan river. That part of judea was still under Herod’s jurisdiction.
Remember what it was that John the Baptist spoke out against? Herod’s divroce. Remember what ended up happenening to John the Baptist?
The pharisees have this thought, wouldn’t it be really convenient if we could inavertantly convince Jesus to speak out against herod. Because we know what happens to people who speak out against herod. And how convenient would it be if Herod just happend to make our little Jesus problem go away.
In the Pharisee’s mind it was a win-win.
We just need to ask Jesus a political question, and no matter what he says he’s going to make somebody mad.
What they weren’t expecting was his answer.
Matthew 19:4–6 NET 2nd ed.
He answered, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
Rather than get involved in the political debate. Rather than get into the weeds about what constitutes a legal divorce and a non-legal divorce, Jesus goes back to first principles.
He invokes God’s original creation.
He invokes the one time in history where sin did not exist in the world. And he calls his followers to live to that standard.
As Christians, God’s perfect standard should be what we’re aiming toward.
Regardless of how many times we fail, which is by the way all of us every day.
God’s intention for humanity is for one man and one woman to be united as one flesh forever.
But again the pharisees aren’t interested in talking about what God wants, they just want Jesus to say something unpopular So they respond
Matthew 19:7 NET 2nd ed.
They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?”
Let’s be real, they’re just trying to pick a fight. They’re just trying to get Jesus to say something wrong so that he loses followers.
Matthew 19:8 NET 2nd ed.
Jesus said to them, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of your hard hearts, but from the beginning it was not this way.
Again he’s not interested in talking about the what if questions, he’s going back to God’s original design.
Matthew 19:9 NET 2nd ed.
Now I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another commits adultery.”
The word there, “immorality” by the way, in 99% cases is refering to sexual immorality. The word can mean general immorality, but it’s almost always referring to Sexual immorality.
Jesus is recognizing the sinfulness of human beings. The inevitability that comes with the fact taht we live in a fallen world. Allowing divorce as the lesser of two evils.
And at the same time, he is upholding the standard of God’s intentions.
And that’s hard for us because we are broken people. It was hard for the disciples too, because they said
Matthew 19:10 NET 2nd ed.
The disciples said to him, “If this is the case of a husband with a wife, it is better not to marry!”
and Jesus responds by saying
Matthew 19:11–12 NET 2nd ed.
He said to them, “Not everyone can accept this statement, except those to whom it has been given. For there are some eunuchs who were that way from birth, and some who were made eunuchs by others, and some who became eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who is able to accept this should accept it.”
A eunuch was someone who had their sexual desire physically removed from them. Or, it was a reference to someone who was celibate
This verse has nothing to do whatsoever with homosexuality, transgender issues. That’s not what Jesus is talking about here. and it’s not an extra concession on marriage. We can’t read 21st century issues back onto a 1st century text.
What Jesus is saying here, is basically, look your two choices are to have sex solely within the bounds of marriage, or not at all.
What’s interesting about this passage is what comes next.
Matthew 19:13–15 NET 2nd ed.
Then little children were brought to him for him to lay his hands on them and pray. But the disciples scolded those who brought them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” And he placed his hands on them and went on his way.
At first it really seems like this brief interaction is just stuck in here for no reason.
But think about what we just talked about. About God’s high standard. About our sinful inability to maintain God’s standard.
Think about the last time Jesus talked about little children. He was doing it in the context of us, humbling ourselves, and coming to Jesus.
The little children is us. the attitude we have, our willingness to kneel down in front of Jesus like a child, in submission to him. Asking his forgiveness. We’re the little Children.
If you’re struggling with sin, if you’re feeling guilt or shame about a relationship that didn’t work out, or any other way that you’ve failed to meet God’s standard.
God doesn’t want you to dwell on it. He doesn’t want you to feel guilt and shame, he doesn’t want you to hang your head down.
He wants you to come to him.
Because 2 things are true.
God’s standard of right and wrong is on a level that none of us can reach.
and our response to that fact should be an attitude of submission and humility before the king, like a child.
Now compare that with the next passage

Matthew 19:16-24

Matthew 19:16–24 NET 2nd ed.
Now someone came up to him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?” He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he asked. Jesus replied, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! Again I say, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God.”
Here’s the heart of the issue.
My guess is that when we read the passage about divorce it invoked an emotion of some kind. Negative or positive. That’s what happens when God confronts us with our brokenness.
or maybe, the passage about divorce caused you to focus on someone elses brokenness. Someone you know who’s going through that right now.
But if the passage about divorce and marriage caused that emotion, and the passage about the rich young ruler doesn’t cause that same type of emotion, we’ve got a problem.
Because here’s what happens, whether we like to admit it or not, we have this tendency to maximize other people’s sins, and minimize our own.
And operate under this false assumption that sexual sins are somehow worse sins than non-sexual sins, which just isn’t true.
We do this so much that we tend to minimize passages like the passage of the rich young ruler.
We’ll say, well we should take this metaphorically. We should metaphorically get rid of the possessions that are keeping us away from God.
Interesting, because we didn’t just get through talking about Metaphorical divorce. I’ve never heard a sermon about Metaphorical murder or metaphorical homosexuality.
Or, here’s the other thing we like to do, we like to say, “well this passage only applies to the physical possessions that are excessive.
Isn’t it funny how the limit we put on possessions is alway just one step above what we have.
-the point is not how righteous we can be. It’s how righteous we’ll never be able to be.
-do you think for a second if that man would have given away all of his possessions on the spot Jesus would have said “congratulations you’ve finally earned your way into eternal life?”
Of course not.
There’s a story about a man who took this passage to it’s extreme conclusion. He sold literally everything he owned. He kept one pair of clothes. He gave everything to the poor, and he joined a monastery to become a monk, and devote his life to service to God.
And he thought finally, I’ve done it. I’ve gotten rid of every single possession, I’ll never have to deal with greed or coveting again, because when you have nothing, and you live with other people who have nothing, it’s pretty hard to be greedy.
He gets to the monastery, and he gets to his room. and he looks at his neighbor’s room across the hallway, and notices that his neighbor’s room has an east facing window. and his neighbor’s room gets a little bit more sunlight in the morning.
And he becomes jealous.
We can’t fix our problems by following the law perfectly. We can’t fix our problem by being faithful in our marriage. We can’t fix our problems through prayer or reading the bible, or doing what the bible says.
None of those things will fix a broken depraved sinful heart.
That’s the point. Whether it’s god’s high standard of marriage, or adultery or committing murder in our hearts, whatever it is we’re all equally guilty.
and the disciples recognize this because they ask Jesus
Matthew 19:25 NET 2nd ed.
The disciples were greatly astonished when they heard this and said, “Then who can be saved?”
If this is what it takes to be in the kingdom, we are all in Big trouble.
they’re almost despaired.
And Jesus responds This impossible for mere humans.
He says you can’t “gain eternal life” It’s impossible. Never gonna happen.
Matthew 19:26 NET 2nd ed.
Jesus looked at them and replied, “This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible.”
And the point is not for us to say “well everyone sins, so I guess it’s fine”
And the point is not for us to be despaired.
And the point is not for us to feel shame or guilt about the things we’ve done that we can’t go back in time and undo.
Let the little children come to me.

Matthew 20:1-16

Matthew 20:1–16 NET 2nd ed.
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. And after agreeing with the workers for the standard wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When it was about nine o’clock in the morning, he went out again and saw others standing around in the marketplace without work. He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and I will give you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and three o’clock that afternoon, he did the same thing. And about five o’clock that afternoon he went out and found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why are you standing here all day without work?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go and work in the vineyard too.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages starting with the last hired until the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each received a full day’s pay. And when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each one also received the standard wage. When they received it, they began to complain against the landowner, saying, ‘These last fellows worked one hour, and you have made them equal to us who bore the hardship and burning heat of the day.’ And the landowner replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am not treating you unfairly. Didn’t you agree with me to work for the standard wage? Take what is yours and go. I want to give to this last man the same as I gave to you. Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”
IN this parable we’re the workers.
Some of us grew ups in a Christian household and went to a christian school. And we’ve never been late to work, and the worst thing we’ve ever done is stick a piece of gum on the bottom of the desk in Mrs Tofflemeyer’s 3rd grade class.
Maybe one time we stubbed our toe at three in the morning and said a swear word.
And some of us have struggled with addiction. adultery. Greed, lust, alcohol.
Both of those people are equally guilty by God’s standard.
And they are equally saved by God’s grace. Isn’t that beautiful?
God is the great equalizer.
There’s no levels in heaven there’s no extra credit points, you’re either in or you’re not.
It doesn’t matter how long you worked for the land owner, how hard you worked, how much work you got done.
The land owner said hey do you want to come work in my vinyard and you said yess, and you received your reward.
God said Hey do you want to be a part of my kingdom? and you’re either in and you receive the free gift of eternal life, or you’re not.
In the end God doesn’t look at your bank account, he doesn’t look at the things you’ve done. He looks to see if you’ve been cleansed by the blood of Jesus or not.
God’s plan to redeem the world started with his love for you. His desire to be with you in heaven forever.
Romans 5:8 NET 2nd ed.
But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
And if you’ve accepted Jesus as your Lord and savior God doesn’t see your sins.
Hebrews 10:17 NET 2nd ed.
then he says, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no longer.”
God doesn’t see you any more.
He doesn’t see your sins.
When he looks at you all he sees is the son.
Galatians 4:4–5 NET 2nd ed.
But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights.
Galatians 4:6–7 NET 2nd ed.
And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, who calls “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if you are a son, then you are also an heir through God.
Let the little children come to me.
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