God Has the Answers We Need!
God Has the Answers We Need!
The Gospel of Matthew
Sermon by Rick Crandall
(Prepared October 20, 2021)
(I revised the background on October 22, 2021 to mention the gap between Matthew 4:11 and 4:12.)
*Today in Matthew 9 some of John the Baptist's disciples went to Jesus with a question about fasting. By this time, John had been in prison for some months. Matthew 4:12 tells us that Jesus heard about John the Baptist being put into prison. The Holy Spirit led Matthew to write this statement just after he reported Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, and just before he began to write about the Lord's ministry. But there is a big jump forward between Matthew 4:11 and Matthew 4:12. Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, Matthew abruptly skipped forward almost a year. He omitted the Judean ministry of Jesus that is covered in John 1-4.
*Later in Matthew 11:2-6, we will see that John was still in prison when he sent two disciples to make sure that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Then Matthew 14:1-13 looks back to give us the details of John's arrest and execution by Herod the tetrarch. We don't know exactly how long John was in prison before his death, but I have seen some estimates of two years. (1)
*This is the background for the question about fasting from John the Baptist's disciples. William MacDonald explained that John's disciples probably understood that their teacher was the forerunner of the Messiah. But if that was the case, then why didn't Jesus' disciples not fast like the Pharisees and John's disciples? The Pharisees fasted often, regularly twice a week, and on the great national days of fasting. This was the custom of the land, and John did not change it.
*On top of that John's disciples were probably in deep grief over their leader's imprisonment. Fasting was a natural expression of sorrow, and they may have wondered why Jesus' followers were not joining them in their grief. (2)
*They had a big question, and Jesus had the answer they needed. God always has the answers we need in life. And in this case, the Lord told them three short parables to help them understand. Remember that parables are simply earthly stories with a heavenly meaning. And these parables can help us find the most important answers we need in life. Please think about that as we read Matthew 9:14-17.
*Are you searching for answers today? Sometimes we feel like a struggling young student named Ken. During one exam, Ken's teacher asked him, "How close are you to the right answers?" Ken slowly looked around and said, "About two seats." (3)
*Someday we will go through tests a whole lot harder than Ken's, and we are going to need some answers. You may be searching for crucial answers right now. That's what John the Baptist's disciples were doing 2,000 years ago. They were troubled because their teacher was in prison. They were confused about what God was doing. They needed answers. So do we. And today's Scripture can help us find the most important answers we need.
1. THE FIRST LESSON IS: GO TO GOD FOR THE ANSWERS YOU NEED.
*This is especially true when you have a spiritual question. Go to the right source. That's what John's disciples did in vs. 14. They went to Jesus and asked, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?" Yes, we can hear a little complaint in their question, but they took their question to the right place. They took it to Jesus.
*Notice that they wondered "why," and sometimes we will wonder the same thing. But always remember that Jesus knows what it's like to be in our shoes. He knows the pain of our grief and troubles. Isaiah 53:3 gives this prophetic description of our Savior: "He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him."
*Jesus also knows the pain of our confusion. One of the most memorable things the Lord said on the cross is in Matthew 27:46. There Jesus cried out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?''
*Of course, the Lord knew why He was suffering and dying on the cross. It was for our sins. That's why He was temporarily forsaken by the Father. But our wonderful Savior was so willing to identify with us that He subjected Himself to the same kind of confusion we go through.
*It's summed up in the question "Why?" Why is this terrible thing happening to me? Why did I lose my job? Why did I get sick? Why is my family member sick? Why did that wreck happen? Why did they die so soon? Why is my family messed up?
*It must be okay for us to ask why, because Jesus asked why on the cross, and He never did anything wrong. The problem with asking why is that many times we won't get an answer in this world. That's why a wise man once said a better question is, "What now?" "What should I do now, Lord?" The Lord will always give us an answer to that question. And one of the best things we can ever do is keep trusting in the Lord, even when we don’t understand why.
*Trust in the Lord enough to take your questions to Him. Put God in the driver's seat of your life. Yield to His infinite wisdom. God may not do things the way we think is right, but He will always do the right things. God never makes mistakes.
*But like John's disciples, we don't always understand what God is doing. "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?" There are some big and little things we won't understand in life. But the Lord will give us the answers we need, so go to God for the answers.
2. THEN LET JESUS POINT YOU TO THE RIGHT PRIORITIES IN LIFE.
*The Lord will always point us to the things that matter the most in life, and that's what Jesus here. In vs. 15 He began by answering their question with another question. And Jesus said, "Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast."
 JESUS POINTED JOHN'S DISCIPLES TO THE THINGS THAT MATTER MOST IN LIFE, AND THE FIRST THING HE STRESSED WAS RELATIONSHIPS.
*Our relationship with God, and our relationships with each other: These are God's greatest priorities for our lives. That's why the Lord talked about the bridegroom and his friends. Instead of "friends," the KJV mentions "the children of the bride chamber." But John Gill explained that in those days, "children of the bride chamber" included the friends of the bridegroom. (4)
*God designed earthly relationships to help us understand the kind of heavenly relationship He wants to have with us. We know that having true friends is a great blessing, but the best friend we can ever have is Jesus Christ. And God wants us to know Him as a friend.
*What's true about friends is also true about marriage. There is a close parallel between marriage and the relationship Christ has with His church. That's why the Bible calls Jesus our spiritual Bridegroom, and the Church is the Bride of Christ.
*Here is part of Paul's comparison from Ephesians 5:
25. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it,
26. that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27. that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.
28. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.
29. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.
30. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.
31. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.''
32. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
33. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
*When John the Baptist's disciples asked the Lord about fasting, Jesus pointed them to the things that matter the most. He pointed them to our relationships.
 BUT JESUS ALSO POINTED THEM TO OUR REDEMPTION.
*Again in vs. 15, Jesus said, "Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast."
*When Jesus talked about the bridegroom being taken away, He was talking about His death on the cross. William Barclay explained that "Jesus was never under any illusions. At all times, He clearly saw the cross waiting for Him down the road of life.
*In this parable, God's Word lifts the curtain and gives us a glimpse into the Lord's mind. Jesus always knew that for Him the way of life was the way of the cross, and yet He never swerved one step aside from it. Here is the supreme courage of Christ, who always knew the cost of our redemption, but still pressed on to the end." (5)
*Redemption and relationships: Jesus points us to life's greatest priorities. And God's sheep need this guidance because we tend to get our priorities out of focus.
*Phillip Keller was a sheep rancher for 8 years before he wrote the book, "A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm". In his book, Phillip explained this great Psalm from a shepherd's point of view.
*One thing he explained is that there is a pecking order among the sheep, and sometimes that creates conflict between them. For example, Phillip said, "Hundreds of times I have watched an old, grim-looking ewe walk up to a younger one which was feeding contentedly or resting quietly in some sheltered spot. The old matron would arch her neck, tilt her head, dilate her eyes, and approach the other ewe with a stiff-legged gait.
*All of this was saying in unmistakable terms: 'Move over! Get out of my way! Give ground or else!' And if the other ewe did not immediately leap to her feet in self-defense, she would be butted unmercifully. Or, if she did rise to accept the challenge, one or two strong bumps would soon send her dashing for safety.
*But it always interested me that whenever I, their shepherd, came into view, and my presence attracted their attention, the sheep quickly forgot their foolish rivalries and stopped their fighting. The shepherd's presence made all the difference in their behavior." (6)
*And Christians: When we recognize that Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd is near, it has the same kind of effect on us. That's why we sing songs like:
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus, l
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace." (7)
*The more we keep our eyes on Jesus, the more we will see what really matters in life, so let Jesus point you to the right priorities.
3. AND PUT YOUR FULL TRUST IN THE LORD'S PLAN.
*In vs. 16-17, Jesus was mainly talking about God's plan for the world. And Jesus said:
16. "No one puts a piece of (new or) unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse.
17. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.''
*Here Jesus was mainly talking about the great shift God was about to make in the way He related to mankind. It was the shift from the Old Testament to the New. For a thousand years God had spoken His written Word in the Hebrew language. Now, after a silence of 400 years, He is going to start speaking to people in the Greek language. Greek was the language of commerce throughout the enormous reach of the Roman Empire.
*The Old Testament was given primarily to the Jews, a relatively small group of people living in Palestine. The New Testament would be given to all peoples of the world.
*The Old Testament gave us the law, which could never save us. It could only point us to our desperate need for a Savior. The New Testament gave us our Savior, Jesus Christ!
*The Old Testament saw the sacrifice of millions of lambs that could never take away sins. The New Testament gave us the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!
*The Old Testament pointed us to Jesus in hundreds of prophecies He would fulfill. The New Testament gave us the fulfillment of many of these prophecies, such as: Jesus was born of a virgin, suffered and died for our sins, and then rose again from the dead.
*In the Old Testament, God was almost unapproachable. His glory rested on the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and then in the Temple in Jerusalem. Only the High Priest could go into the Holy of Holies, only once a year, and only by the sprinkling of blood to protect him from death. Now through the cross of Jesus Christ, we can have instant access to the throne room of Heaven with our prayers. We can also have the constant presence of God's Spirit living in our hearts.
*God never started writing the Old Testament without the New Testament on His mind. It was His plan all along. The Lord's plan for the world and for our lives started before the beginning of time. God's Word confirms this great truth in Scriptures like Ephesians 1:4. There the Bible tells Christians that God "chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love."
*God's plan also stretches through all eternity, and it is being carried out under His guidance every day. That's why we can, and we should put our full trust in the Lord's plan.
*John Avant gave a testimony that affirms confirms this truth. Here's part of what John emailed to First Baptist Church in West Monroe when he was their pastor:
"Ninety-three years ago today, a teenage boy from Alabama lay dying in the snows of Siberia, blown up, stabbed and run over by a train. He was fighting for his country in a forgotten war in Siberia at the end of World War I. But God was looking down the hallway of history and had a plan for the future that required that young boy to live.
*The Lord miraculously saved him, raised him up and brought him home. That young man was my grandfather. On the anniversary of that terrible experience where he lost his leg and almost lost his life, I meditate with awe on the amazing sovereignty of God. Had he died there, I would not exist. My children would not exist. I would never have the joy of knowing you, loving you, pastoring you, sharing life with you."
*Then Pastor John asked, "Have you ever stopped to think about how amazing God's love for you is, that He has been planning, preparing and working for not just hundreds -- but for thousands of years -- to ensure that you were here, that you had a chance to live and to breathe, to love Him and to love others, and to make a difference in this world?" (8)
*Christians: We have no idea of all God did to bring us into the world and get us to the point where we were able to hear and willing to receive the good news about Jesus Christ. God has a wonderful plan for our lives. And though we will go through hard times along the way, we can surely trust in the Lord, so put your full trust in the Lord's plan for you.
4. THEN LET JESUS DO SOMETHING NEW IN YOU.
*The last parable today reminds us that God wants to do new things in our lives. Again, in vs. 17 Jesus said, "Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.''
*Yes, Jesus was mainly talking about the new covenant or new testament that He came to bring. But there is also a general principle here for us: God loves to do new things.
*We see this in the natural world: New days, new babies, new growth. God loves to do new things, and He wants to do new spiritual things in our lives. These new things can include someone being spiritually born-again and becoming a new creature in Christ. But God's new things can also include a new level of commitment, a new level of growth, a new step in your walk with Christ, a new attitude, or a new mission from God. As long as we are in this world, God will have new things for us to do.
*Years ago, I never thought I would go overseas for the Lord. But then in February of 1994, I went to the mailbox and found a letter about evangelism in Russia. The Communist Iron Curtain had fallen, and for the first time in 70 years, the door was wide open to share the gospel in the old Soviet Union.
*The letter I got that day wasn't even a personal letter. It was basically an advertisement for mission trips to Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Amazing things were happening as many thousands of gospel-starved people were coming to the Lord. And God used that letter to set my heart on fire to be a part of that work. The Lord even moved a generous church member to pay the total cost for the trip. I will be eternally grateful that God allowed me to go on mission trips like that. And as long as we are in this world, God will have new things for us to do. It doesn't have to be across the ocean. Most of the time it will be across the street, or even across the room.
*Even if we have been Christians for 60 years, God wants to do new things in us and through. Also notice in vs. 17 that God is very careful when He does something new. He doesn't do it in a careless way. He puts new wine into new wineskins so that both are preserved. What new thing does the Lord want to do in you?
*A long time ago, John the Baptist's followers were seeking for answers. And they went to the right place: They went to Jesus. Now, we should go to God for the answers we need. Let Jesus point you to the right priorities. Put your trust in the Lord's plan for your life, and let the Lord do something new in you.
-BELIEVER'S BIBLE COMMENTARY by William MacDonald - Edited by Arthur Farstad - Thomas Nelson Publishers - Nashville - Copyright 1995 - "Jesus Begins His Galilean Ministry" - Matthew 4:12-17 - Downloaded to e-Sword by Rick Meyers - Copyright 2000-2019
-INTERNATIONAL STANDARD BIBLE ENCYCLOPEDIA - James Orr, M.A., D.D., General Editor - Published in 1915, 1939; public domain - Topic: John the Baptist - VI. Imprisonment and Death. - 1. The Time - Downloaded to e-Sword by Rick Meyers - Copyright 2000-2019
(2) Adapted from BELIEVER'S BIBLE COMMENTARY by William MacDonald - Edited by Arthur Farstad - Thomas Nelson Publishers - Nashville - Copyright 1995 - "Jesus Is Questioned About Fasting" - Matthew 9:14-17 - Downloaded to e-Sword by Rick Meyers - Copyright 2000-2019
(3) SermonCentral illustration contributed by Greg Yount
(4) JOHN GILL'S EXPOSITION OF THE BIBLE by Dr. John Gill, D. D. - 1697-1771 - Published in 1746-1766, 1816 - Matthew 9:15 - Downloaded to e-Sword by Rick Meyers - Copyright 2000-2019
(5) Adapted from BARCLAY'S DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES (NT) by William Barclay, Revised Edition - Copyright 1975 - First published by the Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland - The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, PA - "Present Joy and Future Sorrow" - Matthew 9:14-15 - https://www.primobibleverses.com/view/william-barclay/the-growth-of-opposition-matthew-91-34
(6) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "Peacekeeper or Peacemaker" by J. Richard Lord, Jr. - Matthew 5:9 - #9 of Sermon on the Mount series - April 28, 2002
(7) "Turn your eyes upon Jesus" - Words & Music: Helen H. Lemmel, 1922 - Source: The Cyber Hymnal - http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/t/u/r/n/turnyour.htm
(8) From: email@example.com - 01102012