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Matt 19-20: Contrasts Between the Kingdom and the World Print E-mail
Monday, 12 September 2005

In preparation for our Sunday night menís Bible study that begins tonight, I listened to the author of our book, John Piper, preach a sermon dealing with his book Donít Waste Your Life.  In the sermon, Piper contrasted two stories.  The first was a story about two retired women, both approaching the age of eighty, who had given their lives to missions and were serving in a foreign country, when the car they were driving skidded off a mountain road and plunged them to their death.  The second story was about a couple who had retired early, moved to Florida, and were spending their last years on the earth boating, playing softball, and collecting sea shells.

Piperís point in relating these stories is to ask the listener a question: which of these stories is a tragedy?  I put that question to you this morning: which of these stories is a tragedy, the death of the missionaries or the coupleís retirement?

Although I cannot predict how you would answer that question, I can tell you how the world and the enemy want us to answer it.  The world is constantly feeding us lies about what we are to value and what we are to pursue.  The enemyís goal is to distract us from spending our lives on the Kingdom by the luxury and pleasure of the life spent on self.  He wants us to forsake the risk and the difficulty of following Christ by showing us an easier way, much like he presented to Christ in his temptation in Matthew 4.

Yet, the reality is this: spending your life in service to the King and his Kingdom is no waste.  The loss of those missionaries, though difficult and hard to bear, is still no tragedy for they served the only true cause, namely the glory of Jesus Christ.  The tragedy is when we believe the lies of the world and forsake our service to the King.

In our text this morning we see the growing contrast between the ways of the world and the ways of the Kingdom.  We have seen this modeled by the lives of John the Baptist, the Disciples, and most importantly Jesus himself.  We have also seen these contrasts in the teaching of Jesus throughout the book of Matthew.  From our text this morning, I would like to identify four contrasts between the world and Kingdom.

First, the contrast concerning divorce and marriage (19:1-12).

In 19:1-12 Jesus addresses the Phariseeís question concerning divorce.  It seems that at the time of Jesusí ministry there was an ongoing debate between two groups concerning divorce.  The controversy centered around the interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1-4.  Look at that passage with me.  In verse 1, Moses records that a man can issue a certificate of divorce if he finds some indecency in her.  One group interpreted this phrase to mean anything from bad cooking to sexual unfaithfulness.  The other group was not so lenient and interpreted the phrase more strictly.  The Pharisees are seemingly trying to get Jesus to take a side.

Yet, instead of beginning with a discussion of Deuteronomy 24, Jesus begins with the beginning of marriage found in Genesis 2.  He makes the point that the Lord ordained marriage to be a coming together of the two to form one.  He concludes with the statement that we so often quote at weddings, namely What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.  Christ is pointing out that marriage is not a trivial matter.  It is not a take it or leave it type of relationship.  You know if it works out good, but if not do whatever.  This is not Jesusí approach to marriage.  He calls for us to take the marriage relationship seriously since it is Godís idea and Godís institution.  Paul gives more instruction concerning marriage in Ephesians 5.

The Pharisees then come back and ask why Moses gave such a command in Deuteronomy 24.  Jesus then points out that it was because of the hardness of the human heart that Moses even permitted divorce and his instructions were to protect the parties involved.  In the end, divorce is the result of human sin.  Even the exception clause that Christ gives concerning divorce on the grounds of sexual unfaithfulness is a result of human sin.  Divorce should never be entered into lightly and should be avoided by the believer except on the ground of sexual immorality.

Although so much could be said concerning the issues of marriage and divorce in the Scriptures, from this passage I simply want to make the point that we need to view these issues as Jesus views them and not as the world views them.  The world says, ĎDo whatever you can to be happy.í  Even some in the Church say, ĎGod would not want you to be unhappy.í  But we must not believe the lie that there is more happiness in disobedience than there is in obedience.  As husbands and wives we must labor for faithful marriages even after the pattern that Paul sets forth in Ephesians 5.  If we are called to be single, and some will be (see 19:10-12 and 1 Corinthians 7), then we should do so in a way to maximize our service in the Kingdom.  We cannot view marriage and divorce as the world does.  Rather, as the King teaches us, we must take marriage seriously and strive to avoid divorce.

Second, the contrast concerning people and their importance (19:13-15, 20:29-34).

In 19:13-15, Matthew tells us that some children are brought to Jesus that he might pray for them and bless them.  Even though the disciples try to prevent this, Jesus says: Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.  It seems that the disciples assumed that Jesus was too important to spend time with these insignificant children.  The text says that they rebuked the people for even trying to bring the children to Christ.  Yet, the disciples are thinking like the world.  In their business to help Jesus establish his Kingdom here on earth, they failed to realize that the Kingdom belongs to such as these.  Jesus did not come to rub shoulders with Kings and powerful men.  Rather, he came to serve the poor and needy, the downcast, the children, for the Kingdom belongs to such as these.

We see the same type of lesson in 20:29-34.  Here, two blind men cry out to Jesus and asked to be healed.  In response to their cries, the crowd rebukes them and tells them to be quiet.  Yet, once again Jesus takes the time to minister to their needs and heal them, undoubtedly showing us that the crowds were wrong in their rebuke.

We have demonstrated to us in these two stories the importance of people in the Kingdom.  The world calls certain people important: famous people, rich people, influential people, powerful people, all these are important to the world.  Jesus shows us the importance of children and blind beggars, two groups that in our day and even in Jesusí day were not seen as the most important.  Here again, we see the contrast between the Kingdom and the world.

As servants of the King, we are not called to distinguish between who we think is worthy of knowing the King and who is not.  In the end, none of us are worthy of knowing Christ.  Who are we to be prejudice against white or black, rich or poor, famous or unknown.  Any such prejudice is sin.  Shame on our pride and our arrogance, as if we deserve to know the King.  No, we are called to take the gospel of the Kingdom to the highways and byways, to the rich and poor, to the black and to the white and to the red and to all the nations, and any who respond in faith we are to welcome even as our King welcomes them.  Let the world be prejudice and racist, but let the hope of the Kingdom be proclaimed to all.

Third, the contrast concerning wealth and possessions (19:16-29).

The story of the rich young ruler is familiar to most of us.  He comes to Christ and asks: Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?  Jesus then questions him about the commands of God and the man claims to have kept all of these.  Then Jesus says to him in verse 21: If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.  Yet, since the man was very wealthy, Matthew tells us that the man went away sorrowful. 

After the encounter, Jesus begins to teach his disciples about the difficulties of riches and worldly possessions.   Here, he makes the famous camel through the eye of a needle statement.  Then, Matthew tells us that the disciples were astonished at such teaching.  They respond by asking: Who then can be saved?  But why are they so astonished?

It seems that the disciples held the view that riches were a sign of Godís blessing, stemming some from the teaching of the Old Testament.  Riches were simply a blessing from God and if rich people could not be saved then who could be saved?  Jesusí answer is worth reading again.  Look at verse 26 with me.  God can take hearts that are divided, hearts that are turned towards themselves, hearts that are more interested in self preservation than Godís glory and turn them into hearts that would sell all they have to get that treasure hidden in the field.  Was it impossible for the rich young ruler to save himself?  Yes.  Was it impossible for God to save him?  No, for nothing is impossible with our God.

And we must point out from this passage the contrast between worldly value and Kingdom value.  The rich young ruler obviously valued his wealth and possessions more than a relationship with the King.  Then, Peter points out in verse 27 that he and the rest of the disciples have left everything to follow Christ.  But notice Christís response in verse 29.  After telling the disciples that they will set on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel in the age to come, Jesus goes on and points out that anything that is given up for the sake of the Kingdom will be repaid a hundredfold.  What does this mean?

If you have given up family to follow Christ, then look around you and behold the family of God.  If you have given up money to follow Christ, then look around you and behold the provision of our God.  If you have given up comfort to follow Christ, then know that there is a rest that awaits us in the age to come that far outweighs any struggle we face here.  The world is wrong.  Money is not the key to happiness.  The key to real joy is rightly valuing the King and his glory.  This is the contrast that we see in this passage.

Fourth, the contrast concerning greatness and service (19:30-20:28).

Jesus makes a statement of great contrast in 19:30.  He says, But many who are first will be last, and the last first.  He makes a similar statement at the conclusion of his parable in 20:16.  Thus, through this literary device, Matthew makes it clear that the parable is meant to teach us that the last will be first and the first will be last.  Again, the contrast with the world is obvious.  But what about the story, what is Christ teaching us with this story?

It seems that the point of the story is Godís right in dispensing gifts, or grace, as he sees fit.  The workers who worked the full day are mad at the owner of the house for his graciousness toward those who did not work as long as they did.  Yet, does the owner not have the right to do such.  Look at his response in verses 13-15.  The owner has every right to do what he chooses with what belongs to him.  So it is with our Lord.

Unfortunately we often confuse the economic principles of the world with the economic principles of the Kingdom.  The world says, ĎYou get what you work for, what you earn.í  And for the most part, this is not a false principle.  Yet, with God and the economy of the Kingdom, we have only earned judgment and wrath.  We deserve death and hell.  But God, in the richness of his grace, has kindly bestowed upon us a gift that we could never earn.  Thus, how dare we bark back at him when we do not get what we want, ĎI do not deserve this.í  God has every right to do with us what He pleases.  Yet, he has chosen to give us grace, shall we not be content with such an overwhelming gift?  Our service is not for merit, it is simply an obedient response to the grace that we have been so kindly given.

Christ goes on to teach that greatness in the Kingdom comes through service.  As with the first being last and the last being first, we see a great contrast with the world.  Service is not usually viewed as the key to greatness.  But when Jesusí disciples come to him asking for greatness in the Kingdom, he calls for them to serve.  In contrast to the Gentile rulers, Christ calls for his disciples to serve one another.

And not only does Christ call for his disciples to serve one another, but also makes it clear in this passage that he, himself, will be the greatest example of service.  Yes, the King has come to serve.  Look at verses 26-28.  We have seen Jesusí constant example of service throughout the Gospel of Matthew, even in this passage with the children and the blind beggars.  Yet, here, the reference of service is a looking to the cross.  Christ has already told his disciples for the third time that he will be killed and raised on the third day (see 20:17-19).  In verse 28 we are told why.  Christ came to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Talk about your incredible contrasts.  Here is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords freely laying down his very life as a ransom for dirty sinners.  It is in such contrast with any thought in the world that only God in heaven could have developed such a plan.  The King serving the servants by his death.  Your King has served you by giving his life as a ransom for your sins.

Thus, shall we not see things as He has taught us to see them?  Marriage is no trivial matter, it is important because through it we display the relationship between the King and His bride.  We have no right to be prejudice against people because our King was not.  Let the world run after riches and possessions, we have all we need in the person of Jesus Christ and we would gladly give all to follow him.  And since our King has so faithfully served us, it is our joy and honor to serve one another until He returns.  Oh Lord give us eyes to see as you see and free us from the lies of this world.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 February 2006 )

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