Pastor Carl Durham’s Bible Notes April 5, 2020 1
Introduction: The ‘Via Dolorosa’ is the Latin phrase used by those who seek to follow the way of Christ’s sufferings, beginning on the night He was betrayed. After being arrested, put on trial and condemned, Christ took up His own cross and proceeded through Jerusalem towards Golgotha for His crucifixion. Pilgrims today seek to retrace Christ’s path through Jerusalem after He began to carry His own cross towards Golgotha. But in reality, all of Christ’s ministry was a “perpetual Gethsemane”, as B.B. Warfield puts it. He bore the burdens of our sin and misery every day He taught, did miracles and contended against His foes. This week’s notes, primarily from Matthew 23, focus on the excruciating conflict with sinful and Satanic foes which Christ willingly endured to be our Savior. Christ’s tears and words of woe in this passage took place during His last public discourse in the temple in Jerusalem – Tuesday of Holy Week.
Monday: read Matthew 22:34-42. Christ’s arch enemies gather themselves together in an effort to oppose Jesus’ teaching (Mt. 22:34, 22:41). They have ganged up in this way many times, but now explicitly take their stand against Christ, as they seek to trap Him in His words (Mt. 22:15). Jesus engaged them with sterling reason and unanswerable arguments based on biblical truth. Moreover, Christ’s willingness to debate with these hard- hearted foes was so that He could vindicate His teaching. For those who savingly heard His words, Christ wanted to protect their faith from the lies of His foes.
Meditate and Pray: We need Jesus on a daily basis to take up our cause to defend us from Satanic attack, trials, temptation and sin. Were we left to ourselves for even one day, we would be lost in this world of punishing wickedness and despair. But God keeps us! Just as the Father by His Spirit defended His own Son by giving Him understanding of Scriptural truth, so God is tireless in our defense! As Psalm 121 puts it, “He who keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps”.
Tues/Weds: read Mark 12:36-40 & Matthew 22:43-23:23. In both Mark and Matthew’s account, Christ works to rescue His own sheep from a world of wolves and spiritual foes that seek to destroy them. In short, Christ wages war against the injustice and burdensome rules of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23 mainly because they neglect the weightier matters of the law when it comes to loving those whom Christ loves. Consider for example these verses, which demonstrate so clearly how these religious leaders routinely break the Golden Rule:
They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willingto move them with their finger. (Mt. 23:4)But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. Foryou neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. (Mt 23:13-14)Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected theweightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Mt. 23:23)
What then are we to conclude about such a sorry record of abusing those under their care? These religious leaders in Jesus’ day disqualify themselves as unfaithful shepherds of God’s sheep, breaking the Law of God by neglecting the greater matters of, “justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Mt. 23:23). Christ is against such abuse of His sheep and speaks with a jealous love out of concern for the lowliest. No wonder they hear Him gladly (Mk 12:37), and no wonder Ps 110 is quoted for their refreshment, declaring that Christ’s enemies (and ours) will be put under His feet in Mt. 22:44. What a joy when all such abusive false shepherds will be finally placed under Christ’s feet on that Great Day. I love the way our Shorter Catechism puts it, describing the salvation and protection which comes to us because Christ is our victorious King:
Q. 26. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.
Thursday: read Matthew 23:23-28. The power of this week’s Bible notes rests upon Christ’s penetrating verdict against hypocritical, self-righteous religion – practiced by those who seek to justify themselves by their own good works and appearance of goodness – when their hearts are actually full of unclean thoughts, motives and purposes, Matthew 23:23:
The key word in the Greek is that verb, “to neglect”. It literally means, “to abandon, disregard” or to discard as of no value. It is the verb used for divorcing one’s wife, showing how far these scribes and Pharisees had departed from matters of “justice, mercy and faithfulness”. They rejected the greatest commandment of loving God with all their heart, soul, strength and mind and their neighbor as themselves (Matthew 22:37-39). No wonder Jesus says in Matthew 23:27 that they were full of the polluting effects of death: dead good works; dead professions of faith – with a deadly effect on innocent sheep who go astray through their terrible example.
Meditate and Pray: Lord, please rescue us from the blinding nature of sin, which can persuade men that they are doing good when they are full of the hypocrisy of an unregenerate heart. We pray this not just for ourselves, but for the sake of those who would stumble by our bad example, were you for one moment to abandon us to a proud heart. Lord, you desire truth in the inner parts. Please never stop your deep, penetrating work of changing us from the inside out. Amen.
Fri/Sat: read Matthew 23:29-36. The verses before us today prompt a crucial question: What is the end result of the of false religion of the Pharisees, a religion which …
- – Does its religious works for the eyes of men, instead of for the glory of the all-seeing God (Matthew 23:1-12)
- – Promotes legalism and at the same time maintains a cruel disregard for those burdened down by its countless regulations (Matthew 23:4, 13-15 & 23:23)
- – Shows an utter disregard for reverencing God while at the same time venerates the accumulation of wealth in the name of religion (Matthew 23:16-22)
- – Hides deep, sinful corruption of heart under the guise of hypocrisy and white-washed externalism (Matthew 23:25-28)Such a deadly false religion produces a guilt which accumulates on the heads of those who practice it. That is what Matthew 23:29-36 is about. Though these false shepherds claimed to honor the Word of God and the prophets who preached that Word in the Old Testament, decorating their tombs and revering their names, the reality is that their rebellion against God’s final Word in the person of His Son proves that they too would have rejoiced at the shed blood of all those faithful Old Testament servants who died for God’s Word. After all, this is precisely the same fate which Jesus will meet with at their hands on the Cross! Though they claimed to honor the prophets, they kill the Living Word of God!But note this lesson about their guilt. It is because they show utter disregard for God’s Altar in Matthew 23:18- 20, valuing their own enrichment from the offerings instead of the God to whom all sacrifice was to be made, that they then rejected God’s own offering of His Son! Without Christ as their offering, they were exposed to the blood-guilt of generations who rejected the Word of God before them. How terrible – to be without the refuge of God’s Altar, and without the Son of God’s blood for a covering when the Day of Judgment comes!
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
Meditate and Pray: What a precious meditation on God’s Word to realize that Christ’s blood is sufficient to cover and cleanse the worst of us, and expansive enough to provide refuge for the darkest soul at the greatest distance from salvation – if by faith they turn to that blood as their only hope. But what profound nakedness for all self-righteous religious people who seek to approach God’s altar on their own merit – only to be exposed and condemned by the God who rejects all Christless religion.
Sunday: read Matthew 23:37-39. It is important to properly assess Jesus’ grief at the end of Matthew 23. Yes, from a human standpoint, as the Man of Sorrows familiar with grief, it has been a long road for our Lord, and He has endured resistance and hard-heartedness from His own people almost from the beginning of His earthly ministry. No wonder, then, that at the end of His public ministry, Jesus laments His own people’s blind unbelief. His heart is grieved at the terrible suffering which Jerusalem will bring upon itself. Jerusalem’s house will indeed be left desolate (Mt. 23:38) until one day when in repentance the nation of Israel turns back and mourns for the One they pierced!
But let us not think that Christ’s grief is a sign of impotence and failure. Even the rejection of Christ by His own people Israel is part of God’s plan. Their rejection will in fact mean riches for the Gentile world (see Romans 11:7-15). Because they have been broken off from the vine of salvation through their rejection of Jesus (Romans 11:17), there is now room for the Gentile world to be ingrafted! Christ now has become our ‘Vine’ – for all those who receive by faith the Christ whom Israel rejected!