Week 24 Chapters 16, 17 and 22- The Last Three Lessons of the Cross or How to miss the point by 18 inches.
Scripture: Matt. 20;17-20, 26:6-13,26-29; Mark 10:32-35, 14:8-9, 22-25; Luke 22;17-20, John 12;1-8, 1Cor. 11:23-26
As Jesus proceeded toward His ultimate challenge, He taught the twelve about the things they would need in order to carry on after His death. It was amazing how the twelve, for selfish reasons, were not able to hear what He was saying. Although He certainly made it clear that the situations they would encounter included suffering, serving, sacrifice, and even a new covenant sign, the twelve were enamored with their own speculations of how things were going to be. Let us look at what was happening.
Jesus and the twelve headed back to the place, ironically where His ministry began. It was there that He would fulfill His baptismal vow to sacrifice Himself for His people. As He traveled, He busied Himself with the work God the Father had given Him. He enjoyed the fellowship of people, and taught using the examples and situations afforded Him through those interactions, as well as the exchanges with the Pharisees and the Twelve.
These last lessons centered on the topic that He had discussed often as his mood and the situation provided. It was the sacrifices necessary for the Kingdom. At this time, he was talking specifically about the abstinence from marriage, and the renunciation of personal property. His purpose was to highlight one of the many ways that sacrifice could be a blessing, by employing the right spirit while doing so.
Since Jesus often used the thinking of those who were with Him to teach, when the disciples were appalled at His idea of celibacy, He reminded them that celibacy was a gift from God and not a command. If it were, there would be no progeny to promote the Kingdom. His point was simply to illustrate the differences in the spiritual life of a married person, and a celibate one. Of course, the twelve jumped to the conclusion that they must be eunuchs.
Dr. Bruce comments here that the Church, up until the Reformation, seemed to think that celibacy and poverty were spiritual virtues. The popularity of the monastic movement illustrates that; however, as Scripture shows here, that was NOT Jesus’ intention (Bruce, 255).
The point was that the distractions of the world could hinder the productivity that a Christian might attain for the Kingdom. However, it does not mean that we all should avoid life and become monks. Dependence on God’s calling, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, play a large part in the outcome of our spiritual lives as well. We cannot do it on our own. In fact, avoiding things altogether (abstinence) is easier for us. The practice of self-control (temperance), which is also a gift of the Spirit, is much harder.
The thing man must abstain from is addictions or idol worship. If one avoids life, there will be no temptation to sin. Therefore, one does not have to deal with the issues that face most people.
So what did the twelve do with this information? Well, Peter, as usual, speaking for the rest, tried to impress Jesus with what he and the disciples sacrificed for Him. Peter, always putting his foot in his mouth smiled with satisfaction (my thought). Peter had no clue what sacrifices he would face as the next few days would unfold. Peter was very complacent until Jesus burst his bubble by saying that the first may be last and the last may be first. What did that mean? Was God unfair? Of course not! Again, it had to do with the heart not the head….18 inches in physical distance, 180* in meaning.
Jesus was stressing that all sacrifice for the Kingdom must be from a heart that loves God. It cannot be from a heart that tries to impress God with goodness. Man has no way of doing that. If righteousness could be achieved by the law, then Christ died for nothing (the Apostle Paul, Galatians 2:20). The rewards of self-sacrifice only come from a heart emptied of self. A selfish head cannot even perceive those rewards. It has to come from the heart of a Servant; a Servant like Jesus. He gave it all, nothing we do can surpass that. Compared to Him, we have nothing to bring to the table but humility.
The other lessons that Jesus taught about the Kingdom included what suffering and sacrifice the twelve would ultimately have to endure. The rewards, however, were great. While they did not yet know why these things had to occur, after Jesus’ death, resurrection, ascension, and giving of His Holy Spirit, they would become abundantly clear. At this time, however, their dreams of Earthly conquest clouded their understanding of almost everything He taught.
His last interaction with them was the giving of the covenant sign of Communion. The Last Supper, saw the fulfillment of the Passover. The new sign of the New Covenant in His blood would soon make them aware of the cost of Kingdom living. His sacrifice would be more than marital bliss or personal poverty. But the glory He received was far better than what He may have lost. If we, as Christians could live that way, what a different world we would have. The Kingdom on Earth would attract more people to the Kingdom in Heaven….
See Ya Next Time