Urgency Arrests Jesus

Posted in Matthew 20

MATTHEW 20:31b-34
Urgency Arrests Jesus
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Matt. 20:31b (Holman) . . .but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have
mercy on us, Son of David!”

No one could keep the two blind men quiet. As far as they knew, this would be their one and only opportunity to be healed. It was now or never. The blind men appealed to Jesus as “Son of David”, a messianic phrase referring to the one who would come and rule a kingdom, as David did.

Matt. 20:32a Jesus stopped,. . .

He who moves the cosmos stopped. I think we can safely assume the whole throng stood still. “It was one of those moments when the universe holds its breath” (Phillips). Jesus froze this moment in time to teach at least two vital truths.
One, Jesus was never too busy to help hurting people. We tend to be too busy. To serve God better, we must develop margin in our lives. If our schedules are out of control, we are sinning in an important area, the stewardship of our time.
Two, the urgent cry arrested Jesus. These men had an advantage; they were desperate for Jesus. People usually don’t realize how badly they need Christ. They don’t grasp the reality of Hell, the seriousness of sin, or the extent of their lostness.
If we want to know God more fully, our comfort from Him must be preceded by discomfort in us. The Puritans said the thread of salvation can be pulled through a soul only by the sharp needle of conviction. This is still true.
Urgent praying is music to Jesus’ ears. This is not to say urgency is a magic wand, receiving all it wants. A wrong request, albeit earnest, always receives a no.
John Trapp said we ask and miss because we ask amiss (JM 4:1). Moses, after being told by God he could not enter the Promised Land, asked to anyway (DT 3:25). God said no. Job and Elijah prayed to die; God denied both requests.
The chief role of urgency is not to be a cure-all receive-all magic bullet, but to rescue our prayers from dying due to an overdose of boredom. Sometimes our praying is glib, thoughtless, monotonous droning plagued with repetition and rote.
If we each compiled all our own personal prayers and wrote down only nonrepeating sentences, we would be hard pressed to fill one side of a sheet of paper with original thoughts. We do need to avoid vain repetition, but I fear our lack of originality is due more to our lazy thinking than to a fear of vain repetition.
Too many of our prayers are a weak, windy string of sentences (Thomas). Why should God be excited about prayers that make us yawn? Cold praying begs God to say no. The cry of a broken heart is the prayer that pierces Jesus’ heart.
The Bible gives examples of powerful effective praying. Jesus commended a publican who smote his own chest, praying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Peter was saved in a storm when he minced no words, “Lord, save me or I perish.”
In our text, urgency marked this moment along the Jericho Road. Another Gospel says a blind man left his garment coming to Jesus, as the Samaritan woman left her water pot. When the French artist Nicola Poussin painted the healing of the blind man, he portrayed the blind man, being compelled by urgency, leaving his cane behind on the steps of a house. He was too urgent to take time to pick it up.

Matt. 20:32b-33 . . .called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for
you?” “Lord,” they said to Him, “open our eyes!”

The crowd wanted them quiet. Jesus had them speak. Wanting bystanders to know precisely what would happen, Jesus set the stage for everyone to be focused on what this miracle was. This will not be about alms. All were to see that the men were asking for sight. Nothing would be done in a corner. All was in public view.

Matt. 20:34a Moved with compassion,

To give is a good thing, but it can easily be a giving from outside ourself, a giving that elicits no sacrifice or concern within. There are less than stellar reasons why people give: to impress others, to soothe conscience, to fulfill a sense of duty.
To give compassion is to give self, one’s own essence, the most valuable gift we can ever give anyone. This is hard to do for long; we easily get depleted. Compassion fatigue is a real problem among believers. Staying soft requires much prayer for God to replenish us as we pour out our life’s essence on behalf of others.

Matt. 20:34b Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they could see,. . .

Jesus proved He was the commander of the natural laws He created. Being God, Jesus created the current order. Therefore He stands outside it and above it, exercising authority over it, and capability to modify the created order at will. What to us seems hard and incomprehensible, to God is easy and elementary.
Scoffers say miracles, being interruptions unexplainable from normal human experience, are unnatural and thus impossible. To call miracles an interruption is presumptuous. No one can prove our current realm is all there is, or self-contained.
Miracles may simply be a momentary intensifying of unseen natural laws. For instance, all will be healed in Heaven. Thus, it is reasonable to say a sudden healing in our dimension is but an extension of what happens always elsewhere.
C.S. Lewis, whose book on miracles is extremely helpful, said, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” In other words, in miracles God gives us a small taste of what the God-realm around us and beyond us is all about.
Lewis says God’s miracles merge into, rather than interrupt, nature. They do not create new natural laws, but rather are absorbed into the system He previously created. Miracles are additions that become part of. A virgin birth, once conceived, follows laws of nature. Lazarus, though raised from the dead, did what twice?
If we begin our thinking about miracles by considering Jesus’ resurrection, all other miracles are lesser ones, and thus possible. Always begin with the resurrection of Jesus, because everything hinges on it. This is the right place to start, because it gives us a strategic advantage, by rooting the debate in history, and not in a vague guessing-game philosophical argument about miracles. The right question is not, “Do you believe in miracles?” but “Do you believe Jesus rose?”
Even David Hume, a militant atheist, had only nebulous reasoning to stand on. His arguments were nothing more than personal opinion. For instance, “When anyone tells me that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself whether it be more probable that this person should either deceive or be deceived or that the fact which he relates should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other and according to the superiority which I discover, I pronounce my decision. Always I reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous than the event which he relates, then and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.” Notice the vain presumption; he assumed, by his own reasoning, to know what miracle to reject.
Jesus’ miracles were not a performance, an effort to outdo last year’s Super Bowl halftime show. They were not ends in and of themselves, but signs, pointing to lessons beyond the deeds. In our text, Jesus used a miracle to teach at least three vital lessons. One, Jesus was proving He truly was the Son of David. People may have misunderstood what that meant, but He is the One nevertheless. Two, giving sight to the blind portrayed Him as the light of the world. In His light we see light.
Three, his healing the beggars made a huge statement about the importance of the downcast and outcast. To the crowd, these men were a nuisance, but Jesus loved them. Sometimes the ones we like least are the ones who can bring most glory to Jesus. Take a good look again at your acquaintances. Who did you write off a long time ago? Who did you give up on? It’s time to redouble your efforts.

Matt. 20:34c . . .and they followed Him.

The first person these blind men saw was Jesus. They liked what they saw, and froze their gaze on Him. They wouldn’t let Him out of their sight. There were lots of different directions they could have gone. Many people to see, places to go, and lots of things to do, but they chose to follow Jesus.
Ivor Powell says they left their livelihood behind, giving up coins for a goldmine. The best evidence of a true conversion is a desire to be with Jesus, to want to be never separated from Him.

To Serve, Not Be Served

Posted in Matthew 20

MATTHEW 20:28-31a
To Serve, Not Be Served
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Matt. 20:28a (Holman) “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve, . . .”

Jesus humbly came to Earth. Be grateful He did. Never lose the awe of this. Be thankful His hands healed, His lips spoke, and His eyes wept. Be even more grateful He had hands, lips, and eyes. God became flesh. Mind-boggling, yet true. As stunning as this reality is, it does not exhaust the full extent of Jesus’ humility.
The Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, God of very God, came. But there’s more. The life Jesus lived exemplified not dominance, but how we can best serve. He was self-oblivious, “self-forgetting love made visible” (Maclaren).
Jesus humbled Himself, and humbled Himself, and humbled Himself, and humbled Himself. Jesus felt lowering Himself only once, that is, when He left Heaven, was not humble enough. Becoming human, by itself, was not as low as He wanted to go. The condescending love shown at Bethlehem only began His humbling of Himself. He kept descending, lowering Himself on later occasions.
After dropping to the level of our flesh, Jesus knelt even lower, taking the position of a servant, which He illustrated by washing the disciples’ feet. After this He laid Himself further down, as a sacrificial offering for our sin on the cross.
This still did not suffice; He let His body be buried in a cold dark tomb. The humility had to be absolute, as if He were saying, “How low will I have to go for you to believe how much I love you? Would planting my corpse in a desolate stone grave do it? Would “out of sight, out of mind” be humble enough?”
This ongoing descending of Jesus was not an accident or an afterthought. Jesus came for this very purpose. He chose servant-hood in advance as His way of life. We must do the same, though it is neither easy nor automatic to be like Jesus. Sacrificial living is hard, and never an accident. It has to be a chosen lifestyle.

Matt. 20:28b “. . .and to give His life. . .”

Jesus came (v. 28a); an act of voluntary entrance. He gave His life; an act of voluntary departure. By a self-conscious choice of His own will He died. For us, to die is weakness. For Jesus, it was strength. “Christ bade His servant death, ‘Do this’, and he did it. With this, He proved Himself the master of death” (Maclaren).
Sin is so serious that not even God could free us from it without death, a life given. In Eden, human flesh sinned; at Calvary, human flesh had to suffer for sin.
This is why Jesus had to become human. God had to find a way to die, “to give His life”. Jesus couldn’t have done this as an angel, for spirits cannot die.
Our best motivation to be servants is, Jesus gave His life for us. To embrace humble living, we must begin with this premise; before our conversion, our lives were forfeit due to sin. We owed Him everything, and thus had no merit to offer. We could do nothing to earn His favor. Our only hope was to give Jesus our life. We yielded our all to Him then and must still do so, because He gave us His all.

Matt. 20:28c “. . .a ransom. . .”

Jesus here again referred to His death on the cross. His sacrifice was an oft recurring theme for Him. It should forevermore continue to be our reiterated theme also. Always pray you will never get over the cross. Live life in its shadow.
E’er since by faith I saw the stream, Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, And shall be till I die.
When this poor lisping stammering tongue Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song I’ll sing Thy power to save.
Thank you, William Cowper, for putting into beautiful poetry the fact we shall even in Heaven continue to sing of the salvation Jesus purchased for us.
He gave Himself “a ransom” is the golden nugget excavated from the mine at Calvary, and the refreshing light flashing from the gloomy dark that overhung the cross. Jesus’ death was not a misstep, or merely an example, or only a martyrdom.
His death was “a ransom”. The word was used for the bounty paid to free a slave, for a payment to liberate people from situations it was impossible to free themselves from. Hear this good news. Jesus’ death is a releasing of sinners from captivity to sin and spiritual death. Our chains are gone. We have been set free.

Matt. 20:28d “. . .for many.”

“For” means “instead of.” Jesus’ death was vicarious, an exchange, a substitution. The One did something that let Him take the place of many.
This is not a statement supporting the doctrine of limited atonement. Jesus did not die only for the elect. His death was a ransom “for all” (I Timothy 2:6). He tasted death “for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). He is a propitiation, the remover of God’s wrath against us, for the sins “of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
Jesus’ death was a ransom valuable enough to pay for all, but it is applied only to the many who receive it. His death for all does not assure salvation for all.
Salvation is offered to all, applied to many. For the possibility to be saved, “many” equals all; if all, then you; if all, then me; if all then each (Maclaren).

Matt. 20:29 As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed Him.

Thousands of pilgrims annually went to Jerusalem for Passover. Many came on the Roman Road that passed through Jericho. These travelers walking with Jesus expected Him to lead a messianic revolution. Emotions were at a fever pitch.
Jericho was about six miles from the Jordan River, in the region where the river emptied into the Dead Sea.

[Jericho/Jerusalem map]
At 1388 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea is Earth’s lowest elevation on land. Jericho, at 846 feet below sea level, is the lowest permanently inhabited site on Earth.

[Mountain Road Slide]

To reach Jerusalem from Jericho requires 16 miles of traveling a steep upward grade of 3300 feet, to 2500 feet above sea level.

[Current McSign]

Passing through Jericho on the last leg of Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem was filled with symbolism. On this road, the Good Samaritan would have done his good deed. The victim the Good Samaritan helped had been traveling eastward when he fell among thieves; Jesus was going westward to die between two thieves.
Joshua came through Jericho on his way to conquering Canaan. Jesus came through Jericho on His way to conquer sin. In Jericho, Jesus’ ancestress, Rahab the harlot, put out her window a scarlet thread, a vivid Old Testament foreshadowing of the blood Jesus was now on His way to shed for sinners like Rahab and like us.

Matt. 20:30 There were two blind men sitting by the road. When they heard
that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”

On a busy road was a great spot to beg for money. This day would have been especially lucrative because of the throngs headed to Jerusalem. Tourists tend to have extra money on them, and for sure usually carry more cash than the locals.
When the blind men heard that Jesus was near, they came unglued. They had obviously heard what He did for others who could not see. Don’t miss this lesson. Someone had told them the good news. By having heard the good news, they at least had a chance to respond aright when opportunity presented itself.

Matt. 20:31a The crowd told them to keep quiet,. . .

Oh yeah! As if this would silence them!
The crowd saw the beggars as an annoying nuisance, an embarrassment. Whenever anyone earnestly seeks to come to Jesus, a “crowd” is usually in the way. There are always people who want to obstruct our progress toward Jesus.
The crowd can include peers, students at school, family, co-workers. Your decision to be a loyal Christ-follower can make your crowd feel ill at ease.
When you take a stand, they will often try to change the subject, make a cutting remark, or hurl a smirk your way. This resistance is not a minor matter. Many don’t follow Jesus due to fear of their crowd. Therefore it must be ignored.