Monday, February 22, 2016

An Open Invitation

My Life Group lesson for Feb. 14, 2016, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" commentary as a guide ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

Today we’re going to talk about, like “The Godfather,” an offer you must not refuse!

Think of all the events you attend: Weddings, birthday parties, baby showers, anniversaries, graduations, fellowships, how fast does your calendar fill up?

Do you accept every invitation that comes your way?

How many do you get every week?

What kind of invites do you feel the need to decline sometimes? Why?

Jesus offered His hearers a special invitation: come to Him and find rest from their weariness. This invitation included the opportunity to learn from Him and serve alongside Him. The issue was whether the people would accept or decline Jesus’ invitation.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

Matthew 11:1-30

*** Jesus began His ministry by teaching the people, caring for the people and healing many, many of disease and deformity.

*** Still, by Matthew chapter 11 there was growing rejection of Jesus in Israel. Jesus was popular when it came to healing and teaching, but the people weren't ready to follow.

*** Chapter 11 begins with John the Baptist having honest doubts about Jesus as the Messiah. But the cities in the verses we'll study today had flat-out rejected Jesus.

--- Jesus wasn’t holding back when it came to those who follow Him:

Matthew 10:14-15 to the disciples being sent out - 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 I assure you: It will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

Matthew 10:37-38 - 37 The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.

PROMISED JUDGMENT (Matt. 11:20-24)

20 Then He proceeded to denounce the towns where most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent: 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes long ago! 22 But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until today. 24 But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

*** God is the same then as He is now.

--- Have you ever heard a Bible critic say that the God of the Old Testament doesn't seem the same as the God of the New Testament?

--- Obviously they never actually read it and saw what Jesus said about unbelievers and the ultimate judgment for those who reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

--- What Jesus said here doesn’t have a different tone than OT prophets used, such as Ezekiel 2:4-5: The children are obstinate and hardhearted. I am sending you to them, and you must say to them, ‘This is what the Lord God says.’ Whether they listen or refuse to listen—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them.

*** See ya, wouldn't want to be ya!

--- The cities in these verses are where Jesus performed numerous miracles and yet they did not repent.

--- The people in these cities had an opportunity to turn to Jesus. They did not. Therefore their judgment would be harsh.

--- Not much is known about Chorazin. Capernaum was the staging point for Jesus' ministry in Galilee. Bethsaida was the hometown of disciples Peter, Andrew and Philip.

--- Jesus speaks of "woe" to the people just as Old Testament prophets did. The cities of Tyre and Sidon in ancient Phoenicia were frequently warned by prophets. (Isa. 23:1-17; Jer. 47:3-5; Ezek. 28:20-21). Sodom was the worst of the worst, full of sexual immorality and injustice, and yet it would be more tolerable for Sodom (Gen. 18-19) to have sulfur burn them up than the coming judgment against Capernaum.

--- But Jesus says that if the depraved people there had heard about Jesus, then they would have repented and the audacity to reject Jesus by these three prideful Galilean cities was worse.

---He performed more miracles and preached more sermons in and around Capernaum than at any other place during His entire ministry. It was there that He raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead and healed the nobleman’s son. It was here that He healed the demoniac, Peter’s mother-in-law, the woman with the hemorrhage, the two blind men, the centurion’s servant, the dumb demoniac, and the paralytic who was lowered through the roof by his friends.

The people of Capernaum never persecuted Jesus, and few of them even criticized Him. They never mocked Him, ridiculed Him, ran Him out of town, or threatened His life. Yet their sin was worse than if they had done those things. Theirs was not the sin of violence or of immorality but of indifference. (John MacArthur)

--- I sure don't want to be judged like these cities for rejecting Jesus as our Savior, our Messiah, our Wonderful Counselor.

--- Question - How many times have we seen people witness the power of God, but not worship Him or turn to Him?

PROMISED REVELATION (Matt. 11:25-27)

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to infants. 26 Yes, Father, because this was Your good pleasure. 27 All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him.

*** Hippity hoppin’ Easter’s on its way!

--- Jesus says that God has hidden truth from the wise. Easter’s coming up in six weeks. Think of when you hide eggs for your children. When you hide eggs for the littlest kids you just drop them on the ground (because even then they may not get them!), while for older kids you make it more difficult.

Either way, the goal is that the eggs are found.

*** You are cordially invited.

--- The most wise intellectually elites depended on their own wisdom, while spiritual infants require outside help from God. No one can know God by worldly wisdom and learning. The person with the highest IQ cannot figure Him out using brains alone.

--- Pride is the downfall of those who consider themselves the elites. Jesus says to go the other way. Later Jesus stated: “unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3-4).

You're not smart enough to figure out God!

--- The theme of wisdom hidden from those who think themselves wise appears frequently in the Old Testament (for example, see Job 12:2; Isa. 19:11-12; Jer. 8:8-9; Ezek. 28:3-12). Paul drew a direct relationship between those who arrogantly claim to have wisdom and knowledge and those who see the message of the cross as foolishness (see 1 Cor. 1:18-31).

*** Answer the call.

--- The Bible says that those whom God calls can receive the message. The Creator must reveal Himself to His creation. We can't know each other unless we reveal ourselves to one another. The only way we can know God is for Him to get down on our level and let us in.

--- At the same time, the Bible also repeatedly stresses the role our free will plays, and Jesus tells His audiences to have ears to hear and all are invited.

--- It's a mystery of God how both divine sovereignty and human responsibility work for our salvation.

--- In verses 20-24 judgment was coming on the residents of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum because their free will was to reject the revelation God had given them.

--- Craig Blomberg captures the balance well when he states: “without God’s prior activity none could ever hope to be saved, but God saves only through the free human actions of preaching and conversion.”

*** Question - Think back to your own salvation experience. Can you recall people and/or events that God providentially brought into your life that served as catalysts for your conversion?

*** Jesus, the Son of God.

--- Verse 27 has an extraordinary claim, that only Jesus knows God more than no one else, and that Jesus has all the authority that God has.

--- Think of how a child often reflects his or her father in ways that nobody else does. Jesus did that well.

--- The Gospel of John declares: “No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son—the One who is at the Father’s side—He has revealed Him” (John 1:18). Again, John records Jesus as follows: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Thus, the Father has given Jesus the sole authority and prerogative to make God known. If anyone attempts to approach God by any means other than through Jesus, he will not find Him.

--- Saying that Jesus alone is truth seems out of step in a world that celebrates religious diversity.

*** Question - How should we respond when people label Christians as intolerant for asserting that Jesus is the only way to the Father, with no other alternative?

--- Verse 27 demands that we as the Church have the courage to declare one truth.

PROMISED REST (Matt. 11:28-30)

28 Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

*** No "yokin' around!"

--- When two animals are in a yoke they are connected to one another to pull a plow. The animals are under submission and working hard.

--- Verse 28 makes it clear, ALL can come to Jesus and be saved. The invitation remains open, even for those who had initially rejected Jesus.

--- In the old law, the yoke on the people was difficult. It was a legalistic society where works counted more than faith. The demands of the scribes and the Pharisees went far beyond the demands of God. When the law was said to be the way to salvation is was a “yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

--- Peter captured the contrast well in his address to the leaders of the Jerusalem church on the occasion of their debate about whether to impose circumcision, and thus the law, on Gentiles in order to consider them truly Christian. Peter asked, “why are you testing God by putting a yoke on the disciples’ necks that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way they are” (Acts 15:10-11).

--- Under Jesus, He bears our burdens and provides rest for the stresses that weigh us down. There are still demands on us as Christians, but we have assurance that we have found the Living Water and the Bread of Life. (Bro. Joseph)

--- The “wise and learned,” however, would likely cling arrogantly to the belief that they could figure it out for themselves.

*** Question - Jesus promises that following Him is a life of rest, serving Him is an easy yoke, and bearing His burden is light. What evidence do you see in your life that you have come to Jesus and are experiencing rest?

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Greek mythology tells the story of Sisyphus, the king of Ephyra, or Corinth. Sisyphus had gained a reputation as a dishonest, crafty, and deceitful man. To punish him, the gods sentenced him to roll a boulder up a hill for all eternity, without ever having the ability to reach the top. Just as he would almost reach the top, the boulder would roll backwards, and he would have to start all over again. His curse was to spend eternity expending his efforts on a useless task, being forever frustrated in the process.

The fate of those who try to earn their salvation is much the same, and this was one of the major problems with Judaism. Keeping the law to the point of perfection, to the point that one could make oneself acceptable to God, was impossible. And yet for the Jews of Jesus’ day, this was what was prescribed. It was a heavy burden, one that would wear them out emotionally and spiritually.

Jesus came to set us free from that impossible burden. He came to offer us rest from trying to do the impossible. Only He could do that which was impossible for us to do. In Matthew 11, He offers us that rest.

*** Note the various ways that people responded to Jesus. Some doubted Him, others were unresponsive, and still others drew near to Him. We should not be surprised when people respond in similar ways today.

*** You cannot outsmart God, and you can never do enough works to earn salvation which comes through grace alone.

*** Have you found rest in Jesus? Are you willing to be yoked to Him, to learn from Him, and to walk with Him today?

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