Involved In Ministry
Explore the Bible Series
November 18, 2007
Background Passage: The Gospel of Matthew 23:1-25:46
Lesson Passage: The Gospel of Matthew 25: 31-46
three chapters record the Olivet Discourse, the last of five sermons of Jesus,
as reflected in Matthew’s Gospel. Scholars
debate the relationship between the material in Chapter Twenty-three and the
sermonic reflections in Chapters Twenty-four and Twenty-five. Matthew seems to indicate some distinction
between the two sections. For instance,
the sermon in Chapter Twenty-three was addressed to the crowds and the
disciples (See 23:1), but the next two chapters center attention on Christ’s
private dialog with the Twelve (See 24:3).
Also, the two portions of our lesson occurred in different places. Chapter Twenty-three gives little insight
into the venue of this material, but the discourse in Chapters Twenty-four and
Twenty-five, according to the text, was delivered on the
The Mount of Olives was located, across the
Perhaps we should consider, from the outset, some issues
concerning the eschatology (doctrine of last things) we will encounter in the
following lesson materials. I have much
to learn about eschatology, and I will refrain from drawing hard and fast lines
regarding this discourse. It appears, as
I study the text, that Jesus addressed two distinct occurrences: the future
Jesus’ Lament for the Decadent Religious System of His
Day (23:1-39): As stated earlier, Jesus appears to have delivered this message
A. Introduction to this discourse (vv. 1-12): At the outset of the address, Jesus outlined his complaint against the scribes and Pharisees.
1. “they preach, but they do not practice” (v. 3)
2. “they tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and place them on men’s shoulders” (v. 4)
3. “they do their deeds to be seen of others” (vv. 5f): They broadened the straps that bound bits of Scripture to their arms and foreheads, they extended the fringe on their prayer shawls, they sought positions of honor at banquets and in the synagogues, and they coveted impressive religious titles. Above all, they refused to cast themselves as servants of the people (See v. 11).
woes on the religious leaders (vv. 13-36): Jesus’ words seem harsh, especially
to those who envision him as weak, soft-handed man. Perhaps we should consider,
however, the meaning of the word “woe.”
Clearly, this word connotes impending judgment, but it also reflects the
funereal language of the First-Century. This situation grieved the Savior. These woes do not negate God’s covenant with
1. “You shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces” (vv. 13-14): Not only did these men refuse to enter the kingdom themselves, they did all they could to hinder others form entering as well.
2. “You travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte… you make him twice a child of hell as yourselves (v. 15). These leaders spared no expense or energy to win converts to their truncated version of Judaism, but their efforts led to a generation of proselytes who outdid their masters in kingdom abuses.
blind guides…” (16-22): Jesus scolded the Pharisees for their habit of swearing
by the objects in the
4. “You tithe… but neglect the weightier matters of the law” (vv. 23-24): Their fastidious attention to tithing, again, masked their disregard for justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
5. “You clean the outside of the cup… but inside, you are full of greed and self-indulgence” (vv. 25-26).
6. “Like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inside you are full of dead people’s bones” (vv. 27-28).
7. “You build the tombs of the prophets… but, you are sons of those who killed the prophets” (vv. 29-36).
sincere lament over
II. Foreshadowings of Things to Come (24:1-25:46)
setting of the Olivet Discourse (24:1-14): After Jesus pronounced the woes upon
the religious leaders, he left the
1. False Christs will arise who lead many astray (vv. 4-5).
2. Cataclysmic events will characterize the period before the end of the age: wars and rumors of war famines, earthquakes, persecution of believers, great apostasy, increased lawlessness, and the preaching of the gospel to the ends of the earth. Please note that Jesus did not portray these occurrences as portents of the end; rather, these things will characterize the entire period between Christ’s First and Second Advents.
Abomination of Desolation (24:15-31): This passage is based on Daniel 9:27 and
11:31. In 168 B.C. Antiochus Epiphanies
C. The dangers that attend the coming Day of the Lord (24:36-25:13)
1. The danger of setting dates (24:36-44): Jesus highlighted two problems that might trouble those who anticipate the Lord’s return. Some may presumptuously think they can predict the precise moment of Christ’s return. Remarkably, the Lord said he did not know the time of his return; therefore, others should not foolishly believe they could know these things. Another problem relates to the possibility of unpreparedness for the Lord’s return. Like Noah’s day, people should discern the coming judgment of the world. Only foolish men refuse to read the signs of the times and ignore the Lord’s clear warnings.
2. Three parables concerning preparedness for the Lord’s return (24:45-25:30): the Parable of the Wise Steward, the Parable of the Ten Virgins, and the Parable of the Talents. Each of these little stories illustrates Jesus’ point about the blessedness of being prepared for his Second coming and the foolishness of being unprepared.
D. The Final Judgment (25:32-46): When the Lord comes in his glory, he will effect a great separation among the inhabitants of the world. Like a shepherd separating sheep and goats, Jesus will divide the righteous and the wicked. The sheep, separated to the right (the position of honor and blessing), will b distinguished by their service to Christ through concrete ministry of compassion on the poor and hungry, and the goats, separated on the left will be marked by their disregard for the broken and needy. The righteous will enter into eternal life and the wicked will be consigned to eternal punishment.
Observations About the Lesson:
1. Believers should view with skepticism those who make bold predictions about the timing of Christ’s return. The text could not be clearer on this matter.
2. Believers should give great diligence to preparing for the return of Jesus. In particular, Christians should take heed to the suffering and poverty of a broken world. Jesus’ work centers on proclaiming the gospel and meeting the needs of people. The Lord always identified with the poor, the broken, the suffering ones, and the Christ’s followers must evidence the same priorities.
3. The stakes are high. I take no delight in the reality of eternal judgment; yet, the Lord’s teachings, again, could not be clearer. We deal with eternal verities, and no true disciple of Jesus should ever lose sight of the horrific consequences of an ungodly life.
4. The true work of the Lord does not focus on erecting impressive buildings, promoting earthly prosperity, or building an extraordinary personal following. So many of the priorities of the modern American church do not characterize the criteria Jesus set for his people. Rather, he called his people to preach the gospel and minister to the poor and broken people of the world.