175 Things Jesus Commanded
136. “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.” -Matthew 21:28-32
In Jesus’ eyes a promise to do something doesn’t mean anything unless it is followed up on. Many people have rededicated their life outwardly to the Lord dozens of times, but have never really inwardly yielded their heart to Jesus as the Boss of their lives. Mow many make the promise with their lips but never live the faith with their lives. Such promises from unyielded hearts do not impress the Lord. The Book of James states, “faith without works is dead.” Jesus refers to others here that at one time flat out refused instruction, but later were convicted of their sin and went on to do the will of the Father. The promise keepers are the ones who will be in the Kingdom of God, not those who were only promise makers. All of us as sinners rebelled against the Father’s heart and the Father’s commands. As rebels we rejected the command to repent and believe. Those who will enter the Kingdom of God have turned from that sinful rejection of God and now embrace His call to work in the Father’s vineyard!
137. And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” -Matthew 22:21b Context: Matthew 22:15-22
The Pharisees tried to trick Jesus. The people hated paying the tax to their Roman occupiers. If Jesus said that God’s people owed no allegiance to anyone but God would have made the crowds happy, but would have gotten Him arrested by the Romans. If Jesus had given full allegiance to the Roman government that would have enraged the crowds. Either answer would fall into the Pharisees trap. They thought the “rhetorical fastball” they had thrown would “strike out” Jesus. But Jesus knocked their fastball out of the park! He told them that His followers will be good citizens and pay their taxes (and obey other laws), but all the while they will be careful to serve God as well. Christians should be among the best citizens their countries have, and will only disobey their countries laws when those laws require us to violate our faith. But Christians are also citizens of Heaven, ambassadors for Christ, and we will seek to advance Heavenly values as we live here on earth. A brilliant dimension of Jesus’ answer is that ultimately God allows countries to rise and fall, so we can trust that He Himself will eventually deal with injustices done by countries. In a very real sense all things are God’s. These verses are foundational to the promotion of religious liberty – even as Christians respect their countries laws, the best countries will respect the religious liberty of all their citizens, including Christians. Baptists have always understood that they didn’t need and shouldn’t seek the power of the state to advance Baptist churches. People are born into their countries, but people are born again into churches within those countries. One of the great errors of church history has been country sponsored churches!
138. Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” -Matthew 22:29 Context: Matthew 22:23-30
The Sadducees were the next group that tried to trick Jesus. Their problem was that they rejected portions of the Old Testament and it’s teachings. They flatly rejected the idea that there would be life after death. So they set up a mocking, hypothetical question about a woman married multiple times before she died – “which one will be her husband in the coming resurrection?” They really thought they had Jesus! But what they didn’t understand and appreciate was that Jesus was an Expert on the subject, because Heaven was where He lived! His statement that there is no marriage in Heaven is very interesting, but far more significant is how He clearly states that departed saints are not gone but very much alive and waiting the next part of God’s plan. Jesus pointed them to the Scripture where God does not say to Moses He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but that He IS the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – PRESENT TENSE! Everyday people all around us are asking questions about God and matters of eternal truth. We too will be mistaken unless we obey Jesus’ implicit command to know the Scriptures and the power of God!
139. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, but have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” -Matthew 23:23 Context: Matthew 23:23-28
All of the outward religious things you do mean nothing if you don’t practice justice, mercy, and faith. In Micah 6:8 God told the Jewish people that what He required of them was to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God. That was most likely what Jesus was referring to. The Pharisees had lost this simple yet joyful approach to life by adding so many extras to the Old Testament law. Interestingly, Jesus here reinforces the biblical command to tithe (Give ten percent of one’s income to God’s work) when He says “these you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” If we are not careful, commands like church attendance (Hebrews 10:25) and tithing can become checklist items in an outward show of religion that forget the internal heart God wants us to have, a heart to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God!” Do it all for Jesus with an overflowing heart!
140. And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He also saw a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood she had.” -Luke 21:1-4
Jesus is not impressed when anyone gives their leftovers to God! He is impressed when people give their best to the Lord – as He was in Genesis 4:4-5 when Abel brought the first and the fattest from the flock and we are told “the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering.” Intentional, joyful, sacrificial giving does not go unnoticed in Heaven, and that’s why Jesus pointed it out while He was on earth! Let’s have the heart of the great givers of the Bible, including this dear woman. She would have agreed with King David, who in 2 Samuel 24:24 vowed not to give to the Lord His God “that which costs me nothing.” She would have been a good member of the churches of Macedonia, who Paul bragged on when he said they gave “According to their ability, and beyond their ability.” God has a way of taking care of those who generously give to His work, as He said in Philippians 4:19 – “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”