Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Repentance and Regret: Mat 21:28-31

Jesus spoke a parable of a man who had two sons. He said to the first son, “Son, go work today in the vineyard.” (Mat 21:28) But the son said, “I will not.” (Mat 21:29) However, later he regretted it and went into the vineyard. The same man told his second son to go and work in the vineyard, and he said, “I will, sir.” (Mat 21:30) However, he never did. Jesus said that the son who actually went into the vineyard to work was the son who did his father’s will.

The most common Greek word used to describe repentance is the word metanoeō. For example, when Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mat 4:17) Metanoeō is a compound word that begins with the preposition meta which means with or after. Thus, metanoeō means to think afterward or to think differently. Here repentance is a process where we reconsider our lives and our actions. This reflection leads to a change of mind regarding what we view as being right and wrong.

However, in the above verse, Jesus uses another verb to describe the first son’s repentance to obedience. Here the word is metamellomai. This word is also a compound word and also begins with the same preposition meta. This word means to care afterward or to care differently. While metanoeō is a change of mind, metamellomai is a change of heart. The first son went out into the vineyard, not because his mind convinced him it was the right thing to do, but because his heart convicted him of the sinfulness of his previous decision. Sometimes we repent when we have a change of mind, and sometimes we repent when we have a change of heart. Either way, we are led to a repentance which leads to life.

Reading this scripture in this way causes me to ask myself, “Do I engage God only with my mind only or do I engage him also with my heart and emotions?” God wants us to come to him with our whole person, not just with a part of us.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Say to the daughter of Zion: Mat 21:5

Matthew relates to us the story of how Jesus, mounted upon a donkey, entered Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowd. Matthew tells us that this was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah who prophesied, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” (Mat 21:5)

What is interesting in the Greek is the command “Say” is in the second-person plural. In other words, God was not commanding to the prophet to speak to Israel, but rather he was commanding all of us to speak. In southern-speak, this would be “All-you-all say to the daughter of Zion.” This command is to us, not just to the prophet. We are all to be those who proclaim the good news of Jesus coming to those who are searching and waiting for him. We are all to be those who encourage the downcast and lift up the overburdened with the good news of the kingdom.

Understanding this scripture in this light causes me to ask myself, “Do I see myself as the messenger of God, or have I left that work to someone else?” We are all his messengers. We have all be sent and commanded to “Say!” Let us open our mouths and announce to all who will hear the good news of Jesus.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

From the beginning? Mat 19:3-8

One day, some Pharisees came to test Jesus. They brought him the question of divorce. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” (Mat 19:3) Jesus’ response was to remind them that, in the beginning, God made them male and female and joined them together in marriage. His response to those testing him was, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Mat 19:6) The Pharisees objected, reminding Jesus that Moses allowed husbands to simply give their wives a bill of divorce and to send her away. Jesus responds that Moses permitted it “because of your hardness of heart,” (Mat 19:8) but “from the beginning it has not been this way.” (Mat 19:8)

The Greek word translated here as “has not been” is the perfect tense of the Greek word that means to be or to become. The Greeks had four ways to refer to the past. One form is the Aorist which is an action that happened once in the past. It is a previous point action. If Jesus had used this tense, he would have said, “It was not like that at the beginning.” However, here Jesus uses the Perfect tense. The Perfect tense refers to an action which happened once in the past but whose effect continues to be experienced even to this day. In other words, what Jesus was saying is that what God had purposed at the beginning of time is still in force and still makes demands upon our lives even today. The purpose, plan, and morality of God which he set forth at the beginning has not passed away; rather it is still in force today. Societies morals may rise and fall with the passing fads of the day, but the truth of God remains forever. What God has set forth from the beginning is not ours to change at will, but rather transcends our modern morals and fancies.

Viewing this scripture in this way cause me to ask myself, “How much of what I believe and hold to is a result of the eternal and transcendent truths of God and how much is the result of the passing morals of the society around me?” In the end, only those truths that are eternal will remain — those things which have been so from the beginning.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Binding and Loosing: Mat 16:19

After Peter made his famous confession that Jesus was the Son of God, Jesus gave him an amazing promise, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (Mat 16:19) Much has been made of this verse over the intervening centuries and, I must confess, this verse has always puzzled me a bit. Is Jesus really saying that, on Earth, we are in charge of binding and loosing? Furthermore, what did Jesus mean by “shall have been bound in heaven?”

In the original Greek, the phrase “shall have been bound” is composed of a form of the verb “to be” and a perfect participle of the verb “to bind.” This particular construction in the Greek is used to emphasize an existing condition. Jesus is not saying that whatever we bind or loose on Earth will be bound or loosed in heaven. Rather, he is saying that the reason these keys work to bind and loose is because the things they bind and loose have already been bound and loosed in heaven. Jesus’s word to Peter is not some blank check for us to actuate our own desires and wills here on Earth. Rather it is, in part, the means by which we partner with God to see his Kingdom and will come to be “on earth as it is in heaven.” (Mat 6:10)

Understanding this scripture in this way causes me to ask myself, “Am I pursuing the establishment of my own kingdom and will, or am I seeking to establish God’s will and kingdom here on Earth?” The only way we can truly answer this question is to get to know God, his will, and the nature of his kingdom.  Only then will we understand the keys we have been given and know how to use them to accomplish here what has already been accomplished in heaven.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Feasting on crumbs: Matthew 15:26-27

In between feeding the five thousand and feeding the four thousand, Jesus was approached by a woman; not a Jewish woman, but a Syrophoenician woman; a gentile woman. She came to beseech Jesus to deliver her daughter who was severely daemon possessed. Upon hearing her request, Jesus rebuffed her saying, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (Mat 15:26) However, while agreeing with him, she reminded him that “even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master's table.” (Mat. 15:27)

In this passage, the Greek word translated here as “fall,” as in “the crumbs which fall from the master’s table,” is a present participle of the Greek word, piptō, which means “I fall.” What is significant about this word being used as a present participle is that it represents a present and on-going activity. It could equally be translated, “the crumbs which are falling from the master’s table.”
For this gentile woman, the blessing and provision of God was not a mere concept or some sterile theological idea. The blessing and provision of God was something present and ongoing; something she could see and experience in the here and how. From her perspective, the blessing and provision of God was not something in the future. Rather it was a present reality as was being poured out upon the children of God in such superabundance that its overflow was flowing out to any and all who might wish to receive it. Her statement about the crumbs was not a statement of what might be, but a statement of what she saw was happening all around her.

Seeing this woman’s faith, it challenges me to answer two questions about my own life. First, how do I see God’s blessing and provision to day? Do I see it as some remote possibility or a present-day reality? Often, I find myself praying for God’s favor and blessing, but do I really believe that his blessing and favor are already mine presently and continually? Just as this woman, we are living in the age of God’s blessing and provision and his blessings are being poured out upon who will receive it.

Secondly, how do I view the economy of God in relationship to those whom I deem to be “outside” the family and household of God? Do I see God’s blessing and provision as being exclusive or inclusive? Do I perceive his blessings as being limited to believers or do I see it as overflowing to all, whether they be inside or outside of what I perceive as the family of God? Can I see and rejoice when someone “outside” is blessed by God or am I scandalized when God chooses to bless those who are “not a part of us?” It is right that the children should be fed first, but God’s blessings were never meant to be stopped there. They were meant to flow out to a world of hurting and needy people; to a world that needs God just as much as we do.

I hope this encourages and challenges you. I would greatly like to hear your thoughts on this as well.
David Robison