Early in his ministry Jesus claims to have authority to forgive sin and calls himself the Lord of the Sabbath. This sounds like blasphemy unless Jesus is actually God.
The resurrection turns the ultimate defeat into the ultimate victory. Sin, death and Satan have now been dealt with forever because the Son of God has risen from the grave. The consequences of humanity’s fall into sin are reversed, never to take control of us again.
Just before issuing his Great Commission to the disciples, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” That means the sin, death and Satan combined have approximately zero authority.
Since this deals once and for all with our biggest problem, lesser problems also come into a proper perspective. All of the hurts, problems and defeats that I have experienced or that I have caused are reduced to times that my team and I have fallen behind in a winning game. It may look bad for the moment but our final victory is ultimately assured.
There is never a reason big enough to give up hope. Christ is risen and someday we too will be resurrected into a completely new life in him.
Thank you that out of love for us you sent your Son, who willingly died in our place. Thank you for allowing him to take the punishment that our sin deserved.
We thank you for having him endure the false accusations from his enemies, the abandonment of his friends and the pain and suffering that were naturally a part of the cross.
We also thank you for placing upon Jesus the unendurable grief caused by our sin. The guilt and the shame built up over the history of the human race was placed on his shoulders.
This tragic death is not a defeat, but the most wonderful victory ever won. And he did it because he loved us.
Thank you in Christ’s name,
After entering Jerusalem, Jesus told a parable about two sons.
28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.”
Jesus was speaking here to the chief priests and elders of the people who had just questioned his authority (v.23). He explained this parable without any request to do so, making sure that his audience knew exactly what he was saying by it.
The lesson has to do with doing God’s will in the end, as a final outcome. Many people express good intentions. The chief priests and elders would have been perceived as just the kind of people who were known for doing God’s will. If that were the case, they should have been the first in line expressing their repentance and receiving the baptism of John.
When we understand the nature of sin, we realize that we are all in need of repentance. That sense of guilt would be even more pronounced when coming face-to-face with the likes of John the Baptist. Yet these guys are so numb that they even question the authority of Christ. Their relationship with God was little more than a nice show, having no humility or sense of need.
On the other hand, tax collectors like Matthew our author and prostitutes saw their sin. Like the first son in the parable, they did not do the will of the Father from the beginning, but later changed their mind. They repented at John’s preaching and followed Jesus with transformed lives. In a culture obsessed as ours is with not making anyone feel bad, let’s take note that as far as Jesus is concerned a little guilt can be a good thing. There is no repentance without it.
Teach us to exercise the faith of a child toward you. Help us to be innocent, trusting and not afraid to ask you for what we need.
Help us to take sin very seriously, so that we will carefully avoid temptation. Further please prevent us from tempting others through our words and actions. On the contrary, let us join with you in going out to seek the one lost sheep of your flock who is going astray.
When we feel that someone has sinned against us, or has need of some form of correction, give us the power to not respond out of anger or frustration. Help us rather to correct that person with the goal of restoration in mind. And remind us to follow your instructions as to the best way to make that restoration a reality. And then, most of all, help us to be forgiving people, always aware of how much we have been forgiven by you.
You truly have released us from a debt we could never pay, by having Jesus Christ pay for our sins on the cross. May our lives reflect your grace, your goodness and your compassion.
Jesus was never light on sin. While infinitely gracious, compassionate and kind toward flawed and fallen people like ourselves, he understood the depth of our affliction. He absolutely refused to minimize it. As he saw it, both the tempter and the tempted put themselves at the most serious risk of judgment.
7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire (ESV).
No solution for sin and its effects is too radical for Jesus. Cut off the guilty body part and throw it away. But here the depth of the problem is revealed. We might imagine ourselves amputating till there was almost nothing left and still struggling against sin. The source of our guilt cannot be found in the hand or the eye, or anything else that is removable. Sin thrives in the lowest recesses of the heart.
David grasped this when he prayed in Psalm 51:10,
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
And this is what God promises in Ezekiel 36:26-27,
26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
This is what we need – a heart that desires to please God. We don’t need one less limb or useful organ. We need to become new people. Receiving new life in Christ accomplishes this. If we don’t have it, then that is what we need. If we do have it, we need to learn to walk in it. This is clearly summed up in the words of Paul.
17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Sin is severe – and probably more awful than we can understand, since our very perception of it is distorted by, well, sin! Jesus took it so seriously he paid for it on the cross. A new heart, a whole new self, is now available to us in Christ.