Emmanuel CRC
2021-11-21
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        Sunday Evening Prayer

        November 21, 2021 - 6:00 PM - 6:00 PM
      • Bible Trivia
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  • God Is Here
  • Take O Take Me As I Am
  • Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God
      • Matthew 9:14–17ESV

  • What Kind of Man is This?

    It all started on the Sea of Galilee in the middle of a terrible storm. Jesus was asleep in the boat, while his disciples fought the wind and waves. Fearing for their lives, they called upon Jesus to help them. Jesus spoke to the wind and waves and complete calm broke over them. Witnessing this with amazement Jesus’ disciples asked each other, “What kind of man is this? Even the wind and waves obey him!” Next, Jesus invaded the realm of Satan, casting out by the authority of his word a legion of demons from two tormented men. Having disrupted the social and economic status quo; the towns folk beg Jesus to leave them. What kind of man is this? Even the demonic hosts obey him! Then, Jesus forgives the sins of a paralyzed man. Having crossed the boundaries of divine authority and ability, the teachers of the law said, “This fellow is blaspheming!” Following this, Jesus calls the worst of all sinners, a Jewish tax-collector named Matthew to join his band of disciples. Going even further, Jesus shares a feast with Matthew and his other sinner friends. The Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

    Jesus the Disrupter

    Now we can notice people recognizing that Jesus disrupts things wherever he goes. Good rabbis don’t cause social and economic problems for people. Mere men can’t forgive sins and righteous men don’t socialize with sinners and they certainly don’t call sinners to be their disciples. What kind of man is this?
    No doubt the disciples of John the Baptist have been keeping an eye on this Jesus. After all, when John baptized Jesus, the voice of God from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”(Matthew 3:17, NIV)
    However, Jesus calling sinners to follow Him and feasting with them seems to cross the lines of acceptable spiritual practice for John’s disciples. They come to Jesus and ask . . .

    How is it that we . . .?

    “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” (Matthew 9:14, NIV)
    Why would John’s disciples and the Pharisees be fasting while Jesus and his disciples are feasting? It’s because Israel’s exile is not yet complete. Sure, it’s been hundreds of years since Israel returned home and rebuilt Jerusalem and the temple. Certainly, that part of God’s promise had come true. But those who longed for the complete restoration of Israel, realized that their restoration to the land fell far short of the great prophesies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Israel was governed by foreigners, not by a son of King David. Those who did return persisted in all kinds of sin. Israel was back in the land, but the exile was not yet completely resolved; they were waiting for another act of God to put things right.[1]Toward that end, righteous persons in Israel including the disciples of John and the Pharisees fasted twice a week, repenting for the conditions that kept them in exile.[2]Exile is a time of mourning and weeping. Israel captured the mourning of exile in a Psalm,
    “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:1–4, NIV)
    In a figurative sense, many Jews of Jesus’ day felt like they were still in Babylon and long to be completely restored to their home and to their God.
    Now we can see that there was a question behind the question of John’s disciples. The question behind the question is this:
    “Why do your disciples not mourn the exile of Israel as we do?”
    Jesus understood that question and answered it when he said,

    How can they . . .?

    “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” (Matthew 9:15, NIV)
    Jesus’ is asking them; “Can’t you see what is going on here?” This is a betrothal party. I am the bridegroom these are my friends, my guests. No one mourns at a betrothal party, it a time for rejoicing.
    Why would Jesus refer to himself as a bridegroom? In the Old Testament, we see Yahweh describe Israel as his bride. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God said to Israel,
    “When I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine. “ ‘I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you. I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put sandals of fine leather on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments.” (Ezekiel 16:8–10, NIV)
    Yet, Israel committed spiritual adultery. Again, through Ezekiel the Lord God said this about His bride,
    “But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his. You took some of your garments to make gaudy high places, where you carried on your prostitution. You went to him, and he possessed your beauty.” (Ezekiel 16:15–16, NIV)
    Nevertheless, through the prophet Hosea, Yahweh promised to pursue His wayward bride saying,
    “I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband.” (Hosea 2:14–16, NIV)
    Jesus is saying to John’s disciples, “Can’t you recognize that I am Yahweh come in flesh and blood pursuing my bride to betroth her? This is not the season of mourning; this is the season of joy. The Son of David has come to put an end to your Exile.”
    Jewish betrothal was much more complex than our practice of “marriage engagement”. In arranging a marriage, the bridegroom’s family paid a price for the bride. When the marriage was arranged the couple entered the betrothal period, usually lasting a year. In the time of Jesus, the parents of the bride and groom met, along with others as witnesses, while the groom gave the bride a gold ring or another valuable item. To the bride he spoke this promise: “See by this ring you are set apart for me, according to the law of Moses and of Israel.”[3]During the betrothal period, the bridegroom went to prepare a home for his bride.[4]
    Does anyone hear the echo of Jesus words to his disciples rising up, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:2–3, NIV)

    Will you join the wedding party?

    An invitation

    Now John’s disciples face a crisis of belief. If Jesus, is Yahweh the Bridegroom of Israel come to betroth his bride, this changes everything. This is completely unexpected! We could not see this coming. Can we believe it to be true?
    There is a sense in which Jesus’ answer to their question also contains an implied question, which is, “Will you join my wedding party?” It is a question Jesus addresses to us as well. Do we count ourselves in Jesus’ wedding party? Are we his friends and, therefore, guests of the bridegroom? If not, Jesus would say to you, “friend, this is your day to come join my wedding party!” This is important because the betrothal is only the beginning that anticipates the wedding celebration to come.
    In this brief response, Jesus foreshadows the price he will pay in his own blood for his Bride the Church. When the betrothal is accomplished; he will go and prepare a place for his bride and come back to take her into his home.

    An expectation

    The betrothal is a time of expectation of the wedding to come.
    The wedding ceremony began with the bridegroom bringing home the bride from her parents’ house to his parental home. The bridegroom, accompanied by his friends and amid singing and music, led a procession through the streets of the town to the bride’s home. Along the way friends who were ready and waiting with their lamps lit would join in the procession. Veiled and dressed in beautifully embroidered clothes and adorned with jewels, the bride, accompanied by her attendants, joined the bridegroom for the procession to his father’s house.[5]
    Do you see why it is so important to be a part of Jesus’ wedding party? It is important because with Jesus it is his friends in his wedding party who become his bride. We are both the friends of the Bridegroom and the Bride who longs for, not the end of exile, but the return of our Beloved Bridegroom.
    Are there any weary saints among us today? For those of us weary in heart, for those of us wondering if tribulations of the narrow path are worth the sorrows, for those of us saying, Lord, “I’ve staked everything on you, did I make the right wager.” Dear weary saints, today we remember that we have a Bridegroom who has gone to prepare a place for us in His Father’s house; and just past today will be our dancing day, when our Beloved comes to take us home.
    In Jesus, God came to fulfill his covenant promises to Israel. Some believed. Many found Jesus and His claim to be the Bridegroom of Israel to be - well, unbelievable. That’s why Jesus continues to press John’s disciples’ ability to perceive God at work right before their eyes.

    Will you tare the cloth and waste the wine and the wineskins?

    Jesus essentially says to them, “Look, you are seeing me as a mere man, a spiritual teacher and you want me to meet your expectations for that role. Can’t you see, I am much more than a teacher about God; I am God. All that you have longed for; all that you have fasted for; all that you have mourned for; is fulfilled in me. I am like a piece of unshrunk cloth – you can’t patch me on to your limited understandings of God. If you do not accept me to be who I say I am you will be far worse off than you are now. The tare you are creating – will ruin the wedding garment I want to give to you.
    I am like new wine. You can pour me into your faulty religious practices. I am too dynamic for that. Your old wineskins are useless. I will shatter your expectations and you will be worse off than you are now if you do not accept me to be who I say I am. I am the freshness of new wine; I am the power of new life poured into you!

    A responsibility

    Now we must confront our own crisis of belief. Are we willing to be watchful, looking for God at work among us? Will we know God’s work when we see it? We can see it. God’s work among us will look like Jesus at work.
    What kind of man was Jesus? Jesus was God, doing what only God can do, drawing people to himself and into His Kingdom. When we see people showing an interest in spiritual things, we know God is at work for without the drawing work of the Holy Spirit, people will not seek the Lord. When we see God at work. Will we believe it and join God in what he is doing? Yes, we can if we stay in step with the Spirit. If we try to force God’s movement into our limited understandings and inadequate patterns of doing things – we will quench the Spirit.

    A warning

    In Luke’s account of this event, Jesus ends with a warning: “No one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.”(Luke 5:39, NIV)
    Jesus warns us that in the face of a new movement of God; there will be some who will say, this can’t be God; it doesn’t fit with our old understandings and ways of doing things. Individuals and churches who refuse to move along with the disruptive presence of Jesus in their midst, will be worse off because they did not, could not recognize the moment when God was with them, wooing them to himself. Instead, they drink the old wine; and quench the Spirit of God among them.
    The point Jesus wants us to understand is this. When we recognize the Spirit of God at work in our lives individually and as a church family . . .

    Our Only Fruitful Path:

    Is to embrace and follow the disruptive presence of Jesus among us by allowing him to change how we think, feel, speak, and act so that we can be the kind of men and women, boys, and girls, and church he created us to be. Our Father in Heaven created us to be people and a church family filled with the Spirit doing the kinds of things that can only be done by the living power of Jesus flowing through us.
    Footnotes
    [1]Duguid, I. M. (2000). Exile. In T. D. Alexander & B. S. Rosner (Eds.), New dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., pp. 477–478). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. [2] Mangum, D. (Ed.). (2020). Lexham Context Commentary: New Testament (Mt 9:14–17). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press. [3] Enns, P. P. (2003). Weddings. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1664). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers. [4]Ibid. [5]Ibid.
  • My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout
  • This Holy Covenant Was Made

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