As followers of Christ, what awaits us in eternity? In this study, we consider not only our eternal home but also our eternal reward. Saved by grace through faith, we must see beyond the circumstances and status of this world, and look toward our future glory.
From its opening genealogy through its careful record of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled, Matthew's gospel forms a bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In this in-depth study by Pastor Skip Heitzig we'll consider Jesus' ancestry, birth, public ministry, death, and resurrection, and we'll gain a clearer understanding of Jesus as both Messiah and King.
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Hebrew terms: עלייה; Aliyah: ascending, moving up in the world
Greek terms: Παραβολή; parabole-place something alongside something else; Βήματος; bématos: an elevated place; βῆμα; bema; raised platform
Publications referenced: From the Edge of Eternity: "Gold, Silver, or Bronze?"
Figures referenced: Fanny Crosby
Cross references: Proverbs 30:7-9; Isaiah 14:13; Matthew 6:1; Matthew 19:30; Mark 10:46; Luke 2:35; Luke 4:18; John 5:24; Acts 18:12; Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 3; 1 Corinthians 9:24; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Ephesians 2:10; Revelation 3:17; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 20; Revelation 22:12
Topic: Christian Living
Keywords: rewards, judgment, judgment seat, bema seat, blind, works
Father we do want to honor you and honor your word and honor the teaching of your word because it is we believe your word even though we have had this book in our possession, some of us for many years and have read these truths before, yet there is something unique that occurs when two or three or more gather together under the inspiration, the illumination of your Holy Spirit as he takes truths and we consider them together as a group and make application to our lives or our own situations in modern times.
We believe that there is a specific word then that you have for your people, for us. We have asked as we gather Lord that you would help us to see to understand the principles that we're about to uncover, that your word would live.
We know, the scripture says the word of God is alive, living and powerful. It's sharper than a two-edged sword. It has the ability to do what no weapon can do, what no institution can do, what no preacher can do, what your word can do through the power of your spirit. It has changed the direction of a life, of a family, of a nation. So have your will and have your way with us as we gather simply to uncover and move through the word of God in a simple fashion. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
Imagine having the best boss in the world. I mean a boss who is gracious to every employee, helpful to every employee, stands with every employee. There was a man who went to his boss and said, "Boss, my wife and I need to do some deep cleaning at home and she's asking for my help tomorrow. She wants me to do some work in the attic, some heavy lifting in the garage. She's asking that I would get the day off." The boss shook his head and said, "I'm sorry, we're short staffed. We don't have enough people to go around. I can't let you off work tomorrow." And the man smiles and said, "Thanks boss, I knew I could count on you." He thought he was the best boss in the world. He got me out of work, he head home. "Sorry sweetheart can't do the housecleaning tomorrow."
In Chapter 20, we are introduced to what some would consider the best boss in the world. Others would consider the worst boss in the world. It all depends on your perspective. It's a parable that we begin with in Chapter 20. The parable is related to a principle in Chapter 19.
One of the things we've learned about Jesus is how much he loved the method of telling stories. We figure about one third of all of Jesus' teaching was in story form, parabolic form. It was a common way of rabbis in ancient times to teach their students a lesson, story telling. In many ancient cultures, story telling was a big deal. Keep in mind 2,000 years ago, they had a longer attention span than we do today. We don't even listen to music anymore. We're used to seeing music. We're used to the song portrayed in some acting, some fashion with multiple camera angles. So our skill of listening to a story is greatly diminished in our culture.
But in the day before computer, before television, before iPads and iPods and iPhones and droids, there was the storytelling. It was like an ancient television and a parable in particular was a specialized way that a teacher would communicate truths. Now the word parable is from the Greek word parabolē which means, "To place something alongside of something else." So the idea of a parable is to use an earthly story but to teach a heavenly lesson. To place one thing next to another thing, a natural thing next to a supernatural thing for the sake of a comparison so that in looking at the natural thing in the story, you understand the supernatural thing it's pointing toward.
So it's an earthly story with a heavenly lesson and we've already uncovered several kingdom parables already in Matthew Chapter 13 but now we come to another parable in Matthew Chapter 20. I mentioned that the parable in Matthew 20 illustrates a principle in Matthew 19, what do I mean? Well this is unfortunately where chapter divisions don't help us. Now I've told you before but I want you to hear it again. The divisions of the chapters and verses in your bible were added many years later. They were not in the original documents. So Chapter 19, Chapter 20, John, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Paul: they didn't write those things, they were added. For the sake of convenience, editors later on would say, "Let's just put a division here." And they would number the verses so that you could find it easily by saying, "Turn to Chapter and verse."
It would be difficult to find a verse in a scroll document that has no numbers attached to it. So it was added for convenience. The problem was in the division of the chapters, they didn't always divide them in a way that it actually makes sense in context. So the last verse of Matthew 19 is the principal and the first verse begins a parable attached to the principle so the thought processes of Jesus in Chapter 19 are continuing in Chapter 20. And the principle at the last verse if you look at it in Chapter 19 Verse 30 is, "Many that are first shall be last and the last shall be first." So the parable is attached to the principle. The principle emerges from an obstacle.
So I'm going back a little more with you. There was a problem, an obstacle that Peter encountered in the teaching of Jesus. See Jesus had met a rich young ruler in Chapter 19, if you remember last week. And the rich young ruler said, "Hey Jesus, what good thing must I do to earn, inherit and have everlasting life?" Jesus said, "Well, you know the commandments." And several of them were named, to these. "Oh I've done them all from my youth." Jesus said, "Good, great! Sell everything you have, give the money to the poor and then come and follow me and you'll have riches in heaven." We're told that that young man walked away sorrowfully because he had many riches. He was not willing to part with his god, which was his wealth.
So he didn't really love the Lord like he said and didn't really love people like he said and Jesus busted him. Then Jesus said to his disciples, "You know it's really hard for rich people to even go to heaven. In fact it's easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than for a rich person to go to heaven." And the disciples went, "What? Are you kidding?" I'm paraphrasing. "Who then can be saved?" I'm not paraphrasing there. Jesus said, "It's impossible. But with God, all things are possible." And then Peter butted in, he's good at that. "Oh Lord, we've forsaken everything and we've left our families and lands and everything to follow you, what are we going to get?" And Jesus says, "Don't worry Peter, you'll be handsomely rewarded. You, my disciples, you're going to sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel and the millennial kingdom and the kingdom age." And he ends with the principle as he says that to Peter. The many who were first will be last and the last will be first.
Now comes a parable to illuminate that principle. It's all based upon the previous conversation with the rich young ruler, what Jesus said about riches and what the disciples are trying to figure out in their minds this means, "Many who are first will be last and the last will be first." So he illustrates the principle of rewards. As we go through this, just keep something in mind and we're going to tie this in as we get through and end this parable. Every Christ follower -- how many Christ followers do we have tonight? Following Jesus Christ, I am one and you are many. We are following Christ. All of us are going to end up in heaven. It's pretty awesome. But not only that, that's -- I'm glad you're happy about that.
But not only that, you're going to get rewards, besides that gifts and presents. Besides heaven, presents to boo like a Major League Christmas party. He's going to give you gifts, rewards according -- I Corinthian says, according, each one will be given gifts or -- excuse me, according to the works that he does here on the Earth. So you get heaven as a gift. You don't earn that. It's a free gift. You come as a broken hearted sinner realizing you can do nothing to earn everlasting life. It's given as a gift based upon the merit of Christ. However, now that you're saved, you're saved for a purpose, to do good works and you will be given gifts according to your faithfulness in doing those works.
So what an amazing thought. Now only do we get heaven but we get presents as well. Keeping that in mind, look at Verse 1 of Chapter 20, "For the kingdom of heaven for" -- he's attaching now the parable to the principle. "For the kingdom of heaven is like a land owner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard."
In those days, in warmer months at the harvest time in the Middle East, the day began at six o'clock in the morning and ended at six o'clock in the evening. It was a twelve-hour workday. It was a very common scene to see laborers kind of mulling around the marketplace looking for a job, looking for anybody who would hire them during that peak season of the harvest. Landowners would come and look for people to come and work in the fields. It was a very common sight. They were standing around looking to be hired and a landowner early in the morning went out.
Verse 2, "Now, when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard." Now a couple of things I want you to note as we go through this because each little point will be helpful as we work our way through the story. Notice that those that he begins the day hiring, early in the morning, six o'clock in the morning. He first negotiates a wage with them in advance. Keep that in mind and I'll tie that thought together in a moment. So they agree on a set wage and what is the set wage? It's a penny in the King James, a denarius in our translation. That was the typical payment for a day laborer working an entire day.
Now I tried to do a little research to find out how much day laborers get in the United States for working out in the fields or just doing stuff around the yard or the factory and it varies from minimum wage, to below minimum wage, to above minimum wage, anywhere from $5 to $15 per hour. The workday was 12 hours, so let's just set a price on the payment for somebody working an entire day. Let's just, for convenience's sake say it's $100. So the landowner goes out and says, "Look I need you to work all day in my fields, I'll pay you $100." The guy says, "Great! That's a fair wage." It's negotiated and understood in advance.
Verse 3, "And he went out about the third hour. Now he's going back out to the marketplace at nine o'clock in the morning. And he saw others standing idle in the marketplace. And he said to them, "You also go into the vineyard and whatever is right, I will give you." And so they went. Now notice this, they are so eager to work, they don't negotiate a price. They just said, "Okay great," he said, "Whatever is right, I'll pay it." I go, "Cool, I just want a job for a few hours." At six o'clock in the morning they negotiate a price, $100, great. He goes out at nine o'clock and says "I want you to work, I'll pay you what is right." Awesome! They were just so anxious, they did it without negotiating the price.
Verse 5, "Again, he went out about the sixth and ninth hour and did likewise, twelve noon, three in the afternoon and about the eleventh hour." That's five o'clock. Now the day ends at six o'clock so he's going out and finding people to work one hour only. And he went out and found others standing idle and said to them, "Why have you been standing here idle all day?" A lot of bosses asked that about the people they employ.
And they said to him, "Because no one hired us." He said to them, "You also go into the vineyard and whatever is right, you will receive." So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to the steward, "Call the laborers and give them their wages beginning with the last to the first." Remember the principle. Many who were first will be last and the last will be first. So it's the end of the day. It's the time for him to pass out the paychecks. Question, why does the landowner in handing out the paychecks begin with those who worked fewer hours rather than with those he hired early in the morning? Answer, because he wants to test the hearts of those he hired all day long for an agreed wage. "Let's see their reaction when I am gracious and open hearted and want to give these people a great blessing." So reversed it; the last will be first, the first will be last. He begins with the last ones to give a reward or a paycheck.
Verse 9, "And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, five o'clock in the afternoon they only worked a single hour. They each received $100," that's $100 an hour, those are great wages. But when the first came, they suppose that they would receive more and they likewise receive each a denarius and when they had received it, they complained against the landowner saying, "These men have worked only one hour and you made them equal to us who have bourne the burden and the heat of the day." But he answered and said to them, "Friend I love that", not "Hey slave." But he's gentle to them. He's generous even toward them who were complaining, "Friend" he endears himself to them. "I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for $100? Take what is yours, go your way. I wish to give to these last men the same as to you. It's what I want to do. I don't owe it to him and I don't owe you anymore. We agreed on something. We shook hands on it. You were very happy this morning. Now you're not so happy. If I want to do this, it's my prerogative. I own the property. It's my will."
Now this is an interesting story and you have to admit any union boss would hate that story. This just isn't right. They would protest these practices, any HR Department; any Human Resources Department would even throw them into a tizzy. But they didn't have unions like we do today and they didn't have HR Departments like we have today. But here's the thought. If God's generosity were to be embodied or represented in a human being, that human being would be unlike any human being who ever lived, and that's how Jesus is portraying the landowner with the heart and generosity of God himself giving to this guy who worked only one hour the same wage.
Now there were two types of workers and we've seen them in the story. There was number one, the contract laborer, the day laborer who would work all day for prearranged fixed rice. It was agreed on, it was understood, it was the going rate. Fair was fair but number two there was the hourly worker. The shocker here is that Jesus gives to the hourly worker the same wage as he would give to the day laborer. He's just a gracious guy. He's a big tipper because he wanted to do it.
I was with a friend some years ago eating a meal in Southern California and we were talking to the waitress. She was Jewish. He was Israeli and we were trying to share our faiths. She asked what we did and we told her and she was bringing the water back and forth and the chips and the Matzah ball soup, I remember we ordered that that night and we would -- she would ask another question and we would tell her a little bit about the Lord and what Jesus has done for us and she was very interested but she also told us her story. And she was a single mom watching after her kids and she didn't make much money and this was her job and she had to get her kids, leave them alone and work and come back.
And so at the end of the meal, it wasn't a big meal, it wasn't an extravagant meal but my friend decided to tip her the amount of about four times the amount of the meal itself, not 20% of the meal or 15% or 10% or some Christians do $1, but to actually tip that lady the meal times four. And I look and said, "Boy, that's extravagant." What are the other waiters are going to say if they find out?" He says, "I don't care what they say. It's my money, I want to do it. We just told her about the Lord." The last thing he said, "Do you want to be as a bad Christian witness when you tip?" And he gave me the speech that, "Look at most Christians, they tip so poorly. And all they put is a track on the table which sort of turns people off. I think we should tip generously." "Boy, did he tip generously."
Well here you have a landowner tipping generously and the other people getting upset about it. That was the shocker. What was in the nature of their complaint? Why did the people who worked all day long complain? Is it because they didn't get what was promised to them? No. They agreed in advance. They are complaining merely against, simply against, solely against the big heartedness, the generosity of the landowner.
Now I don't know how you deal with God but if you deal with God like the guy who worked all day long -- I wonder if you're the type that says, "Lord I want to give me what I deserve." Then you better run from the lightning that should fall from heaven and strike you dead because that's what we deserve. I never ask the Lord for what I deserve, and you know the best way to handle whatever the Lord would dole out to you in terms of what he provides for you in life? To say, "Lord give me what you think is right." Like the landowner. "I'll pay you what is right," "Great." Lord, your God, you know what is right for me to say, "I'm not getting what I deserve." Do you really want to know what you deserve? Have you ever read the bible long enough to figure out what you and I deserve? We're going to get heaven in the end and we're going to get rewarded on top of that.
That's the promise God has made and he promised to provide for your needs, not your greeds but your needs. So just say, "Lord I'm leaving it up to you, you know what I need." A great passage of the scripture is Proverbs 30 where the author writes, "Two things I request of you, "Deprive me not before I die. Remove falsehood and lies far from me." It's number one. Number two, "Give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with the food that you have allotted to me. Lest I be full and deny you and say 'Who is the Lord?' or lest I be poor and steal and defame the name of the Lord." It's a great balance. "Lord you know what I need, so I'm just leaving that up to you." Don't give me riches, don't give me poverty. Now I wonder if we ever -- how many times you've ever prayed that, "Lord give me riches. Forget the poverty, I've got that." But just to say, "Lord, no neither extreme, just give me enough to live, to be comfortable, to bless others so I don't have to steal or so that I don't get prideful. I'm leaving it up to you. You know what's right."
Verse 15. Oh, by the way keep in mind what Peter has said to Jesus, "Well, Lord what about us? We've given up everything to serve, what are we going to get?" So this parable follows based upon the principle that he shared with Peter in the previous chapter. Verse 15, "It is not lawful or is it not lawful for me?" The landowner is asking now the complainers, the guys who have worked for $100, contract labor for the day. "Is it not right or lawful or legal for me to do what I want to do with my own my things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?" Do you get the picture? They're eyeing him, they're giving him the evil eye and you've been around people who will say sweet things to you but they have that look. They have the hairy eyeball. Eyes crunched down looking through their eyebrows at you.
And the landowner can see the evil intent in the eye and the look. "Why are you angry with me? I see the angry look in your eye."
Verse 16, "So the last will be first and the first, last for many are called but few are chosen." So bottom line, summary principle is that God is good. God is gracious. God is good all the time. All the time, God is good. I love that refrain. We should say that to each other more often. God is good, God is gracious and he will reward us. In II Corinthians Chapter 5, the bible says, "We" believers, "All of us will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the things that were done in our bodies whether good or bad, according to what we have done either good or bad. We're going to be rewarded by God for the things that we do as we serve the Lord. We're going to stand before the judgement seat or the Bema seat of Christ.
Now let me describe that to you. I did a series a while back and I did it on purpose because I had done so many funerals and I would listen to Christians as they would come up and give eulogies. I still listen to many of them and I'm appalled at what I hear. Supposed believers would say the craziest things at a funeral. Their uncle loved to play golf, so the Christian will get up and say, "Well he's in a better place, now he's in the great fairway in the sky." And I'm going, "Really? That's heaven?" What if you hate golf and you have to be in the great fairway in the sky? What if you're a bowler, are you in the great bowling alley in the sky? Is it just sort of whatever you like to do on Earth that's what you get in heaven?
And I'd hear all these erroneous things talked about by believers or, "Well now you know they're released from this body and they've sprouted wings and they're angels." And the belief that you turn into angels when you die, I'm thinking, "Where does this stuff come from?" Because they didn't come from the book and it was so appalling what I heard. I thought, "I need to do a series of teachings on what happens to a believer from the moment that believer dies and is ushered into God's presence all the way to the eternal state described at the end of the book of Revelations."
So we did a series called, "The edge from the edge of eternity" which shows all the different phases of a believer's everlasting life and part of it is that we're going to stand before Jesus to be judged. The Bema seat, the judgment seat of Christ, the word "judgment seat" is the word I keep saying it over and over again, "Bema seat", it's the Greek word, bēmata. That's the Greek work where it says judgment seat, the Bematos seat and the Bema or Bematos literally means a raised step or a raise platform. And the Greeks used the term to speak about a judge who is in an elevated position. And every Greek city, every Greek town had a Bematos, a Bema seat, a raised platform where judges would adjudicate, where orations were given by great orators.
In Corinth, Acts 18, Paul was accused falsely and taken before the Bematos, the judgment seat. And Paul uses this terminology when he writes back to the Corinthians. They were all going to stand before the Bematos, the judgment seat of Christ and we're going to receive rewards based upon what we have done upon the Earth. Now something else about the Bema seat in ancient Greece, the Bematos. It wasn't just where speeches were made or judges adjudicated or meetings were convened. The term Bematos was used in the Greek Olympics when you would run a race and at the end of the race, you would stand before the judges who were on a raised platform, the Bematos, Bema seat and they would give you a reward. Now the rewards weren't great, at least up in Athens. In Corinth they changed but up in Athens they would just say, "Job well done, you won the race," and they put a little crown on your head made of leaves. Little laurel leaves. You did all that work for months and months and you don't get a million dollar cash prize and a brand new car or a chariot. You get a little twig that will fade away in a few days.
It's going to turn brown. Now in our culture we go "Big deal, I'm not going to do that, I'm not going to run the Olympics for that." So Paul rides with the Corinthians, listen to what he says. "Don't you know that everyone who runs in a race, they all run but only one receives the price, so run that you may obtain for they do it for a corruptible crown. You do it for an incorruptible". They'll put in all that work in the Olympics to get a twig, God promises you an imperishable crown, a set of rewards which means you and I should put everything into our spiritual walk into the Christian life that we can possibly do because not only are we guaranteed heaven, but we get presents. We get rewards based upon what we do or we don't do and that will happen at the Bema seat of Christ.
Now I want to clear something up, because I believe some of you think you're going to stand before God to be judged and he's going to play a video of your life and your thoughts in front of everybody, you could just going to get red face and embarrassed, you'll go like, "I can't believe everybody has to see that" because people think that way. You are not going to stand before the great white throne judgment that's mentioned in the book of revelation, that's for unbelievers only. Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who were in Christ Jesus." Jesus Christ's blood pays for your sins you will never have to stand before God to answer for your sins. Jesus said the same thing in John chapter 5, "Whoever hears my word and believes in him who sent me has present tense ever lasting life and will not come into judgment but passes from death into life".
So you won't stand before the great white throne judgment to be judged by your sins but you and I will stand at the Bematos, the reward seat where Jesus Christ will give you a reward or hold back a reward based upon what you did on the Earth. Now I hope I'm clearing something up and you're thinking, "you are not saved by works." How are you saved? By faith. Grace through faith, to be technical. By God's grace a gift through your believing in him. You trust him, he graciously and freely gives you salvation. You don't earn it. But now that you're saved, you are saved in order that you can do good works, you're not saved by works, and you're saved for good works. Do you understand the difference? It says in Ephesians 2:4 "We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works". And the bible over and over and over and over brings up this thing that we're going to be judged by Christ for what we do, not for salvation but for rewards.
Jesus said in revelation to one of the seven churches, "Behold I am coming and my reward is with me to give to everyone according to his works". Jesus gave a parable, same principle, "You've been faithful in these small matters, I'll make you a ruler over ten cities, enter into the joy of your Lord and the joy of serving him." And I believe, strongly based upon all of the balance in the scripture that you get to heaven by God's free gift, but your position in heaven, moreover and to be more exact, your position in the Kingdom age, the millennial Kingdom, your ruling and reigning with Christ will depend upon your faithfulness here. So understand folks, that the whole purpose isn't that you get saved and that go to heaven. We sort of make that the big thing. "Oh great, they're saved, they're going to heaven," that's good. That's paramount. That's numero uno. But if that was God's sole purpose, the moment you receive Christ, you kill over and die, why risk it? "They received Christ, kill them now, get them to heaven." "Made it." But there's more to it. You are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, so you and I have a lifetime, how many days or years or months God gives us to think about, "How can I use my time in order to add to my bank account in glory?"
Didn't Jesus say "Don't store up for yourselves' treasures on earth," but listen, "Store up for yourself treasures in heaven where moth cannot corrupt or thieves cannot break in and steal". So that perspective is important. I did a message on this where I uncovered it piece-by-piece and more in-depth in that series that I told you about from the edge of eternity, the message was called "Bronze, silver or gold" if you want to refer to that, you can download it for free. There's something about the Bema seat of Christ before we move on. There's going to be some surprises, gracious surprises. Just like Jesus said to this guy who worked an hour, "Here's $100." And the guys are going, "$100? We worked all day and we got $100. This guy worked an hour and he gets $100," there's going to be some gracious surprises.
As Jesus gives out and doles out rewards in heaven, you go, "I don't remember her or him, they were never on our platform in our church, they never preached sermons or a saying and they worshipped him, we never saw them." That's the point. They served so faithfully behind the scenes, they were the prayer warriors, they were the servants who volunteered, and they never go the credit. One of the downsides of having a public ministry is that you get noticed, and people come up to you, "Oh you're just the greatest thing in sliced bread, we just love you ministry, Oh" and I'm going, "Oh no, I'm losing my reward".
So when you look out at the crowd in heaven and you see me sitting in the back row, and someone you've never seen here but getting these great rewards. In the front row you know why, and now you understand why Jesus said, "Whenever you do your righteous deeds, don't do them in order that you can be seen by men for verily I say into you, they already have their reward."
But do it in secret, don't let the right hand know what the left hand is doing in their father who sees in secret, he will reward you openly. Now verse 17, "Now. Jesus going up to Jerusalem" I have to do this, going up to Jerusalem? If you had a map, Jesus is going down to Jerusalem, he's up north, he's northeast and he's working his way from a geographical orientation, from north to south or northeast to southwest. So we would say in the west, he's going down to Jerusalem. Notice he says he's going up to Jerusalem for two reasons. When the bible reckons it doesn't reckon geographically, it reckons topographically.
The Dead Sea is 1,290 feet below sea level, Jesus is in Perea, he's higher than that but he goes down toward the Dead Sea, towards Jericho. And that's where he's going now, and then he's going to go up from there to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is around 2,500 feet above sea level, 24, 23, somewhere around there.
So they would be, if you were to try to walk or bicycle from Jericho to Jerusalem, you better be like really great athlete because it is just this sharp inclined and then you go, "I get it, I get it". They go up to Jerusalem because wherever you approach Jerusalem from, you're going up, number one. Number two, they always thought spiritually, no matter where you live in the world, even if you live in Rome or Athens or these great cities, going there is a step down when you go to God's holy place, you're moving up in the world. You're going up, you're always going up to Jerusalem.
If you were to immigrate to Israel today and become a citizen, they call it Aliyah in Hebrew which means "to go up". You're becoming a citizen, you are making Aliyah, you're going up in the world, and you're going to Israel. So, just a little F.Y.I. Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the 12 disciples aside on the road and said to them, "Behold, we are going to Jerusalem." Where are they going? Jerusalem, they're going up to Jerusalem. And the son of man will be betrayed to the chief priest and to the scribes and they will condemn him to death, so Jesus is going to go to Jerusalem to die.
And deliver him to the gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day he will rise again. And I'll tell you why I'm spelling this out, because that's what Jesus is doing to do 12 disciples, this is the third time Jesus has told them that he's going to go to Jerusalem and he's going to die. And it sort of went over their heads where they didn't want to deal with it or they tried to marginalize it or compartmentalize it, they didn't quite understand it because they're always thinking about, "I want the best spot in the Kingdom because that's going to come like any day now." And they're not getting there. So Jesus, it's like he says "Okay guys, look right here, right here right now. Right now, read my lips, if you're not listening to my voice, going to Jerusalem, going to die on a cross." Notice the word crucify, it's the first time Jesus mentioned that it would be death by crucifixion.
But he spells it out to them so it's unmistakable what is going to happen. Why is this important? Because every now and then you're going to read or watch the National Geographic Program on the Discovery Channel about this new theory about Jesus, and some have said he's -- he was like this ancient hippy who wanted to express love and peace and joy and goodwill and he was this naïve visionary who got caught in the mechanics of politics and religion and got himself crucified.
Or that he tried to become a revolutionary and usurp by staging a military quo to take over from the Romans. But he became a victim of crucifixion, all of those lame, non-historical, really a waste of time to make a movie out of theories could be eliminated by reading the historical text which tells us that this was a planned event. It did not surprise Jesus, revelation calls them the lambs slain from the foundation of the world, Jesus kept saying over and over and over again that he was going to die and now he says die on a cross.
From his birth, in the temples Simeon said to Mary, "A sword is going to pierce your own heart." There are plenty of clues and predictions that were made that this was not a mistake, that he didn't get caught in a miscarriage of justice, that this was a planned event that the father and Jesus and the spirit knew were all coming together at this time. Verse 20, I want to show you how they don't -- they still don't get it. "Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to him with her sons, James and John kneeling down and asking something from him and he said, "What do you wish?" And they said "Grant that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and one at your left hand in your Kingdom." Jesus answered and said to them -- no, he's talking to them. Just picture the scene, it's the mom and the mama's boys.
Coming up to Jesus, she does the talking. "Jesus, do me a favor, you wouldn't deny a poor woman would you? My two boys, I want to make sure that they have good seats in heaven, front row, first class, on either side of you ruling and reigning in the Kingdom." Now Jesus looks at the boys, James and John, Jesus answered and said, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink and to be baptized with the baptism that I'm baptized with?" They said to him, "Yeah," like "Yeah we're able." They're speaking out of zeal, not knowledge, they have no clue.
He said to them, "You will indeed drink my cup and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with but to sit on my right hand and my left is not mine to give but it is for those to whom it is prepared by my father."
Now the other gospels say that James and John came to Jesus to ask a favor, it's only by reading what Luke adds, "Do we now understand how the two boys ask?" They used their momma. They came to do the asking but the mom is the one who spoke up and gave the question. So Jesus says, "You have no idea what you're even asking for, are you able to drink the cup?" Now to drink the cup, meant to enter into an experience fully, and he was speaking about the cup of his death. And so, "Are you able to drink the cup that I'm going to drink speaking of it?" "Oh yeah sure, yeah no problem" and Jesus says "You will." And they did, it happened.
James becomes the first martyr; John according to the legend was boiled in oil. He didn't boil but at least we know historically he was exiled to the Island of Patmos. Those two boys went on to suffer and drink deeply of the cup of suffering as Jesus Christ predicted. That's not what Mrs. Zebedee wanted to hear. You know what her name is? We know from other gospel accounts, Mrs. Zebedee, the mom of James and John is named Salome, and she will be one of the gals who stands at the foot of the cross with the other woman looking up as Jesus is dying. And she'll look up and she'll see Jesus but she won't see on the right hand and on the left hand two thrones but two crosses. Then she'll understand what Jesus is saying in a few days.
Now I get it. Jesus had predicted his cross. She's thinking about the crown. Jesus' point is, "you can't wear the crown until you bear the cross and your two boys are going to bear a cross of suffering like I did or like I will," and she will understand that.
Now, in asking for this, I don't want to oppress the analogy but it sounds a bit like Satan before he fell from heaven. Isaiah 14 says Satan, this anointed cherub who covers this worship leader in heaven said, "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will be like the most high." He wanted a higher position than the one he had and he was cast out.
These two boys and their mom want a higher position. Now, things have been changed all that much in human nature through the years. It seems that people still want celebrity status, not servant status. They want to be a celebrity. They want to be on the executive staff with an executive position and benefits. It's interesting. I look back with my own perspective. Everybody has their own perspective in life. My perspective, when I first came here from California and we've started a bible study, I knew I needed help. I didn't know many people in the area so I would call my friends in California and say, "You are to move out here to Albuquerque and help serve with me, I need help. You could get a job locally and I need help in counseling. I need help in the administration." And they go, "Move where?" How do you spell that?" And nobody wanted to take it. Now, later on when the church grew and they were paid stuff positions, suddenly so many felt cold. I feel cold to be in your right hand or left hand in the kingdom, not that I have a kingdom to offer.
So, I'll just tell you right now. I'm looking for people who are servants already involved as you'll see here in the next few verses if we get to them before our time is up. Verse 24, "When the ten heard this" -- member two of the twelve are doing this. "When the ten heard this, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers." Now, they are probably upset because they didn't think of it first. "Oh men, James and John and momma got to Him first before we could." That was a good idea. We should have followed to that.
Jesus called them to Himself and He said, "You know that the rulers of the gentiles lorded over them and those who are great exercise authority over them, yet it shall not be so among you but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant and whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave, just as the son of man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.
Now, as they went out of Jericho, a great multitude followed Him. Jericho is 15 miles from Jerusalem but its way down, and Jerusalem is way up. It's a steep walk. Behold two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by cried out saying, "Have mercy on us, Oh Lord, son of David."
If you are a bible student, you might have thought that you've come across a discrepancy, a contradiction in the bible. Because here, Matthew says there were two blind men, Mark and Luke says there was one blind man and Mark even names the one blind man, do you remember his name? Bartimaeus. The story of blind Bartimaeus.
So, is there a contradiction? Not at all. This is a common perspective change that the gospel writers often exercise. Here's the deal. There were two blind men. The most prominent one was a guy by the name of Bartimaeus. The fact that Mark names him was probably most scholars believe because he was well-known maybe even one of the members of the early church from Jericho, as if to say you know Bartimaeus. And so because he was the most prominent and probably the spokesperson to most well-known, they isolate one. Matthew however, he is writing from a Jewish perspective to show that Jesus is the Messiah from a Jewish perspective. We talked about that at the beginning of the book. It would be important that Matthew includes that there were two blind men because the law says that you don't receive a testimony unless you do it from two witnesses. So it would be important that he would include the number two and there were the most prominent being Bartimaeus that Mark and Luke speak about.
So we have a blind man. Blind people couldn't work. Blind people would rely on their families. Many of them didn't have families. So, typically the blind were reduced to sitting out in front of the gate of the city. There were walled cities with gates at the gate of the city and they became beggars. That's where they congregated. That's what Bartimaeus and his buddy, whoever he was, was doing at the gate, begging.
Another F.Y.I., just factual information. We're told that there was a special plant that grew around Jericho that had a special balsamer. Balsam was extracted from this plant, used to treat blindness. If it work or not, I don't know but it made Jericho sort of a Mecca for those who are blind so it's not uncommon to read about a blind person in Jericho. So he cries out, "Son of David, have mercy on us." The multitudes warn them that they should be quiet. But they cried out the more saying, "Have mercy on us, oh son of David."
You know, for two blind guys, they sure could see better than most people because most people just thought a guy named Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth was coming through town. These two blind guys could see spiritually better than the whole crowd because they somehow knew that this was Jesus, the son of David. That's a messianic term. That's a very restricted Old Testament term to designate one in whom the covenant's promise has made to David, i.e. the Messiah would be fulfilled in. They knew that.
So they could see more than the rest of the crowd. Question, how did they know that? How did two blind dudes who never would leave Jericho. Blind people never travel from -- they have to be confined to whoever they could beg at the gate of the city. Having never heard Jesus before, having never seen Jesus because they hadn't come to their town, that's not recorded, how would they know or have enough faith to say "That's the Messiah, the son of David". Here's how I figured it. They were by the gate of the city begging everyday. The gate of a city was like watching CNN in ancient times. That's where all the news came through. All the people who traveled in and out of every town told the news at the gate of the city.
So these reports came flooding at about this preacher from Galilee traveling around named Jesus who healed the lame and raised the dead and could unstop death ears and blind Bartimaeus and his buddy hear that. And maybe one visitor came through town and old Bart said, "Excuse me, these are wonderful stories. Have you ever heard of this Jesus healing a blind man?" "Oh, yes. Several blind men he has healed."
Instantly, He thought, "That has to be the son of David." And probably in his own synagogue being Jewish, he heard sermons like Isaiah 61 that Jesus quoted in Matthew Chapter 4, "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, to undo the present doors to those who are captive and to give the recovery of sight to the blind."
Bartimaeus thought, "If that Jesus ever comes through town, I'm going to find Him because that's the Messiah." So here is Jesus is in this town and he shouts out, "Son of David, have mercy on us." The crowd says, "Be quiet." He cried out louder. Verse 32, Jesus stood still and called them and said, "What do you want me to do for you?"
Why did Jesus ask that question, didn't that sound a little unnecessary? A guy who's blind, "Excuse me, Jesus. Be merciful." I can't imagine what you would want. Well, that's not why He's asking the question. In asking the question, because He already knows the need, He wants the man to articulate his need. And I think that this is a lesson in being specific when you pray. When you talk to God, don't be general. "Oh, God bless India." How would you like the Lord to bless India in particular? By sending bibles over and bible translation and more missionaries or boldness for those who are there or the planning of churches, be specific. Because you articulate a need and you articulate a request then you can praise God when he answers you specifically in that request.
So, what is it you want? Then he said to him, "That our eyes may be opened." Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes and immediately their eyes received sight, notice. And they followed him.
They followed him. Why did they get an eye for then, didn't they? They would follow him up to Jerusalem. They would see the crowds gather around on top of the Mount of Olives. They would hear the crowd shout, "Hossana." They would see Him going to the temple. As they follow Him there where He overturned the tables and took a whip and drove people out. They would see Him as He was crucified and if they hung around long enough following Him, they would see Him rise from the dead, they got an eye fold. But before they ever saw any of that, what was the very first thing their eyes saw? Him. He stood in front of them, opened their eyes and the first thing, can you imagine, for the first thing your eyes ever to see? It's Jesus in the flesh.
One of the great hymn writers of the church, went by the nickname Fanny Crosby, she wrote 8,000 songs. 8,000 songs,
talk about Sing a New Song to the Lord. She became blind as a young girl. A minister said to her one day, "Miss Crosby, with all the gifts that God has given you, it's a pity that you are blind." She smiled and she said, "If I had but one request to ask God, it would be that I would have been born blind." He was amazed and she explained, "Because then the first face that would ever gladden my sight would be that of my savior." They had that experience. But before they saw physically they saw spiritually. "Son of David, have mercy on us."
Now, some people can see, can hear, they have all their faculties about them. They are healthy, they are well-clad, well-clothe. Some are well-clad, well-clothe and very good looking, but spiritually they are blind in destitute. To have all of the assets of this world but to be spiritually blind is worst than anything. You may remember and I'd close. I am going to close, I promise. One of the churches Jesus wrote to in Revelation, I believe Leo Desia(ph), he said, "Because you say I am rich and I have needed nothing but you don't know that you are miserable, wretched, poor, blind and naked. You have an assessment of yourself, I have another assessment. You think you're all together, I think you are lacking, you are blind. You think we can see,you're blind.
Maybe the Lord wants to open some eyes here tonight. Some of you have been looking at Jesus from afar, some of you have heard of Him or you've been religious or you've been inclined but you haven't given Christ reign and control over your life and tonight is the night for you to let go and do follow Jesus as he opens your eyes spiritually and that it does for you whatever He wants to do after that physically between now and heaven. But it begins with that active faith.Let's pray. Father, we close this service thinking of Bartemaeus who, though he couldn't see physically, boy, could he see into this spiritual realm quite clearly. And I believe that here tonight, that some eyes have been opened in a spiritual capacity. Their life has been lacking up until now, empty up until now, not all that they would imagine they could have been when they were younger. Some are just tired, sick and tired of being sick and tired, wanting satisfaction, fulfillment, purpose, meaning, as well as forgiveness. Open blind eyes Lord and bring those who don't know you into a relationship with you. In Jesus name we pray.