Challenging Jesus (By Les Kovacs)
Text: Matthew 15-16
Observe: In Chapter15, we see Jesus challenged three times by different people, in different ways, and we see the unexpected ways in which He responds to each.
First, the Pharisees ask Him why his disciples don’t follow the traditions of the elders by not washing their hands before eating. But Jesus rebukes them by asking if it is worse to disobey a human tradition, or one of the 10 Commandments of God. He calls them hypocrites and quotes Isaiah saying, ‘“These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules”. He explains to the people that it is what comes out of their mouth that defiles them, not what goes in.
Second, a Canaanite woman who shouldn’t even be talking to Jesus, asks Him to heal her demon-possessed daughter. At first Jesus doesn’t even acknowledge her, saying that He was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. But she persists, and so Jesus says that it isn’t right to take the children’s food and give it to the dogs. She answers yes, but even dogs eat the scraps from the master’s table. At that, Jesus recognizes her great faith and grants her request.
Third, after a great crowd had followed Jesus bringing their sick friends and relatives to Him, He performed many miracles of healing and restoration among them, and at the end, they all praised God. But, it was late and Jesus told His disciples to feed them before they went home. They just looked at Him and asked what they were supposed to feed the more than 4,000 people gathered around with. All they had were 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish, but once again, Jesus performed a miracle. After giving thanks to His Heavenly Father, He broke up the loaves and fish to pass around, and there more than enough to feed everyone, with plenty left over besides.
In Chapter 16, the Pharisees and Sadducees, ever on the look-out to try to trap Jesus, demanded that He give a sign from heaven. Jesus replied that this wicked generation could forecast the weather by seeing the signs in nature, but refused to see what was in front of them. The only sign they would get was the sign of Jonah. Then later as Jesus gathered with His disciples, he warned them to guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees, which they immediately misunderstood as a rebuke because they hadn’t brought any bread with them. He had to explain that He meant that they had to be wary of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Later, Jesus asks them who they believe He is, and after telling Him who they heard various people say He was, Peter answers correctly and says that He is the Messiah, the Living God. Jesus tells them that Peter knew this because it was revealed to him by His Father in heaven, and that He would build His church on Peter, the Rock, and nothing would be able to stand against it. Jesus then goes on to explain what must happen to Him in order for all this to take place, including His suffering, death and resurrection. At once Peter says “Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’” at which Jesus turned to Peter and says, “‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’” The chapter closes with Jesus telling them that if they want to be His disciple, they must take up their cross and follow Him.
Interpret: The challenges to Jesus’ teaching and authority are an on-going and constant barrage that He must deal with on daily basis. They are often blatant and obvious such as the conflict with the religious leaders of the day, or more subtle in the form of persistent requests from ordinary people, and even in the misunderstandings of His own disciples. These challenges come from every direction and in every form, all the time. “He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him” John 1:11. But being in nature God, Jesus was always able to give irrefutable answer to the hypocrite leaders of the day. He had compassion on those who were suffering from the injustices and ills of the world who turned to Him for relief. He had patience to explain His ways to the disciples who were steeped in the ways of the world and didn’t always understand the deeper meaning of His teachings. And He displayed His power and authority over creation by performing miracles that healed the sick and desperate people in humility, ascribing all the praise and glory to His Father in heaven.
Application: In John 17 it says that though we are in this world, we are not of this world. We are disciples of Jesus Christ, and as such, we are to read and study His Holy Word, spend time in prayer with our heavenly Father, and carry out His will in our lives by spreading the good news of salvation we have been given. But, just like the people of Jesus’ day, we challenge His authority in our lives all the time. Sometimes we challenge Him in bold and blasphemous ways, and other times we challenge Him by ignoring Him and shrugging Him off. When we forget to give thanks to God for our successes, we challenge His blessings in our lives. When we give in to our temptations, we challenge His plan for our well-being. When we don’t seek the wisdom of His Holy Spirit, we challenge His trustworthiness. In so many ways throughout the day, we challenge Jesus. But, being in nature, God, with all the glorious and good attributes of a loving God, Jesus answers our challenges with patience, forgiveness, mercy and grace. When we challenge Jesus, we lose, but when we keep His word, we have His sure promise of eternal life.
Questions: What are some of the ways that your behaviours challenge Jesus? Do you spend time with Him daily? Do you seek His wisdom in your daily decisions?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the example of the divine humility that Jesus displayed in becoming human and living as one of us. Thank you for the sacrifice He made in order to allow us to be called your children. Help us to see the righteousness of seeking your voice and following Your will as He so faithfully did. This we pray in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.
Song: I Will Follow: Chris Tomlin
Comments are closed.
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.