This brief commentary on the Gospel of Matthew by a champion of traditional dispensational theology should prove helpful in your study of God's Word. Enjoy!
Copyright 1919: In the Public Domain
* This Preface should be carefully read before the Gospel is studied.
"The Scope and Division of Matthew": Contents
The Gospel of Matthew stands first among the Gospels and in the New Testament, because it belongs in the first place and may be rightly termed the Genesis of the New Testament. Genesis, the first book of the Bible, contains in itself the entire Bible. Matthew is the book of the beginnings of a new dispensation. It may be compared to a mighty tree. The roots are deeply sunk in massive rocks while its uncountable branches and twigs extend upward higher and higher in perfect symmetry and beauty. The foundation is the Old Testament with its Messianic and Kingdom promises. Out of this all springs forth in perfect harmony, reaching higher and higher into the new dispensation and to the end of the millennial age.
The instrument chosen by the Holy Spirit to write this Gospel was Matthew. He was a Jew. However, he did not belong to the religious, educated class, to the scribes, but he belonged to the class which was most bitterly hated. He was a publican, that is, a tax gatherer. The Roman government had appointed officials whose duty it was to have the legal tax gathered, and these officials, mostly, if not all Gentiles, appointed the actual collectors, who were generally Jews. Only the most unscrupulous among the Jews would hire themselves out for the sake of gain to the avowed enemy of Jerusalem. Wherever there was still a ray of hope for Messiah's coming, the Jew would naturally shrink from being associated with the Gentiles, who were to be swept away from the land with the coming of the King. For this reason the tax gatherers, being Roman employees, were hated by the Jews even more bitterly than the Gentiles themselves. Such a hated tax gatherer was the writer of the first Gospel. How the grace of God is revealed in his call is seen in the record itself. That he was chosen to write this first Gospel is in itself significant, for it speaks of a new order of things about to be introduced, namely, the call of the despised Gentiles.
Internal evidences seem to show that most likely originally Matthew wrote the Gospel in Aramaic, the Semitic dialect then spoken in Palestine. The Gospel was later translated into Greek. This, however, is certain, that the Gospel of Matthew is preeminently the Jewish Gospel. There are many passages in it, which in their fundamental meaning can only be correctly understood by one who is quite familiar with Jewish customs and the traditional teachings of the elders. Because it is the Jewish Gospel, it is dispensational throughout. It is safe to say that a person, no matter how learned or devoted, who does not hold the clearly revealed dispensational truths concerning the Jews, the Gentiles and the church of God, will fail to understand Matthew. This is, alas, too much the case, and well it would be if it were not more than individual failure to understand; but it is more than that. Confusion, error, false doctrine is the final outcome, when the right key to any part of God's Word is lacking. If the dispensational character of Matthew were understood, no ethical teaching from the so-called Sermon on the Mount at the expense of the Atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ would be possible, nor would there be room for the subtle, modern delusion, so universal now, of a "social Christianity" which aims at lifting up the masses and the conversion of the world. How different matters would be in Christendom if its leading teachers and preachers, commentators and professors, had understood and would understand the meaning of the seven parables in Matthew 13, with their deep and solemn lessons. When we think how many of the leaders of religious thought reject and even oppose all dispensational teachings, who never knew how to divide the Word of truth rightly, it is not strange that so many of these men dare to stand up and say that the Gospel of Matthew, as well as the other Gospels and the different parts of the New Testament, contain numerous contradictions and errors.
Out of this failure to discern dispensational truths has likewise arisen the attempt, by a very well meaning class, to harmonize the Gospel records and to arrange the events in the life of our Lord in a chronological order, and thus produce a life of Jesus Christ, our Lord, as we have a descriptive life of Napoleon or other great men. The Holy Spirit has never undertaken to produce a life of Christ. That is very evident by the fact that the greater part of the life of our Lord is passed over in silence; nor was it in the mind of the Spirit to report all the words and miracles and the movements of our Lord, nor to record all the events which took place during His public ministry, and to arrange it all in a chronological order. What presumption, then, to attempt to do that which the Holy Spirit never attempted! If the Holy Spirit never intended that the recorded events in the life of our Saviour should be strictly chronological, how vain and foolish then, if not more, the attempt to bring out a harmony of the different Gospels! One has correctly said, "The Holy Spirit is not a reporter, but an editor." This is well said. A reporter's business is to report events as they happen. The editor arranges the material in a way to suit himself, and leaves out or makes comment just as he thinks best. This the Holy Spirit has done in giving four Gospels, which are not a mechanical reporting of the doings of a person called Jesus of Nazareth, but the spiritual unfoldings of the blessed person and work of our Saviour and Lord, as King of the Jews, servant in obedience, Son of Man and the only begotten of the Father. We cannot enter more deeply into this now, but in the annotation of the Gospel we shall illustrate this fact.
In the Gospel of Matthew, as the Jewish Gospel, speaking of the King and the kingdom, dispensational throughout, treating of the Jews, the Gentiles and even the church of God in anticipation, as no other Gospel does, everything must be looked upon from the dispensational point of view. All the miracles recorded, the words spoken, the events which are given in their peculiar setting, every parable, every chapter from beginning to end, are first of all to be looked upon as foreshadowing and teaching dispensational truths. This is the right key to the Gospel of Matthew. It is likewise a significant fact that in the condition of the people Israel, with their proud religious leaders rejecting the Lord, their King and the threatened judgment in consequence of it, we may see a true photograph of the end of the present dispensation, and the coming doom of apostate Christendom. The characteristics of the times, when our Lord appeared among His people, who were so religious, self-righteous, being divided into different sects, Ritualists (Pharisees) and Rationalists (Sadducees--Higher Critics), following the teachings of men, occupied with man-made creeds and doctrines, etc., are exactly reproduced in Christendom, with its man-made ordinances, rituals and rationalistic teachings.
There are seven great facts which are prominent in this Gospel and around which everything is grouped. We will briefly review them.
I.--The King. The Old Testament is full of promises which speak of the coming, not alone of a deliverer, a sinbearer, but of the coming of a King Messiah as He is still called by orthodox Jews. This King was eagerly expected, hoped for and prayed for by the pious in Israel. The Gospel of Matthew proves that our Lord Jesus Christ is truly this promised King. In it we see Him as King of the Jews, everything shows that He is in truth the royal person, of whom Seers and Prophets wrote. First it would be necessary to prove that He is legally the King. This is seen in the first chapter, where a genealogy is given which proves His royal descent. The beginning is, "The Book of the generation of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham." It goes back to Abraham and there it stops, while in Luke the genealogy reaches up to Adam. In the Gospel of Matthew He is seen as Son of David, His royal descent, and as Son of Abraham, according to the flesh from the seed of Abraham.
The coming of the wise men is only recorded in Matthew. They came to worship the new born King of the Jews. His royal birthplace, David's city, is given. The infant is worshipped by the representatives of the Gentiles and they do homage indeed before a true King, though the marks of poverty were around Him. The gold they gave speaks of His Deity. Every true King has a herald, so has the King Messiah. The forerunner appears and in Matthew his message to the nation is that "The Kingdom of heaven has drawn nigh"; the royal person so long foretold is about to appear and to preach that Kingdom likewise. When the King who was rejected comes again to set up the Kingdom, He will be preceded once more by a herald who will declare His coming among His people Israel, even Elijah the prophet. In the fourth chapter we see the King tested and proven that He is the King. He is tested thrice, once as Son of Man, as Son of God and as the King Messiah. After the testing, out of which He comes forth a complete victor, He begins His ministry.
The Sermon on the Mount is given in Matthew in full. Mark and Luke report it only in fragments and John has not a word of it. This should at once determine the status of the three chapters which contain this discourse. It is a teaching concerning the Kingdom, the magna charta of the Kingdom and all its principles. Such a kingdom in the earth, with subjects who have all the characteristics of the royal requirements laid down in this discourse, will yet be. If Israel had accepted the King it would then have come, but the kingdom has been postponed. The Kingdom will at last come with a righteous nation as a center, but the church is not that kingdom. In this wonderful discourse the Lord speaks as the King and as the Lawgiver, who expounds the law which is to rule His Kingdom.
From the eighth to the twelfth chapters, we see the royal manifestations of Him who is Jehovah manifested in the flesh. This part especially is interesting and very instructive, because it gives in a series of miracles, the dispensational hints concerning Jew and Gentile, and what comes after the present age is past.
As King He sends out His servants and endues them with kingdom power, preaching likewise the nearness of the kingdom. After the tenth chapter the rejection begins, followed by His teachings in parables, the revealing Of secrets. He is presented to Jerusalem as King, and the Messianic welcome is heard, "Blessed is He who cometh in the name of Jehovah." After that His suffering and His death. In all His Kingly character is brought out, and the Gospel closes abruptly, and has nothing to say of His ascension to heaven; but the Lord is, so to speak, left on the earth with power, all power in heaven and on earth. In this closing it is seen that He is the King. He rules in heaven now and on the earth when He comes again.
II.--The Kingdom. The phrase Kingdom of Heaven occurs only in the Gospel of Matthew. We find it thirty-two times. What does it mean? Here is the failure of the interpretation of the Word; all error and the confusion around us springs from the false conception of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is generally taught and understood that the term Kingdom of Heaven means the church, and thus the church is thought to be the true Kingdom of Heaven, established in the earth, and conquering the nations and the world. The Kingdom of Heaven is not the church, and the church is not the Kingdom of the Heavens. This is a very vital truth. May the annotations of this Gospel be used in making this distinction very clear in the minds of our readers. When our Lord speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven up to the twelfth chapter He does not mean the church, but the Kingdom of Heaven in its Old Testament sense, as it is promised to Israel, to be established in the land, with Jerusalem for a center, and from there to spread over all the nations and the entire earth. What did the pious, believing Jew expect according to the Scriptures? He expected (and still expects) the coming of the King Messiah, who is to occupy the throne of His father David. He was expected to bring judgment for the enemies of Jerusalem, and to bring together the outcasts of Israel. The land would flourish as never before; universal peace would be established; righteousness and peace in the knowledge of the glory of the Lord to cover the earth as the waters cover the deep. All this in the earth with the land, which is Jehovah's land, as fountain head, from which all the blessings, the streams of living waters, flow. A temple, a house of worship, for all nations was expected to stand in Jerusalem, to which the nations would come to worship the Lord. This is the Kingdom of the Heavens as promised to Israel and as expected by them. It is all to be on the earth. The church, however, is something entirely different. The hope of the church, the place of the church, the calling of the church, the destiny of the church, the reigning and ruling of the church is not earthly, but it is heavenly. Now the King long expected had appeared, and He preached the Kingdom of the Heavens having drawn nigh, that is, this promised earthly kingdom for Israel. When John the Baptist preached, Repent ye, for the kingdom of the Heavens has drawn nigh, he meant the same. It is all wrong to preach the Gospel from such a text and state that the sinner is to repent and then the Kingdom will come to him. A Very well known English teacher of spiritual truths gave not long ago in this country a discourse on the mistranslated text, "The Kingdom of God is within you," and dwelt largely on the fact that the Kingdom is within the believer. The context shows that this is erroneous; the true translation is "The Kingdom is among you;" that is, in the person of the King.
Now if Israel had accepted the testimony of John, and had repented, and if they had accepted the King, the Kingdom would have come, but now it has been postponed till Jewish disciples will pray again in preaching the coming of the Kingdom, "Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is done in heaven." That will be after the church has been removed to the heavenly places.
III.--The King and the Kingdom are rejected. This is likewise foretold in the Old Testament, Isaiah 53, Daniel 9:26, Psalm 22, etc. It is also seen in types, Joseph, David and others. The herald of the King is first rejected and ends in the prison, being murdered. This speaks Of the rejection of the King Himself. In no other Gospel is the story of the rejection so completely told as here. It begins in Galilee, in His own city, and ends in Jerusalem. The rejection is not human but it is Satanic. All the wickedness and depravity of the heart is uncovered and Satan revealed throughout. All classes are concerned in the rejection. The crowds who had followed Him and were fed by Him, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, the priests, the chief priests, the high priest, the elders. At last it becomes evident that they knew Him who He was, their Lord and their King, and willfully they delivered Him into the hands of the Gentiles. The story of the cross in Matthew, too, brings out the darkest side of the rejection. Thus prophecy is seen fulfilled in the rejection of the King.
IV.--The Rejection of His Earthly People and their Judgment. This is another theme of the Old Testament which is very prominent in the Gospel of Matthew. They rejected Him and He leaves them, and judgment falls upon them. In the eleventh chapter He reproaches the cities in which most of His works of power had taken place, because they had not repented. At the end of the twelfth chapter He denies His relations and refuses to see His own, while in the beginning of the thirteenth He leaves the house and goes down to the sea, the latter typifies the nations. After His royal presentation to Jerusalem, the next day early in the morning, He curses the fig trees, which foreshadows Israel's national death, and after He uttered His two parables to the chief priests and elders, He declares that the Kingdom of God is to be taken away from them and is to be given to a nation which is to bring the fruit thereof. The whole twenty-third chapter contains the woes upon the Pharisees, and at the end He speaks of Jerusalem and declares that their house is to be left desolate till they shall say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.
V.--The Mysteries of the Kingdom of the Heavens. The kingdom has been rejected by the people of the kingdom and the King Himself has left the earth. During His absence the Kingdom of the Heavens is in the hands of men. There is then the kingdom in the earth in an entirely different form as it was revealed in the Old Testament; the mysteries of the kingdom hidden from the world's foundation are now made known. This we learn in Matthew 13, and here, too, we have at least a glimpse of the church. Again it is to be understood that both are not identical. But what is the Kingdom in its mystery form? The seven parables teach this. It is seen there is an evil mixed condition. The church, the one body, is not evil, for the church is Composed of those who are beloved of God, called saints, but Christendom, including all professors, is properly that Kingdom of the Heavens in the thirteenth chapter. The parables bring out what may be termed the history of Christendom. It is a history of failure, becoming that which the King never meant it to be, the leaven of evil, indeed, leavening the whole lump, and thus it continues till the King comes back, when all the offences will be gathered out of the Kingdom. The parable of the pearl alone speaks of the church.
VI.--The Church. In no other Gospel is anything Said of the church except in the Gospel of Matthew. In the sixteenth chapter Peter gives his testimony concerning the Lord, revealed to him from the Father, who is in the heavens. The Lord tells him that on "this rock I will build My assembly--church--and hades' gates shall not prevail against it." It is not I have built, but I will build My church. Right after this promise He speaks of His suffering and death. The transfiguration which follows the first declaration of His coming death, speaks of the glory which will follow, and is a type of the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:16). Much that follows the declaration of the Lord concerning the building of the church is to be applied to the church.
VII.--The Mount of Olivet Discourse. Prophetic Teachings Concerning the End of the Age. This discourse was given to the disciples after the Lord had spoken His last word to Jerusalem. It is one of the most remarkable sections of the entire Gospel. We find it in the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters. In it the Lord teaches concerning the Jews, the Gentiles and Christendom, including the true church. The order is different. The Gentiles stand last. The reason for that is that the church will be removed first from the earth and the professors of Christendom will be left, who are nothing but Gentiles concerned in the judgment of nations as made known by the Lord. The first part of Matthew 24 is Jewish throughout. From the fourth to the forty-fifth verse we have a most important prophecy, which gives the events which follow after the church is taken from the earth. The Lord takes here many of the Old Testament prophecies and blends them in one great prophecy. Three parables follow in which the saved and unsaved are seen. Waiting and serving is the leading thought. Reward and casting out into outward darkness the twofold outcome. This, then, finds an application in Christendom and the Church. The ending of Matthew 25 is the judgment of nations. This is not the universal judgment, a popular term in Christendom, but it is the judgment of the nations at the time when our Lord as Son of Man sits upon the throne of His glory.
The characteristic keyword of the Gospel of Matthew is the word "Kingdom." As stated before the phrase "Kingdom of heaven" is found thirty-two times in this Gospel. In the third chapter the herald of the King, John the Baptist, announced the Kingdom of heaven at hand. The King in beginning His ministry preached the same message and when He sent forth His disciples He gave them this instruction: "And as ye go, preach, saying, The Kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Chapter 10:7). But this preaching suddenly ended. John the Baptist was cast into prison. The Pharisees and Sadducees opposed the King and the Kingdom He preached. After the twelfth chapter we hear no longer the Kingdom announced as being at hand. Instead of the nation-wide proclamation of the Kingdom, the Lord begins to teach the mysteries of the Kingdom, announces His rejection and His death; then goes up to Jerusalem where He was presented as King, suffered, died and was raised from the dead.
The Gospel has therefore two main divisions: The first Chapter 1-12 and the second from Chapter 13 to 28.
I. The King and the Offer of the Kingdom. Chapter 1-12.
1. The King, His Genealogy and His Birth. Chapter 1.
2. The King Worshipped by Gentiles; Jerusalem in Ignorance of Him; the Child Persecuted. Chapter 2.
3. The Herald of the King: the King enters upon His public Ministry. Chapter 3.
4. The Testing of the King and His Testimony. Chapter 4.
5. The Proclamation of the King. Chapters 5, 6, 7.
6. The King Manifested by Signs of Divine Power. Chapters 8, 9.
7. The Messengers Of the King. Chapter 10.
8. The Forerunner in Prison and the Rejection of the Kingdom. Chapter 11.
9. The Rejection Consummated and the Broken Relationship. Chapter 12.
II. The Rejected Kingdom and the Rejection of the King; His Death
and Resurrection. Chapter 13-28.
1. The King at the Seashore. The Mysteries of the Kingdom. Chapter 13.
2. John's Martyrdom and the Fourfold Attitude of the Rejected King. Chapter 14.
3. The Corruption of the Scribes and Pharisees. The Canaanitish Woman. Multitudes Healed. Chapter 15.
4. The Predictions of the Rejected King Concerning Himself. Chapter 16.
5. The Coming Glory. The Helpless Disciples and the Power of the King. Chapter 17.
6. Instructions to His Disciples. Concerning Forgiveness. Chapter 18.
7. Departure from Galilee. Concerning Divorce. The Little Children Blessed. The Rich Young Man. Chapter 19.
8. The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. The Healing of the Two Blind Men. Chapter 20.
9. The King's Entry into Jerusalem. The Parables of the Two Sons and the Householders. Chapter 21.
10. The Parable of the Marriage Feast. Questions Answered. The Unanswered Question. Chapter 22.
11. The Woes of the King and the Lamentation over Jerusalem. Chapter 23.
12. The Olivet Discourse. Chapters 24, 25.
13. The Passion of the King. Chapters 26, 27.
14. The Resurrection and the Great Commission. Chapter 28.
1. Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. 1:1.
2. From Abraham to David. 1:2-6.
3. From David to the Captivity. 1:6-11.
4. From the Captivity to the Birth of Christ. 1:12-17.
5. The Birth of Jesus Christ. 1:18-25.
The first two words in the Greek (Biblos geneseos) "the book of generation" corresponds to the same term in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 2:4, etc.). The question of a genealogy is an important one with the Jew. The legal right to the throne of David must be first of all proven so that no doubt can be attached to His claim of being the promised King. Because it is the question of Kingship, "Son of David" precedes "Son of Abraham." An uninspired writer would have put "Son of Abraham" in the first place. As He is the promised King who comes to the nation Israel, the fact that He is the Son of David is put into the foreground. But He is also the Son of Abraham through whom the promises of blessing to the Gentiles are to be fulfilled.
The genealogy of our Lord in Matthew differs from the one in Luke. The one in the Gospel of Luke (chapter 3) proves that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is of David through the house of Nathan. The genealogy of Matthew shows Joseph, who was supposed to be the father of Jesus (Luke 3:23), is a descendant of David through the line of Solomon. The descendants of Solomon have the legal right to the throne. But the last King of Judah, Jeconias, a son of Solomon, was so wicked that a curse was pronounced upon him and he was to be childless, "no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David" (Jeremiah 22:30). However, this curse did not affect the legal claim to the throne. But Jesus was not the son of David through Joseph, but through Mary the virgin, who came of David through the line of Nathan. No curse rested upon that line. As the supposed son of Joseph He inherited the legal title to the throne through Joseph, but being the son of David through Mary, the curse which rested upon Jeconias was not upon Him. The genealogy in Matthew shows, therefore, that Joseph, the supposed father of Jesus, is in point of law entitled to the throne, therefore Jesus is legally heir to the throne of David. If Mary, the mother of our Lord, had not been legally the wife of Joseph, a son of David, the Jews could have rejected the claims of Jesus to the throne. We see, then, that legally He was the son of Joseph with the full crown rights upon Him; in His true humanity, He is of Mary the virgin, also of David; then at the close of the chapter we read that He is the Son of God.
The genealogy tells the story of decadence. Corruption, ruin and hopelessness is written therein. As generation after generation is given, we follow the shameful history of Israel, a history of unbelief and judgment. At last all is dark and hopeless. Like Sarah's womb (the type of the nation) the nation is dead. But God can bring life from the dead. "When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, come of woman, come under the law" (Galatians 4:4). The genealogy has three divisions, each division has fourteen generations. David alone has the title, the King (verse 6). Solomon's name is not given as King, to show the promises made to David concerning a son to come from his loins (2 Samuel 7:8-16) were not fulfilled in Solomon.
Notice the four Gentile women in the genealogy of the King. Tamar (telling out the ravages of sin); Rahab (she was saved by faith); Ruth (under the curse of the law, but brought into relation with Israel); then the one of Uriah, that is Bath-Sheba (David's sin brought into remembrance). These four women tell out beforehand the story of the Gospel and how the promised King would also be the Saviour of the Gentiles.
The story of His birth concludes this chapter. The virgin birth is here fully revealed and this birth is given as the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. The two Gospels, which mention His birth, Matthew and Luke, show in the most perfect way that the Son of God, the eternal Word, became man, born of the virgin, a true human being, yet "that holy thing," absolutely without sin. His human nature proceeded directly from the Spirit of God. The early Jews never attacked the accounts of the birth of our Lord. Many, many years later wicked hands wrote a vulgar and blasphemous account of the birth of our Lord. Apostate Christendom has sided with the wicked denials of Jewish and Gentile infidels of the past. Can there be anything more blasphemous, more wicked, more immoral, than the teaching, so widespread today, that our Lord as to His human nature was not "conceived by the Holy Spirit"?
1. The Visit of the Wise Men. 2:1-12.
2. The Flight into Egypt. 2:13-18.
3. The Return from Egypt. 2:19-23.
The authenticity of the story of the visit of the wise men seeking the new-born King of the Jews has been doubted, because no other Evangelist reports this incident. It belongs properly into the Gospel, in which our Lord is portrayed as the King. This is the reason of its being reported only in Matthew's Gospel. The wise men were not three persons, nor were they Kings. It must have been a larger company, for it troubled Herod and all Jerusalem with him. Nor did the visit take place immediately after the birth of our Lord. The correct rendering of the first verse is, "But Jesus having been born," that is, some time after and not immediately after. The pictures which portray the wise men worshipping the child in a stable are unscriptural, for it says they found the young child in a house. It was most likely a year after His birth, that the wise men from the East appeared. Luke 2:41 shows that His parents went to Jerusalem every year; they must then also have visited Bethlehem again.
The promised King is unknown in His own city, Jerusalem. His own people are ignorant of Him. Gentiles come first to do Him homage. The ecclesiastical authorities are indifferent to His claims, the civil ruler, Herod, the King, hates Him, and as Satan's instrument seeks His life. The history of the King and His Kingdom is outlined in this story. His own are not going to receive Him. The indifference of the chief priests and scribes points to their coming antagonism. But Gentiles seek Him first. Simeon's prophetic song is seen here in its coming fulfillment, "A light to lighten the Gentiles," but in the end also, after God's purpose in this age is accomplished, "the glory of thy people Israel" (Luke 2:32). They bring gold, typical of divinity; frankincense, indicating the fragrance of His life and worship; and myrrh, that which is used in burial, a hint as to His death. Note that this is not a fulfillment of Isaiah 9:6. That passage refers to the time when the Kingdom is set up on earth. Myrrh in Isaiah is not mentioned.
Throughout the chapter the child always occupies the first and prominent place. It is never "Mary and the child," or "the mother and the child," but "the little child and His mother"--The child is above the mother. What a rebuke to the Romish church, which in idolatry puts the mother above the child.
See Hosea 11:1 on the flight to Egypt and the return. All indicates what is to be done to Him, who is the King.
1. The Herald of the King. 3:1-6.
2. His Message and His Baptism. 3:7-12.
3. The King in Jordan's Waters. 3:13-17.
John the Baptist, the Herald of the King, is now introduced. See Luke 1:15-17 for the angelic announcement of his birth and mission. He is predicted in the Old Testament. Isaiah 40:3-5, Malachi 3:1. He appeared like Elijah the Prophet (2 Kings 1:8). But He was not Elijah. See also Matthew 17:12. And before the King comes the second time there will be once more a forerunner. Malachi 4:5-6 will then be fulfilled. John knew his mission (John 1:23). His testimony as reported by Matthew concerns the nation. In the Gospel of John we find the record of another testimony given by the forerunner. He knew the King also as the Lamb of God.
He calls the nation to repentance, because the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. The phrase "Kingdom of heaven" (literally "of the heavens") occurs here for the first time. It does not mean the offer of salvation, nor does it mean the church, nor the social betterment of the people, but it signifies the Messianic Kingdom as promised by the Prophets of God, a Kingdom which is to be set up on earth and over which the Son of David is to be King. This the forerunner announced. This Kingdom the Lord Jesus and His disciples preached, till it became evident that Israel would not have this Kingdom. Then the preaching ceased.
In verses 11 and 12, there is a blending together of the first and second coming of Christ. As a result of the first coming of Christ the baptism with the Holy Spirit took place. The fire baptism refers to judgment. The twelfth verse describes the fire baptism of judgment when the King comes again.
The baptism of John has nothing to do with Christian baptism. It was baptism unto repentance only. By being baptized in Jordan (the type of death) they confessed that they had deserved death.
Then the King entered upon His public ministry. He too entered the waters of Jordan and was baptized; not that He needed it, but to signify He came to be the substitute of sinners and to take the sinners' place in death. In the baptismal scene we have His whole blessed work foreshadowed. He is the holy One, who needed no baptism for He had no sin. His death is foreshadowed when He went into Jordan; His resurrection, when He came out of the water; His ascension, when heaven was opened unto Him. The gift of the Holy Spirit is seen next and this is followed by the declaration of Sonship. Into this the believer enters. We are dead and risen with Him; Heaven too is opened unto us and we have received the Spirit of Sonship.
1. The Testing by the Devil. 4:1-11.
2. His Testimony and His Disciples. 4:12-22.
3. The Powers of the Kingdom. 4:23-25.
Then He was led (literally: carried) by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. "And immediately the Spirit drives Him out into the wilderness" (Mark 1:12). And He was there with the wild beasts (Mark 1:13). After He had fasted for forty days, the tempter came to Him. What a contrast with the first man, Adam, in the garden of Eden! The devil is a person and not an evil influence. The "new theology" invented by the father of lies has no use for a personal devil. The Lord's temptations, according to that theology, were only imaginations. The denial of the personality of the devil is a serious thing.
In studying this chapter it must be remembered that the Lord Jesus was absolutely holy. Therefore He could not fall nor be tempted by sin. If He could have fallen into sin He would have needed a Saviour and could not have been our Saviour. He was tempted in all things as we are "apart from sin." A better word for tempting is "testing." The devil came to test Him. He was tested as to His ability to do that for which He came. The test proves that He is pure gold, the Holy and Spotless One, Who is fit to Put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Satan makes three tests. Each test is met by the Lord Jesus with the Word of God, with a "It is written." And He quotes the Word exclusively from Deuteronomy, the book of obedience. The devil with his three temptations tried to keep Him back from doing the will of God. He wanted Christ to act independently from His Father. If He had acted thus for Himself He would have proven His unfitness to suffer and to die. If He had been disobedient in the smallest matter, He could not have been obedient unto death. The two first temptations were a challenge to prove Himself the Son of God. The last was the presumptuous offer of the usurping prince of this world to give to Christ the Kingdoms of the world, if He would fall down before him. He knew that eventually, by the way of the Cross, the Son of God would obtain the Kingdoms, that they would become His and he, the proud usurper, would be spoiled of all, stripped of his power and cast into the lake of fire. He wanted Christ to be disobedient to the Word as he led the first man to disobedience. He tried to keep Him from going to the Cross. The Lord defeated him completely and he left Him for a season. (For a complete exegesis of the temptation see our larger Commentary on Matthew, Vol. 1, pages 79-96.)
The report reached Him that John, the forerunner, had been cast into prison. He then departed into Galilee. It is His Galilean ministry which Matthew reports; the events of the Judean ministry are not given by him. These we find in the Gospel of John. He preached in Nazareth and dwelt in Capernaum. What happened in Nazareth is more fully reported by Luke (Chapter 4:14-32). His own townspeople were filled with wrath and thrust Him out of the city, trying to cast Him down a hill. The first murderous attempt was made in Nazareth.
He preached the message of the Kingdom throughout that region. Peter, Andrew and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, are called by Him into service. They left all, the nets, the ship and even the father to follow Him and became fishers of men.
For the first time in Matthew we read of the signs which were linked with the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom. The healing of the sick and the demon-possessed were truly signs that the King is Jehovah manifested in the flesh and that the Kingdom had drawn nigh.
1. The Characteristics of the heirs of the Kingdom. 5:1-16.
2. The Confirmation of the Law and its Expansion. 5:17-48.
In chapters 5-7 we have the full report of the so-called Sermon on the Mount. Mark and Luke give fragments of this discourse, but the complete discourse is found only in Matthew. The Sermon on the Mount is the proclamation of the King concerning His Kingdom, and may well be called the "Magna Charta of the Kingdom of heaven." This discourse does not expound the Gospel of Grace, the way of salvation, the privileges and blessings of true Christianity. The teachers who say that the Sermon on the Mount is the Gospel are ignorant of what the Gospel is. We mention three wrong applications which are being made of this discourse.
1. The application to the unsaved, as if in this discourse the way to righteousness is shown, which man by his own effort is to attain. The discourse in the beginning speaks of saved persons, of disciples. The Lord does not address sinners. He taught His disciples. As the great unfolding of the salvation of God as revealed in the Epistle to the Romans is abandoned in Christendom, the false application of this discourse is increasingly followed. There is little preaching of the lost and helpless condition of man, the necessity of the new birth and the reception of eternal life. What is put in the place of the true Gospel is ethical teaching; and this has culminated in a Christian-socialistic attempt to save society. The Sermon on the Mount is taken as the program for this. But it condemns this spurious Gospel of works and evolution.
2. The second wrong application is the one which makes this discourse exclusively Christian and applies it to the Church. The magna charta of the Church is in the Epistles of Paul, to whom the full revelation of the Church was given. Christian position is not revealed in the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount is not given as the standard of Christian experience and walk.
3. The third false application is the one which makes this discourse exclusively Jewish. Some Christians refuse to consider these chapters as having any message or instruction for them at all. This is the other extreme and equally wrong. We repeat, the Sermon on the Mount is the proclamation of the King concerning His Kingdom. That Kingdom is not the church, nor is it a state of righteousness of the earth brought about through the agency of the church. It is the Kingdom as it will be set up by the King with the coming age. While in the Old Testament we have the outward manifestations of that earthly Kingdom revealed, we have here from the lips of the King the inner principles of that Kingdom. When the Lord Jesus Christ comes again the Old Testament predictions concerning the Kingdom will be literally fulfilled and the Kingdom itself will be a Kingdom of righteousness according to this proclamation. However, this does not exclude application to us, the heirs of the Kingdom.
The beatitudes give the character of the heirs who enter the Kingdom. They do not speak of what a person should be, or strive to be, but what they are. Only the Grace of God can produce such a character. The blessings are in possession of those, who have believed on the Son of God. And the Lord Jesus manifested all these characteristics in His humiliation. But these beatitudes have also a significance in connection with the future believing remnant of Israel, waiting amidst the great tribulations and under the severest persecutions at the end of the age for the return of the King. See Zephaniah 3:12 and Isaiah 66:2; Micah 7:1-7.
The Law is then taken up by the King in this proclamation. He is the Lawgiver and therefore He confirms, expands and supplements the Law. Here we are on Jewish ground. Believers in Christ have nothing to do with the law. We are dead to the law (Romans 7:4; Galatians 3:24-25.) The better righteousness needed to enter the Kingdom is not man's own righteousness, but that which is by faith in Jesus Christ.
As He speaks with authority He uncovers the heart of man and shows the depths of corruption and the hopelessness that the natural man could ever attain such a righteousness. The words of the King condemn every man and prove him lost. The condemnation of the natural man is written there.
1. The Better Righteousness. 6:1-18.
2. Kept in the World; Single-eyed; Trusting God. 6:19-34.
He makes now known the motive of the true righteousness, which the heirs of the Kingdom are not only to possess, but also to practice. The motive is to act in the presence of the Father. The word Father is found ten times in the beginning of this chapter. The Father sees, the Father knows. Here a relationship is acknowledged and made prominent, which is unknown in the Old Testament. How the heirs of the Kingdom are brought into this relationship is not taught in Matthew. The Gospel of John reveals this.
In verse 1-4 we see the motive of true righteousness in relation to man; in verses 5-15 in relation to God and in verses 16-18 in relation to self.
In verses 9-13 the King gives to His disciples a model prayer. It has been called "the Lord's prayer." A better name would be "the disciples' prayer." The Lord had no need to use it Himself. The ritualistic use of this form of prayer, its repetition at many occasions, as if it were a meritorious act, must be condemned. It was given to His Jewish disciples. In connection with the announcement of His departure and the coming of the Holy Spirit, our Lord did not teach His disciples the continued use of this form of prayer, but He said, "Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name; ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:24). We do not find this prayer used in the Acts of the Apostles; nor do we find in the Epistle an exhortation that it should be used by the church. It had a special meaning to the disciples, as it will have again for the remnant of Israel at the close of the age. Yet the prayer is perfect, beautiful and embodies heavenly wisdom. The Christian believer finds under the guidance of the Spirit the deeper meaning and can enter into all the petitions.
In the second half of this chapter the heirs of the Kingdom are seen as in the world, subject to its cares and temptations. Our Lord tells us how to behave in the midst of the world and what are our privileges and comforts. The natural man lives for the earthly things; his delight is in treasures which are here below. It is to be different with the true disciple (verses 19-21). In connection with His exhortation, "lay not up for yourselves treasures, which are on earth," read the following passages: Colossians 3:2-3; 2 Corinthians 4:18; 1 Timothy 6:9-11, 6:17-18; Hebrews 13:5. May we heed these words in a day when professing Christians heap together treasures in the last days (James 5:1-3). And how great is the comfort that we have a Father, who careth! "Be not careful"--oh, how blessed it sounds, how full and rich it comes to the heart of the believer! And it is the Son of God who exhorts us to trust the Father, who gives us the assurance if we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, that all these things shall be added unto us.
1. The Judgment of Righteousness. 7:1-14.
2. Warning against False Prophets. 7:15-20.
3. Warning against False Professors. 7:21-29.
The first few verses are warning against judging. The attention is called to the conduct of a disciple toward another disciple. The Lord does not forbid here the righteous judgment and condemnation of what is evil. We are told elsewhere to do this (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). The judgment of motives is forbidden. These are known to God alone.
Verse 6 must be compared with 2 Peter 2:22. The dogs and the swine represent mere outward profession, who were never born again.
(Christendom has in fact done shamelessly what the Lord here forbids, and has proved the truth of His words in consequence. Baptism and the Lord's Supper, perverted from their original meaning and application, have been used above all to give the grossest evils tolerance in the house of God, and to make Babylon the great "a cage of every unclean and hateful bird." They have thus been trampled under foot by the profane, and Christianity been rent and mangled fearfully, as all the centuries bear witness. The "judgment of charity" is continually invoked to take darkness to be light, and credit the most barren profession with what it dares not even claim for itself. But the false judgment of laxity has here its woe upon it, as much as the false judgment of censoriousness: upon that which puts good for evil, and that which puts evil for good alike.--Numerical Bible.)
The great proclamation of the King closes with warnings against false prophets and false, religious professors. The warning of verse 15 is for our age as well and has a special significance in the end of the age. False teachers and false spirits are on all sides, and false prophets increase. See Acts 20:29-30; Colossians 2:8; 1 Timothy 4:1, 6:20; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1-3; 2 Corinthians 2:17, 11:13-15. How different these divine warnings are in comparison with the optimistic vision of Christendom of an age which increases in righteousness. When the King comes again "in that day" the false prophets and false professors will be discovered. The false prophets, though they used His Name (like "Christian Science" and the "Russell Cult"), will be disowned by Him. The house built upon the sand of a mere profession and not the rock of ages will be swept away by the judgment.
1. The Healing of the Leper. 8:1-4.
2. The Healing of the Centurion's Servant. 8:5-13.
3. The Healing of Peter's Wife's Mother. 8:14-15.
4. The Healing of All. 8:16-17.
5. The Self-seeking Scribe and the Test of True Discipleship. 8:18-22.
6. His Power over Nature. 8:23-27.
7. His Power over the Demons. 8:28-34.
The King who had uttered this great proclamation now manifests more fully His divine power by signs and miracles. These signs showed Israel that the Kingdom was at hand. In Isaiah 35 we find a prophetic description of the Kingdom powers; and the King shows that He has come to make good these promises. The arrangement in Matthew shows that these miracles are taken out of their chronological order, They are found in Mark and Luke in a different setting. This is not a discrepancy as so often claimed by the deniers of inspiration. The Holy Spirit has grouped them together in such way to show first of all that the King proved Himself as the promised Messiah-King. In the second place the Spirit of God put them in the order, in which they appear in these two chapters to teach thereby certain dispensational purposes of God.
The first four miracles show His dispensational dealings with the Jews and the Gentiles in a most striking manner. The leper is a type of the sinner and also a type of the nation Israel (Isaiah 1:5-6). Jehovah alone can heal this awful disease (Numbers 12:13; 2 Kings 5:1-15). The attitude and faith of this leper should have been Israel's. He had come to heal the nation. The leper was healed and is sent by the King to the priest. The priest, however, does not proclaim the good news that Jehovah had appeared in the midst of His people. Thus Israel's failure to recognize and receive the Messiah and be healed is seen in the first miracle. The Centurion was a Gentile. The Lord found there greater faith than among His own people. He healed the servant not by touch, but He was absent from the place where he was. This miracle stands for the fact that Gentiles would believe on Him during this age, while He is absent.
Then He healed Peter's wife's mother by going to the house and touching her. After this present dispensation is passed He will restore His relationship with His People Israel and heal and restore her to service. Then follows the healing of all. Verses 16-17 show the Kingdom blessings for the world after His second coming. And the King manifests power as the Lord of Creation, by rebuking the winds and the sea. He has power over demons, who acknowledge Him as Son of God and tremble in His presence.
1. A Man Sick of the Palsy Healed. 9:1-8.
2. The Call of Matthew. 9:9.
3. With the Publicans and the Sinners. 9:10-13.
4. The Question of John's Disciples. 9:14-17.
5. The Ruler's Request. 9:18-19.
6. The Woman Healed of an Issue of Blood. 9:20-22.
7. The Maid Raised from the Dead. 9:23-26.
8. The Two Blind Men Healed. 9:27-31.
9. The Dumb Man with a Demon Healed. 9:32-33.
10. The Blaspheming Pharisees and the Compassionate Shepherd of Israel. 9:34-38.
The King next manifests His power to forgive sins and when that power is questioned by the scribes and He is accused of blasphemy He healed the paralytic so that he arose. By this miracle full proof was given that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins. Well did the scribes and Pharisees say, "Who is able to forgive sins but God alone?" (Luke 5:21). By healing the paralytic they received the conclusive evidence that He who had spoken "thy sins are forgiven" is God manifested in the flesh. The miracle foreshadows His gracious work for every sinner who believes on Him. Our bodies, too, are redeemed, but we still wait for that redemption (Romans 8:21). The miracle foreshadows likewise the healing of Israel. The day will come when the remnant of His earthly people will have forgiveness of their sins and be healed (Isaiah 33:24). It will be when He comes again (Isaiah 59:20; Romans 11:26-27). Thus will they witness in reality to the truth expressed in Psalm 103:1-5.
The call of Matthew follows next. He left his office as taxgatherer and yielded ready obedience. And then the King eats and drinks with the publicans and the sinners, showing that He came to call sinners to repentance. A change of dispensation is indicated by Him in verses 16-17. The old garment and the old bottles (literal: wine-skins) stand for the law with its ordinances. The piece of the new cloth and the new wine stand for the better righteousness, the Gospel. The old wine-skins and the new wine do not go together; neither do law and grace.
The daughter which had died is the type of the daughter of Zion, spiritually and nationally dead. The Lord is on the way to raise her up. The woman, who touches Him and is healed represents Gentiles, who touch Him in faith. This miracle is a parenthetical event, just as the present age with its era of salvation to the Gentiles is a great parenthesis. And as He raised the daughter of the ruler, so will He in the future raise up Israel. For the first time in this Gospel we find here the awful blasphemy of the religious leader of the people. They accused the Lord from heaven of using satanic power in casting out demons. But the King continued in His ministry of preaching the Kingdom and healing the sick. Then He beheld His poor scattered sheep in their deplorable condition. His loving heart was moved with compassion (see Ezekiel 34:7-31).
1. The Twelve Disciples. 10:1-4.
2. Their Commission. 10:5-15.
3. Persecutions Promised. 10:16-23.
4. Words of Encouragement. 10:24-33.
5. Not Peace but the Sword. 10:34-36.
6. True Discipleship and Rewards. 10:37-42.
The King now calls His disciples to go forth as the messengers of the Kingdom. The commission He gives them was temporary and ended with the complete rejection of the Kingdom by Israel. He told them not to carry the Kingdom message to the Gentiles, not even to the Samaritans. It was a message for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. They were to preach the good news of the Kingdom and the King conferred upon them His own Messianic power to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers and to raise the dead. Freely they had received it and freely they were to give. All this has nothing whatever to do with the preaching of the Gospel of Grace among all the nations. We have here not the commission of the church, but the ministry of a transition period. Christian Science and other cults claim that they are obedient to this commission and that they practice the healing of the sick. They, however, know nothing of raising the dead. Neither are they obedient to the command "freely ye have received, freely give." Their cults are for filthy lucre sake and are the cults of deception.
Persecutions and severe sufferings are predicted by the King. His messengers were to suffer, to be delivered to councils, to be scourged and put to death. Part of the fulfillment of all this is recorded in the book of Acts, where in the beginning the Gospel of the Kingdom is still preached.
Verse 23 tells us of an unfinished testimony. "For verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come." The Coming of the Son of Man is His second Coming. Before He comes again the Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached once more both in Israel's land and also among all nations (see Matthew 24:14). The heralds in the future will again be a company of believing Jewish disciples. The predictions concerning persecution and tribulation will then all be finally fulfilled in that period of time, which is called in the Word of God "the great tribulation" (chapter 24:21). The true church will then be no longer on earth. Before that time of trouble comes, preceding the second visible Coming of Christ, the church will be gathered home to be with Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Verse 34 describes the present age. There is no peace on earth while the King and His Kingdom is rejected. When He comes again He will establish the promised peace (Psalm 46:9; Zechariah 9:10).
1. John Imprisoned Sends his Disciples. 11:1-6.
2. The King's Testimony Concerning John. 11:7-19.
3. The King Announces Judgment. 11:20-24.
4. The Greater Invitation. 11:25-28.
Once more the King takes up the work of teaching and preaching in the cities of Galilee. It is now becoming increasingly evident that Israel is not going to repent and accept the offered Kingdom. The present chapter is the beginning of the crisis, the rejection is consummated in the chapter which follows.
John the Baptist imprisoned is assailed with doubt; he was but human. He did not send to the Lord for the sake of His disciples, but wanted comfort and assurance for himself. Beautiful it is to see how the Lord speaks of him.
Verse 12 needs some comment. "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." The wrong interpretation is that which makes the violent, who seize the Kingdom of heaven, unsaved sinners. According to this the sinner must exert his own strength and by force lay hold on the Kingdom of heaven. It means, however, the opposite. The Pharisees and scribes, who listened to the words of the Lord, are the violent who used force in connection with the Kingdom of heaven. (The student must remember that the Kingdom of heaven does not mean the Gospel at all, but is still the literal Kingdom promised to Israel.) They rejected the Kingdom. In this sense the Kingdom of heaven suffered violence. No sooner did John the Baptist preach "the Kingdom of heaven is at hand," than the leaders of the nation raised their opposition. It increased till it culminated in the rejection and crucifixion of the King.
Then the King pronounced His woe upon the unbelieving cities. But more than that, upon the evident rejection of the Kingdom message, the King lifts His eyes to heaven and addresses the Father. For the first time He announces the greater invitation of the Gospel of His Grace. It is now "Come unto me all"; the message of the Kingdom will cease and the message of His Love will be sent forth into all the world. That message comes from the Cross.
1. The Hungry Disciples and the Accusing Pharisees. 12:1-9.
2. The Man with the Withered Hand Healed. 12:10-13.
3. The Hatred of the Pharisees. 12:14.
4. The King in Rejection. 12:15-21.
5. The Demon Possessed Man Healed. 12:22-23.
6. The Blasphemy of the Pharisees and the King's Answer. 12:24-37.
7. The Sign of Jonas and his Warning Prediction. 12:38-45.
8. The Broken Relationship. 12:46-50.
This chapter is the great turning point in this Gospel. It brings before us the full rejection of the Kingdom. After this chapter we hear no longer the Kingdom preached to Israel.
The King manifests Himself as the Lord of the Sabbath and answered the charge of the accusing Pharisees. That the disciples, the messengers of the Kingdom, were hungry shows that the people had no sympathy for the messengers and for the message. To pluck ears of corn on the Sabbath is nowhere forbidden. The tradition of the elders had added the commandment on account of which the Pharisees brought their accusation. He silences them with David's action, who, though he was God's anointed, yet rejected, entered the house of the Lord and did what was not lawful for him to do (1 Samuel 21).
Their first attempt to accuse Him and His disciples failed. They tried again by the man with the withered hand. He silenced them again and healed the man, who obeyed His Word. He, too, is a picture of Israel in their spiritual and national withered condition. Then they held a council to plan the destruction of the King. And after He healed the man who was possessed with a demon, who had robbed him of his sight and his speech, the Pharisees charged the Lord with driving out the demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons. This was the crowning sin of the unbelieving Pharisees. It is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This is the sin against the Holy Spirit for which there is no forgiveness in this age nor in that to come.
Interesting are His words in verses 43-45. The nation Israel is here again in view. The unclean spirit which left Israel was the spirit of idolatry. But that unclean spirit will return with seven others and take possession again of that house, and the last condition, the end, becomes worse than the beginning. This condition will yet be reached among the apostate Jews during the time of the Antichrist.
In the end of this chapter the King refuses to see His own. This action was symbolical. He declared through it that the relationship with His own nation, to whom He came as the promised King, was now broken off. He announces a new relationship (verses 49-50). As stated already after this event He announces no longer the Kingdom at hand. The message of the Kingdom had been given and had been rejected. The first part of the Gospel of Matthew ends here.
1. The King at the Seaside. 13:1-2.
2. The Parable of the Sower. 13:3-9.
3. The Question of the Disciples and His Answer. 13:10-17.
4. The Parable of the Sower Explained. 13:18-23.
5. The Parable of the Good Seed and the Tares. 13:24-30.
6. The Parable of the Mustard Seed. 13:31-32.
7. The Parable of the Leaven. 13:33-35.
8. The Parable of the Good Seed and of the Tares Explained. 13:36-42.
9. The Parable of the Treasure in the Field. 13:44.
10. The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price. 13:45-46.
11. The Parable of the Drag-net. 13:47-52.
12. Rejected in His Own Country. 13:53-58.
This is an important and most interesting chapter. It is perhaps the most misinterpreted chapter in the entire Gospel. Precisely that which our Lord did not teach has been read into it. If the parables were correctly understood the consequences would be the most far-reaching. The King having declared the relationship with His people broken left the house (symbolical of this fact) and sat by the seaside. Then He began to teach in parables. These parables, repeated in full only in Matthew, concern the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven. He makes known things hidden from the foundation of the world (verses 11, 34-35). The Kingdom of heaven is now no longer that Old Testament Kingdom promised to Israel, for that Kingdom was not an unrevealed secret. The parables of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven give a description of what is to be on the earth religiously after Israel's rejection of the Kingdom. The parables contain a wonderful revelation of the present age, beginning with the sowing of the good seed by the Son of Man and ending with the harvest, the end of the age, when He comes the second time. To say that our Lord speaks of the church in these parables would be incorrect. He speaks of what we term today "Christendom," the sphere of Christian profession.
The first four parables were spoken by Him before the multitudes. After He sent the people away (verse 36) the Lord spoke the last three to His disciples. The first two parables our Lord explained to the disciples and gives the key to the entire seven. The field mentioned in different parables means "the world." The Man (sower--; the man who buys the field; the merchantman) is the Lord Himself. Birds (picking up the seed; flocking into the mustard-tree) are unclean beings. Wheat (sown by Him; the wheat in the three measures) stands for the doctrine of Christ and what it produces, the children of the Kingdom.
The first two parables go together. They refer to the beginning of the present age and reveal the conditions which continue to the time of the harvest, the end of the age. (The word "world" in verses 39, 40 and 49 is "age." The same is true of Chapter 24:3.) The good seed, the Gospel, is now to be scattered in the field, that is, the world. It is a different work from the work of the vineyard (Israel is the vineyard, Isaiah 5:1-7). But only the fourth part of the sown seed springs up. The devil, the flesh and the world are the three things which make the universal success of the Gospel impossible in this present age. World-conversion is not to be expected in the age when the King is absent. The second parable shows the mixed conditions. Wheat and tares grow together till the harvest comes. Then the wheat will be gathered and the tares burned up. The parables of the mustard seed and of the woman who hid leaven in the three measures of meal foretell the external development and the internal corruption of the Kingdom of heaven in its form during this present age. The mustard seed shows an unnatural, an abnormal growth and the birds lodging there bring defilement. Such is Christendom with its worldly ambitions and its unsaved masses.
The parable of the woman with the leaven is the most misunderstood. The woman does not mean the church, nor does the leaven stand for the Gospel and the doctrine of Christ. leaven is always in the Word of God the type of evil (Matthew 16:11-12; Mark 8:15; 1 Corinthians 5:8; Galatians 5:9). If our Lord taught here (as almost universally claimed) that leaven is something good and that the "Gospel-leaven" is leavening the whole lump of unconverted humanity, etc., then would He contradict Himself, for the first two parables teach the opposite. Leaven stands for a corrupting process of evil, which is introduced by woman under the control of satanic influence, to corrupt the doctrine of Christ. Here is, no doubt, a prophecy, which has been abundantly fulfilled. The woman "Jezebel" in Revelation 2:20 is the same as the "Mother of Harlots" in Revelation 17; it is the Romish apostasy. Rome speaks of "Mother church" and she is the corrupteress of true Christianity. We may well think here of other wicked corruptions of the doctrine of Christ. Christian Science (Mrs. Eddy); Seventh day Adventism (Mrs. White); Spiritism (Fox sisters); Theosophy (Mrs. Blavatsky) and other systems, which originated with women (1 Timothy 2:14). This process of corruption in this present age is also witnessed to by the Holy Spirit in 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 2:17-18, 3:1-5, 4:3-4; 2 Peter 2:1-3; Jude. The fire of judgment will arrest it all, as the fire arrests the working of the natural leaven.
The parable of the treasure and of the pearl also go together. The Man in both is not the sinner who seeks a treasure and a pearl, who gives up all in order to get all. The Man is our Lord, who buys the field. He gave all He had to have the treasure (Israel) hid in the field, who sold all to have the one pearl of great price (the church). The parable of the drag-net brings us to the end of the age. The net is cast into the sea (nations) and in that net (Christendom) the good and the bad, the true and false are gathered. They remain there till the end of the age, when they will be separated.
1. John's Martyrdom. 14:1-11.
2. The Disciples of John with the Lord Jesus. 14:12.
3. Feeding the Five Thousand. 14:13-21.
4. Praying on the Mountain-top. 14:22-23.
5. Walking on the Sea; Coming to His Disciples. 14:24-36.
The details of the martyrdom of John are given first. It is the story of lust, crime and bloodshed. Such is the entire age in which the King is absent. We see Him in a fourfold attitude, an attitude which teaches us much. First the disciples of John seek Him for comfort--"they came and told Jesus." Then He fed miraculously the multitudes, who had followed Him into the desert place. He used His own. They put the little they possessed in His hands. Next we behold Him praying on the mountain (typical of His presence with the Father in glory) and the final scene in this chapter is the storm on the sea, the wind contrary (a perfect picture of this age), the disciples in danger and He coming across the stormy seas to bring salvation and peace. Then follows a still greater manifestation of His Kingly power. We can come to Him for comfort and help; He will feed those who follow Him; He prays and intercedes for His own and at last comes again. With that blessed event the time of peace and blessing for this world will come.
1. The Question of the Scribes and Pharisees. 15:1-2.
2. His Answer. 15:3-9.
3. The Multitude Called. 15:10-11.
4. The Disciples Instructed. 15:12-20.
5. The Canaanitish Woman. 15:21-28.
6. The Multitudes Healed. 15:29-31.
The events which follow the rejection of the offered Kingdom by Israel, revealing their enmity, are now brought more fully in view. The scribes, the Pharisees and the Sadducees take a leading part. They test Him and bring their questions, but He silences them all. His wisdom is gloriously manifested. A delegation came from Jerusalem. The question concerned a mere traditional law of the elders. Nothing is said whatever in the Old Testament about washing the hands before eating.* He uncovers their hypocrisies and shows their corruption.
(Several years ago we read in a Jewish volume printed in Poland, that evil spirits alight over night on the hands and if hands are not washed as prescribed by the traditional law those evil spirits find their way into the mouth and the stomach of the transgressor and defile him. This foolish superstition is founded upon a Talmudical statement of great antiquity. It will throw light on the above passage.)
The Canaanitish woman addressed Him as "Son of David." She had no claim on Him as Son of David. But when she took the place He gave to her and appealed to Him as "Lord" He healed her daughter. Thus the rejected King ministered to a Gentile. The first part of this chapter reveals the desperate condition of Israel. The second part, the healing of the daughter of the Canaanitish woman, shows typically the call of the Gentiles and the salvation in store for them, if they believe. The last part, the healing of the multitude, reveals the dispensation to come, the Kingdom age.
1. Pharisees and Sadducees Asking a Sign. 16:1-4.
2. Instructions Concerning the Leaven. 16:5-12.
3. Peter's Confession. 16:13-16.
4. The Future Building of the Church Announced. 16:17-20.
5. The Announcement of His Death and Resurrection. 16:21.
6. Peter's Rebuke and the Lord's Answer. 16:22-23.
7. The Path of the Disciple. 16:24-26.
8. His Second Coming Announced. 16:27-28.
Seven things are seen in this chapter, the center being the predictions of the King concerning Himself: 1. The Rejection of the Lord. Pharisees and Sadducees making common cause to tempt Him. 2. The Confession of Him as the Christ the Son of the living God. 3. The Building of His church. 4. His Death. 5. His Resurrection. 6. The Path of the Disciple. 7. His Return.
Of greatest interest is the fact that we find the word "church" mentioned in this chapter for the first time in the Bible. The King had not said a word about a church, an outcalled company (this is the meaning of the Greek word), when He preached "the Kingdom of heaven is at hand." No prophet ever mentioned the church. When the Lord mentioned the church, that body was not yet in existence, for He said, "I will build my church." The church therefore did not exist in the Old Testament; at the time the Lord spoke these words the church was still future. The rock upon which this church is to be built is Christ the Son of God (not the Son of David, the promised King). Christ raised from the dead is the great rock foundation. Peter is not the rock. Peter means in the Greek "petros," a stone; the word rock in Greek is "petra." This word is used in Matthew 7:24-25. Therefore Christ is the rock and Peter a part of the rock. This brings out the blessed truth that every true believer in possession of eternal life is one with Christ. The testimony of Peter in 1 Peter 2:4-6 must be read in connection with this first announcement of the church.
The keys of the Kingdom of heaven do not mean that Peter (and his alleged successors) have a supremacy in the church. The Kingdom of heaven is not the church, but it is the professing sphere of Christendom. Peter used the authority conferred upon him on the day of Pentecost, when preaching to the Jews and again in the house of Cornelius, preaching to the Gentiles. See what Peter said of himself (1 Peter 1:1, 5:1). The power to bind and to loose has nothing whatever to do with salvation. It refers only to discipline on earth. The same power was conferred upon all the other disciples (Matthew 18:18; John 20:23). And they represent the church which was to come into existence.
For the first time the rejected King announces His coming suffering, His death, His resurrection and His second Coming in Glory. The break in the chapter at verse 28 is unfortunate. The transfiguration which follows solves the difficulty of the last verse of this chapter.
1. The Transfiguration. 17:1-13.
2. The Helpless Disciples and the Power of the King. 17:14-21.
3. The Second Announcement of His Death and Resurrection. 17:22-23.
4. The Tribute Money. 17:24-27.
At the close of the previous chapter the Lord announced His Coming in Glory. This means His personal and glorious Return. Some, He predicted, who were standing there would not taste death till they would see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom. The transfiguration, which took place a week later, witnessed to the yet future coming of the Son of Man in the glory of the Father to receive the Kingdom. Three of His disciples saw this startling occurrence. The transfiguration scene is typical of the second, visible and glorious coming of our Lord (2 Peter 1:16-21). The Man of humiliation is transfigured and thus a glimpse of His coming glory is given. Moses glorified represents the Saints of God who died; Elijah represents the Saints caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). The Saints come with Him in Glory (Colossians 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:14). The three disciples seeing the transfiguration represent here the Jewish remnant awaiting the coming Kingdom. The desperate condition the Lord finds coming down is a little picture of the condition of the world under Satan's power. He will bring deliverance with His return. The tribute money brings out His glory. He is the omniscient One, who knows all and the omnipotent One, who commands the fish to take up a coin in the bottom of the sea and brings that fish to Peter's hook. He provided what was needed. "For me and thee" shows the most blessed identification of the Lord and the disciples. All is His and into the riches of Himself He brings His own.
1. Concerning the Little Ones and Offences. 18:1-10.
2. The Son of Man to Save What is Lost. 18:11-14.
3. The Church Anticipated and Instructions Concerning it. 18:15-20.
4. Concerning Forgiveness. 18:21-35.
The question of the disciples may have been occasioned by the words of the Lord to Peter in chapter 16. When He had announced twice His coming passion and set His face like a flint to go up to Jerusalem, they were reasoning among themselves who should be the greatest (Luke 9:46). With what patience and tenderness He instructs them! The object lesson is a little child. He gives them the characteristics of those who have entered the Kingdom in reality and the principles which are to govern them. The Kingdom must be entered in. It is the same truth, which Nicodemus heard from His lips. A new life is given; the believing sinner is born again and enters the Kingdom as a little child, as the child enters the world by the natural birth. The characteristics of the child are lowliness and dependence. Such must be the leading characteristic of the heir of the Kingdom. And the Lord teaches His identification with every one, who is born again, who has become a little child. Honor done to one of these little ones is done unto Him; and injury done to one of them is done unto Him.
Then He gives additional instructions concerning the church. It relates to discipline and gives the true way how offences are to be dealt with in the new relationship about to come into existence (verses 15-19). But it must be remembered that the true meaning of the church as the body of Christ, etc., is not revealed here at all. Nor was it fully made known on the day of Pentecost when the church began on earth. Through the Apostle Paul the full revelation of the church was given. But verse 20 gives us the center around which the church is gathered. "Where two or three are gathered unto my name (not in my name) there am I in the midst of them." Not the name of a man, but unto the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Head of the body, the church. Connected with this is the blessed assurance of prayer to be heard and answered.
1. The Departure from Galilee. 19:1-2.
2. Concerning Divorce. 19:3-12.
3. The Blessing of Little Children. 19:13-15.
4. The Rich Young Man. 19:16-26.
5. The Rewards in the Kingdom. 19:27-30.
The Pharisees appear to tempt the Lord, this time concerning divorcing a wife. It is again a question which had it to do with their traditional laws and sayings of the elders. The Ritualists in Christendom like the legal, ritualistic Pharisees, are also much more occupied with their man-made rules than with the Word of God. Perhaps their question was the result of the Lord's teaching in chapter 5:31-32. This statement of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount dealt a severe blow to the rabbinical traditions held by the Pharisees concerning divorce. They were divided among themselves. Some had adopted the views of Hillel, that a wife may be put away for almost any cause. Others again held with the teaching of Shammai, another rabbinical authority, that divorce was only permissible in case of adultery. He answers them in His divine wisdom. He calls their attention to the beginning. Marriage as instituted by the Creator is an argument against polygamy and divorce. In the new creation this relationship has a still deeper meaning (Ephesians 5:21-33). The answer of the Pharisees reveals their ignorance (verse 7). Moses did not command divorce; he allowed it because of the hardness of their hearts (Deuteronomy 24:1). The scandalous thing Moses mentioned is explained by our Lord to be fornication. This is the only ground for divorce. Professing Christendom pays no heed to this instruction. The increase of unlawful divorces is alarming and a sign of the last days.
The relation of little children is next seen in this chapter. They belong to the Kingdom of heaven, are subjects of it and therefore He blessed them. The young man who asks the Lord,"what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" pictures the condition of thousands in the professing Christendom. He was a religious and moral young man. But all his morality and religiousness had not given him the assurance of eternal life. He wanted to do something in order to get eternal life. Eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. The Lord did not promise him eternal life if he were to sell all he had and give it to the poor. He wanted to convince him that his profession of loving his neighbor as himself was spurious. That law demanded that he should sell all and give it to the poor. He did not understand the lesson and went away sorrowful from the Lord.
Verse 28 is often misunderstood. It must be read in the following way: "Verily I say unto you, that ye who have followed Me--In the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit upon the throne of His Glory, etc. The word regeneration (paliggenesia) means here the recreation promised in the Word of God, when all things will be made new and groaning creation put back in its right place, where it was before the fall of man. This regeneration comes when the Son of Man comes the second time. Then the rewards are given.
1. The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. 20:1-16.
2. The Third Prediction of His Death and Resurrection. 20:17-19.
3. The Ambitiousness of the Disciples. 20:20-28.
4. The Healing of the Two Blind Men. 20:29-34.
Notice verse 30 of the preceding chapter and the same statement contained therein repeated in verse 16: "So the last shall be first and the first last." The parable which comes in between these two verses illustrates this fact, that many who are first shall be last; and the last shall be first. The parable speaks of rewards. The great principle of the parable is, that God will distribute rewards as He chooses in fullest accord with justice. While God owns every service and loss for the sake of Christ, yet He maintains His sovereignty to do as He will. The Lord wants us to leave the rewards with Him and not to think anything of our service. The parable appears to correct Peter's self-occupation (Chapter 19:27). Jew and Gentile are also in view here in a dispensational way. Then after the third prediction of His death and resurrection, and the ambitiousness of the sons of Zebedee, He healed the two blind men.
Here we have again a dispensational foreshadowing, the importance of which should not be overlooked. These two blind men sitting at the wayside, groping in the dark, crying to the Son of David for deliverance, are types of the poor and feeble remnant of Israel in the end of this age, after the testimony of the church for Christ the Son of God by resurrection from the dead, has been finished and the church is no longer upon this scene. The remnant of Israel will cry to Him as Son of David and call upon Him for deliverance. The entrance into Jerusalem, which follows in the next chapter, foreshadows also that coming of the Son of David to Jerusalem, when He comes as King crowned with honor and glory. And as the two blind ones called upon Him when He was on the way to Jerusalem, and He heard and delivered them, so will that remnant of His earthly people seek Him, and in that darkness which precedes His return to Jerusalem cry to the Son of David, without seeing Him in person, though they believe on Him, that He is the promised One. And as the cry of the blind men was the work of the Holy Spirit, so will the seeking, the longing, the prayer of that future remnant be produced by the Spirit of God.
1. The King Enters Jerusalem. 21:1-11.
2. The Second Cleansing of the Temple. 21:12-17.
3. The Fig tree Cursed. 21:18-22.
4. His Authority Impeached and His Question. 21:23-27.
5. The Parable of the Two Sons. 21:28-32.
6. The Parable of the Householder. 21:33-39.
7. The Lord's Question and the King's Sentence. 21:40-46.
The King with His disciples draws near to Jerusalem to hold His royal entrance into His city.
Criticism has given a strange motive for the Lord's entrance into Jerusalem. It has been said that He was carried away by enthusiasm and expected that the people would now surely receive Him as the Messiah-King; while other critics explained His entry to the city as a kind of a concession to the messianic expectations of His disciples. How dishonoring to Him are all such foolish speculations. The simple fact is that He is the King and as such He had to come to Jerusalem and fulfil that which had been predicted by Zechariah, the prophet (Zechariah 9:9).
What a sight it must have been the thousands coming to meet Him with Palm branches in their hands, waving them over their heads, while the multitudes which followed did the same. And then they broke out in the glad shouts, quoting partly from the 118th Psalm, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the Highest." Hosanna means "save now."
What a triumph it was! The King entering Jerusalem. And in all He is undisturbed. Others might have been swept away by this enthusiasm; but He is calm in all His kingly majesty. Luke's Gospel tells us that He wept. "And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it." And what kind of weeping was this? He wept at the grave of Lazarus and that was a still, a silent weeping. But before Jerusalem He broke out in loud and deep lamentations. This is clearly proven by the different words used in the original.
The King knew what was soon to be, and on yonder hill He saw looming up the cross. True, they were crying, "Son of David, save now!" But the question, "Who is this?" is answered in the terms of rejection. Instead of "the King, Jehovah-Jesus, the Messiah," the multitude answers "Jesus, the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee."
Then He cleansed the temple. This is the second time that the Lord acted in cleansing the temple. The first is recorded in the Gospel of John (2:13-17), and it took place at the beginning of His ministry. There it is the zeal for God's house, but here He acts in all His Kingly authority.
But a more refreshing scene follows. The temple is cleansed. The noise and confusion is at an end. Nothing is said of the return of these evil occupants. But instead of them, there came the blind and the lame to Him in the temple and He healed them. The vacancy was filled by the crowd of poor, stricken suffering ones, who were delivered of their pains and diseases. Blessed and glorious foreshadowing of what will be when He comes again and when by His life-giving, healing touch, He will cure "all diseases" and make perfectly whole.
Then followed the cursing of the fig tree. The King was hungry. He who was rich, had indeed become poor. There by the wayside is a fig tree bearing many leaves; there He looked for some of the old fruit, or perhaps some of the unripe figs. He finds nothing and a curse follows, which withers the tree. It is well known that the fig tree is the type of Israel. The cursing of the fig tree stands for the national rejection of the people.
The mountain mentioned in verse 21 is a type of Israel in unbelief. The nation was a mountain and by its disobedience and rejection of the Lord, the nation was an obstacle in the path of the Gospel. But on account of faith this mountain was indeed cast into the sea, the type of the nations. Precious to faith has ever been and ever will be the word, the author and finisher of the faith speaks here. "And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
The two parables need no comment. Even the chief priests and the Pharisees understood that He spoke of them (verse 45). Their hatred rose high. Verse 44 is of a deeper meaning. The Jews at this first coming fell on this stone (He is the stone) and were nationally broken. At His second Coming, He, the stone, will fall on the Gentiles, deal with them and their dominion in judgment (see Daniel 2:37-45).
1. The Parable of the Marriage Feast. 22:1-14.
2. The Herodians Answered. 22:15-22.
3. The Sadducees Answered. 22:23-33.
4. The Pharisees Answered. 22:34-40.
5. The Unanswered Question. 22:41-46.
A significant parable follows. The same parable appears in the Gospel of Luke. A comparison will show that in Matthew the dispensational features stand out more prominently. The third verse speaks of the offer of the Kingdom as made to Israel by the King and His disciples. It was refused. In verses 4-6 there is a repeated offer and how this second offer was treated. This took place after the cross ("all things are ready"; the cross of Christ has done that). The beginning of the Book of Acts reveals that offer made exclusively to Jerusalem. Those who had rejected Christ and crucified Him had a chance to repent. They did exactly with the message and the messengers what our Lord predicts in this parable. Verse 7 is a prediction of what should befall Jerusalem. This was fulfilled in the year 70. The city, which had become a city of murderers (Isaiah 1:21) was burned. Then the King predicts the world-wide offer made to the Gentiles (verses 8-10).
The wedding garment corresponds to "the best robe" in the parable of the prodigal. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the wedding garment and all who are mere professors of Christ, without having put on the Lord Jesus Christ, will share the fate of which the Lord speaks in the parable.
Then He answered the questions of the Herodians (politicians), the Pharisees (ritualists) and the Sadducees (rationalists). They all tried to entangle Him, but failed miserably. The Herodians had to marvel and the Sadducees were astonished. Then He asked the Pharisees a question, which they failed to answer.
It is from the 110th Psalm the Lord draws His question. This Psalm is one of the great messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. It is very prominent in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where it is quoted a number of times as being fulfilled in Him, who is now the man of glory, seated at the right hand of the majesty on high, waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. This will be done when He comes again. In sending Him, the First begotten, into the world, God will put down all His enemies. It is almost impossible to believe that, with the evidences from Scripture, such as the word of our Lord and the testimony of the Holy Spirit in the Epistle to the Hebrews, certain men who call themselves "scholars" and assume the place of "critics" can deny the 110th Psalm was composed by David and that the Psalm has any messianic reference at all. This surely is wicked unbelief, as pronounced, perhaps more so, than the unbelief of the Pharisees.
Well, the Pharisees here answer that Messiah is to be the Son of David. They were professed teachers of Israel and still they did not understand the Scriptures. The question the Lord now puts to them, David calling Him who is to be a son of his, Lord, that is Jehovah, they could not, perhaps would not, answer. The passage teaches clearly who Messiah is. He is Jehovah incarnate, the Son of David and David's Lord. And the interrogator is He. His Davidic descent could not be denied; that He has a legal title to the throne of David is clearly proven by the genealogy. In His ministry throughout these years, He had manifested Himself in His mighty works as Jehovah. They could give Him no answer. Solemn moment it was. No answer! No repentance! They are silenced, and when they open their lips again it is to cry "Crucify Him!" The end is now coming on rapidly. In the next chapter He speaks as Judge pronouncing His judgment upon the leaders of the nation.
1. The Hypocrisy of the Pharisees. 23:1-12.
2. The Woes of the King upon Them. 23:13-36.
3. The Lamentation over Jerusalem. 23:37-39.
The chapter which is before us contains the "Woes" of the King upon the Pharisees. It is one of the most solemn ones in Matthew. Pharisaism is still on the earth; Ritualism, Traditionalism and with it the rejection of the authority of the Lord and His written Word, is Pharisaism, that evil leaven against which the Lord warns. This Christian Pharisaism is far worse than the old Jewish system. And where in Christendom is a little of that leaven lacking? Only the Grace of God, an unbroken fellowship with the Father and His Son in the power of the Holy Spirit, can keep the individual believer from manifesting a Pharisaical spirit.
And now the Lord takes up His "Woes." It is a fearful uncovering of the hearts of the Pharisees and their corruption. And thus He lays bare the hidden things. He will do so again. There are eight woes given in this chapter, though it has been claimed that the fourteenth verse does not belong to this chapter. It is, however, found in both the Gospels of Mark and Luke, so that it is evident the Lord also uttered these words.
He now pronounces judgment upon them and uncovers all they are. Pharisaism keeps the outside clean, while inside there is corruption and death. There is a self-righteous religious boasting of being more advanced than the fathers and more tolerant than they were. But the omniscient One reads their hearts and declares that they fill up the measure of the fathers. They were unsaved men, not the offspring of God, but of vipers; their father, the devil; and they were facing judgment of Gehenna.
And then His lamentation, how He must leave the house desolate and turn away from His beloved city. The King is the King of love and His heart yearns over Jerusalem.
But the discourse which has nothing but Woes ends with a "Blessed," and here comes in the bright ray of hope for Israel. "Ye shall in no wise see me henceforth until ye say, Blessed be He that comes in the name of the Lord." This is the promise of His second Coming, and when He comes He will find a believing remnant of that very people, welcoming Him with the messianic greeting of the 118th Psalm. Then the Shekinah-Glory will spread over Jerusalem and Israel's land, and He that scattered Israel will gather them from the four corners of the earth. It is a strange and evil doctrine which maintains that inasmuch as the woes were spoken upon these Pharisees, that they are also to see Him again. It is claimed that these wicked Pharisees, the offspring of vipers, who could not escape the judgment of hell, are all to be raised from the dead when Christ comes again and have "a second chance" to see Him, and that then they will receive Him. Such Jewish universalism has no Scripture foundation whatever. It is a remnant which will behold the King coming out of the opened heavens in the day of His manifestation.
1. The Destruction of the Temple Foretold. 24:1-2.
2. The Questions of the Disciples. 24:3.
3. The End of the Age; Events Preceding His Coming. 24:4-14.
4. The Great Tribulation and what will Happen. 24:15-26.
5. The Visible and Glorious Return of the King. 24:27-31.
6. The Exhortations of the King. 24:32-44.
7. The Parable of the Faithful and Evil Servant. 24:45-51.
The Olivet discourse is the last great utterance of the King. It was delivered to the disciples and concerns the future. It is divided into three parts: First, He answers the three questions of His disciples (verses 4-44); then He speaks three parables (45-25:30); the last part contains a great judgment prophecy (chapter 25:31-46). The first part concerns the end of the age, and in it the King describes what will take place on earth immediately before His visible Return. The second part reveals the conditions in the Kingdom of heaven (Christendom) and how He as King and Judge will deal with those conditions. The third part is a prophecy concerning the judgment of the nations the King finds on His return to this earth. (It is impossible to give satisfactory annotations of this great and important discourse in a small pamphlet. The readers will find the complete exposition in our Commentary on Matthew.)
The first part has nothing to do with the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. Jerusalem and the temple are not even mentioned by Him. The interpretation that all His predictions in verses 4-44 found their fulfillment during the siege of Jerusalem in the year 70 is totally wrong. The destruction of the temple is foretold by Him in verse 2 before the disciples asked the questions, which resulted in His discourse. Luke reports the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the nation (Luke 21:20-24). But in Matthew the Holy Spirit records the regathering of His elect, earthly people (verse 31). Nor does the answer of the Lord to His disciples have anything to do with this Christian age. The church is not mentioned by Him at all. The disciples had asked about the end of the age. (Again we remind the students of this Gospel that the word "world" is incorrect. The end of the world cannot come for a long time. Before the end of the world can come this earth must first be put in order and delivered from the curse.) They only knew their Jewish age and were ignorant of this Christian age. The Jewish age did not fully terminate with the rejection of the Messiah and the worldwide dispersion of the nation. It was only interrupted in its course. The interruption is this present Christian age during which the church is gathered out. When that purpose is accomplished, the true church will be removed from the earth to be joined to the Head in glory. Then the dealings of God with His ancient people Israel will be resumed. The end of their age of unbelief ends. It will last seven years, the last week of the great prophecy of Daniel (Chapter 9, see our commentary on Daniel).
It is this end, these seven years still future which our Lord describes in the first part of His discourse. True it is that throughout the age in which we live all these things He mentions, wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, persecutions of the godly have taken place. All these will occur in a more intensified form during the end of the age, when the true church is no longer on earth. Then the remnant of Jews who believe, like the disciples of the King when He appeared the first time, will preach the Gospel of the Kingdom among all nations. In Revelation 7 we find this remnant sealed and in the second half the result of the preached testimony, a multitude which comes out of the great tribulation.
When these seven years are ended the King appears in all His Glory in the clouds of heaven. For the church and His Saints there is another Coming (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The Saints come with Him in that day (Zechariah 14:1-5).
Verse 34 has been a difficulty with many. The word generation does not mean the people who were then living; it has the meaning of "this race." (Same as 1 Peter 2:9, "a chosen generation," i.e., class of peoples.) The Jewish race cannot pass away till these things be fulfilled.
With verse 45 the second part begins. It concerns Christendom. While the seven parables of the Kingdom (chapter 13) teach the beginning, the development and end of Christendom, the three parables of the Olivet discourse show the moral aspect of those who profess Christianity. The true and the false, the faithful and the unfaithful are uncovered and dealt with.
1. The Parable of the Ten Virgins. 25:1-13.
2. The Parable of the Servants and the Talents. 25:14-30.
3. The Judgment of Nations. 25:31-46.
The parable of the ten virgins describes Christendom and what will take place some day. In the beginning of this age the entire Christian profession expected the promised return. He delayed and they all slumbered and slept. They gave up the Hope which energized them in the beginning. The midnight cry aroused entire Christendom again. This is now an accomplished fact. Many years ago during the first half of the nineteenth century the Spirit of God revived the blessed Hope. And still the cry is heard and will be heard till He comes. The next is He comes. His true people who have the oil enter in with Him. Those who possess not the oil (the Holy Spirit), because they have never believed on Him, face a shut door and hear the awful word, "I know ye not." (Some teach on this an invention. They say the foolish virgins represent worldly minded believers, who will pass through the great tribulation. The Lord will never say to any one who trusts in Him, "I know ye not.") Then an account must be given how His gifts were used. The man with one talent unused represents an unsaved soul.
The third section is a prophecy. The King returned will occupy the throne of His Glory. The judgment is not a judgment of the entire human race. None of the dead are here. The dead Saints are raised when He comes in the air to receive His own and the dead martyrs of the tribulation period will also have been raised at the close of that period. The rest of the dead does not live till the thousand years of the Kingdom are ended (Revelation 20:5). Here the living nations are seen judged. The standard is the treatment they accorded to the last messengers of the King, these are "the brethren" of the King, of the Jewish race. If these nations believed that testimony they treated the messengers with kindness; if they rejected this final message they refused help to the messengers. The righteous nations who believed will remain on the earth for the Kingdom. The unrighteous will go into everlasting punishment.
1. His Death Planned. 26:1-5.
2. Mary of Bethany Anointing the King. 26:6-13.
3. The Betrayal. 26:14-16.
4. The Last Passover. 26:17-25.
5. The Lord's Supper Instituted. 26:26-29.
6. Peter's Denial Announced and the Scattered Sheep. 26:30-35.
7. In Gethsemane. 26:36-46.
8. Judas and His Deed. The Arrest of the King. 26:47-56.
9. Before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. 26:57-68.
10. Peter's Denial. 26:69-75.
The great last discourse of the King being ended there remains now nothing else to record than the story of His passion, His suffering, death and resurrection. This is the record of the remaining three chapters of the first Gospel. Two of these are the longest in the whole book. He had foretold in His great prophecy in the Olivet discourse the future of the Jews, the Christian profession, and the future of the nations. Now He is to go and fulfill all the predictions concerning His sufferings and death, as written in Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. The twenty-sixth chapter is one of contrasts. Here we behold Him in all His wonderful perfection again. With what calmness and dignity He enters upon that great work, which the Father gave Him to do. On the other hand we see wickedness and Satanic powers revealed which now cast themselves in all their fury upon the holy One. What a wonderful story it is which we have followed in this first Gospel. How marvelous the events and how perfect and divine the entire arrangement! Man could never have written such an account.
Notice the last prediction of His death. This is the fourth time He predicts His death in this Gospel. He not only predicts the manner of His death, but now also the time; He is to be crucified at the time of the Passover. All this manifests His Deity. He knew all beforehand. Let none think that all that which was before Him dawned upon Him gradually; He knew every one of the sufferings and all that which was now to come upon His holy head. But what calmness breathes in these words, in which He predicted His coming crucifixion! There is no anxiety, no concern about anything, but to do the will of Him that sent Him and to give Himself as the true passover Lamb.
How beautiful the scene in Simon's house! Mary was fully devoted to her Lord. We first see her at His feet listening to His words. "One thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen that good part." She acknowledged Him in His office as Prophet. In John 11 we see her again at His feet. There she is weeping on account of the death of Lazarus; a little while later He weeps with her. She knew Him as the sympathizing One, as He is now our Priest. And here she anoints Him, and does it for His burying. In faith she realizes the near approach of that death, of which He had spoken. She believed He, the Lamb of God, would soon die; she understood more of that death than all the other disciples. Perhaps when she sat at His feet He had spoken to her about His coming death and burial and resurrection. But some readers of the Bible have a difficulty. Here in our Gospel she anoints His head, but in the Gospel of John she is at His feet and anoints them, wiping His feet with her hair. Critics and infidels who deny the inspiration of the Bible have pointed this out as one of the glaring contradictions, while others have thought of two different occasions when the anointing took place. There is, however, no difficulty here at all. She anointed both His feet and His head. The Holy Spirit reports the anointing of the head of the Lord in Matthew, because this is in harmony with the object of the Gospel. He is the King, and while He is the rejected King, her faith no doubt looked beyond death and burial. In John the Holy Spirit gives the anointing of the feet and leaves out the anointing of the head, because the King is the Son of God; as such He is described in the Gospel Of John, and that attitude of Mary before His feet anointing them is in fullest harmony with the fourth Gospel.
And after the Passover and the institution of that blessed and most precious memorial feast which we call "the Lord's Supper" we see Him in the garden. Who can fathom the deep anguish of His soul, who can understand the agony of those midnight hours? Worship is demanded here. He looked on toward the Cross, where He who knew no sin was now to be made sin. From this His holy soul shrank. But it had to be. He knew all the depths into which He had to plunge.
Then after His willing arrest we see Him first before Caiaphas and the elders. Before that council He had to appear first. But all their schemes failed. They found nothing in Him. The question of the High priest concerning His Sonship is answered by the King. The blessed One could not be condemned by false witnesses. His own confession of who He is could alone bring about His unjust condemnation. The King is condemned.
"What think ye?" And they answering said, "He is liable of the penalty of death." (verse 66). What a justice! Satanic, fiendish injustice rather. But there He stands, the silent Lamb of God. What a picture! Oh, that we might behold Him once more as He stood before this company of His enemies. What calmness! "Majestic in His silence, majestic in His speech; unmoved by threats to speak, unmoved by threats when He had spoken."
And how affecting the scene which follows. His confession set the powers of darkness loose and the undefending Christ, the Son of God, is tasting a little of the cup He had to drink. Oh, to think of it! They spit in His face! That face, which in loving tenderness had gazed with compassion upon the multitudes, yea, that face, the image of the invisible God, was covered with the vile spittle of men. How He must have suffered! They buffeted Him, struck Him with the palms of their hands, mocked Him. And not a word, not a murmur came from His blessed lips. "When reviled, He reviled not again, when suffering, He threatened not." And reader! it was all for such vile sinners as we are! He loved us and gave Himself for us. What a Saviour!
1. Delivered unto Pilate. 27:1-2.
2. The Suicide of Judas. 27:3-10.
3. Before Pilate. 27:11-14.
4. The Awful Choice. 27:15-26.
5. Crowned with Thorns and Crucified. 27:27-44.
6. The Death of the King. 27:45-50.
7. The Rent Veil and the Earthquake. 27:51-56.
8. The Burial. 27:57-66.
In this chapter we follow Him to the cross. What a journey it was! He, who had lived that wonderful life, preached the Kingdom, had healed the sick, cast out the demons, raised the dead, He, who is announced in the beginning of this Gospel to be Immanuel, God manifested in flesh, the Beloved of the Father is in the hands of men, led away to the cross. What sufferings were His! Who is able to follow the depths of that shame, which He despised, the cross which He endured!
Judas filled with remorse ends his life by hanging himself. What is written in Acts 1:18 is not a discrepancy. The rope must have broken and the terrible thing described in Acts must have happened. Judas was a disciple, yet not born again. He never called the King "Lord."
The silver pieces he cast into the temple and the priests, as covetous as Judas, stoop down to pick them up. That which follows is only reported in this Gospel, in the other Gospel records no mention is made of the fate of Judas. It is put only in the Gospel of Matthew on account of its dispensational bearing. The priests judge very religiously that it is not lawful to put the money into the Corban, the treasury of the temple. They decide to buy with the pieces of silver, the field of the potter for a burying ground for strangers. This was in partial fulfillment of what was spoken by Jeremias. The full prophecy is found in Zechariah, but the Spirit calls here attention to what is also spoken by Jeremias. We read in that book (chapters 18 and 19) of a potter's field, which was situated on the side of the valley of Hinnom. That valley is also called "Tophet," a fearful type with its awful memories of Gehenna.
And then we see the Lord in fulfillment of His own words, delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. Then the people have their choice between Him, their King and Barabbas (son of the father), the child of the devil.
And now he puts the important question: "Which of the two will ye that I release unto you?" It does not take long to bring forth the answer. Barabbas is the people's choice. Barabbas! Barabbas! Not a voice was heard for the lord. Where were now the multitudes who had followed Him? Where they who had cried "Hosanna"? But Pilate convinced of the awful choice, which had been made, against the authority which he had, makes another attempt: "What then shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ?" What a solemn question it was; and it is so still. The question was answered there and it must also be answered by every person to whom the Lord Jesus Christ is offered. He must either be accepted as Saviour and Lord or rejected. The choice decides the eternal destiny; those who accept Him and own Him as their Saviour are saved and all who reject Him as Son of God and Saviour are lost. Pilate's second question is answered by a great cry, that fearful cry: "Let Him be crucified." Again Pilate asks: "What evil then has He done?" But his voice is drowned in a greater demand: "let Him be crucified." Pilate was fully convinced of the innocence of the silent victim before him, but miserable coward he was, he would not act. When he saw he availed nothing and a great tumult was rising, he took water, washed his hands before the crowd and said: "I am guiltless of the blood of this righteous one, see ye to it." And what did they answer to the governor's action and "see ye to it" his word to them? And all the people answering said, "His blood be on us and our children. Then he released unto them Barabbas; but Jesus, having scourged Him, he delivered up that He might be crucified."
Terrible answer it was. Barabbas is the nation's choice and the blood of the Holy One is wished by them upon their heads and the heads of their children. Has that awful wish been granted? Let the history of the Jews answer down to the present day, how His blood came upon them and their children; the end is not yet. Barabbas has been their choice and there is still that false Christ to come, who comes in his own name and whom they will receive. Crowned with thorns, mocked, spit upon and dishonored the King is led away to Golgotha. And they crucified Him.
It may be well to group together the different events
of the cross.
1. They brought Him to Golgotha (Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22; Luke 23:33; John 19:17).
2. The refusal of the vinegar and the gall (Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:23).
3. Crucified between the two thieves (Matthew 27:35-38; Mark 15:24-28; Luke 23:33-38; John 19:18-24).
4. The first word from the cross, "Father, forgive," (Luke 23:34).
5. The soldiers part His garments (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:23).
6. The Jews mock their King (Matthew 27:39-44; Mark 15:29-32; Luke 23:35-38).
7. The thieves rail on Him, but one repents and believes (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32; Luke 23:39-43).
8. The second word from the cross, "Today shalt thou be with me," etc. (Luke 23:43).
9. The third word, "Woman, behold thy son" (John 19:26-27).
10. The darkness (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44).
11. The fourth word,"My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46-47; Mark 15:34-36).
12. The fifth word, "I thirst" (John 19:28).
13. The sixth word, "It is finished" (John 19:30).
14. The seventh word, "Father into Thy hands I commend my Spirit" and the dismissal of His Spirit (Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46; John 19:30).
The rent veil was the first testimony from God's side that the work of the sinbearer is done, that the great work is finished and the new and living way into the Holiest is made by the blood of the Lamb of God (Hebrews 10:19-20). His resurrection is the second testimony. But the resurrection mentioned in verse 52 did not take place immediately upon His death on the cross, but those graves were opened "after His resurrection" (verse 53).
And He was buried. Isaiah 53:9 was fulfilled. The literal translation reads: "And men appointed His grave with the wicked, but He was with the rich in His death." The enemy, who could not frustrate His death, is at work to make all secure, but instead he makes his own defeat a perfect defeat. They remembered His promise of resurrection. The disciples had forgotten that promise completely. The stone is sealed, the guard is placed there to make fraud and illusion impossible. Little did they realize that they were even then working to make the glorious resurrection of the Son of God a fact, which is secure beyond all controversy.
1. His Resurrection. 28:1-10.
2. The Lying Report of the Jews. 28:11-15.
3. The Great Commission. 28:16-20.
We have reached the last portion of our Gospel. The end is brief and very abrupt. The account of the resurrection of the Lord as given by Matthew is the briefest of all the Gospels. Only a few of the facts are mentioned. Then the characteristic feature of this last chapter is that no mention is made of the ascension of the Lord. However, the fact of His ascension is implied in numerous places in this Gospel. In the Gospel of Mark we find the statement that He was taken up into heaven and sat at the right hand of God. In Luke we read that He was "carried into heaven," but in Matthew no such statement is made. The Gospel ends as if He were still on the earth, all power in heaven and on earth in His hands and with His own to the end of the age. All this is in perfect harmony with the scope of this Gospel.
The resurrection account needs no further comment. In our annotations on the Gospel of Luke the reader will find a brief review of the resurrection as reported by the synoptics.
Three classes are seen in connection with the resurrection of the Lord in Matthew. The soldiers represent unbelieving Gentiles, the women, believers and then the Jews. The soldiers are terror-stricken. They were lying around on the ground as if they were dead. It is the effect upon the natural man of God's power made known. On what greater scale this will be repeated when He comes again in resurrection Glory, as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Then the resurrection of Him who was dead, that glorious and unassailable fact, was officially reported to the chief priests. The Sanhedrin is once more assembled. Lying, fraud of the most ridiculous nature is resorted to, to deny what had taken place.
The whole story they invented is, of course, incredible. It is far easier to believe He arose from the dead than to believe what the Jews invented about His resurrection. If His disciples could have stolen the body, if it had been possible, they surely would not have done it. But if they had a desire to steal the body, they could not have done so, for with the guard placed at the tomb, it was an impossibility. The disciples had forgotten all about the resurrection promise; they were a scattered, poor and timid lot of people. But even if they had been anxious to steal the body, how could they have done it? Here was the company of armed men. They were experienced guards and careful watchers, trained in that profession. Then there was the sealed, heavy stone. How could they have rolled away the stone and carried away the body without being detected? Impossible. But the utterly ridiculous side of the whole lie came out with the report which these soldiers were to circulate, being well paid for it by the Sanhedrin. The disciples came and stole the body, while they were sleeping! In the first place, it is incredible that all these men had fallen asleep at the same time. All were fast asleep, so fast asleep that the commotion of rolling away the stone and the carrying away of a dead one did not disturb them. Furthermore, sleeping at a post meant death for the Roman soldier. One might have nodded and thus risked his life, but that all slept is an impossibility. But the report is foolish; they were asleep, and while they were asleep they witnessed how the disciples stole the body of Jesus. How ridiculous! The whole proceedings were out and out fraud and falsehood. And this was indeed the only statement they could possibly bring against the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then follows the great commission.
This is the Kingdom commission. In Luke 24 we have the proper Christian commission. A time is coming when this great commission here will be carried out by a remnant of Jewish disciples, who are represented by the eleven. It is the same remnant as in Matthew 24.
All power is His; all power in heaven and on earth. Soon the day will come when indeed He will have all things put under His feet. And the last word, "And behold, I am with you all the days until the completion of the age." Precious promise of faith! He will never leave nor forsake, and He who is with us is the "I am," the mighty Jehovah, the Immanuel, having all power in heaven and on earth.
The Gospel of Matthew begins with Immanuel, "God with us," it ends with Immanuel. With Him, our Saviour and Lord, we shall be in all eternity. Forever with the Lord. With all our hearts we praise God for such a Saviour, for such a Lord, for such a Gospel and for such a future with HIMSELF, the King of kings and Lord of lords.