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My New Testament Notebook

by Joe Pursch on January 16th, 2014

Matthew 19:30 – “but many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Unlike the common conception, this verse is not teaching that Jesus in his final judgment will reverse the nature of human achievement, allowing certain individuals who have been humbled on earth to be exalted in heaven while allowing others who have been exalted on earth to be secondary in heaven. In reality, there are no levels of heaven that are discussed here. The real point he is making is that in heaven everyone who is there will be standing in grace, welcomed there by the sovereign hand of God, deserving nothing, and receiving everything. In heaven, no one will be last and no one will be first. We will all be receiving the ultimate experience and blessing of being with Christ and receiving all that eternity will offer. It will be an equally indescribable experience for every single person, regardless of whether they were first or last in earthly things. This is illustrated in the passage that immediately follows, in which Jesus tells the parable of the laborers. The men that labor for 12 hours receive the same pay as those who labored only for one hour. The generosity of God in offering us the fullness of heaven regardless of our performance or even our sacrifice and suffering is the point of both passages.

Matthew 20:17 – 28 The loneliness of Jesus in sacrificial ministry is seen in this text. Again, he lays out the sad prophecy of his coming betrayal and crucifixion. And then the text says that immediately after this the mother of James and John comes up to him and asks him for her two sons to have the right to sit at his right-hand and left-hand in the coming kingdom. Now we don’t know if the text places this immediately after what Jesus had just said about his suffering, but it is very possible. This points out how oblivious Christ’s closest followers were to his true mission and his deepest battle.

Sacrificial ministry and spiritual leadership both entail indescribable loneliness. Some of us bear a solitary mission and a solitary message. Pastors and other full-time Christian workers understand this in a deeper way than many others.

Matthew 20:29 – 34 Here again we see the difference in attitude and focus between Christ and those that followed him. When the blind men outside of Jericho cried out for healing, the crowd rebuked them, being caught up more in the coming kingdom that they were expecting Christ to bring in. Jesus of course knew that he was going to Jerusalem not for a triumphal conquering but for a humbling and painful death. The crowd had glory in its mind, but Jesus had suffering in his heart. And yet it was Christ, burdened by the true reality of what he was heading to, who still opened his eyes with pity upon the blind men. In fact, the 34th verse says that Jesus stopped and in pity touched their eyes and gave them their sight. Oh, the majesty of my Lord. How thoroughly perfect he was in his character, his emotional control, his relentless love for me and for others, no matter the sacrifice. No matter the human situation of suffering that doing God’s will entailed. How can I shirk any calling of God in my life today no matter how difficult given this amazing example?

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