Jesus’ disciples see the withered fig tree on their return to Jerusalem from Bethany
When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?”
And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him,
“Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”
Jesus engages in conflict with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem
And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?”
And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”
And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’
And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went.
And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?”
They said, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.
“Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’
And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying,
‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’
But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants,
‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’
And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him,
‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’
And he was speechless.
Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.”
And they brought him a denarius.
And Jesus said to them,
“Whose likeness and inscription is this?”
They said, “Caesar’s.”
Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.
The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’
Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”
But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God:
‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”
And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying,
“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”
They said to him, “The son of David.”
He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”
And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’
You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred?
And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’
You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying,
‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’
Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
And they came again to Jerusalem.
And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?”
Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.”
And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From man’?”
—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet.
So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”
And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
And he began to speak to them in parables.
“A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying,
‘They will respect my son.’
But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’
And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.
And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?”
But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”
And they brought one.
And he said to them,
“Whose likeness and inscription is this?”
They said to him, “Caesar’s.”
Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
And they marveled at him.
And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”
Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?
He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.’
David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?”
And the great throng heard him gladly.
And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them,
“Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.”
He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?”
And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.”
So they answered that they did not know where it came from.
And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
And he began to tell the people this parable:
“A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said,
‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’
But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves,
‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’
And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”
When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!”
But he looked directly at them and said,
“What then is this that is written: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’?
Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.
So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?”
But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?”
They said, “Caesar’s.”
He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.
There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”
And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”
Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.”
For they no longer dared to ask him any question.
But he said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is David’s son? For David himself says in the Book of Psalms, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’
David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son?”
And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
The Disciples marvel at the Temple; Jesus delivers the Olivet Discourse on their return to Bethany from Jerusalem
Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them,
“You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?”
And Jesus answered them,
“See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you,
‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.
For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.
For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself,
‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry,
‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.
And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’
And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’
But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’
Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”
And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”
And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying,
‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
“But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter. For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. And then if anyone says to you,
‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.
“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
And they asked him,
“Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”
And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’
and, ‘The time is at hand!’
Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”
Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
And he told them a parable:
“Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Here is a very useful tool of taking us daily this week through the steps of Jesus using the Scriptures. I will post this each day the reading and encourage parents to consider this a family devotional and discussion. I will have each day posted by early morning of the day.
What Happened on “Palm” Sunday?
Jesus, at the Mount of Olives, sends two disciples to secure a donkey and a colt; makes his “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem; weeps over Jerusalem
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,
“Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say,
‘The Lord needs them,’
and he will send them at once.”
This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!”
And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying,
“Who is this?”
And the crowds said,
“This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them,
“Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you,
‘Why are you doing this?’
‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’”
And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them,
“What are you doing, untying the colt?”
And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting,
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!
Hosanna in the highest!”
And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying,
“Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you,
‘Why are you untying it?’
you shall say this:
‘The Lord has need of it.’”
So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them,
“Why are you untying the colt?”
And they said,
“The Lord has need of it.”
And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying,
“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him,
“Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”
“I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying,
“Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out,
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”
And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
“Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
Some Greeks seek Jesus
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him,
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them,
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”
Then a voice came from heaven:
“I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said,
“An angel has spoken to him.”
“This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. So the crowd answered him,
“We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”
So Jesus said to them,
“The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.
Jesus enters the temple area, then returns to Bethany
And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
And leaving them [i.e., the crowds and leaders], he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.
HT: Justin Taylor
The upcoming week is one to really zero-in on the work of Jesus Christ to redeem our sins through his substitution for us at the cross. Recommend to you that you take the time with your family to focus daily on the events and the meaning of them. I will post each day what happened historically in Jerusalem and other resources to remind us of Christ’s work. A great devotional tool to use (and it is free) is John Piper’s “Love to the Uttermost” which are 8 devotional readings for Holy Week. You can download them for free at http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/books/love-to-the-uttermost and start this Sunday, Palm Sunday.
By Joey Newton, pastor-teacher of Newtown Bible Church in Newtown, Connecticut.
A question that has troubled people throughout the centuries is how can a good and sovereign God allow such evil in the world? If He were sovereign (in control) and good wouldn’t He simply keep evil from happening? The answer seems obvious, “Yes.” However, evil exists. Therefore, the only conclusion must be that He is either not sovereign, or not good. Both of these are horrible thoughts and, thankfully, light years away from the God who is and who is revealed in Scripture.
Preliminary matters. Before answering the why question, it is important to address a couple of items up front. First, we must come to grips with the fact that God is God and we are not. He doesn’t fit into our boxes. Simply put, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Is. 55:8-9). The fact is, we just can’t see everything from God’s perfect and eternal perspective. He alone “declares the end from the beginning,” and knows the best way to get to there. It took Job a lot of pain to reach the point he could rest there (Job 42:1-6). We would do well to learn from him and start there at the beginning.
Second, how we frame the question has everything to do with how we answer it. We must be sure not to put God on the witness stand to man (Rom. 3:4). God does not exist for us, we exist for Him as His image bearers. In other words, the question is not, “How can God allow evil?” Rather, it is “How can a holy God do good to us who are evil?” Evil entered through the world through human sin, not God’s: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin” (Rom. 5:12). The problem is that we are a sinful people and deserve God’s judgement. It is amazing He withholds evil as much as He does and does us so much good (Acts 14:17).
But Why? Some may still say, “But that doesn’t explain why God allowed evil to enter into the world and then let it remain?” Here we must remember the first point: God’s wisdom exceeds our own. It is impossible to answer all the why questions, especially in specific cases of suffering. We just don’t know, but our good God does. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us” (Deut. 29:29). It is important we don’t get caught up in what we can’t answer and instead focus on what God has revealed.
God’s primary purpose in creation, in the universe, is His own glory (Ps. 19:1; Is. 43:7). This is hard for some to stomach, but it sets the foundation to understand the answer to why. If evil exists, then He must intend, somehow, to glorify Himself by it.
God ordains evil as a means to display His own glory and character. For example, God displays His holy justice when He punishes sin. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that He could multiply His wonders and His glory (Ex. 7:3) and magnify His Name before the Egyptians and His people: “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD” (14:4). God displays His sovereignty over the evil designs of men (Gen. 50:20) and nations (Is. 10:5-14). God displays His compassion in comforting those who suffer because of evil (Deut. 32:6; Judges 2:18). God displays His grace in forgiving those who commit evil but repent and trust in Him (Ps. 32:1-7).
Jesus Christ is the Ultimate Answer. The ultimate answer we must look to and the ultimate display of God’s glory and purpose at the cross. Jesus said, just hours before His betrayal, “Now My soul is troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.’ Then a voice came out of heaven: ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it’” (John 12:27-28; cf. 13:31-32; 17:1). God’s ultimate display of His glory and His purpose in ordaining sin is the Son suffering as a substitute for sinners. Jesus, the suffering servant, “Was foreknown before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20). This means, before creation God purposed the cross. In one sense, then, the greatest suffering for sin was endured by God Himself, and that by an act of His own will, “The LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief … as a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it an be satisfied … He Himself bore the sin of many” (Is. 53:10-12). The Father caused the suffering of the Son for sinners. The Son endured suffering from the Father for sinners. By this God determined the supreme display of His glory: the defeat of sin and evil at the cost of His own suffering, for His glory and the everlasting joy of His people.
The cross of Jesus Christ brings it all into a perspective of glory, worship, and hope. The cross demonstrates God’s eternal and limitless love to those who trust Him (Rom. 5:8-10; Titus 3:4-5). The cross upholds God’s justice in the salvation of sinners (Rom. 3:25-26) and the judgement of those who reject (John 3:19). The cross provides the grounds and proof of all of His unfailing compassion and grace to those who rest in Him (Rom. 8:32; 2 Cor. 1:8-9; 12:7-10). The cross points us to the end of the story: a new heaven and new earth where sin will be forever removed, and “He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away … there will no longer be any curse … they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads” (Rev. 21:3-4; 22:3-4).
God has good planned in the end for those who trust in Him and His work in the death, resurrection, and soon return of the Son. God does not reveal all His specific purposes in suffering and evil in the world, but He is sovereign over it, He has defeated it, will forever remove it, and will sustain His people by grace and hope eternal until He brings it about (1 Peter 1:3-9; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; Rom. 8:18-21).
Until that day we will need to trust Him and encourage each other to do the same (Heb. 10:23-25). We point each other to the cross and our eternal hope in glory when we will be with Him forever and see Him face to face. In this way, we come to know Him more intimately (John 17:3; Phil. 3:10), and when we know Him better we are able to humbly trust Him more and ultimately let His glory, grace, and wisdom be a more than a sufficient answer to why there is so much evil and suffering.
One of the beautiful things about the gospel is that it produces a living and vibrant faith. It is our daily protection in that through faith in the gospel I have salvation, justification, peace, and an understanding of the Word of God. Through it I am being transformed from glory to glory. I have all I ever need for life and godliness, freedom from the power of sin, and my Sabbath rest in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
I can go on and on but the point is that we should want our children to possess such a faith. That their understanding of the Christian faith through the Word of God would be informed through the central meaning of it in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Next to the tragedy of a child who never grasps the gospel, is the child who may make some level of profession of faith and then walk away.
Tom Bisset in his book, ‘Why Christian Kids Leave the Faith,” lists 4 main reasons why some people leave the faith.
- They encounter troubling and unanswered questions about the faith. They see the tough issues of life and do not see a Christian answer. These can be theological questions or just questions of doubt. They may be told “you just need to believe” and so they will leave in the name of intellectual honesty. Some of the material that is available in the name of apologetics is intellectually weak and at times dishonest.
- Their faith just does not work for them. The Christian faith is presented as one where there should be peace, joy, and happiness as found in the promises of the Bible. They become disillusioned with the church, with other Christians in watching their lives and ultimately disillusioned with God.
- Other things in life become more important than their faith. The person becomes preoccupied by such things as seeking pleasures, ambitions, personal issues or just some of the hard realities of life. Pretty soon a secular view of life displaces a sacred view based upon the Scriptures. The person begins to drift just like a boat from its moorings and their faith is a beam on the horizon.
- They never personally owned their own faith. In other words, there was not authentic repentance and faith. They simply conformed to the spiritual expectations of their parents and others and did what was required to show belief such a saying a prayer and being baptized. Then when faced with the reality of life later their faith collapsed because it was thin on the outside and hollow on the inside.
This is why the Deuteronomy 6 paradigm and the preaching of the gospel to yourself and to your children every single day and into all aspects of life is imperative. If they do not see the centrality of the gospel in the affairs of mankind, it will become irrelevant to them.
What defines your parenting? What are your goals with your children? You know what defines your parenting and your goals for your children by the way you parent and what motivates your joy in parenting. For example, are you more concerned with their behavior or their heart?
The Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15 that what is to be of first importance in our lives is that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”
This means that there is nothing of equal or greater value than the fact that God sent His Son to the cross to bear his wrath for sinners like you and your children. If so, is there anything in life we should be more passionate about than the gospel. We should be thinking on it, reflecting on it, rejoicing in it and allowing it to guide the way we look at our families and the way we parent.
So what does a gospel-centered home look like? It is one where all aspects of the family and parenting are informed by the gospel. Such a home knows such things as:
- Jesus has won the victory over sin, Satan and death. Our sin as parents or the sin of our children are parts of the battle but Christ has won the victory and a home that realizes the power of God in the gospel and Christ (1 Corinthians 1:24) sees the hope we have and are not defeated.
- Jesus is our redemption and has set us free from the slavery of sin. We may fall but we do not need to stay where we are. Christ has purchased the freedom to pursue righteousness.
- Jesus is our justification where our sin was taken upon him and his righteousness credited to us so that we could be seen as justified in God’s sight.
- Jesus has cleansed us from all sins that we have committed and sins committed against us. The burden of guilt has been lifted and the power to forgive purchased.
- Jesus is our ransom and paid the price for our sin. There is neither further cost nor interest penalty. We are completely forgiven and there are no charges against us.
- Jesus is our reconciliation where the obstacle of sin has been taken away and we have been brought to God in a new relationship.
The battle is to discipline and nurture your children guided by these truths and many other truths of the gospel. Tomorrow I will post the fundamental difference between a home that may be “Christian” but absent of the gospel.
Have you ever gone on a short-term mission trip? During these trips there is a quick window of opportunity that you grab and encourage people with the gospel of Jesus Christ knowing that you will be gone in a few days or weeks. Each day has focus and the minutes count.
My children are well into their 30s now and raising them seemed as short as my trips to Peru and Mexico. Paul’s exhortation just before Ephesians 6:4 is, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (5:15-16)
In bringing your children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord is to approach each day like a short-term mission trip. You need to see yourself as a missionary whose goal is that your children will one day become your brother or sister in Christ. The greatest wisdom I can give my children is not how to be successful in life, but is the wisdom of the cross that gives eternal life.
The gospel’s message is that my child’s greatest need is not that they conform morally but that their hearts are changed by the power of God through the gospel. So what is it to discipline and instruct them in the Lord? Paul gives us a clue in his prayer to the church in Ephesians 3, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV)
Fathers, may your children know such love and glory through your teaching and example.
Happy Fathers Day!
I am currently going through the book “When Sinners Say I Do” (Shepherd Press) by Dave Harvey for about the sixth time. I decided a couple of years ago to use it as a guide for pre-marriage counseling and the results have been transforming and powerful to the counselees as well as myself. Here is a quick review of what this book brings to our understanding of marriage and will hopefully compel you to read it as well:
Many of the books on marriage address the symptoms of marital challenges but neglect what is the real problem. Dave Harvey states, “the cause of our marriage battles is neither our marriage nor our spouse. It’s the sin in our hearts – entirely, totally, exclusively, without exception. This is taught clearly and consistently in Scripture, from the first sin to the final judgment.”
In reading this book we are encouraged to develop the tools to diagnose our heart and then flee to the gospel for help. “God wants Christians to delight in marriage. And He has made provision in the gospel to do so. But we can’t truly understand the gospel, or even the basic problems of every marriage, until we come to terms with the undeniable reality of sin. Men and women (and me) find real hope when we realize that God uses marriage to reveal the heart and change the soul.”
So what is wrong with my marriage?
Me and my sin. I am the sinner or as Apostle Paul states in 1 Timothy 1:15, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” To say that I am a sinner is to stare boldly at the fundamental reality that many people don’t even want to glance at. But when we acknowledge the fact that sin holds considerable sway in our lives, several things become clear.
First we find ourselves in some pretty good company including all the heroes of the faith in and not in the Bible from Old Testament times until now. They all experienced the battle with sin.
Second we acknowledge what everybody around us already knows – particularly our spouse. But, by far the greatest benefit of acknowledging our sinfulness, is that it makes Christ and his work for us precious to us. Only sinners need a Savior. Jesus said in Luke 5:31-32 “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Often we think that issues like communication are the biggest problem with our marriage. But when we realize that our battle is against sin, it helps the gospel shine brighter in our heart and marriage. Bad communication can be a big problem in marriage, but it is not fundamental. Bad communication is the result of ignoring sin that desperately needs the grace of God and hope of the gospel to speak life.
What shapes your marriage comes down to your theology. By theology I mean your view of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, God’s Word and the gospel. Theology governs your entire life and it determines how you will live in your marriage day-to-day and year-by-year.
The Foundation of our marriage is the Bible: The center of the Bible is Jesus Christ. The Bible fills marriage with significance as it speaks as an authority on what marriage is to be.
The Fountain of marriage is the gospel. God did not just send Jesus to be an example of moral goodness and to teach us how to live – He sent Him as the answer to the sin dilemma and to propitiate His wrath against sin in order to restore us in a relationship with Him. The gospel is the ultimate solution for our sin and is the center of theological truth. We remain in our sin even though we have been saved and we need the gospel every day to resist sin.
The Focus of our marriage is the glory of God. Marriage is not just something God invented – it is something that belongs to Him. It exists for Him more than it exists for you. It is for our good but more so it is for God’s glory.
So, what is the key to a thriving marriage?
It is dealing with sin. When we apply the gospel to our sin, it gives hope to our personal lives and in our marriage. The sin that remains in our heart opposes God and our spouse. It obstructs our joy and our holiness and eclipses thriving, healthy marriages.
The hope that arises from the gospel is the beginning of a sweet relationship and marriage can become a living, thriving union where sins are confessed and forgiven.
As Thomas Watson once wrote and Dave Harvey repeats often in his book, “When sin becomes bitter, marriage becomes sweet.”
The love of a worldly desire cannot be expunged from the heart just by speaking about how worthless it is. We all know that things like pornography, drugs, and drunkenness are dark places yet those attached to them, continue it. A heart will not depart from a strong desire by a single act of resignation. What reigns in the heart will not easily give up occupancy to another … that is unless Christ the Sovereign appears with his charm and great power to subdue our moral nature and take control.
It is through the preaching of the gospel, corporately or privately to ourselves, that we behold God as in a way that we may love God more than our sin. Chalmers writes, “It is there (through the gospel) and only there, where God stands revealed as an object of confidence for sinners – and where our desire after him is not chilled into apathy by the barrier of human guilt…It is the bringing in of this better hope, whereby we draw near nigh unto God.”
In contemplating the gospel, the sin that grips us is brought into true light and when enabled by faith, which is God’s gift, we can see the face of the glory of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). It is through the gospel that we can understand that we have a full pardon from our sin, gracious acceptance by God, a love that is above all loves, a release from the spirit of bondage and tyranny of our sin, our adoption as children of God, deliverance from sin’s power, a faith that is revealed from heaven, and a new nature that is dead to the influence and reach of worldly desires.
Tomorrow will be the final article in this series and will explain how the truth of the gospel makes the demands of the gospel our heart’s desire.
In articles to come, a term I am likely to use often is “gospel-centered” which will be descriptive of life, parenting, marriage, and ministry. It will be helpful to define this up front and why I would use this rather than terms like “biblical” or “Christian.”
To start, the term gospel needs to be clear. In a sentence, Paul states it best in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-4, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” It is the good news that God, by his grace, has provided redemption to a fallen world through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For a more detailed description, see the tab “The Gospel” at the top of this website.
To be gospel-centered then is take the gospel message and the object of the gospel, Jesus Christ, and center on it our hope, our joy, and passions. It is to make the gospel of first importance over the way I parent, be a husband, and the way I deal with the joys and the trials of life.
Making the message of the gospel central protects me from depending upon any religious performance as a means of thinking I am meriting favor with God and it protects me from being seduced by idols. It helps me as a parent to guide my children by nurturing and disciplining them from the perspective that they are sinners needing guidance and grace just as I do. I can love my wife like Christ loves the church because daily I experience such love as one pledged to Christ. I can live a gospel-centered life because my identity is found in the perfect obedience of Christ, my standing before God is based on Christ’s death for my sins, and my living is shaped by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The gospel is not just a message for unbelievers to be saved but is the basis of the storyline of Scripture and brings meaning to every aspect of our lives here and is the focus of the life to come. In other words, to be gospel-centered is to recognize that the gospel is the basis of meaning to everything.