If it was your job to plan Jesus' appearance on the stage of history, how would you choose to reveal the Savior of the world? How would you have done it? I think most of you would want to make sure Christ's coming was awe-inspiring. Innumerable angels dressed for war in a glorious array filling the sky singing "Glory to God in the Highest?" Yes! Make that first on the list! A voice like thunder coming from heaven saying "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to him?" Excellent! Put that on the list too! Healing the sick, raising the dead? Yes! But how about riding on a donkey? No, that's not so good. How about eating with sinners, or washing His disciples' feet like the slave of all? Maybe not. How about dying a cruel death on the cross as a convicted criminal, to be buried and forgotten by the world? No, we would never plan it that way. But God did!
God chose for Christ to be a servant. To stand not only in the glorious place of the holy God, but also in the humble place of unrighteous man. Christ humbled Himself to serve His Father, and to serve you. We would never plan it that way, but in this way Jesus Christ is God's chosen Servant.
Outline. We see how Christ is God's chosen Servant in two great ways in this passage.
The Fact of Christ's Humility vv. 15-16
The Fulfillment of God's Promise vv. 17-21
The Father's Pleasure in Christ v. 18a
The Father's Promise to Christ v. 18b
The Father's Prediction concerning Christ vv. 19-21
The Law's True Requirement. In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ corrected the Jewish rabbis where they neglected the true import of God's law. In today's passage Christ corrects them for applying it too strictly, in a way it was not originally intended to be applied, as if strict outward conformity could atone for inward corruption. How easy it is for we sinners to "tithe mint and dill and cumin, and...[neglect] the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness." Christ told the Pharisees, "These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others." (Matt. 23:23) By explaining the true requirement of the law of the Sabbath—the Fourth Commandment, Christ neither adds to, nor takes away from, the law of God. (Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Rev. 22:18, 19; Prov. 30:6)
God's Mercy. But Christ does not only explain the law's requirement. He also reveals God's mercy. Because God is merciful to us in our great need, we should show mercy to others. In His mercy our Savior is Lord of the Sabbath. His mercy is why we rest in order to worship. We rest to worship Him for His mercy. Any rest that does not imitate His mercy is no true Sabbath-rest, for Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.
Outline. We learn Jesus' merciful lordship over and in the Sabbath in this passage's two main points:
Works of Necessity Are Proper on the Sabbath vv. 1-8
Brian L. Penney, pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Copiague, NY (CREC), recently announced his congregation's ministry called "Heart & Voice" which aims to help your congregation learn to sing 4-part harmony. While we don't agree with the CREC's commitment to the theology of the Federal Vision, the work of "Heart & Voice" is a great idea--your part is not only written down, but also sung well on an MP3 you can listen to on the way to work. Brian writes,
Our church has a ministry called Heart & Voice to help congregations learn to sing 4-part harmony...to improve our praise of Almighty God. Toward that end, we are producing learning tracks for psalms and hymns in SATB format with full-mix so all the parts can be heard as you would sing them. If any of you have a list of psalms or hymns you would like to teach your congregations, we will consider producing the 5 tracks for each song. H&V has a learning track specialist helping us produce the audio files. He has given us a steep discount: $50 per song. His usual price is $100. If you send us a donation to cover the learning track production, that would be great! The songs will go on our website for all to share. You can hear a sample here: www.heartandvoice.weebly.com.
On the URC discussion list, Dave asked,
But does it matter that one can sing "skilfully?" I think not.
This is a good question, and one which sometimes divides people--the humble say God accepts His people's singing even if its musical quality is as poor as the "widow's mite," the "truly musical" can imply poor singing is sinful worship, and some of the "truly Reformed" claim choirs are not an element of New Testament worship. Dave's question deserves a good answer.
Here is mine. Because the Lord commands us to sing, and singing requires skill, I think to sing with less skill is to sing less; to sing hardly well is to hardly sing. This is no reason to think the Lord is not merciful to those of His creatures who can merely lisp--some of whom sing in our congregation--but it is to affirm that He made us to really sing, and that He will enable us to do so once again in glory (Rev. 5; 14:3; 15:3). Our congregation has revived its choir for this reason--to teach and encourage the whole congregation to sing. Calvin called the congregation the "first choir," implying that the choir is the "second choir" in the church. I think his view is a good example to follow--the purpose of a choir is to teach and encourage the whole congregation to sing.
That it is the Lord's good command to sing is beyond dispute:
Psalm 30:4Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints
Psalm 92:1 It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
Psalm 147:1 Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
Is not artistic skill God's gift, and does God not call us to use those skills when they are required in the elements of worship which He commands?
Exodus 36:2 And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the LORD had putskill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work.
1 Chronicles 28:21 And behold the divisions of the priests and the Levites for all the service of the house of God; and with you in all the work will be every willing man who has skill for any kind of service; also the officers and all the people will be wholly at your command.
That singing requires skill is self-evident, but is also manifest in scripture:
2 Chronicles 30:21-22 21 And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with all their might to the LORD. 22 And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the LORD.
Psalm 137:2-6 2 On the willows there we hung up our lyres. 3 For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" 4 How shall we sing the LORD's song in a foreign land? 5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! 6 Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!
1 Samuel 16:17-18 17 So Saul said to his servants, "Provide for me a man who can play well and bring him to me." 18 One of the young men answered, "Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the LORD is with him."
1 Chronicles 25:5-7 5 All these were the sons of Heman the king's seer, according to the promise of God to exalt him, for God had given Heman fourteen sons and three daughters. 6 They were all under the direction of their father in the music in the house of the LORD with cymbals, harps, and lyres for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under the order of the king. 7 The number of them along with their brothers, who were trained in singing to the LORD, all who were skillful, was 288.
2 Chronicles 34:12 The Levites, all who were skillful with instruments of music,
Proverbs 22:29 29 Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.
Our congregation may be obscure, but our King is not. So,
1 Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. 2 Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! 3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
The incredible contrast between Christ's words in the previous and present passages could shock you. Christ pronounces both utter woe and perfect weal, unresting torment in Hell and perfect rest in Heaven. He calls you to repentance, and to faith. His kingdom is a kingdom not only of repentance, but also of faith in Jesus Christ. If Christ's words of woe shock you and drive you away, you will have no true interest in His words of comfort in this passage. But if you truly know that you deserve the terrifying wrath of God for the wretched evil of your sins, then you will understand how good is God's grace, and you won't want to leave this room without it. I'll draw out several simple points from this passage, but amidst them I want you to look for just one thing—the mercy of God—and hold on to that.
This passage shows us that saving mercy in the revelation, authority, and blessings of Christ's kingdom. Christ's kingdom is revealed by the Father's will, its authority is exercised by the Son's will, and its blessings will make you whole. Its revelation is for children, its authority is absolute, and its blessings are good! Christ calls you to receive these blessings, because God has been pleased to reveal them, because Christ has authority to save, and because His salvation blessings are what you need.
At its heart repentance is a turn. A change of heart and a change of ways. By God's grace some will repent. Because of their obstinacy others will not. Repentance is an act of man, but also a gift of God's sovereign grace. As such it is a saving grace which only God can give. (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Cor. 7:10; 2 Tim. 2:25; WSC 87; WLC 75, 76) Esau "found no room for repentance, though he sought it with tears." (Heb. 12:17) Do you have this grace of repentance? Esau may have sought repentance, but he did not have it, because though he grieved he sought to comfort himself by killing his brother! "Godly grief produces repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death." (2 Cor. 7:10) Do you have this grace of repentance? It is the mark of a believer—you have a soft heart, a heart that will grieve over sin, and turn from it. Repentance is the mark of a person who truly knows and receives God's kindness. "God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance." (Rom. 2:4) Christ showed the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum the kind works of His kingdom, and in this passage He tells you His is a kingdom characterized by repentance. And He warns you of the danger of being unrepentant.
Outline. Matthew summarizes this danger in v. 20, then Christ shows the true evil and terrible consequences of being unrepentant in vv. 21-24, first addressing Chorazin and Bethsaida in vv. 21-22, then addressing Capernaum in vv. 23-24.