A Couple Weeks Before Easter

A Couple Weeks Before Easter

A Couple Weeks Before Easter

Read – Matthew 20:1-34

Topical

Introduction

We are approaching what is arguably the most important and significant week in all of the year… at least for Christians. In one week we will be celebrating Palm Sunday, and in two weeks we will be celebrating Easter – Resurrection Sunday. As is always the case, I’ve been praying and searching the Scriptures concerning what I should preach and teach during those services.

And last week, we concluded a series of studies on the Great Stories of the Old Testament. So I find myself with this lone Sundayin between those two things. As I pondered what to preach on this “in-between” Sunday, I wondered whether there was anything significant about the Sunday a couple weeks before Easter? What was Jesus doing a couple weeks before Easter… one week before Palm Sunday?

We read the Matthew 20 this morning because I thought I might get an idea of what Jesus was doing a couple week’s before Easter by simply working backwards from Palm Sunday, which is discussed inMatthew 21. And here’s what we found when we did that:

– Jesus healed 2 blind men (Matthew 20:29-34).
– Jesus taught His disciples about greatness in serving (Matthew 20:20-28).
– Jesus taught His disciples about His impending death (20:17-19).
– Jesus taught His disciples about the kingdom (Matthew 20:1-16).

In my studies this week, I also looked at the other gospels, and those same truths, along with a couple others that Matthew didn’t report, surfaced:

– He spoke with the rich young ruler about his soul (Mark 10:17-22).
– He spoke with Zaccheus about his soul (Luke 19:1-10).

So what was Jesus doing in the weeks and days leading up to Palm Sunday and Easter? Well, He was busy with the same activities that had marked His entire ministry to that point. He was TEACHING. And He was HEALING. And He was SEEKING.

Jesus was ALWAYS teaching.

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. (Matthew 4:23 NKJV)

Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: (Matthew 5:2 NKJV)

He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Matthew 7:29 NKJV)

Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” (Matthew 21:23 NKJV)

And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men (Matthew 22:16 NKJV)

*In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me. (Matthew 26:55 NKJV)

Nicodemus knew He was a teacher – This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2 NKJV) .

The woman at the well knew the Messiah was to be a teacher –The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” (John 4:25NKJV)

He taught in the temple – Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. (John 7:14 NKJV) Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them (John 8:2). These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come (John 8:2, 20 NKJV).

His dearest friends knew Him as a teacher – And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you” (John 11:28 NKJV).

He, Himself, summed up His time on earth as being a time of teaching – Jesus answered him, “I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. (John 18:20 NKJV).

His teaching amazed all who heard it!

And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching (Matthew 7:28 NKJV).

When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? (Matthew 13:54 NKJV)

And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. (Matthew 22:33 NKJV)

He taught by parables and stories.

Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching (Mark 4:2 NKJV).

He taught pointedly… boldly… never shying from pointing out error or hypocrisy.

Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces (Mark 12:38 NKJV).

He taught as One speaking for God.

Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me (John 7:16 NKJV).

– Jesus taught children, and He taught the aged.
– He taught men, and He taught women.
– He taught in homes, and He taught in synagogues.
– He taught in the temple, and He taught in the streets.
– He taught rich people, and He taught the poor.
– He taught the socially elite, and He taught the socially outcast.
– He taught rulers, and He taught servants.
– He even taught a dying man on a cross.

Jesus was ALWAYS teaching. And a couple weeks before Easter, Jesus was teaching.

So how do we respond to that? What response does a teacher want?

– The Teacher wants your ear… for you to listen. Jesus said, Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:1, 29 NKJV)
– The Teacher wants your mind… for you to be convinced and believe. There was a day when Jesus taught some particularly difficult truth, and almost everybody threw up their hands in disbelief and walked away. From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:66-68 NKJV). The teacher is not satisfied for you to simply HEAR His words… He wants to convince you of them… to know that you believe what He teaches. Can you not hear the sadness in His voice as He said, perhaps in a low voice… perhaps almost in a whisper, “Do you also want to go away?”
– The Teacher wants your life… for your behavior to be modified by what He taught. I’ve given you many verses about Jesus’ teaching. All are worth pondering. But this one you need to underline in your Bibles, so I’ll give you a minute to turn to it – Luke 6:46-49. Underline that first part – “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? (Luke 6:46 NKJV) The New Living Translation renders that verse, “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? (Luke 6:46 NLT)

I see it in me… I see it in many of you… a tendency to profess belief in the words of Jesus, right up until it gets hard to live according to those words. Then we tend to fall away… to stop listening.

– We listen to Him when He says we can believe and be saved.
– We listen to Him when He says there is a heaven that we can look forward to.
– We listen to Him when He says we can pray and ask Him for anything.
– We listen to Him when He says He promises us good to come.

But then something comes into our lives that hurts… and He tells us how to get through it… and we waver. Perhaps others are telling us something else… something opposite of His teaching. Perhaps the thing that he says for us to do is hard… painful… it will cost us… and we recoil from it. Perhaps our friends and family tell us the opposite and their way seems easier… better. That’s when we really find out if the teacher has our ear, and our mind, and especially our lives.

I lived for some years in another state. I served as assistant pastor and worship leader in a wonderful baptist church there. There was a man there who was on fire for Jesus and serving him wholeheartedly… right up until his wife died suddenly and his life was upended. He completely collapsed and crashed in his faith. The pastor tried to help him and encourage him in the Lord, but he would hear none of it. “I’ve had too many bad things happen to me, Preacher,” was how he explained his unwillingness to listen.

Perhaps you’ve had some bad things happen to you. Maybe you used to listen to the words of Jesus, but now some bad things are happening and you’re listening to other teachers instead. There are plenty of other teachers who will jump in when you stop listening to Jesus. Eve stopped listening to the Lord, and Satan was right there, whispering his evil teaching in her ear.

We need to listen to the words of Jesus, and let them drown out all other words… ESPECIALLY when it’s hard to do so. Those are the times we need His truth most.

Jesus was ALWAYS healing.

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. (Matthew 4:23 NKJV)

He healed lepers – *Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed (Matthew 8:3).

*He healed the centurion’s servant – * Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour (Matthew 8:13).

He healed withered arms and lame legs – Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other (Matthew 12:13). Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them (Matthew 21:14 NKJV).

He healed blind eyes and silent tongues – Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. (Matthew 12:13, 22 NKJV)

He healed many many people of many many things – When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed allwho were sick (Matthew 8:3, 13, 16 NKJV).

And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. … (they) begged Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched it were made perfectly well. (Matthew 14:14, 36 NKJV)

Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them. (Matthew 15:30 NKJV)

In our text we read of His healing two blind men, one of whom other gospels tell us, was named Bartimaeus – So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him (Matthew 20:34 NKJV).

Jesus was ALWAYS healing!

So how do we respond to that? What response does a healer want?

– The Healer wants to heal YOU.
– The Healer wants you to bring your sickness to Him… your disease… your brokenness, because He KNOWS He can fix it.

It is interesting to me how often people will hear that there is a cure, and yet turn away.

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, is dead today. Dead from the ravages of liver cancer. I have Steve’s biography on my shelf in my office at home. He refused the normal treatment that could have saved him, choosing instead to try alternatives that were not accepted by the medical community. As his disease progressed, he reversed course on that, eventually even mentioning that he wished he had listened sooner, but the disease had progressed too far, and Steve died.

My dear Aunt, who bequeathed this beautiful piano to our church, and who many of you knew and loved, died of cancer on the same day my dear wife died from an aneurysm in the brain. Vi was her name, but all who loved her called her Bud… she was always Aunt Bud to me. I sat in a doctor’s office with Aunt Bud one day as she listened to her doctor describe the treatment that could save her life. I asked the doctor what her chances were if she had this treatment. He told me and her that her chances of survival were extremely high, and that this form of cancer was easily treatable and that the success rate was excellent with this treatment. She asked what would happen if she declined, and he said that the cancer would spread into her brain, and she would die. She said, “No,” and left the doctor’s office refusing the treatment. And of course, you know the rest of the story – the cancer spread into her brain, and she died. Somewhere between initially refusing the treatment, and finally succombing to the disease, she started to question her decision and asked the doctor if the treatment was still an option. Alas, though, it was too late. “That ship has sailed,” is what the doctor reportedly said to her.

I look at this piano and think of my Aunt refusing the healers treatment. And the amazing irony of it all is that this very piano is tuned every three months by another man who had the very same kind of cancer, accepted the treatment, and is in complete and total health today.

Jesus has the cure for whatever is broken and hurting in your life! He was always healing, and still wants to heal you today. I’m not just talking about disease and physical sickness. Sometimes… often… He does heal in that way. I’m talking about any hurt… any brokenness… any pain… any loss… any grief… anything that is wrong in your life – GIVE IT TO JESUS. He can make you whole!

Jesus was ALWAYS seeking.

What was He seeking? He was seeking the lost – For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10 NKJV).

Who was He seeking? He was seeking the one who had gone astray – What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? (Matthew 18:12 NKJV)

*Who was He seeking? He was… and IS… seeking ALL who are perishing and lost * For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17 NKJV)

Right up until the end, He knew this was His purpose. He prayed in Gethsemane, hours before the cross, 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. (John 12:27 NKJV)

*Paul summed up Jesus’ entire ministry this way – * This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15 NKJV)

John gave a similar summation – And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. (1 John 4:14 NKJV)

Jesus was ALWAYS seeking!

So how do we respond to that? What response does a seeker want?

– The Seeker wants to find YOU.
– The Seeker wants you to save you!

Jesus took a long detour once through Samaria. It was way out of His way to do so, but the Bible says He had to go that way because He knew there was a woman there who needed saved. He met her at a well and shared the gospel with her. You can read about it in John 4. I share it this morning as an example of how much Jesus cared and cares about individuals. He went and still goes out of His way to seek them… to seek YOU.

He left heaven to seek YOU. In His parable of the 99 sheep, He pointed out that He would have done it if only 1 needed saved… if only YOU needed saved. C.S. Lewis said, “When He died in the Wounded World He died not for men, but for each man. If each man had been the only man made, He would have done no less.”

Jesus was always seeking, and He is still seeking.

One time He looked out over Jerusalem, and said, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37 NKJV).

That’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? “You were not willing!” He sought you and He still seeks you. He calls out to you to offer you salvation. He has done all the heavy lifting by dying in your place on the cross… by bearing all your sin on the cross… by taking your penalty upon Himself so that you could be free from that penalty. Now He holds out His nail pierced hands to you and says, “I want to save you… turn to Me… believe on Me… trust Me… receive Me as your Savior.”

He says, “I offer you salvation as a free gift… all you need to do is accept it. Here it is… take it!” The question is, “Will you?”

There is a scene repeated in many an action movie. A person falls over the edge of a cliff… or off a bridge… or out the window of a multistory building. A hero reaches for them as they fall and manages to get hold of their hand, temporarily arresting their plunge. But the hero only has hold by one hand, and feels his grip slipping. Desperately he says to the one falling, “Give me your other hand.” Yet in so many such scenes, the person can’t seem to get their other hand into his, and they fall to their death.

If you have never been saved, my friend, then you are falling. You need to put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water… put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea. He seeks you… He has the gift of salvation He wants to give you… will you reach out and take it?

Conclusion

We started this sermon with a question – what was Jesus doing a couple of weeks before Easter? And we determined that He was teaching, and He was healing, and He was seeking.

He’s still doing those things right now… today… in this place.

  1. Are you listening to His teaching, and letting it direct your life… even when it’s hard?
    2. Are you seeking out His healing for your hurt and pain… your grief and loss… your brokenness and need?
    3. And most of all, have you reached out to Him when He sought you… have you received the gift of salvation He seeks to give you?

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