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Matthew 20

The Upside-Down Kingdom of Jesus

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We study through books of the Bible here at the Village Chapel. We have extra copies. If you didn’t bring a Bible and you’d like one to follow along, raise your hand up high. These are paper copies that you can leaf through. You also have access to the Internet here via our network. I believe the information is up there on the screen. Let me also remind those of you that have your phones and devices, that barcode up there gets you to the sermon notes, the slides and the quotes. All that is up there posted for you so that you can follow along. You can even read ahead if you want and try to figure out what I’m going to say later. That’s fine.

We are in Matthew’s gospel, and we’re calling this “The King and His Kingdom.” That’s the name of our study through Matthew’s gospel today in chapter 20. We’ll be looking at the upside-down kingdom of Jesus. I’m going to take this in four sections.

I loved what Pastor Matt led us through in chapter 19 last week. It was great. If you weren’t here or didn’t have a chance to watch it online, it’s up there [online at] along with all our studies from Matthew’s gospel. I want to encourage you to go and catch up there.

In Matthew 19, what happened? We had the Pharisees asking questions about divorce, and Jesus answering with statements about God’s original creation and design for marriage. It’s interesting that He would answer their questions on divorce that way. The disciples tried to keep some children away from Jesus. Jesus corrected the disciples by declaring that to such belongs the kingdom of heaven. Next came the rich man asking what we must do to have eternal life, then Jesus pointing out that entering the kingdom of heaven is not about us doing anything. It’s about us believing and trusting what God has done and receiving something we can’t achieve. The disciples then asked that soteriological question, “Who then can be saved?” It’s a great question. I think it’s a question that should be pushed on every single religious belief system in the planet that you or I might consider.

Another one is, “Who is God and how can we be saved or reconciled to God?” These are great questions. In today’s passage, and in answer to some of those kinds of questions, Jesus did what He did so often: He unfolds a parable that would illustrate what the kingdom of heaven is like, or He would compare it to something. That’s what parables are. It’s laying one thing alongside another and showing by way of comparison what one of those things really is. So, we learn about the kingdom of heaven as Jesus teaches through parables. I’m going to do this in four sections. If you want to go ahead and turn there in your Bibles, you’ll notice that verses 1 through 16 make up a section, verses 17 through 19 another, verses 20 to 28 another, and then on through to the end of the chapter.

Let me pray before we get started with the reading part of this: Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them in our souls. May we embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which You’ve given us in our savior Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. And God’s people said amen.

So, let’s read verse 30 of chapter 19. It’s going to form what would be typically called an “inclusio,” although it’ll be an inverted inclusio. It’s like a bookend in ancient literature, especially with the ancient Jewish literature. This device is to say something and then fill it in with some illustrations and some other teaching at the end to say the same thing again. It helps the people who are on the ground to be able to memorize that, “Oh, this is the beginning of something, and this is the end of it. Here’s the left bookshelf or the bookmark and the right bookmark.” You can tell that it all goes together. This is an inverted inclusio. So, Matthew is quite clever. He says this in verse 30 of chapter 19, “But many who are first will be last and the last will be first.” If you want to jump ahead and see the other part of the inclusio, it’s verse 16 to chapter 20. He inverts it, right? He says, “Many of you who are last will be first and the first will be last.”

But what a great device. You might miss that if we didn’t stop and point that out to you, but remember, all of this goes together. Matthew does such a great job. Verse 1 of chapter 20 and these chapter breaks; in the English Bible, they inserted chapter breaks in the 13th century and verse breaks in the 16th century. So, Matthew as he’s writing, and the scribes that would follow up and make the ancient manuscript copies of his writings, doesn’t say “Chapter 20.” It doesn’t say “Verse One.” It just rolls, man. So, he literally rolls from that very first part of the inclusio. “Many of you who are first will be last,” last is first, and right into “…for the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.”

When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. A denarius would be an average day worker’s wage. So, he’s agreed with them. They’ve made this deal, and they’re going to go work in his vineyard. He went out about the third hour—and the workday for them began at roughly 6:00 A.M., so this would be about 9:00 A.M. He went about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace. To those, this vineyard owner says, “You go into the vineyard also, and whatever is right, I will give you.” So, they went. No set amount is mentioned here, but these folks who are idle are invited to come and to be a part of the vineyard work that needs to be done.

As well, he went about the sixth and the ninth hour, that’ll be noon and 3:00 P.M. roughly, and did the same thing. At about the 11th hour, that’s probably 5:00 P.M.-ish, he went out and found others standing, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day long?” They said to him, “Because no one hired us.” He said to them, “You too go into the vineyard.” When evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the laborers and pay them their wages beginning with the last group to the first.” When those hired about the 11th hour came, each one received a denarius. When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more, and they also received each one denarius.

When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner. Grumbling is an expression. None of you know what this is, I’m sure. It’s an expression of disdain or disappointment. So, they grumbled at the landowner saying, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you’ve made them equal to us who have born the burden and the scorching heat of the day.” He answered and said to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way, but I wish to give this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own, or is your eye envious because I am generous?” Here’s this inverted inclusio. Thus, the last shall be first and the first last.

There’s a fade to black. That’s the end of that scene right there. I love this parable. It’s one of those that gets some people really upset and that’s the reason I like to go in and say, “Well, why?” What is Jesus doing? Is He scrambling all of our ideas about equity and fairness and justice? How do things in God’s economy work anyway, if that’s the way things go down? What about commonly embraced principles of fair play and getting what we deserve? How is the Christian gospel so starkly different in essence from other belief systems that are based on moral merit and karma?

We must be reminded as we begin to interpret it and apply it, this parable is actually not part of God’s HR program for employment. This isn’t a handbook for how to treat this employee. That’s not what this is. It begins in verse one clearly and directly telling us that the kingdom of heaven is to be compared to this landowner, this vineyard owner. So, it’s not even about the vineyard. First century Jews would have thought of the vineyard as Israel. That would have been very natural for them to think of: God’s vineyard. But Jesus said, “No, this parable is actually about the vineyard owner and the way that this vineyard owner treats everybody.” It’s really interesting. It’s a kingdom parable.

We have different kinds of parables, and this one is about the kingdom of heaven. Most people, upon a surface read through, will think this is about labor relations, work ethics, fair wages and economic injustice or something like that. It’s not about that. I think it’s important for us to know this is the parable of the workers in the vineyard. I think it teaches us a couple things. One, we’ve got to beware begrudging the generosity of God’s grace toward others. That’s what really stands out. When the owner of the vineyard starts talking to the grumblers, this is what the argument that’s made by the vineyard owner: Are you just envious that I’ve been generous with somebody else? No, please don’t be. It’s probably not a good idea.

I’ve been that way. You’ve been that way. We’ve all seen somebody get ahead, or we’ve all seen somebody win something that we thought we were entitled to, or we should have won that. How many have you ever bought a lottery ticket? We all think this way. On the surface reading of this parable, it’s natural. I expect everybody to say, “That doesn’t seem right.” I mean the guy that got paid who only worked one hour… He started at 5:00 P.M. and his day ended at 6:00 P.M. He got a denarius. So, if I’m going to be paid after him and I’m the guy that worked all day long, 12 hours, I’m thinking I’m getting 12 days’ wages. One hour equals a denarius, 12 hours must equal 12 denarii.

So, you can relate, this is the upside-down kingdom of Jesus. Recipients of God’s generosity realize that grace removes all earning and all entitlement. Grace is for the guilty and undeserving. Mercy is for the helpless and needy. I am both in need of grace and in need of mercy, no matter the hour you are approached by Him and invited into His vineyard. Notice the divine initiative there: He came looking for them, and He comes looking for you, and He comes looking for me as well. We must not overinterpret the parable. I think we’ll find ourselves simply making stuff up to fit into our own social imagination.

The point of the parable is not that all the kingdom will receive the same reward, but rather that God is consistently generous with people who don’t deserve it, who aren’t looking for Him. He goes out and takes the initiative in every case. I’m just starting a book called Biblical Critical Theory. I’m about 30 pages in. It’s by a guy named Christopher Watkin. He says this:

“Jesus’s message is as uncomfortable as it is destabilizing. In the kingdom of God, all the petty calculating hierarchies of merit and virtue by which we compulsively rank ourselves against others are dashed aside to make way for a richer ethic of generosity. Our petty bastions of social superiority are unceremoniously flattened by the generous juggernaut of the kingdom of God.”

–Christopher Watkin, Biblical Critical Theory: How the Bible’s Unfolding Story Makes Sense of Modern Life and Culture

Biblical Critical Theory is the title of the book. So far, 30 pages in, I highly recommend it already. He’s essentially analyzing the culture, the world around us through the lens of the Bible, not the reverse, but asking the question, “What’s going on out here and why is it so broken? Why are people so acrimonious toward each? Why is there so much division? What if the gospel could really make a difference if we simply let it loose in this world and begin to live it out? Begin to have it roll off our tongues a little bit more and have it be seen visibly in our relationships, in our work ethic, in the way we respond to God’s generosity to someone else?” This is a tough issue for this town. I’ve lived here for a long time. I can see this being one of those difficult things, but I don’t want to get mired down in it too much.

Let’s look at verses 17 through 19. Jesus then was about to go up to Jerusalem. Pastor Matt told us He’s left the northern part of Galilee last week and now He’s headed for Jerusalem. Next week in chapter 21, we’ll read about that event called the Triumphal Entry when Jesus enters Jerusalem to lay down His life on the cross. So, this is the flow or the context of what’s happening. Along the way, for the third time in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem.

He took the 12 disciples aside by themselves, “Huddle up, guys.” He told them, “Behold, we’re going up to Jerusalem.” The Son of Man, the most often used self-reference, will be delivered up to the chief priest and the scribes. They will condemn Him to death. They will deliver Him up to the Gentiles, that’s the Romans, to mock and scourge and crucify him. Now, on the third day, He will be raised up. Imagine you’re with Jesus. Thousands of people have been following in Galilee. It seems like we are on a roll. This thing is a movement, man. Nothing can stop the juggernaut of this movement. Yet Jesus, for the third time, now says, “I’m going to be arrested.”

Matter of fact, in verses 18 and 19, there are seven things about the cross and the resurrection there. The suffering, the passion of Christ, and the cross and the resurrection. Seven different things there. I didn’t put them up on a slide, but it could be an entire study all by itself. We’ll go into Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be delivered up to the chief priests and scribes. That means He will be betrayed. Some of your English Bibles may even say “betrayed” instead of “delivered up.” Thirdly, they’ll condemn Him to death. Fourth, they’ll deliver Him up to the Gentiles. So, He will go from being delivered up to the religious leaders, then over to the civil or the Roman government authorities to mock and to scourge. Sixth, to crucify Him. The death of a criminal after being tortured.

And then lastly, it ends this way, so hopeful: On the third day, He will be raised up. Now they’ve seen Jesus raise three different people by this time, or two at least. The widow of Nain’s son and Jairus’s daughter. Jesus raised them both from the dead. Depending on when you place the raising of Lazarus from the dead, it might be three already; but they know He has the power over life and death. Now He’s saying, “I’m going to die, and yet I will be raised again on the third day.” Seven different things right there just about the cross, just about the passion week, just about the resurrection of Jesus. He’s telling His disciples not just to give them data. By the way, none of us that stand up here and teach the Bible are interested in you just being a data download.

We tell you what He’s done because it really means something. It’s significant. Rather than just an indifferent “whatever,” let’s turn that into a curious “what if.” What if it’s really true that when He laid down His life, they didn’t take it from Him. He laid it down. What if it was His initiative, His plan to come and do this? What does that say about Him and His love for the likes of me and you? What if it’s not just a fairy story or a myth or a legend, but it’s actually something that happened in space and time? What if He really did satisfy the wrath of God completely? What if that happened? What does that change for you? What does that change for me about whether I walk around wallowing in guilt or about the way I refuse to forgive somebody else?

What if it’s really true that He has shown me that much grace, mercy and forgiveness that I could come in at 5:00 P.M. and still receive the full reward that He is offering for free? Really powerful. I think at the very least, we have got to see the paradox that the cross becomes the power of salvation. That’s the way God works, isn’t it? It doesn’t always make sense. Paradox, by the way, is something that appears to be a contradiction. Jesus dying on the cross, some would say, “Ah, shucks, another good man down. Another tragic hero figure.”

I don’t know about you, but this whole COVID thing with the staying in…How many of you exhausted Netflix? We watched everything. I am so tired of tragic hero figures. They’re all just riddled with morbidity and brooding with all your depression and all that stuff. That’s the person they put up as a hero figure. When I was growing up, Spider-Man had a sense of humor. When I was growing up, Batman was a lot of fun and so was Superman. None of them were just riddled with strangeness. Whatever happened to that? I don’t know. But here comes Jesus with this paradox, which is like a contradiction, that He would die, and it would bring us life. His death brings us life: paradox. It’s amazing.

It’s so wildly unimaginable that it’s either really true or it’s a complete hoax, and we should stay home on Sunday mornings or go play golf or whatever you want to do. But if this is really true, think about what that means for me, what it means for you. Our good friend, Christopher Wright, and his wife Liz are from London. He heads up the Langham Partnership that’s one of the missions organizations we support here at the Village Chapel. He’s a brilliant Old Testament theologian. Here in his book, To the Cross: Proclaiming the Gospel from the Upper Room to Calvary, he says,

“The death of Christ in utter weakness would turn out to be the demonstration of the saving power of God that will ultimately destroy all powers of evil and violence. What a paradox. But it lies at the heart of the Gospel.”

–Christopher J.H. Wright, To the Cross: Proclaiming the Gospel from the Upper Room to Calvary

I love that. That’s so brilliantly said. Read with me if you will, verses 20 through 28. “Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons bowing down and making a request of Him. He said to her, ‘What do you wish?’ She said to Him, ‘Command that in Your kingdom, these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.’” This is the original stage mother. She’s like, “Here’s my boys. These are my boys.”

We were just visiting with my mom. She has four boys. She makes us, each and every one of us, feel like we are her favorite son. Now, that’s an artful mother, but I got her on video saying it this time. So, you watch my Instagram. I got her to say it. “Mom, I am your favorite one, right?” “Oh, yes.” She even called me precious, and I was like, “Oh, I’m precious. That’s awesome.” Well, here is Mrs. Zebedee. We don’t know her. I think Salome is her name. She comes and brings James and John, and she makes a request of Jesus. He even opens the door for her to state what her request is. When He sets up His kingdom, because, they’re going to Jerusalem, the center of everything, and she’s been a part of the band of disciples following along: “Hey, make sure when we go downtown, and take over and kick out the Romans, that You put James on one side and John on the other side.”

That’s awesome. Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you are asking for.” Now how many times I wish I could have heard Jesus say that in my prayer life? But I would not. Why? Because my agenda was too much in the front. You do not know what you’re asking for. We’ve all heard people say, “Be careful what you ask for. You might get it.” But here, He’s saying you don’t even know what you’re asking for. This is really amazing. He asked the question then, “Are you able to drink the cup that I’m about to drink?” They said to Him, James and John, “We are able.” Now Peter heretofore has been the cockiest of the disciples, but I think James and John just went right past. This overconfidence spiritually is something we all need to be on guard and watching out for.

That can never happen to me. I read another story of another pastor who’s fallen, and it’s so easy for us to get to the place where we look down our nose at somebody. It’s their own fault, but never thinking to ourselves, “That might happen to me too. Let me watch out. Let me take every one of those as a warning reminder to myself.” So, He says, “You don’t even know what you’re asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I’m about to drink?” “We are able.” He says to them, “My cup, you will drink.” James and John did, by the way. James will be the first of the disciples to die by the sword. John, as best we can tell in history, will be the last of the disciples. Just so they will inclusio the death of the disciple.

They will be the front of all the other disciples. “‘My cup, you shall drink, but to sit on My right and on My left; this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.’ Hearing this, the other ten disciples became indignant at the two brothers.” Now you see church schism because of ambition. All ambition is not bad, by the way. Let me be clear to say that. Godly ambition, ambition for what God wants, and a desire to see things God’s way, and want what God wants; that’s all good. To weep over what God weeps over, to be concerned about what God’s concerned about, to care about what God cares about; all of that is good ambition in the right direction. But ambition is not just universally good. It’s what direction is your ambition leading you.

So, here He says, “You’re going to drink My cup. That’s true. It’s not Mine to give, but it’s for My Father.” Hearing this, they become indignant. The others are angry at these two brothers, James and John. Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them.” In other words, those who are pagans from the get-go, their rulers dominate them, and their great men exercise authority over them. “It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant. Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.” Another hint at that inclusio as well and another paradox. Those who want to be great will become servants, because greatness is redefined in the kingdom of heaven. Maybe it’s reset.

I think what’s happened is we’ve redefined greatness. We’ve traded in greatness for the cheap substitute of celebrity, the cheap substitute that the world has to offer in their value system and their economy. We’ve changed all the price tags in a department store. Put the expensive price tags on the cheap stuff that doesn’t really matter and vice versa. Jesus says, “It’s not so among you. Whoever wishes to be great among you should be your servant. Whoever wishes to be first among you should be a slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.” He said that right then and there, we just read about His prediction that He will give His life, and yet they still don’t seem to be getting it.

They’re so filled with their own agenda. Let’s go downtown, let’s run out the Romans, let’s take over. Let me sit on Your right and left, whatever. This is just one of those amazing moments where it illustrates the fact that people’s value system gets it wrong. We have an endemic lust for privilege, prestige and power. I think it’s on full display here in verses 20 through 28. T.S. Elliott said it this way:

“Most of the trouble caused in this world is by people wanting to be important.”

–T.S. Elliot

Let’s read that together aloud. That’s probably worth writing on something and reminding ourselves over and over again. We have a lust for this. We lust for autonomy, meaning no authority higher than self. That gets us in trouble, because then our affections run amok.

We want to be so important. As C.S. Lewis always says, “How much is enough? Just a little bit more than the next guy.” That’s true. Our hearts are deceitful, as the prophet Jeremiah told us quite honestly. “The typical temptation of the young,” Frederick Bruner said, “is lust; the middle-aged, ambition; and of the elderly, bitterness.” You see yourself up there? “Actually, all three drives are similar and related. Ambition is a refined lust. Bitterness, a disappointed one.” Yeah. Wow. That’s like cold water in a way just to wake us up a little bit. Jesus says, “The first shall be last. The last shall be first. If you want to be great in the kingdom, become a servant.” Serve God. Serve everybody else. Serve everybody you come into contact with.

Guess what? That means, I guess, you can’t really be hating them at the same time you’re serving them, because they have a different yard sign than you did. You can’t really be hating them if you’re praying for them, praying for them to be captured and seized by God’s affection, God’s grace. I’m often on the highway praying for people, but I pray for them to be hit with a brick or something, because they’ve made me mad. It’s hard to hate people when you’re really praying for their good. So, if you have trouble with hating somebody, if you have a repugnant other in your life, those people, the ones that watch that cable news channel, pray for them and for yourself as well. Pray for yourself so that you would start to get to the place where you see.

These guys are going, “Me first. Me first.” There’s no “me first” in the kingdom of heaven. In a lot of ways, it eliminates “me second” as well. It eliminates “me third” as well. It eliminates “me fourth” as well. It moves us to the place where Jesus was. Me last, me for you. I give myself for you. That’s what Jesus is calling us to do if we are to follow Him.

Fourthly and finally, this is just a little short pericope here, but it’s a great one. I love this. As they were going out from Jericho, great multitudes followed Him. So, they’re down near Jericho. By the way, there is an Old Testament site for Jericho. Of course, it gets demolished. Most of us will remember that story from the Book of Joshua. And then Herod later on, about two miles away, rebuilds Jericho. I think it’s Mark’s gospel that says He’s leaving Jericho. One gospel says He’s entering Jericho when this event takes place. Which is it? Yes, He’s between one and the other, that’s what it is.

As they were going out, this account says going out, a great multitude followed him. Behold two blind men sitting by the road hearing that Jesus was passing by cried out saying, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David.” Understand in the first century, Son of David would have been a messy title. These blind guys have eyes that can see better than a lot of these religious leaders who can physically see, but they can’t see that Jesus is the Son of David.

The multitude sternly told them, these blind guys, to be quiet, but they cried at all the more. Don’t be like the multitude. Who are you trying to shush from approaching Jesus? Who are you trying to silence? Except you become like a child. Remember they were trying to stop the children and Jesus said, “Let them come to Me.” The multitude sternly told them to be quiet. This is like the guy that says, “Get off my lawn.” Nobody ever became a Christian by being yelled at like that, okay? They cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us.” Desperation is the right spot to be if you want the kingdom of heaven to draw near. Son of David, have mercy on us. Jesus stopped, called them, and said, “What do you wish Me to do for you?”

Now if I’m in the crowd, I go, “Duh.” But Jesus always asks rhetorical questions, wants us to think about what’s about to happen, especially in connection with that title, Son of David. Messiah was already described as one who would open the eyes of the blind. So, this is directly connecting into that same idea. They said to Him, “Lord, we want our eyes to be open.” Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately, not after months of therapy, not after medicine, but immediately, they received their sight, and they followed Him. Here’s an example of seeing that leads to believing that leads to following. You could unpack this. There’s a lot there. There’s Jesus caring about the whole person. There’s just tons of good stuff there and lots of things that we can say.

I think the summary point that we can make is that Jesus shows compassion on those who cry out for His mercy. Does He heal every single person? Well, in the text of the gospels, everyone that asks for healing, He does heal. So, we have that as His response. To those who come and ask, “How do I enter? How do I gain the kingdom of heaven?” He gives an answer, as with the rich young ruler. This guy wanted to buy. He wanted to purchase. He wanted to achieve what you can only receive from Jesus. You can only be a recipient of grace. You can’t earn grace. So, this is really important for us, I think. What’s so amazing about grace is that none of us are excluded, because none of us ever deserved grace in the first place. By definition, grace is for the undeserving.

Let me throw this quote up. This is great.

“Grace and mercy are both expressions of God’s love, grace to the guilty and undeserving, mercy to the needy and helpless. Peace is that restoration of harmony with God, others and self, which we call salvation.”

–John Stott

Now, a lot of us probably have been raised to think in the mode that salvation is dodging hell and that’s all we ever thought of it as; but it’s so much more than that. He came that you might have life and have it abundantly, not just in the by and by, but now in relationship with Him. By joining Him and His mission in this world, by joining Him and laying down our lives for others, and by joining Him in being an example to the watching world; we show how God’s love has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

We’re now able to share that love and show that love. Rather than merely trying to win the argument all the time, let’s try to turn people’s disinterested “whatever” into a curious “what if.” What if it’s true? What if He really did do that?

I’ll close with this Max Lucado quote.

“Our prayers may be awkward, and mine are certainly sometimes. Our attempts may be feeble. Yes, mine are. But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.”

–Max Lucado

I think that’s what we see all through this chapter. It’s not about the wages. It’s not about how many hours you worked. It’s about the fact that He’s generous. Will you receive? Do you begrudge His being generous with someone else?

You need to pray about that. You need to ask the Lord to soften your heart. I need to, too. Let’s don’t begrudge anyone receiving God’s grace. The cross, the resurrection; this really happened, and it matters, really matters. He didn’t just come to be born in the stable and be a sweet little story. He isn’t just a nostalgic “good man down,” tragic hero thing again. No, He came to be victorious over death and to pay the price in full for my sin and for yours. Let’s turn our eyes upon Him. I don’t know if you noticed this is how this chapter ends. Their eyes were opened, and they moved from seeing to believing, and then they moved from believing to following.

Again, I don’t know why Jesus doesn’t heal everybody in our own day and age. I would love to go down to Vanderbilt and clear it out. I really would. But not being able to answer that question doesn’t prevent me from asking Him every time, and going before Him on an ongoing basis, and placing myself before Him; so, I could just receive His grace and mercy and others that I’m praying for can also receive His grace and mercy. It might be that His grace and mercy for them looks like courage for the fight. It might look like hope that’s inexhaustible in spite of suffering that’s chronic. It might be that it’s about joy all along the way because our joy is sourced in Jesus the King. He’s the king you’ve always wanted. He’s the king you’ve always needed, and His name is Jesus. You need to look no further.

Let’s pray: Thank You that You came, Lord. Even as You’re on Your way to Jerusalem here in this text, the way You approach this city that would reject You, the religious system that would reject You. We don’t want to be like that. We love that You love us, because we know how unlovely we can be. We’re grateful, Lord, even as we sit here right now calling to mind the people that might annoy us, we’re grateful that You would be gracious to them and generous with them. Free us up as we receive Your grace. Free us up from that exhausting tension of acrimony and ranker and outrage and all of that. Lord, just help us be free to see how You have set your love on us when we didn’t deserve any of it.

How beautiful You are, how gracious and kind You are, Lord. Yes, please use this group of people we call the Village Chapel to be a city on a hill, a light that cannot be hidden, Lord, just as salt that makes people thirsty for You over and over and over again. We place ourselves in Your hands and Your care and we love You. Thank You for Your grace. In Jesus’ name, amen and amen.

(Edited for Reading)

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