Survey of Matthew: The Change in Jesus’ Ministry
Recorded Sunday, September 30, 2007; Wayne ODonnell; http://bible.ag
The Two Key Outline Verses
This is a survey of the gospel of Matthew and it is called, “The Change in Jesus’ Ministry.” Is anybody missing the handout? Everybody has one? Cora, there’s a couple by you there.
“The Change in Jesus’ Ministry” because—and this is a repeat for Ann and Rita, but it will be shorter. “The Change in Jesus’ Ministry” because there was a change in Jesus’ ministry in chapters 11 and 12 of Matthew, and it is important to know that to understand the gospel of Matthew.
So first let’s look at Jesus’ ministry before the turning point in chapters 1 through 10. We will look at two key outline verses to start with. The first verse is Matthew 4:23. “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.”
So there’s three parts to Jesus’ ministry: teaching, preaching and healing. As for the first part, teaching, he taught “in their synagogues”. That meant that he taught the law, because they didn’t let you teach in the synagogues unless you taught the law. And he preached “the gospel of the kingdom”. The word “preach” in the New Testament means “announce.” So he was announcing the “gospel”, the “good news” of the kingdom. And he healed “all manner of sickness and all manner of disease”, so he healed “all”. That’s a good way to characterize his healing ministry.
Then let’s look at the other key outline verse, Matthew 9:35. In Matthew 9:35 it says, “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” It sounds pretty much the same, doesn’t it? Teaching the law in the synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom [announcing the good news of the kingdom], and healing all, “every sickness”, “every disease”.
So that was Jesus’ ministry...that characterized Jesus’ ministry before the turning point in chapters 11 and 12. But we are going to look at each of these three points in more detail now.
Jesus’ Ministry Before the Turning Point
In chapters 1 through 4 Matthew describes Jesus preaching ministry in more detail. And, first, we will look at Matthew 3:1. “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” That was the message that John the Baptist announced and it is the same message that Jesus announced in 4:17, “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
So when the outline verse said that he was preaching the gospel of the kingdom, that was a description of his preaching, but here are the actual words of his preaching: “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
And “the kingdom of heaven”, this phrase comes from the book of Daniel chapter 2 where God says that after the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires, that in the time of 10 kings, he is going to set up a kingdom. It says that “the God of heaven” (Dan. 2:44) will set up a kingdom that will never end and never be destroyed.
And if “the God of heaven” sets up a kingdom, then what would be the name of that kingdom? Well, one name for the kingdom would be “the kingdom of the God of heaven.” And that can be shortened; in Matthew, he shortens it to “the kingdom of heaven”. In Mark, Luke, and John, they shorten it to “the kingdom of God”. In the Lord’s Prayer, it is shortened to “thy kingdom.” But it is all the same kingdom, “the kingdom of the God of heaven”.
And this is a political kingdom on earth just like the ones that were talked about in Daniel chapter 2 like the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman Empires. And this is the kind of kingdom that the people of Israel were expecting, because there was so much detail about it in the prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. And if Jesus was going to offer them a different kingdom than what they were expecting, this would have been the place for him to say it, right here, but he gives no explanation of what the kingdom is because they already knew which kingdom it was. They already had all that information and they were already expecting it.
The good news was not that a new, unexpected kind of kingdom would be set up, but that the one they had been waiting for, for hundreds of years, was ready to be set up. The good announcement he was making was that “the kingdom ... is at hand”. It was ready to be set up. And the requirement in order for it to be set up was repentance, repent. Ok, so that is a little more detail on Jesus’ preaching ministry.
Now let’s look at his teaching ministry in chapters 5 through 7. And if you have a red letter edition, chapters 5 through 7 are all in red because Jesus spoke these words, and this discourse is called the Sermon on the Mount. And this is a representative sample of Jesus’ teaching during this time. Now usually he taught in the synagogues, but even when he taught on the mountain here, he still taught about the law. And we know this because in verse 19 of chapter 5 it says, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” So we are not under the law today, but at this point in Jesus’ ministry he was teaching the law. He was saying that they should keep the law [do it], and they should teach the law, in order to be great in the kingdom of heaven.
And this also comes out in verse 21 where he talks about one of the 10 Commandments. “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill.” So that is one of the 10 Commandments, and he goes on to explain about that Commandment. And then in verse 27, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery,” another of the 10 Commandments. So Jesus was teaching about the law at this point in his ministry.
Now, let’s look at Jesus’ healing ministry in more detail. This is found in chapters 8 through 10 of Matthew. The book of Matthew is topical. He puts together in these three chapters a lot of different episodes of healing and miracles that Jesus did; he puts them one after another.
And we will look at chapter 8 verse 16. “When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick,” just like we saw in the two outline verses, that Jesus healed “all”.
And the purpose is given in the next verse, verse 17, “That it might be fulfilled [that, in order that, it might be fulfilled] which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” So Jesus did these miracles of healing to identify himself with the Servant of Jehovah in the book of Isaiah who would be the one who would bring in the kingdom. (Isaiah chapters 42 and 49-53) And the kingdom was going to be a time of the absence of sickness and hunger. It was going to be a time when the desert would blossom like a rose. And Jesus proved in these three chapters that he could do that. He could heal all sickness. He could control the weather, stopping the storm; he could make the desert blossom like a rose. (Is. 35:1) So these were messianic miracles to prove that he was the Messiah and he could bring in the kingdom that he was offering. Ok. So that’s Jesus’ ministry before the turning point, before chapters 11 and 12.
The Turning Point
But now we have the turning point. So let’s look at that. All three parts of Jesus’ ministry are going to be rejected by the nation of Israel, by that generation of the nation of Israel.
First of all, the rejection of Jesus’ preaching ministry is found in chapter 11. And we will look at chapter 11 verse 20. “Then began he to upbraid [that means scold] the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not.” Now we said that his preaching ministry was to preach “the gospel of the kingdom”: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”(Mt. 4:17) And they didn’t repent. According to the end of this verse, “they repented not.”(Mt. 11:20) So they rejected his preaching ministry.
Also in the following verse, verse 21, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” So Jesus was looking for a “sackcloth and ashes” kind of repentance. And he wasn’t just looking for a few individuals. He was looking for whole cities to repent, the whole nation. He mentioned here Chorazin, Bethsaida, Tyre, Sidon. And that was what it would have taken to bring in the kingdom for that generation. So they rejected his preaching ministry.
And in chapter 12, the first part of chapter 12, we see they also rejected his teaching ministry. And we will look at chapter 12 verse 9. “And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days?”
Notice the issue here is law and Sabbath. The Sabbath is a big part of the law. And the Pharisees of that time had added a lot of extra rules onto God’s Word about how to observe the Sabbath, and they were called “the tradition of the elders.” And Jesus rejects the tradition of the elders. And because of that, because of this disagreement that he had with the Pharisees and that they had with him over his teaching about the law and the Sabbath, they reject his teaching and they reject him. They reject the king, and that’s why they don’t want the kingdom. They would love to have the kingdom without the king, but they reject Jesus and his teaching.
So then in verse 13—we’ll skip down to 13. “Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.” See, they rejected his teaching ministry to such an extent that they, at this point in the gospel of Matthew, decided to kill Jesus.
So you have probably heard that Israel rejected the kingdom; that that generation of Israel rejected the kingdom because they were expecting a physical kingdom, but Jesus was offering a spiritual kingdom. But that is not true. Jesus was offering a physical kingdom, exactly what they were expecting. But the biblical reason as to why Israel, that generation of Israel, rejected the kingdom is right here. They rejected Jesus’ teaching about the law, especially about the Sabbath, and disagreed with him about the validity of the tradition of the elders. And so that was a irreconcilable difference between them. Of course what they should have done is to have accepted Jesus and his teaching and thrown out the tradition of the elders. All right, so that’s the rejection of Jesus’ teaching ministry.
Now let’s look at the rejection of Jesus’ healing ministry in the second part of chapter 12, the next part of chapter 12. And we will look at Matthew 12:22. “Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw.” So here is a triple miracle. A demon possessed man, blind, and unable to speak.
And he healed him, and in verse 23, “All the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David?” Now that was exactly the purpose of the miracles. It was to get the people to say it. It was to prove that he was the Messiah; to prove that he was the Son of David.
But in verse 24, “When the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.” Now they couldn’t deny that a miracle had taken place. In fact, all the miracles in the Bible are so obviously authentic that no one in the Bible ever denies a miracle has taken place, unlike what we see on TV. So they couldn’t deny that a miracle had taken place even though they were his enemies, and so all they could do was deny the source of the miracle. So they said, “He is doing it through the power of devils.”
But Jesus actually did it through the power of the Holy Spirit. So when they said he did it through the power of devils they were calling the Holy Spirit the devil. And in verse 31 Jesus says, “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” In other words, at this point the nation of Israel, that generation of the nation of Israel, committed an unpardonable sin. They had reached a point of no return. And Ann asked me a hard question about that, but I am not going to have time to go into that today. But they had reached a point of no return.
Just like an earlier generation of Israel. God brought them out of the land of Egypt, and he brought them to the edge of Canaan, and then they refused to go into the land. They refused to attack the land.
And so God said, “Ok, because you refuse to go into the land, this generation is going to die out in the wilderness and your children will go into the land.” And the next morning they got up, and they put on their armor, and they said, “You know what? We have sinned. We are ready to go attack the land.” And Moses said, “It is too late.” That generation of Israel had committed an unpardonable sin, so far as going into the land was concerned. And they went in anyway and they were defeated. (Num. 14:30-45) And they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, and that generation died out, and the next generation went in and inherited the land, because the earlier generation had reached a point of no return. Changing their minds about it couldn’t help them after that point.
In the same way when the generation of Israel of Jesus’ day rejected this miracle of triple healing, that was the final rejection for them. They had rejected his preaching ministry, his teaching ministry, and now they had completely rejected his healing ministry, so there is no more offer of the kingdom for that generation. But it is still only a sin for that generation. It is only unpardonable for that generation. And this comes out in verses 38 through 45 where the term “generation” is mentioned four times.
First of all in verse 39. “An evil and adulterous generation...” Then in verse 41. “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation...” And then in verse 42. “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation...” And then in verse 45. “Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.” So a future generation of Israel will accept the kingdom, but for that generation Jesus stops offering the kingdom because they have already reached a point of no return.
And there is a summary here of the rejection of Jesus’ ministry. First of all, in verse 38 we have the rejection of Jesus’ healing ministry. “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.” Well, they had just seen a triple sign, the demon possessed, blind, and dumb man healed.
So Jesus says, “You are not going to receive it. You are not going to get any more signs, the resurrection is the only sign this generation will be given now.” (See Mt. 12:39-40) It’s not that he didn’t do any more miracles at all, but he did them more privately and there are some other changes that we will get into.
And then we see the rejection of his preaching ministry in verse 41. “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.” So Jonah went through the city of Nineveh and he announced, he preached, that Nineveh shall be destroyed in 40 days. And so the king made a decree and all the people down to the lowest peasant put on sackcloth, and they even put sackcloth on the animals, and they fasted from food and water, and they prayed, and they were told to repent from their evil ways. And God accepted their repentance, and he didn’t destroy Nineveh. (Jonah 3:1-10)
This is the kind of organized repentance that was required of the nation of Israel. And this is the kind of organized repentance that Israel will provide at a future generation. This is described in the book of Zechariah where it says that in that day a fountain will be opened for the forgiveness of the sins of Israel, and they will look on him whom they pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for his only son. And it will be very organized because it says that the house of David will mourn apart, and their wives apart. The descendants of Nathan will mourn apart, and their wives apart, and so forth. (Zech 12:10-13:1) And so some day Israel will provide this organized national repentance that was required at this time. And at that time the kingdom will be set up.
And then they rejected Jesus’ teaching ministry in verse 42. “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom [that is the teaching] of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.” So she had to travel a long way. And here they didn’t have to travel at all. Solomon’s teacher, the creator of Solomon, came to them, and they rejected his teaching ministry.
Jesus’ Ministry After the Turning Point
Ok, now let’s look at how Jesus’ ministry changed after they rejected his ministry. All three parts of Jesus’ ministry changed. First of all, we will see the change of his teaching ministry in the first part of chapter 13. And we will look at Matthew 13:10. “And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?” They hadn’t heard Jesus speak in parables before this point.
And then in verse 34. “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them.” Now before he had spoken unto them without parables. He had taught plainly about the law in the synagogues. But now he is speaking in parables. Why?
In verse 11, 13:11, “He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” In other words, he wasn’t speaking in parables to make the truth more easily understood. He was speaking in parables so they couldn’t understand what he was saying. And then privately he would explain to the disciples the keys to interpreting the parables, like the field equals the world, the birds equal the messengers of Satan, and so forth. So the disciples could hear this and they could understand, but the crowds wouldn’t know what he was talking about. So instead of just stopping to speak to them, as a judgment upon the nation, he continued to speak to them, but in a way they couldn’t understand.
And this is a judgment on the nation that was prophesied back in Isaiah. It says here in verse 14, “And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive.”
Ok, then let’s look at the change in Jesus’ healing ministry. And this is found in Matthew 13:58. At the bottom of this page on the handout it says, “And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” So before, we found that Jesus, in the early part of his ministry, healed “all”. Now he only heals some. Now he only heals those that have faith because the purpose of the miracles has changed. Before he was doing the miracles to prove that he was the Messiah, the Servant of Jehovah spoken of by Isaiah; to get Israel to accept him and have the kingdom be set up. But since there is no possibility of that anymore for that generation, it doesn’t make any sense to go around trying to prove you are the Messiah anymore. So now he is doing the miracles because of personal need, just for those that have faith. He is not healing “all” anymore.
So we see that his teaching ministry changed, his healing ministry changed, and also, his preaching ministry changed. We see this in Matthew 16:21. “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” You see that phrase at the beginning of that verse, “From that time forth Jesus began...”? That is parallel with 4:17 which we looked at earlier. It said, “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Here it says, “From that time forth Jesus began” to talk about his death and resurrection.
Back in 4:17 he began to preach the gospel of the kingdom. Here in 16:21 he begins to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, preach meaning announce. So he stops announcing the kingdom because it is not going to be set up for that generation and he starts announcing his death and resurrection. And the disciples hadn’t heard this message before this point. That is why in the next verse, “Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.”
And in addition to beginning to announce his death and resurrection he also began to announce his return, because since the kingdom was rejected by that generation of Israel, he would have to return another time and set it up for a future generation of Israel. So in verse 27 he says, “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”
Ok, and then look at Matthew 21:43. “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” So the kingdom of God was taken from that generation of the nation of Israel, because they did not repent and they did not show the fruits of repentance. And it will be given to a future generation of the nation of Israel; another nation of Israel, another generation that will repent and will bring forth the fruits thereof.
And then in 23:39 it says, “For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” So a future generation of Israel will call upon the Lord. They will accept him as Messiah. And when they do, then he will return. Then they will see him, but not until that time.
Ok, so we saw that Jesus’ ministry changed. First he preached, he announced, the gospel of the kingdom, he taught the law in the synagogues, and he healed all. Then, after the rejection of his ministry, he announced his death and resurrection, he taught in parables about the fact that there would be a delay in the kingdom, and he healed only some. So all three parts of his ministry changed because of the rejection that took place in chapters 11 and 12.
Jesus would not have had to change his ministry if he had offered, and then gone on to provide, a ‘spiritual’ kingdom to that generation. He stopped announcing the kingdom being at hand, because it would not be set up during that generation. He stopped teaching the law in the synagogues, because he would not reign as wisest of kings to that generation. He stopped healing all, because the blessings of the Messianic Kingdom were postponed for a future generation to enjoy. The future kingdom will be spiritual, because it will be from God; not because it will not be physical.
Significance and Application
So what is the significance of this? Why is it important for us to understand that Jesus offered that generation a physical kingdom that he will one day provide to a future generation? In Matthew 25:21, “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
We are supposed to use our knowledge about the kingdom to motivate us and to encourage us during this present time, and in order to do that we have to know about the kingdom. So there is an awful lot about the kingdom in the Old Testament prophets. Unfortunately, we don’t hear too much about it; but we need to study and we need to teach it. And this verse, 25:21, has a few things about the kingdom that we can use to encourage ourselves and motivate ourselves.
First of all it says that the kingdom is going to be a time of work. There is going to be a lot of work to do. He says, “I will make you ruler over many things. You have been faithful in a few things.” So the Lord has a lot of responsibilities that he wants to give you during the kingdom. But he can’t give you those responsibilities in the kingdom if you don’t show yourself faithful in the few things that we have been given to do during this present time.
And also it says, “Enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” The kingdom will be a time of great joy. So, you know, don’t be discouraged during the times of hardship and suffering that we go through now, because we know the future and the joy that is coming in the kingdom.
And the other thing we need to keep in mind is that not everybody is going to be in the kingdom unfortunately. And this is found in Matthew eight verse 10. “When Jesus...” By the way, this is a passage about a Roman soldier, a Roman centurion, and he had shown, he had demonstrated, a very great faith in the Lord. And in verse 10, “When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
So the “children of the kingdom” is talking about the Jewish people, and the people that “come from the east and west” is talking about the Gentiles. But it doesn’t mean that none of the Jewish people will enter the kingdom. It just means that many of the children will be cast out because being Jewish won’t get you into the kingdom. Going to church won’t get you into the kingdom. Being good won’t get you into the kingdom. Only, as it says in verse 10, faith is the only thing that will get you into the kingdom.
Just as John said in John 3:3, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And he went on to say that the way to be born of the Spirit of God is by having faith in what Jesus did on the cross for us. And verse 16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” He gave him on the cross as a substitute for us, for our sins, “that whosoever believeth in him...” has faith in him, trusts in the sacrifice that Jesus did. In other words you rely on his death for your sins rather than trusting in your own self righteousness which will fall far short of what it needs to be. “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish...”, should not be cast out into this outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, “but have everlasting life.” And part of that everlasting life will be during the time of the future kingdom. So definitely we want to have a part in that, and be there in the kingdom with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all those that put their faith in God and Christ. And if you haven’t done that before, call upon the Lord in your heart, and tell him that you trust him and what he has done for you. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom. 10:13)