Summary: There’s life beyond the games we play.
Part 13 - Matthew 12:38-42 - LIFE BEYOND THE TRAMPOLINE!
I fell through a trampoline once. It was totally unexpected! One minute I was airborne and the next I was standing on the ground, wearing the trampoline like a giant torn tutu, and all my helpful family could do was laugh at me! I mention this because my granddaughter, normally so cooperative, sent a very clear message to her parents the other day. She said "NO! I won’t go!" She had been playing on the trampoline with her cousins, laughing and having such a great time that when it was time to go home, she simply refused. She was more interested in having FUN than in OBEDIENCE. She was more interested in playing games than in the implications of a world that existed beyond jumping on a trampoline. I fully understand, although my experience with a trampoline was a little more traumatic.
No doubt the Pharisees and other people around Jesus in Matthew 12:39 are also surprised and discomfited when he calls them an "EVIL AND ADULTEROUS generation" and affronted when He accuses them of "refusing to REPENT." (Matthew 12:41-42). I mean this seems to be such a SWEEPING STATEMENT. Surely there is no need to be so CONFRONTING, so DEMANDING!
So what am I saying? Is Jesus trying to TAKE AWAY my fun? Give me the toys and the desires of my heart, Lord, but don’t demand anything from me,? How can a loving God be so judgmental and insistent? "After all I’m not a bad person. I am just having fun on my trampoline with my playmates and not bothering anyone. And I’m NOT GOING TO REPENT!" (Well, OK. Maybe not the bit about the trampoline, but you get the idea.)
Bumper sticker - "Jesus loves me just as I am, and He loves me too much to have me stay that way". It’s not about taking away our fun. It’s about living life to the full. THE WORLD BEYOND THE TRAMPOLINE. There comes a time when our rebellion and our wanting to play games with God demands REPENTANCE! John the Baptist preached the same message (see Matthew 3:2) and so did many others who paved the way for Christ.
DENIAL - "The world isn’t all that bad!" Have you followed world news lately or walked around a video shop? We have movies that justify homosexuality, adultery and murder as entertainment and world leaders who justify their corruption as a normal part of their governance. It would seem that an "EVIL AND ADULTEROUS generation" (Matthew 12:39) is actually quite a fitting description of our world. DENIAL - "I am not all that bad." Have you read your Bible lately? Romans 3:23 (NLT) says "...everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard." And I don’t see a whole lot of REPENTANCE taking place in the lives of our generation. Lots of denial. Very little repentance.
So what is this "REPENT FOR THE END IS NEAR!" T-shirt that Jesus seems to be wearing? What is this placard He is holding? It isn’t exactly a message that stirs my heart and makes me feel good. It’s UNCOMFORTABLE to be confronted with my sin, and sometimes I want Jesus to take a much SOFTER approach. Then again "REPENT PLEASE" isn’t going to cut it with me or in an evil world. Perhaps SEARED CONSCIENCES (1 Timothy 4:2) need the encouragement of ELECTRIC SHOCK treatment!
Paul seems to sum things up. When he preached at Athens in Acts 17:30-31 (NLT) he said "God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now He COMMANDS everyone everywhere to REPENT of their sins and TURN TO HIM. For He has set a day for JUDGING the world with JUSTICE by the man He has appointed, and He proved to everyone who this is by raising Him from the dead."
When Peter preaches to a crowd at Pentecost in Acts 2:37-38 (NLT) they responded to the message. It says "Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said ..."What should we do?" Peter replied, "Each of you must REPENT of your sins, TURN to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to show that you have received FORGIVENESS for your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Somehow Jesus’ message is clear. There’s LIFE BEYOND THE TRAMPOLINE! It’s meant to be lived to the full. The invitation to real life, abundant life is there before you. Jesus hands it to you. You open it up and you look down to what it will cost. It says "REPENT AND BELIEVE! TURN AND RECEIVE! LET ME DIRECT YOUR LIFE". Am I willing to pay such a price? Now that’s the choice.
God bless you Church as you affirm the message of Christ and show the fruit of repentance (Matthew 3:8), the example of a life which is responsive to the touch of God, rich and full, giving hope and incentive for repentance for others in our evil and adulterous generation.