Summary: Jesus boils down the Gospel to the basics
I was looking through some old college papers and I came across an essay that I had written about Macbeth, the Shakespeare play. I’ve never been a big fan of Shakespeare. I simply cannot understand the way that he wrote, I don’t get the language and the terms and so I can’t follow the story line. I think two people are fighting and they’re really in love, it’s too confusing. I don’t have the patience to read all of the foot notes that go with a Shakespeare play so I just keep plowing ahead even if I don’t understand it. That’s what I had done with Macbeth. So, I had to write an essay on some aspect of the story and I remember sitting with my notebook in front of me and not having a clue what to write. I couldn’t explain something that I hadn’t understood. So, I did what any college student would have done, I got the cliff notes. In a few short minutes, I got the boiled down version of the story. I got the gist of it and I was able to complete the work that I had to do with a better understanding of the plot and the characters.
I could have used some cliff notes this week. I was putting together a swing set for Catherine’s birthday. I’ve shared with you some of my inadequacies as a handy man builder kind of guy. I do alright, and the finished product usually looks nice but I don’t normally go about things in what one might call “the right way.” One of the troubles I have with building things is that I cannot read plans. I built a table a few months ago. I drew the pictures in my head, bought the wood and had no trouble putting it together because I knew before I started what I was trying to accomplish, it had been my idea. This swing set was different. I could see the final product but I didn’t understand the plans at all, I couldn’t understand the directions and the steps to putting this thing together and a swing set is not something that you want to have a whole bunch of pieces left over with.. So, I did what every good man should learn how to do, I yelled for my wife. She read the directions, marked the places I was supposed to drill, laid out the right hardware for me, and gave me a brief and simple overview of what I was doing. She boiled it down to the essentials and within a few minutes, I was done. Don’t you wish we could do that with everything in life? Don’t you wish we could take all of those things that are confusing, difficult to understand, or just overwhelming because of the sheer volume of what we have to digest, take them and boil them down to what’s important, to the basics. Something that we can grasp and understand and when we can understand something, we’re more likely to accomplish what we need to and to do it well.
Do you ever wish that you could do that with the Bible. It would be great to get all of the vast Truth and Wisdom of God’s word summed up for us in a few sentences. What’s the central idea, what’s the most important thing for me to be doing in my life to grow in a relationship with God and to be fulfilling His purposes in my life? If we could go beyond memorizing and knowing Scripture, which are essential things, to truly understanding the heart of the message, we would be much more effective in our walk. As we turn back to the book of Matthew and continue to look at Christ’s teaching during Passion Week, we see that He does just this for us in another run in with the Pharisees. Jesus has just finished telling three stories, the parables of the 2 Sons, the Tenants, and the Wedding Feast. Each of these stories pointed out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and we’re told that they are actively looking for a way to arrest Him but they are scared of the people. So they begin to look for ways to discredit him publicly, to trick him into saying something that would prove that he was not a prophet at all and was certainly not the Son of God.
They sent their disciples first with a question on paying taxes, hoping that they could get him in trouble with the Roman government. It didn’t work and the Pharisee’s disciples were amazed at His answer. Next, a group called the Sadducees posed a question. The Sadducees were a group of men who fancied themselves very religious and, at the same time, they thought they were very intellectual. These were deep thinkers. As deep thinkers, they had concluded that God was a nice thought and they would accept that but that there could not be anything beyond this life, there was no heaven or hell. They carried their perception of reality, of the current visible world, into their belief of the future invisible world, refusing to believe that God could do anything other than what they could see before them in the present. It was a new belief system within Judaism that was gaining momentum and so to help their cause, they wanted to discredit anyone whose beliefs differed from theirs. That would include Christ. They pose their question about the afterlife to Jesus, hoping to reduce the idea of immortality of the soul, of heaven to absurdity. Jesus wastes little time with these men. He goes right to the root of the issue and says: A. You don’t know the Scriptures (eternity is a central Truth) and B. You don’t know God. What they were seeing was just a glimpse of what God was capable of, not the maximum extent of His power and Sovereignty. He fielded their question and answered with such authority that we’re told that the Sadducees, these deep thinkers, were literally speechless.