Summary: Here is a very controversial passage dealing with the unforgiveable sin. What is it, and can a believer commit it?
Passage: Matthew 12:15-21
Intro: Anyone familiar with war knows that soldiers talk about tactics and logistics.
1. there is not a lot of question about the purpose of war: It is to defeat the enemy.
2. and in order to do that, we put aside attitudes of compassion and kindness, and replace them with anger and sometimes even cruelty.
Il) “All’s fair in love and war” because in war the goal is domination, and attitude is in line with the goal of victory.
3. now we find much war imagery in the Bible in describing the Christian life.
4. and yet oftentimes we mistakenly misidentify the enemy, as we will see.
5. this passage is very instructive to us concerning the attitude that should pervade our ministry in this world.
6. we find in these few verses a beautiful example of the appropriate Christian attitude in the face of strong opposition to the message and the messenger.
7. how should we respond when the message is rejected? What did Jesus do?
I. Strategic Withdrawal
1. last week, we saw that Jesus had a run-in with the Pharisees concerning the Sabbath.
2. it ended rather badly, with battle lines clearly drawn in v14.
3. v15, “aware of this, Jesus withdrew.”
4. Jesus was clearly aware of this strong opposition, their murderous intent.
5. now we are talking about Jesus here, a person with incredible power at His disposal.
6. He had any number of alternatives.
7. He could have stupefied them with intellectual arguments, he could have made their secrets known.
8. he could have broken their teeth, torn down their strongholds, taken their very lives!
9. and yet, he walked away from a fight with those who would ultimately kill him.
Il) this may surprise you, but as a kid, I was not one to walk away from a fight. I had the tendency to seek them out.
10. Jesus withdrew from this fight, but the withdrawal was strategic.
11. do you remember when we talked about the fact that God hides revelation from some people as few weeks ago?
12. and we discussed then that hiddeness often results from the rejection of the clear revelation of creation.
13. here is an example of that in Jesus’ response of strategic withdrawal.
14. he revealed who He was, the Lord of the Sabbath, God in the flesh, and the response of some was to plan to kill him. That’s rejection!
15. and so Jesus leaves, taking His revelation with Him.
16. many followed him, and they continued to receive revelation in the form of miraculous healings.
17. but they were also instructed to keep that revelation to themselves, and not to share it with those to whom it was hidden. Why?
II. Ministry is Characterized by Quiet Confidence in God’s Plan
1. v17 is very powerful, gives a reason for Jesus’ withdrawal from conflict.
2. even those these men would ultimately be responsible for his crucifixion, he withdrew.
3. and that fulfilled this amazing statement made hundreds of years earlier by Isaiah.
4. the servant I send will be specifically chosen by me, who possesses a character that I delight in.
Il) Pais=son and servant.
5. and when he comes, he will demonstrate an attitude that matches God’s. How?
6. He will be a proclaimer of righteousness/justice.
7. in other words, He will proclaim God’s plan of righteous reconciliation.
8. he will do so without a quarrelsome spirit, he will not argue with people or get into shouting matches.
Il) “hold it down, they’ll hear you out in the street”
9. he will be gentle, tenderly offering forgiveness and reconciliation to those who are separated from God.
10. can I summarize it like this?
11. the attitude with which Jesus presents the gospel will be consistent with the offer of a gracious gift, not a hard sell take it or leave it proposition.
12. it is the attitude of gentle persuasion, not bullying or force or intimidation.
13. now some might point to the cleansing of the Temple, the denunciation of the Pharisees.
14. I would respond that those acts were acts in “the hidden zone”, where all that was left was the wrath of God.
15. the characteristic of the offer of grace is quiet confidence, non- argumentative, gentle proclamation that is enthusiastic and joyful without cruelty or harshness or overt hateful condemnation.
16. so what do we take from this?
III. Three Modern Examples
1. The battlers get the headlines, but I would like to point out three people in our day who are ministering with the character of Jesus
2. a few weeks ago in our church, AZOSA held a debate: Mike Riddle, young earth creationist, vs. a believing PhD from Uof A who held to an old earth position.