Jesus had so many powerful things to say. Some of these statements over the years have caused a bit of discussion. On this page I will add to this discussion. I hope it will be a blessing for you.
The sign of Jonah
The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away. Matthew 16:1-4
I love this illustration from Jesus. Jesus was the greatest teacher ever and he certainly knew how to paint a picture. The religious leaders of the day were all familiar with the story of Jonah so he was using prior knowledge so that they could associate something new. Jonah was swallowed by a big fish. Anyone witnessing the event would have rightfully assumed him dead, but miraculously 3 day later he is seen walking the earth and preaching repentance. Jesus is comparing himself to Jonah in that all will see Him dead and miraculously see Him awake from the dead 3 days later. The comparison does not end there. Jesus in Matthew 12:38-41 gives us more clarity on the subject. He further explains that in Jonah’s time the men repented but that this generation of religious leaders would be judged because one “greater then Jonas “ was preaching to them and yet they, in contrast, did not repent.
I should add that the Pharisees asked for a sign and in other words wanted Jesus to perform for their amusement. He had already done many miracles, had taught and preached like no one had before, had changed countless lives, and had an impeccable reputation. What more did they need; besides Jesus’ greatest motivation for performing miracles came from his compassion for a suffering humanity, not to be a circus act.
Ye shall drink indeed of my cup
Then came to him the mother of Zebedees children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. Matthew 20:20-23
Once again Jesus had a colorful way of painting pictures. He was responding to the mother of James and John. Both of whom were truly close to Jesus and should be considered part of His inner circle, along with Peter. At the time few if any of Jesus’ followers understood the true nature of his calling. They were expecting a Messiah that would overthrow Rome and immediately set up an earthly kingdom. Although the conquering messiah is prophesized in the O.T., the suffering Messiah that had to come first had been over looked (See Isaiah 53). James, John and their mother were looking for position, title and power. Jesus new His disciples would not enjoy earthly or political power. They would have a dynamic Ministry like that of Jesus; they too would be great teachers, preachers and with the power of the Holy Spirit perform great miracles. However drinking from Jesus’ cup meant sharing in the suffering. They too would be persecuted. The disciples would be outcast, locked in prison, beaten and just about all of them killed.
Similarly Jesus ask His followers to “pick up their cross.”(Matthew 16:24) We will all suffer to some extent. When we preach the gospel, rejection is possible and when we don’t participate in all that the world has to offer we can become an outcast. Many are suffering far worst in places where Christianity is not tolerated, outlawed or forces its members to be second class citizens.
In a sense we are all drinking from Jesus’ cup.
Elijah has come
11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist. Matthew 17:11-13
Is Jesus claiming that Elijah reincarnated and came back as John the Baptist or perhaps that Elijah possessed John the Baptist and was using him like a puppet. Well neither is the case. Jesus is speaking of the power and spirit of Elijah. John the Baptist was like Elijah. They both presented themselves rather sternly, roughly looking and with courage, demanding repentance of a wicked generation. The Angel Gabriel in announcing the birth of John the Baptist explained this very fact.
17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:17
A Camel and the eye of the needle
When the rich man comes to Jesus seeking approval, Jesus seeing into the heart of the man asks him to sell everything and give it the poor. When the man fails to do this and goes away sadly Jesus says
“Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:23,24
There are two points that need to be made. The first is that Jesus is not teaching that we cannot have any wealth or that all wealthy people must sell everything they have and give it away. This was a message for this one man. We later see that Jesus was buried in a rich man’s tomb. No doubt this was a wealthy man who was a follower of Jesus and donated a tomb for the burial of the Master. He certainly had not sold everything. In scripture we also see the great wealth of Godly men in Abraham, Job, Jacob and many others. However the needs of this man must have been different. Perhaps his wealth had become an idol and a great priority keeping him from truly serving God.
Normally a camel cannot enter the eye of a needle. I would be greatly surprised. This was a saying that meant it would be difficult. However the conclusion is that it is possible for a wealthy person to enter the kingdom of heaven. To confirm this thought Jesus, still speaking on the subject, later in the chapter says “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
Why is it difficult for the wealthy to be saved? There are different considerations. To give your life to Christ and accept Him as your Lord and savior means learning to depend and trust in God. I would imagine many well to do individuals are too busy depending and trusting in their own abilities and wealth. Another factor is that wealth in and of itself can be an incredible distraction; it takes time and attention to accumulate, guard and spend wealth. Finally how great a temptation it must be to have all that you desire by simply pulling out your check book?
The first shall be last and the last shall be first
But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. Matthew 19:30
In the same chapter referred to above, Matthew 19, just a few verses below, Jesus makes this unforgettable remark, an apparent contradiction. It was said in the same conversation. The disciples still concerned about wealthy people getting into heaven are now concerned about themselves. They note that they had given up everything to follow Jesus. Jesus agrees with them and reveals their special place in the kingdom, “when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28) The disciples had very little in this world and a lowly place in society, but in God’s kingdom they would be elevated.
Then Jesus explains that all those who have left behind family and property to follow Him would be rewarded a 100 times. They too would be elevated. However he then makes that contradictory statement found above.
Those that have made a priority of obtaining a high position, via wealth, power or fame have already received their reward. They are the ones that are first in this world but will be last in the next. Those whose priority is Christ are most likely in a much lower position in this world but will be lifted up in the next.