Following the Resurrection of Christ those who had so vehemently sought for His death were left with an Empty Tomb. The watchmen who had been assigned to guard the tomb were given large sums of money by the chief priests with instructions to say to anyone who asked, “His disciples came by night, and stole Him away while we slept.” In Jewish culture today this belief is still “commonly reported among the Jews until this day,” as Matthew recorded in his day (Matthew 28:11-15). For a Jew to finally meet the Messiah the Old Testament Prophets foretold about is truly life-changing.
As Jesus spoke to His disciples and the multitude gathered in His last public discourse held in the Temple of Jerusalem before His crucifixion, He spoke of those who strain at gnats and swallow camels. He spoke of those who minor on the major, and major on the minor. He spoke of those who clean the outside of the cup while neglecting the filthiness inside the cup. He spoke of the scribes and Pharisees of the day, pronouncing woe upon them for their hypocrisy and iniquity.
In Matthew 23 Jesus’ words of guilt and punishment are recorded upon those in His presence who had laid heavy burdens upon the people but would not lift one finger to help them. He declared, “All their works they do for to be seen of men,” (vs4-5). In denouncing them, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (v13), Jesus proceeded to make clear the very nature of their sin.
Jesus rebuked them for promoting false doctrine contrary to the Scriptures (v13); devouring widows’ property and possessions by fraud (v14); making a pretence of long prayers (v14); compassing land and sea to make one false convert to their traditions (v15); giving more credence to an oath sworn on the gold of the Temple or a gift on the altar than by the God of Heaven Whose presence dwelt in the Temple (vs16-22); paying tithes with herbs of little value while omitting “the weightier matters of the Law, judgment, mercy, and faith” (v23).
As Jesus refers to the scribes and Pharisees as “blind guides” throughout the chapter for leading His people astray, He gives word pictures to their actions. He describes how they wipe clean the outside of the plate and cup, observing all the washings and cleansings of their tradition, while neglecting what matters most on the inside (vs25-26). He then turns their attention to the cemetery and the “whited sepulchres” found there, which appear beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead men’s bones. He tells them of how they build and decorate the tombs of the prophets and righteous who were slain by their forefathers, all the while proclaiming “If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.” Knowing that it would be by their very hands they would call for His crucifixion, He tells them, “Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers,” (vs27-32).
For such actions by the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus called them “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers,” for their pretending to be pious and devoted to God, but all the while being wicked on the inside with evil intentions. Jesus then asked them, “How can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (v33). If the scribes and Pharisees continued on their wicked path, their future punishment in eternity would be inescapable.
The Book of Matthew in the New Testament opens with the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Out of the long list of names recorded several are familiar from the Old Testament: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Boaz and Ruth; Jesse, David and Solomon. As the birth of Jesus unfolds in the second chapter of the Book, several verses refer back to what was written previously in the Old Testament. To fully understand the New Testament one must also read the Old, for the Old Covenant introduces the New Covenant founded upon Christ alone as the Sacrifice for sin.
- When King Herod questioned the chief priests and scribes where the Promised Messiah would be born, “They said unto him, in Bethlehem of Judea,” relying upon the Prophet Micah’s prophesy in the Old Testament, “…out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,” (Matthew 2:4-6; Micah 5:2).
- When the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to flee with his young family to Egypt “until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy Him,” it was the Prophet Hosea the Lord had spoken to and had written 750 years earlier found in the Old Testament, “I… called My Son out of Egypt” (Matthew 2:13-15; Hosea 11:1).
- As King Herod saw that he was mocked by the return of the magi to their own country another way and called for the slaughter of all children two years and under, Matthew recalls Jeremiah the prophet saying, “Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not,” (Matthew 2:16-18; Jeremiah 31:15).
- Settling in Nazareth upon their return from Egypt, more prophesies written in the Old Testament are noted concerning Jesus, in that, “He shall be called a Nazarene,” a community where residents were often despised and rejected, as Nathanael said to Philip upon his invitation for Nathanael to come see Jesus, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” In Psalm 22 David wrote of the Promised Messiah of the New Testament, “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him.” The Prophet Isaiah wrote, “His Holy One, to Him whom man despiseth, to Him whom the nation abhorreth,” and also, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief… He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.” (Matthew2:23; John 1:46; Psalm 22:6-8; Isaiah 49:7; 53:3).
As one continues reading throughout the Book of Matthew and beyond, reference upon reference is made back to the Old Testament. The Prophet Isaiah wrote in the Old Testament of John the Baptist’s ministry recorded in Matthew chapter three (Isaiah 40:3). Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness in chapter four records Jesus quoting Old Testament Scripture in answer to Satan’s twisting of Scripture. Just as the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:16 writes of the Body of Christ, the Church, being “the whole body fitly joined together,” both the Old Testament and the New Testament fit wholly together, hand in glove. To understand the New, one must be familiar with the Old.
In Jesus’ final message delivered to His disciples on the Mount of Olives before Judas’ betrayal of Him two days later, He told the disciples in answer to their question of when shall these things be that He was telling them and what will be the sign of His coming, “If any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false christs, and false prophets.” False christs and false prophets are in our world today. There are those who are placing their faith in another Jesus, not the Jesus of the Bible (Matthew 24).
Throughout the world there are those who are believing in a Jesus whom they say is the spirit brother of the devil. They believe in a Jesus who supposedly contended with Satan for the privilege of taking on human form, coming to earth and becoming the redeemer of the world. They do not believe their Jesus is the eternal Word of God or God Himself as the Bible clearly teaches He is (John 1:1-14).
There are millions of others throughout the world who believe in a Jesus who was merely a prophet, not the Son of God. They believe their Jesus appeared to be crucified but did not die on the cross bearing the sins of the world, but ascended to Heaven having never died. They are worshipping a false christ, not the Christ of the Scriptures (I Corinthians 15:1-4).
There are millions more believing in a Jesus whom they believe to be a co-redeemer with his mother. They believe in a Jesus whose mother remained a virgin throughout her life contrary to Scripture (Matthew 13:55-56). They believe in a Jesus whose body and blood mystically appears in the transformation of the bread and wine of the communion table. They believe it is upon Peter the church is built, not Christ.
In His introductory words of Matthew 24, Jesus admonished His disciples, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” In further mentioning the coming of false christs into the world midway through the chapter, He warned “If it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” But it is not possible to deceive true believers in the One True God, His Only Begotten Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit of Scripture, for it is written of Jesus in John 10:3-5, “To Him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear His voice: and He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him: for they know His voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.” They will not follow another Jesus.
As Jesus was teaching His disciples the Beatitudes during His Sermon on the Mount, telling them they were the salt of the earth and the light of the world and to guard against losing their saltiness or hiding their light under a bushel, He told them, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” It was then He gave them the much mores of following Christ (Matthew 5).
Jesus began, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:” (Exodus 20:13) …“But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.”
He then tells them, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14) …“But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
Jesus continues, “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:” (Deuteronomy 24:1) …”But I say unto you, That whosever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery.”
He tells His disciples, “Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:” (Leviticus 19:12) … But I say unto you, Swear not at all… But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”
Jesus continues to instruct them, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:” (Exodus 21:24) …”But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man… take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”
And finally Jesus tells them, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, (Leviticus 19:18) and hate thine enemy.” (Deuteronomy 23:3-6) “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
“For I say unto you,
That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees,
Ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
As Jesus walked the dusty trails of Judea, many came to Him for various reasons. There were those who came to Him for the healings He provided; others for the food He multiplied; while others came to genuinely hear what He had to say as He spoke His parables to those who were gathered around Him. But not all came to receive His free gift of salvation.
His fame spread abroad as the lame began to walk, the blind began to see, and the deaf began to hear after their one-on-one encounters with the One Who called Himself, The Son of God. Over 5,000 men, besides women and children, had been fed by a little boy’s lunch of five loaves and two fishes (Matthew 14:13-21), and another 4,000 men, besides women and children, were fed from seven loaves and a few fishes on another occasion (Matthew 15:29-39) after Jesus blessed the food and gave thanks, instructing the disciples to distribute the nourishment to those in attendance. The people were amazed and astonished at what He could do on their behalf.
But then the road grew difficult as Jesus asked the multitudes to take up their cross and follow Him as He made His way to Jerusalem (Luke 9:23). It was then the people began to leave Him and fade away from following Him. Those who had been healed returned to their families; those who had been fed found their sustenance elsewhere; those who listened to His words closed their ears to His voice. The crowd who followed Him to Calvary dwindled to only those who believed He truly was the Son of God.
John wrote in chapter one of his book, “He was in the world… and the world knew Him not. He came to His own, and His own received Him not.” The world did not receive Him as the Son of God; neither did His own people, the Jews. Isaiah tells us “He is despised and rejected of men… we hid as it were our faces from Him; we esteemed Him not” (Isaiah 53:3).
Then John gives this Truth in the next verse, “BUT as many as RECEIVED Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (John 1:12). Those who had not received Jesus as the Promised Messiah to come did not become His children. Only those who truly believed and received Him as the Savior were brought into the Kingdom of God.
Just as those who lived during Jesus’ time, there are those today who believe in His existence, experience His healing, eat of His bounty, but reject Him as Lord and Savior. The majority of mankind are unwilling to surrender their lives to Him, take up their cross and follow Him, just as those who walked away from Him almost 2,000 years ago. Jesus said narrow is the gate for those who follow Him; wide is the gate for all others who don’t that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). For those who receive Him, the narrow gate awaits that leads unto everlasting life. Jesus warns there are few that find it, just as there were few who found their way to the foot of the Cross on that long ago Good Friday.