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Mar 14 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 12, 2017 – Matthew 12:1-8, 38-42

Something Greater

But I say unto you that something greater than the temple is here. Matthew 12:6

Intro: We are not quite done with Jonah

Today he will appear in a new light

Vv. 1-8, The Pharisees went at Jesus with an accusation

They claimed that the disciples’ actions were not lawful 
– this is important to remember
• because it is a theme that runs through the first half of the chapter
– Jesus responded to the accusation with two biblical cases
• these examples set a precedent for what he allowed
◦ he introduced both cases with the question, Have you not read?
◦ he assumed a Yes answer, but indicated their interpretation was deficient
• for example, when interpreting the Law, find the spirit of each commandment
◦ a large section of the Sermon On the Mount demonstrates how Jesus did this

You have heard . . . but I say to you (Mt. 5:21-48)

◦ Paul also contrasts adherence to the engraved letter of the law with the ministry of Spirit

. . . for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Cor. 3:6)

– the Pharisees with their hyper-literalism and attention to detail could not read this way

Percy Dearmer, Neither “history or the New Testament [leads] us to suppose that God shares our human dread of innovation. He makes all things new.”

King David was an innovator–e.g., he added song and musical instruments to temple ritual

Jehoiada placed the offices of the house of the LORD under the authority of the Levitical priests . . . as it is written in the law of Moses–with rejoicing and singing according to the order of David. (2 Chr. 23:18)

– David did something in the house of God that was not lawful
• and the priests in the temple desicrated the Sabbath with work
• the Lord’s point was that special circumstances change the rules regarding the Sabbath
◦ in the first example: human need lifts the ban on Sabbath work
◦ in the second example: sacred service in the temple cancels (or redefines) Sabbath regulations

N. T. Wright, “The temple was, in Jesus’ day, the central symbol of Judaism, the location of Israel’s most characteristic praxis [practice], the topic of some of her most vital stories, the answer to her deepest questions, the subject of some of her most beautiful songs.”

– so the Pharisees had to be shocked by Jesus’ next statement,

But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here

• the presence of something greater changes the rules

By something greater, Jesus may have been referring to mercy (v. 7)
– people found mercy in the temple (Lk. 18:13)
• the temple was a shell in which God revealed his glory, his presence
◦ and there he grants mercy to penitent worshipers
◦ as always, so for the temple, the contents are more important than container
• however, I’m certain Jesus was referring to himself as the something greater

For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house (Heb. 3:3)

– as for the Sabbath, The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath (v. 8)
• he owns the Sabbath and can use it however he wishes
◦ he has the right to proclaim,

. . . it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath (v. 12)

Vv. 38-40, Here is the point where Jonah enters the story of Jesus

People generally assume that a sign from God would resolve everything
– that witnessing a miracle, they would never doubt again
• but regardless of how earth-shaking as a sign may be
◦ the emotional effect wears off
◦ the human nervous system cannot sustain that level of energy
• only a few verses later, the Pharisees responded to a sign (exorcism) with criticism (v. 24)
◦ the meaning of miraculous signs is ambiguous
– in scripture generation does not always refer to people living through the same time period
• as in this instance, it can be a population group that shares a common culture
◦ a mind-set, worldview, beliefs and prejudices
◦ I have met young Fundamentalists (eighty year old brains trapped in twenty-four year old bodies)
• a generation because a common ideology gave birth to the group
– why, or how, was it evil and adulterous?
• the answer is found in Deuteronomy
◦ if a prophet should try to turn people to other gods through a “sign”

God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him (Deut. 13:3-4)

• to following signs instead of God’s word and Person is a betrayal of their covenant

The sign of Jonah
– he emerged from certain death after three days and three nights
• right then, there’s no way they could have known Jesus was referring to his resurrection
– at any rate, Jesus is not through with Jonah or his audience

. . . and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
. . . and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. Jonah 12:41-42

Jesus revealed additional insights unrelated to their request

The people of Nineveh, as wicked as they were, would condemn this generation
– I don’t think Jesus meant condemn them with words or direct accusation
• but standing alongside the repentant Ninevites, the contrast would be their undoing
◦ this is a strong theme in Jesus’ ministry — the inclusion of outcasts and outsiders
◦ the responsiveness of marginalized sinners to God is their salvation
behold – we want to pay special attention to this
◦ what was Jesus telling them to look at?
◦ the person in front of them, himself, something greater
– we will briefly note the differences between Jonah and the Queen of the South
• Jonah was obviously a male and a prophet
◦ she was was a female and a queen
• Jonah was an insider
◦ the queen was an outsider
• Jonah was sent from Israel to proclaim the truth to foreigners
◦ the queen was a foreigner who journeyed to Israel in search of the truth
(It was a true report I heard in my own land . . . 1 Ki. 10:6)
• Jonah influenced Nineveh to change
◦ the queen was influenced by Solomon to change (her mind)
• Jonah and the queen stood on opposite sides of Jesus’ examples
◦ Jonah was an insider, with Solomon
◦ the queen was an outsider, with Nineveh

In the Old Testament story, the Queen from Africa is an attractive character
– with her caravan, she came from the ends of the earth
• crossing deserts and mountains to hear the wisdom of Solomon
• her devotion to wisdom and truth brought her all this way
at the judgment, her example will also be a mark against this generation
– the message of these two stories, separated by time and circumstance is that:
• Jesus greater than Jonah and Solomon
◦ the two historical figures who evoked such unique responses from Nineveh and the queen
• Jesus is something greater than anything and anyone

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him . . . so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything (Col. 1:15-18)

Jesus had a last and terrifying word for this generation (vv. 43-45)
– basically, they would not just be stuck in their current state
• instead, they would digress to an even worse state – seven times worse
– all the advantages to enter eternal life were right in front of them
• what they needed was not a sign, but responsive hearts to something greater

Conc: There is a story in John in which the temple guard was sent to arrest Jesus

When the soldiers returned empty handed, they were asked why
– their answer:

Never has a man spoken the way this one speaks (Jn. 7:46)

• of course, it wasn’t merely the way he spoke, it was Jesus himself
• the early Christians continued to experience the something greater
◦ that is why many preferred to die than give up what they found in Christ
– why are we devoted to Jesus rather than religion?
• what inspires our faith? Holds us to God?
• something greater

It may help us to recall these two words this week
We live in the presence of something greater than raging wind and violent storm
All our anxieties and overwhelming hardships
All our irresistible temptations and personal failures
Than death or life
Than angels or principalities
Than things present or things to come
Than height or depth
Than any other created thing
And when we come face to face with any of these things,
Let’s remind ourselves,
Something greater. Something greater. Something greater.


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  1. Bill Livingston / Mar 22 2017

    Regarding Luke 18:18-27.

    I have been asking God, what do You want me to do, or to give up. I think the answer is…..You need to quit seeking ways to earn what I give freely. With man it is impossible; with God all things are possible.

    On another subject. Guided meditation. One form may go something like the following.

    Ask God, Am I your child? When you hear, Yes….you just heard from God. Then hear Him say, I love you (Paula). Then, relax, take a deep breath or two and sit in silence. You may hear more. (Further option: “Or not. Don’t try too hard. You will benefit from the silence.”)

  2. Chuck Smith, Jr. / Mar 22 2017

    [Deep breath] “Am I Your child?” . . . [Big smile. Peace]

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