The Middle Galilean Period
This period of our Lord’s ministry extends from the calling of the Twelve Apostles to His withdrawal into northern Galilee. Again in this section we will notice that the order of events in Matthew differs somewhat from that in Mark and Luke. Matthew will skip from Ch. 12, where we ended the last section, to Ch. 10, and then to Ch. 5, 6, 7, then to Ch. 11 – 13, back to Ch. 8 and 9, and on to Ch. 14 and 15. Mark carries consecutively from Ch. 3:7 through 7:23. Luke likewise carries consecutively from Ch. 6:17 through 9:17. John Ch. 6 comes in at the close of the section.
1. Jesus Withdraws to the Sea of Galilee
References: Matt. 12:15-21; Mk. 3:7-12; Lk. 6:17-19
Although the Jewish leaders had been very upset over the claims of Jesus, this is the first time a council is held to find a means of destroying Him. Jesus, knowing their plot, withdrew Himself from them, but His fame was spreading so that people thronged from Jerusalem, Judea, Idumea, the areas east of Jordan, and from the seacoast to Tyre and Sidon to hear His preaching and to be healed. He tells those who were healed not to publicize Him. Matthew adds that this was done to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy (42:1-4).
It would have been easy for Jesus to raise up an army in revolution against those who were plotting His death, but this was not His purpose in coming into the world. “He shall not strive, nor cry out; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax he shall not quench,” These words refer to the character of His first coming. But Isaiah also saw the second coming of Christ. Jesus did not act in judgment upon His enemies, but the prophecy continues, “TILL he send forth judgment unto victory, and in his name shall the Gentiles trust.” When He returns, He will execute judgment upon the ungodly; He will establish His Kingdom, and in that Kingdom the Gentiles will come to Israel’s Light.
There are differences of opinion concerning the meaning of the bruised reed and smoking flax. We believe that this prophecy teaches Christ’s restraint from judgment during His ministry of grace. He withdrew in order that He might not smite them. These were His enemies. He cannot break or quench until He sends forth judgment to victory.
2. Jesus Chooses His Twelve Apostles
References: Matt. 10:1-4; Mk. 3:13-19; Lk. 6:12-19
Luke informs us that before Jesus chose the Twelve He went out into a mountain to pray and continued all night in prayer to God. Important decisions should be preceded by much prayer. Luke also tells us that He called His disciples and chose from them twelve, whom He also named apostles. Apostle means one who is sent, an envoy, a missionary. These twelve were entrusted with special power and authority. As we shall see later, they are to sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel in the Millennial Kingdom.
In comparing the names in the three accounts it will be seen that Matthew speaks of Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus (vs. 3), whereas Luke calls him Judas the son (not brother) of James. The second Simon is called the Canaanite by Matthew and Mark, but Luke calls him the Zealot. The A.V. incorrectly calls him a Canaanite. The Greek reads, “Cananaean.” The Zealots were a Jewish party which professed great zeal for the Law and resorted to violence in their hatred for foreigners. Simon apparently belonged to that party before becoming a disciple.
Luke tells us that Jesus came down from the mount and stood in the plain or a level place and great crowds came and were healed. There follows after this in Luke what appears to be an abbreviated form of the Sermon on the Mount. Some scholars think this discourse in Luke is separate and distinct from the Sermon on the Mount, and they call it the Sermon in the Plain. Since the two are so similar, they will be considered together under the next heading.
3. The Sermon on the Mount
References: Matt. 5, 6, 7; Lk. 6:20-49
The Sermon on the Mount is a summary of the moral and spiritual qualifications of candidates for the Millennial Kingdom. There are certain moral and spiritual absolutes which are unchangeable and which apply equally to God’s people in all ages. Therefore, many of the principles enunciated in this Sermon are as applicable to members of the Body of Christ as they are to members of the Kingdom. But there are certain features of this Sermon which are applicable only to members of the Kingdom, and there is, therefore, need to rightly divide this portion of the Word.
The purpose of the Sermon is also to instruct the disciples how to live in view of the persecutions and tribulation which they would suffer while waiting for the actual establishment of the Kingdom. They are instructed to pray for the Kingdom to come. The Sermon was given to the disciples in the presence of a multitude. The Sermon does not present the Gospel of salvation or explain how sinners may be saved: rather, it is addressed to people who were already saved, who could call God their heavenly Father. Much confusion has come from supposing that one can become a Christian by trying to live up to the Sermon on the Mount. There is a vast difference between living in order to become a saint, and living as becometh a saint (cf. Eph. 5:1-3).
With these introductory thoughts in mind, let us examine the following ten divisions:
A. Character: Matt. 5:1-16; Lk. 6:20-26. This division deals with the character and the blessedness of the Kingdom saints. It consists of what is generally called the Beatitudes, or the pronouncement of blessedness upon the eight traits of character which are enumerated. The first is poverty of spirit, the realization of one’s moral and spiritual bankruptcy before God, which is just the opposite of pride of spirit, which characterizes the unconverted, who suppose they have such abundance of goodness in themselves that they have no need of a Savior. See the poverty of spirit of Isaiah in Ch. 6:5 of his prophecy, or that of Job in Job 42:1-6, or that of David in Ps. 51:1-5, or that of Paul in Phil. 3:7-9. Many of the parables of Jesus illustrate man’s spiritual poverty by nature, such as the two debtors of Lk. 7:42. The Kingdom of heaven, not heaven, not the Church, but the Millennial Kingdom will belong to the poor in spirit.
The second blessing is upon those that mourn. But doesn’t everyone in this world mourn at one time or another? People mourn over their losses, over their misfortunes and reverses, but all such mourning is based upon selfishness. Jesus mourned and wept over Jerusalem, over the suffering and injustice in society, over man’s sinfulness and hardness of heart. This is the kind of mourning which we believe is meant here. And the promise is that all such will be comforted. There is comfort in knowing that some day God will put down everything that offends and the promise of comfort in this verse will be realized in the sabbath-rest of that glorious Kingdom.
Thirdly, there is blessing upon the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:and ye shall find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29). Meekness is not weakness. It is humility, submissiveness to God, mildness, gentleness. Whereas the word “meek” appears but three times in the Gospels, once in this beatitude and twice in reference to Christ, Paul admonishes meekness in the members of the Body of Christ nine times (1 Cor. 4:21; 2 Cor. 10:1; Gal. 5:23; 6:1; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:25; Tit. 3:2). This meekness is not a product of human nature: it is the fruit of the Spirit. Paul would surely pronounce blessedness upon the meek also, but he never promises that because of their meekness they will inherit the earth. This earthly inheritance belongs to Israel’s Kingdom saints. The Church’s inheritance is heavenly. It is only in a secondary sense that members of the Church as joint-heirs with Christ will share in all that is His, which includes the redeemed earth.
Another characteristic for which there is blessedness is a hunger and thirst for righteousness. There is the imputed righteousness of God which is given as a free gift to all who believe as a result of justification by faith, and there is an imparted and inwrought righteousness of character which is the product of the burning desire for likeness to God. If there is a desire, a hungering and thirsting to be like Christ, God will satisfy that longing.
The fifth beatitude is upon the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy. It is because God is rich in mercy that anyone is saved (Eph. 2:4). Mercy emphasizes the misery with which grace deals. Bengel remarks: “Grace takes away the fault, mercy the misery.” God desires mercy more than sacrifice (Hos. 6:6; Mic. 6:6- 8). The wise man of old had observed that “the merciful man doeth good to his own soul; but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh” (Prov. 11:17).
The pure in heart are singled out next, for they shall see God. There were many ceremonial purifications practiced in the Old Testament, which touched only the flesh, the outward man, but they were all typical of the inward purification which is now wrought by the Spirit of God in those that believe. Paul, in speaking of that work of God states: “Our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works” (Tit. 2: 14). Paul speaks also of purity of heart and purity of conscience.
Next, there is blessedness for peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Again, Paul has much to say about this subject. He says, “God has called us to peace” (1 Cor. 7:15). “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). “And be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thes. 5: 13). “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18). Does this mean that all of those at the United Nations should be called the children of God? Are they not supposed to be there to bring about world peace? It should be evident to any unbiased observer that each of the nations represented in that body are there to keep peace only if it results in benefits to its own selfish interests. God and the peace of God are foreign to all of their undertakings. The peacemakers of our text are children of God.
We have purposely emphasized the fact that all eight of these character traits for the Kingdom saints are to be found in greater degree even in the Pauline writings to members of the Body of Christ, for the reason that charges are often made that a dispensational approach robs the believer of the truth in the Sermon on the Mount. If there is any dispensational difference, it is that in the full blaze of revelation in the Pauline epistles, we in this dispensation are under greater obligation to manifest these godly traits of character than were the people of Jesus’ day. As we have seen, there are dispensational differences between promises made to the Kingdom saints and the Body saints, and as we shall see there is progressive revelation which produces changes, but there are other things which never change.
Finally there is blessedness for those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Peter has a wonderful commentary on this passage:
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy (blessed) are ye: for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet, if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Pet. 4: 12-16).
The beatitudes conclude with two brief parables, that of the salt and the candle. Salt is a seasoning and a preservative. Light dispels darkness. The disciples were to be both the Light of the world and the Salt of the earth. Salt is needed where there is corruption, and Light where there is darkness. These two parables teach that the main work of the disciples was to influence for good those round about them. Salt that has lost its saltiness and a candle that is placed under a bushel are worthless: neither can fulfill its intended function. These principles are as valid today as they will be for Israel in the coming tribulation. (Col. 4:6).
(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)
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