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11 And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him.
And Saducees Matt 16:1
On landing, a company of them met him, along with a number of the Sadducees -- people not usually to be found in the company of the Pharisees, but who, like Herod with Pilate, could become friends when there was a work in which their common animosity could be gratified.
12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.
The following teaching is omitted in Mark but recorded in Matthew 16..
[2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas...].
Christ's argument here is that the common intelligence that was able to forecast the weather from atmospheric appearance was equal to the discernment of his divine credentials in the abundant miracles he wrought, if there were only the sincere and humble disposition to know the truth.
Had the Pharisees and Sadducees been sincere, they would have seen sign enough in what Jesus was doing every day.
They were acting; they were not honest: they pretended there were no signs, when in point of fact they were really of the opinion expressed by a prominent member of their body -- Nicodemus: "We know that thou art a teacher came from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest except God be with him." Is it a wonder he "sighed deeply in his spirit?"
They felt themselves foiled by the quiet, sad man of Nazareth, and doubtless made their best effort to preserve their learned dignity with the bystanders under discomfiture.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 36
13 And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.
This departure was evidently out of the programme. Jesus had intended to stay (perhaps at the house of loving Mary Magdalene, whose abode was in that part), but retired on finding the Pharisees and Sadducees in occupation of the field.
14 Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf.
15 And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.
16 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread.
They really supposed, it would seem, that he meant they were to be careful, when reprovisioning the boat, not to buy bread made by the Pharisees or Sadducees for fear of its being tainted with leaven; and furthermore, that they were in danger through having forgotten to bring bread.
Jesus was disappointed with the childishness of such a supposition...
Nazareth Revisited Ch 36
17 And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?
18 Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?
19 When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve.
29 And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.
To the modern point of view, it might seem superfluous that Jesus should challenge the confession of his disciples on this subject. If we transfer ourselves to the moment and the circumstances, we may see differently. Jesus had not made his Messiahship a prominent feature of the proclamation in which he had associated the disciples with himself. The kingdom of God was the burden of their preaching.
His personal relation to the matter was a thing he rather sought to conceal, on account of the fact that he had to suffer before the kingdom could come. His Messiahship was a subject of private communication mostly, and that very occasionally; and since it was not received either by the leaders or the body of the people, Jesus deemed it necessary to rally the disciples distinctly on this point at this time.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 37
32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.
Did he mean antagonism to the purpose of God? Nothing of the sort. It was "good feeling" without enlightenment. It was the presumption of ignorant kindness, placing itself in opposition to the revealed will of God. If Peter could err in this way, are we to be surprised at "pious" moderns opposing divine principles and purposes?
And here we may note as a little "aside" that Peter had been preaching the gospel (Luke ix. 6) and Peter knows nothing about the sacrifice of Christ! Consider this, ye who preach only the cross, and will have nothing of the gospel of the Kingdom which Jesus and the apostles preached (Luke viii. 1; ix. 2); and to which the doctrine of the cross was an appendix (Acts xxviii. 31).
Another point: out of compassion, Peter opposes the programme of divine wisdom. This is considered a very venial offence in our day. "Charitable feeling" condones every opposition to the revealed way of God. How did Christ take Peter's attitude? Not mildly or apologetically at all...
33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.
"My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord: for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah lv. 8).
For a man, then, to sympathise with "the thoughts of men" as opposed to the thoughts of God, is to be "Satan" in Bible speech. This is a rule of judgment that not only excludes the supernatural devil of pulpit theology, but condemns the vast mass of mankind now upon earth. In all departments of their "world-life," high and low, they do exactly what made Peter Satan for the time being. "They savour not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." For "the things that be of God" they have no taste.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 37
34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
What does God require of us, in return for His infinite gift of eternity? He very reasonably requires a tremendous amount. He requires everything: everything we have, everything we are - our whole being, and every moment of our time. The promise is only to those who love Him enough to give all.
God demands a complete transformation of our whole life - from natural to spiritual in every thought and action. But not as a burden: not as a labour: rather as a joy: a welcome release and an ever-thankful escape from natural darkness and corruption and death.
God's message to man is a call, an invitation, an appeal from a loving Father to choose the more excellent Way of Life: choose it totally.
God demands our all and our best. This is the first principle of all first principles. Our service must be total. Eternal life is an infinitely, incomparably greater prize than anything in this life. The present life is but a brief, sad flash in the dark: utterly meaningless at its very best. Eternal life is an endless, everlasting intensity of light and joy.
The issues are so stupendous-eternity in joy with God for the poor little speck-of-dust worm called man - that for God to demand less than all, and for man to be satisfied in giving less than all, would be a cheapening and unseemly mockery. It is only for those who realize its greatness, who want it with all their heart and soul, who are totally consumed with the wonder and glory of it.
We must, by study and meditation, rise to the total dedication and devotion portrayed in the Psalms. It does not come easily or naturally. It comes only by long effort and prayer, for the flesh is so coarse and crude and ignorant in us all. We must realize how utterly unclean and ugly we are naturally, as compared to the Beauty of Holiness. It is just a matter of how sincere we really are about it, and how much we really want it: whether we want it enough to give up everything for it. There are millions of half-hearted part-way-ers. It is only the very few all-the-way-ers who will reach the goal.
The Bible makes it very clear that while eternal life is attainable by all-well within the reach of all-still very, very few will ever attain to it, which is a great tragedy. And why? Because they are too wooden and thoughtless and animal: because they do not value it sufficiently to take the trouble to find out, and face up to, what its requirements are; and then to dedicate their whole lives to complying with those requirements. It is not a part-time thing - and that is all that most are willing to give to God. They want to spend most of their time on their own affairs.
Let us consider God's requirements under these seven headings:
1. Learn and believe the Gospel of the Kingdom.
2. Reject all teachings of men: search the Scriptures yourself.
3. Be baptized by complete immersion in water - a total burial and re-birth.
4. Constantly study God's Word for guidance and mental transformation.
5. Do everything to the glory of God: eliminate everything that's not to His glory.
6. Overcome the flesh: crucify it: put it to death.
7. Develop the fruits of the Spirit by constant prayer and study and effort.
Bro Growcott - What Doth the Lord Require of Thee?
35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.
Whosoever shall lose (disregard) his life
Consider the lives of Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others -- living tragedies enacted for the manifestation of God's goodness and the bringing of many sons to glory.
These things teach us that our lives mean nothing except as they fit into the purpose of God, and contribute to that purpose. The lives of these faithful men of God were not tragedies when seen in light of their glorious eternal consummation, and the comfort and instruction and benefit they have brought to others...
In the great sweep of the divine purpose with mankind, our own petty little passing circumstances do not have a fraction of the importance that we in our self-centeredness attach to them.
All that matters in the few brief troubled days of our pilgrimage is the glory of God and the advancement of His gracious plan of eternal salvation for those that love Him.
Let us constantly, joyfully thank God we are permitted to play a part in that glorious plan. Nothing else has any importance.
Bro Growcott - I Will Return To My First Husband