Stockport Evangelical Church

Stockport Evangelical Church
"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Galatians 6:9 KJV)

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Matthew 14 - Helpful Notes

- The death of John the Baptist – (Mt 14:1-12)

So, just to put this in some kind of time frame, this is after about a year of Christ's earthly ministry. We see Herod the Tetrarch on the throne. The Herodian Tetrarchy was formed following the death of Herod the Great, when his kingdom was divided between his sons as an inheritance. The word Tetrarch suggests four rulers, it means literally “ruler of a quarter.” At the time of Jesus of course, it is really the Romans that are ruling! So the title tetrarch came to mean a petty prince, someone ruling a small district. The title Herod is a bit like the title Caesar, it is used of a number of Kings, ruling at different times in Biblical history. All of them seem to be morally corrupt and pretty bad kings! The Herod dynasty was supported by a group of people called the Herodians. The Herodians were a sect or party, whose power-base was in Galilee and in Jerusalem; they were marked out by a clear hostility towards Jesus (Mark 3:6, 12:13; Matthew 22:16;) Whenever they are mentioned they are connected to the Pharisees, as working in collusion with them, even though they were naturally enemies. But as Psalm 2 says, “the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed.”

Now what is interesting is Herod’s belief that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead! He obviously not aware that John had baptised Jesus and had been living at the same time, but what is really interesting, is that Herod was a Sadducee. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead! They were sort of the Liberals of Judaism, the Pharisees being the Fundamentalists of that religion.

So why does Herod act inconsistently with his professed beliefs? I think it is a simple answer; conscience. His conscience is telling him that because of his sins, God is going to bring a judgement upon him; his conscience is telling him that there is in fact a world beyond this world; a place in which his privileges will not protect him, therefore he is genuinely fearful, of that which is beyond this life and beyond his control.

Now what was the reason that Herod had put John to death? We read it in verse 3-4 (Read) John had reproved Herod for his immorality. It was not lawful for him “to have” Herodius, because Philip was still alive AND in fact, it was not lawful for either of them to have her, because her father, Aristobulus, was their brother!

Notice how John the Baptist did not compromise the truth, even before the King; and also notice what he is doing with these wicked people, whose liberal view of God allows them to do just about anything, he puts in to practice what Paul teaches in Ephesians 5:11 “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” The only way to reprove a “work of darkness,” is to reprove the person that is doing it! Otherwise, one is not being “light and salt.” Light does not blend in, unnoticed with the darkness! Salt does not remain undetectable on the tongue and Christians do not reflect the glory of God, if they do not walk as Jesus walked; or for that matter, as John walked.

Yet, is it not strange that “the king was sorry” (verse 9) There may be many that are internally sorry at the mistreatment of the servants of God, perhaps because they sense that they speak the truth and yet they will consent to wickedness, in order to find acceptance with others. It was indeed, as Wesley puts it “mysterious providence,” that this righteous Prophet was sacrificed to “the malice of an abandoned harlot, the petulancy of a vain girl, and the rashness of a foolish, perhaps drunken, prince.” But it is further proof that God’s justice is not limited to this world, but that He will repay in His own time, even eternally. Go to Revelation 6:9-11. (Read)

   - Jesus feeds the five thousand – (Mt 14:13-21)

Now you may have noticed as we have gone through Matthew, that sometimes he seems to be concentrating on the things that Jesus said and at other times, he seems to be more concentrating on what Jesus did. The structure of Matthew is quite deliberately like this. So for example, chapters 5-7 are largely around what Jesus says (being the part of the Sermon on the Mount) whilst chapters 8-9 are more what Jesus does; chapter 10 is focussed on what Jesus says, His teaching and wisdom; chapters 11-12, on what He does; chapter 13, we looked at what he taught, with the seven parables and tonight we are looking again more at what Jesus did. So it’s just interesting sometimes to step back and see that the Gospel writers are not just randomly scribbling away; there is order behind what they are producing.

Read verses 13-14. There is a word here that I think gives us a glimpse into the motivation of Jesus and His ministry; and the word is “compassion.” We see this again in Matthew 9:36 “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” Whilst men are guilty of sin, nevertheless, it is the heart of God to save them out of that sin. As Jesus Himself put it in John 3:17, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Here the Son reflects the whole heart of the Godhead in that “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy…He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities,” as it says in Psalm 103.

As Jesus healed those that were sick, we find that evening began to draw in and the disciples began to say to Jesus, that maybe the multitudes could do with having something to eat, “victuals” as the AV puts it! But Jesus surprises them (He often surprises them, and us) by saying in verse 16 “they need not depart; give ye them to eat.” Let them stay; you give them supper! Let’s just read verses 17-18 (Read) When we look at ourselves and we see the great need of those without Christ, I don’t want you to feel despondent. When I started this church I looked at the meagre resources we had, financial, physical; I looked at our lack; a lack of knowledge, a lack of experience, lack of numbers and so on. But that doesn’t really matter. There are churches that number in the hundreds, some in the thousand. Benny Hinn’s church has about 6,000 I think…and that is tiny, compared to Joel Osteen’s! Together they have millions and millions of dollars! But that is not the point. What makes the difference with the disciples, is when they heed the words of Jesus. “Bring them hither to Me.” If you bring your resources, your time, your money, your intellect to Jesus, then he can multiply and empower those resources in remarkable, even miraculous ways, I believe. I’m not preaching a prosperity gospel, there is more than one way to prosper; I am looking for things that are spiritually profitable.

   - Jesus walks on water – (Mt 14:22-33)

Read verse 23. What an emphasis the gospels put on the Lord Jesus being alone and in prayer. Anybody that has been involved in any kind of ministry; even if it is simply going and seeing an unsaved family member, or neighbour with the purpose of delivering the gospel to them, knows the importance of drawing strength from the Lord in prayer. Go to Isaiah 40:28-31 (Read)

Matthew Henry comments, “Though he had so much work to do with others, yet he chose sometimes to be alone, to set us an example. Those are not Christ’s followers that do not care for being alone; that cannot enjoy themselves in solitude, when they have none else to converse with, none else to enjoy, but God and their own hearts.”

Yes, there is a marked difference between “the Marthas” and “the Marys” in churches. Don’t be so caught up in “doing,” that you forget to choose “that good part…” Sitting at the feet of Jesus, coming away from the world and all human activity; even evangelism, preaching, helping and remember to spend time alone with God. Therein lies the power to do all these things.

Now, meanwhile as the disciples sailed in their boat, across the sea, at the “fourth watch,” (the Jews divided the night into 4 watches of 3 hours each. So the first watch began at 6, the second at 9, the third at 12 and the fourth watch at 3 o’clock in the morning.) Suddenly, Jesus appears, walking across the water. (Read 26-27) What an extraordinary sight! Yet, perhaps it is even more extraordinary, that Peter steps out of the boat and also starts to walk on the water towards Jesus. Yet when he saw “the wind boisterous” he was afraid. What is the result of his fear? He starts to sink! How steps of faith are hindered by our flesh. How the flesh and a mind set on the things of the flesh, has no part in the things of the spirit. In fact the two are at enmity with one another.

Verse 33 is very important, because we see that here the disciples proclaim Him “the Son of God” (a messianic title) and they worship Him, GK “Pros-ku-neh-o, to do reverence, adoration.” Significant, because it is the same word that is used in John 4:20 by the Samaritan woman, when she talks about worshipping God and it is the same word used in Revelation 19:4 when John describes the twenty four Elders and the four beasts, falling down before God (capital G) on His throne. A great verse to use with those that deny the deity of Christ.


   - Jesus heals many in Gennesaret – (Mt 14:34-36)

As Jesus and His disciples landed at Gennasaret, fame of Him had already spread to that country and people brought to Him all that were diseased.

John Gill says, “their care and diligence in sending messengers about to their respective cities, towns, and villages, and which must be attended with expense: for they neither spared cost nor pains, to do good to their country; in all which, they set an example worthy of imitation.”

What effort they were willing to make, in order to come to Jesus…just to touch the hem of His garment. Yet today, churches are starting their morning services later and later…because people like a lie in on Sunday; some are dispensing with evening services all together, because they’ve got work in the morning and you’ve got to have a bit of time to relax and chill out. And we wonder why we are not seeing the kind of blessings that they saw. There is much to imitate in this chapter: The boldness of John; The solitary prayer life of Jesus; the faith of peter; but perhaps we could start by imitating the single determination of the Gennaserites, to simply be, where Jesus is ministering.

Copyright © Paul Jennings.



Monday, 14 March 2016

Matthew Chapter 13 - Helpful Notes

The parable of the sower

Jesus comes and sits by the side of the sea, he is surrounded by “great multitudes.” So he gets into a ship and, presumably, moves a little away from the shore, whilst the crowds assemble on the shore to hear his teaching.

He begins to tell them a story; now I think there is a bit of snobbery amongst some Christians regarding the use of parables and illustrations. I am aware that illustrations and parables can be misunderstood, but we’ll come to that presently, but you’ll see that Jesus has no problem in teaching deep, soteriological and theological truths by illustration. My only cautions would be:

  • Only use an illustration to expound Scripture; don’t use an illustration to expound a notion that you have no Biblical support for.
  • Don’t use an illustration if there is a perfectly adequate parable in the Bible that already explains your point.

Sometimes it’s hard for preachers to stick to these rules and no doubt I have been carried away in the past! But I think they are helpful.

The first parable, (a parable is a story with a deeper meaning) begins, “Behold, a sower went forth to sow;” The picture is of a man walking across his field and flinging seed in various directions. Either sowing with both hands, or sowing with one hand, but in two different directions. Now just this simple illustration teaches us some profound Scriptural truths. Does the man want every seed to produce new life? Yes. Does every seed produce that life? No. Does God want “all men to be saved and come unto a knowledge of the truth?” Since I just quoted 1 timothy 2:4, I guess the answer is yes! Are all men saved? No, because the seed falls into different soils, representing different conditions of heart. The seed is not deficient, but the heart is. In fact the Bible says that the heart is “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…” (Jeremiah 17:9) Therefore God promises “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel  36:26)

I believe that God prepares your heart to receive His word, if you will let Him. The heart, in the Scriptures, is often synonymous with the mind. It’s not just the seat of the emotions. God prepares the heart to the extent in which a person will allow themselves to be drawn. The preparation of the heart, I believe, involves conviction of sin. Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit would come “he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:” (John 16:8) However, whilst some respond to that reproving; that conviction, many do not. In fact, to use a Biblical phrase, they harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit. The result: We have a number of different types of heart.

  • The hard heart.
  • The shallow heart.
  • The divided heart.
  • The convicted heart.

The one with the hard heart is unique when compared to the others, in that his soil/heart is the only type where the seed does not remain, neither does it produce life. Why? Because the seed is snatched away by “the fowls,” the birds. (Read verse 19) “understandeth it not” means he does not consider it. So the seed does not remain, it does not even enter the soil/heart.

The one with the shallow heart receives the seed. The seed starts to produce life; Here is a big problem for those that believe in OSAS, particularly for Calvinists. C. Michael Patton says:

“According to the Calvinistic caste system, this person, whom Jesus admitted heard the word and then immediately received it with joy, could have only received the Word by having first been born again. But then, lo and behold, this same regenerated person had “no root in himself,” but believed only temporarily and later fell away (which Calvinists concede as an impossibility).”

My own thoughts are that this is a picture of one that had a very shallow conviction. In Luke 8 Jesus describes this as the seed falling on a rock; picture a rock with just a thin layer of soil, maybe ingrained in some of the cracks. This is a picture of the person’s heart. Here lies one of the problems with preaching a gospel that is only positive; as Pastor Shane Idleman put it “a mile wide, but only an inch deep!”If you only preach “God wants to give you a wonderful life…” A person may respond by believing on the Lord Jesus, but has he/she really counted the cost of being a disciple. The parable would indicate, no.  Jesus says in Luke 8:13 “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” It is the plant with the deepest root, that can stand the greatest heat; “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:3)

The one with the divided heart, again receives the seed/word and there is life. The problem this time, is that other things are growing up alongside that life. The Lord Jesus describes them as thorns.

They symbolize (verse 22) “the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches.”

Maybe you wonder sometimes why I preach a lot about counting the cost, about understanding that you will meet with persecution; about separating oneself from the world and making that dividing line really firm and clear? It is because failure to grasp these important truths, may result in a person either having a weak and inconsistent walk with the Lord; or worse, may result in them falling away from the Lord; or even worse, may result in them losing their salvation all together. That is why there is an edge to the preaching at this church, why we are not looking for approval in what we teach and preach, only approval from God. People’s souls are fortified, or compromised by their understanding of these truths and we are not playing at it.

We are looking for commitment, a teachable heart and those who will Study to shew themselves “approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

The last type of heart is the convicted heart, or convicted mind; the good soil. The individual has considered their own life, actions, sins and so on. The conviction is not just a conviction for sins; but also a conviction that there is a better way to live, maybe even a conviction that God will bring that better way. Perhaps the conviction has brought not just a desire for forgiveness, but a hunger to know God. Whatever the details, it is a heart, or soil that is perfectly suited to the seed. Both the message that is delivered and the work of the Holy Spirit are working in perfect unity (hence the importance of bringing a Biblical gospel) and the stones and the weeds are purged from the person’s mind, or heart and they receive the word and it bears fruit.

C.H. Spurgeon said, “The ground was good; not that it was good by nature, but it had been made good by grace. God had ploughed it; he had stirred it up with the plough of conviction, and there it lay in ridge and furrow as it should be.”

The result, as we read in Matthew 13:23, is a fruitful Christian life.

The parable of the wheat and tares

We have a number of shorter parables about the kingdom in this chapter as well. One such is the Parable of the wheat and the Tares. Wheat and tares look alike! In this parable we see that a field may produce both wheat and tares and there is some difficulty in identifying the one from the other. Here, unlike the parable of the sower, we have good seed and bad seed. The good seed produces the wheat, the bad seed the tares. In the parable, a servant asks the householder (who is clearly Jesus) “Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? From whence then hath it tares?” (verse 27) Jesus replies, “an enemy hath done this.” Who is the enemy? The devil. Who are the bad seeds? His servants; “Children of wrath,” as Ephesians puts it; children of disobedience; or as Jesus describes them in verse 38 “the tares are the children of the wicked one;” the problem is, on the outside, they look all nice and religious; so did the Pharisees! Frankly, we are talking “church-goers!”  The tares look just like the wheat! Every church and I don’t care how good their theology is, or how thorough their discipleship is, will suffer with tares. When Jesus plants his good seed; the devil is standing right next to him sowing his seed. What will happen to them? Jesus tells us in verse 41-42 (Read) Can we tell the difference at all? Well, one of the most obvious signs is described in 2 Timothy 3:5 They have ”a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof…” What advice does Paul give to Timothy, regarding such individuals? “from such turn away.” They are “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” So stay away from them, don’t waste a whole lot of time with them, they have been put there by the devil.

The parable of the mustard seed

We have the parable of the Mustard tree. The mustard seed being so small and seemingly insignificant, yet it grows into a mighty tree. The gospel began so small, just in Galilee and the surrounding area, yet now it fills the globe! In the same way the life of Christ may begin in our hearts and we may have much ignorance, but if we let Him, the life of Christ will fill the soul.

The parable of the leaven

Again, Jesus uses another parable on the same theme. That just as leaven is so small, yet it can fill the whole loaf; so the gospel will affect the whole world; and grace the believer’s soul.

The parable of the hidden treasure

(Read verse 44)

The parable of the pearl of great price

(Read verse 45-46) Here we have a sort of couplet of shorter parables. Again, Jesus clarifying the point of counting the cost and weighing in the balance what one may lose and what one may gain. Jesus says in Matthew 16:26 “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Questions that are rhetorical in nature!

The parable of the dragnet

We finish these parables with the parable of the dragnet. A dragnet is used by fishing vessels and literally just drags through the ocean, catching all kinds of fish and other objects. Wesley says, “Just so the gospel, wherever it is preached, gathers at first both good and bad, who are for a season full of approbation (approval, praise), and warm with good desires. But Christian discipline, and strong, close exhortation, begin the separation in this world which shall be accomplished by the angels of God in the world to come.”

What was Jesus two-fold purpose in teaching in parables? (10-17,


If I ask why Jesus spoke in parables, it’s amazing; it doesn’t matter how many times I read these verses out, or preach on them, it is almost inevitable someone will say, “so that everybody could understand what he was saying more easily?” NO! The reason Jesus speaks in parables is:

   - To keep truths of the kingdom hidden from those not seeking

     Truth and to illustrate truths of the kingdom to those with ears and hearts

     willing to listen. Read verse 15-16.

Their unbelief 54-58

Jesus does all these mighty works, he heals the sick, casts out devils; they are amazed at his wisdom and doctrine…but…

They can’t get past the fact of, “hang on, is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary?...we know his family, he’s just one of us isn’t he? You will face the same problem when you witness to your family, friends, work colleagues.

That is why Jesus says, “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.” (Read verse 58)

Copyright © Paul Jennings.