Sermon: The Great Mystery of Sovereignty (Matthew 11:20-30)

The Great Mystery of Sovereignty

 

Matthew 11:20-30 (ESV) 

    Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.  [21] “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  [22] But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.  [23] And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  [24] But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

    [25] At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;  [26] yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  [27] All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  [28] Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  [29] Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  [30] For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

After John the Baptist’s disciples had left, Jesus went on preaching and teaching and doing miracles of healing among the people. We have in the Scriptures recorded for us many miracles that Jesus did, but we don’t have them all. In fact, I would venture to say there were more that went unrecorded than recorded.

John 21:25 (ESV) 

    Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

The time has come. Jesus had labored among the people for a long time now and for the most part they were unaffected by His presence, power, and persuasion. There were others that would respond. Jesus is showing us that there comes a time when as evangelists we must move on to a different people. As Jesus moves on He declares a very sad but immanent judgment on the people.

1. Woe to You…

Jesus begins to pass judgment. He begins to finish off His great Messianic prophecies. Do you remember from last week when I spoke of the text in Isaiah 61 concerning vengeance that Jesus left out? Well now the time has come for Him to stop working among an unrepentant and indignant people and to declare them judged.  

R C Sproul, in his masterful work called, “The Holiness of God”, explains what the word “woe” truly means.

It is in the context of a prophetic oracle that a person or a nation is declared to be “blessed” such as in the Sermon on the Mount. In this prophetic oracle given by the Lord Himself, he declares those hearers that take his words as authoritative and apply them personally to be “Blessed”.

In the context of Isaiah 6, Isaiah sees the Lord Jesus high and lifted up and His robe fills the temple and in that vision of the glory of Christ, for the first time, he sees his utter sinfulness. It’s at that moment he sees no way out from under this wickedness so he declares “woe is me”. In other words, the great prophet doesn’t declare judgment to be passed on a nation but on himself. If it hadn’t been for the Lord taking the initial role in cleansing Isaiah’s sin, he would have remained under just condemnation.

In our text today, Jesus is announcing “sorrowful pity” because these people would not repent.

Jesus came to them preaching and teaching and performing miracles and stayed in there midst for a significant amount of time and yet they were unaffected. The people loved their sinful lifestyle more than they loved Jesus.

Acts 2:22 (ESV) 

    “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know-

When the people saw the works of Christ they were left without excuse. There was no denying the fact that Jesus was sent by God and that to disregard Him was to forfeit your own soul.

The same is true for us today. To hear the Gospel and to learn of the mighty works of Christ and to remain unaffected is to commit suicide and forfeit your soul.

These cities had more privileges than any other cities in history of mankind. They had the Son of God living down the street and in their villages. They could go and listen to Him teach and preach about the Kingdom of God anytime they wanted to.

Because of this, we’re told that these cities will incur a greater judgment than even Sodom and Gomorrah. Why do you think this is so?   

[24] But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.

There is a principle taught in Scripture that tells us that with great knowledge comes great responsibility. The more knowledge you are given concerning the Son of God the more that’s required. To turn away from this knowledge and to disregard it is to earn a greater judgment. Tyre, Sidon and Sodom will be judged but Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum will be judged much worse because they had much more of Jesus to reject. Their evil was greater than Sodom and Gomorrah because they rejected the Son of God. To reject Jesus is a sin that is unforgivable.

What about us today? What about those who sit under the preaching of God’s Word week after week and their lives go on just the same? What about the one who hears of the miracles of Christ, hears of his own sinful nature, and hears the Gospel regularly but does nothing? Do you think his judgment will be worse than Sodom and Gomorrah? Every second you live in unrepentance is piling more and more condemnation upon yourself. We are responsible to respond to the call of Christ.  Will you respond or will you just sit there? Those cities heard the Word of Christ and did nothing. Their unresponsive hearts are the evidence of their judgment. Will you not come to Christ today?

These cities were denounced because they loved their sin more than they loved God. Everyone on planet earth is in the same boat as the Prophet Isaiah. We are all from the second we’re born on our way to judgment. We are sinners by nature and by choice. Our evil hearts are selfish and desperately wicked. Because of our sin nature we cannot and will not ever choose God. He is the One sinners run from not run to. Yet in the mystery of God’s providence He selects some to show grace and mercy to while leaving others to go in the direction they love, which is sin. 

2. The Mystery of Sovereignty

[25] At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;  [26] yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  [27] All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.       

As we read these verses we should be very careful. There is a danger here that we must not overlook. If we were to speak in some way against these verses we would be not only speaking against God’s Word and God’s will, but we would be speaking against a great truth that our Lord adores and gives thanks to God for. Jesus is thanking God for His omniscient sovereignty that is working perfectly to gather for Him a bride.

Salvation comes from revelation of God. In this text and in other places as well, we read from the Bible that God does not reveal Himself to everyone. To those whom God saves, He will be glorified because of His mercy. Those whom God allows to go the way they want to go, He will be glorified for His just judgment. God is not bound in any way to save anyone. So, because He chooses to save some is a most gracious loving move on His part.

Jesus declares that those who are granted repentance and salvation cannot credit it to the fact that they were wise or learned. This mystery goes far beyond human ability. There are many wise people that will be included into the Kingdom of God but it is not because they are wise that they find favor with God.

The Apostle Paul was very wise. His wisdom did not grant him God’s favor.

On this exact principle Paul writes,

1 Cor. 1:18-31 (ESV) 

    For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  [19] For it is written,

 

    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

        and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

 [20] Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  [21] For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  [22] For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  [23] but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  [24] but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  [25] For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    [26] For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  [27] But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  [28] God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,  [29] so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  [30] He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.  [31] Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

All boasting must be in Christ. We have nothing to offer the Lord. Albert Einstein could not acquire salvation because he was wise. The greatest debater could never argue his way into heaven. It’s only the wisdom of Christ and His divine grace that gives anyone favor with the Father.

Our sin can condemn us but our goodness and special abilities cannot ever save us. We must plead the mercy of Jesus, because it is He who reveals the Father to sinners. God the Father cannot be found apart from the Son revealing Him to you.

[27] All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

These verses are extremely clear when they say that there is only One who knows the Father. No one on earth knows the Father. Only Jesus Christ knows Him. Because this is true, only Jesus can make Him known to someone. The way we get the awesome privilege to meet God the Father is if we are introduced to Him by God the Son. Jesus pleads with everyone to come.   

3. The Universal Call

 [28] Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  [29] Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  [30] For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Many people do not like the doctrine of divine election because they are afraid that they may not be elect. Christians that I speak to have even said things like, “what if I’m not elect” or “what if my children are not elect”? What if Jesus has not chosen me for salvation?

These final three verses are the remedy to that type of thinking.

Jesus puts forth a universal call that all people would come to Him. However, most as John Calvin writes, “Are intoxicated with their own righteousness”. These multitudes do not see, they have been blinded by Satan. They do not see that their sin is real and will be what condemns them. They think they are good enough to be accepted by God.

But for folks who feel the weight of their sin and are burdened by it, Jesus says, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 

Our sin and our miseries should drive us to Christ. Give up the idea that you can turn over a new leaf. Stop kidding yourself by thinking that you’re alright the way you are. Jesus is pleading for sinners to come to Him and be saved.

Jesus grieves over those who do not come to Him. They like their life like it is.

Matthew 23:37 (ESV) 

    “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 

John 5:39-40 (ESV) 

    You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,  [40] yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 

Why don’t people come to Christ? The simple answer is they refuse because they don’t want to come to Christ.

They don’t want to come to Jesus because they love their sin more.

John 3:19-20 (ESV) 

    And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.  [20] For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 

This verse shows us that those who are under God’s just judgment do not come to Christ and those who are under grace come.

It is suicide to reject the call of Jesus. Jesus is the only One who knows the Father. He alone can reveal the Father to us. He alone gives as a free gift eternal life.

John 17:3 (ESV) 

    And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 

I pray you would give up the idea that you can wait and do all this later. If Jesus is calling now, He is worthy for you to come now. To put it off is suicide because unless He moves we are all dead men.

The mystery of repentance is great. If Christ is calling…come.

Run to Jesus today and be saved. Run to Jesus and be given a righteousness that the Father embraces with open arms.

Come to Christ today.

If your heart is being stirred by the Spirit of God and Jesus is calling please do not leave today without speaking with an elder or a deacon or there are others who would love to help you.

Jesus is so glorious that he should have your allegiance now. The cities Jesus spoke an oracle of judgment against were judged because they saw His deeds, heard His voice and did not repent.

They were not like Isaiah who when he saw the Lord immediately realized just how vile and wicked he was. The cities Jesus spoke of saw the glory of Christ first hand and were not affected, they loved their sin more.

What about you?

%d bloggers like this: