Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
August 2, 2015
17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death 19 and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”
— Matthew 20:17-19, ESV
There are four places in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus preaches the gospel (ref. 16:21, 17:22-23; here in 20:17-19, and 26:2). They are like the gears of a four-speed transmission, accelerating Christ’s climb to Calvary. The first three get progressively louder, while the fourth is a quick and quiet resignation to the primary purpose of Jesus’ life — death.
Upon this third preaching of the gospel we now take our stand. It is brief and blunt, concise and comprehensive, full of heartache and hope. It is uttered on the way to Jerusalem, the appointed and appropriate place for the Messiah to die. It is preached to a dozen men, who’s job it would be to preach it to hundreds and thousands, who in turn would share it with millions and billions.
Amidst the clutter and chaos in the church of what’s happening now, the gospel often gets lost. Liberals on the left don’t believe it, conservatives on the right take too much credit for it, and the people in the middle get told what they must do to be saved rather than what God has done to save them. The gospel does not need to be reinvented, but it does need to be reclaimed and re-preached, to a church that must understand and a world that must hear. So, here we go.
The Gospel is a Personal Story
The gospel is the good news about God’s covenant with man. “Jerusalem” is central to the story, since it was the seat of Old Covenant Jewish religion and the birthplace of New Covenant Christianity. Twelve tribes and “twelve disciples” link the two together. With the world He created rebelling and sinning against Him, God corralled a nation and race of people together through the Old Covenant for the purpose of maintaining worship and discipline until He Himself morphed into the Messiah and came to them to inaugurate a New Covenant to be carried by the church to every nation and race of people on the planet. That’s a mouthful, but all that needs to come out of our mouths when sharing the gospel is the centrality of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The gospel is a personal story, and the person in the story is simply Jesus. The gospel is not your story, about what you’ve done for God. The gospel is God’s story, about what He has done for you. Jesus came to you as the Son of God and the “Son of Man,” Immanuel, God with us, apart from us, one of us, to offer His life as a sacrifice for our sins. The words “death” and “crucified” speak of Christ’s atoning sacrifice which was necessary to reconcile the wrath and love of a holy God. “Raised on the third day” is our hope that Jesus’ victory is our victory unto everlasting life.
Some of the words I chose in the previous paragraph require a depth of theological understanding. But for now, follow the simple thread that shows the “Son of Man” going to His “death,” “crucified,” then “raised on the third day.” This is Jesus’ story, and this is the gospel.
The Gospel is a Prophetic Story
The gospel story Jesus told about Himself is a prophetic story, in the sense that it predicted an event that came true. This telling of the gospel by Jesus is the first time our Lord introduces the “Gentiles” into the narrative. The clear meaning making reference to the Roman overlords in Jerusalem. At the time, no one would have predicted this part of the story.
The Romans ruled over the Jews, excised taxes from them, and kept the peace in this part of their empire with an iron fist. They could have cared less about any covenant with God, old or new. They stridently stayed away from Jewish religious matters, almost as far as the Jewish religious rulers tried to stay away from them. It would have been inconceivable that the “Gentiles,” the Romans, could play a part in the killing of God’s Son and the ultimate redemption of God’s people.
But that is exactly what Jesus preached. “The chief priests and scribes” would conspire with the Roman authority “Gentiles” to carry out the plot of the gospel story. The ensuing chapters tell how it all work out exactly according to Jesus’ prophecy and God’s plan.
The test of prophecy is truth. If it did not or does not come true, it is not prophecy. If it does, it is. The gospel of the first coming of Christ is absolute, prophetic truth. So is His second coming, but that’s another story.
The Gospel is a Miraculous Story
The four Gospels record numerous miracles performed by the Lord Jesus Christ. But they all testify, as Jesus does here in His own words, that He saved the best for last. “He will be raised on the third day,” Jesus said, and He was.
Skeptics, within and without the church, claim He did not. But there is no basis for the skeptics’ claims, other than skepticism itself. Yes, it is impossible for a living person to do the things the Gospels say Jesus did. Yes, it is impossible for a dead person to return to life. Yes, it requires a miracle, for only a miracle makes the impossible possible.
Prosperity gospel preachers tout miracles on their shows and stages. Want a miracle in your bank account? Send them money. Want a miracle for your health? Make sure your problem and the proposed cure cannot be organically verified. Want a new jet plane? Tell your followers that you, and they, deserve it, so they can see you more. Such false claims are not prophecy, they are not miracles, and they are not the gospel.
The gospel is the story of the miracle of God becoming man, performing many miracles in His ministry, the great miracle that He could so greatly love sinners, and the greatest miracle of all, laying down His life and taking it up again on the third day through the miracle of resurrection.
The gospel requires a miracle, and it takes the miracle of grace to accept it. Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe in prophecy? Do you believe the gospel?
The Gospel is a Salvation Story
The gospel does not save your bank account from poverty, your body from sickness, nor your political party from the other. The gospel will not keep you from having a bad hair day and it may not even keep your family together. The gospel is not a trinket nor a trick pony to be bartered about by the sale of indulgences or the hollow promises of television evangelists.
The gospel is not owned by one denomination at the exclusion of other Christian traditions. The gospel is not about you, or what you can do for God to make God love you. The gospel belongs to Christ, and to Christianity, and it is the story of what God has done for you to save your eternal soul.
Your soul is stained by rebellion and sin, and the King whom you have rebelled and sinned against is absolutely holy and just. He can, He will, and He must either punish or pardon you. His punishment, for those who ignore or reject the gospel, is made plain in the pages of Holy Scripture. His pardon, the gospel, is predicted in the Old Testament, offered in the Gospels, and explained throughout the New Testament. But it pretty much boils down to what Jesus said in this short paragraph we are studying today.
Christ calls us back to the gospel. The church needs to hear it, again and again, until we get it right. The world needs to hear it, over and over, to get right with God. If you hear Him, if you turn to Him, if you trust and obey Him, you will be saved. This is the gospel truth.