“Who Are Jesus’ Disciples?”



Welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. In matters of religion, lots of different ideas have been suggested regarding what it means to follow Jesus Christ. Some say it revolves around believing in Him and confessing Jesus as one's Lord and Savior. Others suggest it is all about being baptized into Jesus and loving God and loving one's neighbor. Well, those things are certainly important. They are all part of following Jesus. There are many more things in Scripture that identify one as a Jesus follower. One thing, however, some tend to overlook, is the importance of becoming a disciple. That involves moving beyond being a believer to becoming one who is committed to obeying Jesus; and that requires extra effort. It takes additional time. It requires one to make difficult choices and sacrifices. And yet, that is what Jesus desires of those who want to grow in their relationship with Him. Many people we read about in the Bible were unwilling to do those things and to devote themselves to being a committed disciple. On the other hand, some did. In today's lesson, on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will focus on a conversation Jesus had with some religious leaders. He ties together believing in Him and obeying Him. In doing so, He presents Himself as the Son of Man, and invites people to become part of His spiritual family. I hope you will join us for this study, entitled "Who are Jesus’ Disciples?"



During Jesus’ three years of public ministry, His travels took Him throughout the Land of Israel. He traveled in the north, in Galilee. He traveled toward the south, to Judah and Judea. And as He traveled about, the number of people who followed Him increased every day. Well, some decided Jesus was nothing more than a false prophet. They did not believe His teachings; they did not believe that He had come from God. And yet, on the other hand, many people did believe in Jesus. They believed that He was the Messiah, the One who had been prophesied by the Old Testament prophets, and they knew that He had come as His Father's representative. Well, the Bible does not tell us everything that went on throughout that three year public ministry. The four Gospels, however, highlight some of the things that happened to Him and to other people. The authors focused on that which they believed to be most important to their specific audience. And basically, Jesus’ ministry revolved around two things; He did miracles and He taught people. In other words, Jesus blessed the people, both physically and spiritually. And in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 12, we find Him doing both. He healed a man who had a withered (or a deformed) hand. He also healed one who was blind, demon possessed and who could not speak. Think about that for just a moment. Can you imagine being in that kind of physical condition? You cannot say anything you cannot see; and by the way, you are possessed by demons. And yet, Jesus had mercy on him. He healed him and made him whole. His activity is summarized by these words, in verse 15 of that 12th chapter: <A large crowd followed Him and He healed all who were ill.> Jesus was a very compassionate person. He had mercy on people. He recognized their problems and He ministered to them in various ways. You know, throughout this chapter, here in Matthew chapter 12, Jesus also spent time teaching people who followed Him, and we see that especially toward the end of the chapter. And much of that teaching was in response to questions people asked of Him. Oftentimes, the religious leaders, the scribes and the Pharisees would come to Jesus wanting to know something more. And so in verse 38, we find, they approached Him and they wanted Him to do a sign or a miracle on their behalf. And that was something they and others did on a regular basis. And yet it seems that Jesus often times did not respond to them. He did not do that sign they wanted Him to do, because they were asking for wrong motives. They wanted to do something for their own benefit, and they were not about to follow Jesus or listen to His teaching. And sometimes those religious leaders wanted Jesus to do a sign or miracle so they could catch Him in doing something wrong, according to their laws or to their traditions. Well, those who followed Jesus, especially these religious leaders, knew that Jesus could heal people. They had heard Him teach and knew that He was a great teacher. But basically, all of the people simply wanted the answer to this question: Are you the Son of David? And that was what they asked Him in verse 23: Are you the Son of David; and that is a term used for the Messiah. Are you the One who has come from God? Are you the One who has prophesied about who has come into this world? Jesus answered that question in verses 39 and following. Let's read there in Matthew chapter 12. <“A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, but now something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.”> Jesus responds to the Pharisees and scribes demand for a sign in two ways. First of all, He mentions the story of Jonah; and we are familiar with that story. It is the story found in the Book that bears his name, there in the Old Testament. We might remember how God called upon Jonah to be a spokesman for Him to the people in Nineveh, the Assyrians. And yet, Jonah was unwilling to do that. Those people were mean. They were cruel. They were evil. He did not want to have anything to do with them. And so, he went down to the shipyard. He got onto a boat which was headed in the opposite direction of Nineveh. As that boat got out onto the Mediterranean Sea, a great storm came up on those sailors, and Jonah; and they were afraid. They thought they would lose their lives. And Jonah said, “It’s because of me the storm has come. But if you throw me into the water the storm will cease.” And the sailors reluctantly did that. But then God caused that great fish to come and swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of that fish for three days and three nights. And during that time he had a conversion experience. He had a change of heart. He repented. God gave him a second chance. The fish spit Jonah out onto dry land, and Jonah went to Nineveh. And there he proclaimed God's message to the Assyrians. He went throughout the city and he said, “Repent; or you will perish or be destroyed.” And the people, led by the king of Nineveh, repented. They turned away from their evil ways and they gave their attention to the Lord, and God accepted their repentance. Yes, the people of Nineveh responded to Jonah's teaching in a positive way. Now, that was a reference to what would soon happen to Jesus, in regards to His death on the cross, burial in a tomb and then resurrection from the grave. And by making that connection, Jesus is predicting His own death, burial and resurrection. For as Jonah was only briefly in the fish's belly, so too would Jesus, the Son of Man, be briefly in the heart of the Earth. Well, secondly, Jesus now addresses the scribes and the Pharisees demand for a sign by mentioning the Queen of the South. Other versions identify her as the Queen of Sheba, which was a country in Southwest Arabia, which is today called Yemen. Well, there was a time when this queen visited King Solomon. And that story is recorded for us two places, in 2nd Chronicles chapter 9 and also in 1st Kings chapter 10. The Queen of the South had heard about Solomon's great wealth and wisdom. But she wanted to go and see it for herself, and so she had a caravan of camels carrying all kinds of precious stones and jewels and gold and all kinds of spices to give to him; and she arrived, and she presented those gifts to Solomon. She also had some very hard questions she wanted to ask him, to test him about his wisdom, and he answered every single one. And Solomon showed her all of his possessions and his great accomplishments. She was impressed by his officers and by his servants and how well they were dressed, and everything simply amazed the Queen of Sheba. And she responded to Solomon with these words, in verses 5 and 6 of that 9th chapter: <“The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe what they said until I came and saw with my own eyes. Not even half the greatness of your wisdom was told me; you have far exceeded the report I heard."> As it was with the people there in Nineveh, so too it is here. The Queen of the South responded to Solomon's wisdom in a positive way. Well, with these two examples, Jonah and the Queen of the South, Jesus wanted the scribes and the Pharisees, and everybody else, to respond to Him in a positive way. He wanted them to receive with open arms, or with open hearts, His wisdom and His teaching. He wanted them to realize that He was greater than either Jonah or Solomon. Well, having stated all of that, and referring back to the Scriptures about which they knew, Jesus had another response to their request for a miracle. He now tells them a story about a person who was cleansed of a demon. Listen to what happens next, there in Matthew chapter 12; we will read verses 43 through 45. <“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”> You know, the person's house represents a person's life. And according to Jesus, that house or that life was clean, it was swept out and put in order; and it was now ready for someone else to come in and occupy it. And yet that person was unresponsive. That person was unwilling to receive a new tenant, representing Jesus, Himself. The person was unwilling to receive some new wisdom or some new teaching. So as a result, that demon went back and lived there; and he brought with him seven other demons that were even more powerful. Well, as a result, the person ended up in a worse condition than what he was at the beginning. And by saying all of that, Jesus was simply referring to the unwillingness of the religious leaders and other people to listen to and accept Him. So we find, here in Matthew 12, three different ways that Jesus tells those who demand a sign from Him that He is the Son of David, the Son of Man. We find that His teaching is greater than that of Jonah. His wisdom is far superior to that of Solomon. And many have the opportunity to welcome or to receive Jesus, and yet they refuse to do so. Jesus’ teaching, often, left people to consider what it meant to them and how they needed to respond to it. And that is the very thing taking place here in this passage. The people were to consider whether or not they would receive Jesus and His teaching, or if they would continue to be a part of this wicked and adulterous generation, as Jesus refers to them two times, in verse 39 and also in verse 45. Well, as Jesus is teaching all of these things, He is interrupted; and we find that interruption in the last story here in the 12th chapter. Notice these last few verses, beginning with verse 46: <While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, His mother and brothers stood outside, waiting to speak to Him. Someone told Him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, waiting to see to You.” He replied to him, “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?” Pointing to His disciples, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers. For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”> Jesus' family, early on in His work, had some great questions about Him. They questioned His miracles. They were confused by His teaching. According to Mark chapter 3 verse 21, they even thought that Jesus was crazy. They thought He was out of His mind, as it is stated in various translations. They didn't know what to think about Jesus. And so perhaps they were here at the door of this house; they wanted to relieve the people of Jesus. They were embarrassed by Him. So they came to take Him away so the people would not consider Him to be a religious fanatic. No, His own family did not understand nor accept Him. And so when He was told that His family was waiting outside, Jesus said, “These are the ones who are My disciples. They are the ones who recognize Me as the Son of Man and who obey Me.” Yes, His disciples realized that, indeed, His teaching was greater than that of Jonah. His wisdom was far greater than that of Solomon. And that led them to follow and to obey. In other words, they were changed by His ministry. And so Jesus was emphasizing the importance of being a part of God's spiritual family. And that is what He encourages us to consider, today. He invites us to do the same thing, by receiving and obeying Him. Oh, the work Jesus did, in healing and teaching all who came to Him, serves the same purpose now as it did then. And I believe these stories are in the Bible so that we can ask ourselves two questions. Here's the first one: How do we respond to the Son of Man? You know, there are many people, today, who are still looking for Jesus. They don't believe He has already come. They are expecting the Messiah. Some are also looking for signs to tell them when He will come back. And yet, no more signs are needed, as Jesus, Himself, stated: Someone greater than Jonah is here, something greater than Solomon has already come. And indeed, that is true. Jesus has come into this world to do His Father's will; and that is accomplished, it is finished. And now He is waiting to return, at just the right time, to come and welcome those who believe in and who obey Him. And that is what He invites us to do, to believe in His death and burial and resurrection. He invites us to know Him as God's Son, the One who came to seek and to save what was lost. And so that is the answer to the first question: We are to welcome Jesus. Here's the second question: Would Jesus consider us to be part of His spiritual family? Going back to His statement, there in verses 49 and 50, He points out that it does little good to only believe in Him without any kind of obedience. And therein lies the challenge for us to consider. It is to become His disciple. It is to go through that process of moving beyond simply being a follower or a listener of Jesus to becoming a devoted disciple. Yes, it is more than just trusting in Him and His death, burial and resurrection. It is becoming a loyal disciple. Back in Matthew, chapter 7, many people we're following after Him, and He gave them this to consider: (verse 21) <”Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven.”> Yes, receiving Jesus is good. But now the answer to the second question, we are to obey Jesus. We don't know what happened in the rest of the story. It ends somewhat abruptly. Mark goes on to tell us something else about Jesus’ ministry. And yet, there are many ways the scribes the Pharisees, the religious leaders, His family members could have responded. They could have devoted themselves to following Jesus and becoming a disciple. Or, they could have remained estranged from Jesus, thinking that He was a little bit unstable, trying to catch Him in some kind of a thing that went against their traditions or rules. We're not told the rest of the story. The ending is not revealed, and perhaps that is for a good reason. We don't know what happened next. But that's the way many of His stories and healing experiences ended. But now it is time for us to decide how we will respond. We put ourselves into the sandals of the people in these stories, and we have to make our own decision about Jesus Christ. And that leads us to the final thought: Have we responded to Jesus? Have we welcomed Him and have we obeyed Him? Oh, I trust that we have done both of those things: We have received Jesus and we are walking in obedience to His commands, and that we are making the decision, every day, to be His faithful and devoted disciple.



There are many different types of families that live in this neighborhood. Some of those families have a large group of people that they can call their family; parents and grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, a host of individuals. And they enjoy getting together for certain occasions and special events; and, that's really a fun time as those people can come together and share their experiences and laugh and cry and accept one another. It's a blessing to be a part of a family like that. On the other hand, there are some families that do not get along so well. They may not be very large in number and they have problems relating to one another, and all kinds of difficulties arise. Well, no matter what kind of family we live in, there is one family that we can all be a part of, forever, and that is the family of God. We know that as we are a part of God's family, He is our Father and we are His children. We have brothers and sisters in Christ, and we can accept one another and love and forgive each other. We're able to be ourselves and know that we are accepted and not judged. And that's a great feeling. We can enjoy many blessings and privileges of being a part of God's family, not only now, but also for eternity. And that is something we can look forward to and anticipate when the time is right. I don't know what your family looks like today, and I hope it's a good one. I hope you enjoy being with your family members. But know that in God's family that is something special, and I hope that you are a part, a full time member, of God's family.



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