An unexpected twist

by Barry Newton

Sometimes the unexpected can help us gain a more accurate perspective. Reading through Matthew 27 this morning, my eyes suddenly froze. Were my initial instincts correct?

If they were, then the ink from Matthew’s pen conveyed more than just the content of Jesus’ trial, it also provided an instructive principle for today’s church.

What had Matthew written that stopped me cold?

Knowing that Matthew is commonly regarded as having tailored his account of Jesus for those with Jewish interests, was Matthew the only Gospel writer to include the harsh and condemning cry of the Jewish crowd, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25)?

As it turns out, he was! Only Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience, confronts his readers’ sensibilities head on with this frightening reality about Jesus’ trial.

This realization instantly causes me to reflect upon a myriad of conversations with fellow preachers from over the years. I remember nearly two decades ago a preacher sharing with me that he agreed with his elders’ policy that only positive messages should come from the pulpit.

Not only have others emphasized the importance of always keeping the lesson upbeat and encouraging, but certain television evangelists have become famous for exclusively presenting positive sermons.

What was Matthew thinking? Was he ignorant that this was no way to grow a congregation? Or maybe Matthew did not make a mistake, but rather it is today’s congregants who ought to have ears to hear.

While crowds might flock to those who never confront them with their reality, history testifies that the false prophets and priests proclaim: “Everything will be all right!” when “Everything is not all right!” (Jeremiah 6:14 NET).

If as preachers and disciples we truly love those in trouble, we will not constantly whitewash their reality with a feel good positive spin. We will let them know where the chips fall, so they can respond appropriately.

Noting how Matthew confronted his readers does not justify serving up a steady diet of criticism, but it certainly denounces putting a positive edge on everything we say.

Discipleship most definitely involves the way of the cross. Does anybody in their right mind enjoy confronting others?

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Barry Newton

Married to his wonderful wife Sofia and a former missionary in Brazil, Barry enjoys trying to express old truths in fresh ways. They are the parents of two young men.

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