Some of you might be hip to the PBS TV program called Antique Roadshow. The show records ordinary people who bring in their relics in order to have them appraised by a professional to see if they are of any worth.
It's kind of funny that the show has been on for almost 20 years. The only drama is the suspense that is created as you await the final judgment as to the value of the item under scrutiny.
Yet the person who owned the painting had for many years stowed it away in their basement. It was a treasure that—at least to them, had no real value. At least not until they came to the Antique Roadshow.
All that time they treated it every so flippantly. It was just a common piece of household junk.
But once they came to grips with its real value, they reacted differently. Their response was immense as they immediately began to treat it differently. They began to be very careful in the way they touched it. They wanted to know how they should care for it. How could they best protect it and preserve its value? In a word, they were ready to do anything within their power to retain the painting’s newfound glory.
It is often the case that the men treat the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in the same way. Many people do not have a high esteem of Christ and care nothing for his gospel because they have no real appreciation of its value.
As a matter of fact, that is the case with the Pharisees in our passage here. The first verse that we read tells us that they ridiculed Jesus. They sneered at him because they had no regard for who he was or what he had to offer them.
But if we listen to what Jesus says in this passage, we will see that he plays the part of a spiritual appraiser. In the words that he speaks he highlights for us just how valuable the gospel really is. And once he does that, he shows us how we then ought to respond to it.
In order to heighten our appreciation for the gospel, Jesus first highlights our need for it.
I. How much we need the gospel [14-15, 17]
As you look at this passage, there is something that Jesus says that has the potential to make you sick to your stomach. In verse 15 Jesus says, “God knows you hearts.”
As a matter of fact, the passage is something of a spiritual x-ray. You get to see right into the very chests of the Pharisees. In verse 14 it tells us that they were “lovers of money.” That’s interesting, especially given the very next verse. In the very next verse Jesus says, “You are those who justify yourselves before men.”
How is it that they know that they were lovers of money? How is it possible if they were busy covering it all up? That’s what justifying your sin really is, after all. It is spiritual slight of hand. It is a magic trick that makes bad things disappear. It is making that which is evil sound perfectly fine. It is tricking the people around you (and perhaps even yourself) into thinking that there is absolutely nothing wrong.
How is it then that Jesus and the gospel writer can know that these guys were greedy pigs? It is because God knows it. It is because there are no secrets with God. Everything sin, every evil thought, every covetous desire that you have tucked away inside of you is as plain to him as if it were written in the sky.
The old saying goes, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” Actually, that’s not true. You can fool all of the people. And some people are so good at it that they can do it all of the time.
But what really matters is that you cannot trick God. You can’t fool Him because his all seeing eye takes note of everything. And in particular, he sees those things that he really can’t stand.
Look at the end of verse 15. It says, “What is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”
Now, we understand here that Jesus is talking specifically about man’s pomp and adoration of wealth. But we have to keep in mind that God sees the heart and his eye takes particular notice of that which displeases him.
Think about it this way: I have a friend who is into the auto body business. He fixes dings in cars for a living. So, he spends a lot of time looking at fenders. And, from what I understand, he is really good at what he does, and something of an expert in his trade.
One day we had gone out for breakfast together to catch up. As we were walking out of the restaurant, he pointed to a car right in front of us and said, “Awe, man! That’s terrible. I can’t believe they paid for that.” He looked at me and could tell that I was puzzled. I hadn’t a clue what he was talking about. He said, “Look at this fender here. Its obvious that they recently had that fixed. And the guy who did it did a terrible job.” Then he started talking shop and using terminology that is completely foreign to me. Something about needing buffing and the paint mix not being matched well.
Then he said, “Sorry. That’s just the thing I do. I notice these things. It probably looks perfectly fine to you.” And you know what? It did look perfectly fine to me. I couldn’t see any kind of defect in the thing.
But to him, it was all kinds of messed up. You see, his eye was trained in that kind of thing. He could see it because he had a much higher standard by which to measure it. As a result, anything that was askew in a fender could immediately be spotted.
That’s the way it is with God. We have to understand that God sees into our inmost being. And not one of our flaws can be hidden from him. No matter how it may be camouflaged or otherwise hidden from the eye of man—no matter how we try and dress up our sin and color coat it so that it is completely justified in the eyes of man, it cannot be hidden from God. Every defect of sin is an abomination in the eyes of God, and there is no possibility that it will escape his sight.
But our need for the gospel is not only due to the all seeing eye of God, it is also the result of the ever enduring law of God.
In verse 17 Jesus says, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the law to become void.”
Now this comes as a result of what we find in verse 16. Jesus says, “The law and the Prophets were until John.” Someone could take that to mean that the law and the prophets have passed away and are of no more value now that Christ has come. But that’s not what Christ means. He’s simply saying that they were the pre-cursers to Christ and the new age that he inaugurates. The law and prophets pointed forward to his arrival and to the dawning of the kingdom of God.
But just in case someone would think, “Oh. Well, I guess we don’t need the law anymore. That’s Old Testament stuff,” Jesus clarifies. In verse 17 he essentially says, “Make no mistake: The law of God will not be abolished. Just like the heavens and earth are permanent structures, so is the word of God.”
So there is no escaping the high holy standard to which God holds us. The law of God is here to show us what God hates. It shows us that we are condemned before God because it points out how we have failed.
If you’ve ever told a lie, then you’ve broken God’s law. If you’ve ever stolen anything or coveted something, then you stand as one who is guilty before God. If you’ve loved money and put fame and fortune above the Lord, then you have transgressed the law of God. All of these show us just how desperate our condition really is.
I often joke with my prison students that I have them write their papers just so I have material that I can steal from them. Well, I am unabashedly using one of their illustrations right now. One of my students used to be a professional dry waller. He installed dry wall for a living. So he would go in and he would hang the dry wall and then apply the dry wall compound. After that he would sand it all down. Once he got it looking nice and smooth he took a bright lamp and shined it on the wall. He says that when you shine that light on it, it is amazing how many little defects become apparent. It looked perfectly smooth to the ordinary eye, but the light exposed every single tiny flaw.
That’s exactly what God’s law does. Without the law, everything is just perfectly fine to us. As long as we do not have the light of its revelation, all is just hunky dory. But once you hear, “You shall not bear false witness. You shall honor your father and mother.” That changes things. Your sin has been exposed. You now realize that you are guilty before God and liable to His wrath and curse.
And once you do that, you should realize how valuable Jesus Christ really is. The gospel is the power of God for salvation. It is the only thing that can get you out from under the scrutiny of God’s eye.
You need the perfection of Christ’s life. You need the death of Christ to be the payment for your sins. Your only hope is to turn to Christ and hold fast to his mercy.
So hopefully you see how valuable Christ really is. He should be much more desirable to you now. And how should you respond to that? Well, you should respond should be to embrace him, and embrace him with great vigor.
II. How we must respond to the gospel 
I believe that Jesus highlights something of the intensity of this in verse 16. He says, “Since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached and everyone forces his way into it.”
The image here is of people barging though the gates of heaven. The word “force” here is rather strong. That’s why some versions translate it “violently enter.” There is a sense in which this movement into God’s kingdom is something of a stampede. The idea that is being communicated is that these people will use excessive measures in order to gain access to it. This includes overcoming any obstacle that may be laid in their way.
No matter what difficulties may be posed, not matter what discouragements may be laid in his way, a person will press his way through them all so that he might be a part of God’s company.
I believe that John Bunyan illustrated it well in his book Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan’s main character saw a vision wherein there was a stately palace which was greatly crowded. There were guards all around the palace. Some stationed on the walls, and a good sum stood in front of the gate to the palace. Just before them stood ordinary men who wanted to go in, but dared not for fear of the guards.
Yet, out of the midst of them stepped one stout looking fellow. As he advanced towards the doorway he drew his sword from its scabbard and put a helmet on his head. He then rushed forward towards the guards. They soldiers met his charge and laid upon him with deadly force. Yet the man was not at all discouraged. In Bunyan’s words, he “fell to cutting and hacking most fiercely.” Bunyan goes on to say that this man received many wounds. Yet nevertheless he pressed forward and cut his way through everyone of them. He would not be stopped until at last he had entered the palace door.
All of this describes what your response to Christ must be if you are going to enjoy eternal life. It is expressive of the tenacity of your faith. It describes the determination and the devotion you must have for Christ if he is going to enter into a state of salvation.
In a word, the metaphor describes how you must have a singular, unrelenting faith in him.
You must understand that becoming a part of the kingdom of Christ only requires you to trust in Christ. It is as simple as that.
But you must also understand that there can be so many things that impede that faith. A mountain of blockades can be laid in your way keep you from following Christ.
Satan will do everything possible to keep from losing you. He will no doubt cast before you every obstacle that he can. He will taunt you with the treasures that you might lose.
The world will no doubt oppose you too. The mass of humanity that is still in darkness will be like a tide pushing you back. People will ridicule you and think that you are strange. They will tell you that religion is for fanatics and that you should just temper yourself. The mass of unbelief will virtually gang up on you in order to keep you from remaining faithful to Christ.
But just when you think you have reached the tip of the peak, you will find that your own flesh will be a barrier that wants to shut you out of Christ’s kingdom. This might be the greatest opponent you face. For you will have to submit yourself to Christ and renounce the desires of your own heart.
And he who truly wishes to be saved will cut through them all for the sake of the gospel. Because he knows that it is only through Christ that he might enter into the kingdom of God.
This is radically different than the easy believe-ism that is so common today. The evangelical world is filled with a yippy skippy kind of Christianity. It is a soft belief that has no demands upon you.
But those who hear Christ understand that the response that he requires is a violent one.
Napoleon is not by any means an example of Christian virtue. His conquests were much due to his coveting land and power. But his military tactics and his mental determination were no doubt admirable.
There once was a time when one of his field marshals rode up and exclaimed, “General, I fear the enemy is too great and the battle is lost.” Napoleon is said to have cooly looked at his watch and replied, “It is then time for another battle. Summon the army to a fresh charge.”
The lands that he desired were so prized that he would not give up. He would do everything in his power to force his way in.
The kingdom of God demands a similar response by each and every one of us.
Despite our having lost every right to that domain, the Lord has provided a means by which we may obtain it. There is good news of eternal life in Christ Jesus. If we would like to clear our guilt and enjoy being a part of this glorious kingdom, then it is incumbent upon us to turn from everything that we now hold dear and hold fast to him. And should there be any blockade—even if the host of hell itself would seek to stop us, we must be willing to raise a fresh charge and cut our way though.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.