Sun, Oct 07, 2001
Matthew 16:1-4 by Joe Guglielmo
Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
Series: Topical Studies
MATTHEW 16:1-4

Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 16 as we look at this issue of a sign from heaven that is needed to believe, or that is what they are saying. Now I am sure all of you are fully aware of the terrorist attack on America back on September 11, 2001. With the destruction of the World Trade Center by two commercial airplanes crashing into them, another commercial airplane crashing into the Pentagon, and still another crashing to the ground, probably brought down by the passengers on the plane and not the terrorists, avoiding it from crashing into the White House. Out of this some 7,000 people were killed, or should I say murdered, and the country and the world are wondering "Is this the end?"

Out of that many today are listening to the prophecies of the French physician and astrologer, Nostradamus. Maybe you have heard it on the news or read it in the newspaper or magazine, maybe it has been the talk at work. If not, this is what Nostradamus said, dated 1654:

"In the city of God there will be a great thunder,
Two brothers torn apart by chaos,
While the fortress endures,
The great leader will succumb,
The third big war will begin when the big city is burning."

Nostradamus 1654

Now as people began to interpret what Nostradamus said, they came to the conclusion that after the fall of "two brothers," which is a reference to the destruction of the World Trade Center Towers, at least that is what they tell us, World War III will begin.

First of all, and probably the biggest problem with this prediction of Nostradamus, is that he lived from 1503 to 1566. Thus, he died 88 years before his prediction was even made! That is better than the prediction itself! You see, this quatrain that is now being attributed to him, was a fake. It originated in Canada at Brock University in the 1990's. The author of this forgery was Neil Marshall. But why did he do it?

He wanted to show how easily it is to use abstract imagery, vague terms, so they could fit into any number of cataclysmic events. And the same is true with the prophecies or quatrains that Nostradamus penned. He used obscure imagery and people today try to fit them into the events of their day! How foolish. How hopeless. How desperate.

Now keep in mind that people had interpreted the end of the world, according to Nostradamus, to be in the year 2000! Why in the world would he write about anything occurring after that, but, like the Energizer Bunny, his predications, and even those forgeries, keep going and going and going...

One last thing before we move on. If the prophecies of Nostradamus were so profound, then why in the world didn’t someone sound the alarm of the coming catastrophe on September 11, 2001? As one person put it, "A prediction that can only be interpreted after the events it supposedly foresees have occurred is not a ‘prediction’ at all. If I could spew out a thousand vague ‘prophecies’ and not have to explain what they meant until after the events they supposedly predicted had occurred, I’m sure I could mange a pretty impressive record for accuracy too."

On the other hand, God says of what He predicts, "I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to graven images. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them." Isaiah 42:8-9. And with 100% accuracy He has done that. And what does God feel about these psychics, about those that say they can predict the future? In Isaiah 41:21-24 we are told, "‘Present your case,’ says the LORD. ‘Bring forth your strong reasons,’ says the King of Jacob. Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; let them show the former things, what they were, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare to us things to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; yes, do good or do evil, that we may be dismayed and see it together. Indeed you are nothing, and your work is nothing; he who chooses you is an abomination."

You see, God’s predictions, God’s prophecies are not vague, but very specific. For instance, the birth place of the Messiah is given to us in Micah 5:2, which says "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." That was written some 700 years before the birth of Jesus.

Now in the New Testament we are told "When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: "But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’"" Matthew 2:3-6. The religious leaders recognized this as the birth place of the Messiah and that is the place where Jesus was born! Not vague, but very specific, in "Bethlehem Ephrathah."

Now that is laying the foundation or the groundwork for what we will be studying this morning, what does it take to make a person believe as we see God’s vision for the future, the signs He has given to us, in fact the greatest sign that has ever been given and in that sign it shows that Jesus is God! So with that said, let’s begin reading in Matthew chapter 16, starting in verse 1, and see what the Lord has for us this morning.

MATTHEW 16:1-4

These two sects of religious leaders, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, traveled some 80 miles or so from Jerusalem to ask Jesus this question or to make this request to Him. They wanted a sign from heaven to show that He is the Messiah. Now if you are just reading through this you might miss the foolishness of their question or their request.

You see, Jesus’ whole life was a sign that He is the Messiah, from His birth to the healing of the blind, the deaf, the lame, the mute, the raising of the dead, the freeing of those who were demon possessed, and-so-on. What kind of sign were they looking for? I don’t believe they were really looking for a sign, because signs were all around them. They were looking to discredit Jesus before the people so His popularity, His following would decrease.

And Jesus fully understood where they were coming from for He rebukes them. If they were truly sincere, Jesus would not have rebuked them. Thus, Jesus hits them hard by saying they are hypocrites, they can look at the sky and tell what kind of weather it will be like and yet, with all the signs around them, all the things that Jesus was doing, they still couldn’t discern that He was the Messiah. You see, if they applied Daniel chapter 9 they would have know that the arrival of the Messiah was now, but they were not interested in the truth, just their religious hypocrisy.

And thus, the only sign that Jesus was now going to give to them was the sign of Jonah, who was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale just as Jesus will be three days and three nights in the belly of the earth, which speaks of His resurrection. Many great prophets and great men have come on the scene and then died, but Jesus not only lived and claimed that He would rise from the grave on the third day, He did! The tomb is empty. Thus, the greatest sign of all is the resurrection!

It is as Michael Green said, "Christianity does not hold the resurrection to be one among many tenets of belief. Without faith in the resurrection there would be no Christianity at all. The Christian church would never have begun; the Jesus-movement would have fizzled out like a damp squib with his execution. Christianity stands or falls with the truth of the resurrection. Once disprove it, and you have disposed of Christianity."

-Michael Green, Man Alive

Also, John Locke, the famous British philosopher, said concerning Christ’s resurrection, "Our Savior’s truly of great importance in Christianity; so great that His being or not being the Messiah stands or falls with it: so that these two important articles are inseparable and in effect make one. For since that time, believe one and you believe both; deny one of them, and you can believe neither."

-John Locke, A Second Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity, Works", pp. 339-342

Now, many claim that Jesus never rose from the dead, but the disciples came and stole the body and made up the whole story after Jesus was put to death. Others argue that He never really died, but just passed out, the spear in His side didn’t kill Him, and when He was placed in the grave, He awoke, took the 100 pounds of grave clothes and spices off of Him, and rolled a one ton stone away from the grave door, sneaking by the guards! But, if you study the Scriptures you can easily see that is just plain foolishness. Jesus predicted He would rise the third day, and after His death His men scattered for fear they would be next. But is there actual proof that Jesus rose from the dead, or is it just stories passed on from generation to generation?

Yes there is proof that Jesus rose from the dead if people are willing to look at it for themselves. First of all when a event takes place in history, if there is enough people who were eyewitnesses of that event and are still alive to verify the story when the information is published, one is able to check out the validity of a historical event, we call that circumstantial evidence! That is what we have for all historical events that happened before our day.

Now many impartial students who have approached the resurrection of Christ with a judicial spirit have been compelled by the weight of the evidence to believe in the resurrection as a fact of history. Listen to this letter written by Sir Edward Clark to the Reverend E. L. Macassey. It goes like this:

"As a lawyer I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the events of the first Easter Day. To me the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling. Inference follows on evidence, and a truthful witness is always artless and disdains effect. The Gospel evidence for the resurrection is of this class, and as a lawyer I accept it unreservedly as the testimony of truthful men to facts they were able to substantiate."

Simon Greenleaf was the famous Professor of Law at Harvard University. And in 1842 he produced a famous work entitled "A Treatise on the Law of Evidence" which "is still considered the greatest single authority on evidence in the entire literature of legal procedure."

Back in 1846, While Greenleaf was still professor of Law at Harvard, he wrote a volume entitled "An Examination of the Testimony of the four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice." In this classic work, Greenleaf examines the value of the testimony of the apostles to the resurrection of Christ. The following are this brilliant jurist’s critical observations:

"The great truths which the apostles declared, were, that Christ had risen from the dead, and that only through repentance from sin, and faith in Him, could men hope for salvation. This doctrine they asserted with one voice, everywhere, not only under the greatest discouragements, but in the face of the most appalling errors that can be presented to the mind of man. Their master had recently perished as a malefactor, by the sentence of a public tribunal. His religion sought to overthrow the religions of the whole world. The laws of every country were against the teachings of His disciples. The interests and passions of all the rulers and great men of the world were against them. The fashion of the world was against them. Propagating this new faith, even in the most inoffensive and peaceful manner, they could expect nothing but contempt, opposition, revelings, biter persecutions, stripes, imprisonments, torments, and cruel deaths. Yet this faith they zealously did propagate; and all these miseries they endured undismayed, nay, rejoicing. As one after another was put to a miserable death, the survivors only prosecuted their work with increased vigor and resolution. The annals of military warfare afford scarcely an example of the like heroic constancy, patience, and unblenching courage. They had every possible motive to review carefully the grounds of their faith, and the evidences of the great facts and truths which they asserted; and these motives were pressed upon their attention with the most melancholy and terrific frequency. It was therefore impossible that they could...

...have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact. If it were morally possible for them to have been deceived in this matter, every human motive operated to lead them to discover and avow their error. To have persisted in so gross a falsehood, after it was known to them, was not only to encounter, for life, all the evils which man could inflict, from without, but to endure also the pangs of inward and conscious guilt; with no hope of future peace, no testimony of a good conscience, no expectation of honor or esteem among men, no hope of happiness in this life, or in the world to come."

"Such conduct in the apostles would moreover have been utterly irreconcilable with the fact, that they possessed the ordinary constitution of our common nature. Yet their lives do show them to have been men like all others of our race; swayed by the same motives, animated by the same hopes, affected by the same joys, subdued by the same sorrows, agitated by the same fears, and subject to the same passions, temptations, and infirmities, as ourselves. If then their testimony was not true, there was no possible motive for its fabrication."

You see, it would make no sense for these men to die for a lie that they knew was a lie. One of them would have said, "Just kidding!" But they all died martyr’s death except for the apostle John.

And folks, it is not only the resurrection, there are over 300 prophecies of the Lord’s first coming that you can go and check out for yourself. They are not vague or broad prophecies as I have said, but are very specific. They speak of His birthplace, where He would come from, the miracles He would do, the time of His arrival, even His death and resurrection written hundreds of years before His birth and sometimes thousands of years before His birth! And there is 100% accuracy with what was said and what took place!

There are also over 500 prophecies of His second coming. Thus, if the Lord was 100% right before, why would He be wrong now? He wouldn’t! We see these things taking place right before our eyes. Israel becoming a nation, which took place on May 14, 1948. And Jerusalem being a burdensome stone, a cup of trembling to the nations of the world, and that is what we see today. The alliance of Muslim nations that have come together and are preparing to come down with Russia as their leader, upon Israel in the Magog invasion. The coming together of a one-world government. The coming together of a one-world religion. And the list goes on.

You see, the signs are everywhere, but for many, they would rather listen to Nostradamus, or Miss Cleo, or John Edwards who talks to the dead, and-so-on. Why? Because they are not interested in a sign from God because they would then be accountable to Him. So, in a sense, they bury their heads in the sand, ignoring the signs, and only when things get tough, only when there is a tragedy, do they speak of God.

Listen to what the Lord says in Isaiah 8:19-20 in regards to who we should be listening to. We are told, "And when they say to you, ‘Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." I think that is very clear in what God wants us to do and not to do. Look to Him, not to the demonic world, the dead world for answers about life!

For those of you this morning that don’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior, the signs are everywhere that He is the Messiah, and thus, you need to look and you need to receive Him. The proof is out there and is not hidden so you can’t see. Now for some of you, you want God to write in the sky, you want some big miracle, before you believe.

I am sorry, miracles don’t convert anyone. They may change a behavior for a time, but that is it! For instance, your husband or wife or child is sick, dying, and you pray that if God would heal your loved one, you would go to church, you would serve Him. And your loved one is healed, and you go back to church for a month, for a few months, maybe even 5 months, and then you start fading away. The crisis is over and there was no real conversion. Jesus wants your heart, won’t you give it to Him?

The world’s philosophy is basically, "If I can see it, then I will believe it." But, on the other hand, the Bible says "If you believe it, then you will see it!" I think many Christians struggle in this area. They want some kind of sign, lightening and thunder, a sign from heaven, when in reality, God has already spoken to us in His Word. Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us, "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds."

Thus, the promises God has given to us we can apply to our lives, we can believe them even though we may not see any signs. Think about it like this. When you got saved, when I got saved, was there any sign? Did you hear from heaven "Attention earth dwellers, Joe with that long Italian name, Guglimo or something like that, has come to know me! Let’s have a moment of silence!" Of course not. You and I believed by faith and then we see the workings of God in our lives.

This morning, what are you not believing? What are you doubting? God has given to us many precious promises that we may not see yet, but they are there for us and all God is asking is that we believe. That we apply what He has said to our lives!

Listen carefully to what is said in I Kings 8:56, "Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised through His servant Moses." Notice, and I believe it applies to us also, not one of His promises will fail! And Peter tells us that God has given to us "exceeding great and precious promises." II Peter 1:4. Won’t you trust in what God has said, no matter how dark it may seem right now? You see, in His time He will bring to pass the promises He has made to you and to me!

If you desire to see the truth, to see the light of God, it will be revealed to you regardless of your situation, your background, your surroundings. Let me show you what I mean by this true story.

Some 50 years ago or so there was a French woman who was blind from birth. And one day someone gave her the Gospel of Mark in Braille. She was so blessed by the story of Jesus, that she read it over and over until her fingertips became calloused and lost their sensitivity.

To regain the feelings in her fingertips, she cut off the callouses and, with bloody fingertips she read Mark’s Gospel yet again. As she continued to cut away the skin and the callouses, she ended up damaging her nerve endings so badly that she soon had permanently lost all feeling in her fingertips.

Devastated by this, she held her copy of the Gospel of Mark in her hands one last time and literally kissed it goodby. It was then she discovered that her lips were even more sensitive than her fingertips had ever been and she continued to study the Scriptures - with her lips - and went on to become a gifted teacher of the Word of God!

Thus, those who are blind and want to see, will see, regardless of the obstacles that are before them. On the other hand, those who don’t want to see - like the Pharisees and the Sadducees - who even saw Jesus perform all kinds of miracles, and they will not see because they don’t want to see!

What about you? I pray that you have a hunger to know God more, to see the beauty of His holiness. To see you faith grow, as Paul said in Romans 10:17, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

If I told you that on a day when the sun is bright a group of song birds will come up and play their music after the little guy is done being windy, you might think I was a prophet? Maybe not! But let me ask you this, who are you going to follow, men like Nostradamus or the God Man, Jesus Christ, who said "...‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’" John 14:6. You see, God has given us plenty of signs, the most important being His resurrection. Won’t you believe? For as you do, you will see more and more!