This summer and fall, I am teaching through the book of Matthew. Generally, the way our group works, I teach one chapter an evening, but this year, due to the late start we got and the fact that I will miss several Thursday evenings because of business and travel commitments, we are moving at a faster clip – usually two chapters per night.
Anyway, last week we were on Matthew 19 and 20. During a break from my preparation, I had been surfing the internet, kind of half-heartedly looking at seminaries in an effort to see if anything caught my eye about continuing education. After all, I really miss my studies in school. I looked at websites from some of the really well known seminaries and ended up on the site for Dallas Theological Seminary. In my opinion, it is probably the best theological school in the world and one of the schools that I considered when I was thinking about going to seminary. However, in those days, they didn’t have any sort of distance learning program and I wasn’t about to ask Janet to head to Dallas for 4 years.
Another reason that I think so much of the school is that my cousin, Dr. Stanley Toussaint, is a well known biblical scholar, (my Dad’s first cousin), and earned his ThD. from Dallas around 1960. His dissertation was, of all things, on the book of Matthew and he has spent a lifetime studying and lecturing all over the world on this most important book of the Bible – even writing a book called Behold the King. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people in the religious community have asked me if I am related to him. He teaches Bible at Dr. Charles Swindoll’s church near Dallas and continues to be an adjunct professor at DTS, even at his age.
To be truthful about it, he is an icon and has written extensively on the Scriptures, along with many of his contemporaries. But back to the story… there on the front of the DTS website home page, there was a link to see the videocast of the 2012 Chapel Commencement program, an annual event at DTS. And guess who the chapel speaker was? Why, Dr. Stanley Toussaint… who would have thought… And even more miraculous – what do you think he was teaching on? Yep, Matthew 19 and 20. I couldn’t believe it.
I watched the 27 minute message and just couldn’t get over how humble, educated and sincere this elderly gentleman was. Yes, I have met him – even had dinner with him on one of my many trips to Dallas – but to hear him teach was incredible – after all, if you have read these posts for any length of time at all, you know how much I love to teach as well. I just don’t have the depth of knowledge that these spiritual giants have.
So when the time to teach the parables in Matthew 19 and 20 came up last Thursday evening, I couldn’t think of a better way to do it than to show Dr. Toussaint’s videocast at DTS. Our group loved it – and so did I, even though I think I had already seen it three times. In all the years I have taught Bible, that is only the second time I had a guest speaker – the other time, I invited Dr. Branine, my beloved theology teacher, to teach our group.
The parables that are in Matthew 19 and 20 have to do with the wealthy young man who bargains with Jesus to see what he must do to have eternal life. After asking several questions about the commandments and which ones are the most important, Jesus admonishes the man to sell his possessions and give everything to the poor. Unfortunately, the young man can’t follow through and walks away. That leads to another parable about workers who received the same wage yet some of them worked all day while others only worked for one hour.
There are many different interpretations of the parable, but Stanley did a masterful job of keeping the attention of the students as well as those of us who were watching from home. He ended with the idea that the rich young ruler couldn’t have loved his neighbors as himself, because he couldn’t share with the poor. It was a magnificent lesson in Christian generosity.
The verse for this evening is the foundational verse that Jesus used to implore the man in the parable to treat the poor with equality. We are told in Matthew, 19:21, “Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus wants us to stretch to do things that seem counter intuitive to the way we as humans would like to do things. In school, we are taught that these are traits of what is called the “Upside Down Kingdom.” In other words, Jesus does things exactly the opposite of the way that we think about doing things. My prayer this evening is that you will embrace the way that Jesus wants us to act as his emissaries here on earth. And that will take some upside down thinking. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…