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Matthew 21

June 12th, 2011 by Vic

“It’s plain for all to hear!”

Matthew 21

June 12, 2011

 

Today we consider one of the events in Jesus’ life that all 4 Gospel writers included.  The gospels have a total of 92 chapters.  59 chapters tell us about the first 33 years of Jesus’ life.  30 tell us about His last week and resurrection.

 

Up to this last week Jesus had avoided publicity.  Now there is a change.  He had already planned lodging and transportation for this parade ahead of time.  All the OT prophecies about the coming Messiah would be fulfilled during this week of planned activities.

 

As Zechariah predicted Jesus rides on a young donkey like a King entering a city in peace time.  We call it a triumphal entry, but He was not on a horse and He had not defeated death and Satan yet.  Jesus came to bring peace to the hearts of men.  He was born the King of peace.  He came in peace.  The temporary praises of men will soon change.

 

He was misunderstood.  Prophecy was being fulfilled and the people did not see.  God was orchestrating this crusade and most did not hear.

21:1-11

This is the week of the Passover feast.  Some estimate that 2 million pilgrims came to the Temple during this feast.  Attendance and a sacrifice was required for all male Jews within 25 miles of Jerusalem.  Passover is the feast that commemorated Jewish freedom from Egyptian slavery.  God told Moses 1500 years earlier that the first born son in every family would die unless a lamb was sacrificed and the blood sprinkled around the doorway of their home.  As a first born son I would make sure the doorway was well sprinkled.

 

Bethphage was a community on the slope of the Mt. of Olives between Bethany and Jerusalem.

 

Jesus gives the disciples instructions designed to fulfill OT prophecy.  The young donkey had never been ridden before.  It had never been in crowds like this before.  The mother was brought with it.  Jesus sat on the colt (Zech 9:9) while the mother walked beside.  The crowds welcome Jesus like they would a king.  They cry “Hosanna” which means literally “O save”.  In this context it means “God save” or “praise be to the messiah king”.  Jesus was symbolically proclaiming His true identity.  Even the young colt was at peace in this noisy crowd.  That is a miracle.  Jesus’ identity was being revealed.  The secrecy surrounding His ministry was being unveiled.

 

Psalm 118 was sung during this feast.  Notice 118:25-27.  200 years earlier Antiochus Epiphanes captured Jerusalem and sacrificed a pig on the altar.  He was determined to stamp out Judaism.  When the Maccabees recaptured the Temple, cleansed it, and rededicated it this Psalm was sung and palm branches were placed before Judas Maccabeus as he entered the city on a horse.

 

The whole city was troubled when Jesus came in the city on a donkey with all these people declaring Him king.  The whole city was also troubled when the Magi came and told Herod that a king had been born.  The people in the city wonder who is causing so much excitement.  He’s just the prophet from Nazareth.  No one important comes from Nazareth, do they?

 

 

 

21:12-17

Jesus symbolically cleansed the Temple as the Maccabees had done 200 years earlier.  Those in charge did not see the spiritual dirt.  For them it had become a place of business.  They were getting rich from people who were trying to take care of their sins.  They had changed the purpose of the Temple.  A place of worship and communion with God had become a market.  The temple was not fulfilling its God-ordained role as a witness to the nations.  For those with eyes to see, Jesus was claiming authority to cleanse the Temple.  What about our bodies?  They are now the Temple of the living God.  Do we notice the dirt and ask for cleansing?  God intended our bodies to be a witness to the nations.

 

Jesus’ anger is against those who make it impossible for simple people to worship in the house of God.  Have you hindered someone’s worship?  Are you hindering a child from praising God?  After Jesus chased out the merchants, there was room for the blind and the lame.  He healed them and did wonderful things.  This was another claim to authority over the Temple.

 

The children (15) had gathered around Jesus and mimicked what their parents had shouted earlier.  They had been taught these words from infancy.

 

The chief priests and scribes were indignant.  You can’t allow children to praise God in church.  You should stop them.  “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked.  Jesus replied “Yes, they have it perfectly right.  Have you not read?”  Jesus supports the children by quoting Psalm 8:2.  Unknowingly, the children speak the truth of God.  Their praise is not distorted by political, economic or military ambitions.  They just sing the Scriptures.

 

Note the 2 questions: Have you not heard?  Have you not read?

 

What displeases church leaders?  They do not like being corrected.  They know they are right so they have no intention of changing.  They have selective hearing and seeing.  They are ticked.

 

21:18-22

Mark’s gospel says it was not the season for figs.  That is probably why Jesus went to this particular tree.  But it just had leaves and leaves usually come after the figs are formed.  Leaves declared that it was bearing figs.  But it was false advertizing.  Verse 19 identifies it as “a” fig tree.  This tree by itself would not get pollinated.  Barclay says a fig tree in full leaf in April was a diseased tree or it had reverted to its wild state.

 

I do not understand fig trees, but I think some of the symbolism is obvious.  The nation of Israel was compared to a fig tree in the OT.  The fig tree can bring pleasure to Jesus.  It can look healthy, but have no fruit.  Lone Ranger Christians don’t bear fruit.  Does my life give pleasure to Jesus?

 

The tree was useless.  The nation of Israel was created to bring the Messiah into the world.  They failed to welcome God’s Son.  They professed faith in God, but there was no fruit.  The cursing of the fig tree was a symbolic cursing of the people of Israel for failing to produce faith and righteousness.  Jesus is cursing those who make a show of bearing much fruit but are spiritually barren.  It’s a curse against hypocrites.  Some scholars feel it is an anticipation of the destruction of the temple and the end of the nation of Israel.

 

The disciples are not interested in the symbolism of what Jesus had done, but the mechanics of how He did it.  Jesus is patient with them and tells them they can do what seems impossible when they have a good relationship with God.   He does not offer them magical power to do what they want, but they can do what is in harmony with the will of God.

 

21:23-27

This day the critics were waiting for Jesus.  They were not interested in the truth.  They just wanted to look smart.  They ask Jesus what kind of authority He had and who gave it to Him.  Jesus did not give them a direct answer.  It was 5 more days before the Passover Lamb was to be slain for the sins of the nation.  If He had declared Himself to be the Son of God, the trial would have been immediate.  So He asked them whether John’s authority for ministry was from men or God.  They discussed the answer and decided it was too dangerous in this crowd to say John was not ordained by God.  But if they said that John was sent by God then they would be reminded that John declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God.  They condemned themselves and said, “We don’t know.”  This is very ironic because it was a major part of their responsibility to know and distinguish between true and false prophets.  They gave a safe answer that revealed their incompetence as religious leaders.  Their self-seeking made them incompetent to make righteous judgments.

 

The scholars raised the question of Jesus’ authority.  Jesus raised the question of their competence to judge His authority.  They were humiliated.  Their evasive answer, unbelief, and unreceptive hearts prompts 3 parables.

 

Before they run away and hide Jesus asks their opinion about 3 parables (2 in this chapter).  They knew He was talking about them in these parables and they looked for a way to arrest Him without stirring up the crowd (46).

 

21:28-32

The first son was rebellious against the father and rejected His direct command to go work.  He showed no respect for the father’s authority.  This behavior was unacceptable.  But later for some reason he changed his mind and went to the field.  He was convicted of his sin.  Initial refusal was followed by eventual obedience.

 

The second son was respectful of the father and agreed to go work in the field.  But he did not go.

 

Doing the will of the Father is more than being respectful and saying the right words.  By their fruits you will know them.

 

Jesus says, “You are like the son with the right words.  You have the law and the prophets, but have not obeyed them.  God sent John, but you did not believe him.  The tax collectors and prostitutes did not have the scrolls, but they repented of their way of life, believed John, and choose to do the Father’s will.  They have entered the kingdom ahead of you.  You have rejected the authority of the Father.”

 

21:33-46

In this 2nd parable the landowner is God, the vineyard Israel, the tenants the leaders of the nation, the servants the prophets, and the son is Jesus.

 

The landowner shows confidence that His vineyard will bear fruit.  The tenants were to pay rent during the owner’s absence.  The landowner is patient.  He trusts in men.  He gives the tenants responsibility and holds them accountable.

 

The rejection of the Son is the final event that brings divine wrath on the tenants.  For 6 months Jesus had been telling the disciples that the religious rulers would kill Him.  Now He tells the rulers themselves.  He asks them what they think the landowner in the story will do when He returns.

 

They answer correctly and Jesus tells them to relate the story to Psalm 118:22-23.  Jesus is claiming to be the stone rejected by the builders.  Often what man rejects, God holds close and makes very special.

 

The religious leaders failed badly in handling God’s vineyard.  They failed to consider the possibility that the landowner would return.  They recognized the Son and rejected Him.   God gave the responsibility to another people who would produce fruit.  Their role as leaders and mediators of God’s Word will soon end.  Although they recognized the Son they rejected the authority of the Son.

 

Those who do not recognize the capstone or corner stone will be crushed.  But instead of hearing the warning, these men, blinded by hatred, rush to fulfill the end of the story, their own destruction.

 

They knew Jesus was talking about them.  They did not understand the seriousness of the story.  They did not understand that their response to the Son is a life or death decision.  In this parable Jesus was identifying Himself as the Son of God.  Why did the religious scholars not understand?  Why did the outcasts and unlearned believe in Jesus?

 

What about us?  Creation declares the glory of God.  Do we see God in the activities of our lives?  What will you do with Jesus?  Our response to Jesus is a life or death decision.

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