Let us continue our walk through the Gospel According to Matthew. Last week we worked through Matthew 20.
Last week’s look at Matthew 20 ended with Jesus opening the eyes of 2 blind men, who were then able to follow Jesus. This is a significant miracle, one that would not go unnoticed by the Jewish readers of the Gospel According to Matthew. Before moving into the next chapter, let us reflect back on a prophesy regarding the Messiah
Isaiah 42:1-9 (ESV) | The Lord‘s Chosen Servant
42 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.
5 Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
6 “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
7 to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
8 I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
9 Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”
With that review in our minds, let us move to the next chapter in the Gospel According to Matthew.
Matthew 21:1-11 (ESV) | The Triumphal Entry
21 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5 “Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Now, Matthew quotes from the Prophet Zechariah 9:9. The people recognized it and celebrated what they thought was the coming of the king setting up an earthly kingdom. They were partly correct, but they weren’t seeing Jesus. They were blind to Who He Is. Instead, they were honoring what they thought the Messiah was going to be. Most of these very same people will soon be crying out for His crucifixion… yet He will still call for their forgiveness… Praise be to the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Matthew 21:12-17 (ESV) | Jesus Cleanses the Temple
12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise’?”
17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.
Here, we see Jesus opening the eyes of the blind and lame who come to Him humbly… and we also see the blindness of the chief priests and scribes, who upon seeing the work of God become indignant. We also see Jesus referring them to Psalm 8… a Psalm of praise to the LORD our Lord. That’s huge. Jesus is flat-out telling them Who He is, and they remain blind to it. Jesus leaves the city and lodges in Bethany.
Matthew 21:18-22 (ESV) | Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
18 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
This is a tough passage. Prosperity and Word of Faith pushers twist this passage to justify their false teaching that as long as we have faith we can get whatever we claim/decree/declare. Similarly, I’ve also heard Muslims use this passage to refute the validity of the Gospels asserting that the writers can’t agree on what happened here… and both the Muslim and the false-teacher share a common interpretive problem… they both tend to read this as a vindictive act of Jesus against the fig tree because he was hungry. Yes, Jesus became angry, and yes he went to he fig tree and found nothing in it. However, Jesus cursed the tree for what it represented. Remember what we’ve seen in this chapter so far, Jesus entered Jerusalem in fulfillment of the Prophecy by Zechariah, and the people seemed to believe and gave a great showing, but we know they will bear no fruit, for in a short time they will cry out for His crucifixion. We see the chief priests and scribes bear witness to miracles that only the Messiah can perform, yet they are indignant and blind. We see Jesus clear out the Temple, for it has become a den of robbers (also a reference to prophecy of judgment against Israel). The fig tree represents Israel… full of leaves, giving the indication of life, but bearing no fruit. Jerusalem had an outward form of godliness, but inwardly they were dead.
Jesus was speaking of the Kingdom of heaven, of spiritual matters, not temporal. We have no record of any of the disciples rebuking a tree to wither it, nor speaking to a mountain for it to be uprooted and cast into the sea literally. What we do have in the New Testament, is the foundation of the Church laid by the Apostles with Jesus Christ as both its cornerstone and Head.
Matthew 21:23-27 (ESV) | The Authority of Jesus Challenged
23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
So many times Jesus declared His identity and Authority, and the chief priests and scribes denied Him and hardened their hearts. This time, Jesus turns it on them and then declines to answer their question in like manner. Instead, He answers with a set of parables. Remember Jesus said that He spoke in parables so that only to those whom understanding had been given might understand, and for the unbelievers, they would not understand (Matthew 13:10-17 ESV). We’ll look at 2 of them today, and the third we’ll cover next week.
Matthew 21:28-32 (ESV) | The Parable of the Two Sons
28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.
Point-blank, Jesus tells them that the very people who are despised and rejected by the religious leaders will — by faith — enter the Kingdom of God before them… for the religious leaders are blinded by their self-righteousness and remain condemned in their unbelief. The fig tree just got rebuked.
Matthew 21:33-45 (ESV) | The Parable of the Tenants
33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.
The fig tree just got rebuked, again. This time, they realized He was speaking about them. Rather than repent and bear fruit, the fig tree withered… and plotted to do the very thing Jesus was saying they were plotting to do… This is the Heir. Come, let us kill Him and have His inheritance….
Until Next Week
Next week we’ll be working through chapter 22. We’ll be looking at the parable in this series, the parable of the Wedding Feast. We’ll see more direct confrontations now that the battle lines have been clearly drawn. I look forward to continuing our trek through the Gospel According to Matthew. Until then, continue walking in faith and growing in knowledge of Christ through the reading of His Word.
Jude 1:24-25 (ESV) | Doxology
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,